I finished writing the novel about the seal hunters on Australia Day. Bashing away at the laptop to strains of the national anthem and the hottest 100. (I never noticed I was a basher, a two finger basher at that, until someone mentioned it recently.) I didn't even know how it was going to end until about the last half an hour of writing. After five years I still couldn't work out how to resolve a story that never ended well in real life, into a balletic, pleasing finale. I am happy with the ending. It thrills me stupid and it bothers me a bit. These are both good things.
Anyway, despite the years and angst involved in writing this book, the text itself still wasn't very clean. There were narratorial glitches, the odd typo and point-of-view problems but I sent it off to my publisher anyway, because she wanted it and because I remembered her words from Salt Story days: 'Just get it off the desk and send it to me, Sarah.'
A month or so later, she said yes. And then she pitched it to the board of Fremantle Press and they said yes too.
The yesss feeling lasted all of about twenty four hours before I observed myself fall prey to the snark again. I've long known my susceptibility to anxiety and anticipation of non existing disaster scenarios. Normally I get through them with a kind of home bake CBT or writing cringe-worthy journal entries to get the shit off my liver. But the suicide of my friend in December and the consequent fallout seems to have dismantled my coping strategies and left them as a pile of bricks in the back yard. Despite my anxieties during the previous chaotic week, that disaster scenario bloody happened anyway.
So in April - it was April Fools Day actually - a euphoric twenty four hours of yesss via Fremantle Press was followed up immediately with all sorts of unmediated angsting. *The novel is not as good as Salt Story * It's a difficult bitch * People will compare it unfavourably to Salt because it's the only other comparison they have * It will get terrible reviews*
And the whole time I was looking at myself and thinking 'What's with this Sarah? This is what you've always wanted. C'mon. It's like getting signed up by a record company, for a second time.'
Sometimes, putting art into the public gaze feels like an act of baring your throat, giving everyone a meat cleaver and trying to look like you don't give a fuck. Most of the time I forget that people actually read my stuff - and that's quite a nice place to write, to communicate, to tell ripping yarns. Then I meet someone in the supermarket who's been reading A WineDark Sea (Shiiit!), or the book reviews come out (Shiiit!). For a first book, Salt Story was a huge success. The first print run sold out in eight weeks and it received great reviews in national newspapers and on the street ...
... so what am I whingeing about.
It's just bloody terrifying. Sometimes. It's about ego of course and of course it's about more than ego. It's thrilling as well. It was thrilling to finish the novel, sit back and think, 'I reckon this one is alright,' PoV problems and all. And now the editor and I have nine months to turn something that is 'alright' into something that is beautiful.
Exiles (working title), my novel about the sealers and Aboriginal women who came to Albany in 1825, will be published in September 2016.