I’m feeling low.

I know I’m not alone in this right now, and in many ways it feels self-indulgent to continue wallowing in the misery when so many people have lost properties and lives. I’m safe; my family is safe; my home is safe: for now, at least.

But everywhere I look there’s more loss, more denial, more inaction, more despair. I wonder how First Nations people are feeling, seeing their lands ravaged by this destruction. There’s this heavy, hard ball of grief in my guts that won’t go away no matter how hard I try to hang onto hope. It feels as if everything has changed forever, and it’s not just the fires, or the relentless, choking smoke in major cities, or the spectre of all of this only becoming worse. 

It’s the little things that hurt the most. It’s the Facebook group of my town’s locals that is normally friendly and positive but has recently degenerated into name-calling and derision at those who dare to mention climate change. It’s the people who are looking away, acting as if nothing at all is happening. It’s watching my children playing and thinking, what have I done, bringing them into a world like this? It’s getting that little clench of fear every time my husband’s CFS pager goes off, wondering how close the fire is this time, crossing my fingers that he’ll come home to us safely.

I’m questioning everything now in a way I never have before. Even making social plans in summer is tentative because we never know when we might have to evacuate our house.

I know I need to switch off for a while, stop reading so much bad news, stop reading the bloody comments. I should start writing again – it’s in times of crisis that the world needs art the most – but even that now seems at best frivolous, at worst selfish. 

But there have been little pockets of brightness, too. Watching people come together to support people and wildlife affected by the bushfires. #AuthorsForFireys on Twitter has raised tens of thousands of dollars for various charities – two people donated $350 between them for signed copies of my books.

Some women who live in my town announced they were collecting medical supplies for wildlife on Kangaroo Island, and every day for a couple of weeks locals turned up at the oval with so many donations that they had at least three carloads each day.

My publishers, Pantera Press, not only donated $10,000 for bushfire relief but are also matching author and staff donations.

One thing, at least, that is unanimous is the appreciation for volunteer firefighters, who go out there again and again, exhausted, afraid, with no thought or expectation of compensation. Who come home to their families, dead on their feet and with bushfire smoke deep inside their pores, to snatch as much sleep as they can before they go out to do it all over again.

So I’m feeling pretty low.

My new book, The Girl She Was, is out in two and a half months, but I’m having trouble mustering up excitement about it. I have a new story in my head, but I’m no longer sure if I want to write it … or anything. It all seems so pointless.

In another couple of months the main danger of the bushfire season will be over. The smoke will roll away and things will start to feel normal again.

But that’s also what I’m afraid of … that this sense of urgency will dissipate along with the smoke and we’ll go another year without changing anything.

Writing hard and having feelings

On 13 September, I started writing a new book with a loose plot outline and no idea how I was going to get there. Seven weeks and three days later, I finished the first draft.

I’ve never written something so fast. It poured out of me in a great, dizzying gasp. I wrote as if I were possessed, my brain firing ideas, SNAP, SNAP, SNAP, so fast my fingers could barely keep up. Subplots developed almost of their own accord; my main character went in directions I hadn’t expected when I started. I didn’t edit as I went. I thought about it day and night. Possibly (probably) neglected my children. Crammed multiple writing sessions into every day. Almost missed my bus stop several times.

I had the idea for this book several years ago – had even written a few thousand words – but the themes in the story only crystallised a few months ago when I pitched the idea to my editor. It was then that I realised the kind of book I wanted to write, and I started getting excited about it.

Of course, now it’s written, I need to go back and fill in the unexpected subplots that cropped up halfway through. It is likely a great pile of word vomit, as first drafts tend to be. Half the characters’ names are still xx. The town in which it’s set, almost a character itself, is still called xx. I need to unpick rambling, repetitive descriptions and gestures, tone down the emotion in some places, ramp it up in others. I need to do the tedious research that gives a story its colour and authenticity.

