Welcome to another series of ‘A Day in the Life of a Writer’. The series does exactly what it says. Each month we’ll tag along with an author as they plough through their day. It may be a day of writing, a day of editing, a day on a book tour, or just a typical day filled with a mix of life. That’s the thing about a day in the life of a writer; there’s nothing as a typical day, they’re all so different!
My first guest for 2018 is the hugely talented Sarah Bailey. Since her 2017 debut thriller “The Dark Lake” smashed it’s way onto the best-selling lists of Australia, USA & Canada, Sarah has stamped her mark firmly in the competitive psychological thriller/crime genres. The Dark Lake was one of my favourite books of 2017, and she is following it up with the upcoming release of her second novel, “Into The Night” which is out May 23rd. (Pre-order here)
So without further ado, here’s Sarah!
There’s a man trapped under my pillow. He sounds a lot like Richard Fidler. Hold up, it is Richard Fidler. I flail around in the dark and locate my phone, turning off the ABC Conversations podcast. I look at the clock. Dammit, I’ve been asleep for less than thirty minutes and now I feel oddly wide awake. Richard had been telling me all about the secret criminal underworld of Melbourne’s Docklands and as I try to lull my brain into sleep again, I wonder if I should set some of my new story there.
I jump out of sleep. Cara! Cara is the perfect name for the character that I have been playing around with these past few days. Cara Stanley perhaps? Or Cara Ellory? Mmmm. Not sure. Plus, in my musings to date this woman had long hair with blunt bangs but now that she is called Cara, I feel like her hair should be short, maybe a pixie cut.
My phone pings with an email. I forgot to turn the sound off after I silenced Richard Fidler. It’s from my publisher in the UK informing me that The Dark Lake has been chosen for an Amazon Kindle discount deal and will be sold for 99p for the next week. She seems quite excited about this but as I reread the email wondering whether it means I will only make 25p per UK sale now? That doesn’t seem like much for 120,000 words. I make a mental note to ask my agent and just to general understanding the publishing industry better.
‘Mummy, if I save up my pocket money for four weeks can I buy the new Lego Dimensions or will it take longer than that?’
‘Huh?’ I mumble, opening my eyes to find my youngest son, Linus, staring intently into my face.
‘Will it be enough money?’ he says, not hiding his annoyance at having to repeat the question.
I flip onto my back trying to think. ‘Well, you get five dollars a week and the Lego set you want is forty dollars so it will take you eight weeks.’
Even the dark I can see that this has made him angry.
‘Unless you convince your brother to pool his funds with yours,’ I add.
His expression changes to one of hope and he disappears, scheming into the night. I close my eyes and hope that he will plan his capitalist strategies quietly.
Horrific screams from the lounge.
I stumble out into the light. ‘What is going on?’ I say even though I already know and I definitely don’t care.
‘He said it’s my turn but then he kept watching his show!’ screams Linus with the power of one million suns.
‘But you like this show,’ I say, tossing a cursory look at the TV.
‘Not today I don’t,’ he replies darkly.
I get the small people breakfast and entice them into their uniforms. In the shower I think about the opening scene I drafted yesterday for a new book idea. It is set in a bathroom and there are candles. I notice the candles on my bathroom shelf have a sticker saying how long they are expected to burn for and I make a note to add a reference about this to the draft.
‘Have a great day guys!
No, don’t throw your bag around like that, you’ll break your lunch.
Stop doing that.
Hey, I think your shirt is buttoned wrong. Come here, let me fix it.
Where’s your jumper?’
‘Bye mum!’ Linus yells into my face, ignoring everything I’ve just said, climbing into the front seat and tumbling out the passenger door.
‘Yeah, bye mum,’ yells Oxford patting me on the head and slamming the door.
I watch them both run down the path, noticing that Oxford shoves Linus into the school gate prompting him to retaliate by smacking him on the head.
I drive off deciding to ignore the school jumper that has suddenly appeared on the passenger seat.
My coffee arrives just as I open my laptop at my local café.
My US publisher has sent through the cover art of my new book and my US agent and I exchange emails about it before I reply with some minor feedback.
As I drink my coffee I proofread a short blog post that I wrote yesterday about unlikeable characters for a UK book blogger and send it off to the UK publisher.
Just as I am about to head to the library, I remember that today is the day that the B format of The Dark Lake is out in Australia, so I draft a post for social media and publish the photo that I took yesterday on Twitter and Instagram.
I arrive at the library and allow myself five minutes to have a quick scan of the shelves for any new books I want to read. Then I remember that I have at least seven unread books at home and that I promised myself I would read less and write more this year so I head to my favourite spot, the comfortable couch in the sun, and tell myself I won’t look at my phone until at least midday.
I start by reading over what I wrote yesterday which was about 1000 words of a new book idea. I am out of contract so am in the process of pulling together an overview and the first few chapters of two new book ideas. Once my agent thinks they are in a good place, she will submit them for consideration to my publisher.
