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An Afternoon with Marieke Hardy: Tattoos, Writing and Jane Austen

Don’t be fooled by the innocent flower in her hair. Marieke Hardy is
quick-witted, hilarious and clever as she divulges her accounts of threesomes,
drunken mishaps and swingers parties (amongst other things) in
her recent autobiography You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead.

Her career blossomed as a child when she appeared on The Henderson
Kids II
and snagged a spot on that all desirable series Neighbours.
She has since moved on to bigger and better things; becoming a regular
on the ABC’s First Tuesday Book-Club and making regular radio appearances;
working as a radio-host for both 3RRR and triple J. She writes
regularly for The Age and Frankie magazine, also co-creating and writing
ABC TV series Laid in 2011. Comic, with a dark flair so characteristic of
Marieke, Laid follows protagonist, Roo, as she comes to the realisation
that she is cursed, causing all the men she has slept with to die.

Marieke was a co-founder of the Women of Letters afternoons with
Michaela McGuire, where creative types; musicians, writers, comediennes
and the like, read aloud letters they have written in response to a
given topic in an afternoon of literature and letter writing (even for the
audience). These range from ‘to the night I’d rather forget’ to ‘to my first
boss’ with much laughter and a few tears guaranteed along the way. Many
of these letters have been compiled in two bestselling books; Women of
Letters
and Sincerely with well known Australians sharing many personal
stories; Singer Megan Washington writes ‘to the best present [she’s] ever
received’ and social commentator Catherine Deveny ‘to [her] first pinup’.

Just recently, I was fortunate enough to speak to Marieke, the woman
herself, about university (or lack thereof), writing and getting dressed
in the morning.

In your autobiography you mention childhood dreams of prostitution.
What made you change your mind?

I realised that writing books would be more emotionally and physically
crippling than selling one’s body for sex so I set myself the lifelong challenge
of remaining consistently awash with anxiety and remorse.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I never went to university (insert ‘school of hard knocks’ joke here).
When I was university age I was working as a storyliner on Neighbours
and inventing new and exciting ways to spice up Ramsay Street, so all
that O Week stuff completely passed me by. If I could give any advice to
myself at that age it would be to take more creative risks and not base so
much importance on financial security. Also: high fives for making out
with Rove, you scamp.

Marieke has both upper arms and a foot adorned with tattoos; at
some point the Japanese character meaning soul or spirit made an
appearance. On one arm she has two red flowers with ‘and so on, and
so it goes’ woven between. On the other arm she has the Women of
Letters
icon: a characteristic silhouette shadow, remnant of the 18
century (with the exception that the woman on Marieke’s arm holds
a smoking pen in her hand). I was led to ask: what influenced your
choice of tattoos?

When I got my first tattoo at nineteen (it was awful and has since been
covered up with another) I was very much proclaiming my independence
– ‘it’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it, even if that means inking
on a Japanese symbol I don’t really understand the meaning of!’). Since
then it’s simply been things that are very dear to me – a Vonnegut quote,
flowers, my best friend’s initials, the Women of Letters logo. I do love
tattoos, though I feel my time with them may be finished.
Having said that….

You’ve been very prolific in your writing, writing for The Age and
Frankie magazine (among others), as well as having written your
autobiography and compiling the Women of Letters book. What advice
would you give to any budding writers?

Blog. Get on the internet and write and meet other writers and critique
their work and let them critique yours. There’s an entire free space of
creative people on the internet able to publish for free. I met some of my
favourite writers through the world of blogging.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing? Are there any other
careers that entice you?

I’d quite like to run a B&B with theme rooms. I love working in hospitality.

On one edition of the First Tuesday Book Club, you mention your inability
to understand the current fascination with Jane Austen. What
are your thoughts on why contemporary women still find Jane Austen
relevant to their lives?

Did I REALLY say that? What a jerk! I can’t remember saying
that. Though to be honest, I can’t remember saying most of the stuff
I do on the book show. Mostly I just spend the taping staring at Jason
Steger’s socks and trying not to say swear words. I thought Pride and Prejudice
was really funny, actually. I hold no beef with what contemporary
women find relevant, so long as it’s not anything to do with Kim fucking
Kardashian.

What influence did your grandfather, Frank Hardy, have on your
writing?

Our writing styles are completely different. But Frank was unafraid to
live a vivid and messy life. And he had very thick skin. I like to think I
am as curmudgeonly and infuriating as he was.

Currently, tickets to Women of Letters sell out within two days. What
motivated you in this project? Are you surprised by its success?

Constantly surprised not only by its success, but by where it’s taken us
and who we get to meet in the process. This year we’re taking the show
overseas twice, as well as travelling around the country with it. It’s really
a two-woman operation, with Michaela McGuire and I spending most
of our days emailing each other and booking shows. It takes up a LOT
of time. But even with all the stress and anxiety of putting an event on,
when it comes together and something beautiful happens on the stage it’s
all worth it. We couldn’t be prouder of our little engine that could.

When you get up in the morning, how do you decide which flower to
put in your hair?

Oh dear, you are under the misapprehension that I actually make an
effort around the house. This is patently untrue. Just ask Calfy, my
dude. He has to cope with me finding articles of clothing abandoned on
the street near our house and wearing them when I walk the dog. He has
taken to walking behind me and pretending he doesn’t know me. I can’t
say I blame him

So now we know that Marieke truly does enjoy Jane Austen (who
doesn’t, really?) and we know if her writing ever did fail she would start
up a themed B&B- I know I’d visit.
What about that swingers party experience I mentioned you ask? I
did ask her for further information, but she said, “You know if I told
you I’d have to kill you (and everyone at Monash, which would be
cumbersome).” So I suppose you’ll just have to read the riotously funny,
You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead to find out more.

About Hannah Gordon

I have recently completed my first year at Monash, dazzled by the hulking beauty of the Menzies building. I love reading and writing, and my favourite writers include Marieke Hardy, Craig Silvey and Oscar Wilde. In my spare time I can be found poring over Leunig cartoons or playing saxophone.

Hannah Gordon

The author Hannah Gordon

I have recently completed my first year at Monash, dazzled by the hulking beauty of the Menzies building. I love reading and writing, and my favourite writers include Marieke Hardy, Craig Silvey and Oscar Wilde. In my spare time I can be found poring over Leunig cartoons or playing saxophone.

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