Ep 252 Two words that are deadly to your writing career. And meet Sarah Bailey, bestselling author of ‘Into the Night’.

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In Episode 252 of So you want to be a writer: Meet Sarah Bailey, bestselling author of Into the Night. Do you know which two words are deadly to your writing career? Discover why you should write for 15 minutes a day and recommended books for 13/14 year old boys. Thanks to all those who took part in Furious Fiction September and congrats to the winner!

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Show Notes

Links Mentioned

15 more tried-and-tested books for 13/14 year old boys (+ 13 expert choices)

Two Words that are Deadly to Your Writing Career

Why I Only Write for 15 Minutes A Day

Writer in Residence

Sarah Bailey

Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has two young sons and one very old cat.

Before she wrote The Dark Lake, Sarah worked in advertising as a business manager. These days she splits her time between writing and working at Creative Projects Company, Mr Smith. Sarah is working on her third book which will be published in 2019.

Her second book, Into the Night is out now.

Follow Sarah on Twitter

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(If you click through the links above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission from this purchase. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

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This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers’ Centre

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Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo

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Interview transcript

Valerie

Thanks for joining us today, Sarah.

Sarah

Thanks so much for having me.

Valerie

First, congratulations. This is your second novel, Into the Night. And the first one was just, you know… I was riveted. It was a seamless, wonderful read. And this second one is no different. It’s just as amazing. So congratulations. Well done.

Sarah

Thank you so much. What they say about the second book is pretty true, so it’s really nice to hear that.

Valerie

And how do you describe what they say about the second book?

Sarah

Well, I think it’s such an unfair thing. Because even though you’ve written a book, you still have all of the same doubts all over again, but I think actually worse, because you start to wonder whether or not perhaps you just fluked the first one. So it’s this really strange mix of knowing that you can do it, because you’ve done it before. So there is a confidence that comes from that. But I think deep down you’re also really worried that the scrutiny will be heightened and people won’t give you as much of a break with the second one.

I didn’t experience too much of it when I was writing it, but I certainly started to get quite nervous once it was at the printers and I couldn’t change it. And I was just waiting for the first few reviews and things like that. It’s nerve wracking.

Valerie

It’s so true. The pressure of the sophomore act is very real, because people are wondering, oh, can she follow it up. But you absolutely have.

Now, before we go on, for some of the listeners who haven’t read your book yet… And the first book, of course, was The Dark Lake. And I believe this can be read as a standalone even though it’s a continuation of the same character. Just tell listeners what Into the Night is about.

Sarah

Sure. So I guess with The Dark Lake, it was very much an introduction to the character of Detective Gemma Woodstock. It’s a very traditional police procedural, but it’s mixed closely with a personal aspect of her life. And the two things, the homicide investigation she’s working on and a secret from her past parallel and you witness how those unfold next to each other in The Dark Lake.

That ends – obviously, I won’t give away how it ends – but it has an ending.

And then in the sequel, Into the Night, it’s set about two and a half years later, which has allowed a little bit of space for the characters to develop and for things to shift and change a little bit. It was certainly beneficial for me to have that distance from the ending of the first book.

And in the second book, it’s a bit shift of location. So Gemma moves from a fictional regional town in NSW to Melbourne, real Melbourne. And she’s thrown immediately into several different homicide investigations that she works on with her new colleagues. She’s only been in Melbourne for about three months when the book starts. So she’s really still adjusting to this new life, new world, new peers, new challenges. And she’s also yet again got a personal journey to navigate as that’s going on in the background.

Valerie

As you say, there’s been a shift of location and it is two and a half years later. So why did you decide on that?

Sarah

I would love to say that it was really strategic. And in hindsight, I guess it sort of was. But it was really instinctive when I sat down to think about continuing this character’s story. I didn’t plan a sequel when I wrote The Dark Lake. It wasn’t something that was on my mind and it wasn’t something that was offered to me initially through the publication process. It came a bit later.

