Asa is running from a troubled past, and when she goes to stay with the father she hasn’t seen in twelve years, she’s hoping that finally she has found a home.
But he’s more interested in spending time at the pub than with his daughter and when the notorious Dirt Circus League arrives in town they draw Asa into their web.
Apart her instant attraction to their charismatic leader, Quarter, Asa is drawn to the possibility of friendship and connection and the yearning to become part of this unruly group of under 20s, all except The Surgeon who’s an ‘outsider’ like Asa but attends to all the group’s medical needs.
In this page turner, we see Asa drawn deeper and deeper into the League’s mysterious web.
Up until now, Asa has tried to ignore the gift of second sight; the ability to see both the past and the future, but since she has joined the League, her visions have been getting stronger and she soon realises that there’s way more to the League than she thought, and there’s a dark reason why none of it’s members are over twenty.
Asa is also forced to face the darkness in herself and the reasons why she always resorts to fighting and violence to handle the deep anger in her that comes from a lifetime of betrayals.
Asa’s visions help her to discover the truth about the Dirt Circus League, but not everybody is going to be happy with her revelations, even if they save lives.
Asa is forced to choose between her feelings for Quarter and her need to find a space where she is loved unconditionally and personal happiness doesn’t come through violence and danger.
I found myself drawn into the deep and disturbed world that Maree Kimberley has created in Dirt Circus League . I loved its authenticity and the way the author uses the setting as a character in the story, creating menace and beauty at the same time.
The lure of constant danger and Asa’s disturbing visions made this book a real page turner.
I was also hooked in by Asa’s complex character and the way she battles the demons within herself. I loved her strength and her vulnerability, and how they lead her into danger, but also save her in the end.
It is written by Maree Kimberley and published by Text Publishing.
Maree Kimberley is a writer from Brisbane. Her work has been published in several anthologies, including The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2015 and Defying Doomsday. Dirt Circus League, her first novel for young adults, was inspired by the remote landscapes of Cape York and her fascination for neuroscience.
I spoke to Maree about how she wrote this extraordinary book and you can see our interview here.
My great nieces, Ella and Evie absolutely lovedHello, Baby written by Shelly Unwin and illustrated by Jedda Robaard.
And it’s hardly surprising! Hello, Baby is a perfect ‘Baby’s First Story’.
The emotive pastel illustrations beautifully complement the gentle lilting text. There’s so much love, warmth and joy in this delightful picture book as the family welcomes their new arrival and contemplates the wonderful years ahead with their new baby.
Today we’re lucky to have the author and the illustrator, Shelly and Jedda, here to talk about how they created this beautiful book.
Shelly is the SCBWI ACT Coordinator and author of the much loved ‘You’re Series’ also published by Allen & Unwin.
I had some questions for Shelly about the inspiration behind this book and how she created it.
My parents were foster parents, and I loved helping them care for the babies. So, when I became an author, I knew at some point I would write a book specifically for babies. But if you asked my husband, he would tell you he was my inspiration – he was the one to suggest that I put pen to serviette (we were in a restaurant at the time) and write it. And I’m so glad he did!
2. Why do you think books like this are important?
I think people often buy books to celebrate the arrival of baby, but they’re often hard-back collectables that sit beautifully on the shelf until the child is older. This book is about reading from the day baby is born, and this is so important. Reading to baby as soon as possible has so many wonderful benefits, assisting cognitive development and nurturing the bond between caregivers and babies. And, in our non-stop world, this book says, ‘Pause, pause and look at the beautiful baby you have created. Pause and relish the time you have with them and the future you will have together.’
3. Can you tell me about the writing process?
As I mentioned, my first draft of this book was written on a serviette. I then took it back to my office and reworked it. When I felt confident, I shared it with my critique group for their feedback, several times. This helped to make the manuscript as strong as it could be and ensure I’d nailed the rhyme and the rhythm regardless of who was reading it.
4. What is your top writing tip for picture book authors?
Find a critique group that works for you. It is so important to get feedback from writers who can look at a story critically and help you build it to its potential before sending it out to agents or publishers. Even if you know a lot about books and writing, you’re often too close to your own work to really see where it can be improved, and this is where a good critique group can be so beneficial.