Now it’s finished, I miss it. I’m itching to go back in and start editing, but I also know I need to take a mental break from it, not only to let it settle in my brain, but to recover from the experience of writing it.

The story engages with a lot of stuff that makes me very angry. I vibrated with rage as I wrote. Now it lives outside my brain I feel exhausted and empty, and I’m left with this dark, twisted, ugly little thing that I have to try to pull back towards the light without losing that rawness.

But one of the joys of writing is the unexpected moments of hope and brightness that push their way through. One of the themes that came through all on its own – and turned out to be one of the main foundations of the story – is the beauty and complexity of friendship between women.

I also believe in my vision for this story. If I can pull it off, I think it will be better than the last thing I wrote, and the one before, and I can’t ask for any more than that.

So I’m trying to be content with taking a break (with limited success). I’m reading a lot, and I’m planning to finally start riding my horse again. And one day soon, I’m going to print out the manuscript and read through it to work out what to do with it.

Writing retreat

I returned a few days ago from my first ever self-organised writing retreat. I say first ever because there will definitely be repeats… it was, hands-down, the most successful few days of writing I’ve ever had.

I’ve just begun a new novel and I wanted to get a good start on it while I was still in the early stages, and it’s often difficult to really immerse myself in something with work, home and family commitments. I’m good at forcing productivity into half-hour stints on the bus and in my lunch break, or getting up early once or twice a week, but I rarely have the opportunity to commit a big chunk of time to deep-dive into a new book.

Check out that 90s style. This is us at the South Australian Young Writers’ Awards, which Bek won in (I think) 1994.

So I started thinking about booking myself into a writing retreat… but they are all either heinously expensive or you have to apply for them, or they’re a week long. Enter my long-time friend and fellow author Rebekah Turner.

We’ve known each other since we were 12 years old (which, I’ve just realised, was 29 years ago – gawd) and we’ve always been writers. We used to spend our lunch breaks at school in the computer room typing out terribly bad stories and talking about how amazing it was going to be when we were finally authors.

But when high school ended, Bek moved to Brisbane and we rarely saw each other. We wrote letters to each other for years, then sent emails when that became a thing, combined with the occasional visit for weddings and other life stuff.

But there was always the writing. By amazing coincidence, we both won places on the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers’ Centre Manuscript Development Program and spent five days together learning more about the publishing world and feeling like we were getting closer, ever closer, to realising our dreams.

And we got there. Though when dreams become real, they often don’t look like they did when they lived only in your head. By then we both had kids and other challenges, and when you reach the peak of the mountain, you realise there are just more peaks. And more peaks.


So we decided to do our own writing retreat. We booked an apartment in Sydney: three nights and two days, away from our usual commitments, to just write. And talk about writing. And to drink beer and wine and eat nice food. To do something that was just for us.

I set a goal to write 10,000 words in the time I was away. I’d never written that much before, so I assumed it wouldn’t be possible, but I wanted to stretch myself.

Celebration face (and wine)

On Friday morning I managed 2000 words and a run before going out for a lovely lunch with my publisher and editor. With a belly full of delicious food and half a bottle of wine, my hopes weren’t high to maintain the morning’s momentum, but amazingly, I got to 5000 words for the day. Cue celebration, Thai takeaway, and more wine (and ironically watching The Karate Kid and Walker, Texas Ranger – the perils of not having Netflix).

I didn’t think I could back it up on Saturday, but Bek and I holed ourselves up in the beautiful Green Square Library, which we discovered only five minutes’ walk from our apartment, for a few hours, and the words kept flowing. After a break for lunch, we returned to the library for another few hours until we got kicked out, then wrote more in the apartment, and to my astonishment, I managed another 5000 words for the day. My entire weekend goal, achieved in two days. (There was more wine, and more takeaway, and more bad television to follow.)

Before and after

We left for home on Sunday, and after a little more writing in the airport, my tally for the three days came to 12,000 words – more than I’d thought possible. My previous personal best was 9,000 words over five days, so to say I’m stoked with my progress on this story so far is an understatement.

