When actor Richard Roxburgh started writing his first book, he grabbed some noise-cancelling headphones, got out of his house, and headed to the Mona Vale Library in northern Sydney.
"I'm a real doer around the house," Roxburgh tells WHO by way of explanation. "I can't stop doing stuff! It drives my wife insane, but I'm always at it, fiddling with bits and pieces, fixing things, sorting stuff out. So sitting in some completely other environment was very helpful."
Through that process, he wrote and illustrated the children's caper Artie and the Grime Wave, an alternately rip-roaring and moving adventure involving timid Artie, his bold friend Bumshoe, kind-hearted neighbours, nefarious criminals and a baby-powder-covered old lady with hidden talents.
"In a way, the fountainhead of the book was from reading books to my own boys," Roxburgh, 54, says of his sons Raphael, 9, and Miro, 5, with chef and actor Silvia Colloca. "I had this moment of discovery where I found I was chuckling as hard at some book as my own boy, who was 8 at the time, and that's what really gave me the idea that this is something I can write to."
The story was not only something Roxburgh could write to but also something he could sketch for. Roxburgh delighted in populating his narrative with illustrations of people such as secret mad scientist Aunty-boy, based on a real-life aunt.
"I've always drawn doodles and caricatures of friends and opening-night cards as an actor," Roxburgh says, "and she started turning up in my drawings as a particularly vivid, robust character that I had no place to put for a long time until I came up with the idea for Artie and the Grime Wave."
The experience encouraged Roxburgh to work on a second book, a lot of the writing of which he started when Colloca appeared in a production of Snow White for the Queensland Opera in September. "I got the boys full-time," Roxburgh says, "so basically writing happens at the precise moment after I've dropped them off, I've cleaned everything up as much as fathers clean things up, sorted socks and shoes, and then I can sit down and write."
Starting in December, Roxburgh will make his Broadway debut with the full Australian cast, including Cate Blanchett, of The Present, Andrew Upton's acclaimed adaption of Anton Chekhov's Platonov.
"That particular production was so energizing because it had this barely contained, anarchic madness and joy that leapt out of it." Roxburgh says, "so I can't wait to get over there. New Yorkers absolutely love their theatre, so I can't wait to do something that's quite a surprising version of Chekhov. It's been reimagined in the time of Perestroika, so it's more contemporary."
On the other hand, "it plays for four months," Roxburgh says. "It's a really long season. There's no downside to it apart from the fact of being away from my family for some of that time. But I'm looking at that period, the day times while I'm over there, to be writing times now."
To hear more from Roxburgh, pick up this week's issue of WHO on newsstands now.
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