My Five Months of Magical Thinking

There are times when the phone rings and you know that your life is about to change. You probably won’t know how as you lift the receiver, wondering whose voice will be on the other end of the line, but when the phone rings in the early hours of the morning, the news is seldom welcome.

It was just before 630am on the 5th July this year when I answered the phone to hear my Mother’s voice. My parents are elderly, in their 80’s, and I assumed she was ringing with news of my father. Apart from the early hour, her questions, her voice, prepared me for the worst of news. Is Andrew with you? Are you at home? I was waiting for the words that my father had died or was seriously ill, what I didn’t anticipate was to be told that my sister, Fiona had suffered a heart attack and died. She was 58.

I heard a primal groan and staggered, did I stagger of did I double over? I’m no longer sure, but I know the force of my mother’s words were as physically powerful as a blow to my stomach and that Andrew had placed his arm around me, breaking my fall. I remember thinking over and over again in the those first few hours, days, maybe even weeks, that I had gone to bed on a Saturday night and slept soundly, totally oblivious to the pain and fear my sister must have felt as she called for her partner to call an ambulance. It was a remembrance coloured by guilt and recrimination. How could I have slept through and not felt some tug, some shift in my universe? How could I have slept through and not been there to support my mother or even say a final farewell to my sister?

Of course, I understand that none of that is rational and that I have no need to feel guilt, but grief is never rational. Grief removes you from the world of the everyday and sets you down on a path that is not only surreal, but also hyper-real. There have been times over the past five months when I’ve walked through life as if dazed. Quite removed from the everyday, uninterested in small talk, socialising or life beyond my immediate family. I’ve sought out the physical beauty of the world, walking the coastal paths of Newcastle, watching the surf, the ever-changing sea, cloudscapes and watching pods of dolphins. But always my sister is with me, more present in her death that ever she was in life. She walks with me, sits over coffee, glasses of wine with me, is there at my yoga class, always there as I try to make sense of the senseless.

As the months have passed, my guilt has taken on new forms. Am I doing enough to support my parents? How much could ever be enough, though? Am I feeling sad enough? Do I miss Fiona enough? Did I let hours slip by without thinking of her? It is the natural process of grief, of moving through grief and allowing myself to experience it, riding the waves. I never know how big each particular wave will be, it is like looking beyond the breakers to the seemingly flat surface of the ocean beyond. Sometimes the waves roll through to the shore quietly, smoothly. Other times, it is a rogue wave that rears up out of nowhere and sweeps you into it’s churning mess. I can feel overcome for an hour, a day or even several. I have been exhausted but unable to sleep, or unable to do anything much else but sleep. I choose to go with it. There is no sense in denying or fighting; grief is inevitable. Inevitable and yet unique for each of us who grieve.

I head into this festive season with a sense of trepidation. All my preparations are a reminder that Fiona will not be with us. I have always loved Christmas and decorate the house with a sense of joy and anticipate the pleasure of Christmas Stockings being opened in a rip and flurry of tissue paper, the yummy foods to cook, the shopping, the carols, the coming together of family. But this Christmas of 2015, will be a family coming together with a mix of emotions.

I don’t believe that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I don’t believe that some divine deity checked their list and decided that Fiona needed to die for some purpose. On that I have always been clear. She died of undiagnosed, untreated heart disease. Fiona died because she attributed the fatigue, the occasional breathlessness  she suffered, to being stressed, middle-aged and being a busy and involved Mother and Grandmother.

So, although I don’t believe that there was a reason for her death, I do believe that we, her family, can give her death meaning. We can honour her memory by raising awareness about female heart disease, which kills 3 times more women than Breast Cancer. The research is woefully underfunded because it is still targeting male heart disease, despite female heart disease presenting and affecting women very differently.

If you are a post-menopausal woman, will be a post-menopausal woman or know anyone who fits into either category, I urge you to read this excellent article:-…/the-neglected-heart-why-women-fare-so-poorly-with-in-the-cardiac-stakes-20150727-gili63

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.’ – Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking



Finding Inspiration


Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle

Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle

I’ve recently moved to Newcastle from Sydney and I’m really enjoying the new environment. Apart from the beautiful beaches and the relaxed lifestyle, there are new stories to discover and explore. (And let’s not forget the ‘cyclone’ and then spending a week without power.)

