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Crimson Lake Tour – first leg

Queensland! I’m here! My delightful publicist Jess Malpass is here with me. We’ve been trekking around trying not to get sunburnt and meeting fans at bookstores in Port Douglas, Cairns City and today, Smithfield. Jess and I immediately bought matching hats upon arrival, and I did the classic Candice Fox move of losing my sunglasses a mere 12 hours after I bought them. We’ve discovered a weird shared obsession with cryptograms after buying a poshbook in port Douglas. It’s strange to see places from the novel again in real life. As we drove along yesterday I found myself saying ‘This is where Ted lives!’ and ‘This is where they found the croc!’ like I was talking about real people, and events.

Below I’ve stacked some random photos from the tour, but there are others on the Facebook and Twitter pages. Included is a tiny gecko I found in my hotel. Not five minutes after letting my miniature friend out onto the balcony did I find a compadre of his in the fridge. I am the lizard queen!

I never posted about NEVER NEVER hitting the New York Times best sellers – debuting in no. 1 in the hardcover and combined categories. It’s hard to describe how I feel about this, even though describing things if what I do for a buck. I talk a lot about my childhood on the tour, and the kinds of things I have been experiencing lately – best seller lists, tv deals, multi-book deals all over the world – these sorts of things never entered my young mind. My ‘big dream’ was to have one book published ever, and for my friends and family to read it. I’m overjoyed with all this – I can’t fathom what I’ve done to deserve it. Just being able to write and do nothing else for a living is such a blessing. I get up every morning and I really do actively get excited about my job. I’m so lucky.

I hope, if you’re reading this and thinking about coming out to see me, that you’ll make the effort. I so love catching up with fans and seeing what they thought of the books.

Have a great Sunday, everyone! More to come.

Candice

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Job description

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Here are some things I’ve done this week as a full-time author that people probably don’t know the job involves. I think there are two schools of thought on what I do – one involves swanning around at parties with other authors discussing Tolstoy and now and then pattering the keys. The other involves lying around on the couch all day drinking scotch, and now and then pattering the keys. In reality I do a whole lot of diverse stuff! (And now and then patter the keys.) Like this:

  1. I just agonized for ten minutes over whether a character was wearing a button-up shirt or a t-shirt across multiple chapters. I had no idea what I’d initially imagined, and an editor pointed out the inconsistency. You can’t grab a button-up shirt by the bottom and press it to your mouth to stem a bleeding lip, the way you can with a t-shirt (exposing washboard abs? Mmm.)
  2. This morning I saw the real estate agent in for an inspection (working from home win!) and she caught me in an email exchange with my publisher about death by poisons and viruses. The email on the big screen discussed ‘knocking off’ extra victims to up tension mid-plot.
  3. I received some new author photos, which I forwarded on to someone in Queensland who’s writing a magazine article about my JP collaboration.
  4. I picked up a true crime book I’d ordered. Gotta keep up the research! (Tax-claim win). I also received the debut novel of another author I’m appearing on a panel with on Friday.
  5. An audiobook company sent me some sound files of the actors auditioning to narrate my first novel. I gave my two cents on who I thought sounded better.
  6. A copyedit of two of my upcoming works came in. I had a quick squiz at one, approved the deletions and additions and then sent it back. The other, bigger one I’m kind of ignoring until I feel the motivation.
  7. I failed, again, to fill in some foreign tax forms. Why don’t I have a printer?
  8. I procrastinated. I think you must know there’s a whole bunch of it involved in this, but what I hear mostly is that us authors do it with housework. In reality there is a whole world of ways to do it that are more convincing to the self of their importance. Getting fit, for example. Long hours spent at the gym give me the righteous power of physical and mental health! I’ve gotta take care of my body and mind so I can power out those books forever, right?
  9. I saw my physio about my tight, hunchy shoulders. Desk height matters, writers.
  10. I wrote this blog post (procrastination win).
  11. I sent thank you tweets/facebook messages to kind reviewers.
  12. I added an ‘appearances’ page to this website. Although there’s only one appearance in there right now, I’ve got a whole bunch coming up that I haven’t got the deets for yet, so this can be where they live.
  13. I posted promos for my appearance in Melbourne this Friday night. (Come along! Don’t make me beg you! Details on the brand spanking new appearances page!).
  14. Bought scotch.

