Burnt Snow, my first novel, was released in 2010 by Pan MacMillan Australia. White Rain, the sequel, is due soon. As part of a trilogy about witches, earth magic, curses, love and revenge, this blog archives my research into the world of the witches - as well as my own magical saga as a new author.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Out of the Blanket, but Still in the Bed

Hi there. I'm alive. Sorta.

This is my bed.

This is also where I've set myself up with a mountain of yoghurt, endless cups of tea, a large clock, a mobile, a laptop and a filing system that makes use of the mouldability of duvets.

There's rather a lot going on. I wish it was about the wonders of
May Day, which is fast approaching. I wish it was about Beltane, jumping over fires and fertility rituals.

Instead, it's about editing notes, new plays and my other projects. Anyone who thinks that being a working writer begins and ends with some divine bolt of inspiration, a clean room in a Mediterranean villa and an Olivetti typewriter has been watching the wrong kinds of movies. I am not Ernest Hemingway. You are not Ernest Hemingway. Not even Ernest Hemingway was Ernest Hemingway, hence the gunshot in the final act.

The 5 Things That Are Making Me So Busy I am Not Leaving This Bed

1. My novel,
Burnt Snow.
It comes out in September, in Australia. There will be a launch in Sydney, and some other cities. All of that stuff is being planned now, and I'm coming back to Australia in August to prepare for the launch, do media interviews, run workshops, appear at festivals. OK, so it's a totally fun and awesome (if exhausting) prospect.

What is NOT awesome is having to go through all the editing notes. I lied when I said in an earlier post that there were 450 pages to go through - there are 800. The editing process of my book has gone like this:

- I wrote 50,000 words
- I went around meeting heaps of publishers
- I got a book deal
- I finished writing the book (200,000 words)
- the publishers read the book, we had a meeting about it, they gave me some notes
- I incorporated these notes into a redraft
- the publishers wrote back to me with more notes
- I did another redraft
- the copy editor has worked through the manuscript, suggesting cuts and making scribbles about punctuation, word choice, grammar and some content/meaning suggestions on every page. And I don't mean one or two squiggles. I mean 20-40. Per page.
- after receiving the paper manuscript with her notes from FedEx, I have been approving all of her corrections and making counter-suggestions where necessary, as well as cuts.
- I've FedExed back the first 200 pages, which are being edited ahead of schedule for a super-duper first-part-only advanced chunk of book that is going to book industry media to look at
- the honcho editor (different to the copy editor) is working through my rewrites of the copy editor's suggestions, and making her own counter-counter-suggestions. Then I write back with counter-counter-counter-suggestions. Then she writes back.
- ... meanwhile, I'm working through the next 650 pages.

To give you an example of the correspondence that's being exchanged, this is a sample. My notes are in red. From the Editor:

“Her neck-length hair was burgundy in the low light.”

Van, you queried why the copy-editor changed this to ‘shoulder-length’, wondering what was wrong with ‘neck-length’. I think ‘neck-length’ is a little ambiguous as a vertical guide; readers might wonder whether you mean the top, middle or bottom of the neck. Perhaps ‘chin-length’ might be more what you were thinking of, rather than ‘shoulder-length’?

Hmm.  This is difficult. “Chin-length” would be something like a bob, like Posh Spice. I guess it’s okay, though.

Every book you read (unless it's vanity published) goes through this process, this level of detail. Why? Because it matters. It matters that you, dear reader, know whether Taika's hair reaches to her jawline, mid-neck or higher-collarbone. This level of detail is required to make the fictional world believable, else fuzzy descriptions, cliches and poorly-worded sentences cause the literary equivalent of molten magma to ravage your villages.

Do not even get me started on the maps and houseplans I have had to draw.

2. My play,
Swamplands. This play is NOT like Burnt Snow. It is not about witches. It is about the CIA and American spy scandals. I am writing it for this theatre company in America, the wonderful Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. When I am not editing my manuscript, I am reading books about the CIA and working on scenes. Which is just as well given that the play is starting rehearsal very soon, for a one-night only preview performance in the Vibrant Festival of New Writing at the Finborough Theatre in London. It is being directed by Ben Kidd, who is very good.

If you want to come along, it's on
June 10, at 9pm, and you can book tickets here, and it's only £4. In London, that's actually cheaper than getting punched in the face.

