By SHAVONNE HANSELL
At just 22, Grace Martin speaks as though she’s lived a thousand lives: words and phrases like quotidian, liminal space and ebb and flow are a natural part of her vocabulary. Brought up surrounded by dancers, actors, painters and poets, Grace searches for meaning in everything, a “soul purpose” as she puts it. Where others may see shades of grey, Grace gazes into a kaleidoscope world where psychology, politics, existentialism, culture and spirituality melt into a boiling pot of philosophy.
Eased into a lime green lounge, she rests one leg comfortably upon the other, running her fingers through her straightened russet hair. Her hazel eyes scan the university’s landscape as though it’s the wild, untouched Serengeti. With tanned skin, full lips and dark eyelashes she’s a self-described “Yorta Yorta woman” born and bred in New South Wales. Today she’s dressed in a white button-up shirt, short stone-washed jeans and brown boots; bold Aztec style earrings adorn her earlobes. “I’m so nervous,” she says with a tinkling laugh, but her words betray her– she knows who she is.
The calm disposition she exudes would never tell you she’s juggling the third year of a teaching degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast and simultaneously trying to break into the exclusive world of publishing. Nearing her graduation, Grace hopes to move into high school education teaching drama and English. Grace’s first-ever book, I, Custodian mirrors George Orwell’s book 1984 and deals with totalitarianism and other heavy material like dispossession, genocide, substance abuse and inner conflict. She says her research has come more so from deep family connections rather than traditional Google searches. “We sit around and talk not just politics, but spirituality,” she says. “I like to listen to lectures of Jungian psychoanalysis … I like to talk about archetypes, the complex form of the human. My research has just been this long, prolonged obsession of just study and finding out things.”
I, Custodian unfolds in a city on a continent much like Australia, the populous of 40 million living under a one-world order. The corrupt government has sourced minerals from a nearby island and committed genocide against its inhabitants. But unbeknown to authorities, a young woman and her family have escaped the carnage and travelled to the mainland.
The protagonist’s mission in the narrative is a reflection of Grace herself trying to pull back the curtains on exploitation. “This young woman has a thirst for knowledge, and she want to kind of unveil what’s happening in a totalitarian world,” she says.
Although she officially started writing in 2016, Grace’s book characters were realised in childhood and evolved throughout her teenage years. Everyday experiences were scribbled into notebooks, penned on scraps of paper and held in the archives of her memory. “I grew up more outside than inside watching telly, so I would experience things like truck stop overs at 2am,” and as she observed everyday people carrying out their duties, her characters evolved and developed complex personalities.
Grace exhales as she begins to explain the darker aspects of the book. “It’s talking about, you know, really dark political things and political actions; it’s talking about drug abuse and the addict … I myself have been in situations where it has directly impacted me,” she stops and gesticulates, grasping for words to articulate herself. “I’ve been in direct contact with the dazed and confused and completely out of it, so I can expand upon and delve into and add characteristics and the aesthetic of how I felt, what was going on, conflicting situations, relationships, the awkwardness, the fear, the complete isolation and all that comes with the scene.”
Numerology has been an intriguing influence on Grace’s book which will hit bookshelves next month.
“I’ve wanted to get it published on the 22nd of November,” she says. “[the number] is kind of like a balance. Do you go back? Do you go forward? I just love it. It can also be multiplied. So, anything you put out will be returned two-fold. It’s just beautiful.”
She offers some wisdom through ancient Chinese philosophy to those struggling with creativity. “I think we get like energy blocks. There’s what’s called ‘Qi Stagnation’. You can just get stagnated in certain areas because you’re not allowing yourself to be artistic or fluid, so go outside and do creative stuff. I never thought I was a writer in the beginning. I just might have been a storyteller perhaps.”