I’ve been tagged by great ‘suburban noir’ writer Wendy James (see my interview from the Writing Mothers series) in ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog meme, which is winding its way through literary blogs, to let us know about new books being released in 2013 and beyond by wonderful Australian and international writers.
It seems a bit weird to claim yourself this way but I guess My Next Big Thing is also My First Big Thing (when it comes to a novel) so I’m excited to talk about it here.
What is the working title of your current/next book?
My first novel is called just_a_girl. It will be released in June 2013.
Where did the idea come from?
I used to spend a long commute from Springwood in the Blue Mountains to my public service job in Sydney. On the train I’d hear teenage girls talking about their lives. I began to wonder what it would be like to be 14 these days, with access to technology (the wonders and dangers) and strangers in your bedroom, and wanted to explore the idea of being disconnected in a ‘connected’ world.
I also heard a story from a close relative who was a primary school teacher. She talked of a girl in Grade 5 who went to a school camp and exposed herself in the showers to a male teacher. This had real resonance for me. I wondered and worried about this girl: where had she come from and where was she heading? Layla grew out of that story.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s contemporary literary fiction — told from the perspectives of three characters: a teenage girl (Layla), her single mother (Margot), and a Japanese man (Tadashi), who makes a cameo role, searching for lasting friendship.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Rachel Griffiths can turn her talent to anything and she’d manage Margot, a woman who is numbed by her past, searching for meaning in her life after her husband leaves and finding it (or so she thinks) in the work of the Lord. Ashleigh Cummings was impressive in her role for Puberty Blues and she’d make a great Layla with her cheeky spirit. Takeshi Kaneshiro starred in one of my favourite films, Chungking Express, and has the composure and allure required for Tadashi.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Layla is only 14 but already has the world at her fingertips: she cruises online, catches trains to meet strangers, and her mother, Margot, never suspects, not even when Layla brings a man into their home.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
just_a_girl will be released by UWA Publishing in June 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft?
The first draft took about three years (part time) as a research masters in creative writing at the University of Sydney. It’s had many, many drafts since then (and doubled in length), and been worked out around having two babies (all up about seven years!) and I’m still doing finishing touches.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s inspired by books with a strong and compelling younger voice like Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, Puberty Blues and Emma Donoghue’s Room. I also like the quirky, strange nature of Haruki Murakami’s writing and this is a big influence.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was actually having a tough time in my life in my early 30s and needed to make a drastic shift. I decided to take a break from full-time work and go to university to see if I could write fiction (my real love and a dream of mine). It was a real process of renewal and realising that writing was something I really had no choice in: I had to do it. I needed to set myself on a new path. Or find some sort of balance. I hadn’t really written much fiction before (a few short stories at uni) but my supervisor Sue Woolfe was enormously supportive and encouraging (and David Brooks too), and convinced me I could get my writing published. I had faith in what she was saying. And began to see this character, Layla, take shape. So, taking the punt set me in motion for a career in writing and editing.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Drugs. Soft porn. The Lord. It’s Lolita with a webcam. And there’s a body in a suitcase.
Next up, I’ve tagged the following writers to give us the lowdown on their Next Big Thing and their posts will appear on their respective blogs in a week’s time (ish). They are all wonderful writers, and their novels and blogs are worth looking into or noting for a future date!