Rebecca James: grit and determination

Rebecca James: grit and determination

What if the Wall Street Journal suggested that you could be the next JK Rowling, one of the most commercially successful authors of all time? What if you signed a two-book publishing contract that would gross you a million dollars? What if you went on to sell your work in 52 countries?

This is just the stuff of dreams, you say, and you’d be right. But it does happen, albeit once in the bluest of blue moons, and it’s happened to a writer who calls Canberra home.

Her name is Rebecca James and she writes gritty, dark, urban dramas about teenagers finding their way in the world. Her work contains plenty of sex and drinking and drugs, and there’s much swearing as characters go about their heady business of trying to work out who they are and what they want.

No wizardry, no love-hungry vampires, no dresses catching fire.

Who is Rebecca James? And is everything they say about her true?

The author lives with her partner Hilary, a public servant, and their four children in a most unassuming red-brick house in Canberra’s inner northern suburbs. There’s a blue people-mover parked in the driveway (no garage). On the concrete porch some kids shoes and a free weekly newspaper still in its plastic wrapping. A small brown dog comes to the door. Rebecca James follows. She is small, petite. If she were a bird she’d be a wren or a robin: inquiring, mischievous.

Inside her neat home, which I am assured has been cleaned for my benefit, James turns her attention to the coffee machine. ‘Normally we just microwave the milk but I’ll have a go at frothing it for you.’ While she works out the buttons, I notice a large unframed painting on the kitchen wall. All reds and yellows and oranges, it is immensely vibrant – vital even – in an abstract way. A silhouette of a face; is that a hand emerging from the colours? ‘I painted it,’ says Rebecca James, now using an egg-slice to inexpertly lift two pastries out of their white cardboard box. ‘Nobody likes the picture, but I do.’ She laughs freely, wildly.

We take our places in a small sitting room, which contains two long blue couches and a large flat-screen television. The room has the most peculiar aesthetic: the walls are covered with small white tiles…

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Keep reading over at the Sydney Morning Herald, which published this piece on Saturday 11 October 2014. Thanks to Sally Pryor.

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