Susan Johnson


I was born in Brisbane but moved to Sydney at the age of three months, which is where I spent my childhood. My late father, John, was a Queenslander and my mother, Barbara, was from Sydney. I grew up around Sydney’s North Shore (St.Ives) and moved to Queensland with my family (to a pineapple farm) where I finished my last years of high school. I attended Nambour High (the same year as the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, but I don’t remember him, and I am sure he does not remember me). My last two years were spent at Clayfield College.

I’ve written ten books: eight novels; a memoir, A Better Woman; and a non-fiction book, an essay, On Beauty, published by Melbourne University Press. Several of my books have been published in the UK, the US, and in European translation (French, Polish) as well as in Australia.

My novel The Broken Book (Allen and Unwin, 2004) was longlisted for the Miles Franklin and the International IMPAC Dublin Award, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Queensland Premier’s Prize for fiction, the Nita B Kibble Award, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ALS) Gold Medal Award and the CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature. Flying Lessons, (Heinemann, 1990; Faber UK, 1990; Faber US, 1990) was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for fiction; A Big Life, (Picador, 1993; Faber UK, 1993; Faber US, 1993) was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize and the Banjo Award and my memoir, A Better Woman (Random House, 1999; Aurum Press, UK, 2000; Simon and Schuster, US, 2001) was shortlisted for the National Biography Award.

Several of my books have been released as recordings by the ABC and also as Louis Braille audio releases. My short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I am a contributing editor of Agni literary magazine  published at Boston University and supported by the graduate Creative Writing Program. I’m Adjunct Professor in Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. I work as a journalist at Qweekend magazine, the Saturday colour magazine of The Courier-Mail, Brisbane.

I’ve more or less been a full-time writer of fiction since 1985, when I received the first of three New Writers’ grants from the Literature Board of the Australia Council which allowed me to write full time. Before that I was a full-time journalist (starting at the Brisbane Courier-Mail and going on to work for such diverse publications as The Australian Women’s Weekly, The Sun-Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald and The National Times).

The same year I was awarded my first grant I co-edited and contributed to a collection of Queensland short stories called Latitudes: New Writing From The North (UQP, 1986). In 1989 I was awarded the Keesing Fellowship at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. I’ve been a participant at most of Australia’s writers’ festivals and have a wide experience of readings, guest lectures and teaching work in universities in Australia, as well as in England, Hong Kong and the United States, including guest lectures at New York University, Amherst College, Boston University and Emerson College, Boston.

Throughout my years as a writer of fiction, I’ve continued to publish journalism and essays on mainly literary matters for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Times, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Q Magazine of The Courier-Mail). In 1999 I returned to full-time journalism for a period of two and a half years as editor of an 18-page arts and culture section of The Age, Melbourne.

My literary papers have been purchased for collection by the State Library of New South Wales, an ongoing acquisition program. My website has been archived as part of the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Project as a site considered by the library to be ‘of significance and to have long-term research value’. In 2011 I delivered the Ray Matthews Lecture at the National Library, Canberra.

I’ve lived in the UK, France and Greece but returned to Brisbane, Australia, to live with my two sons, Caspar and Elliot, in 2010. I’ve been married twice and will be very surprised if I go for the trifecta.