Title: The First Year
Author: Genevieve Gannon
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Date: April 24
The first year of marriage is hard no matter what. Throw in jealous exes, high-pressure careers and two wildly different families, and the degree of difficulty goes up a few more notches. Determined to beat the odds, one couple comes up with a plan to keep their romance alive – but life has other ideas.
Saskia is an up-and-coming jewellery designer, waiting tables at a trendy cafe to keep her fledgling company afloat. Andrew is a corporate lawyer who wants to be known for more than his family’s money. They’re passionate about their work and each other, but with Andy’s job in jeopardy and Saskia’s jewellery label taking off, the pressure is taking its toll.
As life pulls them in different directions, the two of them are forced to decide: Just how important is their marriage? And how hard are they willing to work to protect it?
‘Genevieve Gannon writes with a fresh and funny narrative voice … chick lit at its very, very best’ Tess Woods, author of Love at First Flight
Genevieve Gannon is an Australian journalist and author. She has worked in newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Most recently she covered crime in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press before moving to Sydney to be a feature writer for The Australian Women’s Weekly. Her favourite books are We Need To Talk About Kevin, Middlesex, Atonement, Prep and One Day. She likes Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and wasabi (not together) and hates mangoes. Her first book, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. The First Year is her third novel.
What is your new novel about?
The First Year is a novel about a newly-in-love couple who got married way too fast. Andy Colbrook is a high-flying lawyer with a snobby family and Saskia Hill is a bolshy ewellery designer whose father has done several stints in jail. On their honeymoon, Andy offers to support Saskia so she can quit her day job at a café and devote herself wholly to her art. But Saskia’s fledgling business is only just recovering from the financial blow it suffered when her ex-fiance cheated on her then ditched her with the bill for the wedding, and she is uncomfortable being reliant on her new husband. Tensions begin to emerge. Things are exacerbated when Andy discovers his law firm is in financial trouble. Despite their best efforts to keep the flame alive their marriage begins to suffer. Then Saskia makes a discovery that blows her world apart.
What inspired the book?
This one came about slowly. When I sat down to write my first two novels, the concepts were fully formed in my head. I rejigged the stories and characters a lot, but when they were finished, they were how I had imagined them from the beginning. With The First Year, I found myself unsure what I wanted to do. I had an idea of following a couple day-by-day through their first year, but I didn’t know what would happen to them over that time. I thought the concept of the first year of marriage being the hardest was a good one to explore in a romantic comedy. So I wrote a few chapters and scene fragments, then I hit a bit of a wall. I knew I wanted Andy to be a corporate type, and Saskia to be an artist, but I didn’t have much more detail than that. Then one day I came across an article about a designer who had made the same discovery Saskia makes in the book. I did a bit of research and it turns out it is a really common problem. I don’t want to spoil the plot
by revealing the big discovery, but once I had that I knew what I wanted Andy and Saskia’s story to be.
What makes the main character who they are?
Saskia Hill comes across really brash but she’s actually quite vulnerable. She loves a man, Andrew Colbrook, who wants to support her as she builds her business, but the idea of being reliant on him conflicts with her feminist values. She eventually accepts his offer to back her financially until she is established, but it never sits right with her and
ultimately is the cause of much tension.
One of my favourite lines in the book comes when Saskia receives a letter from her mother-in-law addressed to Mr and Mrs Andrew Colbrook. She has not changed her name and when the letter arrives she asks of Andy, “What am I? Some sort of subsidiary of you?” I feel like this sums her up perfectly.
Do you base your characters on real people?
My characters are original creations, but inevitably I find myself incorporating traits of family and friends. Usually it’s just a little thing to give the character a ring of authenticity. When trying to *show* rather than *tell* – something that a lot of writers struggle with – I find it helpful to think about how real people display their emotions – the way their postures change, the tone of their voice, what they do with their hands and eyes. Sometimes I’ll lift a small anecdote (with permission) or give a sly nod to a friend by including a personal joke. But generally I try to ensure the characters are wholly their own people.
How long did it take you to write The First Year?
I am often asked this question but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to answer it properly. For about a year, I had a few fragments of this story and a vague concept but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Then I made the discovery that revealed the plot to me and it was all very fast. It took me about three months to write a three chapter sample, a synopsis and a plot outline. I pitched it to HarperCollins in November, got the go ahead in December and had completed the manuscript by June. It was quite a fast process because I had been thinking about the characters and the supporting players for so long. As is always the case, it needed some major reworking and I relied heavily on my amazing beta-readers. But it basically took one year of procrastination and six months of furious writing.
What is your typical writing routine?
I used to write at night and on weekends but now that I live in Sydney I find myself getting up early and writing before work. I assume that’s because it gets hot and sunny here very early. That being said, I still try to get some writing in after work. And I can be found most weekends in a café somewhere with a pile of manuscript pages and a laptop.
People love to ask writers if they are planners or pantsers. I think I’m a combination of both. I like to have a plot outline before I begin, but sometimes it is very vague and details emerge – and characters are created or killed off – as the writing progresses.
Where do you write?
