Welcome to another year of ‘3 things I learned while writing…’ where our members tell us about their writing process, their book and themselves! Monique Mulligan has loved words from the moment she could use them and joins us today to tell us about her debut novel, ‘Wherever You Go’. Please welcome Monique!
1. That ‘comparisonitis’ gets you nowhere.
Sometimes it seems as though all your writer friends are getting book deals and winning awards. They share their ‘I’m signing a new contract’ photos and ‘shelfies’ from all over the world and admit it, you want a piece of that, right? Even a couple of measly likes on your page would be nice …
When you start making comparisons like this – ‘They have all the luck’, ‘I can’t seem to do enough’ – you lose the joy of writing and creating. Your focus turns to the desired outcome and away from the process and passion. Comparison becomes the thief of joy and your motivation comes from a place of competition.
Your journey is not like mine. It’s not like your super-successful writer friend’s. It’s yours. Own it. Embrace it. See where it takes you.
2. I’m more like my male lead than the female!
Wherever You Go follows the story of Amy and Matt Bennet who are working through terrible grief after a life-shattering event. Like me, Amy is passionate about food (she’s a chef) and does Pilates. Yet, emotionally she’s very different in the way she approaches life and people. When the story starts, she completely consumed by her grief and guilt – so much so that she fails to comprehend her husband’s feelings. Matt is more empathetic, on the other hand, and puts Amy’s needs before his own. All he wants is to see her well. I’ve lived that, in my way, so emotionally I’m more like Matt.
The funny thing is, I didn’t realise this until recently and when I did, it was a real lightbulb moment. Not so for my husband, who’d worked that out long before.
3. I was conflicted about conflict!
I knew I wanted to explore the idea of someone running from their grief and guilt when I started writing Wherever You Go. I wanted to explore the effect of this on a marriage – how long can you deny grief and guilt before it catches up? How long can you hide from your past when it shapes who you are? I had the heart issues and themes nailed down.
What I didn’t nail initially was the level of conflict needed to fully explore the themes and keep readers engaged and wanting to know what happens next. There was dramatic action – a tragedy followed by a relocation to a small town in search of a simpler life – but it wasn’t enough to get my book over the line with publishers or agents early on. Each time, they’d say, ‘Your writing is beautiful, the characters and setting are terrific … but there’s not enough drama. Not enough conflict.’ And I’d think, ‘But this awful thing happened to these people and I don’t know if their marriage is going to survive … what more conflict do you need?’
The trouble was, I didn’t fully understand the role of conflict when I started. There was a lot of internal conflict, but nowhere near enough external. Not only did my characters need to have opposing goals, but they needed to pursue what they wanted in ways that would create conflict. Their story arcs, their journeys, had to create more conflict … which in turn allowed the themes to be explored in greater depth.
For a conflict-avoidant person like me, this was particularly challenging at first. But figuring out how to do this was the most valuable thing I’ve learnt writing this book, and I’m thankful to the tough editors who helped me on along the way.
About Wherever You Go
Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.
Wherever You Go is available on Amazon and other online retailers.
About Monique Mulligan
Monique Mulligan is an author, interviewer, and founder of the Stories on Stage program in Perth. A former journalist, news editor and publisher, she combines part-time work at an arts centre with freelance editing and novel writing. Monique’s debut contemporary fiction novel Wherever You Go was published by Pilyara Press in September 2020 and her third picture book, Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes was released in May. As well as two other picture books, Monique has had several short stories published in anthologies. When she’s not working, you will usually find Monique a) writing b) reading c) cooking and d) taking photos for her cat’s Instagram page. When she’s socialising, she’s usually behind a camera or in a corner hanging out with other introverts and making mental notes for stories.
Where to find Monique: