Author Archives: Rebecca Freeborn

About Rebecca Freeborn

Writer, reader, horse rider, unapologetic grammar nazi, wine drinker.

Letting go

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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.

THE BOOK IS FINISHED.

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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.

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Just look at that front cover.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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).


On winter

I’ve always hated winter.

When we first moved to the Adelaide Hills, I expected to be miserable for the three months of the year (well, let’s face it, five months up here) that it was cold and rainy. And last year it was more like seven months with all the storms and higher than usual rainfall.

But something has changed this year. Winter is never going to be my favourite time of the year compared to the balmy evenings of summer, the wild flowers of spring, and the mild, colourful days of autumn. But there’s something about the mid-afternoon winter sun that washes the trees with soft light that calms my soul.

Getting settled in our new house hasn’t been without its share of problems and stress, but we’re lucky to have this amazing view from our back deck.

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I always seem to have 670 programs open in my brain at once, but when I come out here and the air is still and the sunlight turns every leaf golden, and the kookaburras are cackling in the treetops, my mind goes quiet. I can just exist, without worrying about every little thing I have to do, or the things I haven’t done yet, or how the hell I’m going to pull off the edit I know I need to do on my next book.

I’m never going to love winter. And no doubt I’ll be thinking differently once it starts raining and I’m stuck inside with ratty kids for hours of the week, or dashing from the car into school in the pouring rain with two kids in tow and one on my hip.

But for this first month of winter, I’m going to enjoy the cut glass cold on my back while the fragile sun warms my face for that one golden, quiet hour a day.


Editing, Writers’ Week and Buffy

It’s been a busy few months for me as I’ve been working on the structural edit of my novel, Hot Pursuit. As with all my writing/editing projects, I went through my usual steps:

  1. Excitement to be at the next stage
  2. Pleasant surprise that the feedback isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.
  3. Procrastination.
  4. Denial.
  5. Paralysis.
  6. Panic.
  7. I’m never going to be able to do this.
  8. Start with the easy bits.
  9. Everything falls into place.
  10. Pleasant surprise that I seem to have pulled it off.

I’ve sent it back to the editor and am hoping I actually did pull it off… In the meantime, I’m now feeling a bit empty without anything to work on. I became so immersed in the world of the story that I’m almost mourning the loss of my characters and find myself imagining them in various different situations. Luckily for me, I have at least another two books in the series to keep directing their lives, and the first draft of the second book is already sitting on my laptop, waiting for me to jump in.

IMG_5885I was also lucky enough to time my final week of maternity leave before returning to work with Adelaide Writers’ Week, my favourite time of the year. I didn’t get to as many sessions as I would’ve liked, but the weather was perfect and the atmosphere as magical as ever. I saw Sara Taylor, followed by a packed session with US feminist Lindy West, the highlight for me. I saw a few bits and pieces of other sessions, but mostly I just sat under the trees with my laptop and enjoyed the atmosphere.

i6guaja7bivibhmegqdnOn other matters, any die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan would be aware that last week marked the 20 year anniversary of the show airing on TV. I didn’t come to Buffy until around Season 5, I think, after which I immediately went back to the beginning and watched the whole lot (I don’t even know how many times I’ve watched the entire series since then).

I didn’t know it at the time, but Buffy began to awaken the feminist in me. It wasn’t because she was a kick-arse superhero, or that she was physically stronger than men – it was because slaying vampires and demons was the easy part of her life. It was the normal, everyday stuff that she struggled with. Paying bills, raising her sister, making poor choices in her love life, being there for her friends, knowing what to do with her life. She was a flawed human, but she was a whole human. She didn’t fit into the usual female roles of princess or supporting act to a man’s personal journey. And while it is often thought of as being too dark, Season 6 was my absolute favourite for continually knocking her down and letting her pull herself back up and become stronger.

Buffy was one of the first shows to star a tough woman who was also unashamedly feminine…not in the sense that she was beautiful, but that she liked girly things…she was never trying to be a man. While it paved the way for many shows focusing on women, I think it is still unparalleled in terms of character writing. Yes, Breaking Bad was a brilliant series, but there were next to no women characters, and they were only there because of what they meant to men. And it’s indefensible in the 21st century that 51% of the population takes up so little space on the screen (and in fiction, and parliament, and corporate leadership…).

Even 20 years later, while the fashion may be starting to look a little dated, the issues Buffy dealt with remain relevant…same-sex relationships, addiction, violence against women. It also managed to weave sharp, witty humour into some really dark themes, which is so hard to do well.

And for the record, it’s Buffy and Spike all the way for me…

I think it might be time to watch the series again.


I’m going to be an author!

This blog has been sadly dormant for way too long, partly because:

  1. I have three young kids who take up a lot of my time
  2. not much has been happening with my writing because:
    1. (see point 1)
    2. I’ve been concentrating on submitting my most recently completed manuscript, and I don’t want to go into the blow by blow of how many agents and publishers have rejected it.

BUT!

I finally have some blogworthy news to share, and this time it’s pretty exciting. I’ve been offered (and have accepted) a publishing contract! As with everything publishing-related that seems to happen to me, it was for a manuscript that I’d long ago consigned to the virtual bottom drawer as unmarketable.