I do a lot of writing at my dining room table – but I far prefer to write in cafes. It’s not always possible, of course. Sometimes you have a burst of creative energy at 2am when all the good cafes are selfishly closed, and realistically it’s just not possible to mainline
lattes for eight hours and a Saturday or Sunday. But my preference is definitely to write in a café. When I was living in Melbourne I would write a lot at Milkwood in East Brunswick (try the white beans on toast) or a Minor Place (more white beans, these come with Dukkah and avocado). Another favourite is a café called True North in Coburg. They have lovely booths that I like to spread out in, and do great sandwiches with heaps of vegetarian options.
What book do you wish you had written and why?
This is a complete departure from the type of fiction I write, but I am in awe of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel Shriver creates so much tension and complexity. I adore her prose and the way she uses a million little perfectly phrased observations to make-up the
story. I love the way she tricks the reader into thinking they know what is happening, only to discover all is not as it seems as the narrative slowly reveals itself.
Who are your favourite writers?
This is such a difficult question to answer because there are so many, and I turn to different writers for different things. I love Caitlin Moran for the sheer joy she gives me with her hilarious stories. No less important is the strong feminist message in everything she does. I really admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s skill as a story-teller, and Gillian
Flynn for the ease with which she spins complex narratives, imbuing her characters with light and shade. Jeffrey Eugenides remains an all-time favourite. Whenever I’m asked about my favourite books Middlesex is always at the top, and his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was hauntingly, devastatingly beautiful. Oh, and Michael Chabon for so many reasons, especially inventiveness.
In terms of my own genre – which I consider to be a loose grouping of contemporary chick lit with rom-com tendencies – I LOVE Lauren Sams who wrote She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. I also can’t go past fellow HarperCollins authors Tess Woods and Sunni Overend. The Regulars by Georgia Clark is great fun.
Who is your favourite literary character?
I have racked my brain, trying to come up with an answer that isn’t a total cliché, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennett is a sublime literary creation, and has to be my favourite character. She’s clever, sensitive, witty and warm. She loves her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she’s loyal but not without flaws. She speaks her mind and isn’t intimidated by those who think them better than she is. At a completely different end of the spectrum is Uncle Oswald, a recurring character in the short stories of Roald Dahl. Uncle Oswald is a hilarious, wealthy, horny old man who often finds himself entangled in pseudo-scientific schemes with hilarious outcomes.
What are you working on at the moment?
Having just finished a book I’m a bit of a free agent at the moment. I have two ideas that are in the very early stages, so I’m playing with both of them, thinking about the characters and deciding which one to commit to. I have just started a new job as a feature writer so I am finding that at night I’m spending the time I would normally dedicate to fiction thinking about feature ideas. That being said, I want my next venture to be a departure from my usual books. Neither of the concepts I’m currently playing with could be described as romantic comedies. The First Year has parts set in a court room, which came about because I spent the past few years covering courts as a journalist and my two new ideas are also inspired in part by that part of my job.
What would you do if you weren’t a writer?
This one is tricky because writing is both my hobby (fiction) and my livelihood (journalism). My other hobby is baking, so perhaps if it all falls in a heap I could retrain as a pastry chef. I have made a few wedding cakes for friends, and I really enjoy playing with flavour ideas and pretty shapes. Strangely, when it comes to savoury meals I’m terrible, but I have mastered cakes.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty which I devoured, barely lifting my eyes to draw breath. Liane dazzles me with her ability to tease and entice. I am also reading Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. I cheated on Sweet Bitter with Moriarty because I found myself at the airport without a book and knew I couldn’t go wrong with one of Liane’s books.
Coffee, wine or something else?
I am completely addicted to coffee. I don’t drink much wine, unless I’m sharing a bottle at a dinner party or something. If I’m at a bar I’ll order sloe gin (rocks and lime), a gin and tonic or a cocktail. Sometimes when it’s really hot I’ll take my laptop to a pub and write while drinking cider and ice. But generally on those days my preference is a
café and an ice coffee.
What is your favourite social media platform and why?
I am addicted to social media. I love Instagram and Twitter but for different reasons. In my day job, I work as a journalist, so I love being able to keep an eye on the issues of the day as they unfurl on Twitter. I follow major news outlets, journalists I like and admire, politicians and specialists in my areas of interest. I also follow a few funny accounts to break it up. I like checking-in on Twitter when I take a break from work. Instagram is great for book recommendations, food and bar recommendations, fashion, recipes and just keeping up with what my friends are doing. I recently moved interstate, so it’s great to be able to see what my friends have been up to with a few swipes of my phone.
Of all your books, do you have a favourite one?
This is like being asked to choose between your children! I hate to admit it, but I do have a favourite one. My latest novel, The First Year, is my third. I think because I had been through the process twice before it was less daunting and stressful. I had a lot more
confidence and I think it shows in the writing. I also quite like the story. My previous books were what I’d call caper romances. In both, the protagonists hatched hair-brained schemes in order to find love. The First Year is a lot more grounded in reality. The characters’ families and work colleagues play a great role and I feel like they’re more rounded because of it.
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