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|
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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)