Sunday, January 11, 2015

Terrible Titles Blog Hop

So, I've been tagged by the lovely and talented Kirsty Eagar to play along in the Terrible Titles Blog Hop. My task is to provide eight terrible titles from my work in progress by scrolling randomly* through my manuscript and letting my cursor stop where it will.

 Here goes ...

A Limp Puddle of Blue

Talking About Their Secret Crushes

You Don't Want to Spew

His Weight Was Too Much

Smart, Brittle, Uncertain and Plain

You Know You Could Get Expelled For This

A Throbbing Bulky Lump Beneath the Doona

The Proverbial Poop Has Really Hit the Fan

I really quite like the last one. Definite bestseller potential, I think. If you would like to play along, feel free.

* I do have to admit that my selection wasn't completely random. I chose the closest interesting sentence to my cursor. It could have been quite boring otherwise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


My literary agent described Cooper Bartholomew is Dead as a backwards mystery because the death comes at the beginning rather than at the end of the book. I'm not entirely sure why I chose this way of telling the story but I guess it's because I'm more interested in the how and why than in the what. The big crucial event happens on the first page.  Cooper is dead. That leaves us with the how and, even better, the why. The why is what interests me most. The why involves the psychological reasons, the individual motivations, the relationships and emotional dynamics between the characters. Big emotions – jealousy, love, hate, resentment, fear – and the power they have to push us into making bad decisions, are fascinating! Extreme emotions  make us irrational, they make us act and react. They make good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Love, for example,  can turn a coward into a hero. Resentment and jealousy can turn a decent person into a murderer. Passion can make a weak person strong. There's always some kind of (often unconscious) emotion behind every self-destructive or unkind thing we do, every bad choice we make. This is what I think of as the precious juice of fiction. It's endlessly fascinating and beautifully complex and it's this complexity that I want to capture on the page. Humans being human. The glorious messiness of life. 

Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is narrated by four characters. Cooper, his girlfriend, Libby, his best friend, Sebastian and his ex-girlfriend, Claire. It was important to me that each of these characters had a voice because I wanted to explore the way one story or one event can have different versions depending on individual perspectives. We are each the centre of our own story, the main character. Often, in our internal narratives, we imagine that other people have it easier, that they are luckier, more confident, less confused by the world. We imagine that we are the only one who can really suffer. Having the four perspectives allowed me to examine this and to look at the story and at each character from various different angles. Fiction, in general, is a great way to remember that other people are complete human beings too. Fiction reminds us that we are all uncertain and confused and that in any situation there are multiple truths, multiple stories. There are countless ways of seeing the world. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

CAREER IN PROGRESS (random musings from an apprehensive writer)

My third book is due to be released later this year. Just last month I finished the final copyedit and wrote the acknowledgements. As I attached the file to an email to send to my publisher I thought to myself, Well. That’s it. It’s out of my hands now.

I congratulated myself. I fist pumped the air. I told myself I was awesome. (Actually, I didn’t do any of these things. I can’t remember exactly what I did but a fist pump would be sadly out of character. I only wish I were the fist pumping type. I probably just sighed and flashed a small, smug smile at the computer screen.) In any case, I pressed send, got up from my desk and made myself a celebratory cup of tea and scrounged around in the pantry for some kind of sweet biscuit to go with it. I took my goodies to the kitchen table and sat down. I sipped and munched. I stared out of the window into the grey day outside and ... felt a bit lost.

I’m sure most people here know this already but writing a book is hard. Really hard. (Oh, look, there are harder things, I know. Much harder things. In fact on the spectrum of ‘hard things’ about life, writing a book is nowhere near the pointy end. In fact, writing should really be considered a luxury. A lot of basic needs—food, shelter, safety—have to be taken care of before one can sit down at a desk and worry about putting words on a page.) Still, assuming you have somewhere to live, enough food to eat, and a relatively comfortable place to sit, writing a book is a bit of a slog. It’s a long and lonely process. Wrangling between 60 and 100 thousand words into a compelling, cohesive and satisfying narrative takes a lot of hours, a lot of thinking, and (for most, if not all, of us) a lot of careful rewriting. I’m not sure about other writers but I start anticipating and longing for the end when I’m approximately 3 pages in. Problem is, the end is always so far away. Even when it’s not, it feels like it is. Finishing seems impossible, the mountain of words insurmountable, the peak so high you can’t even see it. And so, when you do finally reach the summit and type "THE END", like all feverishly anticipated events, it’s always a bit of an anticlimax.