It began in September 2015 when I’d been submitting my manuscript Misconception in the hope of securing a new agent. I was receiving rapid rejections for various reasons and, as my list of potential Australian agents dwindled, my spirits were sinking lower and lower when I saw a tweet from boutique publisher Pantera Press that they were seeking comedic chick lit manuscripts. My abandoned mystery series fit the bill, so to give myself a bit of a boost I submitted the first in the series, Hot Pursuit.

I didn’t hear anything for ages and my attention was consumed with finishing up work, starting my eldest son at kindy, moving house, having a baby, and various other unplanned stressful events, and I completely forgot about it. Fast forward to August this year and I got an email from Pantera that they were interested in my manuscript if I could make a few revisions to it.

Still not expecting much but with nothing to lose, I edited the manuscript and sent it back, and a couple of weeks later I was amazed to receive an offer to publish not only Hot Pursuit, but the whole series! After I’d got over my excitement, I sought advice on the contract and, with the nitty gritty out of the way, I was ready to accept.

Last week I was lucky enough to be whisked over to Sydney for a whirlwind visit to meet the whole Pantera team and sign the contract, with obligatory glass (or two) of bubbly of course! It was amazing to meet everyone and of course to hear so many lovely comments about my book!

A week later my head is still swimming with details, but I have plenty of time to absorb everything, as Hot Pursuit will likely be published in January 2018. Next up will be the structural edit of the manuscript, but until then I am continuing to celebrate the amazing news that after all these years of perseverance, I’m actually going to be an author!

Here’s me with Ali Green, CEO of Pantera Press, and Marty, Sales and Marketing Director.

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This news was great timing for me, as I’d set a goal to have a publishing contract before I turned 40, which I’ve achieved with one year to spare!

I’m hoping to keep this blog way more up to date now as Hot Pursuit continues on its journey to publication. More to come soon!


Adelaide Writers’ Week 2015

It has not escaped my attention that my last post was entitled: ‘Adelaide Writers’ Week 2014′. No, I have not written on this blog for a year. Yes, I am a little ashamed. More so considering that I haven’t done a whole lot of writing either, other than some revisions on the manuscript I finished early last year.

But once again I managed to get to four out of six days of Adelaide Writers’ Week, and once again it has inspired me to get back on the laptop and start again.

My highlights of this year:

  • US authors John Darnielle and Smith Henderson spoke about their books in the context of a ‘troubled America’. Despite the topic, this was one of the more entertaining sessions, with both authors cracking jokes among discussions about gun control, low wages and many of the other issues facing contemporary America.
  • Cate Kennedy and Richard Fidler. Yeah, I know Richard Fidler is not an author, but damn he’s a good interviewer and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch him in action with his old school friend Cate Kennedy. I’d love to say I came to him through the Doug Anthony Allstars, but must admit that I’d never heard of him until I discovered his Conversations segment on AM radio during my first lot of maternity leave, and I’ve loved him ever since. He was also popular with the mostly over 60s crowd, with the applause suggesting many were there to see him as well as his interviewee. As expected, it was an entertaining and insightful session focusing on the beauty of ordinary life rather than sensationalism.
  • Jenny Offill is a US author whose novel focuses on the highs and lows of relationships and parenthood. She also spoke at length about her own writing process, which I always enjoy hearing, and how this one slim novel was the culmination of eight years of revisions until she found its voice and was able to complete it.
  • Roxane Gay was the highlight of the week for me, and the fact that she was interviewed by the wonderful Monica Dux was an added bonus. Gay is a prominent feminist from the US who calls herself a ‘bad feminist’ because she believes deeply in feminism and yet continues to enjoy things that are often considered its natural enemies. As a fellow enthusiastic yet bad feminist in the traditional role of stay at home mother while simultaneously the worst housewife on the face of the earth, I loved this session. Gay was funny, passionate, inspiring and encouraging to the next generation of feminists. I could have listened to her speak for hours.
  • Willy Vlautin, another US author, was lovely to listen to. He writes predominantly about common people who are down on their luck, and he spoke with a good-natured, self-deprecating humour that endeared him to the audience. His lovely readings inspired me to buy several of his books.
  • There is rarely a writers’ festival that I don’t come away from with a new Indian writer to read, and Jerry Pinto was this year’s gem. I’ve rarely heard a more hilarious account of a writer’s journey to publication, and his book, which is largely an account of his childhood growing up with a mother with bipolar disorder, is already doing important work in bringing recognition to mental health issues in India.

And so ends Writers’ Week for another year. As always, it was such a lovely experience to spend a few days sitting under the trees in perfect weather, listening to writers speak, and a reminder that, other than my family, there is nothing more important in my life than writing.


Adelaide Writers’ Week 2014

Adelaide Writers’ Week is considered by many to be the pinnacle of writers’ festivals in Australia, and 2014 didn’t disappoint. Some of Australia’s best writers plus a range of high profile international authors converged on the beautiful Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens for six days of talking about books to large crowds of readers.

