Right now it is 2006 and you are in Darwin midway through a family trip around Australia. You are still struggling with the grief of having lost both your parents the year before. You are thirty-nine years old and the realisation that life is not, in fact, endless has inexplicably just occurred to you. You begin to fear that you will never see your name on the cover of a book and this fear drives you to write greedily in every crack of time you can steal. You’re on the trip of a lifetime but you haven’t got the time to enjoy it.
I wish I could reach back through time and tell you to relax, to enjoy this time with your children while they are still little, because one day your dream will come true.
It will take a long time – another seven years in fact – until a publisher says yes. But she does say yes and your debut novel (at first published exclusively in a digital format) is a success. The next novel is the dreamed of book – the one that is in bookstores across the country and that people outside your immediate circle fork out decent amounts of money to purchase. The book sells well – it makes the list of top ten Australian debut books that year. You are on your way.
For your third book you collaborate with two author friends who you love. The project is a dream to work on and the result is something you can all be proud of. You are happy … for a moment.
Back in Darwin all you ever wanted was to see your book on shelf, but now that’s happened and the goal posts are shifting. Now you want different things. You want an agent, you want a multiple book contract, you want even bigger sales and to sell a book into a foreign market. Most of all you want to write the story of your heart, but it won’t fit into the genre you are already published in and you’re not sure your publisher will like it.
Some of those things will happen, others won’t. You will take a huge risk and write that book. When it is done there are some initial hiccups finding a home for it but eventually one of the ‘Big 5’ publishers offers you a two-book deal and now you really feel like you have made it … for a minute.
Over the next two years there will be so many highs and lows that your irrational fear of rollercoasters will be suddenly seem reasonable. You will struggle to write the second book in the contract, doubting yourself at every turn. You will lose contact with people you love because you spend every waking minute working on ‘the damn book’ and you no longer have room in your life for people who are not in the industry. You will do things that you swore you would never do like promote your book on social media and even post the odd humble-brag (which makes you cringe with shame even now.) You will come perilously close to walking away from everything.
Then one day you will be at an author event. There are much bigger names in attendance than you. A reader will approach you and give you a hug. She will ask if she can have a moment of your time alone. You agree, wondering what on earth she is going to say. That reader will look at you through glassy eyes and thank you for writing that risky book, the one that came straight from the heart.
She will tell you the book changed her life.
You will smile, thinking she is being kind, but then she will confide in you and tell you exactly how her life has changed and you will know that she is telling you her truth. Your words have played some tiny part in making this beautiful woman’s life better.
You will look up at her through your tears and thank her sincerely because she has given you a precious gift. She has made you remember why you wanted to write in the first place.
Lisa Ireland is an Australian bestselling author, who lives on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula with her husband and three (big) boys. She loves eating but not cooking, is an Olympic class procrastinator and (most importantly) minion to a rather large dog. Lisa’s fifth novel, The Art of Friendship, was published by Pan Macmillan in May 2018.