Posts Tagged ‘Henry Hoey Hobson’

If ever there were an occasion worth celebrating, it would have to be the birth of a book.

Novel writing is such a torturous exercise in delayed gratification.

The labour is elephantine, even for a relatively short, 53,000-word effort, like my latest offering.

Leonie and Marj

According to my diary, I started writing it on 22 March 2009.

I delivered the completed manuscript to my made-of-awesome publisher Leonie Tyle on 23 November last year.

Copy edits, courtesy of the redoubtable editing team of Rosie Fitzgibbon and Sarah Hazelton, were completed by Christmas.

First pages came through with proof readers’ comments, corrections and queries in February 2010.

By the 1st March, we had signed off on proof edits, the superb cover (by Geoff Kelly and Sandra Nobes), preliminary pages, acknowledgements, dedication and blurb.

While the book was off being printed, bound samples of the uncorrected proof were making their way into the hands of long-range media, booksellers and reviewers.

The first print run was boxed and delivered to bookstores at the end of June.

In July, exactly one year after my debut novel came out, my second novel hit the bookshelves in hundreds of bookstores around the country.

Me and Marj Kirkland at HHH launch

Last night, on 21st July, Marj Kirkland, National President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia launched it to a packed crowd at Coaldrake’s bookstore at Paddington Barracks in Brisbane.

Marj told them she had fallen in love with a twelve year old boy by the name of Henry Hoey Hobson.

She wasn’t the first – that distinction is mine – but I do hope she won’t be the last.

[A special thank you to the lovely Lynn Priestley of Zenquill for her fabulous photos of the launch.]

The nervous pit has gone from my stomach; first reviews of Henry Hoey Hobson have hit the streets:

‘Henry Hoey Hobson’ by Christine Bongers is a funny, fast-paced story, built around a likeable protagonist. Henry is an engaging narrator, who learns the importance of having people on your side, no matter what they look like. The book tackles themes of judgement, acceptance and family, both biological and chosen. This is a recommended read for upper-primary readers.’ Australian Bookseller and Publisher

‘An amusing entertainment for the sub-teens, a warm depiction of neighbourhood and community.’ Magpies Magazine

‘The narrative is well-paced – humour and heartache, trauma and triumph….This is truly a heart-warming story abut growing up and getting on with what life throws your way.’ The Reading Stack

And my personal favourite, courtesy of one of Henry’s creative inspirations:

‘In the Twilight age, it might be easy to think the Fright Night-style cover indicates yet another slipstreaming YA love-in-the-dark affair, but thankfully, it ain’t so. Chris grew up in the central west of Queensland and that dry, larrikin humour is tickling under the surface of this book, an affecting tale of a young fellah and his mum trying to cut it in the big smoke. It’s a yarn about family and fitting in and acceptance, the voice is spot-on, and the Addams Family elements made my day.’Vampires in the Sunburnt Country

And all of the above has made mine … G’night all, tonight I’ll sleep like the dead. ;)

Henry Hoey Hobson Brisbane launch

Ack, it’s almost upon us. The Brisbane launch of Henry Hoey Hobson.

There will be drinks and me and the fabulous Marj Kirkland, illustrious grand poobah of the Childrens Book Council of Australia. Also my esteemed publisher, Leonie Tyle, waving the Woolshed Press/Random House Australia banner.

Click here to check it out on Coaldrake’s Author Events and here for the true story behind Henry Hoey Hobson (yes, I made it all up, apart from the drinks around the coffin. That really happened).

Love to see any, and all, who can make it on the night.  Can. not. wait. :)

We’re celebrating a new arrival in the Bongers household this week: the first advance copy of Henry Hoey Hobson.

The uncorrected proof in book form is now making its way to booksellers and reviewers ahead of its 1 July launch.

Here’s a sneak preview …

Cover illustration by Geoff Kelly Cover design by Sandra Nobes

Twelve-year-old Henry Hoey Hobson arrives at his sixth school, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, to discover he’s the only boy in Year Seven.

Friendless, fatherless and non-Catholic, Henry is not only a Perpetual Sucker, but a bloodsucker, according to his catty classmates.

When he’s caught moving a coffin into the creepy house next door, it drives a stake through the heart of his hopes of fitting in.

His only chance to fight back is the school swimming carnival – sink-or-swim time in the treacherous waters of Year Seven.

HHH is a hero to cheer for ’til your tonsils hang out on strings.

So, what do you think?


