The Writer’s Room: Kylie Orr

My next interviewee needs little introduction, mostly because her bio just about covers everything you could possibly need to know! Aside from saying that I met Kylie at Masterclass this year and that she had me in stitches from the get go, you need to know that she’s definitely one to watch. I have no doubt that Kylie’s debut novel is going to be an absolute page turner! Publishers would be mad to pass this lady in.

Buckle in…

Kylie Orr in a Melbourne-based writer who has her fingers in many pies. 

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (English Major) Kylie travelled to Europe and beyond. She discovered her dream job as a Janet Jackson back-up dancer was not realistic, so returned home to jobs in banking, customer service, retail and more travel, before falling into human resources.

She paused her desire to conquer the corporate world, and left to have a billion babies. Well, four of them, to be precise. This is when she reassessed both her sanity and her career options. Loss of sanity was a bygone conclusion, but she still held hope for a flamboyant career.

Kylie wanted to write, loved to write and had no shortage of lofty dreams about shacks in the South of France amongst the lavender as she wrote life-changing novels. So wrote she did, and has been ever since (without the France part). For the past ten years, Kylie has been a regular feature writer for various online and print publications, most notably Fairfax’s parenting website, Essential Baby.

Her award-winning short stories have been shortlisted in Autumn Authors, Cancer Council Awards, My Child’s Parenting Express, and Stringybark. Kylie’s corporate writing has helped startups, Teenstr and Incogo and a voice for their brand. She writes web content, corporate communication, and long to-do lists for her husband.

Kylie’s four children’s picture books published by Lake Press, are to be released in Canada in 2018. She also has a young readers chapter book series and a commercial fiction novel in progress. 

Kylie lives on the side of a cliff with her four children and one husband who fuel her creativity. She is constantly inspired, moved and amused.

1. Firstly, can you give us a bit of a run down of your writing approach? (when, where, how much, etc)

I actually have quite a disciplined approach to writing, now that my children are all at school. I ensure I write every day between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Naturally, life with four kids means I can’t devote the entire school hours to writing – there are always sports days to attend, errands to run, other commitments that might take an hour or two away from my keyboard – but I ensure I sit at my desk for at least three hours each day. It’s not always easy to force the creative brain to work, and sometimes my most productive times are just before I have to collect the kids from school, which can be a little frustrating but I work within the confines of balancing family and writing.

I share a home office with my husband who runs his own IT business. It’s an interesting combo – he’s often deep in writing code while I’m deep in writing my novel and I interrupt him often! I like to ask what he thinks of a certain line I’ve just written, or quiz him about a character’s motivation. He’s very patient. Strangely, he doesn’t often ask my opinion about the code he’s writing… I do put up with him crunching his sourdough toast very loudly, so I think we’re even.

I occasionally write at ridiculous hours of the morning if I can’t sleep. I have a paper and pen next to my bed and sometimes jot down brilliant ideas, that don’t seem so brilliant when the morning comes. I wrote my first children’s book, ‘Whose Pants?’ at 2am, after taking a cold and flu night tablet that had the opposite effect of drowsy. I wouldn’t recommend it, but sometimes gems are discovered even when the brain is a little foggy.

As for the actual process of writing – I am a ‘pantser’ which is strange because I’m a planner, and very organised in every other aspect of my life. Writing is more like a free falling activity for me. I have a tiny pop of a an idea, and I run with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Sometimes I can rearrange the ideas into a neater, more continuous flow, and sometimes I ditch them altogether. I find the pieces that work best are ones that just roll out in one beautiful red carpet. Not really possible when writing a novel, so that has been a big eye opener for me!

2. Is writing your main gig, or do you do it on the side of other work (paid or not), and how does that look on a practical level?

I have been a feature writer for Essential Baby for almost 10 years, and do other freelance writing for various online publications. I write web / corporate content, general articles etc. It pays some of the bills, but certainly not all of them. My family commitments come first, and I fit writing in around them. Luckily, my husband is the breadwinner and I have the luxury of playing with words for love not money. Although a bit more cold hard cash would be very appreciated, so my plans are to amp up the writing as my children become more independent!

3. What genre do you write in and can you share a bit about what you’ve written to date, or what you’re working on now?

I write feature articles for digital publications as my main bread and butter. The most predominant topic I write about is parenting. I’ve written over 200 articles – not all of them about temper tantrums and pooey nappies – and the subject matter has evolved as my children grow and I discover more and more areas of contention or challenge. I like to write about parenting in an honest way. I don’t think it’s helpful to any new (or experienced) parent to sugarcoat life with kids. It’s hard, not often rewarded and very often judged. I am usually self-deprecating but sometimes I have a strong opinion about a component of parenting and I put that forward to incite discussion. At times, it can invite the haters too, which isn’t much fun.

I write short stories because I like to practice the art of being concise. A skill I’m not great at – I like to crap on. Ask my family and friends.

I have just published four children’s picture board books, through Lake Press, which are being released in Canada in Jan 2018, and can be purchased locally via my website www.kylieorr.com 

The big kahuna I’m working on is my commercial women’s fiction novel, ‘The Fundraiser’. It has been a labour of love for almost three years. I am determined to get it to a publishable state, and am very excited to be working with a freelance editor who can hopefully help me mould this baby into a fine piece of fiction.

4. Why did you start writing?

I’ve always loved writing. I love telling stories (verbally) and I guess that transpired to writing stories down. I completed an Arts Degree and majored in English. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I just followed my passion – writing. But it took me a long time to get to the stage where I could call myself a ‘writer’. I worked in many other jobs first and only took up writing when I had my firstborn (now 14!).

I write because I have to. If I don’t write, I’m an unbearable human being to be around. I write because I have stories that itch my skin, that keep me awake at night and if I don’t write them down, they spread like a rash and consume me.

I write because there are characters in my head that take over valuable real estate in my brain if I don’t let them out.

I write because I have things I need to say, things I want to say. I write to share my experience, to entertain, amuse and hopefully move people in some way.

I’d like to say I write for the money but so far I’ve barely made a living from it.

I write because I love words but mostly because I love to tell a story. I write because if I didn’t, I don’t know what else I’d do.

I need to have a creative outlet, I need to challenge my brain in a way that scares me. I need to set myself challenges and hurdles and I can honestly say, writing has been the one that offers me the most challenge and therefore the greatest rewards. It’s also had me rocking in a corner, so it’s not all fairy floss and ferris wheels.