Sometimes I seek the stories out, walking along beaches and streets, sitting having a morning coffee and listening to conversations and, of course, meeting new people. But occasionally, inspiration finds me.

The dark-bricked Christ Church Cathedral sits atop a ridge in the Newcastle suburb, The Hill. It is a commanding presence, demanding obedient acknowledgement. From the King Street entrance, the Cathedral looms above, beautiful Moreton Bay Figs casting much-needed shade over a staircase winding through the park grounds to the Cathedral. The first flight of stairs isn’t out of the ordinary, grey cement, low risers and a steel handrail leading up the lower slope. But the second flight of stairs changes, they become more than just an access way up a particularly steep pathway.

The  names

The names

On each of the risers the names of three people are engraved, detailing the age, any known relatives, the profession or place in society and the date of death. Each step is a memorial to three of the two hundred and fifty-eight people, the men, women, children and babies who had died and were buried in the churchyard. this is all that remains of their stories; their graves and gravestones long-fallen into such a sad state of disrepair, that they could not be salvaged.


For some, there is little more to say, an infant who struggled for eleven hours before dying, leaving nothing but the grief of parents. But others hint at more sinister deaths and circumstances; ‘murdered by natives’, how? and why? I immediately wonder. Or the tragedy of three young siblings killed in a bushfire. There are many drownings in the harbour and off the beaches, recalling a time when even professional seamen couldn’t swim. And what of their families back in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales? Did they ever learn that their loved one was buried in Newcastle soil, above rich coal seams?


Behind these briefest and barest of summaries of two hundred and fifty-eight lives there are stories, ideas for stories, stories that could be updated, given a contemporary context, stories that could be used for a story’s starting point or woven into an existing story. Perhaps they may even form the basis of a blog post. A reminder that inspiration is all around us and sometimes we only need to take a different path, turn left and climb a set of stairs to be reminded.

All that remains of the graveyard today - some headstones are so worn they are no longer legible.

All that remains of the graveyard today – some headstones are so worn they are no longer legible.

As I reached the top of the hill, walking passed the remains of the graveyard, incongruously positioned next to a very unattractive carpark beyond the cyclone-wire fencing, I turned back and took in the view. Two hundred and fifty-eight names bearing witness to the busy lives of contemporary Newcastle, the harbour and Stockton beyond, the industrial landscape of the busy port and all the stories waiting to be told.


I won’t be a Martyr to Menopause



Overtime, this blog has focussed on writing-related topics, but not today. Today I’m venturing into a quite different area although, I expect normal service to resume shortly. So if for any reason, you’re not interested in reading about  menopause, look away now.

If you’re still with me, make yourself comfortable. But perhaps from a safe distance – I could get loud.

Menopause rarely rates a mention in the media, it’s not a ‘sexy’, topic, unlike say, Miley Cyrus and whether she’s moved on from twerking and entered the sexual terrain of S&M a la Fifty Shades of Grey (yawn). However, link menopause to cancer and that’s different, especially if you can run a headline that screams – ‘ Women on HRT face increased risk of Ovarian Cancer’. Or, as in the case of last Saturday’s SBS evening news, a whole item devoted to the fact that one extra woman in every 1000 has an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, if you’re over 50 and have been on HRT for more than 5 years. Granted, I don’t want to be the one extra woman, but I’m happy to take my chances in the lottery with the other 999 women.

I am in no way suggesting that this shouldn’t have been made public via the news or that women shouldn’t have such facts available to them when weighing the pros and cons of taking HRT. It’s the method of reporting, particularly the stereotyping of what it is to have menopause. Or not even using the word menopause in the entire report.

Whilst I have to accept I was sucked in by the screaming headline, the words ‘slight risk’ were not added until the actual report was introduced. Let’s open with the learned Professor talking studies, statistics and nodding knowledgeably.  He of course  also repeated the known fact that HRT is also linked to Breast Cancer, but didn’t mention that it’s also been linked to a decrease in heart disease.