5. In your mind, did you visualise your main character as a human baby? How did you feel when you saw the illustrations?
I always envisioned an animal as the main character, but I thought it would be one animal family the whole way through the story. I was delighted when Jedda illustrated a whole host of animals who gather together with human babies at the end of the book.
6. What have they added to your text?
I love that the family unit is different throughout the story – some families are single-parent families and many of the animals have no clear gender. It makes my heart sing that the book can support any family structure and is accessible to all. I also love Jedda’s beautiful illustration style – it complements the text and is perfectly suited to the age group. Allen & Unwin also added the dedication page at the front of the book and the space for baby’s first photo at the back, which makes it such a special keepsake.
Jedda has created over 40 books. Her books are sold internationally and have been published in many languages including English, French, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Korean and Chinese.
Although she enjoys writing her own stories, Jedda has also collaborated with a number of Australian Authors, including Katie Richie, Kerry Brown, Melissa Keil, Libby Gleeson, Kate Welshman, and Tania Cox.
Jedda is published in Australia by Hardie Grant Egmont, Penguin Random House, Hachette, Five Mile Press – Bonnier, Walker Books, Scholastic books, Little Hare Books, Allen & Unwin and HarperCollins.
And internationally by Little Bee, Langue Au Chat, Pearson & Planeta Junior.
I loved hearing Jedda’s insights into how she illustrated Hello Baby!
1. Did you connect with the text straight away? If so, why?
As soon as I read Shelly’s next, I loved it. I knew straight away how it could look. The images jumped into my mind immediately. Which isn’t always the case when someone else has written the story.
2. Was it your idea to use animal characters? If so, how did you choose which ones to use?
I believe it was always destined to be animals, but the idea of it being a different animal family for each page made it so much more fun.
I’m not completely sure on how I came to to pick each animal. But the text definitely helped set up characteristics for each family.
3. What medium/s have you used?
This book was done entirely on the iPad in Procreate (digital drawing program created specifically for illustrators). I’ve found it the only digital program that allows me to draw and paint and get as close as possible to the feeling of illustrating traditionally.
4. What is your top tip for new picture book illustrators?
Don’t spend so much time perfecting your folio that you never send it in. You will learn a lot ‘on the job’ and although you may worry your initial folio isn’t good enough. If you have what a publisher is looking for they will see it.
5. What was the most fun thing about illustrating this book?
Having so many different animals. As your probably aware I love illustrating animals and this was like Christmas for me.
6. What was the most challenging?
I think using digital media is always the most challenging for me. Not the actual drawing but making the images look as non digital as possible while not pretending it’s traditional watercolour. It’s a balancing act that I am still working on.
Thank you so much Shelly and Jedda for sharing your insights on how you created this beautiful picture book. I hope that Hello, Baby finds its way into many small hands.
If you have questions for Shelly or Jedda, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.
Today I used books by Australian authors, Nova Weetman, Penny Tangey and Felice Arena (as well as some of my own works) to demonstrate to Year 5 and 6 students that there are many different ways to end stories.
We talked about what story endings need to include in order to satisfy the reader.
We also discussed things to look for when revising your work, and the anthology that student’s stories will be going in.
It was great chatting about words and language and one of a writer’s most important tools, a thesaurus.
Students enjoyed using the thesaurus’ that I donated to the Year 4, 5 and 6 classrooms.
Sadly, these were my final classroom sessions for the project.
In the afternoon, I worked with the Editorial and Marketing committee, finalising the pieces they had written. These pieces will be published in the newsletter and on this blog.
The last part of the day was bittersweet, saying farewell to the beautiful Preps, Year 1 and Year 2 students at Yarrawonga College P-12 and getting photos to be used in their anthologies.
I’ve had such an amazing time working with the respectful and enthusiastic students in Years P-8 and I’ll miss them and the incredibly supportive, friendly and dedicated teachers and other staff who have all been part of the Your Story is Our Story project.
I’ve learnt some great tips from the teaching staff and have been so inspired by the students.
I can’t wait to read all their amazing stories in the Year Level anthologies.
Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.