5. Where do you draw inspiration for your writing?

I’m inspired by the small details in life. I think writers (and creatives in general) notice things other people don’t. We watch how people interact; the nuances in voice and tone, the flickers in body language that tell a million more stories than words ever can. We are tuned into smell and sounds and tastes. I’m intrigued by minuscule differences – tiny scars on the back of a hand, a curious tattoo, an underbite, a cowlick. I wonder what story that tells about a person.

I see characters wherever I go. Sitting in the car at the traffic lights, I can concoct a story about the person sitting next to me, in their car, picking their nose. Not necessarily a good story, but it has a plot and a character!

I also like hearing other people’s stories and sometimes use these as springboards for developing more involved plots.

6. What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?

Playing with words and characters. Telling stories that entertain or move people. Making shit up. (See, you don’t always have to be eloquent to be a writer!)

7. And what do you find most challenging?

The rejection.

Before writing, I worked in industries where the feedback was almost always positive. As a human resources manager, I was big on feedback for staff and always lapped up praise and suggestions for improvement myself. I knew I was good at those jobs, because staff appraisal processes told me I was doing a great job, and that was reflected in my salary.

When I became a mum, I learned quickly that feedback was limited to a toddler screaming in a supermarket aisle when you didn’t buy them the lolly they demanded. Sure, there were also the gummy smiles of babies and the snugly cuddles of small children, but for the most part, I felt like I was doing a terrible job at this whole mothering game. I felt surrounded by judgment and people who did it better. Taking on a writing career as a mother, compounded the feelings of failure!

Writing online is a risky venture – you open yourself up to anonymous people having strong opinions about your topic matter and about your writing skill – I’ve had my grammar publicly corrected and my parenting criticised. I’ve been told by people who have never met me that I’m an awful mother, based on articles I’ve written.

It can be brutal, confidence-crushing, and soul-destroying. Pitching story ideas to editors that either ignore you altogether or reject your ideas, is part of the job, but I don’t think it ever gets easier. Writing an entire novel for years, only for it to be turned down, is a colossal rejection but all writers know it is par for the course. My skin is thicker these days and I have had to edit my self-talk to ignore the imposter in my brain, telling me I’m not good enough. Sometimes it is like wading through molasses, but that just makes the wins all the sweeter, and the determination much stronger.

8. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey, and have you found it useful?

BA (English Major)

Professional Writing & Editing Course (that I didn’t finish because I was pregnant and never went back after I had my first baby).

A plethora of short courses in creative writing, writing for children, writing for magazines etc.

A one-on-one 6-month mentorship with Kathryn Heyman (author) to guide me through my novel.

Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass.

To be honest, Fiona’s class gave me the best and most practical advice, as well as the boot up the arse I needed. I think the other courses were useful for the stage of my life I was at – a generalist degree taught me to study, collate information, and hone my passions. The short courses offered a basic grounding in the topic matter. The mentorship gave me guidance and deadlines, which I needed to motivate me to an end product. Ultimately, I think practice and life experience are the two most important attributes for a writer. There is a point where you have enough theory and just need to get writing.

9. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

Just start writing. Anything. I started with short stories, and I read back on them now, 15 years later, and realise how terrible they were but you have to start somewhere. At the time, I was very proud of them! I try to be articulate and funny in most of my communications, including emails to friends, because I enjoy the fun you can have with words. I don’t mind a swear word, too, which obviously needs a specific audience…

When I was trying to write my novel and agonising over the opening line, so much so that it paralysed me, the one quote I read that helped was, ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ (and perhaps ‘write drunk, edit sober’ although I’ve never tried that). Your first draft of anything will be shit. Accept it and believe it will get better and just get on with it. You can’t polish thin air, so get something down on paper (or screen) and fix it later. Fear is a paralyser, but panic is a great motivator. Give yourself deadlines. And meet them.

And of course, read. A lot. Although sometimes that disheartens me because I feel like I will never be as good as some of the best (I love Lionel Shriver and Tim Winton but will never be able to write like them, because it’s not my natural style).

One other out-of-the-box thing I did to challenge myself was to enter 25 word or less competitions! Sounds like a sad story of a morbidly obese dole bludger, but it actually taught me to really think about what I wanted to say, and I won a few things, including a 10-day trip for 2 to Peru! I don’t do it much anymore but it was a successful year if you count the winnings 🙂

Kylie’s four children’s books, ‘Whose Pants?’ ‘Whose Shoes?’ “Whose Hat?” ‘Whose Bag?’ are available via her website. 

You can also connect with Kylie via Instagram and Twitter.

fionakylie2

The Writer’s Room: Jodi Gibson

Today in The Writer’s Room, I’m welcoming Jodi Gibson. Jodi and I met – and sat next to each other – during our 5 day Fiona McIntosh Masterclass. Jodi is a prolific writer, having multiple manuscripts under her belt. She also has a wonderful blog, full of writing insight, book reviews and fantastic author interviews. You can find Jodi on her websiteTwitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Jodi Gibson writes contemporary women’s fiction and is currently working on her first novel. She also blogs about all things writing and books. In her spare time, you’ll find Jodi with her nose in a good book, baking in the kitchen or dreaming of her next travelling adventure. Jodi lives in country Victoria, Australia with her husband, daughters, dogs, cat, horse and chickens.

1. Firstly, can you give us a bit of a run down of your writing approach? (when, where, how much, etc)
I try and write five days a week, Monday to Friday. I don’t have a set time that I write, but I will write for at least 1-2 hours, or to whatever my set word count is. At the moment, I’m editing and rewriting, so I’ll either do as much as I can within the 1-2 hours, or aim for 1-2 chapters.

2. What genre do you write in and can you share a bit about what you’ve written to date?
I write commercial contemporary women’s fiction. I have three manuscripts in progress at the moment. One which is nearing completion, one in fourth draft form, and one in first draft. The one almost ready for submission to publishers, follows a young woman who returns to her home town after her mother dies. Whilst there she is forced to confront the situation she ran from seven years earlier. But will the lies and secrets of those she once called friends be too much to bare?
The other two manuscripts are a lighter reads, but still very much character based. I enjoy writing characters who find themselves at a cross roads in their life.

3. Where do you draw inspiration for your writing?
Everywhere! News, articles, books, blogs, podcasts. I tend to write about real life experiences that we can all somehow relate to. My writing is very much focused on the character’s emotions and journey. A writer must be attuned to everything around them, a story ideas are everywhere.

