Before we kick off today’s blog post – and I promised bells and whistles with this post, I know – I wanted to say a huge thank you.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me, and supported Every Breath, as we’ve made our way out into the world. It’s been a truly extraordinary experience, having this book published, and so many people have stood up and helped out – I am incredibly appreciative of all of you.
So thank you to every person who has encouraged, read, reviewed, bought, blogged, commented, tweeted, shared, and otherwise created such an amazing groundswell of support for Every Breath, especially for the friends and family who have kept my spirits high and helped me stay sane!
I can’t express how much this means to me – I am thoroughly humbled, and really really grateful.
At the bottom of this post I’ll show off a few pics of the launches, both in Melbourne and in Castlemaine. They were awesome fun, and I had a great time - and if you came along, I hope you did too!
But first, the Crime Report…
Next on our whistle-stop tour of YA crime, I’ve invited the lovely Rebecca James to come and put up with some weird questions!
Rebecca is the author of Beautiful Malice, and her new novel Sweet Damage was released this year. In Sweet Damage, rootless sun-bleached surfer Tim is sucked into the mystery of Anna London, the strange occupant of his new share-house in Sydney. Initially sure that he can bring some light and normalcy to Anna’s life, instead Tim becomes part of an ominous web of family history and half-truths until he’s not sure what exactly is real and what is paranoia…
Rebecca, so nice to finally have more than a brief Twitter conversation or five-line Facebook message with you! How the heck are you?
I am very well. The sun is out in Canberra today and I don’t even have the heater on. I think Spring may be coming which is a good thing...
We have a couple of things in common – we both write YA (although you do more psychological suspense stuff and I do straight murder mysteries), and we both live in large and busy families. Now I know I have to fight hard to get my writing time, and I’m sure you have those struggles too. How do you find the time to write? What do you reckon is the key to maintaining a writing practice amidst all this bustle?
I don’t know that I’ve found the key or if one even exists. Basically I try to work while my kids are at school and try not to work out of school hours or on the weekends. That’s about it as far as time organisation goes. This doesn’t always work, though, because family life is constantly creeping into my writing time and vice versa.
I write from home and my husband has an office job and generally this arrangement works pretty well for us. I get the kids ready for school and drop them off in the morning and then pick them up at 3. It means my working day is quite short (6 hours) and I sometimes feel like I’m only just starting to get into things when 2 pm rolls around and I realise it’s nearly time to stop. That can be a bit frustrating at times and occasionally I envy my husband – he gets to leave the house early in the morning and can stay at work until he’s finished.
The bizarre thing is that it wasn’t until I’d had kids that I actually started writing. Something about becoming a mother made me crave a creative outlet. It also taught me to use what little time I had productively. I sometimes think that if I hadn’t had four kids (and thereby discovered what hard work really was) I would never have had the stamina to finish an entire book. I was far too scatterbrained and restless before.
I think, ultimately, that having a family and trying to work is a messy and chaotic business, (kind of like this answer!), full of compromise and negotiation. It’s hard to find a perfect balance. I always feel like I’m neglecting something – my work, my kids, the house, the dog, the tax, you name it. I never feel caught up or ‘finished.’ I always feel slightly frantic. I think once you have kids you simply have to embrace the chaos and accept the fact that you’re always going to feel a bit fractured.
Rebecca, you totally read my mind with that answer! But now, please tell us a bit about Sweet Damage – there are lots of hints dropped along the way, about what has happened to Anna, and the whole book is layered with mystery and suspense, in a stew of slowly-building tension. What were the challenges of writing a mystery? Did it change the way you wrote?
I guess the challenge with writing a mystery (and you could no doubt argue that this is the case in writing any kind of fiction) is keeping the narrative tight and tense without making it feel too contrived or obvious. But I can’t necessarily tell you how to do this because I don’t actually understand my own writing process. I just sit down and write. If I think about it too much I start getting anxious and self-conscious, and that can be paralysing. I try to keep the whole process instinctive and organic which unfortunately doesn’t help me answer questions like these...
