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Brunswick author puts ideas to good use

Short story collection spans 15 years of writing

Brunswick author Warwick Sprawson in his writing room.

Mark Phillips

FOR Brunswick short story writer Warwick Sprawson, inspiration can come from anywhere: a chance encounter on a holiday in Japan, a book discovered in an op shop about Saddam Hussein’s son’s body double – or even from his own local neighbourhood. 

Over the years, Sprawson has accumulated notebooks full of ideas, some of which have found their way to become stories, others yet to be written. 

Now he has collated 22 of his best stories into his first published collection, We Will Live and Then We Will See, which was released in February. 

Many of the stories have appeared over the past 15 years in small literary magazines, beginning with the very first story Sprawson had published in 2008 when he was studying professional writing and editing at RMIT University. 

For that story, ‘An Unremarkable Road Across a Featureless Plain’, which was published in Southerly magazine, Sprawson received a cheque for the princely sum of $250, still the largest amount he has been paid for any of his published work. 

But the poor financial returns for fiction writing in this country have not deterred Sprawson, who says he was born to write.  

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Influenced by the American novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, Sprawson’s first published works were non-fiction accounts of his own exploration in exotic parts of the world. 

A voracious traveller himself, the origins of many of Sprawson’s stories have come from his own travel experiences, with snippets of ideas jotted down in notebooks and diaries he takes with him. 

Aside from his fiction, he has published several guidebooks for hikers in Tasmania and Victoria, and his day job is as a freelance technical writer. 

Settings for the stories in the collection include Japan, Sudan, Guatemala, the Northern Territory and Russia.  

Sprawson said it was an interesting process to revisit – and in some cases slightly rewrite – his old stories as he put together the collection. 

The title of the collection comes from the most recent – and longest – story in the book, which was written just before it went to the printers. 

Told from the perspective of a man who inadvertently becomes Vladimir Putin’s body double, it was partly inspired by the fate of a real life body double. 

“I found a book in an op shop about a poor guy who had to be the double of Saddam Hussein’s son [Uday]. He had the unfortunate thing of looking similar to him. That was a really fun story to write.” 

Two of the stories in the collection are set in Russia, while others are located in Japan, Sudan, Guatemala, and the Northern Territory. 

But Brunswick, where Sprawson has lived for the past decade and a half, also influenced one of his stories, ‘Bouzouki’, about an elderly man who builds a full-size boat in his backyard. 

“That’s [inspired by] a former Greek neighbour who was quite a character. He didn’t speak any English, but would often drop around and task me with various things.” 



It is a diverse collection of stories, but a common theme running through them is a particularly Australian characteristic of finding humour in even the most dire situations. 

“That’s probably just a reflection of almost an unconscious thing that life is funny,” he said. 

“You know, we’re all trying to cope with things in our lives or situations and one of those coping mechanisms is to see the funny side of things. So there’s a lot of humour that sits under the narrative and pops out occasionally.” 

Some of the stories are experimental by not following a conventional narrative structure. One is written as a series of email exchanges between a would-be novelist and his editor; another features two characters in a short story discussing the shortcomings of its author. 

Sprawson, 51, has a bulging folder of ideas for future short stories and while he loves the form, he has also written several unpublished novels. 

“A reason I like short stories is that a short story might take you a month or two, but a book will take you a year or two.  

“So you can take bigger risks with short stories. But there is actually a book I finished recently that I’m going to send to some publishers.”

The novel is a mix of comedy and science fiction that Sprawson describes as “a mix between Survivor and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ”.

We Will Live and Then We Will See is published by Brunswick-based Riff Raff Press and was launched at the Atheneum Library in the CBD in February. It is available at Brunswick Bound book shop in Sydney Road. 

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