I sent an unsolicited manuscript – and got published!

To get published these days you don't just need an amazing book — you often also need an amazing and hardworking agent to go along with it.

But when Therese Creed wrote her first novel, Redstone Station, she submitted it to the first big publisher that would take her unsolicited manuscript. To her surprise, she received a formal offer on the book not long after.

Charlotte's Creek is her second novel released by Allen & Unwin, and we sat down with Therese to chat about her love of writing and outback adventures.

When did you become interested in writing?

I have always loved reading and loved creative writing at school. I decided in primary school that I was going to be a writer, but then gave up on the idea when advised by many wise people that I needed to choose a ‘real job.’ I never gave it another thought until I decided to write Redstone Station in 2011.

When I first came to the bush and discovered that farmers were not in fact the ‘environmental vandals’ that I'd always believed, I felt quite passionate about sharing my discovery with other city folk. Once I had married a grazier and become involved in running our beef breeding business, I also became aware of the issues and injustices affecting farmers as a result of legislation dreamed up by urban, office-dwelling bureaucrats. I started to write regular opinion pieces for the Rural Weekly (a Central Queensland paper) and the Queensland Country Life. The feedback I received from grateful farmers was overwhelming, they felt that I was voicing their concerns in a way that they themselves lacked the skills to be able to do.

I was still unsatisfied though, as these publications were only preaching to the converted, and no city papers showed any interest in printing them. I dearly wished to shatter some of the misconceptions that urban people have about primary producers, so I hatched the cunning plan of writing a novel, a rural romance that accurately portrayed contemporary life on the land, the resilience and ingenuity of bush people, and also touched on some of the challenges we face. I felt that this would be the perfect way to reach a wider audience.

It was still a wild dream when I started to write Redstone Station, but the book seemed to take on a life of its own, as did the characters, and they drove me relentlessly, turning something that was just a whim into a serious project that I worked on whenever I had a spare moment.

You're a city girl. What attracted you to the country? Has it been a culture shock?

From as early as I can remember, I dreamed of living in the country. I grew up in Sydney but was never a city girl. My love of horses, and dream to own one, ultimately led me to the Bicentennial National Trail, which I rode in 2003/2004 with my two newly acquired horses. I was on my own with them in the bush and we were all very green, so we fumbled along together.

I certainly had a steep learning curve in terms of bush skills and horse handling and, as I rode further north, cattle work that I took on wherever I could. While it was all very new, I wouldn't say it was a culture shock. It would be more accurate to say that at last I felt I'd found what I was looking for and the setting in which I belonged.

Farm lit (or Rural Lit) has become hugely popular recently. Why do you think this genre is such a hit?

I think that many Australians are trying to rediscover an Australian identity. So many examples of what Australians defined themselves by in the past; poetry, literature, movies and iconic Aussie characters, have dwindled. These have been replaced by American popular culture, a fascination with Hollywood celebrities and sporting stars from abroad. Also, until recently, most urban Australians still had ties with the bush, relatives or friends on farms. This is no longer the case and many people’s experience of the bush is vicarious only, and farm lit provides an avenue.

Bush people and culture still very much retain the old essence of the Aussie battler, the honest and fair-dinkum, the tough and resilient, for which Australians have been famed in the past. I think the fascination with the farm lit genre is possibly people’s search for something uniquely Australian that they can connect with. In the same way, this need may be the reason behind the continuing strength of ANZAC Day, and the enthusiastic remembrance of the Aussie heroes of past wars by young and old alike.

Take us through your writing process for Charlotte's Creek.

As I described earlier, my first novel was a whim, and I followed no formal process whatsoever. When people ask me how to write a book, I always tell them to ask a real author who does it properly. My process is very haphazard, random chapters grow out of what happens here on the farm. I don't have a proper synopsis, I don't write the chapters in chronological order, I just develop characters in my mind, get to know them like close friends, then they possess me and drive the story along. I usually don't even know what is going to happen next!

How about Redstone Station?

I became so obsessed with Redstone Station while I was writing it that it only took me five months. The story was constantly ticking over in my mind while I performed all the regular more mundane daily tasks of caring for small children, helping with cattle work and feeding of animals. The characters talked to me incessantly to the point where I would have to tell them to be quiet and leave me alone. This meant that when I finally had some time at the computer (after kids and husband went to bed) the story would just stream out rapidly, in spite of my two fingered typing!

When I finished the book, I had no idea how to go about getting it published. I simply googled the larger publishers that I knew off the top of my head, only to find that manuscripts usually need to be ‘solicited’ ie, represented by an agent. But then I found ‘Friday Pitch’ on Allen & Unwin’s website, an initiative that allows would-be authors the chance to send in a chapter of an unsolicited manuscript for scrutiny. So this is what I did, and incredibly, this led to the publication of Redstone Station. I was so flabbergasted by the initial acceptance letter that I asked my brother (a barrister) to check it all out for me in case it was a hoax.

Tell us about your writing routine.

Routines don't work with small children and farms. Animals, children and weather are all unpredictable! I have four sons under seven, and another baby due in a few days. I teach the oldest two distance education which is very time and energy consuming.  I usually just try to grab any opportunity to write, usually at night and occasionally when my husband Cedric can take the boys ‘working’ with him for part of a day. The stories and characters are always evolving in my mind, so there is usually always something ready to pour out on the page even if I only have a few minutes.

Can you tell us a little about what you're working on now?

I am currently working on my third novel and attempting to create a main character who is not quite so angelic as the leading ladies from Redstone Station and Charlotte’s Creek. She is damaged from an unhappy childhood, and her move from city to country, and the strength of the characters she encounters, help her to discover her own worth. The main man is a very unusual fellow, also a result of an odd upbringing, and as two misfits they find comfort in each other.

This story is still in the early stages on paper, but progressing nicely inside my head. The challenge is to finding the time to physically type it up!

You can find out more about Therese's books here, or purchase Charlotte's Creek from Booktopia here.

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