I almost didn’t write this post. It’s been such an awful year in so many ways. As a US citizen the election was particularly foul. People I care about had awful things happen to them. Some favourite celebrities died.1
But I am a creature of superstition and I’m convinced if I don’t write this post, which I have been doing annually since 2005, something even worse will happen.
So here it is my my annual recap of how the year was for my career and a look ahead at what’s gunna happen in 2017. (And my annual reminder that, yes, in Australia and many other parts of the world it is already New Year’s Eve. We’re not all in the same timezone or the same season. Shocking, I know. Come join me, it’s summer here!)
How My Books Did in 2016
My eleventh book and eighth novel, My Sister Rosa, about a seventeen-year-old boy who realises that his ten-year-old sister is a psychopath, came out in Australia at the end of January and in the USA in November. Thus neatly bookending the year.
I was lucky enough to do multiple events in both countries to promote it. Wow, are people fascinated by psychopaths. I mean, I knew that, but now I really know that. Every time I’d describe the book, there’d be an Oooooooh response and so many questions. Then there were all the stories of the psychopaths in people’s lives. Siblings, parents, partners, spouses, but most commonly, bosses and coaches.
Rosa is my first book to earn five starred reviews in the USA. Meanwhile in Australia, it made the long list for the Australian Indie Book Awards, a first for me.
Rosa is my bestselling novel since Liar. Good reviews and award nominations are lovely, but sales are best of all. It looks like Rosa‘s strong sales have also helped Razorhurst‘s sales pick up in the US. Though that could be the rejacketing Soho did in the US, which everyone seems to love. The covers for Rosa in both Australia and the USA are also getting a lot of love. I’m very lucky. Thank you, Allen and Unwin and Soho Teen.
Thank you to everyone who bought My Sister Rosa, or ordered it for their library, or borrowed it, and talked it up to your friends. Thanks also to everyone who reviewed it. Even the bad reviews help.
Books Out in 2017
The US edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy will be published by Simon and Schuster in the USA in March.
This anthology is truly amazing. It’s a collaboration between Indian and Australian writers and artists and includes graphic stories as well as regular ones. There’s not a dud in the book. I’m honoured to be part of it. Eat the Sky has been published in India and Australia. Here’s hoping it gets the same fabulous reception in the USA it received in those two countries.
And that’s it. Sorry. No new novels from me in 2017. I’ve gone from attempting to be a two-novels-a-year kind of writer to being a one-novel-every-two-years kind of writer. No one is more bummed about that than I am.
What I Wrote in 2016
This year I struggled to write. Worse even than last year, when I at least had illness to blame. This year the increasing swing of most of the world to the right did my head in. India, the Phillipines, Hungary, Russia, the UK—SO MANY COUNTRIES. And, of course, my two homelands, Australian and the USA. I despaired. When I despair I find it very hard to write.
It wasn’t just despair that made writing tough—it was my compulsive need to understand what was happening. On top of reading as much immediate journalism as I could, I found myself reading a vast amount of non-fiction to try and make sense of what was happening to my two countries and the rest of the world. While that reading helped me enormously, and will feed into my writing, for a long stretch there I was reading instead of writing.
What little writing I did (about forty thousand words) was on my novel from the point of view of a psychopath, which I’m now calling Psychopath in Love. It’s a contemporary and I had, without realising it, been setting it in a world where Clinton won the election. One of the many things that slowed my writing was realising I had to rewrite with the new realpolitik in mind.
To be clear: who the president is isn’t a plot point. It’s about the mood and feel of the novel. For example My Sister Rosa is set in 2015 under an Obama presidency. There’s nothing directly about that in the novel. The year is not named nor is Obama. But it does indirectly affect the novel. People have conversations they wouldn’t if there were a different president and a different national mood.
That wasn’t the first time I realised I had to rewrite the unfinished first draft of Psychopath in Love. Sigh. I may have only written forty thousand words this year but I deleted at least that many . . .
Hmmm, I’ve made it sound like writing this novel has been nothing but struggle. Not really. The ease with which I found the voice was reassuring after the massive struggles I had to find Che’s voice in My Sister Rosa. My psychopath is so direct, so uncluttered. She has no doubts. Imagine how much easier a doubt-free life must be! I’m almost jealous. She is SO easy to write.
That ease is one of the problems with the novel at the moment. Basically I have seventy thousand words of a psychopath’s view of the world and pithy observations about how pathetic we normals are and not so much with a plot. Don’t be alarmed. First drafts are always the hardest part for me as is, unsurprisingly, plotting. I guess it comes of not outlining. Maybe I’ll outline my next novel. Hahahahahahah.
No, this novel has not been sold yet, and thus has no publication date. I’ll sell it when it has a plot and I’m happy with it.
Writing Plans for 2017
I hope to finish Psychopath in Love. The aim is to have a solid draft by the beginning of March. I believe I can do it. I will do it!
Then I plan to get started on this super cool idea for a psychological thriller I got while having lunch with my agent. She asked what I was going to work on next. I told her two separate ideas. As I told her I realised they’d work really well together. And, of course, it instantly became the only thing in the world that I want to write.
Other than this other really cool idea. Why can’t I just have one idea at a time? Waaaah! This one came out of a conversation with Scott, who is always the best person to talk writing with. It is so unbelievably cool, that for the first time ever, I understand the writers who won’t say what they’re working on for fear someone’ll steal their super cool idea. So this is me zipping my lips. I haven’t even told my agent about this one.
Travel in 2016
This year instead of just boringly travelling in Australia and the USA, as I have been doing pretty much every year since 1999, we went to Buenos Aires! The entire family. We rented a house and my niece was in heaven having all her favourite people together: her grandparents, mother, uncle and aunt. We were all there to celebrate her fourth birthday. It was my highlight of the year.2
What I Read in 2016
So much. I’ll do a separate post on my favourite novels of the year. But here I’ll suggest one title that helped me a lot this year: Carol Anderson’s White Rage.
It began as an article in The Washington Post trying to make sense of Ferguson, which will give you a feel for the book. I recommend reading it first if you think you don’t have time to read a whole book.
That said, the book is short and you don’t need a university degree to understand it.3 I read it in a day. In it Anderson cogently argues that white rage against black emancipation and rights of any kind has fuelled legal and extra-legal actions for centuries. The evidence is overwhelming.
If you want to understand the USA right now White Rage is a great place to start.
Next year is not going be a better year for the world. 2017’s going to be worse. I hope as many of us as possible survive and fight back loud and long and strong. I hope we remember those who love and sustain us. I am very lucky to have an amazing family and many wonderful friends all over the world. Thanks to all of you.
And to everyone who reads my books, blogs and words on social media. You sustain us. Without readers we writers have nothing.
Happy new year!