But I guess fortunately, by the time the publishers did say to me that they were interested in a second book in the series, I had started to play around with what might happen next. And I think I’ve discovered now that that tends to be something that happens once I’ve put the first draft to bed, I start to think through what might transpire after that book.

So I had some ideas. But all of them were very much for me needing a new start for Gemma. And I’ve said this before. In my mind, even though I’m not writing TV and I’ve got no experience whatsoever in screenwriting at all, I think I write it very much like a TV series in my mind. And I do feel like sometimes TV shows benefit from a little bit of a gear change in a different season. And when you’re doing a crime story, obviously you’ve got a new crime to solve and that helps refresh and regenerate everything and give you a new focus and a new motivating drive.

But I also felt Gemma needed that too. I just think that even though she’s not a young person in the first book, she’s near 30, in many ways there is a sort of coming of age narrative in the first book. And I felt like she needed to do that jump shift and move away from home and leave the nest and really challenge herself in the second book. So I felt like a new environment would provide her with that growth opportunity.

And I also just wanted some new characters. And it’s not Home and Away. I couldn’t keep having all of these people come to town in such a country town kind of place. So I thought, I’ll take her out of the town, put her in Melbourne. And then there’s a whole lot of things that can happen in the city that couldn’t really happen in a country town, especially case wise.

So it was just a fun way to mix things up, I think.

Valerie

Great. And so did the publisher want a sequel to the first novel? Or were they interested in a second book that didn’t have to follow on?

Sarah

They were very much interested in a sequel. I didn’t really get the choice. Which was absolutely fine by me, because that was the only idea that I had in my head. So it worked out well for everybody.

But I was really surprised actually how free I had the opportunity to write the second book. I got no direction. I just was asked to write a second book in the Gemma series, and that was really it. So I had complete rein to do whatever I liked, which was really great.

And it wasn’t really until I’d written about 50,000 words that I looped back with my publisher and ran it all past her and wanted to make sure that she was comfortable with it, and she was.

It was great, actually. I did feel like I had – as much as a series can provide you – a pretty fresh, clean slate to work with.

Valerie

I feel like we get to know Gemma more in this. More of what goes on in her head. Was that something that you were doing on purpose? Or am I just imagining that?

Sarah

I don’t know. It wasn’t intentional, in a way. I think Into the Night is, again, first person perspective. And it’s not stream of consciousness, but it’s pretty close. So I always say, it’s a very intimate style of writing. I guess you do feel like you’re in her head, you’re with her all the time. And in the second book, you are with her all the time. In the first one, there’s a couple of little breaks. I call it the country town Greek chorus, it sort of kicks in, and a few different characters add some perspective. But it gives you the chance to see Gemma in a different light which I felt was really important in that environment.

Whereas in the second one, I guess I felt like you get some snippets of media transcriptions in the second one here and there, which sort of shows the big picture of how the city’s reacting to some of the cases that she’s working on. But mainly, you’re in her head. And so I think it maybe just is a case of a second book, I know her a bit better, so therefore it’s going to come through in the writing and in the way that she narrates it.

But yeah, it’s nice to hear you say that.

Valerie

There is a real sense of place, as there was in your first book, where you really, really felt the atmosphere of the country town. And in this book, you’ve just captured Melbourne so well, and the feeling when you’re walking through the streets of Melbourne, the feeling of the cold wind – which I feel all the time when I’m in Melbourne.

What did you do to… I mean, I know you live in Melbourne. But there are just these little observations and little bits of commentary throughout that really set that scene. Did you do anything in particular to take note of these little things that I feel make a lot of difference?

Sarah

I think I just got out and walked around in the city. Which sounds pretty simplistic, but it really was…

Valerie

On purpose? For this purpose?

Sarah

On purpose, yeah. With a bit more of an intent than normal. And it’s funny, quite a lot of people have said to me, they assume I’ve grown up in a country town, which I didn’t at all. So with The Dark Lake, people would say, oh what town is that based on? And I would say, it really is just an amalgamation of many and I don’t have any personal experience of living in a country town. So it’s been really, really nice when people think that that’s why that rang so true.

