Jon Doust is a storyteller. You do not need to spend a lot of time with him to work that much out. He always has been and is hopeful he always will be. His compulsion to tell stories was born from a deep interest in news, world affairs, geopolitics and people. A “sponge” for information, Doust told stories to make sense of it all. “(I needed) to find a way to try and find a way to deal with it to try and find some sense in it,” he said. “To try and find some insight that maybe helps me or us or others — because I’m a romantic.” Doust grew up in a Bridgetown household that “fell silent” listening to ABC news in the morning and again while reading the West Australian in the afternoon. His father was an “avid reader”, but his worldly interest was primed by his grandfather — a journalist and “a storytelling man”. “He became a journalist because he loved stories,” Doust said. “As kids, our major form of entertainment was sitting around Pop as he told the stories.” One of the high points of Doust’s life was in his first year at the WA Institute of Technology when Pop came to him carrying a box of papers and his typewriter. “He said ‘I want you to have these’,” Doust said. “He was a stoic man who I never saw cry so I took the typewriter and papers like this.” Doust mimed taking the precious gift very carefully while struggling to hold back strong emotions. “I would have hugged him but he wasn’t that kind of man,” he said. “I grew up with this blessing of having a storytelling man in the family and even as a kid growing up I was known for telling stories.” Doust’s other loves are growing things — courtesy of his family’s farming roots — and the ocean. The latter of which caused him to fail his Year 12 English exam despite his future calling as an author. “I only passed one subject and that was history because it was all essay writing and because I had absorbed the history I was able to make sense of it in an essay form,” he said. “I failed English because I got up at 3am and ran to the beach to surf at about 7am then I went to the exam and fell asleep. “But I still got 45 per cent.” While at boarding school for four years, Doust and his brother wrote home regularly, but only Doust’s letters contained extra stories that his mother felt compelled to keep for longevity. “One there was something in there I had to get it out of my head,” he said. “Once I’ve got it out of my head I then try to make sense of it and try to find what is it in all this stuff that means anything.” The 75-year-old now has three novels to his name — Boy on a Wire, To the Highlands and Return Ticket — all fictionalised accounts of his experiences. “Me and Jack Muir (the protagonist of his three novels) have a lot in common,” he said. His latest work can be found in a collection of short stories inspired by the lyrics of Nick Cave songs. Doust’s contribution, inspired by Death is Not the End, had been written in “a pit of despair” before he was even approached about the book. “I had friends in Ukraine when it exploded, I’ve got a lot of friends in Iran and it’s exploded, and my youngest brother died,” he said. “A whole lot of stuff just came in and pummelled me and pummelled me. “And then, of course, I’m deeply concerned about the state of the environment because I’m old and I’ve seen what has changed.” The story’s main character “borrowed from him” but was the least like him of any of his previous works. “It’s the story of a guy that is really nothing like me,” he said. “He’s a guy that lives alone, he’s desperately sad and struggles badly — I, of course, have my struggles, but I’m blessed with a good group of friends, I’m blessed with a fabulous partner and look at where we live.” Doust still enjoys the challenge of writing and favours Tim Winton’s method of starting new books — he approaches the task as though he has never done it before. “You need to learn it all again,” he said. He says if he were to write a new fiction work, it would need to be something dramatically different “otherwise, it’s of no interest to me whatsoever”. But when he walks into a bookstore, he finds himself wondering how he could differ from those already on the shelves. “Who would write another book?” he said. “What kind of dysfunctional ego is that that you think you’ve got something new to say? “That you think you deserve a place up on that shelf.” Nevertheless, he perseveres. He points towards another Australian author Alex Miller, who Doust counts as an “old friend”. Miller has continued to publish new books well into his 80s. “He keeps writing and keeps bringing books out,” Doust said. “That kind of story inspires me because a lot of people in my age bracket basically sit in a chair and watch a lot of TV or join a city council.” His advice to aspiring writers is simple — write. When people say they want to write something, Doust asks them if they have started. If they say no, he tells them they never will. “If you want to write, just write,” Doust said. “Write, write, write, write. “Just keep writing. “Don’t go back to the first chapter, don’t worry, just get it all out. “Worry about all that later. “Don’t worry about the reader, later worry about the reader. “I’ve lost count of the number of times my editor has said to me ‘you’ve got to think of the reader, Jon’.” A Night With(out) Nick Cave: Music, Readings, and Musings will launch Into Your Arms: Nick Cave’s Song Reimagined at Albany Entertainment Centre on Friday. It will feature readings from Doust and fellow contributor Gillian O’Shaughnessy as well as music by Tammy and Simon London. Proceeds from the event will go towards Albany Community Hospice.