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Surfing the words to the shore

26 Mar
Surfing at Cape Arid National Park, Western Australia

Writing a book with a surfer-girl heroine has made me reflect on the relationship between surfing and writing in my life. One of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami, has famously said that everything he knows about writing he has learned from running. For me, it’s surfing.

My surfing and writing journeys both started when I moved to the north coast of New South Wales. The surf was at my doorstep, it seemed a shame to waste it. My hometown is world-famous for its waves. A looming basalt headland captures the big swell and a rocky reef creates smaller waves on the inside. With such waves at my doorstep, what else could I do but buy a surfboard?

So I bought myself a beginner’s surf board – soft and fat. Each time I took it out I challenged myself to stay in the water for a little longer. I floundered around in the whitewash, falling off and getting pummelled by the waves, emerging with nostrils full of saltwater and hair caked in sand. But then I started catching little waves. I glided over the reef. I was hooked.

For twenty years now, I have surfed almost-daily. If I count it up, allowing for times when I was away from home, or the surf wasn’t happening, by even a very conservative reckoning this is thousands of hours immersed in the water.

My process of learning to write was somewhat similar. I got less sand in my hair and water up my nose but the slap downs were still painful. With both writing and surfing, you need to be able to take a pounding and come back for more. It takes hours and hours of thankless practice. You are going to wipe out. Get used to it. I wrote three complete novels before I got my first one published. That’s a lot of words. A lot of practice. A lot of rejections. Every writer and every surfer is different. Different doesn’t mean wrong. You can learn from others, but there’s no point in trying to copy them.

You need to go out as often as possible, no matter the conditions. Some days are good, others not so good, but as long as you keep turning up, you will get somewhere. Once in a while everything goes right. The waves are perfect. The words flow. Those days are rare, but oh so beautiful.

Both writing and surfing are more about the journey than the destination. You don’t surf with the aim of getting to shore. Nor does it make sense to focus on the outcome – the book, rather than the process of getting there. That’s where the magic is. There is always another wave on the horizon, another story to tell.

The Girl with the Gold Bikini is available at your local bookshop, most are now doing deliveries, as well as online at:

Wakefield Press, Booktopia, Readings, Amazon Australia, US, UK

Four of my fictional female detective crushes

7 Mar

In honour of International Women’s Day tomorrow, I’d like to give a shout-out to the fictional female detectives who inspired my own teen PI, Olivia Grace.

Olivia’s PI crushes …

Nancy Drew – The first Nancy Drew book was published in 1930. Since then, there have been over 500 books, five films, three television shows and a number of computer games. It’s safe to say that Nancy is a bit of an institution.

My Nancy Drew collection

Nancy Drew is one of Olivia’s role models.  Her grandmother gave her her first Nancy Drew book when she was ten and followed up with more volumes at every birthday and Christmas thereafter. As Olivia says:

‘Ever since, I’ve imagined myself roaming the streets, helping out the good guys, bringing down the bad guys. Wiggling out of scary moments with some girl-power ingenuity. Nancy Drew has style and chutzpah, not to mention a snazzy sports car. I have none of these, but what the hell. There’s nothing to stop me trying.’

Veronica Mars – Veronica Mars is an American teenage mystery drama, which first aired on television in 2004. Veronica is a sassy smart-mouthed heroine, who has also taught Olivia a lot. Despite watching the complete series of Veronica Mars, however, Olivia isn’t quite sure if she’s going to cut it as a real PI…  

‘Rosco can’t expect a super sleuth on my salary, but a girl who’s learned all she knows from Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars might not be what he had in mind either.’

Veronica Mars

My own PI crushes

I have always liked a gutsy, fast-talking PI heroine who gets herself into and out of messes with panache. Here are two more of my favourites.

Corinna Chapman – Nimbin-born baker and reluctant PI, Corinna lives life with gusto. She is featured in the seven Earthly Delights books created by Kerry Greenwood. Kerry is also the author of the Phryne Fisher mystery series, now immortalised in the movie Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.

Stephanie Plum –  Stephanie Plum is a character created by American author Janet Evanovich. She is a bounty hunter, described as a combination of Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew. The author has said she is “incredibly average and yet heroic if necessary.” There are 24 Stephanie Plum novels, plus a movie.

There is no shortage of fabulous female detectives in fiction and drama today. My own PI, Olivia Grace, might not have a magnifying glass like Nancy Drew or a long-lens camera like Veronica Mars, but she’s still ready to do whatever it takes to solve her case. She’ll even disguise herself as a meter maid in a gold bikini if she really has to.

Who are your favourite female detectives in fiction?

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ is now available from your favourite bookshop and online locations including Booktopia, Readings and Amazon (Aus) (US) (UK). Read reviews on Goodreads here.