With this one, I kind of had no excuse. Because I have lived in Melbourne all my life. And so I was probably a little bit more worried that people would think that it didn’t ring true, which would have been a bit mortifying.

But it was funny, when I went to write it, and I obviously decided to set it in Melbourne, you would think that it would be so easy because it is my hometown and I see it all the time. And I live quite close to the city, so it is quite a familiar part of the place for me.

But when you go to actually write about it, you realise how often you don’t notice anything around you. So I did deliberately spend quite a lot of time in the city, writing, either in the library or just out and about in cafes, and just tried to be a little bit more conscious of what I was seeing around me and the different ways that the geography feeds into people’s behaviour. And hopefully it all comes together well.

And I did also have the benefit of writing it in winter, which is when the book was set, so that helped as well. Because I do find that a really tedious time of the year.

But again, it’s one of those things, I can never read my book fresh. And I can’t really say whether I think I’ve nailed something or not, because there’s so many layers of subjectivity. But I’ve been very glad that people have responded well to that part of the descriptions and the Melbourne setting.

Valerie

Let’s talk a little bit about research, because obviously she is a detective sergeant. And she’s in the police service. And she has to follow certain procedures that need to be authentic. And also language that needs to be authentic. What kind of research did you do to make sure that she is doing that? And everyone else. All the other characters, obviously, who are in that world.

Sarah

Sure. So my method is very roundabout. I don’t research first. I really feel… I think it’s just because I know myself too well. I’m very impatient. I’m a fast worker and a fast writer. And I get really easily bored if I’m not making progress.

So my approach tends to be get the story down how I want the story to be, and that does mean that my first first draft is pretty messy and pretty rough. It’s got lots of gaps. It’s got lots of highlighted sections saying “need to check this. Is this even possible?” Question marks, that kind of thing. But at least I get the flow of the story down and what I want the emotional journey to be.

And then I have found, so far, maybe I’ll get stumped at some point, but so far it seems to be that once I’ve got that structure down and that arc sorted, I can go back and fill in the gaps. And I can rearrange things around enough that it all works from a procedural perspective, a technology perspective, and a pace perspective.

I’m the first to admit that writing crime is really good for structure and a little bit of rigidity. It really gives you a framework to work within. However, that framework can also sometimes be quite problematic. Because you can’t just skip a few days ahead. People need to know what’s happening with the case in quite a detailed way, especially when the main character is a detective and not just a normal person off the street. So it’s sort of a blessing and a curse.

I sort of call it my 2.1 draft. It’s like when I know the story is going to be okay but there’s so much work going back and fixing things and making them all work, that’s when I do spend a lot of time on Google, a lot of time researching other cases and getting a sense of precedent. And then also speaking to the handful of people that I’ve now got in my network. I don’t ever get them to read it, because I actually don’t want them to start picking apart the book based on how they would run a case. I just want them to answer specific questions in terms of – is this possible? Is this not possible? Yes or no?

Because I think it is fiction. I’m not trying to write true crime or forensic analysis of how a case would be exactly managed. So I just need – is this feasible, yes or no? I get quite lawyer-y about it. Rather than getting them to tell me how they would do it, because that I think wouldn’t really work for the way I write my story.

Valerie

Did this come from an experience or something, where you did show someone something and they gave you that kind of feedback? Or why do you assume that they’ll do that?

Sarah

No. I think it’s just, well, a) it’s just an awfully big ask to get someone to read your book when it’s not their profession. So I’m always really mindful of that, because it’s 12 hours of time and I’m not paying them particularly. So that’s something I’m conscious of.

But I think it’s just also maybe my advertising background a little bit kicks in. If you start to say to a client, how would you want to fix this? They will have 100,000 ideas for you, but it’s not necessarily helpful. What you really want to know is, what’s wrong with this? Tell me the problem and then I’ll come back to you with a solution that works for me.

And I think, I wasn’t in a creative role in my agency life, but I certainly was in a client facing role. And that tricky dance was something that I did for a really long time. And I think everyone knows that feeling when someone tells you how they think something should be done versus just saying to you, look, this isn’t quite working. You need to go back and think about it.

