After the mentorship was done I had no idea what to do next. Christos said he’d forward the book onto his publishers at Random House, but there was no guarantees andI had no idea what that meant in terms of my chances of being published over anyone else. I decided to have a go at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript. You have to send them a heap of copies, so spent a heap of time and money at the Alexander Parade OfficeWorks, printing and binding away, then sent them all off. And then it was just back to normal life.
I started writing notes on another novel (one which has proved to be a constant pain ever since) and wrote a few other short pieces but it was just little stuff, nothing had really changed. I didn’t really give Rohypnol much more thought, I figured I’d done all I could for now, maybe I’d re-visit it at some stage.
It was quite a few months later when I got an e-mail from Jane Palfreyman at Random House. She told me that Christos had forwarded her my novel and that she liked it and that they wanted to publish it. I cried. I was at my desk at work, sitting amongst my fellow office workers, and I was crying. I re-read it over and over. I was going to be a published author. It was my lifelong dream realised in those few words. It was unbelievable.
A few weeks after that I got a call from the organiser of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. I’d won. The prize was $15,000 – more money than I’d ever had. And I’d won one of the highest awards for unpublished authors. They said I couldn’t announce it till the awards night, but they needed to tell me to make sure I was in attendance. I was speechless. As noted, I’d pretty much moved on from Rohypnol, was thinking about what I was doing next and then it all came at me, all at once. And I really thought I’d have no chance of winning this award because the Premier would not want to be associated with a novel about a group of gang rapists, right? I had to write a speech, I went to a black tie awards night – the host of the evening, Michael Veitch, made a joke about how I was more nervous than a young kid who’d read something up on stage before me (days afterwards, I thought of a clever comeback that would have made everyone laugh). I’d won.
Then there was the waiting. Months and months of waiting. Your book goes into a schedule, then the editor and such are assigned based on the release date. It feels like forever, but then I worked with my editor (Julian Welch) and publisher (Meredith Curnow) full-on for several months to get all the details right, and the story clear and in the end I was totally satisfied that it was the best book I could produce. That we could produce, I should say, Meredith and Julian played significant parts in the final version you can read today. The cover art is amazing, the style and fonts are perfect, there’s nothing that could have be done better. I’m totally happy with how it came out. That’s not to say everyone will feel the same, but from my perspective, it was exactly hat I wanted it to be.
A life changing experience.