DAVID: I’m the type of person who wants to explore the deeper things in life rather than just small talk, so issues like the concept of dealing with baggage have always been a part of conversations I have. I guess it was just there not too far under the surface.
The Baggage Handler itself was borne out of rejection. My first manuscript – about reality TV and churches – finaled in a range of fiction awards but I couldn’t get industry interested in it. Someone suggested for my next novel maybe I should focus on “life lesson” stories.
So, I read a couple of stories like that, then at 9:00 one night I was reading when The Baggage Handler arrived. It pretty much downloaded into my head. When I next checked the clock it was 1:00 a.m., and I had the story, the characters, plot, twists, structure – almost everything. That hasn’t happened before or since with books 2 and 3, but I’m glad it did with The Baggage Handler.
The story is a modern-day parable about the things that weigh us down. It focuses on three characters who mistakenly take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim: A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job. A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding. And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.
The airline directs the trio to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There, they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they have to deal with it before they leave.
LAURIE: How long did it take you to write “The Baggage Handler”?
DAVID: The structure, characters and plot? Four hours. The draft? Three months. It really flowed from that first night.
LAURIE: The road to publication is different for everyone. What has yours been like?
DAVID: I began writing professionally when I graduated as a journalist in 1990. Fiction writing was always something I was going to do … one day. All these ideas for novels came to me, which I politely filed away for that day in the future when all the financial ducks were lined up. That would allow me to comfortably approach the task of writing without the expectation of getting paid. When I had enough money or enough clients behind me so I could safely take the plunge into what is a vocation not flushed with cash, I would take them out of my folder, and write fiction. (I currently have 17 storyboards sitting there waiting to be fleshed out into living breathing stories). I finally got serious about writing fiction in 2015.
Learning to write for my primary marketplace – the USA — was a challenge. I wrote my first manuscript – a story about reality TV and churches called Pastor Swap – and entered it into Genesis, the unpublished competition through ACFW. I felt confident about my 20 years corporate writing experience and didn’t get over the first hurdle. The judges questioned my basic handle on English. They didn’t know I was Australian, but the good thing was it shouldn’t have mattered. That was an important lesson. So I’ve gone back to the drawing board with spelling and grammar, to unlearn my Australian English (we take our cues from the UK), and learn to write like an American. It’s far more than just learning to type with an accent.
So now I’m an Australian author with a debut novel coming out in the States with HarperCollins Christian Publishing, in March, a second novel in December this year and a third slated for 2020. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I’d had “enough”.
LAURIE: I’m glad you didn’t wait either! As a Canadian, I share your UK background on spelling and grammar. Are there any authors who’ve influenced you in your writing?
DAVID: I’m a fan of Robert Ludlum – the way he plots, the way he paints the scene. Turns of phrase – people as eclectic as Steve Taylor, Christian artist from the 1980s/1990s through to English writers like Douglas Adams and Ben Elton. And Shakespeare.
LAURIE: Do you have any other favourite authors?
DAVID: Robert Ludlum, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, James L Rubart, some of Ben Elton’s work, Douglas Adams.
LAURIE: Peretti and Dekker are two of my faves also. What advice would you give to other writers trying to break in to the Christian market?
DAVID: Be true to your values and who you are as a writer. There can be a temptation to blur the edges of what you’re comfortable putting on a page if it might increase your chances of being published, but you need to write something that is compatible with your worldview.
And realize you’re not validated by writing, or publishing. You are validated already.
LAURIE: What hobbies do you like to do when you’re not writing? Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you and your work?
DAVID: I love cooking, sport and music. I have my own business as a copywriter, so when I want to earn money for my words, I turn to my clients. I have a teenage family (my wife isn’t just to be clear), so we’re involved in College life and church life as well where I play bass.
When I want to relax it’s usually either watching sport (I’ll watch anything) or you’ll find me in the kitchen listening to one of the thousand playlists I’ve got on my phone.
LAURIE: Where can your readers find you on social media?
DAVID: Readers can find me on:
Web (including free short stories): https://davidrawlings.com.au/
Connect up or drop me a line – I’d love to have a chat with you!
LAURIE: And finally, how long do we have to wait for your next book?
DAVID: Only 9 months. The Camera Never Lies comes out in December this year. The theme of this story is honesty and transparency in relationships. Here’s the blurb …
Daniel Whiteley is a successful couple’s counselor who regularly puts families back together. He gets them to face up to the things in life that they hide – advice contained in his best-selling book: No Secrets. But his own marriage is falling apart.
His wife Kelly is working in a job she resents, wishing she was more available for their 12-year-old daughter who is withdrawing more each day. And she just knows the reason for her failing marriage is Daniel’s interest in a woman at work.
Daniel’s grandfather dies and leaves him his beloved SLR camera. The 1980s camera – an Olympus OM-10 Infinity, from a time when cameras pointed away from the person taking the photograph – is inscribed: “Use this camera wisely and remember, regardless of the picture you think you took, the camera never lies.” Along with the camera is an old photograph album, with an unusual collection of photos of Gramps’ friends and family, including a photo of Milly, crying at her own birthday party. Something he didn’t notice.
Daniel goes to use the camera but finds someone has already filled his new roll of film. Annoyed, he gets the film processed at the only film processing lab in town and finds strange photos that hint at a secret he’s been hiding from everyone. He has no idea who took them, and no-one is owning up. Also on the camera are photos that point to secrets Kelly might be hiding from him, and now he needs to find a way to address this without revealing how he knows.
Daniel meets Simon, the eccentric owner of the film processing lab, and suspects him of doctoring his photos. But how would he know of secrets Daniel and Kelly have never told anyone? And why does he know so much about Daniel’s life … and Gramps?
Now every time Daniel uses Gramps’ camera, the photographs reveal another secret in their lives they’ve try to either bury or ignore. And neither Daniel nor Kelly has any idea who is taking the photos … or how to stop them.
But Simon does.
A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.
A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.
And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.
When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcases from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.
In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.
The Baggage Handler is available March 5, 2019 here: amzn.to/2tXPKxT