Left Field With Lily: On A Virginity Mission with Cate Ellink

Way back in the time, (I mean – it was last year wasn’t it? That’s forever ago), Cate Ellink and I met when we were both tagged by Jenn J Mcleod in The Next Big Thing. Cate, Kerrie Paterson, Allison Tait, Jenn and I, called ourselves The DIGRITS. (Dang. I got roped into this sh*t). A great friendship formed.CateEllink_small

Cate has a wonderful blog. I’m a very regular visitor because I love the raw honesty one finds there; plus it’s a blog where I learn something. On Sundays, Cate reviews a book she’s recently read. On Wednesdays, she reviews the local wildlife. (This is where I learn things – her science background comes through and there’s great pictures and information about spiders and cockatoos and lizards and bugs and… you know, the stuff one finds in a backyard). Then there’s Phallic Fridays… I suspect Phallic Fridays get lots and lots of traffic, but few commentators… probably because it poses tricky questions about fetishes and fantasies and menages and penis size and… ahem… if it was a coffee table book, Cate’s blog would be kept under the table.

I also, right from the outset, loved Cate’s writing voice. She’s a first person writer, which is a style I love. I’ve seen snippets of Cate’s writing on her blog. Not long ago she posted her entry to the Little Gems ‘Sapphire’ competition – and I loved it.Next Big Thing-1

I wish her every success in the world with The Virginity Mission and I’m so happy that she’s now just weeks away from her first full-length published book! Way to go fellow DIGRIT! (I am also SO very happy that I get to post her incredibly gorgeous cover on my blog… phew… is it getting hot in here??)

LM: Would you please share with us: The very first draft of the opening paragraph of The Virginity Mission, compared with how it looks now?

CE: I struggle with opening paragraphs. So when I write, I write whatever comes into my head. Then for the next year or so I fuss and bother trying to turn the mess I’ve written, into something readable – with a worthy opening! Finding how my story starts is never easy and takes me ages to get it right – and even then I’m not sure it is. So here’s the mess I made of The Virginity Mission

August 2011:

Being a twenty-one year old virgin is not something to skite about.  Which is why I keep it secret. No one need know about my non-existent sex-life. I have a heap of male friends, so no one suspects. At least, I hope not. This trip’s my big chance to break the curse. A holiday romance is perfect for bursting my cherry. Opportunities should be rife – a bushwalking trip, in mixed company, in the remote Daintree rainforest. If I can’t lose my virginity on this sort of trip, I have no hope at all.

What’s wrong: she sounds desperate, not really likeable. It’s all telling.

October 2011:

The first evening of the expedition a meeting’s called and we’re briefed. The Army will be giving vehicular support. There’s a murmur of appreciative female voices before we’re instructed that these men are not part of the expedition. They’re here to work not mingle. It doesn’t bother me. I’m looking to lose my virginity and any one of the sixty expedition men will do.

The rest of the briefing’s fine, the stuff I expect, until the National Parks and Wildlife Service guy gets up to give his safety talk. When someone calmly states, “If you’re three days from base camp and you get bitten by a snake, you can kiss your ass goodbye”, well, the reality of remote hits home. I’ve bushwalked for years… but I have always been within a few hours walk of civilisation. Suddenly we’re talking about being days walk from anyone. Hell. I was right to make no promises about my safety. My mother tried to make me promise I’d come home in one piece and I could only laugh and tell her I’d try. I was thinking about that piece of me I intend to leave behind – the dreaded cherry – and there’s no way I was telling my mother that! Now it seems there are scary things in the rainforest.

What’s wrong: too much irrelevant back story. She’s still desperate. Still telling.

Feb 2012: 

My eyes are drawn to movement as someone jumps onto the back of the truck. I blink. Once. Twice. My stomach and pelvic floor collide. Trouble. Stunning trouble. Shoulders loom from a snug khaki singlet that ripples across his stomach as he moves. Camouflage trousers do nothing to disguise the tightly rounded butt as he bends over to grab the next backpack to stow. The military man is all lithe controlled power. He climbs over the back of the truck holding someone’s gear as if it weighs nothing. Those shoulders are massive bunches of corded strength. His arms aren’t hugely bulging but deliciously defined. A sudden desire to have those arms wrapped tightly around my naked flesh burns my brain. Dear God. I’ve lost my mind.

What’s wrong: People liked this one. It’s more showing. She’s not desperate just appreciative of the view  With a little modification, it stayed.

The Published Version!

My eyes are drawn to movement. Someone jumps onto the back of the truck and I blink. Once. Twice. My stomach and pelvic floor collide.

Shoulders loom from a snug khaki singlet that ripples across his stomach as he moves. Camouflage trousers do nothing to disguise the tightly rounded butt as he bends over to grab the first backpack to stow. This military man is all lithe, controlled power. He climbs over the back of the truck holding someone’s gear as if it weighs nothing. Those shoulders are massive bunches of corded strength. His arms aren’t hugely bulging but deliciously defined. A sudden desire to have those arms wrapped tightly around my naked flesh burns my brain. Dear God,  I’ve lost my mind.

LM: Love it. Love it. Love it.

LM: What is your greatest ‘lightbulb moment’ in terms of Writing Craft?

CE: I think I’ve struggled with everything about the writing craft, and the more I learn the more I struggle. I spent 20 years working in science. I think it took me probably 10 years to learn the science-writing craft—dull, dry, factual, no colour, no voice, omniscient science style. And even then others were always correcting my stuff. Sometimes it would have more red pen on it than my own words! Science taught me not to be precious about my writing.

The last 5 years, I’ve been trying to un-learn the science-writing craft. And that hasn’t been easy. Show not tell did my head in. POV kept eluding me. Deep POV was too hard to fathom. Emotion nearly crippled me.