And so that’s sort of what I’m wanting. Just that problem identification, as opposed to – I’ve got an idea! Here’s all the different ways that this could be fixed.

So it works for me, but it’s a bit of a muddle.

Valerie

So who is in your little network of people that you check things with? Not necessarily actually names of people, but what kind of people?

Sarah

I’ve got a doctor friend that is just really interested in the fact that I write books. So he’s always more than happy to answer any medical related questions. And that does pop up in crime fiction more than you’d probably think. So he’s been really great in terms of yes, possible, no, not possible. Or bit weird, but I’ve heard of it. That kind of yes or no.

And then I’ve got someone I met a little while ago who is actually the mother of a female detective. And she’s just really great from an observational perspective. She has this real great way of observing what her daughter goes through and has that really nice description, and emotionally is quite a good reference point for bits and pieces. So she’s been really helpful.

And then there’s a few other people I’ve met through a writing organisation who have access to cops and detectives and forensic type people. So when it comes to those questions, if I can’t find them on the internet, then I’ve got someone I can go to and just have a few quick Q&As.

Valerie

And so with Into the Night, how much of it was swirling in your brain when you started writing? Did you already plot it out? Or did you discover what was going to happen as you were writing it? And also, related to that, there’s obviously the plot, as in the crime that needs solving. But there is, as you say, the emotional journey. Which of those two aspects did you already know was going to happen, as well?

Sarah

I would say that Into the Night was the least plotted book that I’ve written so far. And I say that based on the first one and then the one I’ve just turned in the draft for, which is the third book in the series. I don’t know why.

I think the premise was very, very clear in my mind. Almost like the blurb was really clear, I suppose. So I knew she would move to Melbourne, I knew she would feel torn about leaving her family. I knew that she would work this big case of a homeless person and then that would be interrupted by a celebrity, because I really liked the juxtaposition between those two homicides. And then I knew that she would be struggling with some of the new colleagues in her workplace and be feeling quite torn about starting this new life.

So those were the things that were really clear to me. Once I’ve got the premise of the crime, I find that my brain just rolls out the possible cast of characters, all the different motivations as to why they may or may not be guilty. And I think, what I tend to like in terms of books that I read, is where you really feel like it could easily have been four or five plausible people by the time you get to the end of the book.

You want the person that is revealed to be the killer to make complete sense and never be a weird completely from leftfield solution. But you want it to be the best of a couple of options.

So in a way, you almost write the book with lots of killers possible, and then at the last minute, one of them sticks their neck out a little bit further and is clearly the one that always had to have done it because their motivation was so much stronger.

So I find that part of it, it doesn’t write itself, definitely doesn’t write itself, because that sounds really flippant, and it certainly didn’t feel like it did write itself, but it kind of has a momentum of its own. So once you get going and once I’ve cast everybody, there’s lots of different ways that the pace of the book can be driven forward with their different motivations and the reactions to people finding secrets out, and things like that.

And then the emotional journey of Gemma just ticks along as this constant underneath it. So it’s a bit less dramatic, normally, than the crime, which tends to be the thing that really drives the pace forward.

But I definitely found it a bit difficult in the second book compared to the first. Where in the first the personal aspects of her life and the case were so tightly interwoven, they sort of played off each other. In the second book that was less so, and rightly less so. So I did have to, I think, manipulate the words that I’d gotten down in the first draft a bit more to really pull it all together.

But yeah, it’s a strange process. And I’m not a great plotter. It just doesn’t seem to really work for me. I’m a really good coming-up-with-a-premise person. I have probably about 12 books that I think are really amazing ideas. But unfortunately it seems like until I write at least 30,000 words, I can’t actually quite tell if that’s true or not. So it’s a bit of a risky venture to kick something off and give it a shot.

I think the character of Gemma helps drive the ideas that I have forward. It gives it more of a structure. All of the Gemma books I’ve started, I’ve finished.

Valerie

She’s such an interesting character.

