How the word “nemesis” inspired a debut novel

If you’re a fan of rom-coms, then have we got the interview for you. Today we’re chatting with Sally Thorne – debut author of new book, The Hating Game. So we’re going to stop talking and let her tell us all about it.

Hi Sally. So, how about a quick synopsis of the book?
“Firstly, thank you for having me, I have followed Australian Writers’ Centre for a long time on Twitter and admire what you do a great deal.”

Nawwww. We like you already. So, the book?
“The Hating Game is a classic girl-hates-boy romantic comedy. If there’s one thing you need to know about Lucy Hutton it’s this: She hates Joshua Templeman. They sit opposite each other in a silent office on the top floor of a publishing house and spend their days playing juvenile games to provoke each other. The Mirror Game, the HR Game, the Staring Game, and always the Hating Game. When a big promotion is announced and our two competitors face off in the ultimate battle royale, Lucy starts to wonder if she actually does hate Joshua, and does he hate her? Or is he just twisting her up in the newest, strangest, sexiest game they’ve ever played?”

Nice. So throw some emotions at us. What damage are we looking at here?
“The Hating Game is fluffy, funny, sexy and will leave you with a lighter heart. It’s also got moments of sadness, loneliness and vulnerability, and a generous dose of shadowed motivations, but no hearts will be harmed in the process of reading of The Hating Game. I hope it remains a favourite on the shelf that readers will reach for, to revisit a scene – perhaps the disastrous office paintball team activity – when they need a little pick-me-up.”

So how did the idea for this book form?
“The Hating Game was a present for a friend’s birthday. I said I needed a prompt word to inspire me. I was probably just hoping to write a nice long drabble or flash fiction piece. The prompt word she gave me was ‘nemesis’ and for some reason it just lit my brain up like a lightning strike. I could see a man and a woman in a silent office, opposite each other, staring, a sense of tension and animosity between them. I started writing in my spare moments and couldn’t stop until the end, around six weeks later, maybe even less.”

Wow, what a cool story! Wonder what kind of book you would have written if she’d given you “cabbage” instead of “nemesis”. And by the way, six weeks is pretty quick for your first manuscript.
“It was my first manuscript that I got all the way to the end – everything else I ever started just fizzled out and are in the elephant graveyard on my computer marked ‘archive’.”

So let’s talk routines. Do you have one? When you are writing, what's your typical day like?
“I have been trying to get myself into a routine for 12 months now to no avail. I can’t write during the day. I wish I could, but I look at the screen and have a totally blank mind. It’s only when night falls and the distractions of the world fall away that I am able to start work. I work very, very late into the night, sometimes so late that when I wake up the next morning with a writing hangover I actually can’t remember what I’ve written. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise to reread it… other times, not so much!

“I wrote The Hating Game whenever I felt like it, which has made the adjustment to having deadlines for book two quite challenging. Inspiration can’t be turned on and off like a tap, unfortunately. I can just keep trying!”

So that brings us to asking what you’re working on next. Book two it seems?
“I’m working on rewrites for my second book – my contract is for a two-book deal. It will be available in 2017.”

Impressive effort – a two-book deal straight out of the gate! So, what’s happening in the next book?
“In my next book, we meet Emma Carson. She’s an author, and she firmly believes that drama belongs in books. It’s why she’s been building a tranquil new life in London, away from her wealthy, distant father and her stunning D-list celebrity half-sister, Claudia.

“If Emma can just finish her manuscript, decide on London or New York, and repair her relationship with Claudia, she can end this chapter nice and neatly. But real life can’t be edited, deleted or skipped over…”

“If Emma can finish her manuscript” huh? Sounds like there may be some of Sally in there too! So, finally, what's your advice for aspiring writers who hope to be in a position like you are in one day?
“Write the book you want to read. Don’t think about what other people’s reactions to it will be. Don’t try to chase trends or mimic popular style. Just write your dream book. Be as funny or creative or silly as you want – if it’s genuine and in your voice, people will respond to it.

“Also, I really think my key to success was getting an agent. Without her, my book would almost certainly still be in my computer. Agents have connections with so many editors, know what kind of books they’re looking for and can get your manuscript read. I had my two-book deal within a week of it going out to market, and that’s down to my agent.”

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