This morning the stillness is particularly sweet. After a crazy couple of weeks of releasing Portraits of Celina into the world (or to be more precise, Australian bookshops and libraries!) – a couple of weeks of great excitement and extreme trepidation, where I have had the pleasure of reading some AMAZING reviews, where I have had the joy of seeing nice little STACKS or teetering PILES of the book in bookstores (coupled with the worry that the piles will remain teetering and end up being returned), where I have had gorgeous, enthusiastic emails and facebook messages full of praise and good wishes from friends, relatives, booksellers, early readers and writing buddies, where I have introduced the book to hundreds of teen girls and been encouraged by their excitement and engagement – after such a couple of weeks, it is good to soak in the stillness of the morning, take stock (and a deep breath), make a vow to stop obsessing, worrying and self-googling, and to get back to my next novel.
My dad died when I was barely twenty. Six months exactly before my wedding day. (Yes, a child bride!) Eight years before I had that first stirring in my belly that I’d like to write, and twenty years before I had my first book published. In an interview for Magpies magazine, Joy Lawn asked about the absence of fathers in my last two novels. The question threw me. I hadn’t realised. And I had to wonder if it was due to the fact that deep down I feel like I have missed out on having a father for much of my life.
I don’t remember an awful lot about my father as a person. I think he was cheeky. I think he loved having fun. I think he was a risk-taker. I say think because I don’t really know. But when I think of him, my first thoughts are not about what we did together, my first thoughts are of love. I loved him deeply and I know he loved me unconditionally in return. And despite his early departure, he left me with some very strong “lessons” that have travelled with me my entire life. He taught me to be prepared – to do my homework – before speaking or acting or reacting. He taught me to strive, not to settle for a small life. And he taught me about truth. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive. His favourite saying. And the core of my new work. A story of love, lies and deception and a very tangly web.
So now, thirty-three years after his death, Dad is with me again. He is sitting on an orange vinyl chair at a laminate kitchen table, sipping his whiskey, chuckling and saying, Go for it, Suzie-Q; you can do it. Those tangly webs will make for a damn good story. Just do your homework and strive – don’t settle for a small story, make it big, make it shine.
And I am going to give it a red-hot go. This one’s for you, Dad. Love you. Miss you. XXX