Tim Winton could claim to be Australia’s best-known and most successful author.
But this deeply thoughtful and modest writer prefers to live the life he chooses, with his wife and children on the Western Australian coast.
Fame and fortune don’t seem to be things that loom large in Tim’s life, but the Australian environment does—he is a patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society and is involved in many campaigns to preserve the natural environment that is such a big part of his books.
As a child, Tim had ambitions to be a writer, and studied creative writing at the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Always a keen observer of humanity, Tim’s other interests include surfing, fishing, camping and sports, providing him with useful anecdotes to use in his writing.
He was only 21 when he won his first major award, The Australian/Vogel literary award for an unpublished novel by a writer under 35, for An Open Swimmer. Two years later, in 1984 he won the Miles Franklin Award for his second novel, Shallows.
Tim Winton the author was well and truly on his way, and many more awards for future novels followed, including being shortlisted for the prestigious British Booker Prize for his international bestseller, The Riders.
Heady stuff for a boy who loved to surf and who was brought up in a family where church on Sunday was a huge part of his life.
As he has grown older, Tim’s views on faith have evolved and he freely admits that he is not the boy he once was.
“I’m no longer a Protestant fundamentalist, but I’m still inspired by the life and work of Jesus, which honours and celebrates love above all else—love with its sleeves rolled up,” Tim tells Warcry.
What does disturb Tim about our modern-day life is the emphasis on the material things many people feel they must acquire.
“Consumerism has become a kind of unexamined religion in our time, and under the glittering surface it’s savage and selfish and brutal,” he says.
“I know the Salvos and others see the reality of this every day.”
Tim is clear about what needs to change in our attitudes to what is important in life.
“Kindness and mercy, service and humility have never been more necessary and precious than they are right now. These values might seem quaint and countercultural but they’re still the landmarks for me,” he reflects.
Tim feels that humans are hard-wired to search for meaning, describing that search as a lifelong quest, where faith is fundamental because it’s how humans sustain hope.
So, as a society, how have we lost the plot?
“In order to find meaning, we put our trust in stuff we can’t control and often can’t even grasp, whether that’s faith in other people, a viable future for our children, or faith in a coherent pattern in the world around us,” he says.
“Where that hope isn’t evident, we work to make it possible, so in spite of everything, people plug on. You can’t do that without faith of some sort.”
Tim says he has been writing about people in search of meaning for 35 years, and his focus for his books is at once simple and profound.
“I’ve always been interested in how extraordinary ordinary folks are,” he muses.
No wonder readers reach out for the rich spiritual and emotional gifts that Tim Winton gives them in his books. He is a writer who understands the human condition and our need to search for what makes life truly worthwhile.