Friday, September 2, 2011

Talking Art, the Writing Process & 'Night Beach' with Author Kirsty Eagar!

I am absolutely thrilled to have Kirsty Eagar, awesome Aussie author of Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, here on the blog today!  She's been good enough to share her thoughts and inspiration behind her upcoming third book, Night Beach (to be released in February 2012).  Here's Kirsty with more on the writing process:
Night Beach is partly about the creative subconscious and the dark places that feed it, so it’s kind of weird then to try and articulate what writing it has been like. In short, it’s been intense. I wrote the initial drafts of my first two books, Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, before getting published, so although this will be my third book, in many ways it felt a lot like ‘the difficult second album’!

The story has a lot of influences, most of them stemming from the art world. Sometimes it was an artwork, for example, Thebes Revenge by Brett Whiteley.

Or sometimes it was a principle, like Magritte’s assertion that mystery lives under visible reality, or De Chirico’s belief that the world is an ‘immense museum of strangeness’. If I had to pick a driving philosophy, it would again come from Whiteley, who said:  

If you take something, and distort it, and distort it, and distort it again, then eventually you’ll see something, some truth, that you’ve never seen before. And that is the difficult pleasure.

That idea of distortion is why I’ve fictionalised the places in the story. I’ve used what I know, but I’ve gone for a heightened reality and warped things so much it doesn’t truly reflect the people and place that were the original inspiration.

I knew a few things about the story from the beginning. Firstly, that the main character, Abbie, wants someone who is bad for her – Kane. But the fact of him being bad was never going to be the story itself. Abbie already understands that he’s bad, and she also understands that whether or not he turns out to be a candidate for redemption might not even be the point. She has a brain, but she also has a sense of her own sexuality, and the two things are in conflict. She’s vulnerable, but in some ways she’s quite calculating. I’ve read too many stories where the girls are neutered and only the boys are allowed to have urges, and that particular little brand of misogyny doesn’t at all respect the balancing act most girls are attempting.

I knew, too, that I wanted the story to have gothic overtones. It was a good fit, and it meant I’d get to use a house that I lived in once, which had no hallways, just lots of rooms connected by other rooms, and lots of chandeliers that were never in the centre of the ceiling where they were supposed to be, but rather in the corners, and a mysterious locked door in the storeroom … It also had a lovely view of the ocean, particularly at night.

And the last thing I knew was that Abbie’s parents would be divorced. I got asked about this the other day, specifically, why I wanted to look at a ‘dysfunctional’ family. And my best answer (the one I’ve had time to think about) is that I’ve yet to meet a functional family, and also kids who’ve grown up with divorced parents are hardly a tiny minority. I grew up like that, and I’ve noticed that my friends from broken homes have similarities of experience that people whose parents are still together seem to have absolutely no concept of. The differences are fundamental, and they are good as well as bad. In Kelly Slater’s biography there’s a part where he talks about how being a kid with divorced parents has shaped him, and I cried reading it, because I knew exactly what he meant. Likewise, I have always loved fiction that examines belonging in the context of the migrant experience. I think because when you’re parents are divorced, belonging is difficult (but obviously in a different way). You are a migrant within your own family, and sometimes you never find your place.

Releases in February 2012
Anyway, the point is there were a lot of ideas going into this story. For me, the hard thing is always how to thread them together in a way that makes sense – the part also known as the first draft!

I found things harder this time around than previous first drafts. I now had two young daughters, so writing was definitely a lot more interrupted and noisy. I had a deadline ­– again a new experience. And about a month out from that, I injured my back and spent the next three weeks trying to type standing up. Probably the biggest thing was it meant I couldn’t surf every day, which is a routine I’ve had for years, and for some reason not being able to surf really affected my writing.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I exhibited absolutely no grace at all in dealing with those issues. I grew increasingly bleak, irritable and tired. And I was starting to panic, because I had no idea whether the story was working or not. Then two things happened:

  1. I realised that there will always be things which make it hard to write, and that some people probably had much worse things to deal with than me.
  2. I got some feedback on the unfinished manuscript courtesy of my agent. I will never forget that. I was heading up to write at 10pm after what had been a rough night trying to get my girls to sleep, and I knew I would be up until 2am or 3am, and it was the latest in a long line of nights just like that, and I felt absolutely beaten. And then I saw her email. Confidence is such a game changer. After that I had all the energy in the world.

I don’t think you ever know if what you’ve done is any good, or if it’s worked, or if people will connect with it. But sometimes there is a lovely moment when you realise that it’s become what it’s meant to be. For me that happened in the structural edit, which was a whole other saga of re-writing. It was in large part thanks to excellent feedback from my editor (and I know it was good feedback, because when I read it, I thought, She’s got to be kidding – there’s no way I can do all of that!).

