Are you a risk-taker? I didn’t think I was until I thought about it.
I was twenty-one when the boy I was in love with sat me down to tell me he’d been offered a job in another country. He was in his final year of an electrical engineering degree and was going to relocate after graduation he said, and— Can I come with you? I interrupted. He was struck dumb. And I’ll never know whether he was going to ask me, anyway. We have been married a very long time, and when I ask him now he says, Well, duh, of course I was, but I don’t know if he’s sheltering me from the truth.
We have taken other risks together. We got married, obviously. We migrated to Australia. We had children. Don’t laugh. Of course that’s a risk. We lived in New Zealand briefly. I have jumped out of a perfectly good plane. And so on …
I had never taken any risks with my writing. And by that I mean I had never tried writing any differently to what is the accepted normal style. Using point of view, paragraph indentations, speech tags, quotation marks, etc, in the traditional manner. Until recently … Until 2017 to be exact when I read a book called Reservoir 13. And that is just one example, there are many more out there. There are no quotation marks, very few paragraph indentations, and the characters’ points of view flow one to another and no one character dominates the narrative. I love this book, unreservedly. For one it is astonishingly beautiful. For another, I love the way the story flows between nature and the characters and back again. Nothing is predictable.
This book did something to me. I started wondering if I could write like this.
I started small. I wrote a short story that has no quotation marks and very few paragraph indentations. In 2017, the bodies of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, missing since WWII, were discovered buried under snow in the Swiss Alps by a ski-lift attendant. I built on this fact, imagining what happened to their seven children, what transpired in the years that passed. Snow Falls in the Winter remains unpublished. To be honest, I have struggled to find a home for it. One editor referred to it as ambitious.
Undeterred (yes, I am incredibly stubborn), I began a novel in the same style and to cut a long story short, the manuscript went out to several publishers this year. When your manuscript goes out to publishers you spend a lot of time biting your fingernails and suffering severe bouts of angst. This was no different. A number of them rejected it—mostly they didn’t like the style—but my agent (Sally Bird of Calidris Literary Agency) kept telling me that all we needed was one publisher to like it. One.
Happily, this has now happened. One publisher likes it. Loves it, actually. And I couldn’t be happier.
And now you want to know whether I am going to stop taking risks, aren’t you?
Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that …
Kathy George is a Brisbane-based writer. She has a Master of Fine Arts (Research) from the Queensland University of Technology, and has been published in numerous Australian literary journals, including four times in Margaret River Press short story anthologies. Her Gothic novel Sargasso was shortlisted for the 2020 ASA/Harlequin Commercial Fiction Prize and will be published by Harlequin in 2021.