The beginnings of Glass Houses

Just over ten years ago, i got the chance every budding writer dreams about. A friend of mine was working with publisher Allen and Unwin and rather casually whined that I’d like to write a book about Hillsong. I’ve often had lots of great starter ideas, and not always been great at finishing them.

She surprised me when she said, “if you’re serious this time, Tanya, put something together and I’ll forward it to the editor.”

With no idea how books were written, I sat nervously on my living room floor and wrote down the concepts I wanted to cover giving each a page.  I needed to devise a chapter outline and a couple of examples of those chapters. Within a few days, I had that done. It was scary and exciting and humbling. I revised, edited and revised, and emailed it to my friend.

Two weeks later, having had no reply, I hesitantly approached her. Was it that bad, I asked, that you didn’t know how to tell me?

No, she answered, she hadn’t found the mail. Immediately she sent it up the channels and within days, I had a coffee date with an editor to pitch my book. If you’re supposed to write about what you know about, then Hillsong was it, or rather, the struggle with my faith which had culminated in the  five years in the church that had started that movement.

My ideas were accepted. No one had talked about Hillsong publicly, and to outsiders, it was a huge mystery as to what went on in there, and why people continued to attend so loyally. I learned immediately that my art was not going to be marketed. Rather, not unlike Hillsong and Christianity, I had a marketable brand to sell, and my art should adjust.

So in February, 2005, I signed a contract for the Hillsong book, as it is commonly known. The folk at Allen and Unwin were terrific. My editor worked closely with me and taught me from scratch how this thing would work. It was not an easy task and she was patient and mentored me for 2 years. The cover looked like this:


And then she went away on leave.

It was during this time, a week before the book was due to go to print that Allen and Unwin changed their minds. I got a phone call telling me that due to legal reasons, the book could not go ahead. This seemed incredibly strange as we had all met with a fancy defamation lawyer at the very beginning and the legislation was explained to me carefully. Now, the advice had changed.

I was later to be told by another of AandU’s authors that Hillsong’s threats had been the real driver behind the decision.

It seemed way too strange. I called Jennifer Sexton at the now defunct The Bulletin and asked her opinion. She turned it into the lead story, with a 3000 word extract, and a cover exclaiming

the book that was too hot to print. I'll add the pic as soon as I find it, again....

Soon after, I signed with Black Inc Books, who had received different advice, and were not concerned about lawsuits. Two months later, in July of 2007, my first book baby, People In Glass Houses, was born.

The fun was only just about to begin.