4. What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?
When I write, it feels like the most natural thing for me. And although it can be tough going at times, it ultimately brings me joy. I love the feeling of exploring a story line and smashing out a first draft that I have no idea where will end up. And I’ve also learned to, I won’t say love, but enjoy, the editing process. There is something very satisfying about knowing each time you edit your work, you are improving it.

5. And what do you find most challenging?
Pulling the whole story together in a cohesive manner! Getting the character arc right, ensuring the story flows, getting the pace right – all that fun stuff.

6. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey, and have you found it useful?
I’ve completed quite a few writing courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre including their 6-month novel program. This year I also completed a five day intense masterclass with prolific Australian author, Fiona McIntosh which was one of the best things I’ve done. Although I don’t think you can or should ever stop learning, I also think there comes a time when you just need to write. And I also don’t believe that you need to undertake a professional or tertiary education to be a writer. Sometimes you can take on too much information and become overwhelmed

7. Why did you start writing?
I guess in one way or another, it’s something I’ve always done. I remember writing stories when I was younger, and then I was obsessive about keeping a journal through my teens and early twenties. But a career in writing wasn’t something I ever considered until I reached my mid-thirties when one day I sat down and began writing a story that had been in my head for years. Although that story is sitting in the metaphorical bottom draw and may never see the light of day, it was the catalyst for me to realise how much I loved writing and how I wanted to see where the journey could take me.

8. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?
Don’t let fear or imposter syndrome stop you from writing. If you have a desire to write – do it! Writing isn’t something that comes out perfect the first time. One of my favourite quotes is from Ernest Hemmingway when he said, ‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’ Which is so true. Like everything, writing takes commitment, dedication and practice. The more you do it, the better you will do it. So just write, and see what happens.

The Writer’s Room: Jezz de Silva

Oh boy, do I have a good’un for you all today. Not only am I welcoming my first ‘bloke’ to the Writer’s Room, I’m welcoming a bloke who’s also a Romance author.

The affable Jezz de Silva has published two Romance novels, with his most recent, Against All Odds having just been released in September 2017. Jezz is an absolute character whom I’ve gotten to know through his humour and continuous tweeting of adorable animal GIFs on Twitter.

I found myself smiling and nodding along as I read through Jezz’s answers to my questions. I love his message, his optimism and his determination to see every heroine and hero achieve their happily ever after. Above all else, I love that Jezz proves that you don’t need a university degree to be an author. All you need is passion, determination and commitment to get it done, which he has in spades.

My long suffering First Reader and I live in a tiny one wombat town in the hills outside Melbourne, Australia. And when I say one wombat town I really mean it. I see the little girl when walking Bear and Max, my plot and character consultants.

Our little patch of heaven is overrun by a zoo of geriatric rescued animals who eat us out of house and home when not sleeping or guilting us into walks. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

When not tapping my fingers or banging my head on a keyboard creating happily ever afters, I love spending time with family and friends, cooking, EATING, gardening, renovating our castle, and teaching personal protection.

Apart from family and writing I have one other passion that transformed my life.

I grew up an insecure fat kid (now chunky old man) and started studying martial arts twenty years ago with the specific goal of becoming a ninja death killer. I collected black belts, fought in the ring, gave up a professional career to teach personal protection, and even worked as a bouncer.

A lifetime ago I started training with the toughest and scariest guy I could find. That man is now like a brother from a different mother and with the help of the nut bags we train with we’ve finally figured out what ‘IT’ is all about. ‘IT’ is becoming a better person, sharing what we’ve learned, helping others, and living confident, healthy, and happy lives with people we love.

I’m not a big fan of bullies and since women are victimised most in society I help women live safer, confident, and happier lives… Just like my heroes

Buy Against All Odds:
Entangled Publishing
Amazon US
Amazon Australia

  1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit? (when, where, how much etc?)

Usually a lot of banging my head on the keyboard, then some crying, followed by more head banging. My First Reader and I don’t have kids so when I’m not day jobbing, sleeping, or getting yelled at, I’m writing. My best words come in the morning so I get up around 5am, seven days a week, and write before walking our dogs. I usually try to fit in two or three more sessions throughout the day. I write slowly so this is the only way I can get enough words down. I draft in Scrivener and revise/edit in Word. I don’t keep count as I find it turns writing into ‘work’. Instead I work as hard as I can without going nuts while making sure I’m still having fun and enjoying life.

I started as a pantser, but have become a plotter to save wasting precious words heading down wrong paths. I now write the dreaded synopsis first and use it as a starting point for a detailed outline before getting stuck into the first draft, which I find the hardest part of writing.

2. What inspired you to start writing, and in particular to start writing Romance?

We downsized our lives seven years ago and left careers we hated. I started test driving cars five years ago as a part time job and listened to podcasts and audiobooks throughout the day. After close to twenty years of studying violence and personal protection I wanted something more uplifting and ended up in Audible’s romance section. After binging on dozens of romance novels I suddenly realised all my favourite stories, movies, and TV shows usually had a love story somewhere in the plot.

Five years ago a scene stuck in my head and wouldn’t get out. I’d wake with it on my mind and went to bed thinking about it. I ended up writing it down and two years, twelve drafts, a critique group, multiple professional edits, and submissions later that scene made it into ‘Home’ my first novel (and it’s still my favourite scene in the book).

My First Reader and I still look at each other and shake our heads because the last creative writing I did was back in high school twenty-seven years ago, and I’d never even dreamed of writing since, let alone making it a career.

3. Where do you draw inspiration for your stories?

My characters, but especially my heroine. I want to give her the hero, life, and HEA (happily ever after) she deserves.

4. Your book ‘Against All Odds’ was published on September 18 by Entangled Publishing. Can you share a little bit about your publishing journey?

WOW! My publishing journey has been crazy and turned my life upside down. After finishing my first novel I figured what the hell and had a crack at getting it published. I had dreamed of getting published, but never really believed it would happen until I at least had a few novels hidden under the bed. Samhain contracted ‘Home’ (I’ll never forget that email) and I was off and running.

‘Home’ released and Samhain contracted my second book, only to close down a few weeks later. After months of limbo I figured what the hell and had a crack at getting an agent. Two weeks and a lot of happy dancing later I signed with Janna Bonnikowski of The Knight Agency. Around six months later Entangled contracted ‘Against All Odds’ and book 2 in the ‘Outback Hearts’ series, and we were off and running again.

