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We are thrilled to share our June Member Spotlight features Ayesha Inoon! Ayesha was the 2022 winner of the ASA/HQ Commercial Fiction Prize, and this month her winning novel, Untethered, was published by HQ, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.
Ayesha Inoon is a Sri Lankan-Australian writer with a unique cultural perspective, which she brings to her writing. Born in Colombo, she travelled widely and worked as a journalist in Sri Lanka before immigrating to Australia in 2013. Her debut novel, Untethered, is partly based on her experiences as an immigrant Muslim woman. Ayesha was a recipient of the inaugural 2019 Penguin Random House Write It Fellowship for an early draft of this novel. In 2020 she was selected for the Rosie Scott Writing Residency in NSW, and in September 2022 she was awarded a KSP fellowship by the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in WA to work on her second novel. Her feature articles have been published by SBS Australia, The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, Serendib and Explore Sri Lanka.
What inspired you to begin a writing career?
I write for the same reasons that I read – to immerse myself in a story and feel the real world disappear, to make sense of my own experiences, to discover beauty and meaning in life’s narrative.
I’ve been writing since I was a child. Growing up, I was surrounded by books, some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading bedtime stories or taking me to the library and I’ve always been fascinated by the power of a good story.
In Sri Lanka I worked as a journalist, writing mainly feature articles, and found that I also loved listening to people’s stories and sharing them through my writing.
I always knew I was going to write a book, and writing Untethered has been one of the most joyous experiences of my life.
What does it mean to you to have won the ASA/HQ Commercial Fiction Prize? What has the experience of publishing your debut novel been like?
Winning the prize has meant bringing my novel into the light, and giving a voice to the kind of Australian immigrant story that it tells. I am so excited to share this story with readers and take them on an emotional journey with Zia as she navigates life as an immigrant Muslim woman in Australia.
The experience of publishing my debut novel has been a dream come true from the moment that my publisher from HQ/HarperCollins called to let me know I’d won the prize, to the amazing feeling of holding the actual book in my hands. Everyone at HQ has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, I could not ask for a better team to usher my debut novel into the world!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I wish I had known that every moment in the journey counts: the chapters you write that never make it into the final draft. The rejections that make you question if your writing means anything – and the many times you pick yourself up and send out your manuscript again. The days you stare at the screen and nothing comes, but before you fall asleep you write two sentences which some will say are the best in the book. The days when you feel like you are just a vessel for the writing that pours through you.
Every moment is part of the magical tapestry that is your final work, it would not be what it is without them.
Which Australian authors/illustrators have been influential for you?
I’ve been inspired by Australian writers with migrant backgrounds such as Rashida Murphy and her beautiful book The Historian’s Daughter, Tracey Lien’s stunning debut All That’s Left Unsaid and Omar Sakr’s novel Sons of Sin. I have also loved the writing of Sri Lankan-born author Michelle de Kretser, in particular her book Questions of Travel. All these writers bring such important perspectives to Australian literature and reflect the rich diversity of the society that we live in. I have enjoyed the unique ways in which each of these novels straddle Australian and other cultures and learned from the authenticity and depth of their writing.
Why do you think it’s important to be a member of the ASA?
It takes a village, and being a writer is no different. As a member of the ASA I feel that I am part of a community and have access to incredibly useful resources, advice and support. From attending professional development events to using ASA legal services, I’ve benefited in many ways from being a member, and am grateful to all the advocacy work that the ASA does to support Australian authors and illustrators.
Follow Ayesha on Instagram @ayeshainoon