Insensitive Questions for Authors

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I saw an awesome hashtag recently that was along the lines of ‘Do Not Ask the Author’ or ‘Insensitive Questions to the New Author’, and I had many to add. Of course, this is all in good fun – I’m not writing this in the white-hot rage of someone recently insulted. There are insensitive questions that apply to many situations, and the old list for the pregnant woman pops up a lot. Here are some of my favourites from across my writing career, and I’ll add in any good ones my author buddies come up with if they respond to my Facebook post about it. This might be a good resource for would-be interviewers, or loved ones of writers.

  1. Why aren’t you appearing at (Certain Writers Festival)?

Because writers festivals are as difficult to get into as the popular girls’ slumber parties in early high school. I’m not a popular girl. I’m a writer – that should be evidence enough.

  1. Is your book coming out in hardback?

No. I’m not Harper Lee.

  1. So are you going to do a book tour?

See response to question one. I actually had the extraordinary experience of having sixty or more people turn up for a book talk I did in Tamworth for my first novel, but in most cases, if you’re not a best-seller, no one will know who the hell you are during the release of your first, second and third books. They might turn up because they have nothing else to do, or they’re old and they want a night out with easy parking that’ll end in time for an inappropriately early dinner. But that’s about it.

  1. Where can I get your book?

In a goddamn bookstore, you twat.

  1. Oh, so it’s a real book?

Now you’re being insensitive to eBook writers.

  1. Will you write my memoir?

No. I’m a crime fiction author. You’d know that, if you weren’t too busy thinking about how amazing you are to ask what kind of author I actually am. Also, your life is not the next Eat, Pray, Love. There was one Eat, Pray, Love and that’s quite enough of that to last a lifetime.

  1. Why aren’t your books on posters on the backs of buses?

Because publishers pay for those adverts, and they’ll only do that for their big-fish authors. Posters on buses need to be brief and recognisable – they’re not designed to draw in first-time readers of an author but to show all-time readers of an author that their new book is out. Jodi Picoult and Lee Child are on the backs of buses, because people don’t see their names and say ‘Who?’

  1. So you’re gonna be the next J. K. Rowling, right?

No. J. K. Rowling’s story is a one-in-a-billion Cinderella-style fantasy that happens to absolutely no one. But good on you for knowing another author’s name.

  1. Can you come over my house and fix my washing machine? You’re not working today, right?

No, Mum. I’m not a washing machine technician. And writing is work.

  1. While you’re here, will you replace the light bulb above the stairs? It’s too high for me.

You really are getting old, aren’t you.

  1. I’ve written a manuscript. Will you read it for me and tell me if it’s any good?

No. There are many reasons why I will not. Because I’m a word-lover, I won’t be able to read your manuscript without marking it up. And because your manuscript is unpublished, it’ll likely need a lot of marking up. This basically constitutes an editing job, which takes forever, and should never be free.

Also, in all likelihood, I have no idea whether your book will be viable for publication or not. I can tell you it’s well written, an awesome concept, or that it’s very rich in good characters and plot (or all of those things!). But books with all of these features go absolutely nowhere in their attempts at getting published ALL THE TIME. The publishing industry is very, very complex, and I would hate for you to hang your chances on me liking your work, because in reality, me liking your work means zip.

  1. You’re still working here? I would have thought you’d have quit to be a writer by now?

Almost no writers live off writing. It’s not very lucrative, for the most part. Writers teach, mostly, or if they don’t have part-time employment, it’s because a very loving and giving partner is sponsoring them while they write.

  1. Why don’t you write (other genre perceived as being ‘where the money is’, usually chick lit or erotica)?

Why don’t you go and do (other job perceived as being ‘where the money is’, usually training as a doctor or lawyer, or playing the stock market).

