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The rules of backyard cricket by Jock Serong Q&A: 30 March, 2017

"The rules of backyard cricket is a novel of suspense in the tradition of Peter Temple’s Truth. With glorious writing harnessed to a gripping narrative, it observes celebrity, masculinity-humanity-with clear-eyed lyricism and exhilarating narrative drive."

Formerly a lawyer, Jock Serong is now a full-time writer. His first novel, Quota, won the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel. His most recent novel is The rules of backyard cricket. Jock is married with four children and lives in Port Fairy, Victoria.

Jock will join us for a Q&A on Thursday, 30 March between 8 and 9pm. Please leave any questions you have below. (And discuss his writing at your leisure!)

Want to buy The rules of backyard cricket? Receive 10% off when purchasing it from Readings at State Library Victoria. To receive the discount online, enter the promo code BOOKCLUB in the promo code box during online checkout. To receive the discount at our State Library bookshop, simply mention the Thursday night book club at the counter.

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Hi Jock,

Thanks for doing this Q&A. 🙂

How did you time as a lawyer influence the way you approach plot and story? Do you think there are similarities between constructing a strong legal argument and a compelling plot?

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Hi Cory. Probably the major influence was just the sheer abundance of extraordinary human dilemmas you encounter as a lawyer, particularly in fields of law where people are in extremis, such as in crime. While you obviously can't mine these stories directly for material, I think they cumulatively give you a sense of how people respond under terrible pressures: how they speak, even how they look. It was always a bit of a problem for me as a lawyer that I was constantly distracted by my visceral reactions to the stories I encountered, when I should have been more centrally concerned with the technical stuff - that was probably one of the clear warning signs that I was better off being a writer!

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Hi Jock 👋🏼

Any advice for a first time writer?

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Hi Sarah,
Oh there's SO much advice, but here's a little bit that's front of mind:
1. Believe in the worth of your own writing. It's really difficult to build up momentum as a writer, to get published and so on, and it's very easy to get despondent but you have to maintain the belief that you have something to say and you can say it well. So number one, back yourself. BUT...
2. (And this will sound contradictory) be open to criticism and be prepared to change direction. Very often it's impossible to see the forest for the trees, especially if you've been living with a particular piece of writing for a long time. It's vital that you choose the right people to read and comment on your work: you want tough readers who will give it to you straight, not fans. And you've got to have the willingness to take the hard advice on board, not start defending yourself (or blocking their calls!)
3. Sounds obvious, but reading widely is so important. Outside your genre, old and new, male and female, all over the world. And when you read you need to train yourself to read for structure: that is, how did this writer achieve their effects? Where are the strings and the sticky tape that hold it all up? Can I do this trick? What didn't work in this book and why? You need to read books the way an arborist reads trees or a civil engineer reads bridges, that is, not "did I enjoy this or didn't I?" but "how does this thing work?"
Hope this helps a little!

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Hi Jock, The rules of backyard cricket is in my reading list this month, what's on yours? What do you read for fun?

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Hi Eoin,
Glad to hear it's there!
I'm reading a lot of material as background for a new novel, which sometimes takes the fun and variety out of reading. But on the other hand, you turn up a few surprises. I've ordered a copy of Henry James's spooky classic, A Turn of the Screw, and I've found a book about scurvy that I'm quite looking forward to. If you can figure out what those two books would have in common then you're most of the way to predicting what the new novel's about!

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