Debut novel springs from law, order and random inspiration

Port Fairy's Jock Serong has completed his first novel, Quota.
Port Fairy's Jock Serong has completed his first novel, Quota.

A legal career and a seachange to Port Fairy 10 years ago underpin Jock Serong's writing debut ANTHONY BRADY discovers. 

YOU don’t achieve what Jock Serong has without knowing the value of order.

At home in Port Fairy, Serong and his wife  Lilly proudly watch over their brood of four children, Raphaela, 11, Carmelita, 9, Humboldt, 6, and Ondine, 3. 

And for 17 years Serong worked as a lawyer, starting and finishing as a solicitor with eight years as a barrister in between.

He stepped away from the high-pressure environment of law practice in June last year and is now throwing himself whole-heartedly into his new life as a writer.

His debut novel, Quota, landed in book shops on May 28 and is attracting plenty of attention with a review in last Saturday’s Herald Sun Weekend supplement spreading the word.

Quota is classed as a crime novel that traces the journey of a big-city lawyer who comes to a small coastal town for a murder case. 

Taking on a monumental task such as writing a first novel would presumably be approached in an ordered way — but Serong said that was not the case.

“I started writing the book with some strong scenes I had in my mind,” Serong said. 

“I wrote in patches. There were times when things would come strongly and I would listen to what my brain was doing at the time.

“From there it was a matter of piecing all the different bits and pieces together.”

He was able to call on his legal background to accurately portray the technicalities of the courtroom, leaving him time to dig behind the facts of the case and into the journey of each of the book’s characters. 

The end product is one Serong is proud of.

“It is classed in the crime genre which I am comfortable with, even though there are aspects of the book that don’t particularly fit that.

“The book was published by Text Publishing and I was thrilled with the editing process. 

“As a first-time author I wasn’t sure how that relationship with the editing would go.

“But the editor I had understood what the book was about and the editing was very light-handed and it really gave the book some extra polish.”

With Quota now completed Serong has already finished a screenplay, which is in the hands of a movie production company, and he is working as the main editorial contributor to the Great Ocean Quarterly magazine.

“We are about to release the fourth issue of the magazine and it delves into areas such as art, photography, science and history with the ocean as the central theme.”

The release of Quota coincides with the Serong family celebrating 10 years in Port Fairy.

Before settling there with his family in 2004, Serong had spent a couple of years in the mid-1990’s living in the town.

In fact, he and his wife-to-be first came to Port Fairy on a Folk Festival weekend, during which he learnt from a local historian that the Serong family had a long connection to the town.

In the 1840s, Serong’s ancestors were brought to Port Fairy from Portugal to work as farm labourers and many of his forebears are buried in the town. 

Quota can be purchased in Port Fairy at Ironbird Books.


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