"Beautiful writing and her first novel!" - Good Reads
Mitch Davies' life is simple. All he wants to do is surf. Mornings are spent sitting out the back, on his board with his grandpa Paul, a longboard champion of the 60's and afternoons, in the back shed watching Paul shape surfboards for the locals. The future seems so clear – Mitch wants to be a surfing champion like Paul. But in Mitch's 17th year, Paul is diagnosed with leukemia and what once seemed certainties become unclear.
CBCA Notable Book for Older Readers 2002
"A moving, thought provoking story, told with simplicity and great sincerity." - Reading Time, Vol. 46, No. 4.
"Peopled with well-rounded characters, this is a poignant well-written story that explores inter-generational family relationships and deals effectively with the emotions of betrayal, loss and love." - CBCA Judges Report, 2002.
"A magical first book." - Daily Telegraph, 13/09/03
The story of how I almost DIDN'T write 'White Lies'
I love the story of how I came to write 'White Lies' . I think of it as one of those 'what if' stories. It still gives me butterflies.
In 2000, I did a ‘Creative Writing Course for Children' with Libby Gleeson. It was there, I found out about a mentorship program the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) run each year. I thought about submitting some work as I did have a story in my head. I knew this story had to be told through the eyes of a sixteen-year old boy. The problem though, and it was a rather major one, was that I hadn't done a lot of writing. I wasn't confident on how I would go actually translating my idea into words. As I discovered, it's one thing saying you're going to do it and another thing actually doing it!
My sister came over just 24hours before the closing date. I still hadn't written a word, just lots of lists and outlines. In disgust, she took my kids out and said they weren't coming home till I'd done it! Now I had no excuse. From memory I had to send in at least 3000 words of chapter samples plus a detailed synopsis. It was a mighty task. I sat there all day and wrote but what really struck me was that I loved every second of it. The words just spewed out!
I sent it off to the ASA and it wasn't until several months later that I received a letter telling me I'd been a successful applicant and that Gary Crew would be my mentor - aaaagh! I screamed the house down until the awful realisation hit me - now I would actually have to write this story from beginning to end and all that stuff that goes in the middle. But the other thing that freaked me out even more was ‘what if' – what if I hadn't bothered to submit anything. What if I'd let my lack of confidence get in the way and hadn't given it a go? – ‘what if '…….
What I learnt whilst writing 'White Lies'
I once met John Marsden and he gave me a great bit of advice - ‘write about what you know.'
I'd been an Oncology Nursing Sister so I knew about Leukemia and about how families cope when such a scary thing unexpectedly enters their world. But I also knew about it on a personal level as I was nineteen when my mother died from Breast Cancer.
My experience of being a teenager with a sick parent (my mum first got sick when I was 10) was that I was never told anything, at least not anything bad. But it's crazy ‘cause it's not as if you don't know. You're living it every day and seeing this person physically change in front of your eyes.
I had to really dig around inside while writing ‘White Lies.' There were moments I found myself right back there with my mother. I get asked this a lot - if I had to choose one section that was the most autobiographical what would it be?
Page 151, is always my answer. It's not until then when Mitch comes face to face with a dying man that he realises Paul his grandfather, is dying too.
‘I stood there staring. I wanted to look away but I couldn't. I was frozen and the walls were starting to cave in…… ‘I can't' is what I think I said. I don't remember. I just remember running down the hall and out of the house.'
The real challenge in writing 'White Lies' was getting the surfing right. I interviewed surfers, read heaps of mags and watched hundreds of videos but eventually I knew I was going to have to learn to surf myself. It's too painful to talk about. All I can say is that I was bad – really bad.
I chose surfing as I think it's an awesome sport and has so many different aspects to it. It's healthy, fun, social and can be almost spiritual, in that you can have those moments out there on your own with just your thoughts. That's a rare thing I reckon.