Georgia Clark, author of Parched, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Georgia Clark

author of Parched and She’s with the Band

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Manly, which is ironic because I certainly am not. Raised in Hornsby Heights where I shunned the bush to keep my nose in a book. I went to school at Gosford High School, which I commuted 2 hours each way to! Had a great time at school: I loved my friends and I was pretty good at the learning.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have a very early memory of wanting to be a policewoman, but I think that was more about being in charge than upholding the will of the state. Eighteen I was dead-set on becoming a film director, which is what I went to uni for. By 30, that had changed into novelist, mostly because it was easier and cheaper, and I could do it in my pajamas.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Georgia Clark

I strongly believed there would be a revolution in Australia. After starting at uni, I quickly fell into the left wing movement, and learnt about anarchism and socialism and all sorts of wonderful trouble-making. I really believed there would be an uprising, and that I would be a part of it! I also believed in cutting my own hair and dying it blue. I was fun.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Manhattan by Woody Allen. I grew up watching this movie. From my lounge chair in suburban NSW, Woody’s New York was impossibly smart and cool and complex. I loved his intellectual points of reference and his characters’ shifting morality. I’m sure this early obsession led me to New York and a love of clever, modern characters from my socio-economic world.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. This series fanned the flame of my love for fantasy and adventure. I still remember inhaling these books when I was 12, 13, 14… I grew up without the internet or TV, so books were my everything. When I finished the fifth book in the series, I immediately started re-reading it again. Set in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s (when it was first published) this is a story about a group of plucky young kids, Barney, Simon, and Jane, who embark an ancient quest in an underworld that exists alongside out own. It’s ambitious, exciting, and original, I was riveted the entire time. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter. Yes, that good.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. It’s no accident that Parched has been compared to this handbook for dystopic action: I’ve read the book, listened to the audiobook and seen the movie many times. I set out to create something as tense, political and exciting as this fantastic book.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Writing a marathon is a bit like what I imagine running a marathon is like: so hard to do your first one, but then you’re hooked. I love creating fictional worlds and imagining dialogue and scenes. I tried TV writing and directing, but couldn’t break into it. I found my niche with books.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Parched is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Tess Rockwood, who joins an underground rebel group called Kudzu to help stop the development of an ‘artilect’; an artificial intelligence prototype. It’s set in a future world without much water, and features robots and kickass girls and a cute/mysterious guy. Some reviews have compared it to Divergent and Hunger Games, which of course I’m totally thrilled about!

Grab a copy of Parched here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope Parched takes them on a rollercoaster ride, complete with sweaty palms and racing hearts. I hope they swoon and sigh over the romance, cheer on Kudzu, and root for Tess. And I hope they think about climate change and sustainability, and ponder the ethical issues of artificial intelligence.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Anyone who speaks their truth and maintains a healthy output. YA authors I love include Maggie Steifvater, David Leviathan, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, and Lauren Oliver.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d love to get a six-figure advance to write a No. 1 New York Times-best selling novel that gets turned into a fantastic movie, thus entering the pop culture Hall of Fame forever. I’d also like to write something that concretely affects people’s lives, and gives them a greater sense of hope and self-worth.  

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write stories in genres you read, and that you personally, would love to pick up in a bookstore. Commit to a regular writing schedule, ideally in a space away from home. Try the app Freedom if the internet distracts you. Don’t worry about the lacklustre first chapter; you’ll find your writing gathers steam later and you’ll go back and rewrite it anyway. Remember that talent is persistence: most writers don’t sell their first book, they sell their third or fourth. Writing is the long game: stick at it. Live a life worth writing about: take risks, say yes, follow your heart, and me, on Twitter: @georgialouclark

Georgia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Parched here

Nikki Parkinson, author of Unlock Your Style, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nikki Parkinson

author of Unlock Your Style

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born, raised and schooled in regional Queensland – Maryborough – a town once famous for having the most pubs per capita in Queensland and now famous for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

12: A teacher. I’m from a family of teachers. It was pretty much all I knew.

18: A journalist. I was in my first year of uni and studying journalism. My school guidance officer had told me since I was good at English that I should give it a go. Something I did give a go for 20 years.

30: A magazine editor. It had always been a dream but life had taken me a different way. I was lucky that new opportunities at the newspaper where I worked came my way and I edited a weekly glossy magazine.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I believed that you went into the profession that you trained/studied for and stayed there. Today I’ve proved that’s not the case and this and the next generation of professionals will show us that life will be a series of career chapters.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

1. I grew up in a family that treasured books and encouraged us to read. My Dad was head of English at my high school and he always said to me, “it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read something”. Words – reading and writing them – were always valued.

2. Leaving the country town in which I grew up and heading to Brisbane to go to university will always be a defining moment in my life. Meeting life-long friends, learning that the world really is a big one – there for the taking – and embracing my journalism degree have had an effect to this day.

3. Deciding in 2008 to leave my relatively secure job as a journalist when the first of the media redundancies started was a big, big move on my part. I’d always played it safe. Instead I decided to back myself and start my own business. I’m so glad I did.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

My book has come about because of my blog so I think they sit well together. Unlock Your Style started as a series on my blog, became a self-published e-book and was then picked up by Hachette and expanded into a book form. My readers were excited about that – they told me they love reading my blog every day but also haven’t lost the love of holding a physical book.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Busy women are crying out for help in creating or re-discovering their personal style. I know this from the thousands who read my blog each month and the number of emails I receive asking for advice. It’s more than just clothes and lippy. How we present ourselves for any particular day or occasion can affect our confidence levels.

