Gillian Polack Book Launch and Interview

Drum Roll… BOOM!

We are back!

Satalyte is proud to announce our next release will be Dr Gillian Polack’s new book ‘The Wizardry of Jewish Women’ We will be launching this most wonderful book at Readings Hawthorn on the 5th of September. It is a free event, but books are essential. More details are after the interview!


To celebrate the release I have interviewed Gillian about her book and some of the writing processes she uses.

Can you tell us about your new book?

It’s a feminist Jewish Australian story about several women in Sydney and Canberra and a little bit elsewhere. It has magic, secrets, and true love.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?

I have two main characters, Judith and Rhonda. One discovers something very strange about her family (secrets!) and the other has a superpower that she keeps hidden as best she can (more secrets!). They both want to lead fairly normal lives and the universe seems to conspire against them.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I usually have an overview and broad plan. Sometimes I plot very closely (The Art of Effective Dreaming was plotted closely) and sometimes I let the characters’ needs dictate, as I did in Langue[dot]doc 1305 and The Wizardry of Jewish Women. The characters aren’t allowed to have it all their own way. I make a note for myself that says “Need heightened tension” or “Need to build towards BIG EVENT” and I look at where my characters are in their lives and work from there.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I integrate my creativity with my intellectual side far more easily than I used to. I tend to incorporate my research and theories about narrative when I write my fiction (which is a key reason why my novels never quite fit within genre boundaries) and it’s so nice to be doing that without it being a slog. I can work on scholarly papers and on my novels and they can inform each other and each can make the other better. Because it’s so much easier to do this than it was, readers who simply want to read the story and enjoy the characters can do that, without having to understand or even care about the underlying theory.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

Excluding the personal and the family was extraordinarily difficult this time round. Much more difficult than it usually is. The novel had to look as if it was not just close to home, but about me and mine. Giving it that look while writing about people other than myself, with different life histories and quite different emotions was much harder than when I write characters who come from quite disparate backgrounds to me.

This is partly because I love making my characters feel real, so quite a few readers have assumed my characters are based on me when they’re not, but it’s also because I’m writing about a minority of a minority and there is no standard way of presenting this group to the public. These are not the Jewish characters from other stories, not even my own. In fact, the only other time I’ve used this part of my background in fiction is when I wrote a short story for a magazine, and that story was the sequel to the novel. It’s where some of my characters met the King of Demons.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I read both! The joke my parents made when I was young (“Gillian reads anything with text”) still very much applies.

I can’t read all ebook formats comfortably, however, so I only read occasional books in those formats.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I don’t leave my books for just a month: I leave them for as long as I’m allowed. I left Wizardry for several years, in fact, for my gut said it needed it. When I came back to it I made significant changes, too. I made Judith less talkative, for instance. Imagine how much she talked originally! I modelled her on a real person who matched that background and it didn’t come over so well on paper, This is why it’s so important for me to give my novels time for problems to emerge.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?

The best tip I can give right now is to learn who you are as a person. Making wise narrative choices is far easier when you know yourself.

How do you relax?

I read books and I watch TV and I walk and I see friends. I also cook, of course.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Five years ago, I answered this question and fully believed I knew where we were going. Right now, though, I can’t answer it at all. There are so many big changes in the way economies are shaped and how we support the arts and communicate our love for it that right now, I can’t tell. I’m watching though, because I need to know.

Until we’re through this time of immense and difficult change, that’s the best I can do: watch and evaluate and re-assess. I can’t tell you where we’ll go, except that it might be quite different to where we’ve been, especially for writers in my position. Writers with more than four novels published found it easier to make a living twenty years ago. It took dedication and hard work, but it was possible. Right now, all the dedication and hard work has to be supported with more and more income from elsewhere.

This is just one of the changes. We’re seeing changes in how books are sold, what formats they’re sold in, what types of stories have cachet, how much capital publishers need to get books out to the world, how the marketplace looks, how readers interpret novels and make their decisions about what to tackle next and a lot more. It’s a challenging moment for publishing, and an exciting one.

The details for the launch are:

Come join us at Readings Hawthorn to celebrate the launch of Gillian Polack’s brilliant new book –


Who wants superpowers? Not Rhonda. Rhonda wants to live an ordinary life. “My life is a soap opera with magic,” thinks Judith, as she reviews her year.

Before it all begins, she just wants to lose her past and keep her children safe. Belinda, her sister, wants recipes. Their lives are simple.

All three women get a lot more than they bargained for in 2002 and 2003. Bushfires. A possessed lemon tree. Prophecy. Magic. Romance. Violence. Politics.Family.

Secret Jewish women’s business ought to be carried out in more exotic places than suburban Australia. Except that sometimes, suburban Australia is chancy and troubling. Even without those mystery boxes from the great-grandmother no-one talks about. Even without the Angel of Death and Zoë’s pink tutu.

Start time 6:30pm on the 5th September at

Readings Hawthorn, 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122                        

  (03) 9819 1917

RSVP Tarran at or here at EVENTBRITE

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