The Next Big Thing – I answer ten questions

The Next Big Thing is a blog chain where writers answer ten questions about their writing, then tag other writers to do the same. I was tagged by Inga Simpson, the author of Mr Wigg, due to be released this year by Hachette.


1. What is the title of your current book?

Gap – might also be worth mentioning it is a verse novel.


2. Where did the idea come from?

The idea for this novel came about in a strange kind of way. I was watching TV and the movie Wolverine came on, I was about to turn it off but the opening scene caught my attention. I don’t want to give a play by play of the scene but basically Hugh Jackman’s character was fleeing his house after killing the groundskeeper and he told his younger half-brother he had to go with him. Jackman’s character uttered something dramatic along the lines of ‘we’re brothers we have to stick together.’ Somehow that was the catalyst for my thinking about writing Gap. What it made me think about was siblings and the lengths you go to, to protect them. I thought maybe I will write something about two brothers who need to face something together. But when I started to visualise the story, the characters came to me as sisters, so I ran with the idea that the older sister had done something horrible but ultimately, she did it to protect her younger sister out of desperation because she didn’t wan’t to lose this life that she had started building.

The inspiration for Sawyer’s character partly stemmed from me just doing what I do which is catching public transport far too often and coming across this woman who works for Translink who I was kind of secretly intrigued by. She was one of those officers who gets on buses and trains and checks your tickets so that kind of helped since she’s already got the right side of the law thing happening. For a while I seemed to keep coming across her and there was something really dark and intense about her that I felt could help build a character like Sawyer who is that person in Gap.

I introduced Sawyer’s character for a few reasons, I wanted more tension and Sawyer does that in a few ways. As someone from Ana’s past, Sawyer provides this constant point of conflict in the novel as Ana does find her way back to her again. This then provides the moral and ethical dilemma of Ana having done this terrible thing and somehow she has to deal with that, and her feelings for Sawyer that have resurfaced. Sawyer being the local detective put on to investigate Ana’s case, well that doesn’t make things easy either.


3. What genre does your book fall under?

Literary crime would fit.


4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ana would be played by Olivia Wilde circa (2004-5) as Alex Kelly in Season 2 of The O.C. but in reality, Ana would be slightly less attractive and not as intense. Sawyer would be played by Jolene Anderson from Rush because she has the whole dark moody broody thing that Sawyer’s got going on. Indie would be played by Ellen Page from Juno because she still has that young, innocent look about her.

Olivia WildeJolene Anderson


5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Gap explores life in the aftermath of Ana’s crime and her subsequent psychological trauma, and cover up from suspicious local detective Sawyer who she shares a romantic history with.

One sentence really isn’t enough so I think I fail the elevator pitch.


6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Once I’ve finished the manuscript I will be looking for a publisher and am completely open to suggestions.


7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Still writing! I have been working on it for approximately one and a half years which feels like a really long time but if I were honest I haven’t exactly spent that whole time working on it. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. I think I may have the ‘scared to finish first novel syndrome’ is that a thing? If it’s not it should be, because I can vouch for that, and say it’s completely real, and of course totally unfounded but aren’t most fears?


8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The most obvious comparison would be The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter which is an incredible piece of work on so many levels and really I could only compare on a slightly similar subject matter and style, as for quality, that remains to be seen.


9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A few months before I started working on Gap I had discovered Dorothy Porter’s incredible verse novel The Monkey’s Mask which just blew my mind in terms of what you can do with words on a page. It was an absolute revelation, and weeks after I was still quoting gems from the book to anyone who’d listen. I delved deeper into Porter’s other works after and was similarly amazed and inspired.

In a way I think my relationship with my younger siblings also inspired some of this book. Being so close to them and also having such a large gap between our ages really helped me make the connection between Ana and Indie seem authentic. Because of that age gap I feel very protective of them and that’s what I hoped to portray between Indie and Ana, was this sense that everything Ana does, she does to protect Indie and to give her a better life. But the novel isn’t autobiographical! Just to put that out there.

Also the setting played a big part. If you’ve ever been around Park Rd railway and that part of Woolloongabba it has this mood about it which I can’t really describe. I used to live in the area and maybe it’s a little nostalgia but something about that setting was so inspiring, it has that industrial, really grungy 90s feel to it. A lot of my writing feeds off setting and helps me set the tone and mood of a story, which was definitely the case with Gap.


10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a lesbian detective novel!! No just kidding, well sort of. It’s a subversion of the traditional model of those stories where the reader follows the detective’s journey. In Gap we are following the ‘villain’s’ journey, if you could call her that. Also, there are so many more layers of story weaved throughout the novel that the crime doesn’t take centre focus and for me that was and still is an important aspect. Most of my writing is very character focused and the character is the way into the story, not necessarily the action that’s taking place. I’m not sure if that will pique any reader’s interest except my own though.

I feel like I’ve just exposed all the secrets of my novel and now no one will ever want to read it because they know too much. If that’s not the case you can read part one here


And now to introduce two fantastic emerging writers Sian Campbell and Kathy George who will be posting their answers to the next big thing on their blogs next week.

Sian Campbell is a freelance writer, literature student at The University of Melbourne and co-creator of online lit journal Scum Mag. She divides her time between her two home-cities Brisbane and Melbourne. The working title of her current novel is ‘How to Fry Shiitake’.

Kathy George holds a degree in creative writing from QUT and won the undergraduate writing prize in 2011. She has been a recipient of the Hal Porter Short Story Award, and had short fiction published in Rex and Stilts. She has recently completed a gothic novel called Sargasso.

Published by becjessen

Rebecca Jessen lives in Brisbane. She is the award-winning author of verse-novel Gap (UQP 2014). Rebecca is the winner of the 2015 QLD Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. Her book Gap was shortlisted for the 2015 Sisters In Crime Davitt Award for Best Debut Book. In 2013 Rebecca won the Queensland Literary Award for Best Emerging Author. In 2012 she won the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award. Rebecca’s writing has been published in Overland, Meanjin, Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, Cordite Poetry Review, Mascara Literary Review, Tincture Journal, Verity La, Voiceworks and more. Rebecca is currently studying her Honours in Creative Writing at QUT.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: