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Shaun Prescott: a note on The Town
Six years after it was first published, Shaun Prescott reflects on his debut novel The Town, released in a new edition in February 2023 with Giramondo. Prescott’s second novel, Bon and Lesley, was published in September 2022.
It’s likely the case for many a debut work, but The Town was a novel I spent all of my adult life writing. It went through a half-dozen variations across roughly fifteen years, with each new never-completed version different to the former. It required that much time for me to discover the right way to evoke what I thought might improve my life, for its successful evocation. That seems to me a fairly normal process for a novelist writing their first novel, not to mention subsequent ones. As for the version that exists, that took me about three years worth of Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights drinking beer on a Marrickville porch.
I had intended to self-publish The Town, like I had some shorter works. The thought of submitting my fiction to publishers was a nightmare to me, so simply not submitting helped to avoid any inevitable deflation. Writing is enjoyable work, albeit often taxing. Some of the most gratifying moments of my life have been spent alone, writing fiction. But with time it becomes hard to do it without a reader, even just one.
Drawing to the end of what I thought was a final draft, I emailed then-publisher of The Lifted Brow, Sam Cooney, to ask if he would read my manuscript, because I had written occasionally for that journal. I just needed someone to read it and tell me if it was better than bad, someone other than my long-suffering partner. I sent the email after several beers, which I’ve learned is a good time to send emails. Sam charitably agreed to read it. He offered some useful and unpaid feedback, and eventually – after a lot more unpaid work – also published the book. Sam and the former team on Brow Books are entirely to credit for the book’s existence, but none made any money from working on it, as far as I know.
I have grown apart from The Town but it scratched some itches. I am unhappy with many passages and remain proud of some. A part of me wishes I had saved this book for later in my life, but I could say the same for Bon and Lesley too. You don’t know when you’re going to die, so it’s better to parade your messes as soon as you can.
— Shaun Prescott