I don’t know that any one lightbulb has been greater than another. I just kept plodding along, thinking I had it, then finding the next thing I didn’t “get”. A lightbulb happened, I plodded onwards to the next problem. I’m not sure it will ever end.

LM: What keeps you awake at night?

CE: New people in my head. New stories. Answers to the problems I’m having in the stories I’m writing or re-writing. So many things! But once I’m asleep, I’m hard to wake 

LM: If you could choose three items on the list below to take for a week camping in the Australian outback, which three would you pick? (You can imagine never-ending electricity & batteries).

  • ipod (with all your favourite music)
  • kindle (crammed full of a mix of reading material. I don’t mind what as long as it’s lots and lots of different things.)
  • your favourite paperback
  • your significant other
  • I will take my chances on there being a gorgeous girl, or gorgeous man (whichever the case may be) to help me pitch my tent
  • food I don’t have to catch first
  • wine (you can assume it will always be cold – unless you prefer red)
  • Nespresso & endless supply of Pods (and George Clooney – no, that’s cheating – no George)
  • a torch in case the candles go out
  • moisturiser/cosmetics/hairbrush
  • change of clothes
  • mobile phone/internet connection for twitter & FB

Can I have something not on your list? Notepad and pencil (unlimited supply, please). I can’t live without scribbling down random ideas and thoughts, keeping notes, etc.

LM (snorting forcefully): Something NOT on the list!!! The nerve. Here’s a rebel. We’ll have to watch this one.

CE: p.s. I wonder what asking for something else means? I dread the psycho-analysis. 

LM: Wondering about the consequences of asking for something else shows you never paid attention when you read Oliver Twist!

LM: My book (out now with Escape Publishing) is called His Brand Of Beautiful. Can you tell me what you would describe as ‘your brand of beautiful’ – in terms of your partner?

CE: Loyalty. Life is tough but if someone’s going to stick it out with you, and you know they are going to, then it makes things easier. My husband’s incredible loyalty to his family was something that really attracted me. He was amazing with his Nan. He’d lived with her and when she was put into hospital and then the nursing home, he visited her every day, sometimes twice a day, for years. There’s nothing like that kind of loyalty.

LM: Tell us the best thing about The Virginity Mission? Who would absolutely love it?

Virginity Mission_small
Oh man! I love this cover…

CE: This is such a hard question. I think the best thing about The Virginity Mission, is that someone’s publishing it and Mac and Jason have stopped talking to me now. Their story is done, someone liked it, so they’re happy and gone from my mind. And that’s a great thing – there are too many people inside my head as it is!

The people who’d love this story would be those with a sense of adventure, who like a story about growing up, and who don’t mind explicit sex scenes, but it’s a loss of virginity story, so it’s kind of sweet for an erotic story.

LM: Can you share your favourite 250 words from your book? 

CE: It’s hard to have a favourite part in the story after sweating blood over it for years (I’m kind of over it)! This is the scene that started the idea for the whole story, so it’s the one that pops into my mind first, although it happens a long way into the story.

Mac (heroine) and Jason (hero) are in an outdoor spa with two others. Mac desperately wants to get Jason alone to see if he actually likes her (she’s still hopelessly confused).

Watching Jason is sheer pleasure. The top of his chest and upwards is all that’s visible but it’s keeping me occupied. Uninterrupted, huge breadth of shoulders, rounding to strong arms has my stomach turning to mush. I wish I could see more. My gaze roams freely over his face. There’s no embarrassment when he’s not looking. He has tiny lines at the corners of his lips and eyes. A small bump in the middle of his nose. A tiny scar at the point of his chin. But the most arousing thing is the dark stubble running along his jaw, across his top lip, and over his cheeks. I can almost feel the roughness beneath my fingertips as I dream of touching him. My fingers itch to reach over to him.

A foot brushes my ankle. I move my leg, thinking I’m in the way. Moments later, the foot grazes my calf. I jolt. Jason’s still asleep. I’m completely puzzled. Annie and Harry haven’t paused in their conversation and neither look like they’re moving. Whose foot is it?

The foot strokes my leg again, sending goose bumps over all my skin. Surely it isn’t for me? Is it?

My heart’s paused but ready to gallop in an instant. Every muscle is tense. I look at Jason again. His eyes are still half closed but from under heavy lids he meets my gaze. He smiles. His gaze is deep heated passion.

Oh. My. God.

LM: Oh. My. God indeed Ms Ellink. I can’t wait to read The Virginity Mission in June. I’ve pre-ordered and soon it will wing its way through to me!

If you’d like to read The Virginity Mission, you can find out more about it here.

Thank you for coming into Left Field with me Cate! And don’t forget to check Cate’s blog. Sundays. Wednesdays. Fridays. And any other day she has something to say.

10 thoughts on “Left Field With Lily: On A Virginity Mission with Cate Ellink”

    1. Thank you, Jenn. You and Lily are making me blush tonight. You were a marvellous registrar – there was no fumbling from what I could see.

      Thank you,
      Cate xo

    2. Nice to have The Queen of opening paragraphs here… If you choose to divvy a book up into four parts, like House For All Seasons, you have to have a whiz-bang opening to all four parts. Not to mention the very, very start. So I think that qualifies you as an expert Jenn J McLeod.

  1. Khaki camouflaged male – way to get lost! This sounds like lots of fun, Cate. I love your brand of beautiful; it’s precious and wonderful. As always, a great interview, Lily.

  2. Thank you Lily for the incredible introduction.

    Oh, Oliver Twist. I can see the TV movie with a huge scary man saying, ” MORE?” Oops… I should not be greedy 🙂

    Thanks for having me visiting.

    Cate xo

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