My aim with Unlock Your Style is to take women on a simple process to find a confidence that will help them take on whatever the day throws at them. The format is part workbook, part stories (embarrassing style stories included) and part visual.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

If just one woman feels more confident returning to the workforce, leaving to become a mum, going on a first date after a broken relationship or just in the every day by reading Unlock Your Style, then my job is done. The ripple effect of that confidence will spill over into her family and community life.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My girlfriends who are in business always inspire me. We support each other in times of stress and celebrate in times of victory. Without them this would be a very lonely business journey.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My goal every day is to be able to combine my work with my family life in a way that’s flexible but still exciting and challenging for me. If I’m meeting that then I’m ready for any opportunities that might come my way. I plan out my weeks and months but I don’t have a five-year-plan. What I’m doing now as a full-time blogger (and now author) didn’t exist as an opportunity five years ago. Who knows what the next five years will bring?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Start a blog. Don’t wait for someone to publish you. Publish yourself. The very act of writing on daily basis will improve the way you write and by building a community around your blog you’ll be more attractive to a potential publisher.

Nikki, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

Owen Beddall, author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Owen Beddall

author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Darwin to Aboriginal/European parents and then raised in Grafton on the North Coast of NSW. I went to school in Grafton and university in Sydney.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I was addicted to the show LA Law when I was 12 and I always wanted to be a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer involved walking around in glamorous outfits, pointing your finger and winning arguments.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a lawyer and actually went off to UNSW to study, but mostly at 18 I wanted to be able to be openly gay and living my life. When I was 30, I was travelling all over the world and I really wanted to write a book or make television documentaries.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Owen Beddall

At 18 I saw the world as black and white and I thought that if I was intelligent that it would combat everything and I concentrated on study. As I got older and had a more world persective, I realised study was important but life experience and travel was equally important and that the world wasn’t necessarily black and white.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

In my family life, my father died when I was a young adult and my brother and sister were still very young (at school) and my mother was thrust in the position of being a single parent over night. It taught me, very early on that life isn’t to be taken for granted and is fragile.

In my career, after September 11 happened, I saw the whole world as we knew it transformed and the innocence and freedom we had enjoyed was no longer. Everyone was more cautious and cultures and people all became sceptical of each other.

In reading, the book that most effected me was April Fool’s Day. It was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic and it was such a beautiful love story. It really opened my eyes and very closely after came the life changing movie, Philadelphia.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Call me a traditionalist but I love books. There is nothing quite like thumbing through a book and taking it with you to the park or a bar or on the train or PLANE with you. When I finish a book, it usually has red wine stains and coffee stains and dog ears throughout.

Also, a book is something to keep forever and it is such an achievement and honour to be published.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book is called Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant and it documents my career as a flight attendant from the beginning through to leaving just recently. Throughout the book, I address things that shaped my career and the flying world such as September 11, Mumbai bombings and the anthrax terrorism in the UK. I walk you through the different destinations that I flew to and show you my adventures, good and bad. There is my accession into being a first class flight attendant and meeting all of the celebrities such as Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Lily Allen, Cate Blanchett, Princess Anne and Venus Williams, to name but a few.

Intersecting this story is my recovery from a severe, life-changing injury in which I broke my back and had to learn to walk again and make the long road back to being an International Flight Attendant.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

It would be poverty and or terminal disease. I have been to some places where there is such extreme poverty such as Africa and India and to see mothers begging for some unpolluted water for their babies or people laying in tips and children in orphanages, it’s just heartbreaking. I would change that and equal out the system for everyone and medicine and hygiene available to all.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I would say that I most admire Nelson Mandela. He was a freedom fighter and always fought for what he believed in (and what I believe in), which is equality. When he got into power he treated his captors with dignity and respect and set out to heal and educate. He was considered a terrorist at the time because his ideas and intelligence placed him well outside the bell curve (which important people don’t like) and he changed not only South Africa but the world. I thank my lucky stars for him, every day.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?april-fool-s-day-popular-penguins

I want to have my own talk show, similar to Graham Norton’s interviewing all of the fabulous stars and more from my book and I want to write another book/movie! I’d also like to pursue a luxury travel show and work on something similar to Getaway.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know your story well and how it will unfold. Also know who your audience (or main audience). Target the right publisher and then build your brand alongside your book. Your social media and press is as important as the book itself.

If you get knocked back, don’t be disheartened – ask why and look for ways to improve it. Go away and take the advice.

Most of all be true to yourself and enjoy it.

Owen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here


Confesions of a Qantas Flight Attendantconfessions-of-a-qantas-flight-attendant

by Owen Beddall

Want to know what really goes on on an aeroplane? Let’s go behind the scenes and fly high with these tall tales and gossip from the galley! Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

In Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant – True Tales and Gossip from the Galley, Owen Beddall dishes the dirt – he tells you the things you always wanted to know (and maybe a few things you didn’t) about the glamorous world of flying.

This book is packed with cabin crew adventures and misadventures in and out of that smart uniform in far flung places. There’s sex, drugs and lots of celebrity gossip; Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Venus Williams and Cate Blanchett – are all in the galley having a gossip with Owen. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is a hilariously bumpy ride around the world with a very funny man.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

Rachael Craw, author of Spark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Craw

author of Spark

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived there until earthquakes broke our house and destroyed our neighbourhood in 2011/12. Whenever we go back to visit, the empty green paddocks of the eastside, post-demolition, make my heart sore. I hate that my girls will never know the city I knew, so many of our precious landmarks are gone. Now we live at the top of the South Island in sunny Nelson and I rather fancy my new small-town life. It suits me.

