Today is a day of snow on the ranges near our place, and wet everywhere else. So cuddle up with your hot water bottle and settle in for a nice read, because today we have the lovely and talented Simmone Howell visiting!
Simmone is the author of Notes From the Underground and Everything Beautiful, and her most recent novel is Girl Defective. It’s the story of Skylark Martin - whose ‘weird hormonal stew’ draws her into the mystery of a St Kilda girl’s death - and the whole Martin family, who are ‘like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects’.
So please give a very warm welcome to Simmone!
Hi Simmone, pull up a chair. How’re things going over your side of Castlemaine?
Things are good. The sun is shining. The magpies are singing.I have a crick neck.
Crikey, Simmone, I wish I was closer to your end of town! Now Girl Defective has only been released this year, and I totally feel the love for Sky and Gully and their dad, and particularly all the beautifully-drawn characters that frequent Wishing Well record shop. I know you used to work in a record store – so is it all about observation? Noting and remembering the little details that make a character come to life as a person? (Or does working in retail help hone your writing skills…)
(Why Thankyou!) I think retail really does help hone your writing skills because it allows you to become an expert day-dreamer. I think of all the hours I logged behind a counter somewhere (and I never worked anywhere busy, except in London) and most of them were spent imagining other existences ... and sometimes I could write at work or just look at the customers and imagine their existences... If you know a place, or a person, or a subject really well then you are able to bring it to life and bring a personal experience to the writing that will lift it out of the prosaic. It’s always the little weird things that stay with me, and work for me... I think I might be detail-oriented.
Sherlock Holmes explained how most of investigation and deduction is about observing, not merely seeing. Do you think this means writers might have an edge as detectives?
Maybe. I think writers are myopic though! We only see what we want to see, or what we need to see to get the story written. Also Sherlock would be impartial. I’m never impartial - I get emotionally involved!
Sky is drawn into the strange circumstances surrounding a girl’s death. Were you a bit of a Trixie Belden as a kid? Personally I never got on with Nancy Drew, but I was always a big fan of George, from the Famous Five…
I was also a George fan (Anne was too prissy). I also loved the Meg mystery books. I also read lots of Agatha Christie early on. In my twenties I got really into reading pulp fiction and watching film noir - I read True Crime but it was always retro True Crime - I remember being really taken with the Charlie Starweather case (that was inspiration for Badlands) and I was obsessed with Twin Peaks. The mystery elements in Girl Defective owe more to these older influences than anything I read as a kid.
So if you were in Sky’s shoes, presented with a mystery like that, do you think you would have reacted the same way?
I can imagine myself getting obsessive, yes.
When you were developing Girl Defective, did the voices come first, or the ideas for the story? How does it usually work for you?
The voice came first. It’s always voice first, and then moving into the relationships around the person who owns the voice. Them describing their world and situations will arrive from there. I had Nancy, Sky and Gully first and they were solid - Mia and Luke, the mystery came later.
And what do you think is the toughest discipline you impose on yourself as a writer?
Finishing. I could start new things every day and be happy but actually writing something through to the end is really hard but, uh, necessary. Unless maybe I teamed myself with another writer who was good at endings and hated beginnings - that could work...
You have a strong lyrical rhythm in your writing – is it something you labour over, one sentence at a time, or do you just go with the flow and then spend a lot of time crafting as you edit?
I spend a long time on all of it and I edit as I go. Usually I will write a chunk and then edit it to death and then move on but sometimes I start at the start every day for months ... I really love words and word-play and poetry and metaphor, all that. And references, but the references have to be right and true to character.
So can you give us 5 favourite words you’d take with you to a desert island? (or maybe Fantasy Island?)
weird, ancient, crazy, peripatetic, guff
Cool words! And while we’re on ‘favourite’ and ‘desert’ – favourite dessert?
Everyone please give Simmone a hearty mitten-clad round of applause for being such a lovely guest J If you’d like to chase Simmone’s work, she’s here at her website. She also says: “My tumblr is girldefective.tumblr.com where I post influences and defective girls and other stuff ...” And Girl Defective is available from all good book shops. Or should be.
Please stay tuned for more crimey stuff - our next guest will be forensic pathologist Dr Shelley Robertson, for those with a mind for gory detail...
UPDATE ON THE COVER REVEAL COMPETITION!!!
In my last post I announced that we had a winner for the Every Breath Cover Reveal Competition…
TRINITY!! - you are the winner of the Every Breath Cover Reveal Competition!! YAY! Please get in touch with me (DM me on Twitter, or on Facebook, or comment here), and we'll work out how to get you your awesome pri>e!! (and yeah, really need to get that key fixed)
Anyway, if you commented on the blog here (or FBed or tweeted), then thank you. I'll be running another giveaway shortly, closer to the release date, so keep in touch…
Okay, that's it from me, because my fingers are too cold to type anymore. Back into the warm house, to make more badges and stickers...
Have a good weekend and stay snuggly.