My debut novel ‘The Night Village’ is to be published by Fremantle Press in 2021

Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Village) at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green

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 apartment, his cousin, Rachel, comes to stay. Simone is immediately 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 a kindly 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. 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.

The Hungerford Award is offered to Western Australian authors for a manuscript of 50,000 words or more. It’s currently open until the 20th of March 2020. This was my second shortlisting, and it’s a good feeling to be disqualified this time around (it’s only open to unpublished authors).

You can read more about entering on the Fremantle Press website.

The 2018 award was won by Holden Sheppard, whose Young Adult novel, Invisible Boys, was published last year to great publicity, excitement and critical acclaim. The shortlisted authors were Alan Fyfe (who has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Overland/Judith Wright Overland Poetry Prize, Trish Versteegen, who I met up with recently and has some amazing new manuscripts on the go, Julie Sprigg and Yuot Alaak.

Fremantle Press also offered contracts to Julie Sprigg, for her memoir Small Steps, about her experience working as a physiotherapists in Ethiopia, and Yuot Alaak for his memoir, Father of the Lost Boys, about his childhood in Sudan. Both will be published this year. My offer came a little later as I still had a lot of work to do on my manuscript but I signed a contract late last year.

If you are thinking of entering all I can say is go for it – you have nothing to lose. 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, and am currently working on my time management skills).

When the phone call came out of the blue, months later, telling me I’d been shortlisted, I was in shock. After the awards, 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. And that is all thanks to the Hungerford Award. To the judges, Delys Bird, Kate Noske and Richard Rossiter, who read all those manuscripts, to everyone at Fremantle Press and the City of Fremantle, and to WA author Tom Hungerford, who apparently came to the awards for years, eager to see the latest winners.

Good luck.