I walk home to get my car as I have a work meeting on the other side of town at 1:15 pm. I eat an apple on the way and wonder why my bag is so heavy. It’s probably the two library books I accidentally borrowed. I scroll through my phone as I walk, noting all of the amazing new books that I want to read. As a result of my eyes seeing so many amazing new books, I spend a few minutes worrying that my new book ideas suck but then figure they suck less than my back-up ideas, so I decide to stick with them until at least the end of the week.
In the car I put on a podcast to make the thirty minute drive more bearable. Not Richard this time but a writing podcast called ‘Two Crime Writers and a Microphone’ which I have recently discovered and quite like. The hosts interview Will Dean, a debut author who wrote the scandi thriller Dark Pines which I just finished on the weekend. I listen to Will taking about his process and feel better about my book idea. I remember that writing a book is hard but that I am hopelessly addicted to it so have to do it anyway. I think I am actually quite excited about my new book idea.
My work meeting ran over, and I race to my car praying that there will not be a parking ticket on it. Fortunately, there isn’t, but it reminds me of the ticket I got a few weeks ago which surely must be due by now. I make a mental note to look for it later. I pop the podcast back on as I drive back across town thinking about how I am going to tackle the work project I just got briefed on.
I realise there is not enough time to go home before I need to pick the kids up from school, so I head straight there and get a park right outside the gate.
Sitting in the car I call my work colleague and we chat about the new project. He fills me in on another job that has come in and we agree how we will divide the work up. I remember I have a financial tender due later in the week that is only half finished too and several social commitments planned for the weekend. Suddenly it doesn’t look like there will be much more time for my writing my book until next week. I make a mental note to work out a way to manage my time better.
After we hang up, I put the podcast back on and I don’t know if it is the Scottish accents but another character name slams into my head. Isla McIntosh! Perfect. I can see exactly what she looks like. I grab my notebook and write down the name and a brief physical description of her. I think of a great line of dialogue and write that down too.
Twenty minutes until the bell rings. I reply to a few social media messages and purchase some jewellery online for a friend’s birthday on Saturday. I make a mental note to buy her a card.
4: 02 pm
From the park bench I watch the kids play as I chat to some of the other school parents. One of the mothers asks what I do for work and I say that I work in advertising and that I also write crime fiction. She is suddenly very focused on what her kid is doing at the other side of the park.
Eventually my children are so tired that they start to fall off the play equipment and trip over their own feet, so I hustle them into the car to head home. I remember that we have run out of bread which we need for school lunches tomorrow, so we do a quick, but extremely tedious Coles run which mainly consists of me yelling a lot and regretting going through the self-checkout seeing as I have to summon the staff member every three seconds.
The boys and I walk up to the local Vietnamese restaurant to have an early dinner with my friend. I’ve rather foolishly banned screens after school which makes talking to my friend quite challenging. We manage to have a conversation in between helping the kids draw pictures in the back of my writing notebook because I forgot to bring drawing paper. I tell my friend about my new book idea and she seems enthusiastic. But then again, she is my friend. Plus, as I’m walking her through the plot, I identify a major plot hole and I make a mental note to work out how to fix it later.
The kids are finally in bed but playing a game that involves kicking the wall every few seconds. In between yelling at them, I read a few Amazon reviews of The Dark Lake and book an appointment with my tax guy because the BAS requirements every three months come around faster than Christmas. Literally. After a while I realise the banging noise has stopped so I pour a wine and make a start on the work project.
After mapping out the skeleton for the website copy I was briefed on earlier, I decide to try writing another five hundred words of my new pitch. I turn on Netflix and select Designated Survivor, shrinking the window down and moving it to the corner of my computer screen. I find it really hard to write without some kind of background sound and TV is my preferred channel. Designated Survivor is a good choice as it is not compelling enough to completely distract me from my story. If I’m editing, it’s a totally different story, I need complete silence so Kiefer gets the boot.
Maybe my new book is not exciting enough as I am starting to fall asleep as I type. I get ready for bed and then try to jot down all the mental notes I made during the day into my real-life notebook. Yikes, tomorrow is going to be busy. I set my alarm, and pop on Richard Fidler who tonight will tell me about a miraculous plane crash survival story. As I drift off, I wonder if there should be a character in my new book called Richard.
Sarah’s Favourite Thing About Being A Writer
I love starting books. I really enjoy mapping out the premise of a story in my mind and creating the characters that will bring it to life. The potential at that early stage is so exciting, I’m totally addicted to it.
Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne-based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and works at creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the last five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel. Her second book featuring Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, Into the Night will be published in Australia on 23 May.
The Dark Lake is available to purchase in all good bookstores and online including from Booktopia
You can order Sarah’s new book Into the Night on the links below.