Kirsty Eagar has come over to our blog today to talk with us about her debut novel “Raw Blue” – which without giving too much away is a surfing/coming of age story centering on a girl who has a damaged history. Written as an older YA it is recommended for readers 16+.
- Your first book, Raw Blue, has just been published by Penguin. The book weighs heavily on the surfing side of life, how much of your own surfing life influenced your heroine’s choice of lifestyle?
A fair bit, is probably the short answer. One of the things I wanted to explore in the book is how important it is to do the things you love. So in Carly’s case it’s surfing, but it could have equally been art, or music, or writing, or… well, you get the idea. But ever since I started surfing I have been obsessed by it, and nine years ago I rearranged things life-wise so that I could surf every day. I love having that ongoing connection with the ocean and I wanted to share that.
- What are some of the themes you’re exploring in Raw Blue?
People who have been through what Carly’s been through deserve empathy, compassion and also respect. Carly is not a victim. She’s wary of people, but she’s also strong and funny and intelligent, holding down a job and paying her own way at nineteen. Complicating her situation is the fact that she doesn’t have the strong family support that other people might have. But my view of the world is that life will often give you what you need if you can remain open, and that’s what happens in Carly’s case. And that is why, funnily enough, Raw Blue is also very much a love story.
What Carly’s struggling with is anger. And because there’s no outlet for her anger, because she won’t get to have a big Hollywood showdown, it’s turning inward and that can be damaging.
I think a lot of people, male or female, can relate to that. They’re angry about things that have happened to them and there’s not necessarily a remedy; they’ve just got to live with it. I think being brave, being courageous, is often a very quiet thing. It’s when you make a decision to keep living in the light, to keep pushing forward. It’s like Ryan, one of the characters in the book says, everyone’s got something, it’s what you do with it that counts.
- As a fellow Central Queenslander, I’m wondering what life was like for you growing up there?
My parents split up when I was seven, and my brother and I spent school terms with our mum on a cattle property north of Rockhampton. Things were very tough financially for Mum, but apart from those worries it was a pretty free way to grow up – riding horses, mustering cattle, swimming in dams and creeks, hooning around on motorbikes and in old bombie cars. There were less than fifty kids at my primary school and none of us wore shoes.
Dad lived in Brisbane and he’d fly my brother and I down to see him eight times a year. School holidays we’d often go to Noosa or the Gold Coast with him. So childhood was this weird mix of country, city and coast.
- As a banker who’s travelled the world, can you tell us about why you started writing?
I’m not completely sure, to be honest. Banking wasn’t a very good fit, I am sure about that. I had written stuff on and off for years, and had things published in magazines. In 2001, I completed the first draft of a full length manuscript. At that time my boyfriend (now husband) and I had quit our jobs and were living out of a four-wheel drive while we worked and surfed our way around Australia. What I remember from that time was that I really believed we could do anything we wanted with our lives. And I also read Stephen King’s On Writing, which had a big impact on me. I know I pretty quickly worked out that I wanted to commit to writing. We ended up starting a personal training business because that type of work allowed time to do other things as well.
- This is your first novel published by Penguin, can you share with us a bit of your road to publication, as in how many novels did you write before being accepted, etc etc.
It’s turned out to be a pretty long and winding road! That first manuscript ended up being represented by a UK agent (the story was set in London). She put it up for auction and nobody bid. So yeah… sort of devastating. Then I lost the agent with the next thing I wrote (which was totally different to the first manuscript and set in Australia). At that point I remember thinking that I was just picking up speed on my way downhill. Then I started work on two new stories, Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, both YA, but otherwise completely different. They got me a fantastic Australian agent, and she passed them on to Penguin who bought them both. That was a pretty big day.
- What advice would you give teens working on their own novels?
Probably what has helped me is learning that it’s okay to fail. Because that’s how you learn. And if you fail, fail because you reached too far, thought too big, tried to do too much. And never, ever beat yourself up for it. It means you had the balls to take a risk.
- How do you find time to write with kids, your business, etc?
I don’t know, but I do want to know how everybody else does it! I’m crap at compartmentalising so the one thing that works for me is getting up early, like 5am. Right now I’m coming back to writing after baby number two, and I’m finding it hard to get a rhythm going.
- What’s next on your writing agenda?
Saltwater Vampires comes out in July 2010, and we’re just getting started on the edit. I’m looking forward to it because it’s just a big romp of a story – surfing, vampires, a music festival… Fun. Besides that, I’m struggling through the first draft of something new, also YA. I find first drafts really hard.