April 4th, 2013
Last week I had the honour of introducing my friend Poppy Gee at her book launch at Mary Ryan’s books in Brisbane. Poppy’s novel, Bay of Fires, was released in March and is a literary thriller set in a coastal fishing community in Tasmania.
Poppy and I met when we were both twenty-something journalists at the Village Voice newspaper. Not the New York one, sadly, the one in inner western Sydney. We bonded over parking meter stories and tales of dodgy councillors. We also bonded because she lived half a block away from me, also had a builder as a boyfriend and also loved to write. But while I said I loved to write, Poppy was the one waking up at five every morning to write fiction before going into the office at eight. She had a crazy work ethic – she still does – and I wasn’t very surprised when she became editor. She did what all good editors do, forced me to cold-call people to find stories and vox-pop random strangers on the street. In spite of that, I remained friends with her.
We each moved on to other jobs but kept up our similar paths. We tried to get things published and commiserated over the phone and celebrated good news. Poppy’s story of her publishing deal is here, and it is a wonderful story, but she also worked so hard and deserved it. Bay of Fires is a beautifully written debut, I can tell that a great deal of research went into the detail about fishing and about the murders that happen in the novel but they are dextrously knitted into the plot. The landscape is so vivid that I could feel the salt tightening my skin, while the central characters, Sarah and Hall, are complex and flawed. The tension builds to the point where I had to stay up late to finish, just to find out who was guilty.
It was a little bit terrifying introducing Poppy’s book at the launch, but I think she knew that I would feel that way and she was giving me experience so that I have some practice with these things before I have to go through them myself. That’s the sort of generous person that she is. I’m proud to say that I didn’t totally embarrass her, but her speech showed me how it should really be done. It was funny, it was enlightening, and (unlike me) she hardly read from her notes at all.
When it was over we had a good laugh together. It’s a long way from filing news stories about angry residents defiling their parking meters, and I’m super proud of what Poppy has achieved.