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I seem to begin every one of these missives with an apology. "Sorry it's been so long between emails!" But I recently remembered that on the newsletter sign-up page, it used to say something like, "I'll email you three or four times per year." So actually I've been invading inboxes way more than (some of) you agreed to. So I guess I should apologise for that, instead.

Some people might consider all the extra emails to be a plus. I've noticed many of my writer friends commercialising their newsletters, starting substacks and whatnot, bringing back the blogging culture of the MySpace era. I'm happy for them, assuming they're doing it of their own free will, but their strategy wouldn't suit me at all.

Firstly, every minute I spend writing this newsletter is a minute not spent writing a book, and I enjoy books more than I enjoy newsletters, not only as a writer but as a reader. Every time someone like Chuck Palahniuk or Bri Lee or John Safran starts a substack (or worse, a podcast), my first thought is never, "Yay! Free/cheap content from a person I admire!" It's always, "Dang, that looks time-consuming. Guess I'll be waiting a lot longer for their next book."

Secondly - and I'm sure I've talked about this before - I don't like the growing pressure for artists to expose their real selves to audiences. Actually, it's not just artists. If 2022 had a motto, it would be, "Always be yourself, as loudly and visibly as possible! And also, be perfect at all times, or you will be crushed."

The more I know about a writer, the harder I find it to suspend my disbelief when I'm reading their fiction. A reader should be able to find their own meaning in a book, without their perception of the author getting in the way. If I was a chef, my customers wouldn't care what my home life was like, or what inspired me to create this dish or that, as long as it tasted good. Why should writing be any different?

This is on my mind because of my new book, Headcase. As with all of my novels, parts of it are autobiographical. A reader who knows too much about my life - or thinks they do - will find it jarring whenever those moments come up. This is a routine difficulty for my family. My wife, reading my manuscripts, will laugh in the wrong places, and tell me, "I can't believe you used that." The opposite problem also comes up. There was a line in my first book, published when I was a teenager, which said something like, "Her ponytail was tied high, in a fashionable rather than practical way." Upon reading that, a very old friend (our parents bathed us together when we were babies) frowned and said, "What would Jack know about having long hair?" She's known me long enough to know that I've never worn a ponytail.

When Headcase comes out, people will ask me questions, such as, "Where did you get the idea for this book?" And I will lie, because the truth would spoil the story. As usual, I came up with a really good twist, and worked backwards. If I told you where I got the idea, it would be obvious what the twist was. So I'll have to come up with something else to say, because silence is unacceptable in the social media age. Gone are the days of Thomas Pynchon and those three goofy photos that prove he exists. Even Elena Ferrante, whose real name is unknown, is forced to give endless interviews about her own work, and about all the people she isn't.

Of course readers want to know what the writer's process was, in the same way that audiences want to learn the secret method underpinning a magic trick. But the truth will only disappoint them. Magicians know that, so they only share their processes with other magicians.

Ugh. Look at me, ranting and rambling, like I have my own substack. I can see it now, people reading Headcase and being distracted by the knowledge that I'm a paranoid luddite, who's clearly ungrateful for his own success. Here's what I actually came here to tell you about today:
Headcase will be launched by the inimitable Shelley Burr (bestselling author of WAKE) at Dymocks Belconnen on Friday November 25. 6:45 for a 7pm start. To make sure we have enough copies, RSVPs are appreciated: or 02 6251 2850.

Shelley is supposed to be editing her second award-winning masterpiece, so I really appreciate her taking the time to launch my latest foray into Timothy Blake's dark world. If you could not embarrass me in front of her, that'd be great. We'll both be signing our books (they make great Christmas presents for your most disturbed relatives).

If you can't get to Canberra, you can still preorder Headcase from your local bookshop or online ahead of the November 29 release date. No word on an audio version yet - stay tuned.

Other news:
  • I'll be at the Headland Writers Festival on Saturday October 29. Come say hi!
  • Kill Your Husband, the dark, claustrophobic sequel to my Ned Kelly shortlisted crime novel Kill Your Brother, is coming along nicely and will appear on Audible mid next year.
  • 300 Minutes of Mystery, tenth book of my CBCA Notable "Danger" series, is written but not yet edited.
  • I also have a YA crime novel, a middle-grade spy series, a futuristic military thriller, and various other things on the go. Watch this space.
  • I've been posting book review videos on my various social media channels (links below). I only review things I enjoy, and I have quite diverse tastes. If you're looking for Christmas gifts for your bookish loved ones, it might be worth watching some.
  • And here's a short story I wrote in seven minutes at Radford College a few weeks ago. (Click for larger resolution.)
Thanks, as always, for reading. I complain a lot about newsletters (and many other things) but I really am grateful to you for sharing your precious time with me and taking an interest in my work. Feel free to forward this email on to others, if you think they'd like it.

Gotta go!
Copyright © 2022 Jack Heath, All rights reserved.

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