Anne Freeman chats to Kelly Sgroi about courage and rewards

Author Anne Freeman (top) speaking with Kelly Sgroi

We’d like to thank Kelly Sgroi of @peachesandcreampages for allowing us to share her interview with Anne Freeman.

I’m overjoyed to feature Anne Freeman on Kelly’s Writerly Q&A. She’s a Bookstagrammer with the funniest Instagram Reels; a multi-talented woman, and a fellow cocktail lover. So it’s no wonder we connected and I absolutely loved her debut novel.

Returning to Adelaide is gloriously funny and raw. It’s a realistic story about motherhood and how easy it is to lose yourself trying to serve those you love. And it’s out today!

You can read my five-star review here.

Q & A:

Hi Anne, thanks for taking the time to answer some writerly questions. First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut novel. Let’s start with the logline for Returning to Adelaide. 

When her perfect life implodes, a wife and mother sets out on a journey of discovery which returns her to herself.

I love the weight of the word return in your title, and I’m sure Adelaide’s problems will resonate with many women. What prompted you to write this story? 

The initial idea-seed for Returning to Adelaide came from a dream. After watching a travel program on rock n’ roll haven Pikes Hotel in Ibiza, I had this glorious dream. I was at a luxury resort and I desired the hotel manager but there were always hotel guests around we couldn’t quite get together. The tension was delicious! So, then, I began reverse-engineering the story. I made the protagonist a married mother of two, like me. I wondered what circumstances would require her to be on the other side of the world, without her children and husband. Rather than setting the story in Spain, I drew on my heritage, my knowledge of Greek culture and the extensive travelling I’ve done in the region, and set the story on the island of Ikaria.

Dreams can be so helpful when it comes to story ideas but so is real life. The way you describe everything Greek really shines through and had me yearning to eat Greek food and plan a holiday!

How long did it take you to write? 

Once I had a skeletal plot mapped out, I set myself a daily goal of 400 words and banged out the first draft in 4.5 months. I started writing it when I had two kids under three and, because the only time I ever sat down was to nurse my baby, I wrote most of it in the GoogleDocs App on my iPhone. Needless to say, there were edits to be done!

I admire your discipline and iPhones skills! Let’s talk about querying and publishing, how did you get your yes? 

I still can’t believe I got a yes! I entered Returning to Adelaide in the Hawkeye Publishing Manuscript Development Prize and the Romance Writers of Australia Valerie Parv Award and was a finalist in both. Afterwards, I enlisted Hawkeye Publishing in a structural edit but instead of a list of suggested edits, I got a publishing contract! 

What a dream! One thing that stood out to me while reading your novel was the beautiful way you can string a sentence together. As a multi-award winning writer, do you have any tips to share on writing contests?

Gosh, I’m hardly an expert! All the typical stuff, I guess. Start strong, hook your reader. But also, make sure that what you’re submitting is already at a publishable standard. Maybe, deep down, we all harbour some romantic notion of our rough draft being plucked from obscurity, based on its potential, and then having a team of experts help us polish it to a high shine! I definitely sent some rough versions of Returning to Adelaide out into the world in the early days. I was so astonished to have completed a manuscript that I just wanted to get it out there. But, in hindsight, it wasn’t ready. I still feel slightly embarrassed at the memory!

This is great advice. It’s important to listen to your gut.

What does your typical day of writing look like? 

It looks like this: Take son to school, sit down to write, get daughter custard pouch, write half a sentence, hear a big crash, go and investigate, pick up all the crayons that have fallen, write other half of sentence, do laundry, fulfill request to put on Gabby’s Doll House, write a full sentence, get apple, peel apple when it is deemed inedible with skin on, write three consecutive sentences, receive Coles online order, put away groceries, bang out five sentences, lunchtime, guilt-play playdough with daughter, write seven sentences, pick up son from school, write half a sentence, pack lunchboxes for tomorrow, put washing in dryer, close laptop, pick up every toy we own from the floor, dinner, drink wine, repeat. 

The joys of motherhood.

What kinds of books do you like to read? 

I mostly read women’s contemporary fiction and literary fiction. I think of them as ‘books mine sit alongside’ and ‘books I’m inspired by’. I also do a lot of reading for my uni course. Mainly short stories and writing craft guides.

I’ve been reading more women’s contemporary fiction this year and I absolutely love it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

This might seem like odd advice, but, put yourself out there on social media. Writing can be a solitary pursuit but if you find the courage to put up your hand and tell the world you’re writing, you will find your squad. There’s a lovely community on Instagram, come and join us. We’re all waiting to cheer you on!

Yes to all of this! Bookstagram has changed my life. It’s opened up many doors and connected me with amazing people such as yourself. Because I love all the Instagram posts you share of delicious drinks, what’s your favourite cocktail?

That’s like asking if I have a favourite child! I quite like the sophistication of a ‘sour’ though. A whiskey sour, pink grapefruit sour or clover club – something with egg white in it to give it a velvety foam on top – sours feel decadent and special. 

Yum! So, what can we expect from you next?

A lot more laundry… and I’m scheduled to finish my creative writing degree in seven years! Also, I have another manuscript that I’m working on. It’s called Me, That You See. It’s a contemporary fiction with elements of romance and domestic noir that follows the journey of a barista turned cam-model (yes, I mean an online sex worker!) as she stumbles towards authenticity. 

The laundry is never-ending that’s for sure, but studying is so rewarding – I’m sure you’ll thrive over the next seven years.

Me, That You See sounds fabulous, and I look forward to hearing more about it.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, it’s been delightful! I have a feeling your laundry basket is going to be dwarfed by your books-to-sign stack.

Buy Returning to Adelaide here.

Learn more about Anne Freeman.

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