  1. When’s your next book out?

In fucking December! Jesus Christ I must have said this eight million times. Look at my blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts, where it’s mentioned. Look at my publishing page. Look at any article that has mentioned me over the last year. If someone asks me when my next book is out again I’m going to kill everyone in this room. SIT DOWN. NO ONE LEAVES. PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.

An open letter to Stephen King from author Candice Fox

Author Stephen King at a press event to unveil the Kindle 2

I read this speech for an event connected with the New South Wales Writers’ Centre at Berkelouw Books in Paddington on Thursday night. The assignment was to talk about the ‘problematic’ nature of your literary hero. It got a few laughs, so I thought I’d share it for all who couldn’t attend. Happy reading (and writing!) everybody.

Dear Stephen,

Candice Fox here. Again. I wrote to you when I was sixteen to tell you how much I love your books, and to ask you if you’d read my manuscript. You never replied. Seriously? Do you have any idea who I am? It’s ok, I get it, you were 54 at the time. You were probably lacing your cupboards with mothballs, writing complaint letters to your local paper and rubbing balm on your corns. You’re old.

I wanted to get the first part of this letter, the part where I defy logic and burn you for not replying to my fan letter, out of the way up front. Because deep down in my heart I know it’s ridiculous to expect you to reply to every fan letter you receive, even though I myself receive at least one a week and reply to all of them, even the last one, which just said ‘I love you Bae’ over and over. And the one a couple of weeks ago that told me I had an inheritance waiting for me in Nigeria, I replied to that too. You probably get tens of thousands of fan letters. I shouldn’t be bitter. I only do it because I’m good at it.

My real plan in talking about your problematic nature, the Problems with You (Capital P, Capital Y), is to criticise in the way that I always criticise, with a tasty shit sandwich. I introduced my students to the concept of the shit sandwich a few weeks ago when I told them I’d be writing comments on their assignments that way. The bread in a shit sandwich consists of friendly and encouraging sentiments. The shit, is shit. Comments on their assignments went something like ‘This is a very well formatted document. Your writing is terrible, and you will never succeed. Give up now. I like your hair.’

Stephen, you are responsible for some of the most emotional reading moments of my young life. The Green Mile set me aflame with regret and injustice. In Shawshank, the bad guys got away, which is a wonderful and hopeful thing that I think a lot of writers stray away from, afraid they’ll somehow be challenging the Disney happy ending readers are supposed to love and expect. Misery made me sweat with tension, and there was not a moment during its reading when I knew if that captured writer was going to escape or if Annie was going to eat him like a piece of birthday cake.

But here comes the shit.

I think that, despite being a funny, practical and engaging book, On Writing contains plenty of ideas that are bad for young aspiring authors.

Firstly, you describe your unnaturally prolific output as a young writer. Aside from writing for various school-based publications, and starting a home-grown magazine with your brother, you also seem to have written and submitted enough stories to choke a small horse. You write:

By the time I was 14 the nail on my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. By the time I was sixteen I’d begun to get rejection slips with hand-written notes a little more encouraging than the advice to stop using staples and start using paper clips.

This troubles me for two reasons. In order to be considered a socially normal 14-year-old at present you need to not only succeed at school, but maintain a range of social media accounts with witty and topical content, be across the latest celebrity meth downspirals and keep up with Games of Thrones before some jerk ruins the whole thing for you online, not only what’s actually happening on the show but whether it’s ‘too rapey’ or ‘just rapey enough’. How many sheets of paper does it take create a downward weight strong enough to pull the standard steel nail out of a wall? I’m thinking more than five. You’re asking of the young writer too much.

You also mention that you were getting hand written notes from publishers by the time you were sixteen. The first time I submitted anything to a publisher, I was eighteen. I got a personally typed letter from a publisher asking me if I wanted to polish up and resubmit my trashy vampire novel (Twilight had just broken). I didn’t get another non-automated email from a publisher until I was twenty six. I have over two hundred rejection emails, which weigh exactly nothing, that read just like this:

Dear Candice,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript, (insert title here) to us here at, (insert publisher here). Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we have decided not to pursue the work. We wish you all the best with your writing.

See? Shit sandwich.

