Lucy Christopher
Writer, Teacher, Speaker

Author: Lucy Christopher

View of Hobart from atop Kunanyi

Everything’s Changed

I have left Bath, in the UK, where I had built a comfortable existence as Course Director of arguably the best course of its kind in Writing for Young People. I left a country full of readers who know me, and who book me for writing visits and talks and residencies. So why have I done this? On the surface, this decision may seem kind of crazy. But one of the important reasons I wanted to move was to take up a post working for the University of Tasmania.

Wilderness

Tasmania is one of those places that has always intrigued me. It is wild in a way that not many places are these days. I would say ‘untouched’, but to me that only evokes an urge to touch it. And that doesn’t seem right, either. Around 40% of Tasmania is made up of protected national parks and reserves. This is huge when you consider that only 4% of the whole of Australia is considered national parks and reserves, and 11% of the UK is national parks and reserves. Within that 40% are plants and animals that exist nowhere else on earth, as well as pristine wilderness and internationally important cool temperate rainforest. It is also the last inhabited landmass before Antarctic. For a writer and person who is fascinated by wild places and our relationship to them, a move to Tasmania offered something massively appealing.

Writing the Wild

I would love to write about Tasmania’s land at some point. And I’ve been thinking about how I might, but as I navigate these first few days, I am also wondering about my motivations. How might it feel to write about a landscape I didn’t grow up in, that I have spent less than a handful of weeks in my whole life? Is it even appropriate? Yes, it’s true that I spent a significant portion of my life in Australia, but that was in Melbourne, and some time ago now. So, this leaves me wondering: what are my credentials for being a place-based writer here? This is a question for another blog post, but something that is very much on my mind as I explore these first few weeks as a writer in a new land.

Editing Release

Apart from moving country, job and life, in these heady past few weeks I have also finished the final edits for my first book for adults, RELEASE. I finished these edits on the plane over here, in the early mornings of jetlag, and in the final few hours before I started work on the ground in my new university. Let’s just say, they were not ideal conditions! But what conditions are ever ideal for a writer? Besides, many of the best pieces of work were born from much more unstable conditions than mine. And, let’s face it, even if I had my own office, and a shedload of time, there would be something I’d be missing out on – living a full life, for instance (which is also a crucial component in a writer’s existence).

So, I am not saying that it was easy to get those edits done. Far from it! And I can’t pretend I’m not nervous about sending them off. I find myself asking – have I done enough? Did I catch all the typos? Is there a glaringly obvious problem that I just haven’t seen? Is there anything that might start a twitter storm? It’s a nerve-wracking business being a writer. 

Pre-order

Pre-order Now

In the past two weeks of moving to Tasmania, the cover for RELEASE has also been officially revealed. I’ve already talked about the cover in a previous post, but I wanted to say that it was extremely exciting to show it officially to the world. I think it’s a perfect cover – full of land and life and energy. I love its simplicity. I love the questions it asks.

Thank you to all of you who supported me in the cover reveal – those of you who retweeted, or liked, or asked questions. A special thank you to those of you who pre-ordered the book. Pre-orders mean such a lot for the future success of a book, so thank you for showing your support for my story by doing that.

The book is set to be released in Australia on the 31st May and in the UK on the 30th June. I will be in both countries to launch it, so if you are a bookseller / librarian / teacher etc and would like to book me for an event around that time in either country, do please get in touch and let me know.

Until then, onwards!  All my love and light.

At my writing desk

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.

Risky RELEASE?

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.

Release Book Cover

Can you judge a book by its cover?

Fire, Sand, Blood

Release is a mixture of thriller and literary fiction (well, that’s how I think of it anyway!), and when I first saw the cover, I thought WOW, I love this and it captures the story perfectly.

The image could be red dust from the Australian outback, but it could also be blood, or fire, or rage. I really like the black background and the sense of simplicity and focus it creates. Text have done an amazing job creating it.

What do you think?

We all know not to judge books by their covers, but I have to say this is a pretty good match. And for those who have read Stolen, it may trigger some thoughts on what Release is about. I’d love to know those thoughts so feel free to leave a comment below.

For publication dates, pre-ordering options and more info on Release, have a look at the Release Page.

Wriggle and Write

Writing and Yoga, will it work?

Last weekend, I led a workshop with Robyn’s Yoga that combined yoga with writing. We called it ‘Wriggle and Write’ which, in hindsight, perhaps sounded a little more like a primary school Summer Camp than a writing workshop for adults. Still, the folk who booked on looked suitably adult-ish, and there were no forays into coloured ball pits. And, yes, the title made me smile. So, we ran with it.

Happy tea

It was glorious. Gentle, fun, and full of friendly females. During the break, we had ‘happy tea’ from yellow tea bag packets. And afterwards, we sat smiling. Perhaps we’d cast a spell from movement and mind. I wondered: if we could write a single story together, from the simultaneous words in our minds right at that moment, what would that story say? Would a story like that feel like a bath? A kind of sinking into a comfortable numbness? Which doesn’t, admittedly, sound like the makings of a particularly gripping story. (But do stories always have to be gripping?).

Showing up, not showing off

As well as writing and wriggling, we thought and discussed. We mused on how yoga and writing are similar: both about exploring conscious and unconscious sides of the mind, both about gentle encouragement to let both sides work in harmony. Both writing and yoga involve processes where, at times, it is good to switch off and let intuition take hold, and at others it is helpful to be very switched on and deliberate about the decisions being made, and how that feels (for you, and for a character).

But what I thought about most was how yoga and writing both make conscious a process. They highlight the journey rather than the outcome. They prioritise the act of showing up, not showing off. They are about exploration and curiosity and just plainly about making oneself better. 

The Mexico Writing Retreat Gang posing in front of a cactus and wild flowers

Mexico Creative Writing Retreat

Together, Melvin Burgess and I tutored our students individually on their work-in- progress, as well as provided workshops on getting started, story structure, plot, editing, and setting (among other topics!). With the help of a pre-course questionnaire, the week was absolutely tailored to what the students wanted to learn.

Morning Yoga & Writing

Our mornings began in the divine new ‘Crystal Palace’ studio with early morning yoga (bodies need to be warmed up as well as brains!), followed by breakfast, and then our morning writing workshops. Lunch in the studio came next, followed by afternoons where students could write, or ride, or maybe do a bit of both. Before dinner was individual tutorials on their work, and after dinner came the tutor readings, or storytelling beside a bonfire. Mid-week we took our fearless band of writers on an excursion to Tula for some very Mexican creative inspiration. Top off the week with a visit from the wonderful Mexican publisher, Renato Aranda (who even arrived with Mescal to share), and we had one fabulously glorious time.

Rancho Las Cascadas at Sunrise
The beautiful Rancho Las Cascadas pictured early in the morning

Afternoon Ride

A particular highlight for me was the opportunity to ride with the students in the afternoon. On long, lazy walks through fields of vivid Mexican sunflowers, I enjoyed chatting to students about their novels or writing journey. There’s something about riding that makes thinking – and talking about thinking – just so much more relaxed, and easy. Together, we sorted out many a creative thorn during those rides.

This year our students called the week “transformative”, “amazing” and “exhilarating”. I’m going to add onto the list, as one of their teachers, that I found the week absolutely inspiring – I always find it so personally enriching to watch students achieve something new with their creativity, and to learn something helpful about their writing process. There were so many creative breakthroughs this year, it was so lovely to watch. And I, too, thought about new ideas and different ways of approaching my process.

Hasta luego, Writers!
Write well, write happy…

Lucy Christopher

Writer, Teacher, Speaker


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