Susan Maushart author of The Winter Of Our Disconnect Answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |April 15, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Susan Maushart

author of

The Winter Of Our Disconnect, Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, What Women Want Next and Sort of a Place Like Home

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born on Long Island in 1958, lived in a town called Dix Hills (named after an Indian named “Dick” – ! – according to a plaque outside the local firehouse) and went to Half Hollow Hills High School. Perhaps this explains why I still see the cup as half … hollow?

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I wanted to be a writer when I was 12, an actress when I was 18 and divorced when I was 30. All of those dreams came true by the way.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At 18, I was pretty sure I knew everything. At 52, I am not sure I know anything. Luckily for me I live with three teenagers (15, 17, 19) who definitely know everything, so I never go too far astray.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Walden by Thoreau is my favourite book – I try to read it at least as often as I have a pap smear – and has been since I first encountered it aged 20. Thoreau’s ability to see eternity in a grain of sand, or an ant fight, or a field of beans cultivated by hand, is a source of continual inspiration and wonder. So too his determination to “live deep”, as he says, and suck the marrow out of life. His interior life was so … deluxe, so plush, at the same time as the material conditions of his life were so Spartan. I think he had the interior design thing the right way round. Walden directly inspired The Winter of Our Disconnect, which is also the story of a self-imposed exile in a kind of wilderness …

I was sort of devastated to learn as I did only recently that Dvorak’s New World Symphony is actually about Poland. LOL! I always thought it was about America. But for me, and for the rest of the world no doubt, the famous largo movement expresses an ineffable longing for, a nostalgia about, home: wherever that may be. As an “ex-pat” – a term I hate, btw – this has been a constant theme for me, sometimes foregrounded, sometimes submerged, but always audible.

Most recently, there was a piece of work in the Medieval collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that hit me like a gong. It was a miniature wooden sculpture of a world, peopled by a teeming multitude of carved homunculi, each of which stood no taller than a grain of rice … Looking at it I felt I’d had an epiphany about both the vastness of humanity and the puniness of any given human life. It made me feel a tremendous urgency about living deliberately and living well – according to my own lights …

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a book?

I write non-fiction, possibly because I can’t draw.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

The Winter of Our Disconnect is the story of one family’s digital de-tox: a chronicle of how three wired-at-the-hip teenagers and a mother with iPhone dependency issues survived six months of screenfree living. (In fact, we didn’t simply survive , we transformed …)

The book is part memoir – including humiliatingly unedited extracts from my journal – and part investigative inquiry into the impact of new media on family life. How do media affect the way we eat, sleep, socialise and learn? How do they help to shape our identity – and the very meaning of home?

These questions are all explored through the prism of our Experiment, but in way that is LOL-worthy rather than earnest or preachy. Oh … and there is a surprise ending, too. Just like itself!

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

My aim is to simply to get people to think more deeply – indeed to think at all! – about how our media give shape to our experience. I think many parents, and many non-parents, for that matter, are concerned about these issues. But most feel very helpless about it. The Winter of Our Disconnect, I’m hoping, will do something to change that – to help readers move beyond worry and confusion to something more constructive. Not by banning technology as we did – which is really only a stunt, however illuminating – but by understanding it.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

My favourite writers – from Anne Tyler to Kate Grenville, Tim Winton to Thoreau, Malcolm Gladwell to Nicholas Rothwell, David Sedaris to EB White – are all amazing storytellers who give great verbs. I’m a sucker for verbs. They are all also courageous, generous, curious and unpretentious. All the things I would like to be when I grow up!

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

See above.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read, for heaven’s sake! An aspiring writer who doesn’t read constantly is like an aspiring musician who plays Guitar Hero all day.

Susan, thank you for playing.

Susan Maushart is a columnist, author and social commentator who writes for the ‘Weekend Australian Magazine’ and is heard regularly on ABC Radio as host of the acclaimed online series Multiple Choice. Her four books have been published in eight languages ‘Sort of a Place Like Home’, ‘The Mask of Motherhood’, ‘Wifework’ and ‘What Women Want Next’. Her latest book is ‘The Winter of Our Disconnect’.

Susan will be appearing at the SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL May 15-23 2010 – Click Here to see where & when.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • April 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    As someone who doesn’t have/own a mobile phone (and has no desire to) and is CONSTANTLY defending my decision to the networked masses, your book sounds fascinating. Will look for it.
    PS. When is Multiple Choice back? I miss it!
    PPS. The Mask of Motherhood saved my life.

  • Leigh

    May 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Hi there I heard you speaking about this book on the ABC. We are going to try this for a week and see how we go. We have a daughter 14 who can’t go with out her mobil phone and TV.

    Good luck with your move back to New York.

    Cheers Leigh

  • Fiona

    May 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Hi, I have just finished reading your book “The Winter of Our Disconnect”, there were many LOL moments for me. I thought the book was fantastic. The fact that you even got your teenagers to cooperate for “The Experiment” says alot about the relationship that you have with them. Good luck with your next adventure.

  • Kim

    June 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I have heard you speak on KOFM in Newcastle to Tanya and David and I was truly inspired by your discussion about doing without technology with your family for a while. I kept thinking about you and how motivating this is. I still like to have no phone, listen to music and mostly spend so much time with my horses, dogs, cats and farm animals. Wishing not to go to work, but then I need my bills paid. I am looking forward to reading your book in the near future, I am currently reading Louise Hays book so have to finish that first.

  • Catherine Alevaki

    August 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I really enjoyed ‘The Winter of our disconnect’ and just found your 2008/9 podcasts and am walking 5km daily with then in situ! Am going backwards and reading Wifework now. What a hoot!
    I too was a big fan of Mask of Motherhood back in mid 90s when I had my first child.
    So when is Multiple Choice coming back, it’s equal best listening to Wendy Harmer and Angela Catterns.
    Thanks for your great work.

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