Darcy Tindale shares how submitting her writing to awards helped get her debut novel published.
What was your writing process like for The Fall Between? Did you have a writing routine or any regular rituals?
I like to start early when it’s quiet and the sun is still contemplating rising. I write on a laptop, with a coffee, and this is when I do my most creative work. It’s clean and fresh. I’ll then either go to work, or if I’m off for the day, read and research – oh, and clean the house, walk the dog, take a nap – but my head is still mulling over plots and characters and sometimes I jot down ideas or get a ‘ping’ and scribble a great line on the water bill. Later in the evening, after dinner, I’ll read what I wrote that morning and do a little editing or polishing. Fix and tweak. Sometimes I ‘click’ and I’m back on a roll, tapping away until the wee hours.
How did you first come up with the idea for the book?
My family owned a cattle farm in the Upper Hunter Valley (Poll Herefords). Once when I was young, I found a large dead bird floating in one of the cattle troughs and the image disturbed me and stuck. When thinking of my crime novel, the image of that bird floating in the water swooped back, and I thought ‘Huh! What if that was a body?’
I have always been intrigued by crime. While studying for a BA in Creative Writing at Griffith University, one of the units was about the attraction to horror and crime. It was an amazing insight into why horror movies, thrillers, crime fiction and true crime documentaries captivate an audience, and I was drawn to the genre all the more. I’m extremely fortunate to know a detective in homicide, who was invaluable at giving me a larger insight into the aspects of the job. I wanted a ‘flawed’ but likeable and strong female police detective, and Detective Rebecca Giles came to life on the page, and I knew she was right for the job.
What was your big break into publishing?
I was one of six finalists announced in the 2022 Penguin Books Literary Prize for my adult crime novel, The Fall Between. While I didn’t win, as a flow-on from this honour, I was offered a literary contract with Penguin for my Detective Giles series. My first two novels have been signed. The Fall Between released in May 2023; the second novel to follow in 2024.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started The Fall Between in 2020, scratching out the idea, planning and plotting. Then in 2021, I knuckled down and made the December deadline for the Penguin Literary Prize submissions my goal – partly to give myself a deadline. Otherwise, I’d still be fluffing around. I also wanted to see if I had something that could grab the attention of a publisher.
What was the publishing process like?
Over the years I’ve published short stories, plays, articles and poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. My work has been nominated for and won competitions and awards. I’ve even won a week of solitude in a lighthouse to write. Yet for every story, play, poem, or manuscript I’ve sent, many, many rejections have followed.
I tried to write novels in up-lit and chic-Lit, YA and children’s books, sending the manuscripts off to publishers and mentorships with fingers crossed. I had an abundance of ‘almost’/ ‘under serious consideration’/‘impressed with the quality of work’/‘not unanimous' responses, but I just couldn’t get a publishing contract for a novel over the line. Then I switched genres and started fresh, fearless, and entered the finished manuscript into the Penguin Literary Prize.
What most excites you about your book being published in 2023?
I think I’m nervous and excited. It’s a journey, but I’m determined to enjoy the process and experience. I’m really looking forward to meeting fellow authors, inspiring up-and-coming writers and chatting with bookshop owners. I’m going to welcome whatever comes my way in 2023 with open arms, and if I get the odd glass of bubbles along the way – even better!
Do you have a favourite book or author?
Sonya Hartnett and Tim Winton are right up there as my favourite authors. My list is long. I have so many favourite books in different genres. But if I’m honest, at age fourteen I fell in love – deeply, madly in love – with a character named Ponyboy Curtis in the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I think I still hold that crush today.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always believed my bookshelf is more like a book-self.
As I look at the spines, I know the stories, the lessons, the character types, and how each book influenced and changed my views, passions, and outlook. Some books are warnings, some inspirational, but every book has had an impact – and that’s powerful. I think that’s why I’ve always wanted to be an author. I wanted to develop the skill to write in a way that moves the reader and makes them think.
From an early age, I loved to write. Most of my stuff started either on a dark and stormy night or with a girl spraining her ankle . . . the story pitted out from there.
I’ve always loved story and am drawn to people who are great raconteurs. I think that’s why I dabbled in stand-up comedy during the 1990s.
I quickly noticed it was the comics that told anecdotes, not jokes, that were the hit of the night. Story was key. But it was also their vulnerability, stuck in a calamity, and their sense of humour that turned them into heroes. Their comedy sets had story structures, beginnings, middles, ends, characters, climaxes and obstacles – in a nutshell, they told great stories that ended funny. I went on to write for Kaos comedy restaurants, radio, media personalities and stand-up comics. Only deep down I knew I wanted to write something that was more than a quick laugh. I wanted to write a dramatic novel . . . I’ve always loved a story with tension and drama, and troubled characters, and I deeply wanted to write such a book.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I wanted a job where Dick Van Dyke and I sang Chim Chim Cher-ee and danced on rooftops all day long. Later in life when I realised that wasn’t a thing, I compromised and settled for a job as a drama teacher.
If you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Be patient and don’t ever give up. You’ll get better and one day you’ll get noticed.
What is the best writing lesson/ tip you ever received?
Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train not only wrote novels, but she also wrote short stories. She said that for every nine stories she sent out, one would be published. One . . . one!
The moment I read that, I knew to keep going and keep sending my stories out. I quickly found while a story may be rejected in a journal or magazine, the same story could end up shortlisted in a competition or selected in an anthology. Different publishers look for different things. It’s subjective, but it’s also exciting.
So, keep writing and keep dreaming. Go back and re-look at an old story and polish it. Also, learn to accept criticism. While doing my uni degree with over sixty other students giving feedback weekly, I saw their critique was meant to improve my story, not crush my ego.
Know that your writing path will never be the same as the next person, but the journey will build you into the writer you become. Just don’t give up. Every rejection is a step closer to publication – you’ve got eight more shots at it.
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