After being postponed due to lockdown, it was a special, magical night at Buck Mulligan’s in Northcote.
Week three and four
Week three was pretty quiet, so I have combined it with Week four.
Australia Reads 2021 ambassadors announced. My ambassador profile is here.
Bookshop visiting / book signing day
26 / 27 June
Review in the weekend section of The Australian
Melbourne lockdown ended on 10 June (the day after my book launch was scheduled).
First mainstream review from Better Reading [I worry about how including a content warning might affect sales].
Australian Society of Authors promote books, including Dean, affected by lockdown on their website and social media.
Pile by the Bed review [for which I am extremely grateful, but I just wish reviewers could spell character names correctly].
My writer and bookseller friend, Aoife Clifford, says a book’s shelf life is shorter than that of yoghurt. I can’t remember if that’s three or six weeks — either way, I’m sure this is going to be a short series of posts.
1 June: Publication day
Flowers (in Dean Cola colours!) from my publisher. And the news that my book launch will be cancelled due to lockdown [that coffee mug — a Mother’s Day present from my son — got more attention than anything else I posted on social media!].
To generate sales, Hill of Content bookshop runs a competition for online orders, the prize being a pack of books released in lockdown (including Dean Cola).
#helpmelbbooks campaign is started by Melbourne author Graeme Simsion on Twitter: If you purchase a Melbourne writer’s book from a Melbourne bookshop (online) and tweet it using the hashtag, you’ll go into the draw to win a prize pack of donated books (including Dean Cola).
Interview for Kate Mildenhall and Katherine Collette’s The First Time Podcast, in which I forget to mention the five years and hundreds of drafts it took to write Dean Cola. Or anything else of interest, really. [I wasn’t going to post this one, it’s so cringeworthy. It’s here to help me learn from my mistakes: Don’t rush; don’t waste precious chances like this to tell people about your book; people are actually interested in what you have to say (still trying to believe this one); breathe …]
The initial spark for All That I Remember About Dean Cola came to me during a visit to MONA on a long weekend in Hobart. Back at my hotel, I wrote in my journal:
8 June 2015
I want to write a novel infused with the essence of these two ideas:
2. We are more than the sum of our parts
2. An ode to staying forever young
And these are descriptions I wrote of the two artworks that had inspired me:
The room is dim and claustrophobic, humid. And it stinks like shit. Clear hospital-drip-like bags and tubes hang in a row from a steel beam containing buttons and dials. Part alien-robot, part surgical-looking, the apparatus reminds me of cow-milking equipment. It whirrs, burps and farts, mimicking the machinations of the human digestive system. ‘The Cloaca Professional’ (Stomach Machine) is fed food and produces faecal matter once a day. The sum of our parts. Soulless.
In another room, a life-like little girl in a frilly party dress lies inside a metal cabinet with chicken wire doors. Alice in Wonderland in a coffin comes to mind. Attached to the underside of the cabinet is an old-fashioned fire extinguisher with a clear tube that somehow pumps ‘saliva’ to the girl’s silicone mouth. Inside, beneath the girl, is a floor of fake grass or moss, and above her hang two small chandeliers. Mice crawl around her, keeping her company while sustained by her saliva.
I listened to an interview with the artist, Meghan Boody. ‘The Mice and Me’ sculpture is a replica of herself as an eight- or nine-year-old child. When asked by the interviewer if it was creepy to sculpt a face in your own image, she said No, it was comforting, nostalgic. She grew up in New York and feels a strange tug or presence whenever she walks past her old apartment. When she looks up at the window of her bedroom, she thinks about how wild it would be if she saw herself as a child looking back down. ‘The Mice and Me’ is an ode to staying young forever.
The storyline for Dean Cola came to me in a rush, all at once, and I jotted it down that weekend in Hobart. After dozens of restructures and hundreds of drafts, the final story ended up being pretty much as it was in those initial notes (I would have saved myself years of work if I’d just stuck with the original outline!). When Dean first came to me, I didn’t have time for it because I was working on my second novel. But it wouldn’t leave me alone and when it started pervading my dreams I guiltily, in spare moments, started writing it.
My protagonist, Sidney, first appeared as an intriguing, vivid character, but she wasn’t fully formed; she developed over time. Initially, I wanted to explore ‘madness’, but the more I researched psychotic disorders, in particular schizophrenia, the less I wanted to write a ‘mad person does a bad thing’ novel. I wanted to write the complete opposite: a novel that challenges the stereotype, perpetuated by the media, that people with mental illness are more evil or dangerous than the general population.
Having waged my own life-long war against mental health issues, I hope All That I Remember About Dean Cola will make a contribution to the conversation aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Write what scares you, they say. I did. And it’s in this box. I’m equal parts proud and terrified of — and still in love with — you, Dean Cola.
The boys from back home stand beside the bed, watching her bleed onto the white sheet. ‘He only said to scare her,’ one of them says.
Sidney is happily married to her firefighter husband and thinking about having a child, but her life has been marred by psychotic breakdowns. Haunted by memories of Dean Cola — the teenage crush who is an essential piece of the puzzle that is her past — she returns to the town where she grew up. Something unthinkable happened there, but is she strong enough to face it?
A compelling portrait of mental illness, memory, and the ways that the years when we ‘come of age’ can be twisted into trauma.
I have no words to explain how this feels — I must have used them all up in the 5 million drafts I wrote of this book.