You recommend in your memoir that the young writer pursue their dream with a daily writing goal. You manage 2,000 to 2,500 a day, but for the amateur you suggest starting small. You write:

As with physical exercise, it would be best to set this low at first, to avoid disappointment. I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.

Now in my brief and ludicrous foray into high school teaching, not once did I suggest the students get their books out of their bags without being assaulted by a thirty-strong collective sigh of both disdain and disgust at the suggestion. I once suggested to the class that they should number their page from one to ten, at which a young man at the back of the room cried ‘Oh my God!’ with all the astounded indignation of someone slapped with a fish.

Your success story is unreasonably Cinderella-esque. You describe making a dollar an hour shaking used syringes and body parts from blood stained sheets in a medical laundry and not being able to buy your infant daughter agony-saving ear medicine, when surprise surprise, the reprint rights to your first novel ever sell for four hundred thousand dollars. I’m on my forth novel and I’m still not important enough not to come to writer’s talks like the one I’m sitting at right now, and while I can afford ear medicine for my infant daughter, I don’t have one.

Don’t tell young writers that being a junky will liberate their creative spirit. You recall snorting so much cocaine in the eighties that your nose bled for days, and you were so high you don’t remember a minute of writing Cujo, which won the 1982 British Fantasy Award, was adapted into a successful film, and which has sold over 2.5 million copies world wide. I put it to you, Mr King, that you were creative and prolific despite your addiction. I know this, because I live in Kings Cross, in Sydney’s red-light district, and the most creative thing a junkie has ever said to me is ‘You think you’re better than me? You should go burn yourself alive!’ I couldn’t even return to this creative soul that I thought her use of the word ‘alive’ was unnecessary, as how could I perform the act if I were not alive, because by the time I had raised an indignant finger she’d already been arrested. Drugs are bad.

If I can have one final beef with you before I go, Stephen, it’s with this quote of yours I found among two hundred and thirty three of your sassy and sweary one-liners on Goodreads. You say:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you… He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.

No, Stephen, no. You can’t blame a magical cigar-smoking bowling champion for some of the shit you’ve written, because no one wrote it but you. And don’t tell young writers that anyone’s responsible for their own writing but them – because when they finally do get published they need to be able to say it was their blood and sweat that got the manuscript written, submitted and accepted and not some dickhead in their basement. Your assertions about magic are wrong. The magic of writing is in being the kid in English class who gets their stuff read out all the time. The magic is in preferring books to members of your own family. The magic is in learning how to write, whether it’s by doing degrees or having your grandmother snap your head off every time you end a sentence with a preposition.

I still like your writing, Mr King, and I also like your hair. Look forward to hearing from you.

Candice Fox

Candice is a Parrot

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I’ve recently become the parrot in a battery farm. And it’s great!

A few weeks ago I hired a ‘hot desk’ in a corporate office in Sydney. For a monthly fee, I get access to a desk in a large pool of desks in what would otherwise be wasted office space for a big corporation. I have no idea what the corporation does, but they own seven offices with ‘hot desk’ spaces in my city alone. For a mere dollar a day I get to drink their coffee, stare out their windows at the tiny ant people marching around the streets below me, use their fridges and vending machines. The monster company is at a loss having me here, and they probably know it. I use more than a dollar a day’s worth of their toilet paper.

What are the benefits of hot desking if you’re a crime fiction author trying to churn out compelling murderousness by the page? There are plenty. There are some downsides, too, but I’ll weigh them for you in the most colourful way I can. Welcome to my office. Please, take a seat.

Pros

Working in a corporate office has infected me with the quivering productivity of corporate workers. Although I don’t have a meat-headed boss wandering scarily between the cubicles, glancing threateningly at my screen now and then and slapping reports he wants done ‘by Monday!’ on my desk seconds before I trundle off for the weekend – I do still feel the need to work. Gone are my lazy mornings on the couch swiping Imgur endlessly. I arrive at the office with all the other drones at 9am, and I take my first break at 1030. I eat among them in the local food courts, checking emails on my phone. I listen to their stories about Johnson in accounting and how he’s getting transferred out, the lucky bastard. I subscribe to their constant assessments of what day it is and what that means.