Of course, now I’m home again, things have slowed down a bit. I’m not kidding myself that the trip heralded the beginning of a new, more productive me. I’m heading towards the sagging middle section of the book now, and I know soon enough I’ll be banging my head against the wall and despairing about what a terrible writer I am (again).

But I also know I’ll get past it, because I’ve done it before. And I know I’m going to do another writing retreat in the future, both for the valuable space and time to just write and the opportunity to catch up with my friend and talk all things writing for a few days.

Bring on the next one.

A new direction

In the four months since Hot Pursuit hit the shelves I’ve been busily working on a number of different projects, and I’m excited to say that one of these projects will be published in 2019.

Since I started writing, I’ve always wanted to write issues-based novels… stories that address themes that are important to me, that make people think, that have flawed characters, that are dark and unflinching, but ultimately hopeful.

I really enjoyed writing Hot Pursuit, but I’ve always been attracted to these darker themes, and so I’ve made the decision to move my writing career in this direction from here on.

I’m finishing off structural edits for my next novel, Misconception, which is a story about about grief, addiction, family and identity. It’s the book I’ve always wanted to write, and I’m so pleased that it’ll have it’s place in the light, and so grateful to my publisher, Pantera Press, for taking a chance on it and for their guidance in helping me to transform it into something I can be proud of.

In Hot Water, the sequel to Hot Pursuit, will still be released in the future, when the time is right. Misconception will likely come out next winter, but I look forward to sharing more about that in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’m in plotting mode for my next book – the fun never ends!

The burden of fear

I’ve been struggling for days how best to articulate the way it feels to hear the news that yet another woman has died at the hands of a man.

It hurts.

Not because I knew her – I didn’t. Not because my life looks like hers – it doesn’t. Not because I’ve experienced violence – I haven’t.

It’s the sadness at a young life cut short. At a creative person who will never have the chance to prove how great she could’ve been. At how close she was to making it home before she was raped and murdered.

It’s the impotent rage at the instant flood of #notallmen that appears under every social media post from the men that have to centre themselves, that have to make it about them, that have the temerity to turn themselves into the victims, even when a life has been taken.

It’s the anger at the rapist and murderer being excused for his crimes because he’s on the autism spectrum… as if there aren’t millions of people on the spectrum who somehow manage to get through every day without raping and murdering someone.

But mostly, it’s the deep sense of helplessness that we’re still being told to take responsibility for not being attacked. It’s the knowledge that we are not equal, are still not fucking equal, even when we’re white, middle class, straight. It’s imagining how much worse it could be for women of colour, for low income or homeless women.

We’re still not allowed to take up equal space in the world. We’re still told we need to be afraid, instead of the world telling men that they need to stop assuming our bodies are theirs for the taking.

Stop telling us to be afraid.


Every woman lives with this fear inside us. It’s always there, that latent terror, lurking beneath the surface, ready to spring into action. The scenarios we go over in our heads in every situation, day or night, the plans we devise to get away just in case that man who gets off the bus at our stop follows us home.

That fear is our reality, day in, day out, and it is exhausting. It feels like we are born to carry it.

We are told to ‘use our common sense’, to be afraid of the mythical monster, but we also mustn’t dare to vilify all men for the actions of the few. At the same time, the steady, unending stream of domestic deaths tells us that we are more likely to be murdered by someone we’re close to, someone who tells us they love us.

Part of me understands that when the police advise caution, advise walking in groups, they’re only saying it because this culture is so deeply ingrained that they have no idea how to even begin to address it. This excellent piece by Jane Gilmore sums up the enormity of the problem. I know it’s hard. I know there aren’t any easy answers. But continuing to trot out the same old lines isn’t good enough anymore.

Do better. Be better.

We don’t want to be protected. We want the freedom to walk wherever we want, whenever we want, wearing whatever we want, alone or with friends, without being afraid.

We don’t want to carry the fear anymore.

