Joshua Kemp awarded University of Western Australia's 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award

Joshua Kemp's novel 'Strangest Places' is set for a February 2022 release. Photo is supplied.
Joshua Kemp's novel 'Strangest Places' is set for a February 2022 release. Photo is supplied.

My book is very strongly about Western Australia, its history and possible elements that not a lot of people know about."

Joshua Kemp

AN Author who was inspired from growing up in Busselton has recently been awarded the University of Western Australia's 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award.

In a joint win with author Kgshak Akec, author Joshua Kemp has received a publishing contract and manuscript development with UWA Publishing, as well as $5,000 in prize money.

Mr Kemp said it was hiking in bush landscape throughout the South West that helped form the plot of his manuscript 'Strangest Places'.

"My book is set in Leonora in the Goldfields. I really love hiking in that small town landscape so I went out there last year and for three weeks I lived out of my car and went hiking," Mr Kemp said.

"'Strangest Places' is an Australian gothic novel where a true crime writer goes to Kalgoorlie under the pretense of visiting an old friend. When he arrives, he finds a ten-year-old girl who has been abandoned and takes it upon himself to return her to her father. Then begins a road trip from hell."

Mr Kemp's manuscript was selected out of 350 submissions.

He said he was a huge fan of fellow Australian Gothic writer Dorothy Hewitt and was 'over the moon' to receive the award.

"It feels incredible to be selected, especially because it's a Western Australian award. 'Strangest Places' is very strongly about WA, its history and possible elements that not a lot of people know about. It's nice for that to be recognised."

Mr Kemp is now finishing his PhD at Bunbury's Edith Cowan University.

He said 'Strangest Places' came about thanks to School of Arts and Humanities Senior Lecturer Dr Donna Mazza who introduced him to the genre of Australian gothic fiction.

"I wouldn't have come across this mode of fiction otherwise. The genre tackles stories set in the bush of people going missing into the landscape. Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wolf Creek are examples of this," Mr Kemp said.

With a range of published short stories behind him, 'Strangest Places' will be Mr Kemp's first published novel.

He advises aspiring authors to begin with writing short stories as a way of 'working up' to novels.

"I never liked writing short stories but I forced myself to do it. Even if it doesn't work for you, it sometimes plants a seed that could turn into a longer work," Mr Kemp said.

He also challenged the idea of writers potentially not needing to study at university.

"People can't teach you how to write, but what university does so well is prepare you for all the other stuff like interviews, how to talk to people and how to sell your work. Being an author is all about playing the game, being involved and selling your brand."

Kgshak Akec's novel Hopeless Kingdom will also receive manuscript development and is a coming of age story that follows a family who migrate from Sudan to Geelong.