My debut novel, The Night Village, will be published by Fremantle Press in Australia in 2021, with audiobook & large print versions by Ulverscroft. Here’s the blurb:
Simone has just delivered her first baby in an East London hospital with her new English boyfriend, Paul, by her side. With a precarious job, her family and friends back in Perth, and a boyfriend she doesn’t know that well, a newborn baby was not part of the plan for her two years in London, that rite of passage so familiar to many Australians.
Soon after bringing him home to Paul’s Barbican apartment, his cousin, Rachel, comes to stay. Simone is wary of her, sensing Rachel’s avid interest her newborn son. Fighting sleep deprivation and a rising unease, she takes refuge in the Museum of Childhood, where she meets Jennifer, who gives her space to talk. At home, tensions rise as Simone feels Paul and Rachel are siding against her, even as Paul’s wealthy family lavish her with gifts and money. 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 terrifying.
The manuscript 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 This was my second shortlisting, and it’s a good feeling to be disqualified this time around, as it’s only open to unpublished authors.
My manuscript was completed in a rush in the lead up, and I didn’t feel 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 the competition closed and minutes 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 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 right. I emailed Georgia, telling her not to read it after all as I had a major plot change, and fortunately she liked my new twist, and told me to send it in when I was ready. I did, and after another conversation about where it needed to go, Fremantle Press accepted it. Ahhhh. I can’t explain the relief and joy after so many years of rejection and wondering if I was ever going to be a published author.
Editors have a way of being able to put themselves in the shoes of both the writer and future readers, and knowing what the reader needs to trust the writer and the story world. They have a keen eye for where the energy and tension lie, and how to draw out those key moments as much as possible, while also knowing when to dial down the drama, which is equally important if a story is to remain credible.
We have since taken it through several more drafts and it’s now looking much more like a finished book. Now I just have to hope I can get home for the launch. And write a new one.
Image: Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Village) at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, which features in the novel.