Next cut to Bryher (real name). Bryher is a woman in her 60’s the male voice over tells us and goes on to say in astonished tones, that she has so much energy because of HRT she’s even started her own business. Fancy that, a woman in her 60’s starting her own business. Bryher was a very articulate woman and spoke positively of the relief from night sweats, hot flushes and her renewed energy since taking HRT.

Then cut to a radio studio where a male presenter was reading out a text from a listener who – ‘threw the packet in the bin and toughed it out.’

I don’t happen to be British and don’t share that ‘ we’ll fight them on the beaches’, stiff upper lip stoicism. In fact, when dealing with my own perimenopausal symptoms, my upper lip was quivering, jelly-like, and as for toughing it out – that was not an option.

One of the problems with the SBS report, and so many others, was the use of night sweats and hot flushes as being the only symptoms facing menopausal women, and if this was the case, ‘toughing it out’ may be possible. Nor was there  an explanation that what is usually referred to as ‘menopause’ is actually ‘perimenopause.’


And here’s where I start getting loud. All women will experience menopause. It is what happens to us and it’s a little more complicated than a batty, middle-aged woman suffering hot flushes and a low (non-existent) libido. How many women are educated about this fundamental transition in their lives, until they find themselves suffering a multiplicity of symptoms that start way before the average age of menopause at 51?

Bugger all, I’m guessing.

So, let’s get some terms defined. Menopause is only confirmed when a woman has naturally stopped menstruating for 12 months. What most women refer to as Menopause is actually the perimenopausal stage which can begin in your late 30’s – early 40’s. It can be as mercifully quick as 1 year or as excruciatingly long as ten years. There is a dazzling array  of up to 34 symptoms.Yes you read that right, 34.

I reckon I’m going to push it out to the full 10 years I’ve been experiencing symptoms for the past 7 years or so and I haven’ even reached the jackpot of night sweats, insomnia and hot flushes.

Given my extensive experience, I’m going to share (overshare, you may think, but it’s that kind of post) some of my symptoms caused by the monthly roller-coaster of oestrogen levels in my system.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but my periods became heavier and more painful. Previously, they’d come and they’d gone, sometimes my best friend (yay! I’m not pregnant) and sometimes the evidence that dashed my greatest hope (I’m not pregnant). But they never affected my daily life.

Unlike Rage. Not the ABC late-night music show, or partying hard. Oh no. This was an irrational rage that took over my psyche every month. It was as if a switch would flick and one morning I would wake up felling like Linda Blair in The Exorcist (without the 360 head spin or projectile vomiting). On these days there was nothing that my family, especially my husband, could do right. Whilst The Exorcist persona lasted, I was a tense ball of angry energy and even a quite innocent remark or the wrong look could cause an explosion. ‘No one knows how much I suffer or how much I’ve been taken for granted. And don’t even think about sex, in fact, don’t touch me at all.’ Fun, right? And then 24 – 48 hours later the switch flicked and I was back to my usual sweet as Heidi demeanour. I was very relieved to discover that The Exorcist persona was known to other women. My Mum described it as ‘walking the razor’s edge.’


A less common symptom is depression. If you suffer from a history of depression, as I do, to have it exacerbated by perimenopausal oestrogen fluctuations was devastating. Hormonal depression grabs hold of you and slowly squeezes out the joy, motivation, energy and the desire to open your door and leave the house. At its worst, the pain sat so heavily on  my soul that the idea of walking into Sydney Harbour and drifting away seemed like a credible option.

Anti-depressants and counselling only did so much, they helped me to function again. But I wasn’t well. My GP was about to refer me to a psychiatrist for mood stabiliser medication, when an older woman I knew suggested I needed oestrogen. ‘Take the oestrogen,’ she said. ‘You’ll feel better in 2-3 days.’ It sounded like the schtick of a snake-oil charmer, but I was desperate.

The HRT did indeed have a dramatic impact. I was energised and stabilised. I crawled out of the abyss and began to participate in life again. The rage returned to its own black hole and my periods are back to being a monthly, annoying irritant.

