About Poppy

Two minutes with Poppy

Author - Poppy Gee

Finding a publisher for Bay of Fires

I was lucky. People say they don’t believe in luck but I do! I know many talented writers struggling to find a home for their excellent manuscripts. I typed ‘literary agent new york’ into Google and searched for an agent that sounded nice, whose agency represented books similar to how I saw mine. The first agent I contacted was Julia Kenny at Markson Thoma Literary Agency. She loved my novel, and after she gave it a vigorous edit, she sent it out to publishers. I think she gave them seven days to read it, and she planned to hold an auction on the Friday. Early on the Tuesday morning before the deadline, I set my alarm clock and was interviewed by a handful of editors from different publishing houses in New York. Not long after, Julia called me with the amazing news that she had accepted what is called a pre-empt, an offer made prior to auction from Andrea Walker at Reagan Arthur Books. The deal included Global English Rights – which means the novel will be published by Headline in the UK and Australia. A very happy day!

Poppy’s thoughts on writing…

I wrote in a diary every day from my eighth birthday. I stopped writing in the diary at the age of twenty-one after my boyfriend (now my husband) snooped and read it. I was slightly cross with him at the time but perhaps it was for the best because I focused my compulsion to write on fiction, rather than my personal life.

I’ve had heaps of different jobs but I’ve always tried to write for about two hours each day. Hidden in my cupboard are five unpublished novel manuscripts and one very rough feature film screenplay. I don’t mind if no one ever reads them. I wrote the novels hoping to be shortlisted for the Vogel/Australian award for unpublished manuscripts, which is a prestigious literary award in Australia. Entering writing competitions is a great motivator for writers – it gives you a deadline.

After my two children were born I wrote every time they slept. Synchronising their day sleep was one of my finest achievements as a writer! For me, writing is addictive. I can count about five times when the babies were either asleep, or not with me, when I didn’t write – and I remember feeling guilty at the time. It probably took me about two years to write the Bay of Fires, doing roughly two hours a day, and then another year of intermittent editing on top of that.

I wrote the novel as part of my creative writing masters which I completed in 2011, at the University of Queensland. I undertook this study because I could see that many talented writers who either won or were shortlisted for the Vogel/Australian literary award had written their manuscripts through masters or doctorate writing programs. My early manuscript titled Kelp, which would eventually become Bay of Fires, did not make the shortlist when I entered it in the award. However after my talented agent Julia Kenny edited the manuscript, it was accepted for publication by Reagan Arthur Books.

I’m always working on something – a children’s book, a short film – and I’ve finished another murder-mystery, this time set in a Tasmanian ski village.

On working…

I’ve worked as a nanny, ski guide and hotel room cleaner in Zermatt, Switzerland. I’ve been a bartender in Lagos, Portugal, and a stewardess on a luxury boat on the French Riviera (I quit when I became seasick). I ran a Bed and Breakfast in Edinburgh. I’ve been a journalist and editor on Sydney newspaper, The Village Voice; a chief subeditor on Girlfriend magazine; and a subeditor and book reviewer on The Courier-Mail. I’ve also taught journalism at QUT. My most important job is as mother to my children. I am a stay-at-home mum and I fit my writing around them. My biggest challenge as a writer is not writer’s block or dwindling motivation – it’s finding time away from my kids!


On Tasmania…

I come from Tasmania, a small, sparsely populated island at the southern end of Australia. The landscape in the Bay of Fires is inspired by an area of Tasmania’s east coast called The Gardens, where my family spends every summer. I come from a large Tasmanian family, some of which have dedicated their lives to saving Tasmania’s old growth forests from destruction and some who make their living from the forestry. This polarising politic characterises many aspects of Tasmanian life and is touched on in Bay of Fires. My favourite recently written novels set in Tasmania include Lost Voices by Christopher Koch, The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson and Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett. I loved the movie The Hunter, based on Julia Leigh’s novel of the same name, which is currently top of my to-read list. Tasmania is an inspiring place.


On fishing…

Fishing is a passion for some of the characters in Bay of Fires. I’ve never caught a fish but I’m intrigued by the dedication fisher folk have for the pastime. Everything I now know about fishing is in the Bay of Fires – I stole fishing secrets from friends to put in my book. My extended family are the proud owners of Alvey fishing reels, an iconic Australian fishing reel.


On feminism…

Feminism is not a major theme of the novel, but it is something that I think about a lot. When I undertook my creative writing masters, I wrote a thesis which examined the representation of single women in contemporary Australian fiction. My thesis argued that despite second-wave feminism setting the stage for the celebration of gladly single female characters, many women writers are still writing thoughtful literary fictions that revolve around fairly traditional romance narratives. Some of my research impacted on the Bay of Fires, for instance the emphasis on the self-reliance of the novel’s single women. It is their singleness which gives them an integral role in the plot, more so than coupled women. Women who are empowered, in some way, by their singleness include the protagonist Sarah; bitter, hard working Jane Taylor; and the widow Simone Shelley.


On my background…

I was born in Tasmania, Australia, in 1977. I have two sisters and a brother and together we spent every summer at our family’s dilapidated shack on the east coast of the island. Our beach shack had no electricity or telephone connection, and plenty of mice! I was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School and completed a Bachelor of Arts with a Double Major in Literature at the University of Queensland. I lived in a ski resort in Switzerland for three years and, as well as Europe, have travelled to the UK, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the USA. Currently I live in southeast Queensland with my husband, daughter, and son. I completed my master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Queensland in 2011, for which I received the Dean’s Award for Excellence. Last year I was one of three judges on the Barbara Jefferis Literary Award judging panel. This interesting literary award is quite new, and it looks for novels which depict empowered women and girls. Bay of Fires is my first published work of fiction. My second novel manuscript, set in a Tasmanian ski village, is currently being read by my agent Julia Kenny at Markson Thoma Literary Agency in New York.

Poppy Gee - Author  /  About Poppy