Students in Year 2 worked on the endings of their stories today. We talked about different ways to make the ending of a story more interesting.
We also shared tips on revising your story, and things to check including word choice, ‘show don’t tell’, checking to see that your story makes sense and reading your story aloud.
The Year 4 writing extension class was full of ideas for entering the Write the Murray short story and poetry writing competition.
We talked about starting a writer’s group to encourage each other and help each other to become better writers. Some writers also read their creative and compelling pieces to the group.
Year 3 students worked on their story beginnings and we talked about how to know where to start your story.
We also looked at techniques to make sure you show and don’t tell in your story, and how to expand dialogue using setting, character and action.
Using their story plans, students made a great start on writing their story beginnings.
The day finished with another meeting of the enthusiastic Editorial and Marketing Committee working on their articles inspired by their interviews with younger students about the Your Story is Our Story project.
Brainstorming article ideas.
A busy end to another great week!
Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.
A STORY OF NURSING AND CONNECTION IN THE TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a book about Covid-19 yet, not when I was still trying to put behind me the loss, the separation from loved ones and the isolation that have been the lives of all of us for the last twelve months or so.
But all through the year I had wondered what it would be like to be a frontline worker, at the coal face, caring for Covid-19 patients and risking your life every single day to save the lives of others.
The Care Factor takes us into the life of ICU nurse, Simone Sheridan who not only retrained so she could take care of Covid-19 patients in ICU, but also provided support and training in domestic violence which sky rocketed during the pandemic, and gender awareness in the workplace.
I was moved, compelled and exhausted by her deeply personal accounts as she worked across a number of hospitals, barely sleeping, trying to make life better, easier, kinder for other people – trying to help them survive.
But The Care Factor wasn’t just about Sim. It was about the patients she treated, the staff she worked with and the support network around her, including her partner Emily whose performance and teaching career was stopped short by the pandemic and who worked as a ward clerk in Emergency at one of Victoria’s major hospitals.
Author, Ailsa Wild also shares her Covid-19 experiences with her partner and pre-school aged son, in lockdown in a two bedroom flat trying to juggle working from home, the needs of a small active boy and the loss and isolation from family and friends – not even being able to take her son to the park.
Both Sim and Ailsa are generous in their sharing of their Covid-19 lives, but the enduring friendship and the love they have for each other are the threads that tie this amazing book together.
The Care Factor helped me understand the intricacies of Covid-19 and challenges I’d never even thought of that were faced by our medical professionals as they fought to save lives. Simple things like being frightened to see your loved ones when you got home from work because of your fear of infecting them.
The Care Factor is a deeply personal story of love and hope during a global pandemic, and how connection and care can make a difference.
If you read one book about the pandemic, The Care Factorshould be it. This book will restore your faith in humanity and the power of friendship.
Hardie Grant Books will donate $1 from each copy sold to Drummond Street Services which supports families in times of need.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY – by Ailsa Wild
In March last year, as the hospitals in Lombardy were overwhelmed with Covid cases and numbers were starting to rise in New York, my friend Simone told me she was going to retrain in ICU as a nurse. I offered to be her debrief person, an ear on the other end of the phone, someone to tell her daily stories to, whatever those stories ended up being. And I asked if I could record our conversations. I felt like we were living a particular moment in history and she was going to be close to the action. I had a hunch there would be a story to be written.
By early August, in the middle of Melbourne’s lockdowns, when we were only allowed out of the house a single hour a day, I had written three chapters – enough to pitch a book.
My chapter outline was unfinished; it only went up to chapter six. At the bottom of the outline I wrote, ‘from chapter six to ten we still don’t know what will happen.’
I emailed a publisher and she responded that very night. She asked if I could get her a full manuscript in eleven weeks’ time.
I said yes.
And I did.
My partner and I put together a fiercely regimented schedule of times when I could be in the study/bedroom alone. I had thought it would be impossible to tune out my four-year-old’s raucous joys and tears, but I managed it. And it turns out I work better to a deadline. I left my unfinished junior fiction goofball horror manuscript languishing. Dragging myself to that document felt impossible. But this deadline from Hardie Grant set me on fire.
What I understand is that I’ve written a page-tuner, something that people gobble up quite quickly, and I suspect that’s partly because of the urgency of the deadline. I think it’s also to do with my background in children’s fiction and in circus. I’m experienced in keeping people’s attention. I’m terrified my audience will get bored and wander off to the playground or start chatting in the back row. I worked to make the story as immediate and pacey as it could be, while keeping all the information and heart.
The Care Factor is an issues book. It’s about the strength of women’s friendship, the care economy, the hours and expertise and training caring takes, and how much we, as a society should value that care. But those issues are written about very intimately. They are close to the body and full of tears. I hope this means it will touch a broad readership.
I’m looking forward to the conversations it might start.
Thanks Ailsa, yours and Sim’s journey in writing this book is as extraordinary as the story itself, and we’re really grateful to you for sharing it with us.
You can find out more about Ailsa and her books by visiting her website.
Today, the wonderful and talented Claire Saxby is visiting DeeScribe Writing to talk about her first historical fiction, Haywire, published by Scholastic Australia and she’s sharing some secrets about her writing process.
Claire writes award-winning fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children. Her books include ‘Bird to Bird’ and ‘Dingo’, ‘Seadog’ and ‘There Was an Old Sailor’. Her books and poetry are published in Australia and internationally.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ HAYWIRE
In 1939, 14-year-old Tom lives in Hay where his family runs the local bakery. Max Gruber is nearly fourteen-years-old. He is sent to his Uncle Ferdy in London, but is then interred and shipped to Australia aboard the Dunera. He arrives in Hay and meets Tom. The two boys become friends and find their lives and their friendship influenced by a far-away conflict in Europe. (from the publisher – Scholastic Australia)
Born on opposite sides of the world, Tom and Max live very different lives that both long to escape. In this compelling tale of an unlikely friendship, the two boys have been brought together by war.
Max’s frightening voyage on the Dunera keeps us spell bound and even once he arrives in Australia, life doesn’t get much easier for him after he finds himself in the Hay internment camp, shunned by most of the outside world as an ‘enemy alien’.
In her novel, HAYWIRE, Claire Saxby documents a little known passage of the Australian WW11 experience.
Tom and Max are both well crafted and relatable characters and readers can connect with their vulnerabilities and the fear and uncertainty that war brings.
Tom’s family life is authentically Australian and rich in the detail and experiences of the time in which the story is set.
Although HAYWIRE is set in a time of great tragedy and fear, we are left with hope and a belief that life for both Tom and Max will turn out okay in spite of the situation and war that their countries have thrust them into.
This well researched work of historical fiction is for readers aged 9 to 12 and has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Young People’s History Prize. Congratulations Claire.
HAYWIRE – THE WRITING PROCESS
What inspired you to write this book?
I knew about the Dunera, the ship that brought so many internees to Australia in 1940, but I didn’t know much. I did know that a substantial number of the internees elected to stay in Australia rather than return to England once the British government acknowledged their wrongful internment. I did know that this was an extraordinary group of men, who contributed enormously to Australia. But I knew nothing about how they came to be in Hay and what the locals thought. And I wanted to.
Who/what inspired the characters of Tom and Max?
Max came first. I had this sense of a teenage boy picked up by a tidal wave and swept from his world to the world of war, where he is judged purely by his heritage, his accent. No one asked how he felt, what he wanted. And the size of the wave that carried him on allowed little time for him to even consider more than surviving. Until he reaches Hay. Tom’s life looks simple in comparison, but he too is caught up in the war at home and it tears at his life, his security too. He, like Max, has little time to really process what’s going on, and what he really wants. I wanted to show that the quiet ones are as ripped apart by war as those who shout loudly.
Can you talk us through the research process?
Research took a very long time and continued throughout writing and redrafting! There were two main reasons for this. The first is that it’s all fascinating and it’s so easy to disappear down paths that may well lead to more interesting information, but which don’t necessarily contribute directly to the novel. The second reason is because in order to represent both 1939/1940 Europe and Hay, NSW accurately I needed to know so much! I needed the timeline to WWII in Germany and England, in Australia in general, and Hay in particular. Then I needed to know what life was like in Hay at the time (and that involved spending a lot – A LOT – of time on Trove, reading the twice-weekly regional newspaper.
Each reading exposed holes in my knowledge and let to more research. I thought I’d done enough research and was somewhere in the middle of drafting (tenth draft?) when I had the chance to visit Hay (It’s on the way from Melbourne to Canberra, right?). Much of what I’d researched was right, but there were several fundamental errors on my part – and each of those meant that if I wanted the story to be as close to real as I could make it, I needed to rewrite a number of key scenes. Aggh! But ultimately it was worth it.
What Surprising Things Did you discover through the research process?
So many. There were so many things that I just hadn’t thought about, eg why did they chose Hay for the internment camps? (criteria included being far from the coast, having transport access, being built on sand to prevent escape attempts). Surprises were big and small and ranged from fathers being rounded up for internment in England, even when sons were employed by the army (and vice versa) to the camp having their own currency.
I met a man who had been a child at the time the internees arrived and he told me that there’d been Gatling guns set up inside the station, trained on the disembarking men. The same man told me about his father setting up on the chimney of their house, armed with several weapons and prepared to shoot if any of the men appeared on the street. Another surprise was that around 20 % of the internees were under 20 years-old.
Claire’s latest release, Kookaburra
I use an A4 workbook for my research, in addition to online research. I write notes in it, on only one side of the page, with reference notes (reference book details and page number or online reference details etc). Sometimes I print out pages too, glue them in and highlight relevant information.
Don’t have too many characters. After writing mostly picture books, I thought, here is my chance to have lots of characters, and it is, but beware of having so many that it becomes confusing. Tom had many more siblings, reflecting family sizes of the time, but not all of them had enough of a role to justify their existence. Some had to go.
Research broadly, from multiple sources. Trove was a … treasure trove! It allowed me access to several regional newspapers, each with their own focus. All were helpful. The internet is wonderful and so are books. Each provides some of the same information, which is useful for corroboration, but each also provides different information, which helps to flesh out the historical world I was entering.
Much loved children’s author, Katrina Germain and illustrator, Tom Jellett have a wonderful new book due out next month!
Shoo You Crocodile! is a fun, raucous tale for imaginative young readers and small, brave adventurers. The story offers space for discussion around play, real and imagined stories and families can use the book to play their own make-believe monster games and learn about rhyming words. The book also teaches young readers about working together, being brave, facing challenges and problem solving. (from the publisher) Little Book Press
Katrina says, The story was super fun to write. Escaping invisible crocodiles is like dodging molten lava; it’s an imaginary game that is played universally by children. I had the idea for this story while watching a group of children play in the sandpit. They were pretending that crocodiles were coming to get them. The book has noise and action with themes of imagination, teamwork and courage. The rhythm and rhyme is lively and there are crocodiles on the loose! What could be more fun than that?
As with every picture book I write, I want to appeal to both adults and children but my primary focus is the kids. Hopefully, young children will love this one because it’s playful with amusing elements of danger. As it was inspired by pre-schoolers exploring ideas together (creating a game about overcoming danger) it’s not about what adults want to tell children; it’s about what children want to tell themselves. There’s also something about crocodiles that intrigues young readers and always draws everyone in.
If educators and parents would like to use the book for other learning experiences there are opportunities to explore language and rhyming words. The main themes include working together, being brave and facing challenges with friends. The illustrator, Tom Jellett, has set the story in a museum, which adds additional, rich layers of meaning to the story. Families could spend ages examining the pictures and pondering the artefacts in the artwork. The book would be great to read before or after a visit to the museum.
THE WRITING PROCESS
What were the challenges of writing a story like this featuring a scary creature in a book for young children?
Great question! Books and play are wonderful ways for children to explore scary situations in a safe manner that makes them feel powerful. (There’s always a happy outcome at the end!) Tom Jellett’s entertaining art perfectly creates the right atmosphere. The crocodiles are running around on their two back legs so they’re not overly lifelike. The story is dramatic and suspenseful but the crocodiles never actually catch the characters or touch them; the children in the story successfully frighten the crocodiles away. The book has a child narrator and the tone is upbeat and energetic. I think all those thing help.
