“The Dark Lake is an absolutely stunning debut. This is such a beautifully written and utterly absorbing read, it’s hard to believe that it’s the author’s first novel.”
– Sarah McDuling, Booktopia’s crime and thriller expert.
Read the full review here.
Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces.
The Dark Lake is her first novel. She now answers the Booktopia Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions.
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Melbourne. I grew up in the Eastern suburbs in a place called Ringwood. I lived there with my parents and my younger sister until I moved out at eighteen. Since then I’ve always lived a few kilometres from Melbourne.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a vet simply because I liked animals. At eighteen I wanted to be a journalist. I think I was attracted to the idea of a day job that required constant storytelling.
At thirty I wanted to write a book! But by then I was also ten years into a career in advertising so I also had aspirations about one day having or running my own advertising agency.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That as an adult, I would establish, and happily engage in, a regular exercise routine.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
It’s definitely books, films and TV shows that have influenced my storytelling the most. Homing in on three specific influences is very hard so I’m going to break the rules and list more than three!
I think reading widely had the biggest influence on my wanting to write. I’ve always been a big reader and I read pretty much every genre from a young age – Enid Blyton, trashy American teenage series, and lots of horror books. I read The Godfather when I was really young and remember being completely captivated by the world Puzo had created. I bawled my eyes out when Sonny died.
I loved texts like The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby and Lolita, and I found books like American Psycho and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest absolutely fascinating from a character perspective. I also loved sprawling sagas like Gone with the Wind and Paullina Simons’ Tully. As I’ve gotten older my preferred genre is probably psychological thriller, but I’m still happy to read almost everything.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I think it got to a point where I had no choice! I just wanted to write and thought about it all the time. I have always loved the art of storytelling. I love it in all formats – but I particularly love books.
I just think that it’s pretty amazing to sit down in front of a blank page and fill it with words that turn into people and places that readers can become so invested in. I find the process incredibly addictive.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Dark Lake is a character driven crime thriller set in a regional Australian town.
Detective Gemma Woodstock is assigned to a murder investigation. The victim is an old high school class mate of Gemma’s, the mysterious Rosalind Ryan. As Gemma and her partner begin to work the case, secrets from both her past and her present begin to bubble to the surface.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
The books I tend to enjoy the most are the ones that challenge my morals and my preconceived notions. I enjoy non-binary characters: for example, I might like a character but hate something that they do or dislike a character but see a glimmer of hope in one aspect of their behaviour. So, in a similar spirit, I’d love to think that my book takes people on some kind of emotional journey and prompts them to have an active opinion on the characters, how they behave and what motivates them.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Finishing a book is hard, so I admire everyone that manages to get the words down, regardless of the genre.
Being in the process of writing a sequel at the moment, I also admire authors who have sustained a character over time, as I am finding that this comes with its own challenges.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I have so many book ideas now that I constantly feel like I am running out of time! I do want to see how far I can take Gemma, the main character in my first book, The Dark Lake. I am finalising the draft of the sequel at the moment and have a few other story arcs for Gemma that might be worth exploring down the track.
But beyond that, I want to try other writing styles. I have an idea for a satire that I think would be fun, and another loose concept for an intergenerational family drama. Basically, I want to keep writing books and creating interesting characters.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Start your book and then finish your book. As blunt as it sounds, it’s the only way that I know of to end up with a book!
Thank you, Sarah!
The Dark Lake
There were a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.
Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply...
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.