After the initial high of finishing there’s often a comedown. The time between that final proofread and publication date can feel quite strange. Much like a terrible hangover, it’s a funny sort of unproductive, breathless, limbo-land. It involves a lot of waiting, hours and hours of hoping and wondering, a fair bit of nail biting. The book is done, the substantive work all finished, and yet it’s impossible to sit there and feel smug about it. you see, the scariest part is still to come.

On one hand, it’s exhilarating—Woohoo, I’ve finished! Hooray! Hooray! And on the other, it’s completely terrifying—Is it any good? Will people like it? Will this be the last book I ever publish?
The combination of those two extremes can leave you feeling a little unsteady, a little unglued. Paralysed and vulnerable, like a rabbit staring into the headlights of a car.


This time, writing my acknowledgments got me thinking. My biggest thanks, my most heartfelt gratitude went to my publisher, Erica, and my editor Sonja. Sonja and Erica read my latest manuscript in its very early stages. They saw its potential and helped me shape and smooth it into a publishable book. The first draft—if and when I can bear to go back and look at it now—makes me cringe. It’s so rough and unpolished I have to peek at it sideways, through my fingers. It’s too long. It rambles. The plot is loose and unstructured. There are too many unsatisfying tangents, too many voices, too many irrelevant subplots.

The thing is—I had professionals to help me fix it. I had an editor to help me rein the structure in, a publisher who set a firm publishing date and made the whole thing seem real. (I can’t tell you how motivating things like cover images and release dates are!) I couldn’t just curl up in a ball and cry. I couldn’t quit.

And it occurs to me how lucky I am right now to have people behind me who are invested in my career. There are publishing professionals who want me to produce a decent book and whose job it is to help me get there. I’m not working alone anymore. I’m part of a team.

And that thought reminded me that this wasn’t always the case. Like most people who don’t know anyone in the industry and are submitting through the slush pile, getting a foot in the door is hard. To get attention, to get people to take notice of your work, to find a publisher willing to take a risk on a debut author takes a fair bit of perseverance. you have to have enough confidence in your work to keep trying in the face of rejection (you also have to know when to give up and move onto something else,
but that’s another topic, for another time.)

My first book, Beautiful Malice, was rejected so many times I lost count. It was rejected by literary agents and publishers. It was rejected because the characters were too young, because they were too old, because they were neither one or the other. In the end Beautiful Malice sold in 52 countries. I don’t say this to brag—honestly, I know how large a part luck plays in this kind of thing—I say it to be encouraging. Amazing and wonderful things do happen. Little manuscripts become big books. Stories are pulled out of the slush pile and sold around the world.

The point is, though, that it’s hard to get a foot in the door (you really do have to keep shoving) and I’m glad to say I’ve stepped through that solid, deadlocked, heavily-guarded obstacle. I’m so relieved to be on the other side.

I don’t know where my career will go from here. My forthcoming book, Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead, is due to be published in Australia in October and I have no idea how it will be received, how it will sell. Maybe it will be published overseas. Maybe it won’t. There are countless uncertainties. And so while I’m grateful to be where I am now—about to have my third book published, contracted to write my fourth—I won’t rest on my laurels. Publishing is a fickle business. Nothing is guaranteed.

All I can do—all any of us can do—is keep on writing. The best words we can.

                                                                                             (First published in ACTWrite, August, 2014)

Friday, May 30, 2014

tempus fugit

So. It has been over a year since Sweet Damage came out in Australia. It doesn't feel that long. In fact if   someone asked me when my last book came out I'd answer 'Oh, just a few months ago.' Something quite funny happens to your perception of time as you get older. When I was a kid I thought a year was an eternity. A lifetime. Even when I was 18 and started a nursing degree I remember thinking, Three years? What point? Surely the world will be over by then and in any case I will be old and arthritic. Too old for nursing.