So why mystery and psychological suspense, instead of something else? (zombie apocalypses, or westerns, for instance?)
Oh, because I love psychological suspense. I love reading it and I love writing it and I love watching it. At heart I think it’s all about the damage people do to each other and it’s fascinating to consider how far people will go to get what they want, to manipulate their world and the people they come in contact with.
I’m fascinated by the cruelty people can inflict on each other in a kind of everyday way, and how very frequently, if you dig a little, you’ll find that the cruelty is actually coming from a place of pain and/or vulnerability. (Which doesn’t necessarily justify the bad behaviour, though it might sometimes go some way towards explaining it.) I think it’s also fascinating to think about the psychology of victims and how much abuse or bad treatment people will choose to put up with in the name of friendship or love.
And someone else has noted your affinity with Du Maurier, so I have to ask – do you have a favourite writer of suspense or crime? (and why are they the one that rocks your socks?)
I always feel weirdly uncomfortable when I try and list favourites and I think it’s because my preferences are so fluid and changeable. And I hardly think I’m unique in this but whether I enjoy a book or not depends so much on my mood and the place I’m in, how hard I’m working, how much energy I have, whether it’s late at night or early in the morning, whether I feel obligated to read or whether I’m reading for pleasure -- it’s so difficult to be subjective and so hard to be consistent.
I can definitely say though that I’d always be pretty happy to have a freshly written book by Nicci French, Sophie Hannah, PD James, Elizabeth George, Minette Walters, Gillian Flynn, Donna Tartt or Elizabeth Haynes in my hands. At the moment I’m really enjoying Tara French and Patricia Highsmith. And I absolutely love Anne Fine!
Now it’s honesty time – what d’you reckon is your worst writing habit?
Well, I don’t think you’re alone in that one (ahem). But what activities do you find most conducive for generating ideas? Personally I’m a big fan of driving while listening to Triple J, or doing the dishes…
Actually, I’m pretty boring that way. When I’m plotting or generating ideas I just sit at the table with a pen and a piece of paper and think really really hard and write stuff down until logical links are made and my random ideas start to form into something that might resemble a plot.
And finally – writing must-haves? Beverages, snacks, music? What do you take with you to your writing cave?
At the moment my desk is in my kitchen so I’m very close to the fridge and the tea canister and the kettle. This is handy for satisfying my tea habit. I drink too much tea. Far too much.
Rebecca thanks for coming along for the ride! (and for answering my questions so beautifully). Find out more about Sweet Damage here - it's available where all good books are sold. You can check out Rebecca’s website here.
So I won’t keep you much longer – realistically, I don’t think I can fit everything that’s happened into this one blog post – but I better give a few updates.
Over the last few weeks the tempo has increased, with reviews and interviews and special stuff appearing on blogs and all over the place. If you’d like to check out some of the lovely Every Breath reviews, go over here to The Rest Is Still Unwritten, or here to Speculating on SpecFic. You can read Carmel Shute’sfantastic launch speech here, at Sisters in Crime, or you can trot over to Goodreads and check out the nice things people are saying (and there’s still time to enter the Goodreads giveaway – hop to it!)
The most exciting thing was seeing Every Breath reach Number 3 on the Readings Bestselling Kid’s Chart! That was amazing, and you were the folks who made it happen (like I said at the Castlemaine launch, I wasn’t the one who went out and bought all those books, that was totally you guys). I did a feature on 'The Story of My Book' for the website - the Readings family was really supportive in hosting the Every Breath Melbourne launch, so thank you, Readings!
Another exciting thing – Every Breath was featured in Girlfriend magazine, which was awesome! Grab a copy of the mag for their review, or if you head over to their website you can download a free excerpt of Every Breath to taste test! (And if you’d like to get an early gander at the covers for Every Word and Every Move, as featured, have a look here.)
Now – the launch parties.
Rather than describe, I’ve chucked a few pics up here to give you a feel for the occasion/s - I'll put some more up next post. Thank you so much to all of you who came along, and happy birthday to Every Breath – you’re loose in the wild now, baby!