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My haul from the book tent

I was lucky enough to have the whole week free this year, and I certainly made the most of it. For the first time in years, the weather, usually in the high 30s, was perfect. The festival begins on the Saturday with two kids’ days running parallel to the main program. I love to see little kids enjoying books, and aside from readings by authors such as Mem Fox and Katrina Germein, there were many other activities to keep small people entertained. We took our two-year-old on the Saturday and he had fun for hours.

As always, immersing myself in the world of books and writing brought inspiration. I haven’t been writing lately while I leave my manuscript to rest, but have been cogitating on a new idea, and throughout the week I found myself adding notes and snippets of subplots into my phone. I’m now feeling quite excited about jumping into it when the time is right. And of course I discovered a whole host of new authors, and bought a huge haul of books from the book tent.

Writers’ festivals are also an opportunity to meet other authors, and it was great to bump into Irma Gold, children’s author and editor of The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage, in which my own story was published a few years ago.

My highlights from the week, in order of appearance:

  • Richard Flanagan – Much has been made of Flanagan’s latest book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, but it wasn’t a book I had any interest in reading until I heard him speak about it. War stories are not usually my thing, but this book, based in part on the experiences of Flanagan’s father as a prisoner of war, seems so personal, and his reading from it so beautiful that it went straight on my list of books to be read. He also made a statement about asylum seekers that really resonated with me – and obviously with many others, as it earned him thunderous applause from the huge crowd – in that all the world’s great atrocities began with considering a group of people as less than human.
  • Jaspreet Singh – It’s no secret that I’ve long enjoyed Indian literature, so it was great to hear this Indian/Canadian writer talk about his book, which chronicles the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres. Again, this is quite a personal book, as Singh was a Sikh teenager living in Delhi at the time. While I have read a bit about this in the past, it’s a little-known issue outside of India.
  • Louise Doughty – The highlight of the festival for me, this author spoke extensively about her writing process. It’s always great to hear writers actually discussing style, structure and process rather than just talking about the book itself, especially when they admit to the same post-first draft panic that us aspiring authors have! I was only disappointed that I left my book buying too late in the week and all her books had sold out. And Doughty’s realisation that she came to while sitting through a murder trial as research for her latest novel will stay with me for a long time – that the prosecution writes its own novel of the murder while the defence writes a different version, and the jury are literary critics who decide which story has the most credibility. Brilliant.
  • Hannah Kent and Elizabeth Gilbert – I saw these two on a panel together about writing historical fiction. Local author Kent is always such a pleasure to listen to, humble despite her enormous success, and her reading from Burial Rites was a reminder of her stunning writing. Elizabeth Gilbert, on the other hand, was a surprise. I’ve never read Eat Pray Love, and have to admit to a certain snobbery due to its commercial success, but her reading from her latest book, The Signature of All Things, showed her to be both a witty, accomplished writer and a down to earth person.
  • Fiona McFarlane – I saw this new Australian writer on a panel with the aforementioned Louise Doughty discussing the issue of trust in fiction. Her first novel, The Night Guest, has already had considerable success, making the shortlist for the prestigious 2014 Stella Prize. Her explanation of the thoughts that went into the story was fascinating, and I’ve now added her book to my ever-growing to-be-read pile.
  • Alexander McCall Smith – I wasn’t planning on staying for this session, but I’m so glad I did. McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, among others, is a delightful man who exudes comedy and had the whole crowd in hysterics. Even the AUSLAN interpreter had to stop at one point as she broke down in uncontrollable laughter. Totally entertaining and endearing, and a prolific writer, turning out 3-4 books each year, it was a fun hour spent in his company.
  • Jeet Thayil – another Indian writer, Thayil has recently released his first novel about the opium dens in 1970s Bombay. Thayil was open about his own battles with heroin addiction over 25 years, but it was his reading from the novel that was the highlight for me. His prologue is a six-page, stream of conscious sentence, and what a sentence! Thayil is also a performance poet, and the couple of pages he read from the prologue were simply amazing. He didn’t even stand up from his chair, but his presence, his compelling voice, and of course the beautiful words, were an amazing experience to hear. He reminded me a lot of Kevin Spacey.
  • Michelle de Kretser – Winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Prize for her novel Questions of Travel, Sri Lankan born Australian de Kretser was also a highlight. I saw her on a panel with Jaspreet Singh in an interesting discussion on travel and tourism and what it means to different people and cultures. It was a lovely moment when de Kretser’s former geography teacher stood up to ask a question near the end, demonstrating that teachers can have an influence on their students long after their school years.
  • Christos Tsiolkas – While Tsiolkas was not his usual articulate self and often seemed to fumble for words, he’s worth a mention purely for his humility and genuine nature. He seems – still – genuinely stunned and humbled by his own success, despite the brilliance of his dissection of character in his most recent novel Barracuda. He also raised a passionate defence of public schooling, a subject close to my own heart.

And there ended Writers’ Week for another year. I’m now armed with a great pile of books and a lot of inspiration to continue with my own writing. We’re so lucky to have such an amazing writers’ festival here in Adelaide. I’m already looking forward to attending next year.


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