3. The Classics Book Club I co-host on ABC Canberra Radio.
Once a month I do something marvellous with communications technology and I chat 20th Century classic books with Genevieve Jacobs while I'm in London and she's in Canberra. Our last book was White Noise by Don Dellilo. If you want to hear the last show, you can follow this link, here.

Our next book, which I have to reread for our bookclub on
May 4 (at 1pm EST, ABC Canberra 666) is my favourite book ever, Brideshead Revisted
by Evelyn Waugh. So if you want to talk "the operations of divine grace on a disparate group of characters", tune in, or catch the blogcast: details are here.

Do I sound busy enough yet? How about we throw in a full-time job?

4. Literary Management at the Finborough Theatre, London.
I am very lucky to work for this prestigious new writing theatre in London. What I do is: read scripts we are considering for production, have script meetings with writers whose work we are developing or programming, maintain relationships with new writing programmes in London and new writing theatres across the world, scout writers, directors, actors and designers by attending a lot of productions and run development workshops of new scripts. Those of you who may have noticed that I am also having my show performed there for one night in June please note that this was programmed BEFORE I took over the job. Swear.

If you are a writer who has had the play in them removed, you may wish to consider sending it to our theatre. We've championed writers like Mark Ravenhill, Anthony Neilson, Susan Grochala, Joy Wilkinson, Laura Wade, Nicholas de Jongh, David Eldridge and James Graham, and you can aspire to their ranks by following the directions
here. We accept plays from all around the world.

Upcoming fun business at the Finborough includes not only my play, but me "In Conversation With" the fabulous playwright Mark Ravenhill as part of the Vibrant Festival, at
9pm on May 29. To be in the audience for Mark's fabulousness, you can book here.

5. My play,
Black Hands / Dead Section in Queensland. Actually, the wonderfulness of this event is that I don't have to write or read anything - I wrote the play five years ago, it won some nice awards and finally, finally, it's getting a production in my home country. It's the debut production in the new Geoffrey Rush Theatre at the University of Queensland, and it's about the Baader-Meinhof Gang and urban left-wing terrorism in 1970s West Germany. It's got lots of guns and pretty young people, and if you can get to Brisbane on May 19-22nd at 7.30pm you can see it for between AUD $5-$12.

The booking number is +61 7 3365 2552. You can read about it here. They get the name of the show wrong, but they get the name of the theatre RIGHT, which is always the most important thing.

... in addition to this, I'm working on the next book, and the screenplays of three films, and a TV series and pitching 4 large-cast plays to a theatre company. Because I am dealing with all of those next week... Well, let's just say I am NOT GETTING OUT OF THIS BED.

Back to the witch-world soon, I swear it.

xx Van


deegee said...

Everything by FedEx on paper? Save our forests - elves live in the trees.

What ever happened to PDFs and DOCs?

David Guy

Van Badham said...

I must confess my own surprise about the marks-on-paper system, but, sure enough, a PACKING CRATE of annotated pages turned up with precise instructions as to which pen to use as i followed a printed guide to editing marks. I can barely sign my name these days, accustomed as i am to the keyboard, so it's been a practical lesson in basic literacy, as much as anything else, to mark pages. Editing on paper is way weird... When pens have a cut-and-paste function, then i'll dig it...

Anonymous said...

Wow, we get props on your site...how amazing! I'm one of the actors in this Black Hands performance!

Sorry about the spelling error, the department wrote the notice not us! We did the posters, and at the very least, they got it right.

Such a great play Van, and i'm so excited to perform!

Van Badham said...

Hi King-Depp,

Just SO wish I could be there. Black Hands / Dead Section is some of my best work but it's taken 5 years to get a show - your show! - on in Australia, even after winning the QLD Premier's Award.

I hope the cast are all enjoying it. Would love to see some production pics - I'll put them up on this site. If you are curious to see snaps from the original London production, have a look at my old MySpace page... You'll see glimpeses of my former students Ruth Wilson and Isabella Caltorpe who are, ahem, doing rather well. I hope the same goes for all of you. Stay in touch.


Anonymous said...

Van Badham,
I want to teach your play Black Hands/ Dead Section for a course on contemporary culture here at SFSU in the Fall, but it seems there's no bound copy for sale. Is that right?

Van Badham said...

Hey Booker,

It's not bound, but the Australian Script Centre issues licenses for copies to be printed.

Please make an enquiry via my agent's assistant, sallym@shanahan.com.au, and she can sort all this out for you.

I would be honoured to have my work considered at such a progressive school. Thank you for thinking of me.

xx Van