Growing up, I went to Burnside High School where I was greatly inspired by my English teacher Ms McColl. She took our creative writing class to my first ever Writer’s Festival in Dunedin where I sat in the audience moony eyed at the poetry of David Eggleton. At the University of Canterbury I majored in Classical Studies and Drama expecting to train and become a teacher in these subjects. Really, it was the literature in both that I loved the most and I became an English teacher instead.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I’m not sure about these ages … but when I was 5 or 6 I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer (think Beyonce in glittering gold spandex + epic afro), around 10, like most of the girls I knew, I imagined a glamorous future as an air hostess, but by 18 I had the acting bug. I did amateur theatre and short films but it was the scriptwriting that got my pulse racing. By 30, I had been teaching for a while but the itch to write was getting harder to ignore.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito would be the best Batman, Catwoman and Penguin of all time. (Batman Returns 1992). While Tim Burton is one of my top 3 directors (heads up: you’ll see locations in my novels named to reflect this) Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) upended this strongly held belief. Though he has retired the cowl, Bale holds my allegiance. If Affleck can win my attention I’ll be impressed. I reserve judgment on any future Penguins or Catwomen (Pfeiffer for the win).

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

For thematic influences I would site my favourite texts to teach in the classroom: Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Hamlet for the exploration of moral dilemma and the consequences of action or inaction. Lord of the Flies for the exploration of human nature and poking at the flimsy scaffolding that keeps us from savagery. At University I loved Oedipus for the question of freewill versus predestination. In a somewhat less grandiose scale I have begun to attempt my own experimentation with these concepts.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Word-Lust

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spark is a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and love mixed with a synthetic gene that creates guardians and killers known as Shields and Strays. Evie learns that she is a Shield, genetically engineered to save the life of her best-friend who is being stalked by a Stray.

Evie strives to learn how to use her new psychic and physical capabilities while managing grief, learning to live with her aunt and struggling to fit in at a new school. Added to these pressures is the complication of falling in love with a boy who is completely off-limits and totally irresistible.

Spark is the first novel in a sci-fi/crossover trilogy.

Grab a copy of Spark here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A sense of investment in my imaginary world, that they’ve journeyed with characters they love and or loathe, that they give enough of a damn they’d want to visit again in the future.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

My favourite writer of all time is Margaret Atwood. I fell in love with her work when I was a teenager and the novelty has never really worn off. In contemporary literature I’ll read anything Kate Atkinson sets her pen to. Isabel Allende, for magical realism and Alice Hoffman too. In YA, I love Patrick Ness and the astounding Elizabeth Knox.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I would love to have readers from all over the globe discover my imaginary world, emotionally invest and embrace the characters, grieve their losses, rejoice in their triumphs, and then argue about it all online, print t-shirts with their favourite quotes, swarm at conferences, throw my books across the room when their favourite characters die, lose sleep to finish a chapter, fake sick days to stay home, neglect their chores and families because they’d rather read, text their friends when they’re watching TV and they spot someone who’d be perfect to play a character from the book in a non-existent movie adaptation, create playlists that remind them of the story and re-read, and re-read because it’s just like visiting old friends. I dream of this because these are things I’ve done with books I love.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I am an aspiring writer and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived, mostly because I’m never satisfied. From the beginning I wanted to be good more than I wanted to be published so I have always been hungry for the best counsel and the most honest criticism, to learn the craft and keep learning, refining, exploring and taking risks. Unpopular concepts like sacrifice, hard work and commitment are the price you’re willing to pay to realise a dream but passion, faith and obsession is what keeps you going.

Rachael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Spark here

Christie Nieman, author of As Stars Fall, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christie Nieman

author of As Stars Fall

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Greensborough, Melbourne, grew up in Osbornes Flat, which is near Yackandandah, which is near Wodonga, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray, and was schooled there and in Melbourne. For the past 20 years I’ve been a Melbournite (what a great city!), but just recently I moved to central Victoria, so now I’m a Goldfields girl. Every day I’m visited by a billion beautiful tiny woodland birds. It’s lovely.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be an environmental scientist, because they are the best and most important people on Earth. When I was eighteen I was going to be a pianist, and was even enrolled in a terrifying Bachelor of Music. When I was thirty I wanted to be happy: I stopped trying so hard to achieve and just relaxed into being what I was being and had been for the past twelve years – a writer-in-progress. Your thirties are magic like that.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Christie Nieman

Author: Christie Nieman

That love conquers all, and that life is ultimately fair. Now I know more about circumstance, and the way in which it can provide hurdles and boundaries in a person’s life. I was quite an innocent at eighteen: I didn’t know I was very lucky and I thought everyone’s experience was the same as mine. It’s embarrassing to remember.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

At the age of sixteen I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I have never had an experience like it before or since. A light bulb flicked on in my head. It was very much as the great woman herself wrote in Negotiating With The Dead: ‘When I found I was a writer at the age of sixteen…’ I don’t know why I ran about trying to be a musician after that – I guess at that age I wanted the company that music gives, but which writing doesn’t.

The works of Debussy and Bach grabbed me as a young pianist – Debussy’s beautiful imagistic impressions, using music to paint mood, not worrying too much about finishing a phrase, or creating a full melody; and Bach’s incredible escalation of form and structure and motif, weaving them and varying them, without ever fundamentally changing them, to create something that sounds nearly avant-garde and which bewilders you and leads you off a cliff edge, and then instantly, and so satisfyingly, takes you back to the simple forms again – I learned so much from both of them about how linear artforms like music and literature can work.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I chose to write a novel because I’d already written a play, because I can’t paint to save my life, and because my stint as a songwriter is best forgotten, and also, because when I was eighteen, music and I had a terrible break-up and it took us a while to get back on speaking terms. Whereas the written word and I have always been dear and faithful friends.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

As Stars Fall is young adult novel for older readers. It begins with a bushfire and a death, and from that moment on the emotional and ecological traumas run parallel and interact. It looks at the way people recover from grief, and the way ecosystems recover from disturbance. It reminds us we are all part of the one big living, breathing organism. And it has a little supernatural/metaphysical kick in there too.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I sincerely hope that people come away with a sense of the smaller and bigger worlds. Of lives other than their own, of lives other than human. I hope it gives them a sense that there can be belonging in that, even when in pain and loneliness. It’s possibly high-falutin of me, but there you have it.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

As I’ve said, Margaret Atwood had me at hello. Her language – my lord, every word is working hard, every word is a little machine, every sentence. And yet it reads effortlessly. I’m also a fan of Sonya Hartnett, the way she can set up an unusual, often almost abstract scenario, and present it with such clarity that you don’t question it – it gives her enormous scope as a writer: once she has you there, she can do what she wants with you. I also love David Malouf and Colm Toibin, for their narrative-invading landscapes; Margaret Mahy and Simmone Howell, for their beautifully original characters and home-lives;  Helen Garner for her perfect use of language to capture, well, everything really; and Philip Pullman, for showing me the glorious magnitude of what you can do with writing for young people – the themes, people, the themes!

