I recently met with Rebecca James for a chat in her home town of Port Macquarie on the NSW coast north of Sydney (having recently moved from Armidale, a little further inland). The first I hear about Rebecca James from people who have met her or conversed with her online is what a nice and down-to-earth person she is. When I asked Rebecca to meet up for a chat in Port Macquarie the first thing she did was invite me to her house for coffee (and eggs on toast, as it turned out).
You can find more on Rebecca James and her fiction at www.rebeccasjames.blogspot.com.
Rebecca made headlines (such as in The Wall Street Journal and in The Sydney Morning Herald) last year when the manuscript for her novel Beautiful Malice was sold in a deal with an advance reportedly over a million dollars. The deal is for two novels, Beautiful Malice and another novel to come, to be published in 36 countries – she showed me a shelf in her reading and writing room holding the various versions of Beautiful Malice from around the world. You can read an interview with Rebecca James here and a review of Beautiful Malice focusing on mystery and suspense in the story here.
Rebecca is currently writing the novel which will be the second in her publishing deal, to be submitted to Allen & Unwin in April. She described how the process of writing this novel is a little different from writing Beautiful Malice; writing Beautiful Malice, she could be more spontaneous about the process and not write a detailed outline ahead of writing the story, whereas with guaranteed publication comes a certain degree of responsibility to show things are going according to plan. The second novel was going to be Cooper Bartholomew is Dead, but now it is set to be a different story, a psychological thriller with the working title Little Deaths. Rebecca explains: “it’s about a young man called Tim who rents a room in a large old house in Sydney. His housemate is a mysterious and elusive 20 year old girl called Anna London. When strange and frightening things start happening in the house – graffiti on the interior walls, broken windows, unexplained noises – Tim starts to wonder what he has gotten himself into. Is Anna London mad? Or is she right? Is there something inherently sinister about the house?”
Many who enjoyed reading Beautiful Malice might not realise that Rebecca has a sister, Wendy James, who has had several novels and a short story collection published. Rebecca gave me a copy of Wendy’s latest novel, Where Have You Been?, which I have am currently reading and enjoying.
We discussed the differences in her life since the publication of Beautiful Malice – going to literary festivals, meeting other authors such as Fleur McDonald and Lisa Heidke, etc – but she still seems very much a family oriented person who spends much more time with her partner and four young sons, and actually writing, than filling her day with self-promotion or industry events.
Rebecca will be speaking at the Somerset Writers’ Festival, run by Somerset College on the Gold Coast, March 16-18, along with other Australian authors such as Fiona McIntosh (interviewed here and here), Kerry Brown, Michael Pryor, Ben Chandler, Sandy Fussel, Kate Forsyth and more.
We briefly discussed short stories and, although she doesn’t write short stories often, she has one in the upcoming AusLit Australian short story anthology. We discussed her story but, given the short length of the story, it’s difficult to discuss it here without giving plot spoilers. I can tell you that it touches on what seems to be a recurring theme of whether a character is who they seem to be.
If you have not yet read Beautiful Malice, it is a great psychological thriller suitable both for teens and adults, and an example of a story well told with a keen eye for subtleties of human behaviour.
The Australian Literature Review