Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Hello all,

Long time no write, hey?

Apologies for the delayed response, but I've been working very hard on copyedits and publicity materials for my new novel, THE WHOLE OF MY WORLD. It's been long and painstaking, but very rewarding, and now I have a brand spanking new cover to show for it.

Isn't she pretty?

Needless to say, I love the cover and the final manuscript, and can't wait to see what happens next. I was also fortunate enough to tag along to the Centre for Youth Literature's Publishers' Showcase in December, and was delighted to find that The Whole of My World was being featured as an up and coming novel in 2013. Very cool to have been chosen for this select category. Don't believe me? Here's proof...

Since then, I've been catching up with friends old and new, including one particularly funny and talented author by the name of Tony Wilson. You've probably seen him on TV or heard him on the radio. He's very kindly invited me to participate in this cool idea called the Next Big Thing Blog Meme. Basically, a bunch of writers answer a series of questions on their works in progress. Tony's books for adults include  Players, Making News and Australia United, and he's written seven picture books for kids. The most recent two are The Emperor’s New Clothes Horse (Scholastic 2012) and The Elephant in the Room (ebook only). Check him out and say hi for me.

So here's the meme thingy, and all the latest on what I've been up to. You can follow the meme on twitter too -- #thenextbigthing. Sometimes you can find me there too.

1)  What is the working title of your current/next book

My debut book is a Young Adult novel called The Whole of My World. It's the story of a troubled teen, Shelley Brown, who's unable to connect with her grieving dad following her mother's death. Alone and desperate to belong, she escapes into the blokey world of Australian football where she befriends the star full forward who has his own issues, not the least of which is a quickly fading career.

2)  Where did the idea come from?

I don't know... Testament to a misspent youth? Partly. But also because I have daughters, and it seems that, no matter how much things change, they still largely stay the same. I started this novel a long time ago, then set it aside, wrote some other stuff, and came back to it. And came back to it. And came back to it... I never quite managed to say what I wanted to say until last year, when I let myself start again. Freeing myself of what I'd written allowed me to find the real story I wanted to tell. And now I get to share it with you guys.

3)  What genre does your book fall under?

It's Young Adult, and it's aimed primarily at teenage girls, although there's enough footy in there to  attract boys too. (Fingers crossed.) Oh - and teachers, mums and dads should definitely read this, not just for the fun 1980s references - spot the mullet, people! - but also because the hero/fan dynamic is so prevalent in today's celebrity-obsessed society. And hopefully, The Whole of My World can provide, if not a window into what goes on in a teenager's mind when caught up in obsession, then at least a jumping off point for discussion.

Anyway, here's the opening... (The "Draft" I refer to here is the football draft. It's not the manuscript draft!)

The Whole of My World...

Prologue: The Draft

Dad always said we were lucky that there were two of us. Always someone to shepherd when you had the ball. Someone to pass to when the pressure was on. Someone to cheer when you kicked a goal.

But when it came down to it, when it really was just us two, that’s not how it turned out at all.  

Chapter 1: The Warm-Up

The mirror used to be my mum’s. Her mum’s before that. It’s oval-shaped with a gold frame and patches of tarnish around the edge, like smudges of dirt that won’t go away. Usually, I keep the mirror covered – I have a strip of black cloth just wide enough to tuck into the crooks of its gilded frame. I saved the remnant from Mum’s sewing cabinet exactly for this reason. But today is different. I need to see what everyone else will see.

I study my reflection in the glass: mousy brown hair, blotchy skin, hazel eyes probably more brown than green if I’m honest. I’m short with a medium build – years of playing every sport I could are still visible in parts, even though everything seems harder to do now. I feel betrayed by my body. The lean muscles are looser, weaker. My chest has rounded out, full and obvious, despite my efforts to hide it. Hide them. It feels as though all the things that made me strong have become unrecognisable and soft. Of no use to me anymore. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Dad says I’m a late bloomer. I should probably be grateful for that, except now I’m paying for it...

