Hailing from the gorgeous Adelaide Hills, author Rebecca Freeborn’s second novel, Misconception, is out now. A prolific writer, Freeborn lives with her husband and three kids, and surrounds herself with books, a dog, a cat and a horse!
Misconceptionis Rebecca Freeborn’s second novel. Her first novel, Hot Pursuit, was released in 2018 and follows the story of aspiring journalist, Sarah Burrowes. While Hot Pursuit is a light holiday read, Misconception tells the story of Ali and Tom, a couple madly in love with one another and expecting a baby. When their unborn baby dies, everything they have ever known to be true is suddenly thrown into question. An emotionally charged read, visceral and deep, the book tackles challenging themes and sheds a light on stories that often go unheard.
Freeborn is passionate about writing strong, resilient women. We were lucky enough to speak with Freeborn about her new novel, her writing process, her favourite books, and what’s next in store.
Congratulations on Misconception.There’s definitely a silence and stigma around stillbirths and miscarriages, and it’s such an important topic to explore. What made you want to write this novel?
The idea for this book came to me when I was going through my third miscarriage.Outside of dealing with the by now familiar sense of failure, I was preparing, once again, to hold it all inside and pretend everything was normal. And I’d had enough of it. I didn’t want to participate in the culture of silence that surrounds pregnancy and infant loss anymore.
I was in the middle of writing a completely different manuscript when the ideasmashed me over the head, and I had no choice but to immediately abandon the other one and start on it.
I wrote Misconceptionto open up the conversation about pregnancy loss. I didn’t tell anyone after my first two miscarriages, and it ate away at my self-worth for a long time. I felt broken and defective and just really, really angry. It wasn’t until I finally started talking about it that something within me released, and I realised just how common miscarriage is. My hope for this book is that other women who have lost babies feel a little less alone, and that maybe they can be part of breaking the cycle of silence.
I was also interested in exploring different ways of grieving and how societal expectations can induce feelings of guilt or shame if a person – and especially a woman – doesn’t fit the conventional image of ‘grieving mother’.
It was important for me tell this story through a feminist lens. I believe the patriarchal images of ‘stoic male’ and ‘emotional female’ are really damaging to both women and men, and I wanted to challenge these gendered assumptions about grief. Misconceptionflips the stereotype, portraying a woman who refuses to feel and a man who is not afraid to show his vulnerability, and the ways they are judged by the people aroundthem – and each other.
What was the writing experience like for you? How was it different to writing your first novel?
My first book was a rollicking adventure rom-com, and it was a lot of fun to write. Writing Misconception was definitely not fun! It went to a lot of dark places that I hadn’t expected when I started it. It began from a very personal place with my characters deciding to have children and experiencing early miscarriages and fertility issues. I found I was putting a lot of myself into the story, and it wasn’t until I started on probably the third draft and got feedback from early readers that I realised the first half of the book was actually backstory. So,I deleted around 50,000 words and started with the couple’s stillbirth as the inciting incident.
I was also pregnant with my second child when I started writing and I had to do a lot of research on stillbirth, which was obviously quite confronting. Luckily,I had the world’s calmest and loveliest obstetrician, who not only kept me sane through all my pregnancies, but also read scenes from the book to help me make them more authentic.
I interviewed two women who had stillborn babies, and they were so generous in sharing their stories with me – it was a privilege and an honour to lift the lid on an issue that is almost never talked about. Some of the practical details were shocking, some oddly beautiful. I learnt that nurses really are the best kind of people.
While Misconceptionstarted out as a book about pregnancy loss, in the end it became more about identity, family and trauma.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you write best in the mornings, in the evenings, or in the middle of the day?
It depends whether I have a deadline! I work and have three kids, so I have to fit my writing into the cracks of life. This means getting up at 5am to grab an hour or two of silence, or writing on the bus and in my lunch break at work. And when I’m on deadline, this often means parenting from behind a laptop! I also have an endlessly understanding husband who will take the kidsout of the house on the weekend, or I might spend a few glorious hours writing or editing in a cafe or the pub.
I probably get my best writing done early in the morning, because if I’m awake that early I’m not going to waste time on social media (well, maybe just a little bit).
What drew you to writing, or have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer.My head has been full of stories since I was young child. The first ‘book’ I sent to a publisher as a horse-mad 12-year-old was an overly dramatic, cliché-ridden story called 32 Horse Street, written first by longhand and then laboriously banged out on an ancient Remington Steele typewriter. Undeterred by the publisher’s kind and encouraging rejection, Ipersevered for years and years, slowly getting better, before finally getting that longed-for publishing offer.
I believe stories have the power to entertain, to heal, to interrogate and to change the world. Fiction is powerful because it articulates the feelings that live inside us. It gives us the language of fear, pain, anger, happiness. It makes us feel seen. There’s no greater privilege for me than to lift the corner of an issue or an emotion and explore what lies beneath it.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
To celebrate other writers’ achievements. It’s so easy in this industry to get bogged down by envy, and to feel like everyone else is more successful and talented than you are. My biggest joy of being a writer has been connecting with other writers and supporting one another through our successes and disappointments.
A close second is to enjoy the writing process as the real prize. I think the biggest myth in the industry is that when you get published you’ll finally be happy. Writers are insecure beings, and as soon as we’ve achievedone goal,we immediately find other ways to feel inadequate. The book hangover is real and crushing. Thankfully this is beginning to be spoken about more, but I’ve found that it’s only when I’m writing that I feel free and powerful, and that I’m doing what I’m meant to do.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Spare Room by the wonderful Helen Garner.
If you had to pick one book to read for the first of your life, what would you pick?
The Natural Way of Thingsby the equally wonderful Charlotte Wood.
What’s next in store for you? Are you working on anything new?
I’m going through the editing process for my next book, which will be out in April 2020. The Girl She Was explores themes of consent and coercion, power differentials, friendship, body image and how adolescent trauma shapes us as adults.
Interestingly, the idea for this book hit me in much the same way that Misconception did. I’ve learnt to trust this feeling, because it usually comes from a place of anger and urgency. I smashed out the first draft in just over seven weeks in a fevered rage. Sometimes it feels like there’s so much to be angry about as a woman, and fiction is a powerful tool to examine these issues and hopefully inflame readers to be part of necessary change.