‘Monday,’ someone groans. I nod, lips tight at the corners with resignation.

I partake in Tim Tam Tuesday, and on Fridays I’m ten percent louder. I laugh harder and I sometimes whistle. I wave the receptionists off like they’re my work buddies from years back.

Writing is lonely, and I used to treat this by getting out of the house and hanging around libraries and cafes – but the office is doing things for me these havens for the disturbed and the retired could never do. I don’t have to pack up everything I own every time I want to use the rest room, as I do in a library, so that some weirdo doesn’t steal my laptop while I’m away. I’m trusted to eat and drink at my desk without somehow transforming into a toddler and hurling my spaghetti all over the place in a fit if infantile rage. No one is sitting near me giggling loudly at FailArmy compilations, and no one wants to tell me their latest conspiracy theory about September 11. I love libraries, don’t get me wrong, but a few months of these charming interactions is enough to turn anyone into a spree killer. While I miss the staff at my favourite cafes, I’m not stealing anyone’s table by being here, and I don’t have to order something every half an hour to avoid feeling like a creep.

Cons

The cons are few, but they are there, and I’m not sure this would be a fair representation of my time here if I didn’t present them. Cramming myself into the hive is probably exposing me to some seasonal nasties, demonstrated so perfectly by the worker bee lady I rode the elevator with yesterday who coughed wetly non-stop all the way to level 12. Because the building is so large and central, it’s harder to get into than fort knox. A gauntlet of security checks and sign in points interrupts any would be thief, disgruntled ex-employee or terrorist, which is nice, but it takes me five minutes to get back to my desk if I venture out into the city.

As a writer, I used to like taking inspiration from the people around me, and my library weirdos and café retirees sure were a lot more colourful than this pant-suited lot. It’s also not as quiet here as I expected – a television at the front of the room plays CNN Live all day long in muted tones, and every now and then someone hires a desk casually for the sole purpose of making loud phone calls. But I’ve gotten around this by tuning into Noisli and listening to the wind and rain.

While tuning out for a few minutes of Struggle Street on Youtube might be totally expected in a public library, here it gets a couple of weird looks, as workers glance away from their Spreadsheets at my screen. Now and then someone clues in that I’m writing fiction from the dialogue, but no one has commented. I’m the only person in the office today wearing a red Robot Panda t-shirt, and I’m the only person who pauses at ten to call their Mum. But I’ve becomes accustomed to being the ‘only one’ doing something over the years. It’s not as socially terrifying as it sounds.

All in all, I’d strongly recommend the hot desk system to the kind of writer who can work all day. The office hours and word count tables and drone of the air conditioning hasn’t dampened my creative spirit, so if you’re thinking about it, it might be a good move to boost your productivity. You can still sing, as a parrot, even if you’re the only one in attendance not expected to shoot out an egg every hour. And, you never know. Your colours might brighten things up around the farm.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Fated

People are often curious to know how HADES happened. It was not, in any way, a straightforward journey from page to print, and therefore like all perilous journeys, its path was full of lessons and surprises. The first and most critical lesson I learned from trying to get HADES into print was not to go around trumpeting my success until contracts were exchanged and money in my hand. And even then, I wouldn’t advise it. Wait until the book is in your hands. That’s the only certainty you have in this game.

 

The first time I read those magnificent words, ‘Yes, I would like to publish you,’ they were in an email not from my current publisher, Random House Australia, but from HADES’s original publisher in the UK. I will not name this publisher, because I’m not sure it’s really fair. I was so angry and blinded at the time, that I didn’t ask for all the details in what occurred in my first publishing deal. There might very well have been legitimate reasons for what happened happening. I hold no resentment, and I wish this tiny publisher all the best in the future. The indie publishing game is often a dire and thankless one, and what happened I’m sure is a familiar story to people who deal with these ambitious little companies.

 

Basically, I was on my fifth novel with no success in the publishing game. This was around 2011. A one-man publisher in the UK offered to publish me in print and in digital form in both Australia and the UK. I told everyone I knew. I told people I didn’t know. I was in tears with excitement all the time. I was planning my book launch from the first day. I printed out my acceptance email and framed it. I was drunk with visions of opening a package and finally holding my first words in print.