I wanted to finish by saying that if you’re reading this because you write, especially if you’re not yet published and would like to be, I hope that you’ve reached that moment. And if you haven’t yet, don’t worry, keep going. You’ll know when you get there because just for that little while you’ll feel absolutely humbled and grateful, and you’ll know that you’ve tapped into something that’s never going to dry up, if you just keep turning up. So turn up. 

I cannot tell you how flipping exciting I am for Night Beach after reading that!  I love all the thought that's gone into it, and in particular, I am really looking forward to meeting Abbie!  Thank you, thank you, Kirsty, for stopping by.  That was a generous and wonderful insight into your creative process.  

If you want to read the rest of the posts in honor of Kirsty Eagar Week, please go Nic's blog, Irresistible Reads for more!  There are four signed copies of Raw Blue up for grabs, as well as three copies of Saltwater Vampires (two signed, one unsigned).

                                             About the Author
Kirsty Eagar grew up on a central Queensland cattle property and spent her school holidays at the beach. After studying economics, she worked on trading desks in Sydney and London before changing careers, wanting a life where she could surf every day. She travelled around Australia for a couple of years, living out of a car, worked a variety of jobs and began writing fiction. Her debut novel, Raw Blue, was published by Penguin in 2009, and won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction. Her second novel, Saltwater Vampires, was shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Kirsty lives with her husband and two daughters on Sydney’s northern beaches. (taken from author's website)


  1. Fabulous post! Kristy hit my biggest problem on the nail, "I don’t think you ever know if what you’ve done is any good, or if it’s worked, or if people will connect with it. But sometimes there is a lovely moment when you realise that it’s become what it’s meant to be." I know this exact feeling I'm hyper critical of everything I do and it's not until someone stops me and just says a quick "you're doing a great job" that I finally get to really see my accomplishments.

    Kudos to Kristy for balancing the hormonal urges for both genders. Girls are often labeled promiscuous or dare I say "slutty" for just having urges. Remember those stories where the girls had sex and then their life was over? Yeah, that's partially why Judy Blume's "Forever" was so freaking popular even now.

  2. What a brilliant post! I love that Night Beach is going to have gothic overtones, and I love the thought and effort she puts into capturing such elements in real life, as well. I also love that she's true to human nature in everything she does - it's perfection :)

  3. Such a fantastic post from Kirsty. I loved hearing the influences behind Night Beach. I wish February would hurry up. I need Night Beach now :)

  4. Yes! I have yet to meet a "functional family" either. Being a product of divorced parents definitely shapes you. It's something that has wreaked me and has made me stronger at the same time, only it takes a while to realize it.

    I think getting to that place where you've realized it's become what it is meant to be is significant for everyone. I'm looking forward to reading Abbie's story. It sounds like one I'd connect to.

    Phenomenal guest post! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. @Rummanah - I completely agree. I hate that it still seems like if you're a teenage girl, and you have desires, you are somehow wrong. I am very much looking forward to a character who is aware of her sexuality, and I hope is on good terms with it.

    @Melissa - Yes, again, the wonderful knack for authenticity that the Aussie authors seem to have. . . I think Kirsty has it in spades.

    @Nic - Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean! I really can't wait to get my hands on it! I want to have a full day to dedicate to it!

    @Missie - I thought of you when I read this for the first time. It clicked with me, and I knew it'd hit you the same way, and that you'd want to read Abbie's story. Thanks, Missie!


  6. Loved this post! It's so much fun to get behind the scenes info from an author and where they get little bits of inspiration and how their writing is affected by their day to day lives. Thanks so much for sharing Kirsty and Linds, I'm absolutely dying to read Night Beach! Come on February:)

  7. Wow- I think I liked this post the best, though I did like the covers one on Jenny's blog, too. I loved them all really, but to see into Kirsty's mind and see how her creative process works is very different from other authors. But then I guess every author is different. She just has a different way of expressing herself. I can't wait for Night Beach either!!! I'm so glad this week happened!! I hope people were exposed to her writing and got a chance to get to know why she should be published here!


  8. Great insight! Can't wait to read the books!

  9. Night Beach must be a fantastic novel when it was influenced by art. I love it and really believe in its power to deeply touch people

  10. Wonderful post. I can't wait to read these. I agree that there isn't many "functional familes." I know I haven't met any. It sounds like she truly takes into consideration her characters' background and how it affects their choices.

  11. @Jenny - Me too, Jenny! Feb. can't come soon enough! Glad you liked the posts.

    @Heather - It's my favorite, too! Her writing is amazing and it was so good to see what makes her tick.

    @Alyssa - Thanks for stopping by!

    @Miss Page-Turner - Me too - we are in complete agreement on that.

    @The Happy Booker - Thanks! Kirsty writing is really good in taking consequences into account - the way she writes incorporates many 'foods for thought' but she does it in a way that doesn't seem overwhelming and it never overpowers the main plot.