Sarah

Yeah. And now I guess I’m a bit more instinctive about what she’s about, what she’ll do, how she’ll respond to things, how she’s grown. All of those types of scenarios. So it makes it a bit easier to pull a story around that person, I guess.

Valerie

So the other world that’s kind of in this novel is, apart from the world of police, as you mentioned (and this isn’t a spoiler because it happens at the beginning) the crime is that a celebrity is dead. And so the other world is the world of television and film and entertainment and celebrity. What did you have to do, if anything, to get to know that world, or certain aspects of that world in order for you to include and be realistic and authentic?

Sarah

Probably not too much for that world to be painted. Because I have worked in advertising for almost 15 years. Not that that’s the same as being a celebrity at all, but you are exposed to film shoots and how crews work. And for the purposes of the book, it doesn’t go into incredible technical detail. So my knowledge was probably about the right amount of knowledge to include anyway.

And then I guess I just took a little bit more notice about different ways that the media was reporting on things that were happening in real time. I did look into a couple of the cases that have happened in the past where people were injured on film sets, and there was a suspicious element to that, which was really interesting.

So yeah. That wasn’t a huge amount of research that was required. It’s more that I was cautious about making sure that it didn’t get too silly. I remember when I first described the premise to my publisher, I said there’s a zombie movie that’s being shot in the city and the celebrity gets killed on set and that’s the case that she’s working on. And I remember thinking, oh my goodness, this just sounds so stupid and over the top and ridiculous. But she was like, “I love it. It sounds great, sounds really different. I trust that it’ll be fine.”

But I was quite conscious of making sure it never veered into silly celebrity and that it was quite genuine. Because it did sound a bit crazy.

Valerie

Sure!

Sarah

But I don’t think that ended up being a problem. I think because it was a serious death and it wasn’t silly in any way that it was fine. But I did have to keep myself in check a bit.

Valerie

And I have to say, it’s pretty real. Because I do believe that the last zombie movie that was filmed in Melbourne, was actually filmed at the Abbotsford Convent, which is where you first came into contact with the Australian Writers’ Centre, because you did the creative writing course there.

Sarah

This is true.

Valerie

In the Abbotsford Convent. There was definitely a zombie movie being filmed over quite a period of time.

Sarah

All full circle.

Valerie

That must seem like such a long time ago. But it wasn’t really that long ago when you did the creative writing course. When you did it there, at the Australian Writers’ Centre, did you ever think that you would be… Now, your second novel’s out, your third, you’ve just handed that in. Did you ever imagine that that was going to… Or what did you imagine was going to come out of it?

Sarah

I absolutely never imagined anything like this. It’s been a pretty crazy couple of years. I really hoped that I would finish a book that maybe someone would publish. That was really the extent of my fantasy/goal.

Because I just really wanted to write a book. And I have talked to people a lot about this in the last little while, and it’s such a strange thing to want. And you can’t quite describe why you want it or where this desire has come from. But it’s something that just doesn’t go away, I think, once it’s in your head.

Mine certainly got put on hold for quite a few years when I got busy with work and other bits and pieces. And then I just had this thought a few years ago that it was something that I really wanted to do. And if I really wanted to do it, the only way to get it done was to carve out some time in my life to get the words down.

So the course was a bit of a step for me to tell myself I was taking it seriously. And also to not be so arrogant as to think that I didn’t need a little bit of a nudge along and a refresher of basic writing skills and how to structure a book. So it was such a great permission-based opportunity for me to kind of go, yep, this is something that I can do, I just have to sit down and do it.

But it was definitely not something that I necessarily thought was going to lead to books multiple being published, for sure.

Valerie

So exciting. So how do you carve out the time? Are you writing around a day job currently? What’s your day look like? Or your week look like in terms of where you spend your time?

Sarah

So it’s changed a lot in this past six months. So up until January this year, I was working pretty much full time. And I got really good at snatching little moments of time here and there and actually turning those into chapters and books and things like that.