‘The end of a story is not the point of a story… but you have to get to the end to understand the point of the story.’ Veny Armanno, Year-of-the-Novel, QWC 2007

New Year’s Eve always feels more like a beginning than an ending. I’m usually running on a full tank after Christmas, eager to hit the road, and discover what’s dancing on the shimmering horizon. I have to force myself to slow down, pull over for a minute, ponder where I’ve been, before plotting a new course. The horizon shimmers in every direction; it doesn’t help to fix your eyes on a mirage…

The past twelve months has been a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride. My first manuscript became my first novel halfway through the year; and two months later I sold my publisher a novel I hadn’t yet written, based on three chapters and a synopsis.

Twelve months ago, I would have lacked the confidence to contemplate such madness. Sometimes I still wonder if it was ignorance or arrogance that led me to take the chance on myself, to believe that I could deliver an entire manuscript, fifty-thousand-odd words, to someone else’s deadline. But in moments of peace, I like to believe that I’ve learned to trust myself and my writing instincts.

Whichever is the case, Henry Hoey Hobson met his deadline, rose to a new level through revisions, survived the rigours of the copy edit, and is now with the typesetters and cover artists. Like my firstborn Dust, he will be released on July 1st, to make its own way through the world of reviewers, booksellers, teacher-librarian networks, and into the hands of his readers.

It has been a mighty year and I can’t help but feel grateful to all those who helped turn my wildest wish-fulfillment fantasies into reality. My gorgeous husband and children, treasured family and friends, my wonderful publisher Leonie Tyle, editor Sarah Hazelton, publicist Yae Morton, and all the booksellers, teachers, librarians, and readers whose support has been both gratifying and humbling over the past year. Thank you, and may the new year fulfill its promises to you all.

PS. I do have a new year’s resolution: I will finish The Lonely Dead in 2010. That is my promise to myself and to you all. Hold me to it. And Happy New Year. ;)

I’m at a loose end. Pull it and I’ll start to unravel.

The revisions are done, the publishing Gods temporarily appeased after taking my second-born.

Henry Hoey Hobson has left home, whisked away on secret publisher’s business to an unknown location, a brutal boot camp where a merciless editor will whip his scrawny arse into shape.

He’ll come back eventually, bulging in a tough bag, splattered with copy editor squiggles. Sporting black marks on his once-spotless pages. Missing adverbs I didn’t even know that he had…

I’ll miss him, I do already; my head’s been in HHH-time for months. But it’s time to reset the clock for crime.

The post-deadline clean-up has cleared the decks to make way for the next one, my adult murder book, The Lonely Dead.

Under the detritus on my desk, I have finally located my dog-eared copy of the Crime Scene Investigation manual (along with an unbanked cheque, two overdue birthday cards,  bills that I’ve paid, and filing I have binned).

Voices that have been simmering on the back burner for months are now rattling their lids.

It is time to make the shift. To find a new register. To drop it down a gear and begin the uphill climb. A new story mountain needs to be conquered.

When I took my first baby steps as a writer of fiction, it was the good folk at the Qld Writers Centre who held my hand and picked me up when I stumbled and fell.

They encouraged me to walk unassisted, and then to run. They clapped when I did cartwheels over my first book contract, and my second.

So what do you say to an organisation that has been with you every step of your writing journey?

You say, thanks. Publicly. You urge anyone with an interest in writing to do themselves a favour and join the QWC. And when that organisation asks if you’d like to be part of their blog tour, you say Hell, yeah.

QWC: Where do your words come from?

I’m tempted to say out of my fingertips, because no matter how much I plan my writing, what sprouts from the ends of my fingers when I settle at the keyboard always manages to surprise me.

For me, writing is a numinous blend of art (evoking the subconscious) and craft (using conscious intent derived from a lifetime in skills training).  As a kid, I would have read brown paper if there was nothing else to read. I could have read for Australia if they ever made it an Olympic sport.  I wrote for a living for twenty years before I turned to writing fiction.

For me, American poet Hart Crane nails it: “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”

QWC: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up on an farm outside a railway siding called Jambin, just up the road from Biloela, Central Queensland. I left there to go to Uni and have lived in Brisbane pretty much ever since.

But that’s just geography. I really grew up in a marriage that brought with it two pre-schoolers as part of an excellent package deal. Seven years later, I still had two preschoolers underfoot – my life was ground hog day – and it taught me everything I needed to know to start writing fiction.

QWC: What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

I’ve just finished writing a children’s novel about a kid called Henry Hoey Hobson who is the only boy in Year Seven.  It starts like this:

‘She was waiting with a gaggle of mates, blocking the steps leading back down from our classroom. Golden in the sunlight, with that curious blend of stealth and grace that marked out the queens of the jungle. I lumbered towards the all-female pride, a wildebeest, hellbent on his own destruction.