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write as many good things as I can before I die. Being humble but also very ambitious. I believe many if not most writers are essentially lazy creatures; they’d so often prefer to read than write. Yet they are also cursed by drive. It’s a difficult thing, to be both lazy and driven.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Spend a year getting a trade you can live with. I’m not being facetious. Even if you are one of the rare few that can make a living from your writing, it will probably take you a few years to get there, and you don’t want to be spending all that time stressing about rent and food, because you need that time to be honing your craft. And work gives you an avenue to engage with the world around you, which is priceless for a writer. Unless of course you’re published at fifteen (I’m looking at you, Sonya Hartnett), and then by all means, devote your life!

Christie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

Ber Carroll, author of Worlds Apart, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ber Carroll

author of Worlds Apart, Less Than Perfect, The Better Woman and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Blarney, famous for the Blarney Castle, the Blarney Stone and the ‘gift of the gab’. So you won’t be surprised to hear I like to talk a lot. I’m the third child of six and, as with all big families, it was a bit chaotic. You had to be the fastest, loudest, strongest – otherwise you’d miss out. Not surprising either then that I’m pretty competitive. I went to primary school in Blarney, but for secondary my parents sent me to the ‘city’ to North Presentation Convent School – which was only five miles away, but could have been another planet it was so different. The principal was Sister Stanislaus, a ferocious nun who had quite an impact on my early career (see below). In 1995, after being heavily influenced by the blue skies and stunning beaches on Home and Away, I moved permanently to Sydney.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be a music teacher. I loved playing the piano (despite my brothers and sisters screeching at me to stop because they couldn’t hear the TV properly).

When I was eighteen I wanted to be an accountant. This was due to a very one-sided career counselling session in Sr Stanislaus’s office when she told me I’d make a good accountant, and I wasn’t inclined to risk my life by disagreeing.

When I was thirty, I had written my first novel and even though I actually enjoyed my job as a Finance Director (Sr Stanislaus was right – I did make a good accountant), all I could think about was being published, and ideas for other novels.

It was such a delicious treat to read Worlds Apart! Ber Carroll has given us a cast of warm, engaging characters in a sparkling story that effortlessly crosses the globe between Ireland and Australia. I enjoyed every page of this touching, authentic, contemporary novel.

If you love Maeve Binchy and Cathy Kelly, I can guarantee you’ll love Worlds ApartNew York Times, No 1 Bestselling author, Liane Moriarty.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

carrollber01

Author: Ber Carroll

When I was eighteen, I believed that most human beings are logical, level-headed, and fairly predictable. Now I know that’s not true at all. Even the sanest person I know can be, on occasion, irrational, unpredictable and downright peculiar . . .  Human beings are capable of anything, and this both horrifies and delights me.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I’m one of those people who always has her head stuck in a book, and I could easily pick a hundred books that have influenced me in one way or another. Maeve Binchy’s early novel, Echoes, stands out. I read it when I was about thirteen (I used to steal books from my mother’s bedroom!) and the storytelling had me completely hooked – I read and read and read, until my eyes were red and sore and my stomach rumbling for food. Marian Keyes also had a significant impact in my early twenties. I really admire how she balances comedy with darker themes, and Anybody Out There is an all-time favourite of mine.

Music is such a positive influence too. I love all kinds of music – from classical to rap – and I listen very closely to the lyrics. To me, good lyrics can be like poetry, or a condensed story, and they can change how I feel that moment, and how I write. Right now I love The Script and One Republic.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

When I was younger, I had three great ambitions: to write a novel, compose a song, and complete a major artwork. Given that my piano playing didn’t progress past my late teens, and my artistic abilities were questionable, I started with the novel. What I didn’t realise is that writing is addictive, and writing one novel would never be enough.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Worlds Apart is a story of belonging, bravery, diversity and love. It has characters from all over the world, but at its heart there is an Irish family, and Erin and Laura who are cousins and best friends. For different reasons, both Erin and Laura feel terribly trapped, and they are desperately trying to find where they belong: in their family, in their careers, and in the wider world. A surly Polish nanny, an elusive Spanish husband, an uneducated Afghan girl, a Nigerian refugee, and a rather hyperactive Australian man all play small but important parts in Erin and Laura’s quest for belonging. But what the cousins don’t know is that someone in their family is keeping a secret. When revealed, this secret will change everything as they know it and ‘belonging’ will take on a totally different meaning.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope people come away from my novels with the taste of another country and/or another life. I hope my characters stick around, and don’t leave their heads straight away. Surprise is important, and I hope to have achieved that in some way throughout the novel. Most of all, I hope my readers are satisfied and happy and finish with a smile and the desire to read my other novels.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Other than Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, who I’ve already mentioned, I absolutely adore Maggie O’ Farrell. I love the rhythm of her writing, how she sketches her characters, her dialogue, her plots, absolutely everything about her novels.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My ambitions are pretty modest. I want to continue to write. And I want every book to be better than the last one.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My advice is to read, read, read  . . . and keep on reading. Because nothing or no-one will teach you to write as effectively as reading does. My second piece of advice is to stop talking about it and get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect, there is plenty of time for editing later on – and this might be stating the obvious, but there will be nothing to edit if you don’t get something down on paper to start with. Lastly, seek out honest feedback, and be brave, strong and committed enough to take the feedback on board.

