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The Bravery Issue

Something about getting to September that makes me want to do cartwheels. In Adelaide, Australia, where I live, the weather is (slowly) getting warmer, days sunnier, Christmas edges closer. My mum, dad and sisters live far away on the other side of the country, so at Christmas when we get together it’s usually a hilariously intense, slightly insane week of eating, drinking, bizarre photoshoots, competitive board games, and just all day shenanigans. Bliss!

It’s time away from work as well which is wonderful. I still have a ‘day job’. Books don’t quite pay the bills yet!! I work as a Project Officer in a government department here in Adelaide. I think constantly about leaving my job, but just can’t afford to at the moment. As this is The Bravery Issue…I would love to hear from you if you’ve done an incredibly brave thing like leave your ‘day job’ and launch yourself in a new direction, facing uncertainty, and not knowing what was going to happen next. Please get in touch on facebook or email me. I love these kinds of stories!

Why writing erotica makes you a better writer

As this is The Bravery Issue…I wanted to include something I have done which made me feel brave. And I’m convinced writing erotica demands a level of bravery.

Anyone who has ever attempted to write erotica will know what beast of a challenge it is. There’s a reason why most literature avoids erotic scenes with a ten-foot pole…it’s brutally hard to get right. It’s also deeply personal. What works for one is likely to make another shudder at the cringe-worthy attempt. So therein lay the challenge, and I seized it with both hands. I’m not sure if this leap into the unknown was a sign of my a) complete naivety as a writer b) bold risk taking and devil-may-care attitude or c) freedom to not be bound by the rules and instead tell my truth. Perhaps all three.

I had a go, gave it a damn good go and The River and the Ravages is the result. It doesn’t sit easily in the Erotica genre, because, believe me…it’s still quite innocent compared to much modern erotica. But the process of writing erotic scenes was a profound journey towards being a better writer. Here’s why:

1. To develop my characters fully. People have sex. When they’re not having sex there’s a good chance they’re thinking about sex. And I’m quite certain there’s a secret agony in all of us that we’re just somehow a little peculiar when it comes to sex. It’s the most private of activities yet it’s wrapped up in incredibly powerful so called ‘social norms’: things that are acceptable or not acceptable about what we’re meant to feel during intimacy and how we deal with it. That complexity is intriguing to me. It felt complacent as a writer to not explore this subject matter in a character’s life considering how pivotal it is.

2. Forced me to find the right words. And not just for the erotic scenes…for the entire book. A writer should agonise over sentences, obsess over words. Something that has been consistent in reviews of The River and the Ravages has been that it is ‘beautifully written’. Oh, thank goodness. Writing a beautifully written book that people enjoy reading is what it’s all about to me.

3. To make everything more vivid. Writing erotica makes you think of how the smallest gesture feels, how your partner smells, how the protagonist starts thinking of the weirdest things things during the act because they’re a normal person haunted by guilt and phobias and neuroses. That vividness should run through the whole book. It helps you, the reader, dive into a different world and get a little lost for a while.

4. Forced me to not write what I know. People often speculate that much of a sexy book must be autobiographical, assuming that the erotica has been experienced first hand. Well, that would be nice! But it’s simply not the case. A good writer doesn’t just write what they know. But they do often write what they want to know. For me, The River and the Ravages is about exploring what lies beyond my curtains, venturing through unchartered waters and pushing boundaries.

I think it takes a certain kind of bravery to write well and honestly about sex. And I want to be a brave person.

But the bravest thing is…

But I think the bravest thing I’ve ever done was do a four week driving holiday around Tasmania a year ago with my two daughters. You’re probably thinking..geez a holiday…how brave!! But I was on my own with my 11 and 10 year old girls, drove over 1,700 miles in a couple of weeks, and camped EVERY NIGHT. Nothing was booked, nothing was planned. I just went for it. We experienced the greatest highs, some pretty dastardly lows, and bonded in ways I can’t begin to describe. The whole experience was rich and fulfilling beyond all my expectations. One of our favourite days was doing the zipline amongst the towering treetops near Launceston. There is definitely a part of me in Aaliya, The River and the Ravages’ protagonist, that has a fixation on birds and flying. And this was my closest experience to flying…

Don’t have time to read?

I get it. Fitting in reading time is a monumental challenge sometimes. In fact, a lot of the time. If you’ve gotten through this newsletter so far you’re clearly a reading devotee of legendary status, and I salute you. But for those of us who find it hard to fit in, or our body just doesn’t allow us to read easily, audiobooks are a wonderful option. I’m such an advocate. When I was writing The River and the Ravages, getting a professionally developed audiobook was always a number one priority. I’m pleased to say the audiobook version of The River and the Ravages is available via subscription services such as Scribd and Downpour, or via library services Overdrive and Bibliotheca. Life’s beautiful, and walking the dog has never been so much fun.

No ideas without music

Music…ahh, where would we be without it? I can only speak for myself as a writer, and quite simply there wouldn’t be books without music. Music is the soul of the book. That scene you love so much was written while beautiful, transcendent music was playing. Music helps me dig deep, find words in a part of me I barely even know about. Sometimes I listen to a song that I have found resonates with what I’m trying to write and I listen to it again and again and literally get transported into the character and the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

The River and the Ravages was written whilst listening to a number of songs which I’d like to share with you. They take me into the world of Traegos and I hope they take you there as well. You can find the entire playlist for The River and the Ravages on my youtube channel. I’d love to know if you like any of these songs? Please get in touch at and let me know what you’re listening to.

By chapter name in The River and the Ravages – artist / song:

The Quiet Goodbye – Max Richter / On the Nature of Daylight

The Hive – Billie Eilish feat. Khalid / Lovely

Perfect Creations – Lana Del Ray / Born to Die

The Hunt – Birdy / Wings

Walking Through an Open Door  – Lamb / Gorecki

Anchor – Laura Marling / Rambling Man

Somewhere In-Between – Aurora / Running With the Wolves

Beyond the Boundaries – Olafur Arnalds / Only the Winds

The Departed – Sia / Breathe Me

Thanks for your support

The kind words, the great reviews, the funny and tender emails. It’s been quite the journey since I launched my first book. The sharing has been an unexpected delight. Keep it up, folks. If you haven’t yet been in touch, give it a whirl. Chances are we’ve got more in common than you realize. Stay brave…and always remember to Quell the storm, Ride the thunder…

Coming soon…

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