QWC: What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

I actually said ‘I wish I’d written that’ when I read Karen Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings. A wonderful novel, beautifully written, that resonated with my own experience of growing up on the fringes of a mining town.

But the one passage that gives me goose bumps every time I read it is Shakespeare’s St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. It is everything I aspire to in my writing.

QWC: What are you currently working towards?

My dream is to publish a novel a year, and so far, with exactly one published novel under my belt (Dust 2009), I am right on target.

However I am keeping the dream alive with Henry Hoey Hobson due out in July 2010, and a work-in-progress, The Lonely Dead (an adult crime novel), my big hope for 2011 .

QWC: Complete this sentence: The future of the book is…

…in good stories, well told. The packaging is not my central concern. E-books will have their way with the willing. There will always be people, like me, who are seduced by the crack of a virgin spine, the scent wafting up from the riffle of pages, the shiver of anticipation on reading the dedication and turning to Chapter 1…

This post is part of the Queensland Writers Centre blog tour, happening October to December 2009. To follow the tour, visit Queensland Writers Centre’s blog The Empty Page.

Hyperlink: http://www.qwc.asn.au/Resources/TheEmptyPageBlog.aspx

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams

I love deadlines too.  Knowing what I must do, and by when, focuses and calms me. Meeting the deadline becomes a point of honour.

I become more productive. I tell my kids, friends and family how many words I have to write – each day, each week, each month. I commit. Publicly.

A deadline keeps me honest. Without one, writing can too easily be squeezed out by work and personal commitments. A big intimidating deadline muscles writing to the head of the queue and keeps competing pressures at bay for long enough to get the work out.

Nearly seven months ago, a story idea sank its teeth into me and wouldn’t let go.

I wrote about it in One-dog Woman back in March, saying “I’ll be keeping the door closed on this one for a while…The new work-in-progress. One for the kids.”

Two months later I had written about twelve thousand words of Henry Hoey Hobson. No deadline pressure, so I shelved it for a couple of months while I launched and promoted my first novel, Dust.

I came back to the manuscript in August when I sold the story to my publisher on the basis of the first four chapters and a synopsis.

She wanted to publish Henry Hoey Hobson in August 2010; could I deliver the complete manuscript by 5 October?

Hell, yeah. In just over eight weeks, I wrote another forty thousand words, edited the manuscript and met my deadline.

Would I have finished Henry Hoey Hobson on the last day of the September school holidays without the pressure of a deadline?

Hell, no. I would have read that pile of books next to my bed at the beach.

But that’s OK, because I’m going to read them now. Soon as I get this publishing contract out of the way. ;)

I’m not normally a flibbetyjibbet. I don’t dabble in matters of the heart. When it comes to bestowing my attention and affection, I commit and I stay committed. I’m a finisher. I see things through. That’s what I do.

But in recent weeks I’ve fallen prey to an unfamiliar urge, an inexplicable need. What started as a harmless flirtation, a way of killing time, in the dark hours when sleep wouldn’t come, has now become serious. So serious I told my husband about it this morning. Now I’m telling others.

Regular readers have caught glimpses of the half-grown hound that has been tearing up my mental backyard for months now. Big brute, dangerously attractive, difficult to bring to heel. A challenge I’ve been running with during the day, curling up with it at night. He’s a work in progress and I love him. A big, bad, beautiful beast, that’s not safe around kids.

But now a new dog has slunk in, under my guard. More of a pup really. Perfect for the small fry. Sad history. All eyes and ribs. But heaps of potential, you know? Could be really beautiful if someone gave him a chance.

He’s been nosing round me for a while, pressing his wet nose through the gaps in my defenses. Begging me to take him in, give him a home, breathe some life into him.

He won’t leave me alone. Won’t accept that I’m already committed.

I’ve started dreaming about the damn thing: can identify its fleas; already know where to scratch to get his back leg thrashing helplessly. Caught myself laughing at his antics this morning before my husband woke up.  Blinked back tears when I saw where he hurts.

Couldn’t stand it any longer; decided to take a chance and let him in.

So I opened the gate, watched my big dangerous beast sniff its arse, then move aside to make room for one more.

I’ll be keeping the door closed on this one for a while. Can’t risk letting him out till I know that he’ll stay. But he’s already showing promise, curled up now on my computer. The new work-in-progress. One for the kids.