And then since February I’ve been working a lot less. So I’ve had a lot more time to write, but I haven’t actually necessarily found that easier, I have to admit. It’s taken me a little while, I think, to get into the rhythm of having more time and using it wisely. I mean, I’ve gotten a manuscript written, which was the only deadline I had to worry about. So it got done. But I definitely feel like the way it got done wasn’t as easy as it could have been based on the amount of extra time I suddenly had in my week.

But I think that’s just an adjustment. I think a lot of people have said to me that they struggle going from writing around fulltime work or family or whatever to suddenly having writing be their main focus. But it requires a different headspace. You have to focus for longer, and that can be quite challenging, especially for someone like me that is, I’m quite extroverted and I get quite easily distracted. And so pinning myself to a seat for a couple of hours is something I actually find quite hard.

So I have to give myself lots of little mini deadlines to work toward, because the one big one just doesn’t compute in my head really.

Valerie

And how do you the mini deadline? Do you give yourself a reward or something? Or it’s just, hey, I’m going to write 500 words by lunchtime?

Sarah

Yeah, it is wordcount based. I always think it’s really funny. It’s wordcount based up until I have too many words and then I’m trying to cut them. So it’s like this weird seesaw where I’m desperately trying to get all the words down and then I find myself tipping the other way where I’m trying to cut them all out.

But initially it is wordcount based. And I just try to have either a daily or a weekly word target. And I also do do a bit of a time-based challenge for myself in the day where I’ll sort of go, right, I’m going to write for the next 90 minutes. No Wi-Fi, no nothing. Especially if I’m at the library or something like that. And that’s just it. So it doesn’t matter if I run out of words or my phone rings or whatever. I’m just 90 minutes, I’m just writing.

And then I guess that the rewards can be – I mean, I don’t even really think about them as rewards – but it’s like, get a bit of a break, go for a little walk, have another coffee.

Valerie

Right.

Sarah

And then just trying to break up the day so that it’s really productive and purposeful. But it does depend on where I’m at in the writing, as well. So I find that quite easy when I’m doing the first crazy draft. But then when I’m editing, it can be much slower, and it’s really just about fixing whatever needs to be fixed. So it’s a bit murkier by that point.

Valerie

And so do you call yourself a fulltime writer now?

Sarah

No. I’m still working in advertising, but just in a much reduced capacity. So I would say I’m a most-time writer.

Valerie

But is that because so that you can focus on your writing? Is that the reason?

Sarah

Yeah. I guess once I knew that a third book was going to be required in this series, and then also I’m writing a standalone next year.

Valerie

Wow!

Sarah

Yeah. Which will be interesting. I had to speak to my work colleagues and come to a different arrangement with them because it was just clearly going to be quite hard to fit it all in. So I still work with them, but not as much.

Valerie

Right. When’s the third book coming out then?

Sarah

Well, I’m not 100% sure. But it probably will come out in late May, again, which is what the other two have been in terms of publication date. And then the standalone will be in 2020, all being well.

Valerie

And are you already writing the standalone?

Sarah

No, not in earnest. I actually had to pitch a synopsis for both the third Gemma book and this standalone, which I found really hard being someone that doesn’t plot particularly well. So that actually took me ages, doing those pitches. It was only 5000 words each, but I really found them quite challenging.

And I haven’t worked on it beyond that. So it’s in pitch form and it has three sample chapters and a bit of a character outline. But that’s as far as it’s gone so far.

Valerie

Did the publisher ask for a standalone? Or did you want to write a standalone? And is it crime?

Sarah

Yes, it’s definitely crime. My publisher definitely sees me as a crime writer. I guess that’s what they signed up for. And my agent, I had a couple of ideas that I talked to her about. And she liked this one and said get it into a format that I can take it to them and present. So I didn’t really know what that format was but I made one up and everyone seemed happy with it, so that was good.

And it was, even though I don’t like writing a synopsis in any way, it was good for me to strength test the idea as much as you can with that little sample. So I feel a bit nervous about it, because it’s quite different. And obviously it will have a whole new character and cast of people. So I’ll need to get my head into a different mind of a person. But I’m looking forward to it, because I think it’s a really fun idea.

