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: 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