A year ago, a devastating bushfire ripped Annie's world apart - killing her grandmother, traumatising her young daughter and leaving her mother's home in the mountains half destroyed. Annie fled back to the city, but the mountain continues to haunt her. Now, drawn by a call for help from her uncle, she's going back to the place she loves most in the world, to try to heal herself, her marriage, her daughter and her mother.
A heart-wrenching, tender and lovely novel about loss, grief and regeneration, ACHE is not only a story of how we can be broken, but how we can put ourselves back together.
Once again Eliza Henry-Jones has left me in a dazed state after finishing another of her extraordinarily beautiful and moving novels. ACHE is the most perfect title for this book - Annie aches for her past, she aches for her marriage, for new and old loves, for her young daughter, for her old home - but she mostly aches for herself and her own brokenness.
Henry-Jones has an exquisite way of making the reader feel while remaining unsentimental and non-melodramatic in her writing. The beauty is in how spare she is with her words, something I'm in awe of as a fellow writer. The attention to detail even in the spareness of words, however. still manages to take your breath away. She has a gift of drawing you right into each scene, into whoever's head she wants you to be in in that moment.
The relationship between mother and daughter in particular is incredibly well drawn and utterly heart-breaking. Somehow though, through tragedy and the grief that follows, Henry-Jones makes it okay and when you finish the story, it's the healing and the hope that stays with you.
ACHE is literary yet still commercial, a love story but also a story about Australia, about the land and its inhabitants and it is nothing short of a masterpiece. Hats off from me.
Her debut novel "In the Quiet" has been shortlisted for the NSW Literary Awards, the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and longlisted for the Indie Book Awards and ABIA Awards.
Henry Jones has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling and completed a thesis exploring bushfire trauma in fiction.
You can find Eliza on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and here at her website:
An Interview with Eliza Henry Jones:
How long did it take you to write your book?
ACHE took me about three years to write! I started in 2013.
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
The title Ache popped into my head before I’d even finished the first chapter. I felt like the idea of aching tied really well into how many of us deal with trauma and grief. The book went through many rewrites – far more than my debut novel, In the Quiet. Sometimes I think a story can outgrow or shift away from its title, but Ache always felt right – it always fitted the story I was writing. I wasn’t sure whether it would end up being the title of the finished book, but I’m very glad it is!
Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?
The novel is technically set in a fictional town – I wanted to be very clear about the story not being based on any real events or places. However, the landscape has been strongly influenced by the Dandenong Ranges, which is a place I’ve been besotted with for my entire life. How consuming it is - the mountain ash, the tree ferns and the lyrebirds. The way the environment shifts uniquely from season to season. I decided to set Ache in a similar rainforest because I am constantly fascinated by the environment of the hills, and the relationship between these huge, temperate rainforests and fire – how these huge, wet woods can’t actually exist without fire.
How did you go about researching the settings and scenarios in your book?
Formally studying psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling provided a wonderful springboard for writing Ache. I also completed an honours thesis on representations of bushfire trauma in fiction, which gave me an academic framework for writing about what are very complex and multifaceted issues. I talked to professionals and researchers involved in trauma and bushfires and also read so many bushfire books and articles that I now need to wear glasses! Phew! At the end of the day, I think what all of my research sort of came back to was that there is no universal way for dealing with this sort of trauma – people’s responses are as unique and complex as they are.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on my third novel for HarperCollins (the last in my three book deal!), which is scheduled for release in 2019. In some ways it’s similar to In the Quiet and Ache and in other ways quite different. I’m also working on a couple of projects in different genres, which I’m very excited about!
What was your road to publication like?
My road to publication was both quite long and quite short. In the Quiet was the tenth manuscript I’d written – one a year since I was fourteen. Which is a lot of writing, particularly when some of the earlier manuscripts had over three hundred false starts and drafts before I decided I was finished! I now have scoliosis (I used to sit with my feet up and twist towards the computer monitor) and a hole in my keyboard. I also wrote some short fiction and poetry and had a few placings and wins in awards and competitions, which is always such a lovely boost and can really spur you on when you’re feeling despondent. I signed with my agent when I was twenty-two, but that manuscript unfortunately didn’t get picked up. But that was okay - while I was watching the rejections rolling in, I was writing In the Quiet. So while my writing career has taken off while I’m still quite young, I feel like the hundreds of rejections I’ve gotten over the years have taught me a lot. It’s definitely not something I take for granted.
Do you take negative reviews of your book personally or do you shrug them off?
I think there’s a big difference between someone simply not connecting with your work and giving a lot of thought to articulating why and the reviews out there that are just plain nasty. I quite enjoy the thoughtful negative reviews – it’s always fascinating hearing thoughtful responses. I find the nasty reviews can sting a bit, but it’s part of the job. You just get on with it.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
Two things really stand out for me. When the writing just flows and feels effortless – where all the threads come to together and you can’t type quickly enough and find yourself holding your breath, like it’s a spell you’re desperate not to break. And hearing from people who’ve read my books is always pretty magnificent and magical!
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
I love hearing from people who’ve read my novels! I often talk to people through Facebook, my Instagram or my website. Although face-to-face is definitely my very favourite.
What was the first grown up novel you ever read and how did it shape you?
Carrie by Stephen King when I was VERY young. I snuck it off my mother’s bookshelf and I think it scarred me deeply. This was quickly followed by Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels. I now go to great lengths to avoid crime and horror books – make of that what you will!