Welcome Anthea to my blog. Anthea is a Western Australian writer who has just had her debut novel, The Drifter, published by Penguin Random House Australia. Anthea’s book is a most enjoyable read; it is an authentic, original story that gives voice to many contemporary issues in a complex yet enjoyable read… Themes of fractured families, death and atonement and survivor guilt are explored skilfully in this heart-warming coming-of-age drama.
Anthea has had what may seem a magical passage to publication. A woman in a hurry, she wrote her first novel The Drifter in five weeks, and pitched it to Penguin Random House in five minutes. She was then signed to a two book deal. WOW!!! I can hear the gasps of appreciation (we all know how hard it is to score a publishing deal) and to have written this book in just five weeks? Amazing! I invite Anthea to tell us about her writing journey.
Anthea have you always yearned to be a writer?
Absolutely! I have always loved books and writing, but I learned early on that it was an impractical passion on which to base a career, so I shoved the urge deep down inside me and left it to fester in a nice way, while I worked in radio, organising and writing interviews. It was a fascinating job (with access to free books – yay!) but once I had children I found it hard to fit radio shifts in with my two small kids and a husband who worked away much of the time, so I felt as if it was time to finally give it a bash.
When did you first start writing?
As an adult, I started just before I wrote The Drifter. I haven’t ever studied writing because I hated the thought of anyone reading my work, and I think I’d be too confused by input from a writing group or formal course. I think I last wrote in year ten at school, although I had a kind of journal in my early twenties. The Drifter was the first time I sat down and plotted out a manuscript, although I did have a false start a year before with a manuscript that never really resolved itself. I think Drifter worked for me because I wrote it down scene by scene on little yellow cards and literally worked from the top of the pile to the bottom, in order.
What inspired The Drifter?
The Drifter was inspired initially by my love of the country and my home-town. I knew I wanted to write a rural romance, so the idea of a drifter coming to town seemed a good way to do it, because it allowed the protagonist and therefore the reader to discover how the community and the farm worked at the same time. Just before I wrote it my father died of Alzheimers disease in a nursing home in Perth after a long and horrible illness. There are a couple of themes that came from that time – the idea of what makes a good death, and a good life, and the idea that you never really lose the people you love – because you can take them with you. Dad’s death showed me that, and I take him with me everyday.
Five weeks to write a complete novel- seems like an incredible feat, how did you achieve this?
My number one rule for writing the Drifter – get out of bed! Writing the Drifter was a mad, joyful dash for me – I had always wanted to write, I had found my plot and my themes, and I couldn’t write it fast enough. The Drifter was a wonderful experience. It was the coming together of my love of the country, of writing, of the people I grew up with, of laughter, and of my dear dad. The Drifter came galloping out of me at three o’clock every morning, surrounded by the wonderful warm and quirky women of Yealering, the beautiful countryside, and the strength of their relationships and love. The romance between Cate and Henry was so much fun to write, but I think I wrote the manuscript quickly, thousands of words a day, because I already knew the characters so well and because I had something to say, about friendship and about death. My farm is described in the book, our old dog, the place we buried him, members of my family, friends – everyone got stuffed into the Drifter’s pages.
Getting the attention of a publisher – how did this happen?
This was the hard part, and I think it is probably difficult for most writers. For two years I sent Drifter out into the void, with no response whatsoever. I sent it to all of the major publishers and never heard back, I entered it in a competition two years in a row, where it only had to be in the top 15 entries of 28 to get to the next round – it wasn’t. It sat in slush piles and it was rejected by agents. And so it would have gone on, unless the wonderful Romance Writers of Australia hadn’t come to my aid. They have a yearly conference with a valuable offer – the chance to pitch to a number of agents and publishers for five minutes! The year I pitched the conference was in Melbourne. I flew to Melbourne and stayed a few days. I was too freaked out to actually attend the event – I pretty much wandered about the city chanting my pitch to myself like a mad woman. And somehow it worked – I lined up outside a door, someone rang a little bell and I sat down in front of Ali Watts from Penguin and said, Hello, my name is Anthea Hodgson – and I’ve written a rural romance about death. This one small act of bravery resulted in a two-book deal with my dream publisher – I was so lucky Ali took a chance on me, with no training or track record, and with no online presence. It was both exhilarating an extremely humbling to be handed my dream. I never mind the early starts – they are a privilege!
Tell us a little bit about your next book and when we can expect to see it.
Well! Funnily enough I’m just finishing it off now. Penguin was silly/generous enough to offer me a couple of extra weeks, so I’m obsessing and tinkering about at 3am again, getting it ready to deliver. It will be out around August of 2017. This novel might be called The Cowgirl, or perhaps The Firebird, I’m not sure, but it follows the story of Deirdre, the wonderful old battle-axe who stole so many scenes in The Drifter. It is her story – how she came to be such a tough old nut, and is also the story of her granddaughter Teddy, who is trapped on the farm, milking the cow – just as her grandmother has always done. Or is she? What lies buried next to the old pepper trees – and could it change her life?
Where can readers connect with you?
I am hoping to do some library talks around Perth and some country areas early in the new year – check out my website and I’ll keep you posted!
My facebook is Anthea Hodgson Australian Author
Website is Antheahodgson.com
As you can see – I like to keep it simple..!
Thanks you for sharing so generously with my readers and congratulations on writing a fantastic book!
Thanks so much! I’m so happy you enjoyed The Drifter – as you can tell – it’s very close to my heart!