The book hangover

speechIt’s been a while since my last post, and Hot Pursuit is now out in the world after a great book launch at La Boheme in late April. And now that it’s in bookshops and I’ve achieved my life’s dream of being an author, I’m in solid book hangover mode.

Luckily, I’d already expected this phenomenon after reading Annabel Smith’s and Jane Rawson’s amazing blog series ‘What to expect when you’re expecting… a book’ last year. For the writers out there, check it out – especially the post on feelings. It sums up so well the weird and unexpected things you’ll feel when you put a book out there.

Probably the strangest feeling was seeing my book in a bookshop for the first time. I’d been waiting for that moment for such a very long time, and I expected to be blown away. I made sure my favourite independent bookstore already had it in stock, then I walked down there in my lunchbreak, and there it was. Sitting on the shelf. Facing out – maybe because I’m a local author, maybe just because it was a new release. And I felt…


I felt nothing.

book_imprintsI took a photo and then I scuttled out before anyone saw me and thought I was a weirdo, and I went back to work. I posted the photo on social media and I got a lot of likes and lovely comments, but the numbness remained. Friends tagged me on Facebook with photos of my book in stores across Australia. I got messages from people saying how much they were enjoying the book. My father-in-law, who normally reads crime novels, told me he’d stayed up until midnight to finish it.

And the numbness remained.

I’ve had some lovely reviews. Some amazing reviews, actually. I gobble them up hungrily, then read them again, nice and slow, to pick up all the little nuances. I check for reviews several times a day… I don’t even want to admit how many times, because it’s downright obsessive. But no matter how good they are, no matter how glowing, it never seems to be enough to fill the well.

And the numbness remains.

One day there was a review that said ‘I liked the mystery, but the romance was too overdone’. And even though I’d had two separate reviews that both said they liked it BECAUSE the romance wasn’t too dominant, which do you think haunted me for days?

Then I got my first two-star review. This is surely the worst journalist in all fiction. Ironically, the reviewer has since deleted her review for some unknown reason, but you’d better believe those words are now tattooed on my brain forever.

Today I got a one-star review. No explanation, just the rating. And it actually didn’t even hurt. (Much. It didn’t hurt much.) Because reading is subjective, and not everyone’s going to like what I put out there. But at least they read it, right?

And the numbness remains.

So, yeah. I’m deep in the black hole that follows a book’s release, but thankfully the nature of book publishing means that by the time one book comes out you’re at least one, if not two books ahead of that. I’m halfway through the formal editing process for my second book and have just submitted my third, and I’m having a short break before beginning on the fourth.

I’m always most content when I’m writing. All writers live for the highs of being published, but it’s always the writing that grounds us. It’s into the cracks in between books that the self-doubt leaks (or floods, sometimes). So I know I need to get onto my next book soon to keep my mind busy and the inner critic quiet.

You Me von Rebecca FreebornIn other news, the German edition of Hot Pursuit, which will be called You & Me, will be released in Germany in December, so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes there. And I’m guessing once that’s out, I’ll probably have Google Translate open 24/7…

Being productive in a busy world

I’m often asked how I manage to find time to write when I have three kids. So because it is definitely not a question I’m tired of answering and I’m definitely not procrastinating from the structural edit I should be doing, here are some of my tips for fitting writing – or any creative pursuit – into a busy life, whether you have kids or not.

Don’t assume a big block of time is the answer


It’s tempting to think that if you just had the chance to sit down at a computer for eight hours, you’d do all the writing and all your problems would be solved.

Firstly, it’s super hard to find this kind of time. Most people can’t afford to devote regular, whole days to unpaid creative work. Every once in a while, sure, but we all have commitments, whether it’s work, kids, family, partners, social lives, other hobbies, etc.

Secondly, and I’m sure this isn’t just me, but the more time I have the more reasons I find to procrastinate.

I’ll just check Facebook!

I’ll just make a witty comment on Twitter about how I’m supposed to be writing but am looking at Twitter instead!

