Welcome to the fourth Day in the Life of a Writer series. If you’d like to check out all the featured writers, please click here.
It’s with great pleasure that I welcome you all to another series of A Day in the Life of a Writer, and I’d love to introduce you to Rose Hartley. You may already have heard of Rose as she has stormed onto the Australian publishing scene with her fabulous debut novel ‘Maggie’s Going Nowhere’. I recently finished reading it and it was brilliant – I highly recommend checking it out. In the meantime, let’s get to know Rose and see what she gets up to in a day in the life of a writer.
A Day in the Life of Rose Hartley
As I write this I’m touring my debut novel so I’m right in the deep end, learning how to do live radio interviews and library events. Technically I’m also working on my second novel but the busy promotion schedule doesn’t leave much time for writing. But while this isn’t a typical day, at least I’m out of my lounge pants.
7.30 Wake up in a hotel in Melbourne (normally I live in Adelaide). Immediately check phone to see if anyone has posted on social media about my novel. Two people have posted nice things on Instagram, so I message to thank them. I post on Twitter about the two events I’m doing today on the Mornington Peninsula.
8.00 This is the busiest day of my tour, so I force myself to put down the phone and get dressed so I can hunt down a take-away coffee.
9.00 I now have a black coffee and a delicious bagel in front of me. I open my laptop and go over my notes for the two interviews I’m doing today. I try to memorise a few interesting answers to common questions.
10.00 The first interviewer from The Book Podcast calls right on time. We have a lovely chat for 30 minutes. It all goes smoothly until she mentions my favourite musician – Gillian Welch – and asks me to explain why I love her music. I’m completely stumped and mutter something incomprehensible. Hopefully that part doesn’t make it into the podcast.
10.30 Spend thirty minutes deciding which earrings to wear.
11.00 Go downstairs in my fabulous earrings to meet Lucy, the publicist from Penguin Random House, in the hotel lobby. She drives me to RMIT, where I’m doing a radio interview for Arts Alive.
11.30 My first in-studio interview goes smoothly, except for when the interviewer has to gesture to stop me shifting my elbows on the table – the microphone is picking up the sound.
11.45 Lucy drives me to Mornington Library, about 1 hour 45 minutes away. Along the way we listen to an author interview on Triple R and I realise it’s Nick Gadd, who I did a Varuna fellowship with. He’s better at radio than I am but I decide not to hold it against him.
1.30 Lucy and I squeeze in a quick snack before the first event.
2.00 I speak about my novel to a surprisingly packed room in Mornington Library. I am initially nervous that they won’t like my talk because there’s a bit of swearing and a casual mention of hand jobs, but the mostly over-70 crowd love it and buy a few books afterwards.
3.00 Lucy and I have a few hours to kill before my next talk, so we go to the park. I’m tired – I get an adrenaline surge and crash with each talk – so I lie down and listen to a meditation app, then we get a coffee.
5.45 My name is in lights outside Frankston Library! Lucy and I take some photos for social media.
6.00 I give my talk to a wildly different crowd at Frankston Library. My energy is a little lower and they don’t laugh as much – I’m worried they hate it. But afterwards, even more people buy books and a few approach to tell me how much they loved it. Sigh of relief.
7.00 Lucy drives me back to the hotel. I’m an absolute wreck, too tired to even speak, but she’s very understanding.
8.45 I drag myself to a pub and order a fancy steak and some wine, because I deserve it after that massive day. I call Mum while I’m waiting for my order. I’m a good daughter.
10.00 Back at the hotel, I want to wind down for the night but still need to post on social media about today’s events and respond to comments and messages.
11.00 I’m knackered but can’t sleep. I wonder if I should drag my laptop into bed and write. I don’t, of course.
2.00am Still awake. Goddammit, should have written.
The Hot 5
What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?
I hope this doesn’t sound too earnest, but my favourite thing is that I get to do something with my life that I find meaningful. Even when I’m writing the above-mentioned scene about a botched hand job it just feels right, so much more right than it ever felt when I worked a nine-to-five office job. I get to write things that will help people escape into another world for a little while and hopefully make them laugh. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Who are your favourite or most inspiring authors?
How does anyone choose! My favourites of all time include Jane Austen, Ursula K Le Guin and Elena Ferrante, for their sweeping brilliance and emotional truth. Right now I’m reading Helen Garner’s The Yellow Notebook, which is fabulous, and I’m obsessed with all of Naomi Novik’s fantasy novels – they transport you instantly to a beautiful, magical place and take away all your problems for a little while. Sally Rooney and Ottessa Moshfegh are my contemporary fiction obsessions at the moment with their difficult, complex central characters. I go to Maxine Beneba Clarke when I want to be murdered by beautiful poetry.
What’s the hardest thing about the writing process?
The fear. Particularly during the first draft, I just don’t believe I can actually do it. A whole novel! A plot! A complex structure! 90,000 words! It’s an impossible task. My mind gets in the way of the work, preventing me from sinking into the story I’m creating. But when the first draft is eventually down then at least there’s something to work with. But it’s such a slog. I mean, I knew it would be hard but I didn’t know it would be THIS hard.
What’s your go to food or drink during writing?
Boiled eggs on Vegemite toast. Seven minutes to make, seven minutes to eat. Then I have plenty of time to stare at the screen in terror.
What’s your number one tip for aspiring authors?
Make friends with other writers who are at a similar place in their careers. You can do this any way you like – I made my closest writing friends through a six-week live-in short fiction workshop in the US – but make sure they really have your back and you have theirs. Because when the rejections come in, when the fear takes over, when you feel as if your dream is ridiculous and you’re a laughing stock and you’ll never make it, you need people who know exactly how you feel and who will help you get back up and keep on writing. In the difficult moments, other people are all you’ve got.
About Rose Hartley
Rose Hartley lives in Adelaide with her 1962 caravan, Cecil, and her cat, Doris. Maggie’s Going Nowhere is her debut novel about a hot mess who’ll do anything to avoid growing up. Rose also writes award-winning poetry and short fiction and is a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in San Diego. When she’s not writing, she works part-time for an international non-profit and arranges her house plants.
Connect with Rose
Maggie’s Going Nowhere purchase links via Penguin: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/maggies-going-nowhere-9780143795483
Apple Books purchase link: https://books.apple.com/au/book/maggies-going-nowhere/id1476632304