Can you give us 5 tips on how you wrote this book?
I tend to use different processes for different books but this one went something like this…
Let children be the inspiration.
Observe and listen to children. Think about what’s important to them and what ideas they’d like to explore.
Make it fun!
Do this through the use of captivating characters, action and drama and interesting language; use onomatopoeia, rhyme and colloquialisms.
Edit and polish.
Rewrite and rewrite till your story is tight. (SHOO YOU CROCODILE is just under 200 words.)
Trust the illustrator.
Don’t attempt to explain every aspect of the story in the written text. The illustrator will create a visual narrative that completes the story.
Trust the readers.
Don’t spell out themes and messages in a boring, laborious way. Tell an engaging story and let readers discover aspects that interest them. If your book is authentic, layered and interesting readers will find ways to enjoy it.
Thanks Katrina for sharing these great tips.
Katrina Germein is a best-selling picture book author. Published worldwide, Katrina’s book Big Rain Coming has remained continuously in print since it was first published in 1999. Her popular title My Dad Thinks He’s Funny was Highly Commended in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Thunderstorm Dancing is among many of Katrina’s CBCA Notable Books to have featured on children’s television programs such as Play School. In 2019 Katrina received the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award for Let’s Go Strolling. Katrina is an ambassador for Raising Literacy Australia, a Books in Homes Role Model and a Premier’s Reading Challenge Ambassador. New titles in 2020 include Tell ’em! and Shoo You Crocodile! Katrina holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She continues to teach part time.
You can find out more about Katrina at her website.
Vikki Holstein is the author of Breaking Storm, the first book in her romantic suspense series, White Wattle Creek.
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, her writing reflects the courage it takes to trust again, and the struggle to forgive ourselves on the journey to finding love, peace, and happiness.
Now a wife, mother, and storyteller, she lives in central Victoria with her husband and herd of animals. When not writing, she spends time with her horses, helping her husband on his latest renovation project, or gardening.
ABOUT BREAKING STORM
Kelsey’s sole purpose in life is to keep four-year-old Pipa safe. Conceived in a violent, drug-induced rampage, Pipa is being hunted by the man responsible. He wants her dead, and no matter how far Kelsey and Pipa run, the brewing storm is never far behind.
Protection lies in Kelsey’s hometown of White Wattle Creek in the form of Ethan, the man who’d always been her safe place. The one she loved. And the one who broke her heart. But she not only has Ethan to face when she returns. The emotional abuse of her past and the truth surrounding Pipa’s existence both rain down on her from the clouds gathering overhead.
When Kelsey finally opens her heart to Ethan, her nightmares tip over into reality, and with Pipa’s future hanging in the balance, Kelsey must find the strength within to fight for their right to happiness … before the storm breaks.
VIKKI’S WRITING TIPS
1. Switch off the self editing for the first draft.
2. Listen to your gut. I’ve found trying to force the characters to keep to the outline blocks the process. Trust them to go where they are going.
3. Join a writer’s group. The support and contact with other writers helps with motivation, and the friends you make are wonderful.
4. Doing the mundane can help when the writing is stuck. I don’t know how many times I’ve come up with the answer to a stalled scene while I’m washing dishes.
5. Be proud of whatever genre you write in.
Breaking Storm started as a vivid scene in my head, and I knew this was the story I would pursue to publication. Kelsey spoke loud and clear about her part in it. Ethan was more reticent at first, but told his part in the end. And Pipa evolved from a minor character into my favorite four year old (other than when my own kids were four, oF course.
Drowning in the Shallows is an hilarious new adult comedy written by Dan Kaufman and published by Melbourne Books.
ABOUT DROWNING IN SHALLOWS
David’s journalism students petrify him. Then again, so does his cat.
His girlfriend broke up with him, he writes about bars for a shrinking newspaper that’s abandoned news reporting for lifestyle articles, and he’s desperately searching for meaning amongst the backdrop of Sydney’s shallow social scene.
Then he meets a young woman who just might be the answer. The only problem is, she’s a friend of one of his students.
