jessie cole

novelist/writer

Tag: Deeper Water

Write Around the Murray Festival – 9th to the 13th of September

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The Big Book Club: Jason Steger in conversation with Jessie Cole

When: Saturday 12 September, 4.00pm – 5.00pm

Where: Library Museum, Corner of Kiewa and Swift Streets, Albury

Price: Gold coin donation

On one level Deeper Water is a ‘coming-of-age tour de force’: a tale of innocence and awakening, a raging river and a stranded stranger. At a deeper level it is an examination of modern life and the ways we disconnect from nature, including the gains and costs of this perceived separation.

The Big Book Club highlights two books of the festival for you to read in advance before listening to the authors discuss their work in depth with regular festival guest, Jason Steger. As literary editor for The Age and regular panellist on ABC’s The Book Club, Jason’s blend of experience, insight and intimacy makes for compelling conversations with guest authors, with time for audience questions at the end.

Check out the rest of the festival at WAM – Write Around the Murray Festival.

Unwitting Selfies: Fiction and Self Exposure

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Nowadays, it’s a truism that we live in a culture saturated with self-exposure. The spectrum of possibilities runs from simple Facebook selfies, through blogs and feelpinions, and probably ends somewhere in the murky waters of uploading amateur porn. Never before have we had such access to ways of both communicating and controlling the parts of ourselves that others see. But what strikes me, as a fiction writer, is how much that control unravels once you begin to engage in the process of storytelling, otherwise known as ‘making things up’.

The mysterious workings of the creative mind mean that often (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) what comes to the surface when writing fiction might not be what was initially intended. Ideas or pressing issues can dissolve into nothing while the narrative picks up speed in an entirely new direction. There is something about the process that resists the interference of the rational self, and in this way what is revealed is often quite unexpected. Added to this strange phenomenon—and even more alarming—your fiction seems to say things about you that you didn’t even know, and perhaps can only faintly grasp after writing. It’s discomforting, a little like posting a selfie that unwittingly reveals all your subconscious thoughts.

Memoir—where we actively share what we know about ourselves—seems straightforward in comparison. And in a sense it is. We are picking and choosing the parts of our personal story worth relating, and we know where the story goes. There is still a sense of underbelly—a possible thread of meaning or narrative that might go undetected by the writer—but I suspect that the more aligned the writer is with the subtext, the higher the quality of the work.

I’m not so sure this is true for fiction, which seems to involve—at least in the act of writing—a surrender to the unknown. I like to begin a story with several characters of interest in a difficult or precarious situation and then just watch how things go. These characters seem fully formed, separate from me, and they do their own thing. When I write in the voice of a character I feel they are speaking through me. I am listening to their story and waiting to see where they lead. Often I have an inkling or premonition of what’s to come, but it is similar to the feeling I get when a friend tells me a story and I guess at the ending. Even my best guess could be wrong.

Stories seem to lead to particular places, and then sometimes they take a left turn. What I find most confounding about the process is how to come to terms with all of this being a representation of my inner world. Who are these characters who people my novels? Some of them might have initially been based—at least partially—on people I know, but once inside the narrative they tend to take an authority over themselves. And in any case, characters are not real people, but a collection of words on a page. Since I imagined them and then wrote down their stories, are they—in some disturbing way—all just aspects of me? And if so, what private things am I unknowingly exposing about myself?

It might seem strange that in this age of unprecedented self-exposure writing fiction could feel so risky, but it does. When I got word that my first novel Darkness on the Edge of Town was to be published I was in a car with my family driving home from Brisbane. For the first few minutes I was ecstatic, speechless and beaming, and then a sudden migraine struck and within fifteen minutes we had to pull over in the car park of a highway McDonalds for me to hunch, dry retching, over the gutter. It seemed the reality of publication was something my body wasn’t quite ready for. And, even now, those two opposing feelings seem to rock and swell in my belly. Excitement at the release of a new novel, Deeper Water, and a sickening fear of all the things I could be saying about who I am, of which I’m only half aware.

In this context it doesn’t surprise me that my girl Mema, the protagonist of Deeper Water, should be grappling so bemusedly with all the knowns and unknowns of her world—that her journey should involve an awakening to the secret things she has kept hidden, even from herself. Writing fiction involves a type of awakening, and I think sharing it is an exposure far more strange and discomforting than any other kind.
 

First published on the Wheeler Centre Dailies, 27th October, 2014.

Melbourne Writers’ Festival 21 – 31 August

Jessie will be appearing at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival

 What I learned About Sex From Reading

Alissa Nutting’s bold debut Tampa is about predatory sex. Jessie Cole’s new novel, Deeper Water, tends towards sensuality and tenderness. Find out what these two writers learnt about sex while writing about it – and what lessons there are for readers. In conversation with Bethanie Blanchard.

Friday, 29th August, 1pm. At ACMI The Cube.

The Morning Read

Start your day with Festival early bird and Big Issue books editor, Thuy On, as she hosts readings with a diverse range of festival guests.

Saturday, 30th August, 10am. At Festival Club at Optic.

See you there!

Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2014

For a great write up of Jessie’s panel with Inga Simpson, check out the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Blog Post: The Nest Isn’t Always Safe: The Topic of Home with Jessie Cole and Inga Simpson.

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Jessie Cole (centre) and; Inga Simpson (right) discuss the second novels with chair Lisa Walker (left). Photo: Cath Piltz

 

And another BBWF Blog Post: Into the Wild: Robyn Davidson, Claire Dunn, Jessie Cole and Felicity Volk.

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Into the wild panel: (L-R) chair Anneli Knight, Robyn Davidson, Claire Dunn, Jessie Cole and Felicity Volk. Photo credit: Cath Piltz

Deeper Water Launched!

“Elemental, slightly weird and truly sexy …” Geordie Williamson launching Deeper Water.

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Byron Bay Writers’ Festival, Deeper Water launch. Photos courtesy of Angela Meyer.

On Writing Deeper Water

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Sometimes thinking back on how a novel is created is like looking through fog at a faraway land. The whole process seems shrouded in mystery. I imagine myself—tapping away at the keys—creating a fictional world for what must have been months and months—stretching into years—but somehow the image doesn’t stick. The whole thing seems a blur. It is—at least partly—that when you sit down to write you are simultaneously in two places at once. You are gazing into a computer screen and you are totally immersed in the world you are creating. For me, because the act of writing is so immersive, it’s hard to think about the hows and whys of the finished product. I end up shaking my head to try to clear it, and thinking—quite simply—it is what it is.

When writing, I like to keep beginnings small. Tapping out the first words is like humming a few notes. It’s possible the notes could turn into a song, but, equally, they could just disperse into the air. My brother is a musician by trade, and I have noticed the language of song-writing seems to encompass the smallness of creative beginnings. When writing new songs my brother always says—I’ve been working on a few tunes. ‘Tunes’ is a humble word. A few notes strung together—the fragile wisp of a burgeoning story. It could be nothing. It could be something. But in any case it starts out small. When I started Deeper Water, I started right at the beginning. They say every hero has to leave home, but what those first steps are like I’m yet to know. Mema’s voice was strong—clear and unhindered. Somehow unsullied. I waited to see if her story would unfold. Slowly the tune became a song. Even more gradually it became a novel.

And then there’s the tricky bit. Deciding (or decoding) what it is—in the midst of this immersion in a fictional world—you were actually trying to say. Once I’d finished writing the book I thought about this a lot, and I got it down to this:

On the surface, I think Deeper Water is a story about awakening. Mema’s awakening to the world outside, but also her sexual awakening—her belated initiation into womanhood and all that entails. But on a deeper level, the book it is an examination of modern life, of all the ways we’ve invented to disconnect us from nature. Living the way I do, encased in forest on the periphery of modern existence, raises a number of questions. Primarily—how is it that we humans have come to see ourselves as so separate from the natural world? What do we gain by this, and what is the cost?

That’s a tidy bunch of thematic preoccupations, but it doesn’t really go anywhere near explaining why Mema’s voice should come to me, why Hamish would crash into her world, and why—after all—she would fall so hard for him. My only explanation is that the subconscious is a mysterious beast, throwing up characters and stories—initially, at least—outside our comprehension or control. Some people seem to write as though they are puppeteers controlling all the strings, but this has never been the case for me. I’m a listener. I get into a place of stillness and listen to the voice who speaks. And I try not to ask my characters too many questions, to fuss around with them about who they are. I attempt—most simply—to get out of the way. And they are wily, taking all sorts of strange turns. But they seem to know where they are going, so I let them have the reins.

And then afterwards, when the book is finished and my characters are gone, I’m left standing there—all alone—trying to explain to readers what just happened, when I don’t even know myself. I went along for the ride—I long to say, I just went along for the ride. So, if you read Deeper Water—as I hope you might—try to imagine it as it started. A few hummed notes. Some scattered words.The sound of a voice on the wind. And then think of where it came to—a book, a novel, a whole fictional world. Something coherent, with a beginning, middle and end. The story Mema shared with us, in all her honest glory.

 

First Published as a guest post on Book’d Out.

Deeper Water

COV_deeperwaterThe secret things I knew about my mum, and the things that everyone knew, had played in my mind for some time, since I was real little, I guess. When I was small, all around me seemed to flow, gentle and sweet like the quiet edge of the creek. Then my brothers grew too large to be hemmed in, and Sophie met a bloke, moved out and had babies, and things became harder. The older I got the louder those secret things inside me became, all those knowns and unknowns, until – apart from Anja – I’d rather talk to animals than people.

Innocent and unworldly, Mema is still living at home with her mother on a remote, lush hinterland property. It is a small, confined, simple sort of life, and Mema is content with it. One day, during a heavy downpour, Mema saves a stranger from a raging creek. She takes him into her family home, where, marooned by rising floods, he has to stay until the waters recede. His sudden presence is unsettling—for Mema, her mother and her wild friend Anja—but slowly he opens the door to a new world of beckoning possibilities that threaten to sweep Mema into the deep.

‘She takes us to a place of the strangest innocence and lovingness … And she takes us to a physical place that’s quite her own, and when you go to her country – the lush but uneasy country inland from Byron Bay – you recognise at once that she’s the voice of it, the country speaks in her voice, though the captivating wise gentleness of that voice belongs only to Jessie.’ Peter Bishop

Out now!

 

To order go to Booktopia, Readings, Bookworld, or for an ebook Amazon, Kobo

Reviews of Deeper Water:

Deeper Water is a fine and elegantly written novel from an impressive writer.”

The Weekend Australian

Deeper Water delivers on its title’s promise of immersion, sensuality, and the liminal … a compelling examination of our relationship with nature.”

Australian Book Review

“Cole’s characters are, each one, perfectly drawn examples of flawed and fragile humans, and she evokes the landscape in which she herself grew up and still lives with the tender familiarity of a child for its mother. This is a softly spoken coming-of-age tale that deserves the label tour de force.”

North & South Magazine

“Mema’s narrative voice is quiet and measured, never giving very much away but at the same time revealing the immense depth and intensity of her feelings that sit just below the surface. Her longing is mysterious, and Cole’s descriptive prose imbues it with the gloriously sensual anticipation of a bud about to burst into bloom. A compelling and satisfying read; its sensuality and earthiness give a mythical quality to the regional Australian landscape.”

Readings

“A fierce momentum tugs the reader by the belt buckle, causing her to flip pages to see when the tension will be finally released. Cole’s talent lies in the depiction of the intangible feelings of a sexual awakening.”

Newtown Review of Books

“In literature, and in film, there are some classic plots almost guaranteed to grab the audience’s attention. The Stranger Comes to Town is one, Coming of Age is another and what in England we might call Something Nasty in the Woodshed (a reference to the wonderful novel Cold Comfort Farm) is another.

Like a practiced chess master, local Burringbar author Cole, who grew up in relative isolation on a country property, has used all these themes to create a novel that is as deep, chilling and sensuous as the title itself. Her first book, Darkness on the Edge of Town, (which also used the stranger in town device) was good, this one is not just better, it’s extraordinary.”

Verandah Magazine

“With its simple yet elegant prose, and quiet yet deeply felt emotion, Deeper Water is a mesmerising story about a young woman’s awakening to the possibilities of love and life.”

Shelleyrae, Book’d Out

“Jessie Cole is an exciting talent, who with Deeper Water proves that she is an Australian writer to watch.”

The Hoopla

“Now and then it’s hard to write a review about a certain book – not because there is nothing to say but rather because I struggle with what to say that will be enough to truly capture the essence of the book and then adequately relay that to readers of my review. Deeper Water is one such book … This story seduces you from the start, drawing you in powerfully by a critical event in the first few pages of the book and then slowly sings itself to you until the song is done. I love Jessie Cole’s writing style – it is calm, quiet, experientially descriptive, truly beautiful. Rich and real … deeply sensual … This is a tantalising book. It is raw, real and emotive.”

Jennie, Daystarz Books, Goodreads

“In the last four years, I’ve reviewed a lot of books. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes I have to coax them. The reasons for the writers block can be varied but I honestly think this is probably the first time I haven’t really known what to write because the book is so beautifully written and I’m not sure how to convey that accurately … I read Jessie Cole’s first novel, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and was impressed by it but this novel showcases her evolution and advancement as a writer. It’s the sort of book that you wish went a bit longer, just so you could keep reading it and experiencing it.”

Bree, All The Books I Can Read … 1 Girl 2 Many Books!

 

Reviews

COV_deeperwater

Reviews of Deeper Water:

 

Deeper Water is a fine and elegantly written novel from an impressive writer.”

The Weekend Australian

Deeper Water delivers on its title’s promise of immersion, sensuality, and the liminal … a compelling examination of our relationship with nature.”

Australian Book Review

“Cole’s characters are, each one, perfectly drawn examples of flawed and fragile humans, and she evokes the landscape in which she herself grew up and still lives with the tender familiarity of a child for its mother. This is a softly spoken coming-of-age tale that deserves the label tour de force.”

North & South Magazine

“Mema’s narrative voice is quiet and measured, never giving very much away but at the same time revealing the immense depth and intensity of her feelings that sit just below the surface. Her longing is mysterious, and Cole’s descriptive prose imbues it with the gloriously sensual anticipation of a bud about to burst into bloom. A compelling and satisfying read; its sensuality and earthiness give a mythical quality to the regional Australian landscape.”

Readings Magazine

“A fierce momentum tugs the reader by the belt buckle, causing her to flip pages to see when the tension will be finally released. Cole’s talent lies in the depiction of the intangible feelings of a sexual awakening.”

Newtown Review of Books

“In literature, and in film, there are some classic plots almost guaranteed to grab the audience’s attention. The Stranger Comes to Town is one, Coming of Age is another and what in England we might call Something Nasty in the Woodshed (a reference to the wonderful novel Cold Comfort Farm) is another.

Like a practiced chess master, local Burringbar author Cole, who grew up in relative isolation on a country property, has used all these themes to create a novel that is as deep, chilling and sensuous as the title itself. Her first book, Darkness on the Edge of Town, (which also used the stranger in town device) was good, this one is not just better, it’s extraordinary.”

Verandah Magazine

“With its simple yet elegant prose, and quiet yet deeply felt emotion, Deeper Water is a mesmerising story about a young woman’s awakening to the possibilities of love and life.”

Shelleyrae, Book’d Out

“Jessie Cole is an exciting talent, who with Deeper Water proves that she is an Australian writer to watch.”

The Hoopla

“Now and then it’s hard to write a review about a certain book – not because there is nothing to say but rather because I struggle with what to say that will be enough to truly capture the essence of the book and then adequately relay that to readers of my review. Deeper Water is one such book … This story seduces you from the start, drawing you in powerfully by a critical event in the first few pages of the book and then slowly sings itself to you until the song is done. I love Jessie Cole’s writing style – it is calm, quiet, experientially descriptive, truly beautiful. Rich and real … deeply sensual … This is a tantalising book. It is raw, real and emotive.”

Jennie, Daystarz Books, Goodreads

“In the last four years, I’ve reviewed a lot of books. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes I have to coax them. The reasons for the writers block can be varied but I honestly think this is probably the first time I haven’t really known what to write because the book is so beautifully written and I’m not sure how to convey that accurately … I read Jessie Cole’s first novel, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and was impressed by it but this novel showcases her evolution and advancement as a writer. It’s the sort of book that you wish went a bit longer, just so you could keep reading it and experiencing it.”

Bree, All The Books I Can Read … 1 Girl 2 Many Books!

 

To order go to Booktopia, Readings, Bookworld, or for an ebook Amazon, Kobo. To find another retailer.

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Reviews of Darkness on the Edge of Town:

 

“One of the stand-out debuts of 2012.”

Katharine England, The Adelaide Advertiser

“Jessie Cole’s spellbinding first novel is the kind of book that you can describe with words such as ‘beautiful’, ‘touching’ and ‘tender’ as easily as you can with words like ‘uncomfortable’, ‘painful’ and ‘disturbing’ … I can’t wait to see where this talented new voice takes us next.” 4 and 1/2 stars.

Meredith Lewin, Good Reading Magazine.

“Jessie Cole’s debut novel Darkness on the Edge of Town is on another level of storytelling altogether … It’s exquisite writing. Graceful, revealing, pitch perfect. Cole is an author who pays sharp attention to the world around her. And she deserves to have the world pay her some attention in return.”

Ed Wright, The Australian

“A sad and tender tale of the extraordinary events which make up the everyday lives of ordinary people, Darkness on the Edge of Town elegantly expresses the simplicity of emotions that we often find so hard to handle. Unflinching in her capacity to scrape at the raw nerves of our desperation for love, Jessie Cole has written a distinctly Australian story about hope, desire, sexuality, violence and our failure to communicate.”

Rob Minshull, ABC Radio Brisbane

“Jessie Cole writes with the most deceptively simple language. She pulls you into the story and along its threads until bam! She hits you right between the eyes. This is great storytelling. It’s tense, mean, compassionate and very real … The characters are so real it’s as if Cole sat in the pub and copied down everything everyone said. Every minute of reading this book was a joy.”

Meredith Jaffe, The Hoopla

“Cole is one of a number of younger female writers drawing our attention to lives lived on the margins … She focuses the writer’s eye on an Australia both familiar and hidden, creating stories that make some readers feel uncomfortable. But these are stories essential to our understanding of the Australian landscape and those who inhabit it, where tenderness and violence accompany each other in an eerie pact of necessity. While there is a necessary debate occurring in Australia around the value of literary prizes and who they go to, Jessie Cole has rewarded us instead with a novel that leaves us with much to think about.”

Tony Birch, Overland Blog

“Cole’s writing is evocative in its simplicity, the characters’ dialogue – sometimes grimy – as honest and real as Australia can be … A gripping and heartbreaking read.”

Fiona Hardy, Readings

“An engaging and thoughtful novel.”

Eloise Keating, Bookseller & Publisher

“A gripping debut novel by NSW writer Cole about the reverberating effects of domestic violence, love, loss and the kindness of strangers, Darkness on the Edge of Town proves difficult to put down as it hurtles towards it confronting conclusion.” 4 stars.

Who Weekly

To purchase Darkness on the Edge of Town: Readings, Fishpond, Booktopia, QBD, Bookworld,

To buy in ebook format: Amazon, Kobo, Sony Reader Store, Booktopia, itunes, Google Play

For International Shipping: Fishpond, Booktopia.

 

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