For Canberra author Shelley Burr, the last four years spent working on the release of her debut novel, crime novel Wakewas “an absolute whirlwind”.
Since conceiving the story in 2018, Burr has moved swiftly, completing his first draft in “mad, heartbreaking haste.”
“I felt haunted by it, I wanted to put it on the page so I could stop shooting scenes over and over in my head,” she said. Canberra Weekly.
Burr then ran the draft through a year-old former ACT Writer’s Center manuscript program called Hardcopy, giving it “a good polish” in the process.
From there, still in progress, his manuscript won the 2019 UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and was shortlisted for the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.
“It was really a turning point, because winning that made me think maybe I had something here,” she said. “I had a little interest in publishers at the time, and I probably could have started shopping for it then, but I didn’t think it was the book it could be. “
Taking another year to do more extensive rewrites on the work, when it was ready, Burr asked his agent to send it to publishers.
“She said maybe you’ll hear something, it might take three months to hear something, but I heard in days,” Burr said.
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Go to auction with three interested publishers, Wake was sold in May 2021 under a two-book deal with Hachette.
With author copies arriving earlier this month, Burr’s satisfaction and excitement are palpable.
“It was just amazing, a lot of hard and tiring work, but very satisfying to watch the book take shape.”
The ‘fascinating and disturbing’ true crime
Based on an unsolved disappearance in a fictional farming community in NSW, Wake tells the story of Mina McCreery. Twenty years ago, Mina’s sister Evelyn disappeared from the bedroom they shared, with the case becoming an international sensation that took the real crime world by storm.
The original idea for the book came about during a phase when Burr was frequenting online true crime forums.
“A lot of people there are amateur sleuths trying to solve problems,” she said. “I found them fascinating but also unsettling.”
Wake was directly inspired by a specific thread where users were discussing the brother of a well-known murder victim.
A poster said the brother had no social media, but had a LinkedIn and his employer’s page was public, so they scoured the photos for him.
“All I could think was how angry I would be if I was the brother. That’s how Mina was born,” Burr said.
Having always loved the genre and consuming it extensively, Burr never set out to become a crime novel writer.
“I had this idea and when I started writing this story, working out the outline and breaking down the story, that’s when it became clear that this was going to be a detective story. “, she said.
Living in Canberra for 12 years now, Burr plans to move with his family to northern Victoria.
She greatly appreciates the resources available to writers in Canberra, which “punches well above its weight”.
“I think Canberra for a regional city is really well organized to support writers; there are many regional centers where it is much more difficult.
She admitted, however, that as a professional writer she increasingly had to travel to Sydney and Melbourne on a regular basis.
“There is a noticeable difference when entering the space of the professional writer; you have to travel a lot to these towns to access the resources.
A full-time civil servant, mother, and author, balancing all of her duties requires skillful time management and strategy. Taking an hour a night to write once her daughter is asleep, Burr credits her disciplined approach to being so pressed for time.
“It actually helped me having so little time, because if I want to have an hour, it has to be my butt on the chair, my hands on the keyboard to do it. It was a real motivation not to mess around. »
Shelley Burr’s first novel Wake will be available for sale in Australia from April 27; hacehtte.com.au
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