Ber, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

Alan Baxter, author of Alex Caine Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alan Baxter

author of Alex Caine series

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born on the mean streets of the border city, raised in the fighting arenas of the Fifth Conglomerate and schooled by the courtesan ladies of the western reaches.

Oh, you mean really? Born and raised (and schooled) in Britain, but I didn’t really learn anything until I travelled the world.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I wanted to be a marine biologist. At 18 I wanted to be a martial arts instructor. At 30 I wanted to be (and was) a martial arts instructor and a writer. Still doing those things and trying to get better at them all the time.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That we would all be travelling in flying cars by the time I was 30. Stupid science. Also, replicants.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

The death of my brother when I was 16. Discovering amazing comic books like Sandman and Hellblazer in my teens. Realising a huge majority of the human population are pretty f*cked up individuals.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Absolutely not. There has never been a better and more exciting time to write great stories. All those things you mentioned above only enhance the spread of excellent books. People will always want to read good stories – the vessel or medium by which they’re delivered is not the relevant part.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s the story of Alex Caine, a fighter by trade, is drawn into a world he never knew existed — a world he wishes he’d never found.

Alex is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.

An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards destruction and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him – the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.

Grab a copy of Bound here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained by a ripping yarn. That’s really all I can ask for (especially if they recommend it to family and friends!) Beyond that, if people get to thinking about the world, how they perceive it and how other people see it, that would be cool.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Anyone who does what they want to do, without hurting others. Anyone who strives and works hard for their dreams, and who are kind and considerate about it, not treading on other people to get their way. Those are the people who change the world for the better.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?Obsidian-cover-196x300

Oh, I have a huge list! I want to win a Hugo and a Nebula and an Aurealis award. I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list, lots of times. I want to be Guest of Honour at a Worldcon. I want to sell millions of books. Honestly, if you don’t aim for the highest goals, you’re cheating yourself. But along the way, I want to keep writing and hopefully people will keep reading.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write. Don’t think about writing, don’t aspire to write, don’t tell everyone how you want or plan to be a writer. WRITE! And then, don’t give up. Determination is a large part of the battle. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep working all the time to get better. Write and never give up.

Alan, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Bound here

Jody Allen, author of Once a Month Cooking, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jody Allen

author of Once a Month Cooking

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Townsville, raised in Fremantle, and have settled in Gympie which is a small town two hours north of Brisbane.  I met my husband here on a holiday 15 years ago and never went home.  I adore being a housewife, being a mother is about a thousand times harder than I thought it would be and Facebook has been my salvation for some sanity and I’d happily call myself addicted.  My ideal day would be having the family home and cooking a Margaret Fulton apple pie from scratch before enjoying a nice glass of red on the veranda.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I wanted to be a children’s author, I had compiled quite a few stories then my little brother wiped my computer and I didn’t try again as I was so shattered. At 18 I wanted to be a nightclub owner (I thought it would be cool – now I couldn’t think of anything worse – I don’t even like music!). And 30 all I wanted to be was a housewife home with the kids. I’ve always had a ‘drive’ to do something; it just didn’t happen for me until my mid 30’s.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At 18 I believed that love was the most important thing in the whole world – that if you had it, everything no matter what would be okay (hopeless romantic).  Now I know that it isn’t everything, that although it is important, trust, honesty, humility and a sense of humour can be just as important.  My husband isn’t just someone I love, but my best friend too.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

To tell the truth I’m not into art at all – I don’t really ‘get it’.  If I had to say what ‘thing’ affected and influenced me, it would probably be this little $2 cookbook from the Noosa Hospital that they were selling as a fundraiser.  I was interested in cooking, but was terrible at it.  I wanted a simple cookbook with simple recipes – and these were so easy, affordable –and the money went to a good cause.  Still to this day I flick through that cookbook – it was inspiring and a real treasure.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a book?

I write the same sort of thing every day for my website, but there is something about a real book, the smell of paper. Being able to flick through paper, look at pictures.  Having something tangible that I could share with people that aren’t internet savvy.

6. Please tell us about ‘Once a Month Cooking’

Well it’s exactly as it sounds, it’s how to cook literally once a month! And to use your freezer to your advantage. I’ve learned to freeze everything now, school lunches, casseroles, pies and cakes.

I cook when I’m in the mood (or when I’ve run out of food) and fill my freezer so that in the evenings most of the work is done. So that when I want take-out, a hot lunch or a nice slice of cake when friends come by – I’m prepared for it. Having two babies in a year has taught me to be super organised – and give more time back for me.


Grab a copy of Once a Month Cooking here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your book?

I hope that people will realise that they don’t need to be great cooks to cook great meals. And that organisation and prioritising your time is a necessity for busy people, because in today’s busy world, if you don’t have time for you, you will break – eventually!

This book is about how I created more time in my busy life and I’d love to share that – because if I hadn’t of done this, I’m pretty sure I’d be sitting in a straight-jacket around now.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Well, being a huge history buff, I’m a HUGE fan of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory. They capture the essence of the Tudor period in England – I feel like I’m right there – it takes a special writer to do that! In cookbook world, there is no one better than Margaret Fulton – she is my hero!

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I have the usual goals people have, to be financially stable, a new car would be nice, to be able to afford the things I like rather than buying just what I can afford, but I would have to say that my ultimate goal would be to study history and perhaps become a historical fiction writer. I’m rather obsessed with the Tudor period of England (and even have a Tudor Rose tattooed somewhere on my body). I own over 400 books on the subject, don’t ask me what aspect of it I could possibly write about – but I would like to have to the time to find out one day!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just write from the heart, and write. Do it for yourself, if someone publishes it – that’s a bonus.

