Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The C Word

Hey, happy Winter Solstice everyone!

This is the first of a series of posts about writing The Sound. In future posts I'll cover writing Indigenous characters as a wadjela yorga (white woman), how it takes a village to write a book, seascapes and landscapes in my books, and my own journey to publication with Fremantle Press. In The C Word, I'll try to nut out how I feel about imposing a work of dark history and creepy characters onto the world.

I'm in preparation to bare my throat (this is nothing new). No, not to the deities on this longest of long nights ... just to anyone who reads my work. And I'm not being flippant here. Frankly, it's terrifying, every time. Thankfully one official review has already landed in my inbox and it's a good one - four stars from an industry booksellers magazine.

"... the gritty descriptions of life in these times make this a fascinating read. Based on a true story and clearly grounded in the author's own experiences at sea, this book is an engaging and thought provoking
read, despite being quite confronting at times." Books + Publishing, National. May 2016.

There it is. The C word. I've had some interesting early comments about my book The Sound. A friend who has just read it said, "Sarah, I loved it! I was there. But if I didn't already know what these people were like, how brutal they were, I would have been shocked with what you've written. I would have thought you were exaggerating the violence and what those women went through. But I already knew the story and I was ready for it."

"Am just so grateful to be moved and confronted by bloody resolute and inspired writers like you," wrote another friend, who had picked up an early copy from Paperbark Merchants and read it while on an island holiday. There's that C word again.

The editor of the state newspaper's books page rang me for an interview and used the C word as well. A book sales rep stopped for a reprieve while reading it. Oh dear.

Reader, you may notice that I'm picking a single word out of what is otherwise praise for The Sound, like an angsty teen searching her beautiful body for blemishes. The thing is, I've been thinking for quite a while about how I'm going to talk about this book, because once you've published a book, you have to appear in public and talk about it, to pique people's interest, contribute to our literary culture, and hopefully sell the product. The Sound, although also inspired by history, seascape and working on boats, is an entirely different beast to Salt Story. Salt Story is described as charming and funny, whereas the only jokes in The Sound are usually made by women in the face of extreme deprivation and violence.

Writing The Sound, as WineDark readers will know, very nearly did me in. (Here is a link to Predator Dreams for those who haven't read it.) I don't know how the Ruth Rendells of this world can regularly produce works of such pathological violence without staggering from their studies profoundly damaged. They must just be better at protecting themselves than I was.

Maybe the confronting aspect of The Sound, apart from the violence, is the depiction of how people behave in a world without law - and that these behaviours haven't changed despite our pretty solid social contracts and legal systems. "Oh my God, that Bailey bloke is so creepy," shuddered my friend. Well, yes he was. Yes, he is.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you John! It's credited to an awesome local photographer Nic Duncan.

  2. I love that you are 'confronting'. I am too so maybe it's narcissistic of me to have you as my friend because I love your confrontational personality. And I completely get the demons you have had to confront to do this. Good on you for facing them - you know I think a creative PhD is a rite of passage and you made it through intact (many don't). Love ya!

    1. Thanks Michelle. I don't always feel intact. :~)

  3. I'm feeling you during this time. Hang on, go well. You'll be fine. xx

    1. Thanks love. You know what it is like yes.

  4. I didn't know I wanted to read your book until I read this. I'd say talk about your work just like this. I'm looking forward to the read.

    1. Thanks for that feedback Jen. I will follow your advice. I think also that sanitising some fairly distressing elements to the story would do it, and the people involved, a kind of injustice.

  5. Oh Sarah.The Sound? The Sound? The Sound? The horror, the horror, the horror! Next to The Sound, Heart of Darkness is like a weekend in Disneyland. I've just finished it as I make my way up to Broome.
    As you know I've been aware of the story for many years but I realise now that I've only known it in a abstract academic way. Your ability to paint a word picture took me there in all too real a way. No wonder it was in your nightmares.
    When I read Salt Story I limited myself to a couple of chapters a day so I could savour it like a box of Lindt ball chocolates. This time I limited myself so I could have a breather!
    I'll do a review for the next Cafe Capers so keep an eye out for it.
    Hard to describe as a "favourite" book but certainly one of the most memorable.Well done.

  6. Oh wow, thanks Crispin ... and sorry for traumatising you! When I started on this journey I too saw the story in an abstract way, as an historical anomaly that needed attention. That bit is pretty easy to handle and I thought it would be a a rollicking ride through the southern ocean. By time time I realised how full-on the story was, it was too late. I was committed. There was no going back. Though, as the reader needs a break sometimes, I too took breaks.