Australian Writers' Centre graduate Louise Bassett has released her stellar debut young adult novel, The Hidden Girl, published by Walker Books. The novel is a gripping page-turner, set in Melbourne and Indonesia, in which teenage Melati races against the clock to save a girl she’s never met.
“The Hidden Girl is my first novel and I wrote it on and off for years, in between other writing projects and around my day job. It was shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize (Hardie Grant) and I received some incredibly helpful feedback from publishers along the way. Several drafts later, an agent took me on and I felt unbelievably lucky when I signed a publishing contract with Walker Books,” Louise says.
The book deal
“After signing the publishing contract my feet didn’t touch the ground for about two weeks. There have been a lot of highs from getting an offer, seeing the amazing cover, holding my book for the first time and getting my first review. My book launch felt amazing; it’s so lovely to have people you know come together to support you and celebrate your book.
“Along with the excitement it’s also been quite nerve-wracking at times. As it’s new territory for me I’ve sometimes felt very green and unsure about what I should expect. An author friend told me I’d have to be a sociopath not to experience that mix of emotions, so that’s reassuring! The best advice I’ve had is to remember to enjoy it – you only get one debut.”
Louise completed the course Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder. “The course caught my attention as it perfectly met my needs. I liked the friendly, supportive and easy-going tone of the Australian Writers' Centre's courses too and had always enjoyed blog posts and articles from the centre,” says Louise, who is now writing her second novel.
“The course was extremely helpful with my current novel-in-progress as it gave me a lot of pointers for writing about murder. In particular, it made me more rigorous about research and thinking deeply about the extent to which the murderer pre-meditated his crimes.
“It’s a really accessible course and deeply interesting and engaging, especially with the mix of sources: hearing from Candice Fox, looking at case studies from real life and reading examples from fiction. It also covered the legal, forensic, psychological and medical aspects of murder, which I found really useful and thought-provoking. At the end of the course I felt better equipped to write about murder.
“Instead of thinking I didn’t know enough and throwing roadblocks in my way, after taking the course I had the confidence to keep going with my writing project. It deepened my thinking and grounded me in some essentials for writing about murder.”
Living the writing life
Louise balances her writing with her part time job with a community justice centre, writing on her day off and in her spare time.
“I dreamt about being a writer but at times feared it would never happen. When I felt like that I always tried to remember what I love about writing: bringing a story to life from nothing.”
With the release of The Hidden Girl, Louise has also been enjoying getting into the publicity side of publishing.
“I’m now juggling writing with promoting my novel. I’ll be taking a break from my day job to focus on writing and travelling, starting with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. I’m rapt to be appearing on a YA Fiction panel there. The Hidden Girl is set in Indonesia and Australia so it’s really special to be taking it to Bali.”
As to her experience with the Australian Writers' Centre, Louise has some simple advice.
“AWC’s courses are accessible, fascinating, fun and a great resource. Do it!”