Writing was something I always had in me, from the time I was a small child. Yet, for many years I didn’t write because everything I wrote felt ham-fisted due to my lack of life experience. I needed to go through enough pain, platonic and romantic breakups and other complicated situations to have the material to draw from.
I spent fourteen years exhibiting as a painter, a career I loved. The desire to write again came seven years ago when I wrote what I now view as my practice attempt at a novel—a gory supernatural thriller with a character who was basically me. I’ve since learnt that autobiographical elements are the hallmark of a first novel.
There was interest from a publisher who asked me to write a redraft. After around eighteen months of waiting, redrafting, waiting again and phoning, the manuscript was declined. It was disheartening, but I knew I needed to push ahead.
I then wrote my novel ‘Stone Circle’ —the story of a boy endowed with psychic powers who is apprenticed to a seer in 16th century Italy. I became so absorbed in the setting and fond of my characters that it was disorienting when I finished two years later. I set about trying to find an agent and started reviewing on the Harper Collins website, now defunct, Authonomy. It was a place where aspiring writers put up sections of their manuscripts for critique by other writers. It had a ranking system—the most reviewed and highest rated manuscripts rose to the top and were reviewed by Harper Collins editors. After eighteen months, ‘Stone Circle’ rose to number 15 out of approximately 6000 manuscripts, just before the site closed down. It was featured as ‘One to Watch’ by the editors and received a ‘People’s Choice’ award.
I learnt a huge amount on that site—detailed aspects of the craft, how to handle criticism and editing skills. I made some lovely friends who I’m still in touch with today. Around the same time I spent a year and a quarter studying Professional Writing and Editing at university and started a blog, ‘Arcanum.’ The blog was a way to share my short stories and flash fiction. I was thrilled when these pieces started to be published by a number of online journals and magazines both in Australia and internationally.
Then I landed an agent. At that point I felt a little more validated about the path I was taking. It was an exciting time. Yet, due to my story being cross-genre and suitable for a wide readership, finding a publisher proved to be a challenge.
The book found a home with a small press in the US, who have a historical fantasy imprint. It was a surreal moment, after seven years of slogging away. I remember feeling a massive sense of relief and satisfaction, along with the obvious excitement. The biggest lesson for me was just how many people contributed to this outcome—most importantly the writing friends who endlessly critiqued and encouraged, along with industry professionals. I’m thankful to everyone who was involved and who believed in my project.
Writing is an attempt to make an emotional connection with strangers—if I’m able to do that moving forward, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.
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