In March 2020 (the year no one will soon forget) I wrote a short story, called ‘The Clothesline’
It was a dark chapter about family violence that turns deadly during a world-wide pandemic, and it was inspired by the dreadful news reports that emerged during the first months of Covid-19. I listened to a news report as I finished my coffee one Sunday morning and as I pottered in my large, still establishing garden, I mulled over what I had heard. I could only imagine how being in lockdown with an unstable tormentor would feel, and – in my mind anyway – I felt my developing character would have only a few options open to her. The story marinated for the day, as I pulled weeds and dug over garden beds and to my surprise, the story took only an hour or so to get down on paper, once I sat at my desk.
I published it on my blog and was quite proud of how it turned out.
I had hoped to convey that sense of dread and hopelessness that often engulfs those dealing with violence as the main part of their lives, and I like to think that desperation lifts from the page. I shared a link to the blog and my short story and was wonderfully overwhelmed by the response. Family, friends and people I didn’t know that well all sent encouraging messages and when I arrived at work the next day my colleagues were keen to talk about the story.
All this was very new to me.
I have been an avid reader since childhood, and my love of stories and reading grew into a yearning to write. Covid-19 was a time of change for many people and I am no different. Lockdown and the stress that come from the threat this virus posed meant I became less worried about what people thought of my writing. I clumsily started a website and entered the monthly writing challenges, as a way to practise getting words and thoughts to align in a way that painted the picture I was trying to paint.
In the meantime, the response to the short story version of The Clothesline continued to grow, and continued to surprise me.
People spoke to me about the characters as real people, which filled me with the most amazing warm ‘n fuzzy feeling imaginable. It was (and is) incredible to hear others talk about my characters as real people, which led to chapter two ‘Fairy’. As I wrote about Fairy from next door, I started to think about how we are perceived is often so very different to how we feel about ourselves. I published ‘Fairy’ on this blog, as a small idea began to form. The response by readers to Fairy’s story, and comments about how perceptions of her changed once the backstory was revealed cemented the idea of a novel in my mind.
I plotted a series of characters, each with their own failings and personal issues, but that linked one to the next, and a real sense of excitement built. I did get fairly testy (that’s probably polite, if I’m honest) when writing was interrupted by life and I really had to slow myself down many times to ensure I didn’t race to the ending I could already see.
I stopped releasing chapters on my blog and I worried that when I reached the end it would be too contrived or the storyline to obvious and I very nervously released the first draft to my beta readers.
I had three; my two workmates and my mum, so each was very well known to me and were also very supportive of what I was doing. Regardless of all this support, handing over those pages was absolutely terrifying. I felt a complex mix of emotions; a weird embarrassment, pride, excitement, a knee-knocking concern and everything else in between. I thought what I had written was ok; ok enough to be excited about the journey, but releasing that out into the world (albeit via three people very close to me) made me feel incredibly vulnerable and somehow exposed.
I waited an eternity (approximately three weeks) until I self-consciously asked for the feedback. I sat at the big table on the sunny verandah at my parent’s home as my mum and I laughed over some parts of the book and more seriously discussed the damage each character carried. It was incredible; I was discussing people I had created and as such, they came alive. My friends sent text messages as they finished a particular chapter or came across a fork in the road. They were at times outraged at what a character had done and in turns didn’t like them, but then felt empathy in the next chapter. It was quietly exhilarating to experience the stories through their reactions. Fast forward to today, and I have self-published book
1 “The Clothesline” and followed it up with a sequel “Lone Wolfe.” Book
3 “The Bridge” is underway. Another three works in progress are a creative distraction!
It’s been a whirlwind time of creativity that comes and goes but my mind is always bubbling over with ideas for future stories. My books may not sell more than a handful of copies, but that’s ok because the achievement of doing it anyway is where the magic lays. My books can be found on Amazon or you can visit my website to order personalized, signed copy.