Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RIP Saffy

Of all the times to be taking home a book about a cat...

Our beloved tortoiseshell cat Saffy (short for saffron - one of the many colours in her coat) was hit by a car on Sunday night and too badly injured to be saved. Today at work a book I'd put on hold came for me Making the Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa. It was my Aunt who had recommended the book to me when we'd met for coffee a couple of weeks ago. I've added the book to the ever-growing pile next to my bed but I certainly don't feel like reading it just yet.

Meanwhile, I keep seeing Saffy out of the corner of my eye in all the places my brain expects to see her; laying on top of the heating vents in the lounge room (her favourite spots to stretch out in the colder months), at the back door - wanting to come in and be part of the family (especially at dinner time), and in the laundry looking for a feed. Like me, Saffy loved her food, and like me, she was a bit overweight from the love of it. I didn't think I wanted a cat at first, but I had no choice. She was Rob's cat and "part of the package". We had a bumpy beginning, Saffy and I, as I learned to let go of my need for having a hair-free lounge suite. The arguments Rob and I had about that at the start inspired one of my earliest published stories Cat Hair.

Eventually she tamed me... and I'll miss her... stupid (lovable) cat.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An interview with the lovely Toni Jordan.

A month before the release of Toni Jordan’s second novel Fall Girl, her publishers have sold the film rights to her widely acclaimed debut novel Addition. I thought I’d ask her to come down from the clouds for a moment and talk to me about it.

First of all, congratulations! You must be super excited. Please tell me when and how you heard the news, and how you reacted.

It's been a long process. Addition was first published in February 2008, so I've had many meetings with talented, imaginative film-makers who had all kind of ideas for the book. In the end, Christina and Bruna seemed like a perfect fit.

Good news needs to be shared. Who did you tell first and how did they react?

It wasn't a 'OMG' moment, but rather something the rights team at Text have been working toward for almost 3 years. These things don't just happen without a great deal of strategy and hard work. I think the reaction from everyone was relief!

Were you involved in the process? Will you have any input before or during production?

Yes, I met with everyone who submitted a formal proposal and thought hard about who would be the best people to look after Addition. I knew nothing about either film-making or adaptations beforehand, so it's been fascinating. I don't know yet how much input the filmmakers want from me. I want to do whatever is necessary to help make the film a success, and that might be just getting out of the way and letting them do it!

If you could choose anyone you wanted to play Grace and Seamus who would you choose?

Oh I wish I was a visual kind of person! I can barely even picture what I look like. Sadly I have no idea.

Did you ever think about Addition becoming a film while you were writing it?

Never. In fact, when I was signing my original contract with my publisher, my husband Robbie and I had a small chuckle at the section marked 'film rights'. "Yeah, right," we said to each other.

How long do you think it will be before we see it on the big screen?

Ummm--no idea! These things can take years...

If there is one part of the book you’d hate to see them get wrong what is it? Why?

The only thing that really matters to me is that Grace is treated with respect. She is intelligent and sexy and funny, and I'd hate to see her become a twitching OCD stereotype. Her condition is just one part of her and by no means the most important part.

If there is one part you don’t want them to leave out what is it? Why?

Nothing really. Film making is a very distinct art form, and something that works perfectly on the page might not work on the screen. It's the spirit of the book, rather than the letter, that I want to see preserved.

I hear you’re thinking of asking for a cameo appearance in the film. Is that true?

It started off as a bit of a joke, but who knows?

Your new novel Fall Girl is due for release next month. Please tell me something about it.

I'm very excited about Fall Girl! I've tried to channel my love for screw-ball romantic comedies of the forties and fifities into a modern story--a novelistic 'Charade' or 'To catch a thief', something where you could imagine Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn as the protagonists. Except set in Melbourne. Those classic romantic comedies had it all: fascinating characters, intricate plots, witty dialogue and sexual tension to burn. I only hope I've done them justice.

The second novel can sometimes be daunting for a writer who’s had such success with the first. Was this true for you?

