My Debut Novel: The Best of Intentions

TheBestofIntentions_cover3Dmockup-woodAfter seven years of plot development, writing and seemingly endless revisions, my debut novel is now available.

Writing a novel was so different from any writing I had done during my working life. With policy or report writing you generally have a good idea about the purpose and contents of your document, and its structure is pretty much determined by those parameters. Writing a novel means creating a world from scratch, without a roadmap, and populating it with credible and distinct characters who can keep the reader engaged. Exhilarating. Scary too.

Not surprising then, that timelines blew out. And while I’ve always felt comfortable about having my professional writing edited, it has been more confronting to have my creative writing critiqued. It felt more personal––I had more skin in the game.

Set in Melbourne in 2009, against the background of the Black Saturday bushfires, The Best of Intentions is a sensitive and compelling portrayal of young people at risk and of the well-meaning but often ineffective child protection and mental health professionals charged with their care.

At more than 400 pages, it’s a good long read that follows a range of memorable characters whose paths cross in unexpected ways. Here’s an excerpt from the blurb:

Kurt is a disillusioned case worker struggling in an under-resourced child protection system. When he takes on the case of Gecko, a sixteen-year-old with a traumatic past and a shaky future, he is determined to make a difference. But the best of intentions are not enough.

While my novel is a work of fiction, some of my views about systemic shortcomings in child protection and public mental health services have found their way into the text.

The focus on ‘case finding’ and throughput in child protection, at the expense of providing a meaningful service to kids placed in care. The unrealistically high case loads.

In mental health, the high threshold for accessing a service, the one-dimensional nature of the medical treatment model; and the failure to abolish mixed gender wards in Victoria, leaving vulnerable young women exposed to harassment or assault at a time that they need optimal support and safety.

Does not sound like escapist reading? It isn’t. I have taken pains, though, to ensure that The Best of Intentions works as a novel in the first place, as a gripping story that will keep readers engaged to the end. No one wants to read a manifesto.

“Highly engaging … an intelligent and moving novel.” Dr Kate Ryan, Writers Victoria

The Best of Intentions is available as an e-book and can be bought from major distributors, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Check my novel’s homepage for purchase links.

You will soon also be able to order a paperback version (currently in production) from your local bookseller or from an online distributor.

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the shadows cast by a falling child

SCFC mockupBack in 2011, when my novel was but an impulsive neuron playing Parkour across synapses somewhere in my brain, the title of my Magnum Opus was going to be The Bus Drivers. Shortly afterwards, that febrile neuron had to face the discipline board and its wiser elders settled upon Resilience as the working title for my book. The original title survives in the text as a little aside in a conversation––so you’ll be able to find out what I was thinking. Continue reading

living in the shallows, or the importance of blogging judiciously

Walking past the city square last week I noticed the message someone had scribbled in white chalk on one of the grey granite blocks defining the square’s boundary: ‘be yourself – everyone else is taken’. Mulling over that gem of urban wisdom as I made my way to flinders street station, I started thinking about the importance of finding your own ‘voice’ when writing.

That led me to thinking about how difficult it is for a writer’s voice to be heard in an era of undifferentiated publishing. We are all authors now, as our blogs, tweets and status updates may reach thousands of readers. We are always ‘on’ – and increasingly on edge, it seems.

Like a body-boarder standing in the shallows, we are waiting for our wave. The wave that will lift our blog up on a glorious ride. As the energy of a new blog post dissipates all too soon, we wade back out again behind our iPads, scanning the waves for those about to crest. But the water is too crowded and we are all vying for the same wave. Maybe the answer is to turn your back on the spectators on their beach towels and to go further out to sea where you may find deeper swells, less foam, greater mystery. Continue reading