As a child I’m sure I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I don’t remember what I answered. It could have been any number of things, all sensible options most likely, because even then I didn’t dare admit the truth: I wanted to be a published author.
I wanted to be one of those names on the spines of the books that filled my family’s bookshelves, but it felt like a fantasy.
I always read and I always wrote but coming from a single parent family and attending a private school on an academic scholarship, meant my plans were more about the logical. I studied hard but come late nights I would be reading whatever I could find. From crime to romance to sci-fi. I loved stories and would write my own attempts whenever I could.
Although I studied science at university, then specialised in laser chemistry, I always read and I continued writing short pieces across all kinds of genres. Looking back, I realise I was trying to find my voice, however then I was simply doing something I loved.
I finished my PhD and qualified as a teacher, however when I was at home with my first child, I made the – likely sleep deprived – decision to write a book. I needed to have something in my hectic life that was just for me. I had my second and third child, giving me three under three and a half years old but I continued writing, experimenting with different genres and taking all the online courses I could find. During some of these I met writing friends who are still brilliant supports to this day. Critique partners who grow with you are gold and I don’t think I’d be published without mine.
Now, I was hooked and I was determined to get published.
Achieving that goal in Young Adult fiction a few years ago was great, however I realised that although I still read across genres I had fallen in love with and was mainly consuming crime fiction. Could I write one? Starting something different was all kinds of terrifying but also exciting so I challenged myself to write one of the ideas lurking in my head. Suddenly writing felt even more right than it ever had before. This felt like the genre I was always meant to be in.
Excellent! I had a story I loved, passion and some experience, but in some ways I needed to start from scratch. While querying agents from the slush pile, I continued writing and studied online looking more specifically at the crime genre.
The interest I received from several agents made me feel like I was on the right track. I signed with the brilliant Hattie Grünewald who worked with me to polish that first crime story.
Then came the pandemic.
Being unable to travel during that time, even within my own gorgeous state, had me wistfully remembering summer holidays of my childhood. Money was tight and we couldn’t go far, however I was lucky enough to be able to stay at my aunty and uncle’s beach shack at Black Point on the Yorke Peninsula, about two hours from Adelaide. Located right on the beach in basic accommodation, it was all glorious swimming and sandcastles and running wild with other kids and coming back late to freshly caught fish and annoying the grownups sitting around the table with their card games. Since my mother had to work, other holidays were spent with my Gran in what felt like a small town in the middle of nowhere.
From those memories grew a place, the fictional town of Queens Point. Thinking about those times transported me back to who I was and so I thought about a woman, Lucy, who has to go back to a place that was once pivotal to her life and a family who felt so perfect that she decided they were everything she wanted to be.
Writing ‘The Summer Party’ transported me to a place at once familiar and also a unique escape where I could explore how my character might handle finding out that those she believed were aspirational were, in fact, more flawed than she could have imagined. When bones turned up under the jetty, any hope Lucy had of not facing up to the difference between fantasy and reality was gone, and I loved discovering that with her.
As much as I enjoyed writing ‘The Summer Party,’ I knew that completing a draft was only the first step. I again called on my trusted readers and critique partners and advice from my agent and edited the story as best I could, including cutting tens of thousands of words and changing point of view of one section.
Sending a book so special to me out on submission was certainly nerve wracking. I know it takes a perfect combination of timing and some luck to be seen by the right person at the right time. I was so fortunate that my manuscript found Martina Arzu at Head of Zeus publishing. From the minute I talked to her – on Zoom late at night because of the time difference – I knew my book had found its home. Her vision and enthusiasm for ‘The Summer Party’ made me fall even more in love with a story I already adored. A necessary thing because so began the next steps in the long path to get a book to publication. At every point I could see my book improving and getting ready to be released in UK and here in Australia.
From edits to final proofs it’s been a whirlwind. One of the highlights of this part of the journey was getting to see the cover design by Emma Rogers, which I feel so wonderfully captures the mood of ‘The Summer Party.’
The journey from reading books as a child to seeing my name on the cover and holding my book in my hand has been long, however I wouldn’t change it for the people I’ve met along the way and all I’ve learned to become a better writer. I’ve already had such wonderful feedback on ‘The Summer Party,’ from readers and bloggers and I know that in some ways it’s only the beginning.