My perimenopause was not something to tough out bravely. I’m extremely grateful that a daily tablet has so fundamentally changed my life, like the contraceptive pill. In previous eras there is every chance I would’ve become a Valium-addicted housewife, another institutionalised woman or a suicide statistic. Perhaps I am exposing myself to an increase in the risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer, but against my quality of life right now, it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

I appreciate that my experience is at the extreme end of the spectrum, but it’s not so uncommon. We need to start sharing our experiences with our friends, taking comfort from the knowledge that you are not going crazy or suffering alone.

More importantly, we need to educate our daughters. Of course I was told about menopause, but my take as an adolescent was probably ‘one day, when you’re really old, your period stops and you can’t have a baby anymore’. But that isn’t enough. Maybe the sexual education of our daughters needs a complete overall. Girls should know that sex is not just a procreational activity, they have a right to enjoy sex on their terms. They should be taught that their fertility will start to decline in their 30’s and sometimes rapidly. They need to know that menopause will be as fundamental to their lives as their periods, and that the perimenopause stage could last for sometime.

All is not doom and gloom, however. Post-menopausal women assure that me they feel truly liberated and enjoy a new-found relish for life.

Bring it on, I say. Meanwhile, pass me the HRT.

A couple of helpful websites are:- The Royal Women’s Hospital and the Australian Menopause Centre


Writing and Keeping it Real



Recently I put aside a book after only 2.5 chapters. When I say ‘aside’ it was actually tossed into a charity box never to be seen on my bookshelves again, I was so annoyed with what I’d read.

It wasn’t a particularly ‘high-brow’ novel, but it was written by an author whose books I have always enjoyed in the past, but now I will approach any other books by this author with a sense of wariness. In fact it may take me a while to even go there again.

So, what was the problem? The main character had supposedly suffered from a history of mental illness. Depression to be precise. It wasn’t something that had occurred once, many years ago and then obliquely referred to, not one part of the back story that maybe highlighted the character’s action/reaction to a particular plot point. Oh no. It was a lengthy description, going into considerable detail about how it had impacted on the character’s life and relationships and how it had manifested. Tears. Lots of tears.

For anyone who has never suffered from a major depressive illness, crying buckets of tears probably would seem pretty depressing. But if you have any experience of depression, you will  know it is not sorrow that you feel nor the absence of happiness. It is the absence of vitality and motivation, it is a lethargy and sense of worthlessness that can confine you to the interior of your home and the darkness of your thoughts. Perhaps a minor bout may be a weepy, tissue-sodden experience, but the depiction in this book did not ring true. It felt completely unreal.

As a writer you form a contract with your reader that you will strive for authenticity, even in  fantasy, sci-fi or magical realism novels where the reader is invited to suspend their disbelief, their sense of the ‘real’, the writer must still deliver authenticity.

Sometimes the credibility comes from ensuring your character’s reactions/actions are true to the personality traits and the story you have created. Other times it may require research to provide the believability of your work. Paying lip service to, or writing what you think is the reality is not a winning move.

This doesn’t mean I needed to read a detailed account of the character’s anti-depressant regime or the counselling or whatever else was undertaken to deal with the depression, but a little more than weeping at a TV ad was needed.

It could just be the author didn’t want to go into the grim detail of mental illness, perhaps it might have been perceived as a bit of downer in a light-hearted, escape novel. Well, don’t go there – at least  not in 2 pages of description.

As a writer, reading is not an optional extra. Reading shows us the good and the bad, it helps hone the craft we’re trying to master. So even though I was annoyed by the writing, it taught me a very valuable lesson – the importance of being able to walk in shoes I’ve never tried on before and have my readers believe the exact opposite.

How Not To Do A TV Interview

Last week I appeared on morning television. It could have been a wonderful experience. A chance to sell my book and build my profile. But it wasn’t so wonderful, not really.

