Elaine Forrestal

Meetings, meetings, meetings!

Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal

So many meetings! But all in a good cause. My new book, Goldfields Girl, is due to be released by Fremantle Press in May and the lead-up to that event  can be crucial to the overall sales of the book. For both publisher and writer selling books pays the bills and puts food on the table, so we all pedal really fast to make the most of the relatively small window of opportunity a new book provides. However, meeting and talking with people takes not only time and energy but imagination and skill as well. The conflict between my next book which is waiting in the wings, demanding attention, and the publicity for this one, is sometimes difficult to resolve. On the one hand I have new ideas whizzing around in my head begging to be explored and moulded into shape. On the other my characters from the previous book, who have become dear friends, and the events that have shaped them, deserve every ounce of energy I can spare.

Eventually all this sets up a sort of vicious circle. The trick is to somehow avoid frustration and cajole these two warring factions, writing and publicity, into supporting and feeding off each other. Convincing them to complement, not compete, and avoid a burn-out situation in which nobody wins.

It’s a challenge. But then I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.

Who Do We Trust?

A very trusting mother and baby

Over the weekend I was staying with a lovely bunch of WA writers in some bush cottages out of Margaret River. We were all a bit surprised that a mother kangaroo with her joey, who looked as if he was not long out of the pouch, had chosen to hang out on our side of the fence, rather than with the rest of the mob who were taking advantage of some shady trees at least 500 metres away on the other side of Carter’s Road. Throughout the weekend my fellow writers and I marvelled at how trusting the mother was. While keeping her joey close, she would sit perfectly still in plain sight while various members of our group of twenty people walked around and past her, between the cottages. She was not phased by us chatting to each other or even when we periodically gathered in one big noisey crowd to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company. She was not even bothered by us taking photos of her and allowed us to come surprisingly close.

Learning to trust is like falling in love. At first you feel it somewhere in your gut. Then you have to communicate and get to know each other. You might have a mutual friend who can give advice, but at the end of the day it’s about taking a risk. If you never take any risks nothing will change for you. Trust breeds trust just as confidence breeds confidence. And when it comes to getting our writing published we have to be open to trusting people – publishers, editors, designers, the whole scary lot. Taking that first step is never easy. But once you have opened yourself up to the world and put your heart and soul out there in full view, each step after that will be easier. That doesn’t mean there won’t be set-backs along the way. It just means you have grown a little stronger and more experienced at dealing with them.

Like that mother kangaroo you will know how close you can let people come. And like  her joey you will never grow and learn new skills if you don’t take the risk of leaving the the pouch.


The Open Ending

Elaine Forrestal and Jan Nicholls at the 21st Birthday Celebration for Someone Like Me

I am a great believer in the open ending, but it must have an ending shape to it and provide enough food for thought to make the story a satisfying read, or experience. The new French film, Les Miserable, (Victor Hugo’s classic story transplanted into a crowded modern suburb of Paris) is a fine example.

The film is cleverly and perceptively made in spite of the multiple scenes of extremely graphic violence. A teenage boy steals a lion cub from a visiting circus in an attempt to extort money from the circus owner. This sort of blackmail is a way of life in the boy’s environment where people survive by their wits or not at all. In spite of all its fast paced action the film is made with subtlety and deep emotion. To set the scene we are shown a boy attending a soccer match. As he pushes through the noisy colourful crowd of people wearing or carrying various versions of the French flag we catch a glimpse of the back of a single person wearing a plain black shirt with the word ‘france’, in white letters. There is no need for dialogue. This scene, with the mostly obscured Eiffel Tower in the background, has confirmed our impression that the match is being held in Paris. The subtlety of that one unspoken word has signalled that there will be more to this film than what appears on the surface.

A scene where the boy and the cub are arrested and brought into the circus ring where the roaring mother lion can see and smell her missing cub is loaded with symbolism about power and disadvantage. A later scene shows four of the local cops outnumbered and attacked by gangs of kids. Their car is wrecked and the boy is shot. This is milked for all its drama, then turned on its head when one of the cops ignores the threat to his own life and carries the injured boy to safety. A drone flies overhead, recording the whole mess, and adding another potential means of extortion. Will that be used and if so, by whom? Then there is the eye-for-an-eye scene. And finally the riot in one of the seedy apartment blocks echos of the familiar barricade scene in the original Victor Hugo novel. The four cops are cornered by the mob and the boy stands alone, holding a naked flame, ready to set the whole lot on fire. The boy now holds all the power. The ending, which I won’t reveal because you should see this movie for yourself, is so thought-provoking that there was not a sound from the audience and no one moved from their seat for several minutes. We all just sat there processing what we had seen.

The more I have thought about it the more convinced I am that this movie could not have ended any other way.

Welcome to 2020

The holidays are over. I know for most people there is still at least one more week to go, but I am back at work planning, writing, re-writing and responding to requests on my email. 2020 will be a good year. I can feel it in my bones, if not yet in my bank account, and I’m pleased to be back.

I have two major ideas to focus on. Typically for me they are at opposite ends of my range. One is a picture book which tells the quirky, but heart-warming story of Professor Louis LaBrat. The other is a Boys Own Adventure-type historical fiction that I think will sit well on the shelf alongside Goldfields Girl (to be released in May). At the moment these two projects are competing with each other for my brain space. Ideas keep popping out of my head and I have to be quick to catch them and wrestle them onto a page before they fly away and the details are lost.

Stay tuned and I will keep you up to date with their progress. All the best for the coming year and I look forward to seeing or hearing from you in 2020.

I Can Not Weep

Jackie French is one of our most eloquent, articulate and passionate writers and has given us, along with all her books, articles, speeches and her dedicated work saving wildlife, the most moving piece of writing about the bushfires I have seen. Among the hysteria, the arson, the political point scoring and the virtue signalling she has given us hope, courage, compassion and common sense. Precious gifts in this time of despair.

The very topical Black Earth, an Eden Glassie Mystery by Elaine Forrestal

Jackie has been evacuated from her home, not far from Bateman’s Bay, twice in the last six weeks. She has been living out of a suitcase while she tries to maintain the food and water stations she has set up for her local wildlife who are at present streaming in, injured, bewildered and terrified, trying to escape the fires raging around them. Instead of wailing about what the government is not doing Jackie is getting in there, doing what she always does; showing what Australians are made of.

‘Focus on what you can do. Don’t cry for what you can’t’. Jackie French, 2020, theage.com.au