You’ve been writing Breathing Under Water since you were in high school, bouncing ideas off friends for ages. Was there a moment when they told you to shut up and write the story already?
I wrote a version of Breathing Under Water in high school; it was called, Horizons. I started writing it and would write before and after school, and even during class! Once I had a few chapters, I started showing it to a three friends and they’d take turns reading the latest instalments. Sometimes, I’d bounce ideas off them but they never told me to shut up and write because I was writing everyday. Horizons was sidelined when I got sick and no one really questioned that. The focus was on me getting better.
When I suspended uni to start writing Running Like China, a few friends asked, ‘what about that book with the twins?’ I told them I would go back to it but that my memoir was something I needed to write now.
I had a break for about a month between finishing the structural edit for Running Like China and starting Breathing Under Water. Once I started, I was quite proactive and wrote the first quarter in two months. I had a depressive episode and took three months off. When I came back to it, I wrote the rest of the novel in just over three months. When I’m in the flow of writing, there isn’t much talk. In fact, I tend to talk more to my characters than I do to real people, ha!
What’s the difference between writing non-fiction, (Running Like China) and Fiction, (Breathing Under Water)?
The difference was that Breathing Under Water wrote itself. Even though they were my fingers punching away on the keyboard, the plot twists were just as new and exciting for me as they were for anyone else reading it. My characters came to life in the second or third chapter and I had the privilege of watching them grow and breathe. I cried for Grace when her heart broke and I ached inside when Mia couldn’t sleep.
Writing non-fiction, I was able to make sense of pain felt in the real world. I was able to tell a story in my own voice. Writing fiction, I could step into someone else’s shoes, into someone else’s world and be surprised by what I found.
I love university and I love writing essays, but I know there are things I will never fully understand or appreciate in a classroom. Knowledge is learnt, but experience is felt in the body. I believe travel changes you at the core. You embody memories. I have been very fortunate in the last few years to travel to some incredible places where I drank tea in houses built differently to mine and walked on earth beneath different constellations. These places, languages, customs and FOODS will no doubt make it into future books.
I’ve just started writing my second YA novel and am going to embark on a few research trips. I can’t say much, but I will say this…
Grace learns to read the swells on the sea.
My new character will learn to read the wind on Open Ocean.
I’m so excited because research is going to take me to Far North Queensland and Antarctica!
Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?
It would have to be Jake. I love him because he makes out as if he doesn’t have a care in the world, but we all know cares an awful lot about his friends. He’ll never admit it, but he wears his heart on his sleeve.