My debut novel, The Night Village, will be published by independent publisher Fremantle Press in Australia in 2021. Here’s the current blurb:
Simone has just delivered her first baby in an East London hospital with new boyfriend, Paul, by her side. Soon after bringing him home to Paul’s Barbican apartment, his cousin, Rachel, comes to stay. Simone is immediately wary of her, sensing Rachel’s avid and unsettling interest her newborn son. Fighting sleep deprivation and a rising unease, she takes refuge in the Museum of Childhood, where she meets Jennifer, a kindly older woman who gives her space to talk. At home, tensions rise as she feels Paul and Rachel are siding against her. Paul’s family lavish Simone with gifts and money but she feels increasingly isolated and exhausted. She wonders what Rachel actually wants from her, why she has come, and why Paul seems so evasive about the nature of his relationship with his cousin. A novel about family secrets and how the arrival of a new baby can be both wonderful and dangerous.
It was shortlisted for the Hungerford Award in 2018, and the judges’ report called it “an unsettling novel with the gothic undertones and insistence of a psychological thriller… a compressed, tense and engaging domestic drama.”
The Hungerford Award is offered to Western Australian authors for a manuscript of 50,000 words or more. This was my second shortlisting, and it’s a good feeling to be disqualified this time around (it’s only open to unpublished authors).
My manuscript was completed in a rush in the lead up, and I didn’t feel at all confident sending it off. My husband took a day off work on the Friday deadline to allow me to finish it, and it was only the thought of coming to bed that night and admitting I’d lost my nerve that made me press send at about 11.45pm, just before it closed and just after I hit 50,000 words (I don’t recommend this approach by the way.)
When the phone call came out of the blue, months later, telling me I’d been shortlisted, I was in shock. After the awards, publisher Georgia Richter at Fremantle Press gave me some editorial feedback about what I needed to do, and asked me to resubmit in a few months time.
Some helpful advice I received as I was redrafting was from a published psychological suspense novelist who read it for me and told me it needed one significant change, which I resisted. It was just too drastic, and I’d already faffed around for so long. So I sent it to back to Fremantle Press.
A few nights after that I woke up (dramatically, at 4am) and realised that the novelist was absolutely right. I emailed Georgia, telling her not to read it after all as I had a major plot change, and fortunately she told me she liked my new twist, and to send it in when I was ready. I did, and Fremantle Press accepted it.
Ahhhh. I can’t explain the relief and joy. I am currently awaiting the copyeditor’s report and working on a couple of new projects, one fiction and one non-fiction, as well as some short stories. And of course wondering if I can get home to Perth for the launch.
Image: Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Village) at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, which features in the novel.