I googled this phenomenon (of time seeming to speed up as you get older) and according to my research1 not ALL time speeds up as you age. Days and hours go by at exactly the same rate – only the years seem to speed up. This boggles the mind (how can hours go by at the same rate while the years speed up?). It's also mildly depressing. I don't want my years getting faster and faster, thanks very much.

But, apparently, all the painful, sad or boring bits of life will always feel slow. If you're in a queue at the supermarket the wait will feel eternal. If you're running late for an appointment the red light will take several decades to turn green. That's just the way it is.

It's good to know, however, that "if life does seem to be rushing by it is a sign that things are going well." I do take comfort in that. I must be relatively happy because the years are zipping by.

This is all just a very long-winded way of saying I have a new book coming out soon. It will released by Allen and Unwin on the 1st of October this year.  If I think about all the minutes, hours and days that I have to wait, publication day seems a long way away. But if I measure the wait in big-time, it's a mere four months away, one tiny little third of one of those flashing-by years, and so next time I blink I'll probably find myself at my book launch drinking champagne and shaking with nerves because I have to give a speech. That is the magic of time. (Are you confused yet? I hope so because I certainly am.)

My next book is called Cooper Bartholomew is Dead. There's a blurb on Goodreads2 which reads:

Cooper Bartholomew's body is found at the foot of a cliff. His friends are in shock, and at least one of them is keeping a dangerous secret … Cooper's girlfriend Libby, is determined to fight for justice, but how will she deal with the explosive truth?

Unputdownable storytelling at its finest.

I started writing this book in 2009. Five years ago. When I think of my life in a big-picture way and remember what has happened – my kids and how they've grown, moving house, publishing a second book, all the things that have changed – the years have truly flown by. But when I think of working on this book, all the writing and rewriting, giving up on it and shoving the entire manuscript under the bed, changing my mind and pulling it out again and dusting it off, the time has passed much more  slowly. Second by second. Word by word.

And what is my point, you ask? I'm not entirely sure. Maybe I'm just trying to say it can sometimes take a long time to write a book. Longer than you hope. I reckon if you knew how long it would take in the beginning, if you knew how many words you'd delete and rewrite, and how frequently you'd want to toss the whole thing in the bin, you'd never start in the first place. But then, I'm sure that's true of a lot of worthwhile things.

The cover for Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead is below. Let me know what you think. I love it. Lee Kofman told me (on twitter) that she thought it looked romantic, sinister and melancholy and I think those words are perfect because that's exactly how I'd describe the book.

Anyway. Now I should probably go and write. I have another book to work on.  I'm quite certain this one is going to be perfect first time round.  It will require no huge structural  redrafts and very minimal edits. My editor is going to be amazed and say 'oh my goodness Rebecca, but you are a genius, you only just finished your last book a week ago!'  (Thank goodness for delusional optimism. Thank goodness time is so rubbery and memory so short.)

1 Which was not at all extensive. I read exactly one article.

2 I am not sure whether this is the final copy. Will let you know!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sweet Damage UK release

In exactly one month from today Sweet Damage will hit shelves in the UK. This is cause for much excitement! (Well, around my kitchen table it is anyway). I love the design Faber has chosen for the cover. I look at the shadowy figure in the background and think 'ooooh,' and then I look at the girl and wonder what she's so afraid of. And then I remember that I wrote the book and am supposed to know these things.

I figure it must be a good cover if it has the author intrigued...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Paperchain Bookstore Event

If you live in Canberra and are free next Thursday night why don't you come along to Paperchain Bookstore? I'll be there talking to the lovely Tania McCartney about all things writing. (Well, maybe not all things, but certainly many things.) You can have a glass of wine and a piece of cheese* and sit and listen to us natter. We'll be talking about my latest book, Sweet Damage, and the pressures of writing a second book. We'll be talking about Beautiful Malice a bit too and pondering the pros and cons of getting a big advance for your first book, and what it's really like to be compared to JK Rowling!

If you want to come, (and I hope you do), you need to RSVP for catering purposes. You can find all the details here on the Paperchain website.

*I'm assuming there will be cheese, but I could be wrong, there may not be any cheese at all. You will have to come along to find out.