Let me backtrack a little. When my novel was released at the beginning of March, I was due to appear on Weekend Sunrise on Channel 7,  – the same network that screens Home and Away – here in Sydney. It’s one of those newsy, chat shows with desks and couches and very happy, smiling presenters. However, a couple of days before I was to make my TV debut, Schapelle Corby (enter young, attractive, Australian drug smuggler who may or not be mentally ill depending which press you read) was released from prison in Bali. So me and my book were ditched for Schapelle. Then the following week, the tragedy of the Malaysian Aircraft disappearance began to unfold and understandably, I was once again bumped.

For five weeks I was put on standby for the weekend only to be replaced by something or someone else.

So, I took my book to another network, Channel 10 – who screens rival soap opera, Neighbours. It was a risky strategy. I was guaranteed a soft, friendly interview on Channel 7, but probably not so soft or friendly on Channel 10. I should also confess that I happen to know a senior someone at Channel 10 who opened the door for me to step through.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, let me explain that my novel is based on the 5 years I spent working on Home and Away, one of Australia’s most popular TV shows. I always knew this would provide ‘the hook’ for any publicity and also for many readers, so I was prepared to be asked lots of questions about the cast of the show. I wasn’t disappointed. Nearly every interview I’ve given has turned on the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect and most have tried to push me to reveal gossip or scandal, which is fine, as long as they accept the fact that I won’t answer those questions!

Unlike press or radio interviews, you do get some warning about the angle of a TV interview when the producer calls and asks lots of questions. And I was left in no doubt with the Channel 10 producer –  ‘we want you to dish the dirt’. Of course you do, but I won’t talk about gossip, scandal or dish any dirt. I was pretty clear, so I thought.

Given my experience with Channel 7, I fully anticipated being dumped before my appearance, particularly when I was moved form the Thursday to the Wednesday. But Wednesday morning came around and there in my Tweeter feed was one from Studio 10 mentioning my name. WooHoo! It’s going to happen.

I was immediately terrified. In fact, I was so nervous part of me hoped I’d get cancelled at the last minute! Of course that wasn’t going to happen.

The lovely Kirsty Noffke, my PR rep at Random House met me at the studio and we were ushered through to the Green Room and before I even sat down, I was taken straight through to make-up. After fifteen soothing minutes in make-up, I was bustled through sound to get ‘miked up’ and then through the studios doors to the chaotic backstage area. A tangle of cables, bodies and staging equipment. After a quick set change during a commercial break, I was plonked on a couch between Ita Buttrose, a legend of Australian media and publishing, and journalist, Jessica Rowe on one side; on the other side sat, journalists Joe Hildebrande and Sarah Harris.

Yes, my first  TV interview was with four seasoned veterans of the profession. What could possibly go wrong?

Sarah Harris introduced me, The Wardrobe Girl, and the theme of the interview -‘dishing the dirt on Home and Away.’ The next four minutes and forty-two seconds consisted of me not answering questions, whilst smiling, laughing and pretending to enjoy myself with four people who, up until that morning, had never heard of me or my book. Excellent.

My mind had decided that it would stop working during these few minutes. All the anecdotes I could have said vanished when I was put under pressure to reveal secrets, dirt, scandals. I didn’t even think to say, ‘Well, you’ll need to read my book to find that out.’ Or, ‘In my book, there’s a scene where ….’

So rehearse, practise answering questions in a way that isn’t rehearsed and sounds spontaneous. Never expect the interviewer/s to respect that there are questions you won’t want to answer, in fact they’re the very ones they’ll want answered!

They say all publicity is good publicity. I’m not so sure about that, but I did learn a lot from my experience and if I’m ever asked to go on TV again, I hope I won’t be such a startled rabbit in the headlights!

Here for your entertainment and education is the link Studio 10 Interview !

The Business of Writing

Congratulations! You’ve written your book. You’ve been accepted by an agent, secured your publishing deal, all the editing and rewriting is finished and your book is off at the printers. Phew. Time for  a quick break,  put your feet up before launching into your next writing project. Right?


Your work is just beginning. You’re about to enter a new phase and it may be one that won’t come naturally. This is the selling phase; the getting your book into the hand of the book-buying public phase. Sound harsh? Maybe, but your readers are firstly buyers who need to be persuaded that your book is worth handing over some of their hard-earned cash for. And there is a lot of competition for their dollars.

