The Next Big Thing

Last week, writerly friend Dawn Barker tagged me to participate in a ‘chain blog’, The Next Big Thing. I will answer 10 questions about my completed novel manuscript, and next week Samantha Bond will do the same for hers.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Hot Pursuit is the first in a series.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

A few years ago I did a short online course on plotting, as this has always been my weak point. Part of the course included an exercise in building a plot by starting with a character and answering a series of questions about their motivations. I formed a loose plot from this exercise, which I then tightened into a working synopsis with feedback from the course facilitator. I wanted to write a character I could identify with, as I’m not terribly interested in make-up, fashion or celebrities, and I thought it’d be funny to plonk someone like this in the centre of the materialistic world of a women’s gossip magazine.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

I have struggled to define the genre of this book. Originally I described it as women’s contemporary fiction, but I don’t think it really fits there, as I actively avoided the focus on appearance and fashion that is so much a part of this genre. It’s in the style of the Janet Evanovich ‘Stephanie Plum’ series, and I’d say it’s a women’s adventure/mystery.

4. What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie rendition?

I have literally been thinking about this for the last two weeks since Dawn asked me to participate in this chain. I don’t watch much TV so I’m as clueless on actors as my main character, Sarah Burrowes, is. But if I had to pick someone, Asher Keddie’s character in Offspring reminded me a bit of Sarah in her awkwardness, except she doesn’t fit the physical profile. And just to be totally predictable, I could see the dude who played Dr Patrick Reid (see, I don’t even know his name) in Offspring as Nick Archer, but less brooding, more smouldering.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh crap. This is the one bit I don’t have ready yet. I know this is cheating, but here’s a blurb instead:

Sarah Burrowes is a former beauty therapist who doesn’t wear make up. She’s a wanna-be journo for gossip magazine Women’s Choice, but she knows nothing about celebrities. Sarah tricks her boss into sending her to Europe after Chris Evans, rock star and suspected murderer on the run. The only catch is that photographer Nick Archer, whose sexiness is surpassed only by his narcissism, is going too. Together they pursue Evans across Europe, fighting constantly even as they struggle to keep their hands off one another. When they get mixed up with an international drugs cartel, their lives are at stake as Sarah tries to solve the case and work out who the killer is…and, perhaps, to find love from the most unexpected of quarters.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by Sophie Hamley at Cameron Creswell, and she will attempt to find a publisher for the book…and, hopefully, the series.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I faffed around on the first chapter for a few weeks, then my friend Bek and I set ourselves the challenge of writing 1000 words a day for a week. This worked so unexpectedly well for me that I continued until I’d finished the first draft, which I think took me about 7 weeks.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Hot Pursuit would appeal to readers of the Janet Evanovich ‘Stephanie Plum’ series, who enjoy a mystery with romantic and comedic elements and a feisty but flawed heroine.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I explained above, I wanted to write a strong, witty female character, but avoid the focus on fashion and personal experience that is so common to women’s contemporary fiction. I also wanted to portray a ‘real’ person, who is not 6 foot tall and stick thin, but awkward and a bit dorky with a sharp wit and a potty mouth.

10. What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest?

I hope that the ‘ordinariness’ of my heroine will appeal to those who are tired of reading about perfect, self-assured women who are great at their jobs.

So that’s the first book in my series, which will hopefully one day see the light of day! Next week, Samantha Bond will answer the same questions about her work.

An epiphany

On the weekend, I had a bit of an epiphany. Well, more accurately, my awesome friend Bek dangled an epiphany in front of my eyes, and when I didn’t show the love immediately, she got out the metaphorical rubber mallet and hammered it between my eyes until I saw it for what it was – a bloody brilliant idea.

See, I’ve been struggling along, trying to write the third manuscript in my series, but the plot just hasn’t really come together. The characters I loved in the first and second have been insipid, uninspiring, unlikeable. And in the back of my mind has been the thought that, despite recent successes, my series may never be published. Which will mean that I’ll have been wasting my time on something that’s not really working anyway, rather than starting on something new that might.

The main problem has always been that ideas don’t come easily to me. They’re either slivers of ideas that are too unwieldy to be short stories but not well-developed enough to be novels. So I’ve just hidden behind the relative safety of characters I know and a kind-of plot direction.

So, back to my forced epiphany. I was talking to Bek on the phone when she said: ‘Why don’t you write a romance involving horses that’s set in the Adelaide Hills? You’re passionate about both and you know a lot about both.’

I was reluctant at first. This is partly because I spent my entire childhood and teenage years writing about and drawing horses, so I have this automatic cringe about going back to the topic, like I’ve failed at being a real adult.

Also, I suck at romance, both in writing and in real life. I found a nice guy when I was 20 and I stuck with him. We call each other ‘man’ rather than ‘honey’ or ‘babe’. Hence, I don’t really feel qualified to write a sweeping romantic saga.

But Bek, in her inimitable way, was having none of my piss weak excuses. By the end of our conversation, what she was saying started to make sense. I’d still made no decisions on what I was going to do, but I did realise that starting something else didn’t mean abandoning the other manuscript. It wasn’t going anywhere, and even if I’m lucky enough to have my series picked up, there’s two that come before the one I’ve been struggling with. Plenty of time (theoretically) to come back to it later. And if it doesn’t, I’ll have something else ready to go.

Then, after we hung up, something weird happened. I started having ideas. Images flitted through my mind, outrageous characters (because horse people really are quite nutty), dark secrets, action scenes, stunning vistas. Within 24 hours, I had a full story arc, complete with sub plots, in my head and at least partly articulated.


I’ve started to write, and I’m still making adjustments to characters and plot in my mind, but it’s going well so far. It’s shaping up to be less of a romance than I’d thought, which makes me feel a little more comfortable with it too.

I’m not expecting it to be easy. Sadly, my days of seven week first drafts are probably behind me. But I have a good feeling about this one. I’m writing what I know, and I think that will really make a difference to the authenticity of the story.