I’ll get back to it in a minute, but first I have to engage in a conversation with three different authors on Twitter who are all doing the same thing!

Another cup of coffee! Better tidy up the kitchen! I’ve got so much time, I’ll just watch a bit of Netflix! Haven’t written a blog post for a while!

You get the idea. Sometimes I manage to be productive in these rare chunks of time, but more often my mind wanders to other stuff I should be doing. It’s hard to stay focused for such a long period.

Slide writing into the nooks and crannies of life

Following from the above, I find I’m way more likely to be productive if I only have a certain amount of time. It might be ten minutes while I’m eating my breakfast, or half an hour while one kid is at school, one watching a movie and the other asleep. Steal these moments when you can – when they’re few and far between, you’re not going to waste them on social media or house cleaning.

Set goals

In the past I’ve set words-per-day goals when I’ve been writing first drafts, and it’s been super effective. Better yet when you can team up with another writer friend and keep each other accountable. It’s a good way to keep the momentum going and stay on track, with the added benefit that you’re more likely to find extra time in your day so you can meet your goal.

Look for dead time that you can turn into writing time


For years, I’ve periodically set my alarm for 5am to enforce a couple of hours of writing time. I don’t waste time on the internet, because if I’m up that early I’m damn well going to make it count. But I know a lot of people don’t want to hear that as a solution, so think about other chunks of time where you’re not doing anything else and look at them as opportunities to fit more writing in.

I work a seven day fortnight, so on my three days off with the kids I get up at 5 (sometimes earlier if I’m stuck with insomnia – I’d rather be productive than lying in bed calculating my number of hours of sleep if I fell asleep right that moment).

On work days I take my laptop with me and I write on the bus and in my lunch break. It’s a 30-40 minute bus ride, so that works out to around two hours of writing per day. And because I’m doing it in short bursts, I’m way more productive. Plus, I’m usually on a roll when I have to stop, so I’m always keen to jump back in next time.

As I also write for my job, sometimes it’s a bit much to be working with words all day. But more often I find the creative writing a welcome break from gov speak, and vice versa – the soothing nature of editing (or is that just me?) can be a relief from the pressure of creating a believable plot and characters.

Use non-writing time for planning

There are times when I’m stuck in a place where writing isn’t an option – driving to work, at a playground with the kids, going for a run, middle-of-the-night insomnia – and I use this time to percolate on plot holes or come up with story twists. Because I’m not sitting at my laptop and feeling the pressure to write, my mind is open to my characters’ voices (surely I’m not the only one whose characters talk to them, right?) and I have the emotional space to look at the story as a whole rather than the words on the page.

I’ve come up with more ideas, solutions and realisations of themes and deeper meaning using this method than any of the time I’ve spent wrestling with paragraphs in a manuscript.

Do something else

When the words aren’t coming and your brain feels locked, do something different. Write a blog post, write poetry (disclaimer: I never write poetry), write by hand (I don’t do this either), read a book you love, anything that might kickstart your brain.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

You’re not always going to be productive. You’re not always going to be inspired. Some days it’s like wading through quicksand and you wonder why you ever decided to embark on this writing caper because obviously you’re hopeless at it. Some days you’ll do no more than stare at the screen and wallow in self-loathing. Take a day off. Take a week off. Bitch to your writer friends about how hard it is. Then go back to the computer and try, try again.

So that’s my advice, for what it’s worth. It won’t work for everyone, but it works for me. Since I’ve started writing to and from work and in my lunch breaks, my productivity has exploded. I find I’m spending more time thinking about my stories and I’m almost always eager to get stuck into it every time I open the laptop.

Now, back to that structural edit…

Hot Pursuit has a cover!

It’s been an eventful month in the book stakes as the publication date for Hot Pursuit inches closer.

In big news, I was finally able to announce that the book will be published in Germany in late 2018/early 2019 by Heyne Verlag, which is part of Random House. This is really exciting for a debut novel to be published overseas, and I can’t wait to see Hot Pursuit in German!

