Where the magic happens for Pip Harry


Today’s special guest is Pip Harry, author of I’ll Tell You Mine, and Head Of The River (UQP). Now if you were thinking, My that’s a rustic looking header, you might be onto something. Because Pip is taking us out of town! I’m so excited that she agreed, because it means we get to travel vicariously (goes without saying I’m hoping she does all the hard writing stuff while we’re there – we can loll and eat blueberries). Over to you, Pip, tell us about this place where the magic doth happen …

After writing I’ll Tell You mine at a cluttered desk a roll away from my bed, I needed a fresh workspace to clear my head. I decided to leave my regular writing cave for my next book, Head of the River. As well as scribbling in inner city cafes and libraries I’d always dreamed of writing my novel in a stunning, remote rural location … doesn’t everyone?!  My brother Michael (also a writer) and I hatched a plan to crash my aunt and uncle’s Ten Ten Farm in Trentham, a small country town in country Victoria, known for its food and spectacular waterfall.

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It took some planning to get time off work and Mum stepped in to take care of my four year old. But we finally arrived, with hopes of writing 10,000 words over 5 days. We were utterly ill-prepared for the surprise cold snap that dropped temperatures down to a few degrees in the mornings. Once we had borrowed jackets, boots and beanies from our hosts we set out for the nearby cottage. An ancient structure located a few hundred metres from the main house.

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With a few writing books and some music we switched off the black hole of the internet and bunkered down with our laptops  in a small wood cottage, with a fire going and ideas flowing. In between writing sprints we would walk around the beautiful property, share scenes and endless cups of tea and chocolate treats. We both got to 10,000 words and I also brought my first home whilst standing with an agent on the line at the back paddock (reception was patchy).

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I broke the back of Head of the River in that cottage, and felt very lucky to have such quiet, dedicated time away from my life as a Mum and freelance magazine writer. I returned to Ten Ten Farm in January to continue work on an untitled third YA novel. But this time by myself, and in the warmth of summer.  I set up camp on a wide shady verandah, looking out to rose bushes and a dam full of ducks.

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My aunt and uncle, who own the property, made sure I did nothing but write (god bless them!) They provided wine, delicious meals and conversation in the evening… and sometimes a tap at the door when I slept in.

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It can be easy to feel oppressed and stifled by writing retreats and all that quiet, so I regularly ran/staggered into town (3km away) when I got frustrated with my plot. A coffee at the Red Beard bakery usually set me straight and I would run back with a belly full of caffeine and freshly baked brownie. I’d occasionally wander down to the orchard, pick ripe blueberries from the bush and marvel at how you could taste the sun in the berries.

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(Kirsty again – Pip also agreed to answer some questions for me about her regular writing routine)

How do you segregate between your journo work and your novel writing?

I physically separate my journalism work and my writing by computers at the moment. My novel is on a laptop and my invoices and stories about workouts, home health tests and overcoming fear remain in my stationary desktop. In my head fiction is fun and loose, but my journalism is very structured and researched.

Are you someone who has to be in the same bat place at the same bat time, or do you prefer to free range?

Totally free range! I usually write fiction when the mood strikes me (and my journalism work when the mortgage is due or my editor has set me a deadline). Saying that, I was disciplined with Head of the River and tried to write consistently from around 10.30-4 each day. That’s mainly because I had set myself a goal of finishing the book before my publisher went on maternity leave. Babies wait for no-one.

If these walls could talk … 

They would say, ‘stop mucking around on Twitter and Goodreads and write your book!’

Any talismans around? Feel like explaining them to us? 

I like to have great writing nearby to refer to and encourage me. At the moment I’ve got The Protected by Claire Zorn, Animal People by Charlotte Wood and Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. This is an ever changing stack of books. I adore the library.

If, for some unexplained reason (but nothing too bad – we do like you after all) you had to get the hell out of there and you couldn’t go back, what 3 things would you take?

Laptop, USB stick and files. Reminds me that I need to sort out a fire plan as I live in a bush land area!

What’s the policy on interruptions? Open door policy? Open door policy with cranky look on face? Door locked tight and hands on ears, shouting: ‘Can’t hear you, lah, lah, lah!’?

Come on in….distract me….bring me a cuppa and a tim-tam.

Social media – do you block it while you’re working, or let it come along for the ride?

You can’t keep me off it. Facey, Insta, Twitter…I’m a total addict. I like to follow other writers and booklovers.

What magic is happening in there right now? 

I’m into my third book and liking the characters more and more. I won’t say too much, but it’s YA and set in Sydney.

Was Virginia right? Do we need a room of our own? 

Virginia spoke the truth. I think everybody needs their own space to create and tinker with idea.

Ever use longhand? Or is it all clickety-clackety? 

Click clack, unless it’s a middle of the night idea, and then pen and paper. I do like a whiteboard for ideas.

What you be sticking up on those walls?

Old family photos, my daughter’s drawings and a framed photo of a t-shirt I wore when I was 2 years old that says ‘I’m Pipsey!’ on the front.

Thank you Pip! And to those of you interested in checking out Pip’s work, start here with the trailer for Head Of The River. It’s a cracker.