Competing for bookshelf position

Competing for bookshelf position


Every month, thousands of books are published through the established publishing houses, not to mention the small independent companies and those writers who choose to self-publish. Amongst all those thousands will be your book and you need to 1. draw attention to its existence and 2. convince book-buyers that they want to read it.

It’s called PR, marketing and sales. It’s time-consuming, but vital work.

My novel, The Wardrobe Girl, was published 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve done numerous radio interviews, press articles, guest blog posts, library talks and book signings. there have been times when I thought my head was spinning and it’s certainly taken some adjusting on my part. I’m not a ‘spotlight’ kind of person, I’m very happy with my own company, my own space and writing. I like silence and often long for solitude. (Oh, my poor long-suffering family!). But I’ve needed to create a persona, become a performance artist for my PR campaign and given the nature of my novel, it needed to be upbeat, witty & personable. I also needed to learn to flick the switch and be present immediately the interview begins and to make sure that I’m getting my message across.


Gone are the days of the large marketing budgets. Now, as a debut author, you may be lucky to have any budget at all. there’s very little handholding – I had no media training. although Kirsty Noffke, my Random House PR colleague, organised my itinerary and was always just a phone call away. But it’s pretty much sink or swim.

In the local paper.

In the local paper.

Of course before you even reach this stage, you’ll be on Twitter, have your own Author page on Facebook and a blog. (Even if it is terribly neglected like this blog!). You’ll be working on establishing a profile, developing your platform, so by the time your book is published, you’ll have an existing marketing base to draw on.

You can’t afford to ignore this part of the deal. it’s the business of being a writer. the difference between ‘aspiring’ and ‘arrived’. If you’re hoping to be picked up for books 2 and 3 and so on, then you’ll need to embrace this aspect as part of the publishing process.

People often liken publishing a book to giving birth and if that’s true, then is the reality of the first 6 weeks. Your life as a writer has changed and even though you were warned, it may be nothing like you expected.

How Many Words Does It Take To Write A Book?

IMG_6794The Words that Formed The Wardrobe Girl


Word count. Writers are addicted to their word count. That little self-help tool that ticks over in the tool bar of your document pushing you towards that much sought after sign off – The End.

But when is enough, enough and how will you know?

There are no easy answers to those questions (sorry if I was holding out false hope there). There are lots of ifs, buts, maybes and how long is a piece of string kind of responses. Sometimes it’s dependent on genre, so if you’re writing a picture book, 400 crisply chosen, precise words maybe all you need, but a Scifi or Fantasy epic may need 120,000 words to paint the world and tell the story.

My book, The Wardrobe Girl, is just 94,000 words, but I’d say I probably wrote at least 200,00 to achieve the 94,000 words that made it into the published copy. My first draft came in at 105,000 words, but there were many rewrites and scrunched up sheets of paper on the way. Most of those words were handwritten (I’m an old-fashioned pencil/pen and paper girl) before they made it onto a word document. Although, I have allowed myself some artistic license there – I never scrunch up my sheets of paper and I’ve never had an overflowing waste paper basket, the Hollywood shorthand for writer at work, trying to breakthrough writer’s block. Oh no, we have blogs for that these days!



My words are kept, usually between the covers of a Moleskine. I carry a notepad with me ready to write down any conversational gems I overhear or to take note of someone’s outfit, or idiosyncracy. The journals are my starting point for the writing, although, for some reason book 2 is currently being written on a blank foolscap pad – I’m not sure if this working for me, I’ll let you know. Sometimes my words are retrieved or used elsewhere. It might just be a phrase I’ve highlighted or a whole paragraph. Sometimes a whole scene has been resurrected. I know there’s all kinds of software that does it for you, but 1, I’d have to learn how to use it and 2, I like to have physical access to them.

But, how did I know when enough was enough?

I didn’t really. I reached a point where I knew it still needed work, but wasn’t sure how to quite go about it. With the encouragement of a friend, the wonderful writer A.D. Scott, I submitted my manuscript to her agent, and now mine, Sheila Drummond. The word count was sitting at about 96,500 at this stage, but I couldn’t see where to lose those 6,500 words to hit the magical 90,000 word mark for my genre – contemporary women’s fiction (aka – chick lit). Sheila reassured me that when a publisher got hold of it I would have all the guidance I needed.