I’ve also just completed book two in my series and sent it off to my editor, so crossing fingers that it’ll be well-received and I might be able to make another announcement in coming months!

Yesterday I had the very exciting job of unveiling the awesome cover design for Hot Pursuit. It’s an amazing feeling to see the story I’ve had in my head for close to 10 years looking like a real life book – I can only imagine how awesome it’s going to be to see the real thing… and even better still to see it on the shelves in bookshops next May! It’s such a great-looking cover too that I can’t stop looking at it!

Now it’s out there things are moving along… I’ve got an author page on the Pantera Press website and you can read the blurb for Hot Pursuit and even pre-order it now if you’re feeling really keen!

As exciting as it is to show off and start to promote my book, I’m always most comfortable when I’m in my own head and writing, so now book two is out of my hands (for now), I’m back to redrafting a stand-alone novel and thinking about plot lines for book three.

So here it is – the cover for Hot Pursuit!

Instagram_Cover Reveal_Hot Pursuit_Freeborn

Letting go


Today I turned 40 and I relinquished control of my first book. The two are related, I promise.

A few years ago, I was struggling to find the motivation to keep going with the writing thing. For the first time in a long time, I’d begun to believe I’d never be published. The rejections kept coming in a slow but steady stream and I stopped believing in what I was doing. It all seemed like a lot of work for no reward.

I’m not sure what it was that made me do it, but around that time I set myself a goal to be published before I turned 40. I have no idea what I would’ve done if I didn’t achieve that goal (probably kept writing anyway, because I have to), but luckily I never had to find out, because I got a publishing deal a year ago and my first book comes out next year.

So, back to turning 40. I’ve actually been quite excited about the prospect of turning 40 – for me, it’s not about getting old, but about claiming who I am and not caring so much about what other people think of me (though you’d better believe I will be devouring every one of my Goodreads reviews and weeping into my beer glass over the negative ones).

Anyway. I am going somewhere with this. This week I’ve been doing the final FINAL read-through of my book before it goes to print. I hadn’t expected to make many (or even any) edits, but I was surprised to find myself still changing words, deleting words, adding words. There’s a saying that a book is never finished until the author is so sick of it they want to throw the computer across the room, or it gets made into an actual book. I could have kept tinkering away at this forever, but luckily it is going to be made into an actual book, so I have no choice but to stop.

And it was only today, on my 40th birthday, as I got to the end of my read-through, that I realised: THIS IS IT. I will never again change anything in this book. It’s not mine anymore. Well, it is, but it also belongs to everyone who reads it. I can’t control the story, and that is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

So the creating part of the book is done with and now I wait until the day it goes out into the world. In the meantime, I’m working on the final draft of book 2, and then the whole process starts again. But tonight I’m going to enjoy the feeling of letting go in the knowledge that the book is finished.


My first ‘book’

I’ve just finished the copyedit on my book and it’s now been sent off to be typeset. While publication day is still a way off yet, now that I’ve written the dedication and acknowledgements, and most of the remaining process is out of my hands, everything is starting to feel a lot more real.

I’ve still got plenty to keep me busy, as I’m redrafting the next book in the series and planning a redraft of another standalone novel, but my brain is still trying to terrify me with all the scary things I’ll have to do once the book’s out there in the world, like promotion and, you know, actually talking to people about it.

But while looking through my bookcase today I came across the perfect distraction: my first ‘book’, written almost exactly 30 years ago just before I turned 10.

Just look at that front cover.


Complete with melodramatic dedication at the front, and I even gave my little sister co-author status, though I only actually let her draw the pictures on the front cover and the inside front cover.


Much of the content was plagiarised from the Silver Brumby series, with excessive exclamation marks, female jealousy and some horse sex references added in for good measure.


I spent way more time on the illustrations than I did on the plot.


There’s nothing like an abrupt ending. But at least they lived happily ever after (though it looks like I wanted to avoid cliches even back then).