Katoomba worlds collide in Trevor Shearston's latest novel, Hare's Fur

He's lived in Katoomba for 24 years and author Trevor Shearston has used this almost quarter of a century of local knowledge to bring the town vividly to life in his latest novel.

"Every place is a source of story and Katoomba is a source of many stories... What I've done is invent a story for Katoomba that says something about Katoomba and the people who live there and the place it is," he said.

Released this month, Hare's Fur tells the story of a recently widowed potter - 72-year-old Russell Bass -  whose life is turned upside down when he discovers three children living in a cave near his Katoomba home.

"It is definitely a tale of two worlds colliding and colliding in a quite strange way," said Shearston.

The novel was partly inspired by the children of neighbours who lived near Shearston almost 20 years ago. The children's parents were often visited by the police, and while their lives only intersected briefly, Shearston said "the situation those children were in stayed in my head".

That this memory eventually made the transition to the written page wasn't surprising.

Shearston's life experiences - the people he has met, the places he has visited - often find their way into his novels, sometimes decades after he first encountered them.

"What comes out on the page is fed by many, many observations that often you are not even aware of making mental notes about at the time. But when you're sitting at the desk, the information is just there because you are so familiar with the place and the people living in that place."

Shearston's decision to make the novel's central character a potter was similarly organic. While he has never sat a wheel, he has been fascinated by pottery - and known several potters - in his life. He even attempted an earlier novel, some 30 years ago, with a potter as the protagonist.

"I was never happy with it. It went in the bottom draw; it's still in the bottom drawer; it will never come out of the bottom drawer," he said.

Luckily for avid readers, the potter's tale in Hare's Fur is available on bookshop shelves rather than hidden in a dusty drawer.

And with painters and musicians the subjects of countless novels, Shearston is happy to have turned the spotlight on a less-examined creative figure.

“Potters are such interesting animals and pottery itself is so old, why would people not be interested in reading about a potter?” he said.

Although he has published nine novels and been short-listed for the NSW Premier's Literary Award, and long-listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Shearston still gets a visceral thrill when a new work is published.

“To hold the book for the very first time, to feel the weight of it, to smell it, that is still a real buzz. I love it,” he said.

But this sensation also has a flip side.

“You get extremely nervous about the reception. Is anyone going to read it? Is anyone going to buy it? Will it disappear without a trace even though you’ve worked on it for years?”

Judging by the early critical reaction to Hare's Fur, the 72-year-old doesn't have anything to worry about.

Australian Book Review described the novel as a "restrained, moving story about how we discover new meaning in the wake of anguish…. Katoomba, nestled in the heart of the Blue Mountains, also provides a vivid backdrop".

Better Reading wrote: "Hare’s Fur is a luminous tale of grief, kindness, and art, and the things that we create, both with our hands and through trust. The book is a sensory delight – detailed descriptions of the pottery are so visceral and vivid that you can almost imagine the clay on your own skin. The same can be said for the description of the mountains."

The Australian was even more glowing: "This short novel could well become that literary holy grail: the successful young adult/adult crossover. It would also be a fascinating addition to state high school curriculums."

Mr Shearston will discuss Hare's Fur at The Carrington Hotel Library on Thursday, April 4 at an event organised by Gleebooks Blackheath. For bookings or more details call 4787 6340 or email victoria@gleebooks.com.au.