Jody, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Once a Month Cooking here

Brooke Davis, author of Lost & Found, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Brooke Davis

author of Lost & Found

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Geelong Hospital in Victoria, and my family (Mum, Dad, and my two brothers) lived on ten acres in a quiet nearby bush town called Bellbrae. It was pretty idyllic: the air smelled of eucalyptus, we had the space to play and imagine, and we were friends with all our neighbours. I went to Bellbrae Primary School, and, later as a teenager, went to a public high school near Geelong called Belmont High. When I was seven, we had a three year stint in Florida in the U.S., while my dad completed his doctorate in Sports Psychology. I went to Walter T. Moore Elementary School while we were there. My brothers and I developed weird, hybrid accents, and people often asked me to ‘say Paul Hogan’. It was such a valuable time: it helped me to learn that the world was bigger than my own corner of it. It also helped me to learn that adding peanut butter to anything is always a good idea.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Twelve: a writer.
Eighteen: a cricket player.
Thirty: alive, and not an idiot.

By the time I reached my thirties, I’d kind of reconfigured what it meant to ‘be something’. I just wanted to live a life that I was proud of.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Oh, man, so many things. That ‘The Phantom Menace’ was going to be good. That I would marry Patrick Rafter. That ‘Party of Five’ was awesome. That waiting for four hours for a ten second movie trailer to download on our family computer was totally worth it. That I was going to be a sport scientist. That we would have hover-boards by now. That eighteen is old. That thirty-four is really old.

Author: Brooke Davis

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I find it difficult to pinpoint those ah-ha moments where one piece of art has made time stand still and everything from then on was forever changed. My thirty-odd years of writing feels like a vague blob of reading lots and just flat-out copying my favourite writers.  When I was a kid, it was Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Robin Klein, John Marsden, Paul Jennings, L.M. Montgomery and Emily Rodda. They were imaginative, funny, different from each other, and I never felt patronised when I read them. I also remember being really taken with Tim Winton’sLochie Leonard’ books—he captured the sound of the Australian accent so beautifully and I hadn’t realised that you could do that in writing, that you could give a character the sound of your own voice.

These days, writing that has the greatest effect on me is writing that makes me dizzy with the distance between what they can do and what I can do. I can see the gap between myself and them and I think: I want to be there. I want to be able to do what they do. Alice Munro, George Saunders, and Janet Frame are some of the writers doing that for me now.

But, really, I feel like I’m always taking in art and it’s always having an impact on my writing: music that might open me up to something, paintings that blast me with colour, photographs of very ordinary people. My writing feels like it’s a process of absorbing everything around me and trying to turn all of that into language, and subsequently into narrative.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Hmm. ‘Innumerable’ is a strong word! I wish that writing a novel was the thing I chose at the expense of writing orchestral musical scores, or touring the world with the Riverdance crew. The reality is, I’m not very good at anything else: I’m a particularly terrible singer, and my artistic career peaked at about age seven when I drew a sun wearing sunglasses (still pretty proud of that).

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The book is very much a work of fiction but it comes from a really personal place. Essentially while writing it I was trying to work out how you live knowing that anyone you love can die at any moment. About seven years ago, I was on a trip around the world and rang home to find out my mum had died in a freak accident.  It took me ages to start writing fiction again, but when I did, the character that came first was a little girl obsessed with death. She’d become seven year-old Millie Bird in ‘Lost & Found’. Agatha Pantha came next, an elderly and grumpy woman who didn’t want to know about death. About two years into the writing of the novel, Karl the Touch Typist—an elderly man wanting to relive his youth—became a part of the story, too.

In ‘Lost & Found’, these three characters live in a small town on the South West Coast of WA. At the beginning, Millie has just been abandoned at a department store by her mum, Agatha hasn’t left her house in seven years since her husband died, and Karl has just escaped from his nursing home. They meet, and, together, go on a pretty unusual road trip across Australia.

Grab a copy of Lost & Found here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

That’s a tough question. I don’t really know. Something like: we’re all in this together, so let’s be kind. George Saunders said in an acceptance speech for an award recently that he writes to ‘soften borders’ between him and his characters, and best-case-scenario for readers of Lost & Found would be that they felt a bit of understanding towards my characters, and as a result, people in real life who weren’t themselves. But I don’t want to get too grand about it! I guess it’d be nice if it made them laugh sometimes.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

My older brother, Rhett. When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine ever being able to write as well as he did. Lovely sentences and big words and original ideas seemed to come to him so effortlessly. He was my total writing hero. He stopped writing for about ten years when he kind of fell into being a grown up, earning good money and being a responsible human (unlike his sister!). I was sad for him, but his life seemed to be the way he wanted, so I never said anything. But not long after our mum died, he decided he was going to spend an entire year a) reading a book a week, and b) writing for an hour every night after work. The point of the exercise was not to judge himself on the writing he did, and not put any pressure on himself to publish. He did that for a whole year. He was disciplined and methodical about it. At the end of the year, he had a whole heap of ideas and thoughts and starts and ends and had a renewed sense of energy. He was teaching himself to write again, playing catch up with all that time he had ignored his own creativity.

Now, about six years later, he’s quit his job and moved to Canada to complete his MFA (Creative Writing) at UBC. He’s published a load of original and imaginative and profound short stories, and he’s working hard on his first novel. That decision—to pursue writing when the end point of that is not clear or stable—was a very difficult one for him to make. I’m so proud of him. He’s such a brave dude.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

This will be the only time I ever release a First Book, so my goal at the moment is to make a concerted effort to relax and enjoy this lovely, lovely time.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I feel a bit odd giving out writing advice, to be honest. I’m still very much learning, and suppose I will be learning till the day I die, or stop writing, whichever comes first. But I guess there are two main thoughts on writing that I keep close to me.

