Fun visit to the home of Booktopia recently to discuss Dressing the Dearloves with John Purcell and Sarah McDuling, and take the tour. Listen here if it takes your fancy. Love Booktopia!
We all do it. I’ve bought books on the strength of a good title and gorgeous cover alone – of course I have. But the content has to deliver on its promise as well.
I have an idea of how I want my books to look when I’m writing them, and was dreaming about this new one long before I finished it. So when HarperCollins asked me to come up with a few suggestions, I jumped at the opportunity.
You might remember I wrote a post about the mood board and process I went through for Precious Things here. This book has a completely different vibe. It’s lighter and less anxious (as I was saying here). It’s very girly and gossipy and younger in feel (not just the characters, but the subject matter as well – less about a mid-life course correction and more about a mid-to-late twenties meltdown (which is kind of hilarious and a rite of passage… I’ve been there).
I loved the look HCP came up with for Precious Things; the title and the font and (ego speaking here) my name glowing in large gold font… But I’m not sure it’s right for novel two. Here’s how I briefed the cover concept for my new book:
“Catherine,” I said to my publisher, “can we make it more frothy, please… Can it be pink? Or baby blue?”
You might think I’m being horribly reductive here, but here’s some of my favourite books. Take a look at the covers. I’d be honoured to be considered in the same league with any of these authors. So I’m pushing for pink, I’m pushing for illustrations, and I’m pushing for whimsical font and a picture of a dress or a handbag or a couple of champagne flutes.
I’ll let you know how I go, but fingers crossed I haven’t completely missed the mark.
Because I wrote this book to provide comfort. It’s not literary with a capital ‘L’. It’s not going to win any awards and it’s not going to change the world, but it might just give someone a pleasant afternoon or two, and a place to escape to when life seems a bit ‘meh’. Pink says that in spades. And I love those reads myself. Books about friendship and fashion and worrying you’re a bit of a lightweight. This next novel, in particular, is about coming home with your tail between your legs, licking your wounds and then brushing yourself off to start again. My heroine – Sylvie, her name is – is the poster child for that.
So, Sylvie, here’s to you. I hope you end up pretty in pink.
Can you remember the last time you read a poem? When I heard this I realised it’s been too long. My yoga teacher shared this during savasana (corpse pose; the relax-at-the-end-bit of yoga practice) today and it so moved me:
In the end
you won’t be known
for the things you did,
or what you built,
or what you said.
You won’t even be known
for the love given
or the hearts saved,
because in the end you won’t be known.
You won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light:
What did you do to be known?
You will be asked: Did you know it,
this place, this journey?
What there is to know can’t be written.
Something between the crispness of air
and the glint in her eye
and the texture of the orange peel.
What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this:
a memory that beats like a heart–
a travel memory, of what it was to walk here,
alive and warm and textured within.
Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life.
You are here to pay attention. That is enough.
– Tara Sophia Mohr
You can read more about Tara and her work here.
Precious Things will be available in all good bookstores across Australia on 1 April.
For more stunning illustrations by Jessica Guthrie and to follow the Colour of Whimsy blog, click here. The design shown above will be made into silk banners displayed in bookstore windows across the country. If you see one near you, do send me a pic – I’d love to see how they’re being presented!
One of the topics I’m always interested to hear other authors talk about is how their novel came to be published, and all the ups and downs along the way. So I thought I’d share with you the long, painstaking and rewarding journey that led me to write Precious Things.
October 2009: Initial seed of idea pops into head. Post throwaway comment on blog: ‘One day I’ll write a novel about a cheeky little frock who gets about and lives in more cities than I ever will – won’t that be fun?’ Don’t give it much more thought, but short while later publisher friend sends email asking if I’m serious and asks to meet. Happy accident makes me commit to starting.
Early 2010 – end 2012: Get busy with other book projects and freelance writing. Put novel aside. Ignore nagging feeling that I really should be writing fiction.
August 2012: Pick up novel again. Finish first few chapters and think it is brilliant, surely best first draft anyone has ever written. Feel great.
September 2012: Join writing course at Faber Academy at Allen & Unwin called Bootcamp for Your Novel, just to keep me motivated. Have to share work for first time and realise how totally awful it is. Plunged into pit of despair. Delete first 15,000 words.
February 2013: Have about 60,000 words I’m tentatively proud of. Pluck up courage to show them to another friend in publishing. She tactfully tells me it needs major re-writing and a whole new structure if it’s going to work. Plunged into pit of despair again, but get to work re-drafting. On a roll.
May 2013: Feeling on top of the world! Have 90,000 words and plan for last few chapters, and fairly certain all but done. Make insane mistake of saying this on Facebook page, thereby ensuring another full year of writing and re-drafting.
August 2013: Start sending ‘first’ draft to agents in Sydney and the UK, hoping they will take me into their author stable. Success! UK agent reads and loves book! Makes some big suggestions for re-working the structure and sends me on my way. Work solidly for next few months changing the book as per my fabulous new agent’s suggestions.