And she was right.

Although the rewriting isn’t necessarily any easier during the editing process, at least you have some guidance and all those tracking changes down the side. You know where to cut, massage and completely rewrite. But without any words, you can’t do any of those things.

So how many words? As many as it takes. Listen to your intuition, because those gut instincts are you usually right. Don’t be scared to write it big and write it ugly, those words can be refined. In the end, the answer always comes down to the same thing. Write. Put one word down after another and you will form a sentence and the sentences will eventually a become your book.

Move Over Bridget Jones: The Wardrobe Girl Is Coming Soon


The Wardrobe Girl

TheWardrobe Girl, byJennifer Smart

(Random House Australia, 2014) ISBN:9780857982513

Publication Date: 3 March 2014

**4 Stars**

Bye-bye Bridget Jones. The long-standing queen of the unlucky-in-love set is about to be bumbled out of limelight. Enter Tess Appleby, a loveable, relatable, thirty-something darling, whose track record in the romance department would make even Bridget blanch.

What does Tess have that Bridget didn’t? How about a seat at the A-List’s table, a behind-the-scenes job in television, a dad who can write nice fat cheques, and views of the Sydney Harbour no matter where she’s bedding down?

Dumped by a big-shot English boyfriend, hunted down by paparazzi, and humiliated in the headlines of the UK’s sleaziest tabloids, Tess retreats to her home in Bronte, hoping for a fresh start a world away from the train wreck of her past. A low-key wardrobe job on the set of…

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The Soundtrack to The Wardrobe Girl

I usually write in silence. Except for the occasional cafe scribble with it’s hum of voices, clatter of cutlery and the whoosh, gurgle of the coffee machine.

Silence is my preferred accompaniment when I’m writing. I have tried listening to music, especially if it’s a song that’s mentioned in the text, but it’s too intrusive. More than intrusive, it takes over the mood and the rhythm of my words. I find myself listening to the lyrics instead of the words I’m trying to find or the voices I’m trying to hear. Oh yes, us writers are that weird, we hear voices.

Music is important for my characters, they have their own tastes, which sometimes I find quite surprising. So, I thought I would give you a taste of what would be playing on Tess (The Wardrobe Girl) Appleby’s iPod.





The Final Pages, My Work is Done


The Readers' Copy

The Readers’ Copy

I have finally finished.

After years of writing, rewriting and editing, my book is typeset and will head off to the printers on Friday.

I feel such a strange mix of emotions. Relief, excitement, anticipation and, strangely, sadness.

I’ve put so much into the writing of this book that letting go, waiting to hand it over to the public is almost with a sense of loss. Everything I could do is done and now my characters and the world they inhabit will face the reality of bookshop shelves, bedside tables, coffee stains, dog-eared corners and critics. But isn’t that what I wanted? Absolutely!

To reach this final stage, I’ve travelled a funnel-shaped journey. It started with the big picture, a splashing of colour and movement in big, bold strokes. Each draft or version – there were 47 before it went to my agent, Sheila Drummond and then onto Beverley Cousins at Random House – was a process of refinement, of whittling down and narrowing my focus. By the time I reached the final pages, I was assessing the worth of an individual phrase or word, correcting punctuation with a brush of sable-like fineness. I know it’s a better book for the process and I am sure I have learnt much along the way, although I feel too close still to articulate it all.

But I will say this. Trust your gut instincts. If it feels wrong, whether it’s a word, an action, a whole passage or plot line, it probably is. Write it big and and ugly in the first draft. If you have words on a page you can begin to edit, without words you have nothing. Let yourself fall in love with your characters and then listen to what they are telling you, let them off your leash so they can roam. Listen to your editor, agent, publisher, they all want the best for your book. they won’t give advice that will make it worse or destroy the integrity of your work. But, if you really disagree and can justify why, then stick to your guns.

Next up for me is the publicity and that is going to something else again!

Hitting Your Mark - the first draft

Hitting Your Mark – the first draft