The first one is to read and write and read and write and read and write. Reading—and articulating what it is that a writer does that appeals to me—and writing are the only ways I know of to become a better writer.

The second is a quote from Hemingway: ‘the first draft of anything is sh*t.’ It’s so important to allow myself time and space to fail at writing in those early stages. I might write two thousand words in a day and only come up with one sentence or one idea that is usable, or good enough, but every single one of those two thousand words was important for me to write. I need to have stages where I write with the freedom of someone who doesn’t care about perfect sentences.

Perhaps there’s three things, then, because in the rewriting I have to do the opposite of not care about perfect sentences. It’s important at this stage for me to take the time to look carefully at every single word, and make a case for their presence in the narrative. So the third thing might be to understand when the right time is to swoop back in make all my words work for me. I’ve only been able to work that out through trial and error.

It’s a very messy business, this writing thing. You’ve got to work most things out for yourself.

Brooke, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Lost & Found here

GUEST BLOG: Notes from the Other Side by Jo Riccioni, author of The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store

9781922070883

I can remember the exact moment I started crossing over to the Other Side, the first time I made that tentative transition from happy avid reader to somewhat less contented beginner writer. It was ten years ago, almost to the month. I recall it so precisely because I came to writing comparatively late in life.

As a child, I was a bookworm but I wasn’t an endless scribbler, never kept diaries or notebooks, and didn’t always long to be a writer. My first attempt at writing fiction was made somewhere between mashing pumpkin and changing a nappy, and I found that my 8-month-old was cutting his teeth at about the same time as I was cutting mine on short stories.

I wish I could say it was a lot more romantic than that, but the truth is that writing rarely is. It’s an odd little obsession, practised by a surprisingly diverse set of people, in the face of all sorts of obstacles and knock backs. For me it started out as mummy therapy: a lifelong love of reading, meets a new laptop and a baby monitor on the kitchen counter.

Two months ago my first novel, The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store, was released in Australia. So how did I get from a laptop in the kitchen to a publishing contract? In short, with baby steps. It took ten years for me to hold my own novel in my hands. Here are a few of the things I’ve picked up on my trip to the Other Side, things I’m still learning about writing and publishing, and a few I wish someone had told me sooner.

1: It’s Hard, But Not Impossible

The first short story I wrote gave me a ridiculous sense of accomplishment: it came in second out of a whopping 52 entries in a local writing competition. I was ecstatic. I signed up for an evening course for beginner writers at my nearest community college. I read some famous books about writing. And then I went along to a day seminar at a regional writers’ centre to discover all about that Holy Grail: ‘Getting Published’. For four hours I sat there intently taking notes while a panel of novelists and publishers detonated the industry from the inside out. My writing ambitions (never overly robust to begin with) were left in smouldering ruins somewhere under my chair.

‘If you can do anything else that makes you happy or makes you money, then do that because writing sure as hell won’t make you either,’ a novelist told the audience.

‘The reality is that even good novels are getting passed up regularly in today’s uncertain climate,’ an agent announced bleakly.

joroccino

Author Jo Riccioni

‘There’s no such thing as manuscripts being picked up from the slush pile anymore,’ a publisher admitted. ‘We don’t even have a slush pile, we just have a bin.’

I went home and did what any self-respecting wannabe author could do. I filled a large glass of wine, opened my laptop and carried on writing.

But I didn’t bury my head in the sand either. And I don’t deny that I probably needed to hear what those industry experts had to say. However, what I took issue with was their attitude. It seemed to be all jaded doom-and-gloom, topped with a smidgeon of insider condescension. And yet I’d read three or four Australian debuts that year alone, so I knew there had to be gaps in that publishing stronghold, passages into the fortress somewhere.

Some time later, in a fit of masochism, I took a job in a bookshop. I highly recommend it as a gauge of serious intention to all aspiring writers. Book selling has to be the bracing cold shower to any writer’s burning ambition, especially if you’re writing literary fiction. If you’re still typing away after sending back boxes of unsold new releases, then you really have got it bad.

The flip side to this, however, is that unpacking all the new books means you get to see what’s trending in publishing, what’s actually selling and sometimes (not often but, reassuringly, sometimes) those books are works by new writers. The industry has to have new material. It needs fresh voices. It’s looking for the next big thing, or even the next medium-to-fairly-modest thing. And until you actually write, how do you know you’re not the person to give it to them?

I’m happy to say things appear to have changed a little since that first seminar I attended. Several publishers started accepting unsolicited manuscripts in a more structured way a few years ago and others have followed suit. Check out Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch; Penguin’s Monthly Catch, Pan Macmillan’s Manuscript Monday and Hachette’s open submissions, among others.

2: “Overnight Success” is a Marketing Construct.

Ten years after I wrote my first short story, I got a jiffy bag in the mail. Inside it was the finished copy of my debut novel. Sounds great, right? I really showed them, didn’t I? Almost … if it wasn’t for the ‘ten years’ part, maybe?

But ten years is what it took and those years are precisely the important bit, I now realise. I wasn’t actually writing the novel that whole time: I was learning how to write something publishable. Novels might be discovered by a publisher overnight but they certainly aren’t written overnight. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that, in the majority of cases, the publication of a book and its apparent ‘wildfire’ success shouldn’t be confused with its gestation or the period of apprenticeship the novelist took to get to the point where she could write that book. Whether that apprenticeship took the form of a series of ‘bottom drawer’ novels, or years writing short stories and poetry, or studying creative writing, or even simply a lifetime of careful reading, it is still an apprenticeship of sorts. Becoming good at anything takes time and patience, and writing is no exception. For me, starting to write felt like learning to read all over again – this time as a writer.

