About the Book
exes, high-pressure careers and two wildly different families, and the degree
of difficulty goes up a few more notches. Determined to beat the odds, one
couple comes up with a plan to keep their romance alive – but life has other
trendy cafe to keep her fledgling company afloat. Andrew is a corporate lawyer
who wants to be known for more than his family’s money. They’re passionate
about their work and each other, but with Andy’s job in jeopardy and Saskia’s
jewellery label taking off, the pressure is taking its toll.
to decide: Just how important is their marriage? And how hard are they willing
to work to protect it?
chick lit at its very, very best’ Tess Woods, author of
about love, creativity and the things that make us tick. Genevieve Gannon
writes with passion and wit in a story you’ll relate to whether you’ve
struggled through love, art or the wrath of public transport ticket
inspectors.’ Claire Varley, author of
journalist and author. She has worked in newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and
Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Guardian
and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Most recently she covered crime in
Melbourne for Australian Associated Press before moving to Sydney to be a
feature writer for The Australian Women’s Weekly.
About Kevin, Middlesex, Atonement, Prep and One Day. She likes Terry’s
Chocolate Oranges and wasabi (not together) and hates mangoes.
published in 2014. The First Year is her third novel.
is your new novel about?
couple who got married way too fast. Andy Colbrook is a high-flying lawyer with
a snobby family and Saskia Hill is a bolshy jewellery designer whose father has
done several stints in jail. On their honeymoon, Andy offers to support Saskia
so she can quit her day job at a café and devote herself wholly to her art. But
Saskia’s fledgling business is only just recovering from the financial blow it
suffered when her ex-fiance cheated on her then ditched her with the bill for
the wedding, and she is uncomfortable being reliant on her new husband. Tensions
begin to emerge. Things are exacerbated when Andy discovers his law firm is in
financial trouble. Despite their best efforts to keep the flame alive their
marriage begins to suffer. Then Saskia makes a discovery that blows her world
inspired the book?
to write my first two novels, the concepts were fully formed in my head. I
rejigged the stories and characters a lot, but when they were finished, they
were how I had imagined them from the beginning. With The First Year, I found
myself unsure what I wanted to do. I had an idea of following a couple
day-by-day through their first year, but I didn’t know what would happen to
them over that time. I thought the concept of the first year of marriage being
the hardest was a good one to explore in a romantic comedy. So I wrote a few
chapters and scene fragments, then I hit a bit of a wall. I knew I wanted Andy
to be a corporate type, and Saskia to be an artist, but I didn’t have much more
detail than that. Then one day I came across an article about a designer who
had made the same discovery Saskia makes in the book. I did a bit of research
and it turns out it is a really common problem. I don’t want to spoil the plot
by revealing the big discovery, but once I had that I knew what I wanted Andy
and Saskia’s story to be.
makes the main character who they are?
she’s actually quite vulnerable. She loves a man, Andrew Colbrook, who wants to
support her as she builds her business, but the idea of being reliant on him
conflicts with her feminist values. She eventually accepts his offer to back
her financially until she is established, but it never sits right with her and
ultimately is the cause of much tension.
when Saskia receives a letter from her mother-in-law addressed to Mr and Mrs
Andrew Colbrook. She has not changed her name and when the letter arrives she
asks of Andy, “What am I? Some sort of subsidiary of you?” I feel like this
sums her up perfectly.
you base your characters on real people?
inevitably I find myself incorporating traits of family and friends. Usually
it’s just a little thing to give the character a ring of authenticity. When
trying to *show* rather than *tell* – something that a lot of writers struggle
with – I find it helpful to think about how real people display their emotions
– the way their postures change, the tone of their voice, what they do with
their hands and eyes. Sometimes I’ll lift a small anecdote (with permission) or
give a sly nod to a friend by including a personal joke. But generally I try to
ensure the characters are wholly their own people.
long did it take you to write The First Year?
the first time I’ve ever been able to answer it properly. For about a year, I
had a few fragments of this story and a vague concept but didn’t know what I
wanted to do with it. Then I made the discovery that revealed the plot to me
and it was all very fast. It took me about three months to write a three
chapter sample, a synopsis and a plot outline. I pitched it to HarperCollins in
November, got the go ahead in December and had completed the manuscript by
June. It was quite a fast process because I had been thinking about the
characters and the supporting players for so long. As is always the case, it
needed some major reworking and I relied heavily on my amazing beta-readers.
But it basically took one year of procrastination and six months of furious
is your typical writing routine?
but now that I live in Sydney I find myself getting up early and writing before
work. I assume that’s because it gets hot and sunny here very early. That being
said, I still try to get some writing in after work. And I can be found most
weekends in a café somewhere with a pile of manuscript pages and a laptop.
planners or pantsers. I think I’m a combination of both. I like to have a plot
outline before I begin, but sometimes it is very vague and details emerge – and
characters are created or killed off – as the writing progresses.
do you write?
table – but I far prefer to write in cafes. It’s not always possible, of course.
