Please come along to show your support for me tonight at Gleebooks in Glebe, at 6pm. Tickets are $10 at the door, and light snacks and drinks are provided. Pummel me with your deepest darkest queries and try to snag yourself some previews of EDEN, available this December with Random House. Be there or be square!
One of the questions I’m asked most in the interviews surrounding my first novel, HADES, is any advice I might have for aspiring writers. My biggest challenge, when I hear this inevitable query, is which piece of advice I’ll choose, because more often than not I’m sitting there on live radio or in a chat room or at the edge of a table surrounded by hopeful and eager writers, and I’ve got just a minute to answer. The truth is, over the years, I’ve collected a mountain of advice for young, ambitious writers, because I was one for a long time, and I grabbed hold of each and every tidbit and applied it, tried to see if it was the key to that huge, heavy, perpetually closed door. I thought I’d make my blog post this time about this advice; but before I set out, I want to make it clear that these few wisps of knowledge are but some of hundreds, and it may be that none of them work for you. I’m sure you know, if you’re serious about this, that the journey is different for everyone. Your chances are low (so much lower than you could ever imagine), and your hopes are high (so high, no one understands them but you). I know. I remember. I’ve made a promise to myself never to forget. So let’s see if I can’t help you along a little, whether I give you the key or simply make you feel like your dreams are worthwhile.
Happy writing, everyone.
Don’t forget, in a mere four hours time, you can watch me in a live interview with TheReadingRoom’s Simon McDonald and three devoted HADES fans. Register at the link below. See you there!
What has been different about getting an international multi-book publishing deal than how I imagined it in my girlhood fantasies? Well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is most things, and most for the better. The things that are bad aren’t bad at all – they’re just difficult, a challenge. I guess I’d always thought that if this ever happened to me the work would be done – I’d clap the dust off my hands triumphantly, adjust my belt in satisfaction and wander off into the sunset. There is, however, unexpectedly, a lot of work to being an author. There’s also a lot of doubt.
I guess I never realised how much the world needs to know about you when you make something people like. I know diddly squat about my favourite literary figures (except for Plath – but who doesn’t know that one), so I guess I assumed I’d just be one of those mysterious, aloof types with hunched shoulders in the corner of the cafe, the one people whisper about. Not so. Over the last few months I’ve conducted a real autopsy on my entire existence, bringing out and weighing and cataloguing experiences even I’d forgotten I had in an attempt to uncover what made me this way. The joy of it is being asked to describe what type of character I am in all my writerly glory, the way that I used to write character profiles in baby writer class. When asked why I write, as I have been many of times now over publicity meetings, magazine meetings, coffee meetings, blog meetings, I’ve discovered that I share some characteristics with people who have become great at this thing, and that’s a relief. I began writing as a way to flee my childhood bedroom on wordy wings. I struggled to find a voice I liked the sound of. I wrote pages and pages of garbage for years upon naive years. I tried to stand on great shoulders and fell off because I was too small. The last few months have been a very enjoyable self-examination, something I don’t think you can really do without learning something important about yourself. I think I’ve learnt that I was always going to be this way. That writing was a seed I was born with that was always going to grow.
I never realised how immobilising self-doubt can be. I’m talking actually feeling sick at the idea of putting any words on the page. I wrote HADES in the raw hot joy of personal literary escape and now I’m writing EDEN (almost finished draft one!) under the hammer of public expectation. According to people who have snaggled a bit of EDEN off my desk, the weight on my shoulders hasn’t affected the quality of my work in any way, but damn, has it made things slow. I’ve got to really think about who these people I’m playing with are, because their own histories and motivations and desires are being eyeballed under the microscope, as well as me. And I love them all so. Every one. I think my lesson going forward will be to let go of the need for everyone to love everyone in the Bennett/Archer series as much as I do, because one of the most common misconceptions about life, psychologists will tell you, is that you have to be approved of by everyone you meet for all things you do at all times. People are going to hate Frank, Eden, even Hades. I’ve got to live with it.
