Up and In
by Deborah Disney
GENRE: Women’s Fiction
Distinctly middle-class parents, Maria and Joe have committed every bit of available income to giving their daughters Kate and Sarah the best education possible, which to them means attending the most exclusive girls school in the state. But when Kate befriends the spoilt and moody Mirabella, Maria finds herself thrust into a high society of champagne-swilling mother-istas she hasn’t budgeted for. Saturday morning netball is no longer a fun mother-daughter outing, but a minefield of social politics.
While the increasingly neurotic Maria struggles to negotiate the school mum hierarchy, Joe quietly battles a midlife crisis and Kate attempts to grow up as gracefully as possible (without having her life ruined by embarrassing parents).
For every woman who has ever felt she may be wearing the wrong shoes, this is a book that will remind you – you’re not alone.
Fans of Liane Moriarty and Fiona Higgins are sure to enjoy this debut offering from new Australian author, Deborah Disney.
There it was again. That damned full stop. How does so much passive aggression fit itself into such a tiny punctuation mark?
Fine with me.
‘Fine with me, full stop.’
‘Fine with me full stop, no x.’
‘Fine with me full stop no x, no way am I ever going to let you think you are in any way deserving of the lathered-up, flattery-filled, signed-off-with-a-kiss kind of email I always send to everyone else on this email list.’
And there you have it. That is what she was able to say to me with one little full stop.
Of course, if any of the obsessively-stroking-and-simultaneously-self-aggrandising netball mums on this email list ever decided just to hit ‘Reply’ instead of ‘Reply all’ to the coach’s weekly email, I probably wouldn’t know that this little full stop means that I am absolutely, categorically, no longer in the fold. Unfortunately, because I am still on the email list, every week my inbox fills with messages ending with ‘x’ – not emails addressed specifically to me, just a plethora of inappropriately ‘Reply all’ emails sent to every woman with a daughter in the Red Rockets Under 10 Division 1 netball team. Every ‘x-ending’ email I have read over this netball season has served to reinforce the knowledge that if I were the object of Bea’s contrived affections her response to my offer to organise a group gift for our daughters’ netball coach would instead have gone more like this:
Oh Maria, you are always so thoughtful. Of course I had been planning to find Linney the perfect gift – she has done such a stellar job with the girls this season! Sadly, I am just run off my feet this week. With putting the finishing touches on the gala, and having the nanny taking time off for her final exams, I just haven’t had a chance to even think! You are a life saver! Truly. I can’t wait to see what you choose – you have such impeccable taste! By the way, where did you get those absolutely to-die-for wellies you were wearing last week? I absolutely covet them. I just have to have some. Anyway, I must press on, I have a hundred emails to get through. I see another one just popped up from the Governor’s Office. Did I mention that the Governor and his wife will be joining us at the gala? I have known him forever, of course. Just adored his Christmas card last year! Remind me to tell you about it. Thanks again for organising the gift. You are an absolute gem! Bea x
I guess, in a way, ‘Fine with me full stop’ is in fact a lot easier than the alternative. Back when I actually gave a damn what Bea thought of me, the alternative would have filled me with insecurity. What kind of ‘perfect’ gift would she have chosen for Linney? Did she really like my wellies? Would she ever choose them over her Louboutin ballet flats to go to an Under 10’s netball game – even when the grounds were covered in mud like when I wore mine the previous week – or did she really just plan to sit them on the porch by way of decor at her thousand-acre ‘hobby’ farm up the coast? How would I confess that I actually bought them at Kmart? And shit, shit, shit, the Governor is coming to the gala? It was bad enough that I had to hide from Joe that it was costing us $500 a head just to be at the gala, but now I would have to somehow convince him to pay a grand for a decent new dinner suit as well?
I have to wonder, though, if it was really such a relief to open up her fine-with-me-full-stop email, instead of receiving one of the phoney rambling prop-ups she sends to all the other netball mums – the ‘lower-case beas’ – then why did it feel like I had just had my face slapped?