Sometimes you have a burst of creative energy at 2am when all the good cafes
are selfishly closed, and realistically it’s just not possible to mainline
lattes for eight hours and a Saturday or Sunday. But my preference is
definitely to write in a café. When I was living in Melbourne I would write a
lot at Milkwood in East Brunswick (try the white beans on toast) or a Minor
Place (more white beans, these come with Dukkah and avocado). Another favourite
is a café called True North in Coburg. They have lovely booths that I like to
spread out in, and do great sandwiches with heaps of vegetarian options.
book do you wish you had written and why?
of fiction I write, but I am in awe of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel
Shriver creates so much tension and complexity. I adore her prose and the way
she uses a million little perfectly phrased observations to make-up the
story. I love the way she tricks the
reader into thinking they know what is happening, only to discover all is not
as it seems as the narrative slowly reveals itself.
are you favourite writers?
because there are so many, and I turn to different writers for different
things. I love Caitlin Moran for the sheer joy she gives me with her hilarious
stories. No less important is the strong feminist message in everything she
does. I really admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s skill as a story-teller, and Gillian
Flynn for the ease with which she spins complex narratives, imbuing her
characters with light and shade. Jeffrey Eugenides remains an all-time
favourite. Whenever I’m asked about my favourite books Middlesex is always at
the top, and his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was hauntingly,
devastatingly beautiful. Oh, and Michael Chabon for so many reasons, especially
to be a loose grouping of contemporary chick lit with rom-com tendencies – I LOVE Lauren
Sams who wrote She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. I also can’t go
past fellow HarperCollins authors Tess Woods and Sunni Overend. The Regulars by
Georgia Clark is great fun.
is your favourite literary character?
with an answer that isn’t a total cliché, but it is a truth universally
acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennett is a sublime literary creation, and has to
be my favourite character. She’s clever, sensitive, witty and warm. She loves
her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she’s loyal but not without
flaws. She speaks her mind and isn’t intimidated by those who think them better
than she is. At a completely different end of the spectrum is Uncle Oswald, a
recurring character in the short stories of Roald Dahl. Uncle Oswald is a
hilarious, wealthy, horny old man who often finds himself entangled in
pseudo-scientific schemes with hilarious outcomes.
are you working on at the moment?
free agent at the moment. I have two ideas that are in the very early stages,
so I’m playing with both of them, thinking about the characters and deciding
which one to commit to. I have just started a new job as a feature writer so I
am finding that at night I’m spending the time I would normally dedicate to
fiction thinking about feature ideas. That being said, I want my next venture
to be a departure from my usual books. Neither of the concepts I’m currently
playing with could be described as romantic comedies. The First Year has parts
set in a court room, which came about because I spent the past few years
covering courts as a journalist and my two new ideas are also inspired in part
by that part of my job.
would you do if you weren’t a writer?
my hobby (fiction) and my livelihood (journalism). My other hobby is baking, so
perhaps if it all falls in a heap I could retrain as a pastry chef. I have made
a few wedding cakes for friends, and I really enjoy playing with flavour ideas
and pretty shapes. Strangely, when it comes to savoury meals I’m terrible, but
I have mastered cakes.
are you reading right now?
Moriarty which I devoured, barely lifting my eyes to draw breath. Liane dazzles
me with her ability to tease and entice. I am also reading Sweet Bitter by
Stephanie Danler. I cheated on Sweet Bitter with Moriarty because I found
myself at the airport without a book and knew I couldn’t go wrong with one of
wine or something else?
drink much wine, unless I’m sharing a bottle at a dinner party or something. If
I’m at a bar I’ll order sloe gin (rocks and lime), a gin and tonic or a
cocktail. Sometimes when it’s really hot I’ll take my laptop to a pub and write
while drinking cider and ice. But generally on those days my preference is a
café and an ice coffee.
is your favourite social media platform and why?
Instagram and Twitter but for different reasons. In my day job, I work as a
journalist, so I love being able to keep an eye on the issues of the day as
they unfurl on Twitter. I follow major news outlets, journalists I like and
admire, politicians and specialists in my areas of interest. I also follow a
few funny accounts to break it up. I like checking-in on Twitter when I take a
break from work. Instagram is great for book recommendations, food and bar
recommendations, fashion, recipes and just keeping up with what my friends are
doing. I recently moved interstate, so it’s great to be able to see what my
friends have been up to with a few swipes of my phone.
all your books, do you have a favourite one?
your children! I hate to admit it, but I do have a favourite one. My latest
novel, The First Year, is my third. I think because I had been through the
process twice before it was less daunting and stressful. I had a lot more
confidence and I think it shows in the writing. I also quite like the story. My
previous books were what I’d call caper romances. In both, the protagonists
hatched hair-brained schemes in order to find love. The First Year is a lot
more grounded in reality. The characters’ families and work colleagues play a
great role and I feel like they’re more rounded because of it.