Kirstyn McDermott and Madigan Mine
by George Ivanoff - July 6th, 2010
This month Kirstyn McDermott’s first novel, Madigan Mine, hits the shelves. Kirstyn is well known for her short fiction and involvement with the Australian Horror Writers Association. Today, she has stopped by at Literary Clutter to tell us about her journey from short fiction to novel. Take it away Kirstyn…
Some time ago, when I was still in primary school, I decided that I was going to be a writer. Of course, being very young and largely uneducated, I had no idea what this career path entailed other than the notion that I would need to Write Books – very much like the many books which crammed the shelves of my mother’s bookcases, only with more ponies in them. Or monsters. Or possibly both. Certainly, I had no idea that the road leading to the publication of my first novel would prove to be such a long and winding and ultimately unexpected one.
Madigan Mine began almost fifteen years ago with the small spark of an idea that I intended to write up as a short story. To be honest, I really am a short story writer at heart. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, and almost none of them are suitable for a novel-length work. Which is fine with me – if I had the time and means, I sometimes think I could quite happily spend the rest of my life writing nothing else but short fiction. Very occasionally, however, a story idea will expand. The characters involved will grow and demand more space. This is what happened with Madigan and the tale that surrounded her. Funnily enough, the novel now bears very little resemblance to that original idea – even the character names are different, and the story would have ended pretty much where the novel begins.
Memory is fickle and computer files have been lost, but I think I began actually writing Madigan Mine about twelve years ago. It went through several revisions and rewrites and enjoyed a handful of lengthy sojourns in various incarnations at various publishers, but always came back with its tail tucked firmly between its legs. Sometimes there was an encouraging note tied to its collar. Sometimes intensive flea treatment was recommended. A common thread ran through the rejections: the novel was interesting, and even well-written, but no one quite seemed to know exactly what to do with it.
Common wisdom advises that a writer should persevere no matter the odds, that she should doggedly submit her manuscript to every possible market and, if that fails, start again from the beginning. Common wisdom also counsels that a writer needs to recognise when a manuscript simply isn’t working and be willing to put it aside and move on to something new. Reluctantly, after too many years of treading water, I chose the latter option. Madigan Mine was wrapped in a shroud and deposited in the proverbial bottom drawer, seemingly never to be heard from again. I began work on a New Novel instead.
Then early last year, completely out of the blue, I received an email from a Lovely Gentleman at Picador. He had read several of my short stories – I had been writing and publishing short fiction in between my periodic wrestles with Madigan – and wanted to know if I had a novel-length manuscript he could see. You could have knocked me over with barely an asthmatic breath. With my New Novel nowhere near finished, I offered up Madigan Mine. Sure, he said, pop the whole thing in the post at once. No worries, I said, just let me give it a quick spit and polish.
Two weeks of very little sleep and back-breaking, eye-straining, finger-cramping rewrites later, Madigan Mine was on the way to Picador HQ. And the rest, as they say, is history. Well, kinda. The rest is actually more rewriting, and editing, and line-editing, and copy-editing and all the hard work that turns a novel-length manuscript into an actual novel. But now, standing on the other side of my publication date, I can safely say that all this time and energy has been very well spent. I’m a much better writer than I was a decade ago, and Madigan Mine is a much, much better book for it.
Even if there aren’t any ponies.
George’s bit at the end
Thanks Kirstyn for dropping in at Literary Clutter. I recently progressed from writing short stories and short children’s books to my first novel, so I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. And I now look forward to reading Madigan Mine.
If you’d like to know more about Kirstyn and her writing, check out her website.
And tune in next time to read some of my favourite opening lines.
Catch ya later, George