I have no idea what the future holds, but my core job will remain unchanged. Keep improving and keep trying to write great books.

5. I don’t generally read Romance, but I really enjoyed Against All Odds. Besides the love interest between your two main characters, there were a lot of strong sub plots, including cancer, limb amputation, death of parents, Australian Aboriginal culture, blended families and life in the outback. Did you have to do a lot of research to bring all of this together and maintain authenticity?

A lot of what I write comes from what I already know. What I don’t know I research heavily. The last thing I want to do is throw my readers out of the story or upset people by doing a crappy job of representing them. I can not comprehend how long research would have taken without Google and the interweb. I also don’t want to bombard my readers with stuff that doesn’t matter so I try to leave out as much of the ‘research’ as possible and only use it to enhance the story. (Note from Kirsty: I LOVE the idea of ‘leaving out’ the research so that it doesn’t distract from the story, rather, enhances it).

6. Your voice and characters are quite distinct. Did you spend a lot of time working through your characterisations or did they come to you fully formed and ready to come to life on the page?

The honest truth is I have no idea where my voice comes from. Everything I do is centred around my characters. I only use plot to challenge my characters and bring them together. I have a rough idea who my characters are before beginning, but fall in love with them as the story progresses and I get to really know them. If I don’t fall in love with them, something’s wrong, and I revise accordingly.

7. Why do you like writing strong and independent female characters?

With my personal protection work I’ve seen and felt the impact traditional society has had on women and it drives me @#$%ing nuts. Ultimately I hope to show how powerful and amazing women are and how they deserve a HEA. Not just because they’ve found their partner, but because they’re living a life they’ve chosen which makes them happy. I can’t stand Alphaholes or any story where the heroine is simply used as a plot device or a doormat who’s ‘lucky’ to have a HEA. I’m also really looking forward to including more personal protection concepts in future books.

Another reason I like writing strong, independent female characters is that I fell in love with one twenty-six years ago and I’m hoping she’ll read this and buy me a donut 😉 (Awwww)

8. What is your favourite thing about being a writer?

Putting smiles on people’s faces. There’s enough negativity in the world and if I can help someone escape for even a few hours, it’s an awesome feeling.

On a more practical note: writing is one of the few professions you can do anywhere, anytime, by yourself, and with hardly any equipment. Writing is by far the hardest mentally and emotionally demanding career I’ve tried, but after two decades of searching, and without even looking for it, I’ve found my perfect career.

9. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey?

I only have high school English, but I’m extremely lucky to have had the time to listen to thousands of hours of writing podcasts and how-to books. Following writers over their careers, some for as long as a decade via their podcasts, prepared me for just how demanding writing is. I still have no idea where commas and dashes go, much to the frustration of my agent and editor, but I’m slowly getting there.

10. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

I’m still very much emerging myself, but the best writing advice I can give is to embrace the fear and have a crack. FINISH your story (everything starts after you finish that story) and send it out to friends, critique partners, editors. Get as much brutally honest feedback as you can. Cry, throw tantrums, swear, then analyse that feedback with an open mind. Absorb what is helpful, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then send it out and start the next story.

The biggest question you have to answer for yourself is: ‘Can I write?’. Once you TRULY believe you can, rejection becomes less daunting and you’re free to hunt down your dreams.

 

I hope you love this interview as much as I have. If you have any questions you’d like asked in future interviews, or would like to be part of my ‘The Writer’s Room’ series, please contact me, I’d love to have you!

The Writer’s Room: Rachel Sanderson

I’m so excited to introduce you all to my next guest in the Writer’s Room; Rachel Sanderson. Though Rachel and I haven’t met in real life (yet), we’ve bonded through Twitter over sleepless nights with sick toddlers, finding time to write and reading great fiction. I subscribe to Rachel’s newsletter and it was there that I found out about publication of her debut YA novel, The Space Between. I snapped up the eBook as soon as it was released and promptly devoured it. In today’s interview, I ask the standard writing questions of Rachel, but also delve a little deeper into her novel. There are no spoilers, but if you’ve read the book, you’ll find some wonderful insight from Rachel here.

Rachel Sanderson has worked as a bakery assistant, cleaner, telemarketer, receptionist, yoga instructor, university tutor, researcher and public servant. She’s studied philosophy, Spanish, law and has a PhD in history. She co-wrote a documentary film, The End of the Rainbow, which won the First Appearance Award at the 2007 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The Space Between is her  first novel. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Ampersand Prize. She lives in Canberra with her partner and son.

You can find Rachel through her website, on Twitter, Facebook, and the book is available here on Amazon.

According to your bio you are a prolific reader and writer. You’ve had success in documentary writing, short stories, poetry, essays and now YA fiction. Is it difficult to switch between so many genres and styles? And how do you best approach your writing on any given day?

I’ve been writing for most of my life, so I’ve done lots of different types of writing but over a long period of time! I did a PhD in history and one of the reasons I didn’t want to continue working in academia is because I’ve always wanted to write fiction, and I found I couldn’t do both. It just didn’t work for me at all. I’ve had periods of writing poetry intensively but I’m not doing that at all at the moment. Since about 2012 I’ve been really focused on writing novels – it’s taken me such a long time to figure out how to get from one end of a story to another, and it takes so much focus and concentration, I find I can’t do all that much else now.

I do swap between genres though – I write contemporary young adult novels that tend to be on the darker, grittier side, and I’m also writing a fantasy series. I generally have multiple projects on the go simultaneously – something in early draft, something in revisions or resting in the drawer. I find I need to give my first drafts quite a bit of time to rest before I can work on them effectively – often up to six months. So it works well for me having different long-term projects underway. I also quite like the change of voice and style I get when I switch between genres – the tone is really very different, and I think writing fantasy gives me a break from the contemporary and vice versa.

In terms of my daily writing routine – I have a three-year-old and I work part-time and really just grab whatever time I can. Either early mornings, or evenings after my son goes to sleep. Sometimes I write on the bus. I have two mornings a week when my son’s in daycare and I don’t start work till late morning and I generally get a couple of hours then to work, which I absolutely treasure. I’m someone who works well to a routine and if it was just up to me I’d probably stick to a much more regular timetable and do a lot more hours, but it’s just not possible at the moment unfortunately! I’m always working around things and most of the time I live with an underlying feeling of frustration that I’m not getting more done, which is hard. I don’t do much of anything other than writing, parenting and working at the moment – any spare time I have is for writing. On the plus side, I think it makes me very focused when I do sit down to write now. I don’t procrastinate because the time is just so precious to me.

