Back in 2008, when I signed my very first book deal with Random House Australia, I was a few months pregnant with my first child. I flew to Sydney to sign the deal, and when I got back to Perth, my husband surprised me by hiring a limo and inviting some of our friends on a night out to celebrate. It was an exciting time, full of possibilities and new beginnings.
I have become a big fan of listening to author podcasts of late, so I was thrilled to be invited on to a couple of them to chat about all things writing. You can listen to me talking to Cheryl Akle on the Better Reading podcast here, and with Anna O’Grady on the Simon & Schuster podcast here. There’s lots about my books and I hope emerging writers find them particularly interesting.
I’m very excited to tell you that I have a new novel in production. It’s called THE HIDDEN HOURS, and it’s a story of family betrayals and shocking secrets, wrapped in pacy suspense. It was quite a challenge to write, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that in the coming months! Set between London and outback Western Australia, here’s a teaser:
Arabella Lane, popular children’s publisher and daughter of a prominent MP, is found dead in the Thames on a frosty winter’s morning after the office Christmas party. No one is sure whether she jumped or was pushed. The one person who may know the truth is the newest employee at Parker & Lane – the office temp, Eleanor.
Eleanor has travelled to London to escape the repercussions of her traumatic childhood in outback Australia, but now tragedy seems to follow her wherever she goes. She falls under suspicion as one of the last people to talk to Arabella, and because she cannot recall a few vital hours of that night. When she finds herself holding a key piece of evidence, she’s unsure whether she dare reveal it to the police, in case she thereby implicates herself in some kind of foul play.
As Eleanor desperately tries to uncover the truth, her extended family are dragged further into the murky terrain that surrounds Arabella’s death. Meanwhile, Arabella’s violent and arrogant husband Nathan seems to suspect Eleanor of being involved, and is determined to get her to confess. Caught in a crossfire of accusations, Eleanor begins to fall apart, her memories of past and present intermingling. Soon she is in a race against time to find out just what happened that night, because danger lurks far closer to home than she could ever have imagined.
I hope that entices you, and I can’t wait to share more very soon. Published by Simon & Schuster, it will be on the shelves in April 2017.
I really enjoyed writing my post for Annabel Smith’s fascinating new blog series ‘How to become a writer’. There are so many things that have influenced my writing that it was hard to narrow down my thoughts into just a few hundred words! You can read the full blog here.
It is always a treat to participate in a group blog with my very special writing group, consisting of Natasha Lester, Amanda Curtin, Annabel Smith, Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman and Yvette Walker. On this occasion we have come together to celebrate the recent release of my own book All That is Lost Between Us, and Natasha’s newly released A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald. Both of these books feature young girls determined to pursue their passions – so it seems only fitting that our blog posts are all about what we read as young women that inspired us to follow our own dreams.
On the surface, the two books I am going to write about could not be more different, and yet they were both books I read multiple times in my late teens, and they both continue to influence me today. The first, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, is a book I would probably not have picked up at the time, had it not been on my study list for my A level exams. I had never read anything like it. I couldn’t claim to understand it and yet I was immersed in the sensory overload on every page; the voices of each character so distinct and so close; everything framed by the rise and fall of the sun and the surge and retreat of the waves, as a day grows and blossoms and then fades, just as a life does. It was a book I returned to explore again and again, entranced by both its complexity and simplicity. As a reader, I was completely absorbed by its visceral narrative. As a young writer, I was learning so much. Since then I have read many of the works of Virginia Woolf, but The Waves is still my favourite.
The second book I remember reading repeatedly as a teen was completely different. Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine is an utterly original, humorous non-fiction book on the plight of some of the most endangered animals in the world. (Since Douglas Adams’s death, it has been re-envisioned and updated by Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine in another book and TV series.) It not only appealed to my love of animals, but it also tapped in to my growing awareness of environmental problems, and how difficult it is to change human patterns of behavior to avoid the preventable and tragic loss of species. It was the very first book to focus my attention on the delicate nature of biodiversity, and how much work needs to be done to preserve and cherish the world around us. Last Chance to See is twenty-five years old this year, but its urgent appeal to humanity remains as relevant as ever.
Please take the time to visit my fellow writers’ blogs and learn who inspired them when they were younger – there are some wonderful choices and stories in this collection:
Natasha Lester remembers her love of Jane Eyre.
Dawn Barker recalls an powerful read that made her determined to work in the mental health industry.
Emma Chapman talks about a former boss who proved to be an inspiration.
Annabel Smith describes the impact Sylvia Plath’s diaries had on her as a teen.
Yvette Walker tells us how Graham Greene influenced her as a writer and reader.
Amanda Curtin celebrates Eleanor Alice Buford Hibbert, whose name is less familiar than her wonderful work, thanks to her numerous pseudonyms.
And finally, don’t forget to tell us who inspired you when you were growing up!
I’m just coming down from the high of three days at the Perth Writers Festival, where I conducted a workshop on editing, talked about Family Dynamics with Peggy Frew, Myfanwy Jones and Michelle Michau Crawford, discussed Foreboding with Garry Disher and David Dyer, and then finished with the official book launch of All That is Lost Between Us.
I loved finding out more about the wonderful novels by my co-panellists, whose books I would all highly recommend. I also had quite an emotional moment listening to Liz Byrski launch my new novel, because Liz is an author I deeply admire. To have her say such wonderful things about not only this book but my previous stories was very, very special.
I made it to a few sessions myself. I watched Roman Kryznck open the festival with his engaging talk on empathy. I listened to Susan Johnstone, Helen Ellis and Lauren Groff discuss the Domestic novel, and it was great hearing them speak, although the session didn’t really go in the direction I hoped it would (I wanted them to get into the nitty gritty of how the domestic is written and perceived in fiction). I also attended the Stan Grant, Jane Caro and Lindsay Tanner session called ‘We Need to Talk About This’. They each spoke passionately about issues from racism to mental health, and left me wanting to read their work. And I watched Michael Cathcart interview Paolo Bacigalupi, where he raised the interesting point of whether descriptions of sexual violence in novels can ever go too far. I found myself agreeing with Michael, because I think I stopped reading a lot of crime (I used to read loads) due to the graphic descriptions of horrible events in many of the novels. But … how can we ever censor stories? Because if we did, the same reasoning might be applied to some of the awful scenes in Shallow Breath, but they form an integral part of the novel. They have to be there, even though I found them very distressing to write. This is complex question, and while Paolo Bacigalupi certainly did his best to answer it, I didn’t feel he nailed it.
A personal highlight of the festival was spending the evening of my 40th birthday with the Simon & Schuster authors and publishing team, along with a few passionate booksellers and journalists. The beautiful, inclusive nature of the event left me in no doubt that Simon & Schuster Australia is a very special publishing house, and I feel extremely blessed to be under their wing.
If you attended the festival, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And if you came to one of my sessions, thank you. Roll on PWF 2017!
It’s only a few days until the Perth Writers Festival, where I have a very busy schedule. My final event on Sunday is my book launch, and you are all invited. Do come and join us if you are attending the festival, it would be great to see you there.