July 2022

Everybody’s Talking

Words: Amanda Maxwell & Sarah Larnach Images: Sarah Lanarch & Milos Mali

Amanda Maxwell and Sarah Larnach met in Vancouver out the back of an art gallery in the early thousands. They bonded over skateboarding, riding ten speed bikes and drinking beer. Both hailing from New Zealand, the couldn’t understand how the hadn’t met earlier. Post Vancouver, Amanda and Sarah migrated to Melbourne and then to Sydney and whilst living in the same Kings Cross building they penned and inked Nobody Told Me There Would Be Days Like These. The Blackmail couldn’t think of anyone better to interview them, than themsleves.

Amanda Maxwell: You want to start this off?

Sarah Larnach: I wish I could recall that Italian term meaning ‘a story that sounds good enough to be true, might as well be true’, and then I’d mention how it’s often assumed that your stories are autobiographical because they sound good enough to be true. They’re not though, right?

AM: Nah, they’re made up for the most part. Usually they’ll start with some little true moment and then I’ll just think ‘What if this happened?’ or ‘What if he said this?’ and then it’s fiction. When the book came out someone said to me, “How have you had time to fit all this stuff into your life so far?” But I haven’t, I just make most of it up. I get too bored writing or retelling truthful accounts, so when I have to do that I end up leaving out the details that I think are insignificant and condensing bits until it’s a shorter, more interesting version of the truth. It really annoys my boyfriend when I do that, but I can’t help it. He calls it, ‘cut and paste reality’. That’s not what I do with my stories though. They’re fiction, so I have as much freedom as I want with them and that’s why I find writing stories so enjoyable.

AM: Anyway, you do the same with your paintings I’ve noticed. Like the one of Pip on her hands and knees. You gave her massive boobs! And the painting in the book for the story The Yard Next Door, it was based on a Todd Jordan photo, but I noticed that the girl in the painting looks suspiciously like you…

SL: Oh, she wasn’t intended to look like me, but it’s hard to paint brown hair, and the one shade I favour just so happens to be the colour of my own locks. Her hair was already a bit messy; I acknowledge the similarity there.

The best lies have elements of the truth in them: I guess the same principal applies to stories and paintings too. I was painting a self portrait yesterday and realised that my legs were looking particularly slender… I was looking really good! Admittedly, I put my best head on my best outfit. I have done a boob enlargement before, but that was meant to be a bit of a joke. It’s like cost-free, pain-free cosmetic surgery!

AM: You have quite a few boob paintings up around your apartment. Are boobs your favourite thing to paint?

SL: Ahh, busted!

Boobs are my favourite subject matter in photography. Truth is though, denim jeans are my favourite things to paint, followed by ghost costumes (Lazy! It’s a white sheet with eye holes!) and boobs running a close third.

SL: Hey Amanda, how do you write so nicely from a young males point of view? Were you a young boy growing up?

AM: No. I don’t know. I was into ballet and horses and long hair when I was growing up. Once I cried because I was riding my bike through the bush with the boy who lived across the road and he asked me if I was a tomboy.

I don’t do anything differently with boy characters as opposed to girls, I just try to imagine really honestly what it would feel like to be in whatever situation I’ve stuck that character in.

It’s weird that you brought that up though, because the other day I was talking to someone and they said you were a tomboy. And I said, “No she’s not a tomboy,” because I never thought of you like that before. When I think of you, I think of nail polish and mascara and all the different bottles of bubble bath you have in your bathroom, and your frilly bikini, and the way you cart your little nieces around on your hips so feminine-like when you’re in New Zealand.

AM: Do you think you’re a tomboy? Do you think I’m a tomboy?

SL: Ha ha, I have an ideal body for childbearing and carting those babies around on my hips!

Tomboy; I don’t know? It depends on the connotation. I have thought of myself as a bit of a tomboy most of my life, and I am very feminine according to me, and that’s really all that matters. I don’t need to wear a dress to feel feminine. That was a good anecdote from when you were a kid. I think I experienced the flip side: I remember being in primary school and saying to my friend that we were both tomboys and she was furious. I thought it was a compliment! I was anti-ballet and horses in particular, and pro- ‘experimental’ hair. Then again, I did ballroom dancing. I have this photo of myself at seven with a new-wave asymmetric do… and my first frilly bikini!

Do you want to be considered a tomboy? I think it’s a compliment still. But, I wouldn’t say you were a tomboy if you don’t identify as such…and yet, the skateboarding.

As for me… put me in a spectrum of chicks and I might look like a pretty dude; next to some heels-spraytan-and-lycra-dress out-on-the-town slapper (or trans-woman!); or I’d look like a booby female-fertility-figure next to some of my more androgynous friends. It’s subjective and relative.

I’m working on a series of paintings exploring this gender identity thing; documenting gender binary or gender queer youths (a very tricky area where semantics is concerned). But the project keeps getting put on the back burner while I ‘work’.

SL: What’s on your burner, or back burner? I think I know, but I’m asking for the viewers at home!

AM: I know that wasn’t supposed to be a hard question but I’m stuck. So many ways I could answer… Might just end up jinxing myself. The other day I found a Christmas parcel from last year that I still haven’t sent. Terrible. I should go and do that now.

It was nice talking to you in front of the people on the internet Sarah, Hope you’re having a nice day. Bye x

SL: Ta. hope you’re having a good one too. Bye x

Nobody Told Me There Would Be Days Like These is available at good bookstores across Australia and online at Serps Press

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