Have you undertaken any formal or informal education in writing? And have you found this beneficial in honing your craft?

When I was in high school I wrote volumes and did lots of fantastic writing workshops at a youth arts centre. I had someone who acted as a mentor to me there, and he taught me a lot, especially about editing.

Writing a PhD isn’t necessarily education in writing as such, but I have definitely found that the discipline I learned from my PhD is something I’ve taken into all the writing I’ve done since. That was how I learned just to sit down and write – when I was in the writing-phase I worked to a word count every day. I drafted and redrafted and redrafted and I wrote something big not knowing exactly where I was going, which was terrifying – which is how I always seem to work.

I’ve tried and failed to write novels for years. I have so many first chapters tucked away in boxes and drawers!  I just couldn’t figure out how to make a story move – how to make things happen. In 2012 I did a ten-month novel-writing course online through the Writers Studio in Sydney. It was very focused on the detail of story structure, and aligning your plot and character development and I did most of the course, then got a bit derailed by life events and didn’t finish it. I did Nanowrimo later that year and that was when I wrote the first draft of The Space Between. So even though I don’t tightly follow the approach we were taught, something in the course just clicked for me, at very long last, and helped me get to the point where I could actually finish a draft of a novel.  That was a huge relief!!

These days I listen to a lot of podcasts, and read Writer’s Digest and books about writing, as well as just reading fiction generally, so I try to keep learning more about the craft of writing that way.

Where do you draw inspiration for your writing?

The inspiration for my writing is primarily from my own life – not that what I’m writing is biographical but it draws on the colour and texture of my experiences. I’ve also read a lot, which I’m sure feeds my imagination. Often my writing starts with a very contained idea, a character or scene, something that sticks in my mind, and I gradually build it from there and learn more about what is surrounding it. It doesn’t all come at once for me – I generally figure things out slowly as I write, or more often as I re-write! That seems to be how I think best.

You recently self-published your first novel, The Space Between. Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route, and what did you gain from that process?

I’ve been interested in self-publishing for a year or two now. I listen to a bunch of self-publishing podcasts which are really informative, and I’m involved in a Facebook group of self-publishing authors that’s also been really helpful.

My original plan was that I wanted to try to go hybrid – to see if I could traditionally publish my contemporary YA novels, which are stand-alones, and self-publish my fantasy series under a pen name, because series tend to do well for self-publishing authors. I started pitching The Space Between to publishers and got some really positive responses – it was shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize by Hardie-Grant Egmont, which was amazing, and Penguin Random House requested the full manuscript. I got really supportive and encouraging feedback from a number of publishers, but no contract.

I spent a year out on submission – and it’s a very very slow, glacial process. It takes so much patience and persistence, it’s quite draining. And meanwhile I was continuing to learn about self-publishing, and seeing some traditionally published Australian authors I really admire, like Alison Croggon, Ellie Marney and John Birmingham, choose to go down that route. I hit the one-year mark and just decided, pretty much on the spur of the moment, that I’d given it long enough and if I couldn’t get a contract I’d do it myself.

It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve been so fortunate to have a hugely supportive author community to draw on for advice. When it comes down to it, publishers are businesses and they’re making a business decision about whether to invest in your work or not. If you don’t get a contract, it doesn’t mean your work is no good, or that you haven’t passed some threshold, it just means they’re not willing to invest in you for whatever reason at this point in time. But the technology is available through print-on-demand and online distribution for authors to make the choice to invest in their own work – to do the work and put it out there and let readers decide. I think that’s pretty exciting, and despite moments of absolute terror I’ve been generally loving the experience so far.

You’re based in Canberra, but you set The Space Between in Adelaide. Why did you choose this location, and what research was involved in getting the setting right?

I’m from Adelaide originally, I grew up there and most of my family is still there, so even though I’ve been living elsewhere since around 1999 I go back regularly. It felt like the natural setting for this story, and the place where they go for the camping trip is based loosely on a place I used to camp at when I was young. I honestly didn’t do all that much research – I spent a bit of time with Google Street View and that was about it!!

The Space Between incorporates some quite heavy topics. What was your driving force for writing this novel, and what do you hope people take away from it?

My dad died when I was eight years old, and as a teenager I was struggling to deal with a lot of unresolved grief and trying to make sense of that loss: what it meant to me and what it meant to my family. I think there’s a lot of that experience in the book. Grief can be such an overwhelming thing, and there’s no right way to deal with it. I’ve had a number of readers say they understood why Erica made the choices that she did but they didn’t agree with them, or they weren’t the choices they would make. I feel that you just don’t know, until you’re in that position, how you’ll respond or what you’ll do. And loss doesn’t go away, there’s no magic wand you can wave to make things all better, it takes lots of time and perspective for you to integrate those experiences into the rest of your life. The thing that shifted for me as I was writing The Space Between was that when I started, I thought I was writing a book about loss, about how we deal with losses that don’t make sense. And I worked on the story and worked on the story and one day I just hit a point where I realized that, for me, the point of the book isn’t loss, it’s love. The love between Erica and Daina is the core of the story, and the sense of that enduring love is I hope what will stay with people when they read it.

I found the characters incredibly realistic and well written. The way you developed Daina throughout the text without having her as a physical character in the scene was very clever. Was it hard to write her and your other characters?

It was an iterative process. I had the characters in my head, I think, but that didn’t necessarily translate straight away to the page. I found working with beta readers incredibly useful for this, because at some points they’d interpret characters actions completely differently to how I saw them, and that made me really examine what and how I had shown, and think hard about how to fine-tune them in every scene. So it took a lot of time to get the characters working on the page, but my sense of them was quite clear from the start.

Without giving too much away, the ending of the novel both resolves the main plot, but also leaves many questions unanswered. Is there any room in the future for a sequel, or are you happy to leave this as it is?

I’m not planning on a sequel but I’d never say never! For me, I feel like the story is finished, even with all the loose ends. I did have some ideas for an epilogue that I never wrote though, and these things can sometimes take on a life of their own…

What are you working on now?