 

The year and a half long wait to see myself published flew by. We were editing the manuscript together over email. I became quite close to my publisher and regularly chatted with him on Facebook chat about family dramas, both his and mine, books and authors we loved. I fended off contant interrogation from confused friends over when my book would be published as it was again and again pushed back. These things take time, I would say. He’s one man doing an entire company’s job. I knew my publisher had a busy work and family life outside of his publishing hobby.

I was willing to wait as long as it took.

 

After waiting six months for our cover designer to emerge from the mist into which she apparently descended, (with me resisting the urge to simply have my graphic designer step-mother do the job over a weekend), my publisher emailed to tell me he didn’t have the money to put me in print anymore. He’d overspent on a local literary festival. He could still publish me in eBook form.

 

It’s hard to describe how this felt. I was ‘crushed’, yes, but it was a private hurt, a thing so devastating I didn’t dare seek comfort from anyone on it. It happened at exactly the wrong time. I’d just separated from my husband in the most awful and heartbreaking way a relationship can come to an end; suddenly, inexplicably, shockingly. At the time, I was sleeping on my parents’ living room floor. My cat was traumatised. I was so mad. White-hot mad. The only reason I hadn’t published myself in eBook form a year and a half earlier was because I wanted to see the book on paper. I wanted, at least once, to hold my book in my hands. I withdrew from the relationship with my publisher. I hadn’t been contracted, and my publisher accepted my, rather coldly worded, withdrawal.

 

It sounds silly now, but I was actually deeply humiliated by the failure of this little book deal. I guess deep down inside, after the first couple of push-backs of the publication date, I was in doubt that the book would be published. The publisher had only put one book out in print before. But friends were introducing me to other people as an ‘up and coming author’ with an ‘international book deal’ and I was too embarrassed to correct them. When the book was laid out fully, I was encouraged, but then we stalled. When I finally got the cancellation email, I sort of knew before I opened it what it was going to say.

 

HADES found print, finally, with Australia’s largest publishing house, Random House. I did open the box, smell the fresh ink and paper, cut my book out of the plastic and hold it lovingly to my chest. I have an unapologetic affection for books in print. I got to see my first tattered and well-loved copy of HADES the other day in the hands of a man walking down the street, so used to seeing it brand new and sparkling on book shelves in stores.

 

I am profoundly lucky that my original publisher did not publish HADES.

 

He stalled me, effectively stopping me from publishing it myself with my doomed publishing deal, and kept the book off the market until the exact moment I arrived in Sydney, where I would find my new boss, who would recommend me to the woman who would become my agent, who would then find me my publisher. I don’t know if you believe in fate, but this example, this crushing, failed opportunity was so perfectly that old door closing so that a window can open, that I had to share it with you. Rejection is never, never a waste. Don’t despair, and don’t count your chickens. Just keep knocking, keep on knocking, until it’s your time to be let inside.

The Life

A young man approached me at a library talk in Sydney a little while ago and asked me what life is like being a ‘famous author’. So I thought for this blog post I might talk about how being an author effects my world on a practical level. This might drown some steadily floating dreams out there, particularly those belonging to young people, about publisher-funded book tours across the globe, being recognised in the street and gushed over, buying a mountain-top writer’s retreat with your first round of royalty cheques. But if you’ve got a more grounded version of the writerly dream still pumping away in your mind, this might confirm for you what you really want, what success for you would really mean. So here are the major points of the writerly life, as well as the debunking of some popular myths.