Admittedly, I cared a hell of a lot less than I once would have. Before I realised that my name had been wiped off the Bea-list, ‘Fine with me full stop’ would have spiralled me into days of tortured analysis. What did I say that I shouldn’t have? Is she upset that I invited Lauren’s daughter for a play with Kate instead of asking Mirabella? What is it? What did I do? Did she wave to me in traffic and I missed it? Did Kate do something to upset Mirabella? Is it because Kate got a better score than Mirabella at the eisteddfod?
After being off the Bea-list for almost six months now, though, I have started training myself to see things differently. When I think about what got me wiped off the Bea-list in the first place, my reaction to her flagrant snubbery is now more a mixture of amusement and incredulity, rather than feeling any sense of self-recrimination.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Australian author, Deborah Disney, grew up in the regional city of Toowoomba and now lives in Brisbane with her husband and two school-aged daughters. Deborah has a BA/LLB from the University of Queensland and practised as a solicitor for a number of years prior to having children. She chose to specialise in litigation law as that seemed like the best preparation for what is now her looming battle – mothering her daughters through the teenage years. Deborah’s first novel, Up and In, is a satirical look at the interactions of school and sporting mums.
I was able to get together with Deborah and interview her on her writing process. Here’s what she shared:
What do you write?
I write books for women, about women, and primarily about the friction-filled relationships they have with one another.
What genre do you favor?
As a reader? I generally like to read Women’s Commercial Fiction, but I also like thrillers. I have loved the overlap of the two in books like Gone Girl … and clearly a vast portion of the book buying public does too.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved writing. It was only a few years ago that I decided I would like to do writing as a career.
What do you think is the best way to publish these days?
The way that gets your book in front of the most people. I think a combination of print and digital is best.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
Oops – I already answered that in Q2. The answer you probably needed to see up there was just Women’s Commercial Fiction (being the genre I write in).
Do your characters talk to you?
Absolutely. Only other authors would understand this, but characters really do take on a life of their own. Sometimes they just do things you (as their creator) would not expect them to do. Sometimes there is something almost spiritual and trance-like that happens when a writer becomes just like a tool for getting a story out. I remember reading something Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about this and I felt relieved that it wasn’t just me.
How do you approach starting a new book?
Ideas for the plot and characters come gradually and I write them down as I think of them. Then a lightning bolt of an idea comes to me that makes me think ‘YES, that is how this can work’ and then from there I write bits and pieces that I rearrange and put together to make the whole story.
What is your writing process?
I do not write chronologically. I write scenes. I then need to work out how to present them together in a way that makes sense to the reader.
What are the best writing books or blogs you’ve ever read?
I am a little ashamed to say I have not studied or researched my craft at all. I just do it. But I have seen a few talks by Elizabeth Gilbert that I have found helpful.
What are your non-writing hobbies, or what do you do to relax?
I like designing – at the moment we are designing a new house and I am always working and re-working the floor plan and little design features for it. Funnily enough, when I was little I used to spend my spare time writing and designing house floor plans. Why as an eight year old I was spending time drawing houses and floor plans I have no idea. And it’s interesting to me that that is what I spend a lot of my time on now. Up until the last few years I have not considered myself to be a creative, but now I realise that I always have been – I just took a while to apply my creativity in a career sense.
What was your best date ever?
All the ones with my husband … of course!
Navy SEAL or cowboy?
Chocolate or chips?
Tough call but … chips.
If you could have a superpower what would it be? Why?
Mindreading. I spend a lot of time trying to work out people’s motivations. It could save me that time.
Fancy restaurant or picnic?
Nope – can’t choose – I love both and it would just depend on the day. Today I would pick picnic.
Beer or wine?
This changes but currently Liane Moriarty
Smooth or hairy?
My legs or are we talking about Navy Seals and Cowboys again? My legs – currently a bit hairy – need to go fix that.
Deborah will be awarding an eCopy of Up and In to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.