 (If you want to read more, you'll have to buy the book when it comes out!)

4)  What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oooh. That's a hard one. I love Ashleigh Cummings from Puberty Blues, but it's possible she'd be too old to play Shelley should this ever become a film. (Sorry Ashleigh!) Alternatively, I'd love to see a young unknown step into Shelley's shoes. Any volunteers? As for Josh, Xavier Samuel would be great, age permitting. I can totally see Callan Mulvey as Mick Edwards.

5)  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Unable to connect with her grieving dad following her mother's death, a troubled teen befriends a professional footballer dealing with the looming end of his career.

6)  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The Whole of My World is being published by the fabulous people at Random House in June this year. I'm represented by Elizabeth Troyeur, at Elizabeth Troyeur and Associates in Sydney. She's ace. :-)

7)  How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Which first draft? Let's just say three months. (Give or take twelve years.)

8)  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

How do you answer that question without sounding presumptuous and wanky? Very well... Several of my early readers mentioned Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones when they finished my manuscript, which is just lovely thank you very much. I'm a big admirer of A.S. King, too, although it's hard to draw parallels between your own work and that of authors you love. Another reference point might be Paul D. Carter's Eleven Seasons, which I've literally just finished reading. Lots of parallels there, but drawn from the other side of the story.

I guess, ultimately, what I think doesn't matter. What do YOU think? I'd love to hear from you once you've read my book.

9)  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My daughters and my dad. My daughters because I want them to grow up strong and smart and brave enough to say no sometimes, like Shelley realises she must do. And my dad because of his love for sport and language, and his ability to turn the rough and tumble of Australian football into something both poignant and poetic with his dry wit and a few quietly spoken words.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It's set in the 1980s, which should be great fun for anyone who lived through them, and even those who wished they did but don't realise it. (I'm looking at you, puffy-shoulder-padded Gen Yers.) Shelley is funny and smart, and an all-round cool chick to hang with. Hunky full forward Mick Edwards, yummy boy-next-door, Josh McGuire, and tortured but loyal Tara Lester think so. I bet you do too.

Plus, all those cute boys.

                                                            *     *     *     *     *      

Phew. Now it's my turn to do some tagging. The following authors are friends whose writing I greatly admire -- authors whose books you should all hunt down immediately so you can see how smart I am.Or how smart my friends are anyway.

EleMental is Steven O'Connor's first Young Adult novel. Originally from Luton, England, he now lives in Melbourne with his wife, two teenage children and Sparks, his ever-attentive, ever-hungry Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Quite apart from all that, he barracks for Hawthorn. 'Nuff said?

JP Smith is a screenwriter and novelist whose latest book,  Airtight, was published in November 2012. His other novels are Breathless (Viking Penguin); The Discovery of Light (Viking Penguin), The Blue Hour (British American Publishing); Body and Soul (Grove Press) and
The Man from Marseille (St Martin’s Press). A great guy and a versatile writer, get used to seeing his name a lot in the near future.

Historical fiction author Eliza Graham's books include Playing with the Moon, shortlisted for the 2008 World Book Day Book to Read, Restitution, and Jubilee. Her latest novel, The History Room, was published by Macmillan in 2012. I've known Eliza for some years now -- she's a beautiful writer and a good friend. She also very kindly helped me out with edits of The Whole of My World, for which I am eternally grateful.

I fell in love with Catherine Lea's amazing blog some time last year. You want to be inspired? Read Happiness: Optional. You want to be touched and have a tiny bit of your heart broken? Read Happiness: Optional. You want to feel humbled and amazed, and in awe of Cathy's endless grace? Read Happiness: Optional. You want... ? Look. Just read it, OK? 

That's my end of the deal, all sown up. Thanks for bearing with me, and see you all soon. Just make sure you follow the links, and if you like this post, feel free to share it via whatever social media you can lay your mobile device on.



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