An Interview with Tash Turgoose

An Interview with Tash Turgoose

On the blog today I’m interviewing Tash Turgoose, an author and illustrator from Queensland, Australia whose AMAZING book, Makeshift Galaxy, has just been released by Obscura Press. Tash devotes her spare time to bizarre quests, like learning hieroglyphics and launching magazines. Makeshift Galaxy is a beautiful picturebook for adults and when you read about the author/illustrators who have influenced Tash you’ll understand why this book is a must have.


Slipping love between the floorboards,
Catching stars as if they’re snow…
In a world where their love is illegal, a young couple find a way to stay together — but one small moment could tear it all apart.

Which writer or writers opened your eyes to the magic of storytelling and why?

In the beginning, it was Enid Blyton — she was the first writer to show me that there are worlds inside of books. I remember being fascinated, amazed that different combinations of the same 26 letters, over and over, could transport you into another world whenever you pleased.

With Makeshift Galaxy, there were a whole new set of influencers. The book started as a university assignment in the class, ‘Creative Writing for the Illustrated Book’ at the University of the Sunshine Coast. The course was a compulsory part of my degree and I remember walking into the room, expecting 13 weeks of class on young children’s books, and absolutely resenting the idea. Then, ten minutes in, I was hooked into a whole new world of illustrated books for adults — I fell totally, deeply in love. This love was mainly formed through the works of Shaun Tan (The Arrival), Raymond Briggs (Where The Wind Blows) and Art Spiegelman (Maus).

Why do you think people need stories in their lives?

The most incredible thing about stories is that they give you a place to escape to, but in turn can also sculpt the outside world. Millions flocked, and continue to flock, to Hogwarts, and now studies have shown that those who read Harry Potter are more empathetic and tolerant of difference. I just think that is the most amazing thing.

But, I think the escape factor is the reason why we ultimately need stories. At the end of a tough day, you can curl up in your favourite place and escape into another world, simply by reading the pages of a book. We’re given so many different ways to escape, too — we can choose to entirely leave reality behind and dive into a fantasy land, or follow the footsteps of an inspirational person’s story and leave full of renewed purpose. They allow us to work through things without even really realising it. I often joke that there should be a bookstore that prescribes particular books to your current mood, providing the ones that will ‘treat’ your current emotional state.

What is your greatest magical power as a writer?

Transportation! Going back to my previous answer, and books as a means to escape, I think the greatest power that a writer possesses is the ability to create a world for readers to explore. Illustrated books add a whole new layer to this, too. The combination of words and pictures means that every single person will have a different perception of the story, depending on how they perceive the images and their interaction with the text. For me, Makeshift Galaxy is a story about World War II — the man is a Nazi soldier, and the woman is Jewish and forced into hiding. However, I’ve had one reader tell me that she read it as a story based in the Middle East, perhaps Syria, and another tell me that he thought it was a much more broader, blanket story about the plight of marginalised people. Illustrated stories can be moulded into the story that you want to see, according to your perception. As a writer and illustrator, your ‘magic powers’ come from moulding the story, but keeping it open enough to also become the readers story, and the ultimate place to escape.

Which mythic archetype or magical character most resonates with you and why?

One of the most defining points of my childhood was meeting Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. There I was; a young, nerdy British girl, often bullied and trodden down, face to face with another (scarily similar) version of myself, but one who instead stood up for herself and was fiercely confident in who she was. Her passion for books, thirst for knowledge, absolute tenacity and gentle humanity were unwavering — she didn’t allow the bullies to sway her path. Ever. She knew what she wanted, and she worked hard to get it.

I think a generation of girls had the opportunity to see a stronger version of themselves in Hermione, and were inspired to grow into the kind of girl she is. At least, I hope that’s who I have become. 🙂

What themes or ideas do you find keep arising in your writing?

War, and the night sky. A strange combination, right?
I’ve always had a love of stars and the moon, and this seems to seep into my writing endlessly — sometimes consciously, often subconsciously. War themes generally arise through the exploration of World War Two. I’ve always had a deep fascination with WWII, after growing up in the UK with family who had lived through it, and then studying the time period throughout school and university. I’m drawn to stories of sacrifice and survival, and the greatest of these stories, I believe, arise from war-like situations. There always seems to be a bit of a subtle love story, too…

You can find out more about Tash, her book, adventures and incredible art at her stunning website, or follow her on Instagram: @TashTurgoose.

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