Tim Winton often expresses his distaste for the self-importance of eastern Australia. Writers outside Sydney, he says, struggle for access to publishers. At a recent appearance in Byron Bay, Australia's most easterly point, the writer revealed he is set to confront an even more superficial city - Hollywood - with Australians Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, director Philip Noyce and Hong Kong-based cinematographer Chris Doyle. Noyce and Doyle worked together on The Quiet American and Rabbit-Proof Fence. After loafing on stage in jeans, black T-shirt and white trainers, Winton read from his most recent novel, Dirt Music, in a dry, nervous voice. As he relaxes, he discusses his love of reading. 'It is transport, time travel,' he tells the packed marquee. 'It's being able to be a 90-year-old miser or a 10-year-old girl for a few hundred pages ... It's why people like sex, and flying and surfing. Reading is one of those things when you are not thinking about the shopping ... You are in the moment, in the eternal present tense. 'I still love to read more than I like to write. But when I am writing on the page, on a good day, I am there. I'm not thinking about anything else but being in the story and doing whatever impossible and illogical thing it takes to stay there.' He has given only one interview, to the local paper, forcing me to masquerade as an autograph hunter to ask him about the Dirt Music movie. When it's my turn I ask him how much involvement he's had in the film adaptation of Dirt Music, a story about the songs and landscape of Western Australia and battling lovers Luther Fox and Georgie Jutland as they try to break out from bleak lives. 'I've been to lots of script meetings. Apart from that I'm not planning to go on set. I haven't done so for any of my other films,' Winton says. Did he have a say about the actors? 'At the moment it looks like it will be Russell [Crowe] and Nicole [Kidman]. It's the banks that decide. I could make a song and dance out of it but don't bother.' Winton shrugs, hands me back my copy of Dirt Music and flashes a warm smile. His publicist shoos me along. 'Next please.'