The inaugural Friday Night In was a runaway success, with thousands of people joining couchers Fiona Higgins and Kylie Ladd as they discussed Sanctuary by Judy Nunn and Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder. Every month they will be joined by a mystery author, and this month’s was Meredith Jaffe. She spoke about her latest book the Making of Christina, an electrifying thriller rich with secrets and mystery.
We ran out of time before we could satisfy our curiosity, so here are the questions we didn’t get to ask Meredith:
Like many first novels, there was a steep learning curve in writing Christina. For starters, it covers a long timeframe, spanning seventeen years. The right structure eluded me until I happened to read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld and had an ‘aha’ moment. Once I sorted out the structure, the novel came together quite easily. Creatively, the easiest bits to write were the scenes set in the present at Rosa’s house in Tasmania in the lead up to Christmas and the scenes involving the despicable Bartholomew Rivers and his home Bartholomews Run. The scenes involving Christina were really difficult. There were times I plain did not like her! Living with her in my head for almost ten years was emotionally challenging.
Did anyone in your community get antsy when The Fence was published in 2016? Has anyone you know ever recognized themselves in either of your novels?
Obviously I made up the scenes in The Fence but one of the things I enjoy about writing fiction is to create characters and settings that seem incredibly familiar to the reader. However, it still surprises me how many people tell me this exact thing has happened to them! And sometimes even worse things. What I love about Gwen and Francesca is how they exemplify the way in which our methods of dealing with extreme emotion often brings out the worst side of our personality and skews us towards unreasonable behaviour. I have had plenty of people who tell me they have a neighbour just like Gwen or a daughter just like Francesca but no one has ever claimed to recognise themselves. Is that a surprise though? Given how badly both women behave, I don’t know that I’d own up to it either!
You’re a big giver in the writing community: you participate in many festivals and write across many domains. How do you balance that community contribution against carving out time to write?
Strange as it may sound, by being completely selfish. I jealously guard my writing time. When I am drafting a novel, I start very early, usually 4 or 5am, and get a tranche done then before getting the kids out the door and the animals fed (we’re on a farm). Then it’s back to work until the kids get home. That precious quiet spurs me on. Plus I run my writing schedule on spreadsheets which pushes me to reach the daily word count even when I don’t feel like it. (I know, too sad.) However, when I am editing, I am much more relaxed. While I admit that I am super organised and disciplined, I am also ruthless with time wasting. I don’t watch TV at all and try and limit my social media to the bare essentials. Having said that, I do have an addiction to online Scrabble.
My two younger kids are keen writers and are actually pretty good. Although Master Nine has a lot of KABOOMS and AAAHHHs happening in his that tend to take up the entire page. Go for it! I say. They both read masses of books and quite eclectically. Miss Eleven has just finished The Book Thief and Master Nine is reading Convergence. As to my books, they have both read The Fence but are not allowed to read Christina because of the content. Like a lot of writers, I have always wanted to write a book for my children and I have just handed in a manuscript for a series with the working title The Horse Warrior. They were my first readers and devoured it. I’m hoping that means I’m the next J.K. Rowling (Ha! Wouldn’t that be great J Then again, series also bring their downsides, so maybe only great-ish.)
Are there any necessary things you require to get yourself into writing mode? (Coffee, vodka, Tim Tams?)
Tea, and plenty of it! The odd large flat white. And, given I start work so damn early, I always switch my mind on with a few deft Scrabble moves. If there are Tim Tams in the house, I have no self control, so I only buy them when they are on special.
What’s next for you in your writing journey?
I have just handed my next adult novel to my agent. Hopefully, my publisher will love it and sign it up. And, as I said, I have started a children’s series. Book One will be published in October 2018. I am about to start researching the next adult novel, which I am setting in our heritage house so I have an excuse to delve into its history and the local history of our little town.
But I still plan to get involved in the broader writing community as much as I can. I love interacting with other writers and festivals are special because I get to meet readers.