From Experimental Beginnings
Ten years ago
As many of you might already know, RELEASE shares some DNA with a novel published just over ten years ago – STOLEN. STOLEN was my first published novel. It is a book published for young adults about a 16-year-old girl who is kidnapped by a man called Tyler MacFarlane and taken to the middle of the Great Sandy Desert in the Australian Outback.
Here, Ty expects Gemma to fall in love with him and with the desert itself. It is a novel about the power of place and the influence and control of a person. It is about survival, love and the grey areas in between. It is written as a letter from Gemma to Ty, her kidnapper.
Where are the vampires?
When STOLEN was published around the world (mostly between 2009 – 2012), it raised a few eyebrows. It came out at a time when the publishing world wanted Paranormal Romance – vampire and werewolf stories – contemporary thrillers weren’t big at all. I remember a conversation with my then editor about what I would do next if STOLEN did not sell as we hoped.
When I look back now, I do wonder how hopeful my publishers really were about its success. Perhaps the book was just too provocative? It actually wasn’t until a blogger picked it up (Jenny from Wondrous Reads) that STOLEN started to find its audience. From her, other bloggers read and reviewed it and, eventually, readers found it too. STOLEN was truly a word-of-mouth book.
But what will RELEASE be? I have already experienced publishers who think the book is too risky to publish – the book was rejected several times because of this, and also because editors felt the book fell between being a thriller and being a literary novel. However, I am happy with RELEASE sitting in an experimental place – both in style, and intention. I like that this book asks questions, and invites a discussion, about my own process.
When I began writing, I wondered: How would it be to return to characters, and a setting, I wrote ten years ago? How do characters, and an author’s ability to create them, change over time? How does the landscape of the novel, and the author’s relationship to it change, and does it affect the writing?
Time stops for no woman
The process of writing of this novel shares some influence from the Richard Linklater films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight – films each made ten years apart from the one before but with the same characters, director, and the same basic premise.
STOLEN and RELEASE also share many of the same ingredients, but like the Linklater films, time has changed things. The world has also moved on between STOLEN and RELEASE – we have had the MeToo movement, more awareness of the situation of Indigenous Australians, climate change move to climate crisis, and a global pandemic. As the world moves on, so too does the author’s perspective, so too may the characters themselves.
But how much time has affected the core ingredients of this story is up to you to decide, dear reader. And, who knows, perhaps this experiment into time and its influence on story isn’t quite finished yet.