I’m surprised how long the guilt can last when people ask me what I do and I tell them that I’m an author. I’m still struggling with that, but seeing myself in the paper might help. I’m surprised at how comfortable I can be filling out interview questions on the screen but how awkward, confused and twitchy a camera lens can make me. I’m awed by the electric excitement that emerged out of a low-level ‘well done!’ when people started seeing actual pictures of my book on my various author pages – something that was once an idea now an object, a thing I made that could be bought and enjoyed. I’m lucky enough to have some of the funniest, weirdest and most giving people in my life right on board behind the book, so I’ve been very grateful for that. I wasn’t prepared for all the book-hungry fans who have popped up on the pages who have no connection to me or my friends whatsoever, random people from all around the globe who are just happy to hear about a stranger’s success and eager to get a bit of good old Aussie crime in their lives.
I guess I’m glad the publication process is so much longer, more complex and more difficult than I first imagined; because I’m more connected to it. With every phone call, interview, email, sales figure, every fan who wants advice on how to get published, every Like, every tweet, I’m there in the moment, relishing in what I have done. If I’d been offered the deal and stepped back into the shadows, there’s no way it could have been as character-developing as this.
And I’m into stuff like that.
Hey everybody! Are you planning on grabbing HADES on your Kindle? The pre-order option is available now. Can’t wait to hear all of your reviews. Comment back if you’ve taken the plunge! 🙂
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’ll never make any money out of your art. This is the cheeky smirk of someone who heard that too often.
So, I’ve graced the cover of Random News, the Random House trade publication/catalog heading out to hungry book buyers looking to order for stores. Opening the envelope, extracting the little hand written note from my publisher that read ‘Lookin’ good!’ and then opening this magazine has been one of the milestones of my publishing journey. I immediately took the book to my nextdoor neighbour, whose face lit up as though a switch had been flipped. Then she scrunched her nose up, as she does, and said ‘This is so weird. Knowing someone famous.’
If you haven’t already, like the Candice Fox Facebook page for random bits of news. See what I did there? 😉 http://www.facebook.com/candicefoxauthor
It might be a bit odd for me to be telling you as a writer that you need to stop thinking. One of the few privileges you get as a person setting off on such a journey is the ability to look thoughtful; elbow on table and face in hand, staring at the light dancing in the trees. Stroking your beard now and then, if you have one (and in my opinion if you can have one, you should have one. I have crushing beard envy. Yes, I know that’s weird.) If you’re a writer, people expect you to think. It is the perfect excuse for being that person in the office who has five hundred and ninety origami kranes folded and scattered about their desk, the one who’s always staring at the elevator buttons as though reading them for some hidden code, the one who’s always in the dark on the balcony at the office Christmas party, champagned, quiet. Being a big thinker is ok, but sometimes thinking big can ruin everything. Let me demonstrate.
I’ve only been a runner for a few months. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, though: I like the idea of it, the animalistic nature of an early-morning jog into the mist, a slice of ocean now and then glittering between the apartment blocks, alluring. I got the idea that I might like to be a runner when my marriage died, the curtains of that heady illusion suddenly fallen all around in artistic splashes of red velvet and me, unloved me, in all my ok-shaped-but-honestly-kinda-flabby-and-definetely-badly-dressed glory, revealed. I thought running would not only give me confidence and my body back but it’s a very measurable goal and I could judge myself by it, reward myself by it, compare myself to others by it (Beginning to see the problems?). I started going to the gym and running on the treadmill and fiddling with the speed and the incline and the fan and trying not to throw up and after a while I thought I was good enough to take it to the streets.
I got into my tights one morning, pulled on my shoes, hooked up my music, opened my front door and looked down the street.
Jesus, I thought. That’s a long goddamn street.
