Posts Tagged ‘The Lonely Dead’

‘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

Detective Nick Fardoulys stared at the pretty feet; the immaculate toenails painted a light metallic brown.

His baby sister would have been able to identify the colour immediately from her once-unlimited palette of words. She had always insisted that only old farts like him wore brown; young pains-in-the-arse like her, apparently wore cappucino or pewter, mocha, chocolate and cream. Like life was a colour-coordinated coffee break.

The pretty feet wore oversize Haviana thongs and were hanging over the footrest of an old-style armchair. It reminded Nick of the Jason Recliner they’d given Pop, years ago, at his fiftieth birthday party at the Greek Club. The photo still sat on his desk: Pop stretched out in his best crimpilene trousers, a mustard shirt and yellow tie, grinning like a happy Labrador surrounded by his wife, four kids and a room full of rellies. Back when he still had four kids, a happy bark and nights skittered by for all of them in the unconscious pleasures of sleep.

But this was no Jason Recliner. It was an old lady’s chair, wilting under a weight of flowers in a faded chintz fabric that no self-respecting Jason would wear in a fit. It didn’t suit the owner of the metallic toenails either.

She was the full coordinated coffee break, right down to the funky nerd glasses and spiky hair full of product. She was built like a refrigerator with a well-stacked freezer that someone had tried to defrost with a knife. It was still jammed in there, the black handle jutting out from the swirling layers of a frothy silk blouse.

Fardoulys’s chest tightened as the familiar anger welled up.

The surprisingly delicate feet didn’t belong here. In haviana thongs. On a floral recliner, on a murdered woman. They should be strapped into frivolous sandals that drew the eye away from the too-thick waist, the too-careful grooming. They should be lining up for a weekly pedicure. Or kissing up to a pair of $600 Sioux shoes on some big-bellied barrister under the sedate white linen skirt of a table for two in a swanky restaurant like Alchemy or Montrachet.

Nick noted the absence of any conventional rings amongst the jangle of jewellery on the dead woman’s hands and made his vow to one more member of the lonely dead: I’m here for you. I’ll find whoever did this so that you can rest in peace.

He needed to believe that he had never broken that promise; that the short list of names headed by his own baby sister was merely waiting patiently for him to deliver.

copyright Christine Bongers 2009

[Editor’s note: Henry Hoey Hobson is here to stay, but The Lonely Dead is barking its head off to be let back off the chain. ]

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.