I’ve been redrafting another contemporary YA novel called Mirror Me, which is a story about a girl who moves to a small town only to discover that she’s almost identical to another girl who was murdered there a year earlier. It’s a bit more of a thriller, with some whiffs of the supernatural, and quite a different narrative voice, which I’ve enjoyed. I just sent that off to the first batch of beta readers this week, so I’m happy to put it aside and not think about it for a while.

I’ve also just got my copy edits back on The Dying Flame, which is the first book in my Darkfall series, the fantasy I’ve been working on. I’m working through those at the moment (note to self: use less commas!) and am aiming to publish that book in late October. And then, start writing Book Two!!!!

Finally, what advice do you have for other writers who may be just starting out in the industry and looking for publication?

I’m very much just starting out too, but my main advice would probably be just to keep working. Try and polish a piece of writing to the point that you can send it out, send it out, then get started on something else. You don’t want to be too invested in any one piece of work. And think about what you want – there are lots of ways to connect with readers, there’s not just one single pathway to being a writer.

What a fantastic interview and insight into your writing process, Rachel. I hope this gives other authors who have been considering self-publishing the confidence to believe in themselves and not be deterred if a traditional publishing contract doesn’t come their way.

A year in review

My baby turned one this week. In some ways, I can hardly believe I am the mother of a one-year-old, and in other ways it feels like this milestone took an age to arrive.

I have no doubt that parenting is one of the hardest and most challenging experiences of ones life, exasperated for me by the fact that I was unwilling to let go of my writing during those tough early months.

I didn’t write every day. Not even every week. I wrote some poems when I felt overwhelmed. I wrote in my journal a heck of a lot. But I didn’t really open my manuscript for fear that I would get immersed in it and my baby would wake up screaming. Which he did. A lot.

I feel like he didn’t sleep for the first 6 months. Certainly not in blocks of any longer than 2 hours overnight, 20 minutes during the day. He only started to figure out the whole sleep thing at 10 months. But it’s only been since 11 months that he’s consistently been sleeping through the night, and sleeping in wonderful long stints of an hour or more during the day. You will never appreciate a sleeping baby more than when you experience a baby who doesn’t quite “get” sleep.

Aside form keeping my son alive, I actually managed to progress my manuscript quite a lot in the past year. Something I didn’t think would be possible when I was in the depths of sleep deprivation.

After receiving such generous and heart warming support on my recent post over on Louise Allan’s Writers in the Attic, I began to reflect on exactly what I have achieved in this past year. Not just in my journey as a parent, but in my journey as a writer.

Though I still have a long way to go, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far I’ve come. And in an effort to do that for myself, I’m sharing my achievements with you all, here.

When my baby was 8 months old, in my sleep deprived state, I took myself off to Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass. This was five intensive days in a room of 15 other fabulous writers, learning to hone our craft, navigate the publishing industry and basically get down to business. I credit Fiona and this masterclass to kicking my butt into gear and really committing myself to this manuscript.

I worked a reworked a synopsis and submitted it and my first three chapters to the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. If you’d asked me 6 months ago how confident I was of my work, I would have told you it would never see the light of day. So to submit to such a popular and prestigious award (even with reservations), goes to show how much my confidence in myself has grown.

On advice from Fiona, I changed the names of my character’s and the working title of my WIP – which resulted in a snowball effect of changes to my entire manuscript. At first, this was incredibly daunting, but in actual fact, it’s returned some of the joy and pleasure back into my rewrites. Everything just seems to fit better.

I sorted out my home office. It may seem small, but for me it’s a really big improvement. In order to feel motivated to write, I need a good space. Something with natural lighting and a decent chair. Though I can (and often do) write anywhere, having a dedicated space makes me feel all that more professional.

I’ve made headway on social media, particularly on Twitter where I get a real sense of what a writing community is all about. I fell out of love with facebook but have since decided to modify my personal page as my writing page. I was going to set up an ‘author’ page, but I bulk at the thought of having another space to manage. So instead, I’m taking Valerie Khoo’s advice and using my personal page as my Facebook writing platform.

I started doing some freelance writing and editing. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, so I’m selective of my clients and the time I can put towards freelancing, but I’m enjoying the diversity of work and the options it may afford me in the future.

I started an interview series with and for my fellow emerging writers: The Writer’s Room.

And I created this blog!

 

Thank you to each and every one of you who have followed along with me on this journey, sent me encouraging words through social media or email, commented on my posts and supported me when I’ve complained or exclaimed about anything and everything going on in my life. Your support and encouragement means the world to me. X

The Writer’s Room: Kylie A Hough

This month I’m pleased to introduce another of my Masterclass alumni, Kylie A Hough. Kylie and I bonded over veganism, historical fiction and red wine during our stint at Masterclass. Having heard snippets of her writing through the course, I’m not lying when I say Kylie is an emerging author to look out for. She has a wonderfully deep writing style and voice, and I know her debut novel will be amazing.

Kylie has been disappearing into books and attempting to write stellar stories since she was a little girl. She was born in Frankston, Victoria but has vivid memories of tropical weekend getaways to the islands off Cairns where she lived from the age of eight to when she left in her sixteenth year. She has kept a diary since she was twelve and in addition to journaling, she writes poetry, short stories, flash fiction, memoir and award-winning academic essays. It was however only in 2016 (after an epiphany that she may not in fact be ‘youthing’, and that maybe twenty-two consecutive years studying random courses at university might be enough), that she began writing the novel that had by this time burned a hole into her cerebrum.

Like most writers, she has had a wide range of unrelated and somewhat peculiar jobs, from Registered Nurse in Alice Springs, to Au Pair in the tiny village of Bubendorf, Switzerland, to hostess in a strip joint in London’s East End. She currently lives in a big house on a tiny man-made island in South-East Queensland with her partner, their two children, a psychotic Moodle and two stinky rodents. Along with writing and researching her first historical commercial fiction novel, she pretends she will get a real job ‘soon’, spends way too much in online bookstores, reads anything going, continues to study English via correspondence, and drives her man bonkers.

Find Kylie on Facebook under K A Hough and on Instagram 

1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit?
My writing process constitutes a mish-mash of what I’ve learned from life, friends, teachers, uni, books, practice, courses and the team at The Writers Studio (Sydney based). I adhere fairly strictly to what they say because it works for me. Basically I require and thrive on having steps and rules in place to lead me from draft to draft. The gang have provided a structured outline I can follow which involves coming up with a number of turning points and from the macro level, working inwards and downwards, to a micro level involving steps, sequences and finally, scenes. Had I not started my WIP with my clever tutor, editor Kelly Rigby at TWS, I know I would not have a first and half a second draft already complete. (Asperger’s and all my other mental syndromes are both blessings and curses. Yazzah!)

2. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

You could say I’ve been training to be a writer from the age of twelve. That’s when I made my first diary entry in a heart speckled, pocket-sized, padlocked book I still have. My little girl likes to read Mummy’s first diary. Other than writing poetry, flash fiction and short stories, I journal and have written a ridiculous number of academic essays for various complete and half finished Bachelor degrees. I’ve taken a variety of short courses with editor Cathie Tasker at Australian Writers’ Centre including Creative Writing Stages 1 and 2 and Writing Picture Books. I’ve attended workshops with published authors Lisa Chaplin on plotting and deep point of view, and Kate Forsyth on planning and plotting. And as you know I recently attended Fiona McIntosh’s signature commercial fiction masterclass. (That’s where I fell in love with your vegan guts!) [Ditto Kye!] And last but certainly not least I am currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English with, amongst others, Natalia Tobin (the best lecturer ever!) via UNE online. Oh, and I’m writing my first novel. Did I mention that? The working title is, The Girl in the Photograph. It’s an historical fiction set in post war Paris. I’ve read a bucket load of how-to books too.  I’m interested in life-long learning. Can you tell? If I had to narrow it down, I would say reading in general and what I have gained in person from attending Lisa Chaplin’s and Fiona McIntosh’s courses, and what I’ve gained online from feedback from Kelly Rigby and Natalia Tobin have been the most useful in assisting me on my writing journey. And I can’t not mention Anne Lamott’s, bird by bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, both of which have had a part in inspiring me and building my confidence.

3. Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

Why do I write? I can’t not write. I write to feel my feelings, to give them lips and tongue with which to speak, to acknowledge them as opposed to burying them, to provide them with an escape route onto the big blue ball. It’s therapeutic! That’s a bonus. The primary reason I write though is because I am a writer. I know Grand Master M(a)c told us not to let writing define us, but writing is as much who I am, as something I love to do. I can think of no one thing I love to do more. The joy writing (and having written) brings me is up there with nights nuzzling with my goslings, inhaling baby breath as they laugh, playing kiss chasey in the park as they giggle and grow before my eyes.

4. Who or what influences you in writing?

Everyone I read and have ever read influences my writing. I’ve taken bits and bobs from writers I’ve read as much by osmosis as I have deliberately to arrive at a form and voice that is (I’m told) distinctly my own. I couldn’t tell you what came from whom but I fall in love easily, time and time again, with authors and their works the world over, and each and every one have in some way influenced me.

5. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

My advice to other emerging writers is this: Read every day. Write every day. You are better than you think. You can do it if you want it badly enough. Get up, show up, move, push. Don’t stop until you arrive. And lastly: You’ve got this.

Thanks so much Kylie for coming into the Writer’s Room and sharing your insight!

The Writer’s Room: Annabelle McInnes

I am just so excited to introduce you all to my second guest for the new interview series, the Writer’s Room: Annabelle McInnes. I met Annabelle when we both attended Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Mastercalss earlier this year, and I was instantly drawn to her. Annabelle is already an accomplished writer, having secured a three book (series) deal with Escape Publishing, the first of which is due out later this year.

From the age of sixteen, Annabelle lived in a youth refuge while she remained committed to her education. She spent two years within a section of humanity that society overlooks.

Her experiences are the foundations that drive her stories and her characters. They fight for their freedoms, have courage in the face of adversity and will ultimately, always aspire for greatness.

Annabelle is privileged to spend her time writing with a backdrop of Canberra’s iconic landmarks and admiring its distinct and captivating change of seasons. Outside of her love for reading, she spends every free moment with her husband, son and her poodle named Serendipity. She drinks her Whisky neat and is known to scour the local markets in an attempt to find the best blue cheese available.

 

First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit? 

I am the mother of a two-year-old son. A little boy who is full of all the wonderful elements that makes up any toddler. I also work a four-day work week and support my husband with his business. The only way I can fit in time to write is to be a master at time management. The baby goes down for a nap – write. Lunch break – write. During those precious moments, I don’t distract myself with housework, social media or telephone calls. My headphones are in and I have a playlist of 90s rock ballads that I put on repeat. I am also the queen of understanding my own body and what it needs to write. Mornings are best for me with a cup of tea, coffee or even an energy drink depending how much uninterrupted sleep I’ve had. I work in stages and do a minimum of four distinct drafts. I’m currently working on the first draft of my third novel, so I’m getting into the swing of my own style now.

Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

I write because I love it. I write because it is an external expression of who I am. What I think, dream and feel. I’ve always written as a hobby, but I started writing True Refuge when my baby was only six months old with no intention of ever publishing it, or even anyone else reading it. I needed an escape, and so I wrote. That original draft has had innumerable rewrites as I have learnt the complex difference between writing a story and writing a novel to be published. Through that process I discovered that writing is intrinsic to my happiness. I want to create a career as a successful writer. It’s hard work, of that there is no doubt. But it is the type of work that feeds my soul, and so I am able to push through the barriers.

Who or what are some of your biggest influencers?

From sixteen, I lived in a youth refuge in Canberra. During that time, I experienced the significant disparity between privilege and poverty and lived within a part of society that most overlook. Those experiences still colour my life and heavily influence my writing. I have always loved high fantasy novels. I grew up reading (and re-reading) all of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books, the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, and the early books by George R. R. Martin to escape during my childhood. As a teenager I discovered Romance, and my ferocious appetitive for books really began. But it wasn’t until I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy did I come to appreciate dystopian and speculative fiction novels and how my experiences could shape these fictitious worlds. The concept that drives Speculative Fiction – What If – fuels my imagination more than any other genre. Couple that with romance and a chance to build a new world? A brilliant combination that I adore to read and write.

What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

Though I have always loved to write, choosing to become a published author was a decision that came in my thirties. Attending conferences and masterclasses has helped me develop my craft. In 2016, I attended the Romance Writers of Australia’s Annual conference. While I was there, I completed a one-day Story Mastery workshop with Michael Haugh. It really solidified how important it is to tell a great story. He outlined the strategic elements that create a detailed narrative, complex characters and a tight plot. Fiona McIntosh’s Masterclass was also a turning point. Her insights into the publishing world, the work required to create a career out of writing and the mechanics of a successful novel, were pivotal. The connections with other writers has also been fundamental. They inspire me, drive me and support me. I wouldn’t be here without the friendships made through those conferences and classes.

Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

Write. Everyone says it, but it’s true. Write. Write what you love. I’m time poor, so if I don’t love what I’m writing, I’ll procrastinate and it won’t get done. Like training to run a marathon, it’s about time on your feet (or in the chair, as writing may be). You’ll never succeed if all you ever do is talk about it. Write, get feedback, edit, edit, edit, edit. Then send it out. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Believe in your style, believe in your words, believe in your genre. Don’t listen to others. Like having children, everyone will have an opinion and everyone will tell you a better way to do something. Trust your instincts, and write, write, write!

The first book in your new Refuge romance series is coming out later this year, but I recall at masterclass that you are also toiling with the idea of writing in another genre, what is your reason for this and how are you finding the shift from Romance to something new?

The chance to explore other genres excites me. During Fiona’s Masterclass I thought of writing contemporary fiction, leaving myself open to the opportunity to explore a range of stories and narratives. These new plots play constantly in my mind, but as I’ve been working hard writing the Refuge Trilogy, I haven’t had a chance to fully investigate these options. Yet!

Thank you so much, Annabelle, for your time and insight. If you want to get more of Annabelle, you can connect with her here:

Website: www.annabellemcinnes.com
Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/authorannabellemcinnes/#
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annabellemcinnes/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/akmcinnes
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/58003716-annabelle-mcinnes\
Escape Publishing: http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9781489251015

The Writer’s Room: Jodie How

Writing can often be a solo journey. Though family and friends are ‘supportive’ of our desire to write, it’s really only other writers that can truly understand what it means to be a writer. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to join a physical writer’s group. But I’ve been so fortunate to meet an array of wonderful writers online.

Because I feel so grateful to have had the access and opportunity to engage with such wonderful, like minded people, I thought it would be nice to invite some of them over to the blog to share a bit about themselves. I’m calling this series, ‘The Writer’s Room’.

I hope this virtual Writer’s Room helps other emerging writers like myself find new people to engage with online, (and maybe even in person!), learn some tips and tricks, or just feel more confident about their own approaches when hearing from other people who are also navigating the world of writing.

I’m so very pleased to welcome my first guest and very good friend, Jodie How.

Jodie lives in the South West of Western Australia with her husband, five-year-old son, cat and dog. She is an avid consumer of a large range of stories, from very old classics, biographies and romance through to modern psychological thrillers and horror fiction (including everything in between).

Jodie has been writing part-time for five years and has recently been print published in the anthology, Twisted Tales 2016. She writes both short and long fiction, poetry and online articles. You can find her at Twitter and motionandmusings.com

 

  1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit? 

I’m an ‘emotional writer’ so my writing process isn’t especially ‘clean cut’ and my stories are often heavy.

I rarely start with a well-considered structure but I’m not a complete ‘pantser’ either. I always start writing a story with a definite character in mind (including their name), a very general idea of plot and theme and one or two prominent, defined emotions that will underpin the story.

Once I’ve finished the first draft, I edit and rewrite profusely. In between redrafts, I request feedback and gather critiques from various people.

Generally, my work explores one or two central emotions over a big idea or dilemma. My writing is, above all else, character focused.

 

  1. Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

I write for many reasons. One reason is that I just cannot not write. I get very grumpy and hard to live with when I haven’t written. In fact, I don’t function well at all. Writing is a positive creative outlet for me.

I write because creating a truly wonderful story feels almost impossible for me to achieve. The sheer challenge of reaching storytelling excellence through writing excites and motivates me.

And I write because I’m a curious soul, a deep thinker and a deep feeler who must explore both the world and the human psyche – endlessly.

I’m passionate about stories and their important role in our lives. I’m awed by how rich combinations of language can convey such depth of meaning. I’m fascinated by written communication and how it can string human hearts together.

I want my stories to touch the hearts of readers and help provide some level of emotional healing. I long for my work to provoke depth of thought.

It would be a dream come true to be print published more that half a dozen times.

If history is anything to go by, I’m expecting that writing will open all sort of doors for me and I’m so excited about discovering these opportunities.

I hope that writing will take me around the world. I’m itching to immerse myself in other cultures, make far-reaching connections and just be a blessed partaker of this diverse life in all its beauty, both close and far from home.

If my writing ever leads to collaborative projects with other writers or artists from other industries, I will consider myself died and gone to heaven!

 

  1. Who or what are some of your biggest influencers?

As for all writers, favourite authors are a big influence on my desire to write. (I have too many literary idols to list!)

The ambitious part of my personality is a huge influencer on my productivity because I just have to feel like I’m moving forward. Even if the goal is tiny and it takes me a long time to achieve it (which it always does) – I still must achieve. I’m just wired to win, I guess – even though I don’t always win.

I don’t want this to sound overly spiritual and abstract but destiny is huge for me. It’s something I believe in and am very aware of. Knowing that writing is a big part of what I’m meant to do with my life keeps me focused. It makes me get up from falls time and time again. (I’m always falling, getting up, dusting myself off and putting the boxing gloves back on, ready to fight again.)

Past successes and past failures influence me too. I try my best to use them as leverage to push me forward.

 

  1. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

I’m a ‘Jill of all trades’ so I don’t have any special writing qualifications, to date. I only committed seriously to writing five years ago, so I did a lot of other things in life before finding my real passion, which is writing.

I’ve done countless workshops, a few short courses and one weekend writers retreat. All of these have given me something new to apply to my writing, which has ultimately propelled me forward. Even listening to author interviews at writers festivals have been hugely educational and encouraging.

 

  1. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

Aha! The real question here is, ‘what’s the word count limit’? I’ll try to keep it short.

Recognise and capitalise on every single opportunity that comes your way. Grab each one in a full body hug and see it through.

Keep comparison in your closet. She’s a useless bitch.

Pay attention to, and effectively use, your gut instinct – not only for your writing but also for your writing journey.

Work hard and never, ever give up. Redraft your work until your eyes bleed, and then redraft it again.

Stick with your characters – don’t abandon them just because you can’t nail their story.

Be brave. Put your work out there. Now. Don’t wait until next year. Start submitting your writing today. Professional feedback is invaluable.