I figured 5km was a good goal to head toward, so I started bouncing along. My GPS told me that the end of the street was two hundred metres from my house. I was already struggling. Sweat was tickling in my hair, and my calves started itching, so now and then ducking to swipe at my calves, now and then plastering my hair back from my face, and all the time panting like a shot ox, I got about eight hundred metres into the run and slowed to a walk. On the morning of the next planned run, two days later, I lay in bed for a good twenty minutes just hating the assignment I’d set myself. I thought about places I knew that were approximately 5km away. They seemed like foreign lands. It would take me years, I decided, to be able to get to 5km and I probably wasn’t going to enjoy the journey in any case. Runners lead joyless lives. All they eat is buckwheat, whatever the hell that is, and polenta, and their knees and hips go by thirty if they don’t get hit by a truck, and their friends hate them secretly, the way I’ve secretly hated plenty of runner friends for their success at it. People are born runners. Long-legged types wearing bum bags and massaging their hamstrings outside cafes filled with colourful cyclists, talking about gel insteps and Deep Heat and the Sydney half-kay and beep tests you can download to your phone.
Stupid runners. I rolled over in bed. They’re wasting their time.
It’s possible, and surprisingly easy, to think your way completely out of anything you might want to do that is even slightly uncomfortable. And sitting down over the space of a year or more and writing a novel is the perfect example of something you can over-think and talk yourself out of in no more than a couple of sentences. Ninety thousand words? All of them completely original, appealing, interesting, grammatically correct, plausible, believable, entertaining, publishable? Ten thousand hours to master the craft? All of them alone, completely alone, nothing but novelty coffee mug and Microsoft Word and blinking cursor and oblivion-spelling empty page… Nothing but experience, imagination, desire, instinct, to guide you? Are you nuts? Do you have any idea how long it takes just to get an initial sparkle of inspiration into a narrative structure? To formulate characters, give them environments, upbringings, baggage, idiosyncrasies, hairstyles, cars, pets, jobs, habits, attitudes, accents, sexual fetishes, to get this cast together, to make them do something that strangers would be compelled to read about? Do you have any idea how many edits a manuscript needs before it’s even of submittable standard? Do you know how many full-length novels the average writer writes before they hit on a winner?
Let’s just stay in bed. It’s warm here.
Writing a novel is like the longest run you’ve ever been on in your life. You can sit there before you even begin with your elbow on the table and face in hand, possible beard action, and imagine how bad it’s going to be. Those first sweaty, stumbling, uncertain pages, the discomfort of finding a rhythm, the shock of wind that hits you now and then as you rise over a crest and realise how far you are from home, what’s before you. Like running, writing is lonely; no one will know you did or didn’t do it today, whether you did well at it at all, whether you failed and stayed in bed, whether you wrote something that you’ll have to scrap tomorrow, time wasted. Before you even open a document, you can open your browser and read about publishing houses tumbling to the earth and writers losing their contracts and editors sifting through thousands of manuscripts a year, giving them a page to impress, a single page, tossing them over their shoulder into the burn heap.
If you didn’t think about all that, though, what might happen? What if you thought of nothing beyond this word. This one. This line of text. What if one idea just crept into the next, and there was no need for an idea beyond what you have in your hands, a man in a room, a man with a gun, a man with a plan. Whatever it is. Plenty of writers talk about the need for structure, planning, big picture schemes, PostIt notes on cork boards, roads mapped out, GPS hooked up, progress measured and chapters outlined. But what if all you needed, in fact, was momentum. Slow at first. Gathering speed. Not a thought spared for the distance left until finish. Just the pure dedication to this moment, and the action of writing, or running, and the will in this moment not to stop.
I implore you to forget about the journey for a minute, because it will be long, and hard, and windy, and painful, and you’ll want to stop at the half way mark. You’ll want to stop ten minutes from now. You’ll doubt yourself. You’ll tell yourself you weren’t born for this. You’ll hate the people sailing past you, watch them disappear over the rise ahead. All of that’s to come, oh yes, I can’t tell you that it isn’t. But what if you just didn’t think about it. What if you just stopped thinking all together.
I ran 8km this morning. Easy.
Happy writing, everybody.
I’ve just begun a Facebook author page that I’d love you all to come along to. There, you’ll find bookish competitions closer to the release of my first novel, writerly quips as I power through book two of my series, and my ferocious attempt at a 1000 word a day challenge with a writer friend of mine, Adam. All the humour, heartache and harrowing fiction of Candice Fox right there in your Facebook feed. How can you go wrong? Plus I also have huge news about the book to reveal next week, so you’ll be the first to get it. Looking forward to chatting with you properly there.