Drowning in the Shallows is a comedy about heartache, a satire of Sydney society, a coming-of-age tale about a man in his 30s who is only now growing up, and a love story about a man and his beloved evil cat.
WHERE THE INSPIRATION CAME FROM
The setting and background details all came straight from my own life: from the main character’s job (he’s a journo and I used to be one too) right through to the world he used to inhabit (Sydney bars and social parties).
However, on a deeper level I was inspired by the men I knew who would have good intentions and genuinely not wish anyone any harm – but who would also often act in a sleazy way and not even realise it. I was struck by how I saw them act and how the women in their lives saw them completely differently.
I wanted to parody and ridicule male behaviour (including my own when I was younger) to show how it comes about and to make men rethink the way they behave. The best way I can put this is that if I had read this novel when I was younger, I’d like to think it would have changed the way I had acted – and thought.
DAN’S WRITING TIPS
1) Write about what you know. In my case, I used to be a journo for the Sydney Morning Herald who had to write about Sydney’s nightlife at one point – and it was such a ridiculous world that I thought it would be the perfect backdrop for a book about a heartbroken child man who needs to grow up.
2) Embrace rejection. I received countless rejections – and I mean thousands, not hundreds – before this book was picked up by a local publisher.
3) If in doubt, cut it out. I originally wrote my novel many years ago, but after a few years I reread it and thought that half of it was crap. As such, I took a deep breath, cut everything that didn’t make me laugh, think or that didn’t move the novel along briskly – and reworked the book. It was a tough decision, but I am so glad I made it.
4) Be true to yourself and write what you’re passionate about. I know this sounds like a hippy thing to say – but if your writing isn’t authentic, then it’s not going to work. People might love or hate my book – but at least I wrote what I truly wanted to, rather than what I thought would sell, even though some people told me there’d be no market for my book.
5) Fall in love with your characters. Your characters have to be complete, living breathing beings who are so real to you tha tyou would instantly know what they would say or do in any given situation. If not, then you need to develop them further.
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has thirty years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry, including forensic work. She is the author of three psychological thrillers, Medea’s Curse, Dangerous to Know, and This I Would Kill For, with tart noir heroine, psychiatrist Natalie King, and a new stand alone rural thriller, The Long Shadow. She has been married to Graeme Simsion for thirty years and they have two children, and a joint romantic comedy-feel-good mid-age novel, Two Steps Forward, and a sequel in progress, Two Steps Onwards.
ABOUT THE LONG SHADOW
Old Sins Cast Long Shadows…sometimes you have to deal with the past before you can face the future
Issy Harris has never heard of Riley, a town on the edge of the outback, much less want to end up there. But her husband Dean is the Red Adair of hospital stuff ups, and Riley is where they and their two year old son need to go. A psychologist, at least she gets a job running the mother-baby postnatal group to keep her occupied.
From the first group, Issy knows something is wrong. Badly wrong. Pulled into the politics of a company town where a culture of corruption is putting the viability of the hospital at risk, Issy is forced to make sense of a threats made against her and her son if she is to protect him. Nursing her own secret and struggling to keep her marriage together, Issy is pitted against the local union boss, the politician patriarch and his family as she tries to work out how they are tied into a twenty five year old tragedy – the kidnapping and murder of the older brother of one of the women in her group. A desperate race against time and the unpredictable elements of nature results in a breathtaking climax where Issy is forced to choose what it is that she really values.
A story about mothers, attachment and the things that get in the way of being the parent you want to be.
For six years I ran an attachment therapy group. Clinically it was probably the most exhilarating time of my career as a psychiatrist; it felt a little like psychotherapy on speed. Women really wanted to let go of the ties that were keeping them stuck—and the lightbulb moments got them there. I wanted to use some of this experience and the work I have done over the last thirty years to highlight the tensions and anxieties becoming a mother can elicit—and use it to drive a pacey page turner with twists and turns.
ANNE’S WRITING TIPS
Plan; my husband and I always plot our books together
Researched the geography—drove up through central NSW and stayed around Dubbo and Nyngan
Worked and reworked the characters
Had two Indigenous women read and give feedback on my most challenging (Indigenous) character (and one of them made me watch Rugby!)