Never Alone: Writing advice from Kirsten Alexander, author of Half Moon Lake

Never Alone: Writing advice from Kirsten Alexander, author of Half Moon Lake

About the author:

Kirsten Alexander is the author of two novels, Half Moon Lake (Penguin Random House, 2019) and Everything You Want (PRH, 2020). She is writing her third novel.

Purchase a copy of Half Moon Lake here 

Read our full review of Half Moon Lake here 

By the time you read this, I’ll have published one book. That’s not enough of a track record to offer writing advice. But if it happens there are aspiring writers reading this, may I share one thing I hope might help when the going gets tough? It’s not advice; it’s an admission of delusion.

You already know that writing a novel takes a long time. The story can fall into a messy heap without warning. What you thought was a good day’s work can, on rereading, make you cringe. But if you can push through and get the right words on the page or into your head, you might bring a person to life. Maybe lots of people. It’s not the same as birthing an actual person – I promise. The characters you summon will become fully formed as fast as your mind lets them. You’ll see how they stand, the colour of their hair, know in a snap what annoys or interests them. They’ll speak to you in a voice that’s not yours but is a mix of some part of you, your cousin, that boy you never saw again, the woman you overheard on the street. You’ll feel it when the right combination of mannerisms, voice and attitude fill what may have started as a vague outline or shell. You’ll have called up a person. And that can feel more satisfying than any other aspect of writing.

I write at night. Everyone else in my house is asleep. Sometimes my dog will pad out from the bedroom, yawning, and flop on the floor beside me. But when I sat at my desk to write Half Moon Lake I regularly felt the hovering presence of people I’d invented. Which was strange, but not unpleasant. We’d have silent conversations about whether they would or would not do a certain thing. ‘But why not?’ I’d ask. ‘It was a different time,’ Grace would reply. ‘Because I’m not you,’ Mary would say. ‘What if you just try it?’ I’d ask. They’d roll their eyes, resist actions that made no sense, speak nonsense on the page until I deleted it. Which was annoying, but that can be the way with collaborations. I’d nod, stare at my screen, and try to write something that worked better for all of us.

This is delusional. You’re alone when you write, of course. Physically. But writing can, if you’re lucky, bring characters forth who feel so three-dimensional it’s as if you’re standing beside them. They can make the most solo, introspective task less lonely. You won’t always like them or their choices. But when you’re finished writing your story and delivered these imagined but real people into the hands of readers, you’ll miss them.

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                      Synopsis

                      Inspired by a real case, Half Moon Lake is a captivating historical novel set in America's Deep South about a lost boy - and the two mothers who both seek to claim him.'They said he was their boy. And so he was . . .'In 1913, on a summer’s day at Half Moon Lake, Louisiana, four-year-old Sonny Davenport walks into the woods and never returns.The boy’s mysterious disappearance from the family’s lake house makes front-page news in their home town of Opelousas. John Henry and Mary Davenport are wealthy and influential, and will do anything to find their son. For two years, the Davenports search across the South, offer increasingly large rewards and struggle not to give in to despair.Then, at the moment when all hope seems lost, the boy is found in the company of a tramp.But is he truly Sonny Davenport? The circumstances of his discovery raise more questions than answers. And when Grace Mill, an unwed farm worker, travels from Alabama to lay claim to the child, newspapers, townsfolk, even the Davenports’ own friends, take sides.As the tramp’s kidnapping trial begins, and two desperate mothers fight for ownership of the boy, the people of Opelousas discover that truth is more complicated than they’d ever dreamed . . .Half Moon Lake is Kirsten Alexander’s compelling debut novel, about the parent-child bond, identity, and what it means to be part of a family.
                      Kirsten Alexander
                      About the author

                      Kirsten Alexander

                      Kirsten Alexander was born in San Francisco, raised in Brisbane, and now lives in Melbourne with her partner and two sons. Half Moon Lake is her first published novel.

                      Books by Kirsten Alexander

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