Jane Harper: a resilient writer

I can report that I have successfully returned to bike riding without further incident. Sylvie (the new bike) is a great ride, and faster than my old one. Though I am being more cautious around that fateful corner the thrill of the ride has been restored.

Speaking of thrillers I have just finished binge reading The Dry and Force of Nature by Jane Harper. Both were definitely page turners for me. The Dry was dark and frightening, though not overly graphic. That part is left to the imagination. Jane wrote believable three dimensional characters that really gave the stories depth and presented an authentic rendition of the Australian bush and country towns. I love rural Australia with its great sense of community and harshness. I spent years living in the Victorian country side and I was convinced by her portrayal of it.

I was surprised by Force of Nature. Even though I disliked nearly all the characters, except the protagonist Falk, I still couldn’t put the book down. To keep people reading characters they don’t like is quite an achievement. I work in an office environment these days and no one likes a team building event. Force of Nature takes team building and turns it into your worst nightmare, being lost in the wilderness with a bunch of people you can’t stand. Its entire story is injected with creepiness by the insertion of the threat of a Milat style serial killer. The story keeps you guessing right to the end.

Admittedly Jane Harper has had what at least on the surface seems like a dream run, but in listening to interviews with her she clearly took a pragmatic and strategic approach to learning her craft and getting the work done. Dare I use that word resilience again?

Despite being an experienced journalist, when she decided to write a novel, Jane signed up for a 12 week online writing course in part to keep herself motivated and create some deadlines. No doubt the course also taught her much about the craft and skill involved in writing a novel as opposed to straight journalistic writing. A writing course can also create an instant writing community from which discussion can promote further learning and inspiration. Jane comes across as being extremely organized and disciplined, great attributes for a writer to ensure they sit down day after day to get the work done. She was still working as a journalist by day so had to snatch time in the evenings and weekends to work on her novel.

Jane has also noted in interview that she set out to write the kind of book she likes to read – great advice for a beginner author. She entered the unpublished manuscript in the 2015 Victorian Premiers Literary Awards as another learning experience for herself, and won.  She does not describe herself as a naturally gifted writer but clearly has the ability to apply herself to a task with pragmatic vigor. She is conscientious, hardworking and seeks to learn the fundamentals. In other words she is what I would call a great model of a resilient writer.  What writers do you admire for their approach to writing?  What is it about them you admire?

Image: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

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