Interesting Evening with Author Nikki Gemmell – and the story behind THAT book!

Status> Crazy busy. Countdown till Dead, Actually is released? 10 days! That’s 10 days!!!!!

Nikki Gemmel & myself.

But onto my main story… Gosh, you know this happened a couple of weeks back – almost three! The evening before Australia day to be exact. How time gets away…

The event was an ‘in conversation with’ author Nikki Gemmell, most famous for her somewhat controversial novel ‘The Bride Stripped Bare’ – and hosted by the fabulous people at the Hunter Writers Centre. Her residency at the centre was also part of the promotion of her latests work, ‘With My Body’.

Held at the home of Hunter Writers – (a very early, now unused Police Station locally known as ‘The Lockup’) the night in itself was a feast for the senses. Listening to Nikki’s fascinating journey, hearing the soft summer rain on the covering over what was once an enclosed exercise ‘yard’ for prisoners. Smelling – and indeed feeling – that rain as it floated down on a misty haze through the opening where the roof doesn’t meet the walls; and smelling, tasting and sensing the anguish, hatred and fear that the building seems to have have absorbed over it long history as an incarceration centre.

The above photo is of the Padded Cell, taken through the doorway, as entry isn’t allowed.

Nikki herself was an interesting character, and while she is impressively educated, has had a very colourful career outside of writing and has written several other successful novels, conversation it seems keeps coming back to that one novel: The Bride Stripped Bare’.

And call me cynical, but looking at how that whole episode panned out, I keep thinking that it was a fabulous marketing ploy. Well, whether it was intended or not – it worked! It caused such a buzz and publishers were falling over each other to get the rights.

If you don’t know the background – or were hiding under a log back in 2003, or barely out of nappies – here’s the gist.

Like many authors, Nikki was suffering with her own issues. Suddenly finding her creative-self lost in a sea of being a wife and new mother, she was stifled – couldn’t write freely – censoring herself with every word. During one of her angst- filled moments she remembered words she’d read earlier about a 17th century author – words I can’t quote directly but were along the lines of: ‘It’s okay to be anonymous’.

Taking this advice literally offered Nikki the creative freedom she’d craved. The censoring stopped because she took herself and her self-imposed fear and restrictions out of the process – and just let the words flow. And flow they did. They poured.

In a brave move that I suspect may have been supported by a canny knowledge of clever marketing, her agent took the book to market. Author name? “Anonymous”.

The story is raw, and it produced what title promised. Such brutal honesty. Such raw, and often shocking, female emotion. There was no filtering. Thus, speculation at the International Book Fair was rife. Everybody had an opinion as to the the ‘real’ author, and probably nobody at first envisaged an Australian expat living in London with two babies at her feet. Consensus was it was somebody famous and the list of names included movie stars, rocks stars and politicians but with the most likely candidate being author Salmon Ruskie’s second – or was it third? – wife.

It’s a great ‘journey’ story, and though the mystery surrounding this book certainly helped to send it soaring to the moon, the fact remains that it first had to be a compelling book.

Of course, while I guess Nikki can look back and smile now, her inevitable ‘outing’ was painful and caused her much stress. Even after publication, speculation was rife, as were sales – and it was probably only a matter of time until the truth was somehow leaked to the press who then camped outside her house making life hell for her and her husband and babies.

I’m sorry that happened – I truly am. No one deserves to be treated with such carelessness by the press. And like most us – when stripped bare, Nikki is simply a wife and mother, a woman working at a difficult job – trying to provide a safe and wholesome life for her children.

But still – it can’t be denied that this episode goes down as one of the most brilliant strokes of marketing in recent history. As said – intentional or not…

Am I being callous in thinking that? How far would you go to ensure a moon-shooting success? It doesn’t have to be a book? In anything in yor life…


5 Responses

  1. It was a fun night, wasn’t it, Kaz? I found the ‘in conversation’ interview with Nikki really interesting. The Lock up is such an, umm, evocative venue too.

    What would I do to for a moon-shooting success? Hmm, I’m going to play the safe card and simply say — work hard! 🙂

  2. Michelle, it was a fabulous night and I thank you two fold: 1) for your superb company (though everyone wonders ‘why’ you let me drive at night, and esp after coming off such horrid deadlines. Not that you knew at the time what a risk you were taking!!! LOL)…

    And 2) for giving me the heads up about this event.

    I love your thoughts on the moon-shoot possibility. It’s the wisest and most sensible answer.

    Honestly, would I risk so much as Nikki? I really don’t know. On the one hand I work very hard and know that I have to ‘make’ opportunities.

    On the other? I studiously protect my family from my public life – well, in the ‘greater world’ sense.

    Shaking head here… No, I may be seeming to consider, but deep down I know I’m not a major risk taker. I like safety nets in life for most things – they give me confidence, even if I never use them. So, being a safety-net gal kind of cuts me out of the risk-all crowd, I think.

    So, I’m with you. And fingers crossed we can make that work!

    Thanks Michelle – I am always grateful for your support.

  3. Kaz, you look fantastic! Just had to say.

    Loved the pic of the lock up too. One hell of a place.


    • Thanks Trish – technology is great isn’t it? They even get cameras to lie these days. LOL.

      The Lock Up is v.e.r.y interesting. Very evocative. I find it fascinating though, I’ll be honest and admit I couldn’t hover near the cell area for long.

      Everyone grins at the A/C in the back wall of the Padded Cell. I’m ‘pretty’ certain that wasn’t there when the cell was in use.

      However, there’s also a small museum area depicting the building’s time as a police station and lock up. A whole wall of very old, enlarged mug shots And one big area directly across from the cells is a gallery, so it’s well utilised. Perfect for a Writers Centre headquarters, yes?

      Thanks Trish! Great to see you here.

  4. Saya ngeblog baru sekedar buat menyalurkan hobi menulis, latihan menulis dan belajar menulis. Syukur kalau terkenal dari menulis suatu saat itu tentu hasil dari usaha keras dan konsisten. Lha, sekarang saya kadang nulis tapi sering gak, hehe… Alris selesai posting Nosgaltia

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