For a long time I could hardly write my own name. I was frozen, tight inside. Nothing worked, for over a year.

What was the most challenging part of writing Fall Girl?

The first draft was an absolute nightmare. Every day I forced myself to sit down and type out 1500 words of rubbish. Little beads of blood pooled on my forehead. It wasn't until the second draft that everything clicked and I was carried away by the fun of the story.

Grace is such an unforgettable character. How different from Grace is Della? What motivates her?

Della is very much a woman of our time--she is pulled in every direction. She feels the pressure of looking after her family, her career, her love life, all at once. Della has big issues to face. If she's not defined by her name, and she's not defined by her job, and she's not defined by her family or the house she lives--then who is she? I think many women today see themselves as a compilation of the roles they play. Della's search for her identity is what drives the whole book.

Which novel was harder to write? Why?

If I could just erase the pain of first draft of Fall Girl from my memory, they were both a joy.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals that help you with the process?

Yes--the secret to my success is Freedom for Mac. This fabulous fabulous program turns off your internet connection for a set period of time and won't turn it on again, even if you beg it. I'm evangelistic about it. Every writer should have it.

Have you begun work on novel number three?

Of course Lisa, you know how addictive writing is!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival Wrap Up!

Well the Melbourne Writers Festival is over for another year and what a great festival it was. This year I got to more sessions than I've ever managed before. I discovered for myself the truth of the saying "If you want something done ask a busy person".

The first session I attended was "Creating History" with
Lisa Lang (Utopian Man), Peter Rose (The Rose Boys) and Michael Meehan (Below the Styx). This session was free through my work and I've blogged about it here. As I'm still keen to finish my historic novel I was interested to hear what other writers were doing with history. The most helpful advice from this session came from Michael Meehan, who said 'It's not so much what happened but how it felt'. He said 'People read for sensation and feeling not facts. Reality and truth is where you start but not where you finish'.

On the following Monday I attended a session with
Kate Forsyth and Ben Chandler called "Worlds of our own creation". As you know, I interviewed Kate and her sister Belinda last month. This was my chance to meet Kate face to face and get her to sign a copy of her book The Puzzle Ring for my son. This session was also of interest to me given my on-again-off-again romance with my own fantasy novel in progress. Kate said she writes the kind of books she likes to read; puts into them everything she likes; leaves out everything she doesn't like. She makes it sound so easy! She likes to write about a world at a point of change. Ben writes what is most commonly referred to as "steampunk" (Quillblade). He said 'there used to be an either or' when it came to technology (sci-fi) and magic (fantasy), but that now 'they blend and interplay', which I think is a good thing.

The next session I attended was "The Lure of Ancient Magic". The session wasn't as lively as I thought it would be; it was a little disjointed, but I still enjoyed hearing from
Carole Wilkinson about her Dragonkeeper series. One of the most interesting things Carole shared was that 'she didn't even think about writing until she was thirty-eight'. Karen Healey is a relative newcomer, but her debut novel Guardian of the Dead, which is steeped in Māori mythology, sounds superb and is now on my "must read" list. Carole and Karen both believe that the editing stage of writing is the best part of the process, and that getting the first draft written is the hardest.

On the final day of the festival Rob & I attended "The Long Road" with
John & Jack Faine. Father and son shared some of the highlights of their inspiring road-trip, from Melbourne to London (From here to There), with some stunning slides as a back drop to the discussion. Lastly we listened to Steve Toltz (A Fracion of the Whole), Rebecca James (Beautiful Malice) and Angelo Loukakis (Houdini's Flight) in conversation with Louise Swinn. "Unravelling Secrets" wasn't exactly what I was expecting but I enjoyed it none the less.

So how about you? Did you check out the festival this year? What were the highlights for you?

Books bought (yay! books!)

The Puzzle Ring
Rocks in the Belly
Torpedo Greatest Hits
How a Moth becomes a Boat