Valerie

Very exciting.

Sarah

Yeah. Yep.

Valerie

So I just want to talk briefly about dialogue. Because I think that you do it really well, and the dialogue is really realistic. For me, it’s the little nuances. It’s the tiny little comments and observations that make it really real and really human. And I was wondering whether… You obviously have an ear for dialogue. But whether you do anything like note things down when you hear them?

And I’ll give you an example so that we’re not talking so vaguely. I was reading one of the scenes where one of the techy police guys in the tech department, and he says something like, “I’ll just be a tick.” And Gemma makes this internal monologue that says how she’s annoyed he elongated the word ‘tick’. And I thought to myself, oh my god! I totally can see that! And I’ve heard that too! And it really annoys me too!

Just those little things that make it so real. How do you note these things down? Or include them?

Sarah

Oh god, I don’t know. I actually feel like dialogue is the thing that I find quite tricky. I definitely think it’s the thing in my first draft that is the sloppiest. So I actually have found myself and doing almost a re-read purely to get the dialogue improved. Because I often find I do really repetitive things or I tag things really badly. And I just do all those basic mistakes that good writers would say is really bad. I’ve gotten much better at editing that part of my first draft, I think.

But I don’t know. I think an awful lot of those little nuanced pieces that ring true are just because in my mind, Gemma’s character and her mood and her reactions to people is so clear. So I guess I feel like I know if she’s annoyed, what would annoy her. Or if she’s happy, how she would express that. So a lot of it is character based, I think.

Although, in the second book, I must admit I really enjoyed writing the character of Nick Fleet who is her new detective partner. And I sort of found him… I mean, I don’t really know anyone like him, but he was so real in my head and I found a lot of his dialogue really fun to write, and their banter, and their interactions really good.

Valerie

Oh, one of his lines is my favourite in the whole book.

Sarah

That’s good!

I don’t know. I’m probably over thinking this now that you’ve asked me. I do tend to try to picture these people talking to each other. But when I say that, it’s definitely not something that I’m doing on the first draft. It’s really once the story is down and I’ve got a feel for them and I go back and I’m working through it and I’m fixing up all these little bits and pieces.

I will often think, I guess, picture myself being there witnessing these people bantering back and forth. And once you’re doing that, you can kind of add in those little things that perhaps you wouldn’t necessarily think up the first time round. Which I do think makes it feel more realistic.

Valerie

But you must be obviously very observant to even… Because they wouldn’t be in your head in the first place. Like, the way you pronounce ‘tick’ wrong.

Sarah

Yeah. I think so. I like watching people. I just think people are so interesting. I find people I don’t know interesting, I find people I do know interesting. I think it’s so interesting that people that you think you know really well can be really surprising.

I just think it’s endlessly fascinating the way that we interact with each other. And I’m not writing books that are particularly deep and literary in lots of ways, but I still think that even in a crime book procedural, you can really explore those relationships in such an observational way, and you can bring a lot of little bits and pieces of someone’s personality to life just by the way that they talk or react to something. And I really enjoy that part of writing. So it’s something that I find really… I look forward to that part of it every day when I sit down to do some writing.

Valerie

And finally, what is the most rewarding thing about your career as a writer right now?

Sarah

I guess being able to keep doing it, really. I would have been so happy to have one book published. And of course now I want more. So it is this weird accumulation dream goal. But I feel very fortunate that I guess I created a character that people, or the publisher especially, wanted more from. I think that’s really, I feel really privileged to be able to continue a character on in that way.

And it’s just… I mean, I’m still surprised when people say, oh, I’ve just finished your book! Or, I’ve read that book, or someone I know is reading that book.

And I know it to be true but it’s still such a rush to have that said to me. So if that can keep happening for however long, I would be very, very happy with that.

Valerie

I’m sure it’s going to be for quite a long time. So congratulations again on this second novel.

Sarah

Thank you.

Valerie

And we just can’t wait for the third one. So thank you so much for your time today.

Sarah

Thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure. Thanks heaps, Valerie.


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