I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Australian novelist, Dawn Barker who has dropped by to chat about her debut novel published with Hachette, Fractured.
Dawn, how would you describe Fractured in five words?
Exploration of family psychiatric tragedy.
Fractured tells the story of a new mother experiencing a very serious but rare mental illness, postnatal psychosis. How did you get into the mindset of Anna to tell her story?
In many of Anna’s earlier scenes, I was able to use some personal experience of the turbulent emotions of being a new mother to imagine her mindset. I was lucky enough not to have any postnatal mental health issues after having my own children, but that’s not to say that I didn’t have difficult moments where I felt overwhelmed. I was really interested to explore at what point the ‘normal’ experiences tip over into the realm of illness, and this is one of the issues in the book: when do you start to worry? At what point do you seek help? For Anna’s later scenes, I used my experience as a psychiatrist to try and tell her story: I’ve worked with thousands of patients with depression and psychosis over the years, and even though each patient presents in a unique, personal context, the core symptoms of mental illness are the same. However, I have to stress that ‘Fractured’ is completely fictional and is not based on any real cases.
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
I hope that readers can engage with the characters in this story, even though it might be difficult to read at times, and I hope that it makes them think about the reality that mental illness can affect anyone. I also hope that it stimulates some discussion about mental illness, which is still too frequently misunderstood and stigmatised.
I’ve had a bit of a dream run with getting published! In 2010, I entered the manuscript for ‘Fractured’ into the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, and was lucky enough to be chosen. From that retreat, I met my agent (Benython Oldfield of Zeitgeist Media Group) and my publisher (Vanessa Radnidge at Hachette Australia), and was thrilled when Hachette offerred to publish the novel. Since then, of course, there have been various rounds of editing, but I’ve been privileged to work with a great team who’ve turned that raw manuscript into the book that it is today. There are lots of similar competitions out there for unpublished manuscripts and I highly recommend that new writers enter them!
What are you currently working on?
While I was waiting for ‘Fractured’ to go through various edits, I wrote the first draft of a second novel. It covers some similar themes: parenting, family relationships and mental health issues but I’m undecided whether to keep going with it, or write a new one! Either way, I think it’s safe to say that with my background in mental health, I’m likely to continue those themes in my stories, and that I’ll be back at my writing desk in the next couple of months working on book two.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I have three young children at home and so most of the time I’m busy being a mum! I’m not working as a doctor at the moment (as my children are still very little) but I hope one day to find a balance between the three: writing, parenting, and psychiatry.
And just for fun, when writing do you prefer…
Coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Coffee! I have to squeeze writing into the few spaces in my day when the children are asleep, so I need the caffeine!
Plotting, pantsing or both? I have a very basic plot in mind when I start writing, and then I just start writing and see where it takes me! In writing ‘Fractured’, for example, I knew what would happen leading up to the major crisis in the novel, but not what would happen afterwards. I didn’t know how the book would end until I actually sat down and wrote the final scenes.
Quiet solitude or background noise? If I’m at home, I need it to be quiet – as if there’s noise, it’s the children! Even if I’m in another room and someone else is minding them, I can’t switch off with their little voices carrying through the house. My other favourite place to write is in my local library, which is a brilliant space that encourages chatter. I find I can work really well there.
A warm, sunny day or a rainy day? Rain! I’m originally from Scotland so I’m not a fan of hot Australian days. There’s no better writing weather than sitting at my desk with the clatter of the rain on our tin roof.
Typing or pen and notepad? I carry a notepad around and use it to write down ideas and work out problems, but when it comes to actually writing a draft, I go straight to the keyboard. It’s easier to see what I’ve written, simpler to move things around, and ultimately saves time which is very important in my life!
Thank you so much for stopping by Dawn.
You can find out more about Dawn at her website.
Fractured was published by Hachette in March 2013. Fractured can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers.
A compelling, emotional knockout debut from a brilliant new Australian author.
An unforgettable novel that brings to life a new mother’s worst fears.
Tony is worried. His wife, Anna, isn’t coping with their newborn. Anna had wanted a child so badly and, when Jack was born, they were both so happy. They’d come home from the hospital a family. Was it really only six weeks ago?
But Anna hasn’t been herself since. One moment she’s crying, the next she seems almost too positive. It must be normal with a baby, Tony thought; she’s just adjusting. He had been busy at work. It would sort itself out. But now Anna and Jack are missing. And Tony realises that something is really wrong…
What happens to this family will break your heart and leave you breathless.