The Writing Life

Information, inspiration and insights into the writing life

For this column, I’ve been asked to write on the theme of ‘Do It Yourself’ in relation to self-publishing, which I have to admit is a tricky one for me as a literary agent. As an agent, my role entails finding publishers for our clients and managing the relationship between author and publisher once we do, in addition to contract negotiations, handling foreign publication rights and film and TV rights, and being our clients’ best advocate.

'Soon' is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. You spent six years driving around Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, writing letters home about the people you met along the way. Did any of these people inspire characters in your debut novel ‘Soon’?

Earlier this year, one of my sisters dragged me along to a game show audition. After filling out a four-page questionnaire that asked such insightful questions as ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?’, ‘Have you ever been caught out in a lie?’ and ‘Do you have an unusual bucket list item?’ (presumably so that they could be discussed and laughed at on national television) as well as what we did for a living, we were then grilled by a producer.

Your much-loved and award-winning novel 'The Bone Sparrow' was about a child in a refugee camp. 'The Ones That Disappeared' is about three trafficked children searching for freedom and hope. When you get an idea for a book, what come first – the issue or the characters?

A good editor is a writer’s best friend. Naturally, the sight of red ink gives you palpitations at first, but once you contemplate the recommendations, inspiration strikes. You can’t wait to hit the keyboard. Your editor has shown you the way. Now your work can shine. That is, unless they happen to be a bad editor. Then you’re in trouble.

'Her' begins in 1909 and spans ten years. The book explores a dark side of history, especially women and girls battling poverty and violence. What drew you to write this tale?

He’s rough when he steps into the kitchen, tie loose, bags under his eyes, hair shower-clean but skewiff. He sits at the little wooden table and she hands him a cup of coffee. He grunts thanks and takes a sip; it’s too hot, immediately burns him, but he doesn’t give any sign. She watches him across the table, takes a seat. He doesn’t look up. He keeps his eyes down on the catalogue in front of him, tedious stuff: milk is down, a special, two dollars for two litres. 

Out the kitchen window, blue bleeds to violet. Gracie holds the baby to her with one hand, his tiny fingers splayed at her collarbone, he’s still as small as when they first placed him there. That’s the way it’s been for a month now, held with one hand to her chest, feeding from it, balanced there as she moves about the kitchen. 

'The Girl From Munich' is Tania Blanchard's debut historical fiction novel. It tells the story of Lotte who grew up indoctrinated, at school and through The League of German Girls, to give her all to the Third Reich. As part of our Subscriberthon series, we talked to Tania about her writing process.

I find myself in no-man’s-land – a large and largely empty space between freedom and detention. It has taken months of patient planning to get this far. Copies of passport, driver’s licence, Working with Children check, Federal Police check, and proof of professional status, together with detailed ‘Visitor’ forms and my car’s registration number, were long ago completed, signed, carefully scanned and sent as requested.