 

First of all: I’m not that famous. I’ve never been recognised anywhere as being That Amazing Author, Candice Fox. I’m recognised at my coffee shop as the black-coffee-milk-on-the-side-chick. I’m recognised at my local library as being The Fast Typer. I’m recognised at my nail salon as The Chewer. But for authoring – no. If you want street recognition, become an actor. Being an author is one of those jobs you can hide behind, only revealing your true self when you feel entirely safe; kind of like stripping, I guess. It’s not that it’s shameful, but I’ve found that now and then dropping the ‘I’m an author’ bomb in the wrong situation can cause some real dramas. It can cause your audience of new friends to heap reams of Hollywood cliches onto you about your bank account, your work ethic, your arrogance, and in some cases, (quite often, actually) it can inspire them to tell you their own book ideas. The heart-wrenching memoir never written. The fantasy epic mentally built up over decades, just begging to be given life. The breakout Western Shoot-em-up/Gothic Lit mashup ‘like nobody’s read before’! These conversations are usually long, deep, and one-sided, so keeping the author thing under wraps completely can sometimes be a good move.

 

Basically no one lives off their writing. That’s a sad fact. Sure, the money surrounding each book is a great bonus – I used my first advance to put a deposit on a modest Eastern suburbs, two bedder apartment – but there’ll be no Jaguars or private jets, unless you’re Matthew Reilly. Most writers I know surround their authorial activities with writing related stuff, like talks, teaching sessions, online courses and retreats. They are often writing teachers or lecturers. I’m a university lecturer and a PhD student, so I only teach during the semester and only for a couple of hours a week. My main source of consistent income is my PhD scholarship. Throughout my PhD, when teaching work has been hard to come by, I’ve taken other weird little side jobs – teaching kids to swim, freelance journalism, desk girl at a tattoo shop. Each time I’ve gotten a book-related payment I’ve gone out with my partner to celebrate over dinner and drinks, but I’ve stashed the rest for my future.

 

Getting published after the initial publication is easier, but that’s just common sense. My agent is a very good friend now, and she’s always available on the other end of the phone. Having said that, I have pitched her ideas that are not in her field, and she’s refused them – business is business, and friendship is friendship, and the two don’t mix. It’s easier to pitch, though. I don’t have to have a completed manuscript, an interesting bio or a meticulously-constructed synopsis. I’ve also proven a bunch of things to my agent that the pitcher in the slush pile hasn’t proven yet – I’m rational, professional, hard working and I always finish the book. That’s the key. Plenty of people have ideas, and plenty of them write, too, but finding a finisher is difficult. As an established author, the publisher I’m approaching knows I’m a hard worker also, and they’re encouraged by the fact that I already have a fan base and people like my style. I remember the good old days when I’d have to wait three months minimum for a rejection from a publisher, and agents seemed as hard to catch as white tigers.

 

Having written and published a book does not make it easier to do it again. I still have to have compelling characters, a cracker plot and page-turning pace, and that’s not something that just oozes naturally out of your head like earwax. In fact, the pressure to write book two of my series to the standard of book one nearly drove me insane with anxiety. Before my agent and publisher told me it was brilliant, I had no idea if it was any good. As an author, you don’t just discover some secret formula for writing a hit that you can go ahead and follow. You have to be inspired. You have to plot. You have to solve all the problems and make all the twists and build all the tension the way you did the first time, now on a deadline, with the same or better appeal. You HAVE to – or you’ll lose this beautiful and magical thing you fought so hard for for so long; your status as an author. And you will lose it: don’t you worry about that. Authors fall into obscurity all the time, or follow up their first cracker with a mediocre second and fade into the shadows. It’s terrifying, to be honest.

 

But it’s also wonderful. Being an author is wonderful, in all the ways I’ve written about it being wonderful before. The first time you open a box full of fresh new copies of your work. Seeing those fresh new copies become tattered and frayed, over and over, in loving and excited hands. Having a new idea, falling in love with a new potential novel, pitching it and seeing the excitement come over your agent or your publisher’s face – because they know what you can do already and they’d love to see you do it again. Seeing notifications that a new fan has joined the Facebook page – someone you don’t know and have never met. They join quietly, and they watch without comment. Just some stranger in the crowd who likes you.

 

I don’t think the novelty of that will ever wear off.  

Better Read Than Dead, tomorrow, 3pm

Better Read Than Dead, tomorrow, 3pm

Don’t miss your opportunity to ask me anything you ever wanted to know about HADES tomorrow (Saturday 17th May, 2014) in Newtown at 3pm. Be there or be square!

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