I spoke to the wonderful Ilka Tampke about her debut novel Skin.
Ilka Tampke was born in Sydney in 1969. She studied theatre at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst NSW and completed honours in performance at University of Western Sydney. Tampke directed the Sydney Women’s Festival, Mallacoota’s Festival of the Southern Ocean and numerous other arts and cultural events in Australia and the UK before commencing post-graduate study in writing at RMIT, Melbourne. She was writer and editor of Quest, national journal of adult learning in 2010 and 2011, and was awarded a Glenfern Fellowship in 2012. Her short stories and articles have been published in several anthologies. She lives in Woodend, Australia, with her partner and two children.
Skin is her first novel, but you wouldn’t know it. I reviewed Skin for the Lovereading review panel earlier in the year, and I think the review speaks for itself:
‘Wow. It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but with this book, it’s hard not to be. I devoured Skin within hours, sneaking chapters between meals and forsaking other things just to get a little bit more.’
After adoring Skin, I wanted to know what inspired Tampke to start writing.
I have always loved writing since I was a small child, but dancing and acting took over for me when I became a teenager. It was not until I had my first child, that I sat down and began focusing on writing again. So I guess my daughter inspired me to become a writer.
Her number one tip for aspiring writers is to finish their manuscript.
I see so many brilliant writers who will never be published because they don’t finish their wonderful beginnings. I always say that a completed manuscript might get published, but an unfinished one never will. I also recommend that writers apply for as many competitions/residencies/awards as they can. I found my publisher through applying for an award for which she was the judge. It’s a great way to get your work under editors’ noses.
It was a roadtrip that I took to Somerset when I was a young backpacker living in London. I was so touched by the ancient sites of this part of Britain that I knew I would have to write about them. In some ways, I feel more ‘at home’ there than I do in Australia.
I was interested in ancient Britain more generally, but as I began to research, I found that it was the Iron Age, with its mysterious druids and the Roman Invasion that offered a powerful dramatic narrative.
Fans of Skin will be pleased to hear that Tampke is currently working on a sequel (hurrah!).
It is much more grounded in the real history of Britain’s passionate struggle against Roman occupation and Ailia’s determination to preserve her culture’s knowledge. There’s a little less ‘fantasy’ in this one. The drama of real history has taken over.
She’s just finished reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, which she describes as glorious.
Tampke hopes to be in the UK at some point next year. Keep an eye on her website and social media for updates.
Skin is now available on Lovereading.co.uk, the UK’s No1 book recommendation site.