December 2013: Finally hear back from UK agent about last draft. She’s changed her mind. Tells me book is not commercial enough for her to sell as is. Wants me to re-write, cutting out my main protagonist, Maggie. Search soul. Decide she’s not the agent for me. We part ways.
January 2014: Have a small car accident and get spinal injury. Back in spasm and neck is messed up for next five months. Can’t write, can’t do much of anything. Feel miserable and become hermit. Take up meditation and try to become Zen master. Go on family holiday to Europe. Tentatively research places for book while I’m there but mostly forget about writing. Come home a new person with neck better, able to write again. Forget spurious promises made during injury to work with impeccable posture, and go like hammer and tong once I return. Send book off to agents again. Mostly silence, and then: rejection after rejection. In the pit again. Still not Zen master (clearly).
August 2014: Have email offers from not one but two agents in London on the same day, asking me to sign with their agencies! Have Skype calls with both, and finally decide upon perfect agent. More thrilled than thought was humanly possible. Agent asks clever in-house editor to help me refine novel. Spend next few months re-writing it.
January 2015: Agent helps me sign two-book deal with HarperCollins Australia. HarperCollins comes back with more structural advice. Re-work for next few months.
April 2015: Hand in latest draft. Start work on novel two.
June 2015: Lovely HarperCollins editor comes back with more suggestions. Re-work and submit again.
September 2015: Editor comes back with more changes. Hand in mammoth edit of un-typeset pages. Think phew, I’m almost done.
Publisher starts sending out book to other authors for pre-publication endorsements we can put on the cover.
Designers at HarperCollins start working on cover image.
October 2015: Agent takes book to Frankfurt Book Fair. Meets German publisher who wants to publish Precious Things.
November 2015: Go speak to the good people at HarperCollins about my book, begging their sales team to do their best job at selling it to major chains and retailers across Australia for next Mother’s Day. Cross fingers.
Australian publisher and agent convince HarperCollins Holland to publish there.
Pages are typeset. Editor asks me to look over them again. Finally hand in last big edit. Think phew, I’m done.
December 2015: Bolinda Audio agrees to buy the rights to publish the audio book worldwide. Love my agent. Pre-publication endorsements start trickling in.
January 2016: Final changes have been made but I need to do one last proofread and edit. Think phew, I’m done. Last endorsements come in from a bunch of authors I admire. Totally thrilled.
1 February 2016: Go to print – yippee! Really am done. Start publicity process same day, working on a ‘making of’ free e-book and answering media questions about the book. Not really done.
21 March 2016: Precious Things to hit bookstore shelves across Australia.
1 April 2016: official publication date. Media campaign begins. Hurrah!
Have you got a similar story to tell? Please share. Like I said, I’m fascinated by this process.
My wishes for you, for a better 2015:
That’s it. Do you think you can wish it back to me, too? That would be lovely.
Happy new year, mes amies.
Just one month ago my friend, the writer Hannah Richell, lost her husband, Matt in a surfing accident. Every day since then I’ve thought of them; of their children, Jude and Gracie, and the love between them.
I wanted to share this here because her words keep reminding me that life is indeed precious, and every moment with the ones you love sacred. I am trying hard not to forget it.
Sometime last year I went to a writing workshop at Faber Academy with novelist Carrie Tiffany. The title was Fiction Mining, and it was all about taking inspiration from your experiences to perform a sort of alchemy within your writing. But the lesson I learnt most was through an offhand comment she made, about the process of essentially doing nothing after a book is done.
The suggestion was to take time off to visit galleries or go on walks, listen to music. To read and recharge the batteries for a good few months, at least. I realised I’d never actually done this. I’ve always been so worried about being without another project to keep me busy, I don’t actually stop and chill for a bit, or really savour each small success.
I feel so uncomfortable in limbo. Even if you love what you do, being in the middle of something’s all about the daily grind and the importance of simply getting it done – whether that’s a creative project or otherwise. But limbo does give you energy to keep going, and puts things in perspective. It’s also a time of possibility.
Lately I’ve been forced to rest. I’ve started taking pleasure in long walks around the bay and just stretching. Towards the end of last year I was punishing my body with exercise as a way of counteracting the work of sitting at a computer all day long. All go go go, then stop & atrophy.
The other day I sped over to the bay to do my relaxing walk(!), ready to listen to music to make me walk faster and beat my time from the day before. Then I realised I’d misplaced my headphones. I almost went home, but didn’t. And that was the first time in years I found myself alone, without stimulation, simply walking and breathing.
I slowed down. I listened. I watched some clouds drift by, and didn’t let myself think about anything too much. It felt good.
Writing books on fashion & craft for the past five years has been wonderful, and I’m so grateful for the support of my readers and all the people I’ve met through The Crafty Minx. I’m still writing – almost every day – but will be working on my first novel in future and blogging about it here.
With the publishing process being what it is, the novel won’t be out for at least another year or so, but I’ll be posting here anyway on my process, thoughts, inspirations, favourite books & films and lots more.
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