97805529920463: Get Help

I’ve been a long-term student of literature as well as a teacher of it, and no one ever criticised me for wanting to learn to be a better reader. I’m at a loss, then, as to why creative writing courses (namely, learning how to be a better writer) should be so frowned upon by some in the literary community. Perhaps we secretly want to think of great writers as being born, not trained? Otherwise, anyone could have a pop at a novel, couldn’t they? And then the intrinsic merit of writing as an elusive (or should that be exclusive?) art form would surely be devalued? I was as guilty as anyone of believing this when I was a young literature under-grad. And then I started meeting novelists and learning about how they work.

Many excellent writers never finish a novel while some pretty average ones manage to publish a whole shelf full. It’s Edison’s famous quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. A good quality writing course can help teach you to read as a writer (analysing structure, voice, narrative arc and the technicalities of the written form), but it can also offer practical tips for carving out the time to write, managing unproductive attitudes to your work, setting goals and deadlines and giving industry insights from other writers, publishers and agents about how to begin getting your writing into the public eye.

Writing courses can’t write your novel for you, though, and signing up for them continuously without putting in the hard yards is kind of like trying to train for a marathon by only studying a sports science manual. At the end of the day, it’s just you, your keyboard and 100,000-odd words (see below). But, forewarned is forearmed, and a good teacher or mentor can make that prospect seem a hell of a lot less scary to a beginner writer.

4: Being a Writer Means Actually Writing

I wish I had another novel for every time I’ve heard an aspiring writer (including myself) say: ‘I just don’t have the time to write.’ There are lots of valid reasons why we tell ourselves we can’t write, but most of these rapidly lose credibility if, in the next breath, we go on to analyse the latest plot twists of Breaking Bad or who got voted off The Voice. Yes, novels take time. They take a ridiculous amount of time. And yet the average Australian adult manages to dedicate 13 hours a week to watching TV, pretty much without thinking about it. Perhaps I’m being harsh. But sacrifices have to be made. Ask the tough questions and if writing doesn’t come out on top, then give yourself a break. Let someone else write the novels. There’s nothing wrong with that. Life’s too short to put yourself over the rack for something that’s not a genuine priority.

Having said that, once I’d decided it was a priority, I wished someone had told me that writing productivity does not necessarily increase when you reduce other professional work. I found that I wrote as many words when I had a part-time job and young children as I did when my kids were older and I quit work to finish my novel. And I’ve heard other writers speak of a similarly unproductive relationship with ‘too much writing time’. Sometimes all you’re doing is giving yourself even more hours to procrastinate. I wish I’d kept my day job. Then I’d have a novel and new shoes. Lack of time can sometimes make you more productive.

5: “There is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing.”

I’m a firm believer in John Irvine’s famous quote. Most of my time spent writing, whether it’s short stories or novels, is spent editing. And any small success I’ve had with getting my work published has been because I’m reluctant to let it 9780552992053go out into the world until it’s the best I can make it. (Even when I’m thoroughly sick of it, I’m more likely to file it away than put it out there, if I don’t think it’s ready). You often only get one shot with an agent or publisher, so don’t get so excited at finishing your draft that you forget it’s still a draft. Make it the best it can be and get help if you think you need it.

6: Getting Published is the Easy Part

I know, I know, don’t you hate hearing published writers say this? I used to convince myself they were lying, that they were saying it to big note themselves, or because they derived a martyr-like satisfaction recounting the endless hardships of the writing life. What is there post-publication that could seriously be harder than getting up at 5am in the middle of winter to a blank screen, having decided to cut three chapters and four months’ work? Or, knowing in your heart you’ve got to get rid of a character and feeling like you’re murdering someone in the family? Surely it’s so much easier to do all this with the comfort of a publisher in the wings?

Well it’s not. I got signed by a publisher before my novel was completed and the security that offered was definitely offset by knowing I was writing to please someone else not just myself. Getting signed also didn’t preclude a scenario almost worse than not getting published at all, and that is thinking you’re getting published, only to have your book rejected at the last. I managed to avoid this but it does happen to writers at all stages of their careers. I wished someone had told me that ongoing performance anxiety was par for the course in the writing life. Thankfully, I’ve just recently discovered the excellent conversations between Charlotte Wood and Alison Manning in a Mind of One’s Own, which pull apart many of the psychological hurdles writers face and the self-sabotaging blocks to writing. They’re like an ‘on-demand’ pep talk and I’ve found them a great help.

Before my novel was released, the only end result I focussed on, like most debut writers, was getting that published book in my hands. I now know that really is just the beginning. When I was writing the novel, I was so engrossed in its world, in my artistic integrity, in making it the best it could be, I was barely aware of the book as a business proposition, a product. And that’s the way I wanted it. But the moment a book gets released, there’s no denying it becomes a commodity the author must help shift. I found I was changing hats again, not from consumer to creator this time, but from creator to promoter.

As much as I’d tried to familiarise myself with the post-publication world, I wasn’t prepared for just how involved I had to be in the actual marketing of my book. I’d made the grave mistake of thinking I could take some much-earned downtime between finishing my proofs and the book hitting the shelves. But this is in fact the busiest time for a writer. This is the time to take leave from your day job. This is the time to get out all those notes you took at that Marketing Your Book course you were smart enough to enrol in before it actually got published (and, no, I was not smart enough to do it before publication). This is the time you should be tweaking websites, spruiking social media, and offering giveaways in advance of release, setting up interviews, events with local libraries, bookshops and book clubs, and writing features that may help plug the book. Don’t assume your publicist is going to secure any of this for you. Don’t assume you are going to be able secure any of this for yourself, either. Debut fiction, especially the literary kind, is notoriously difficult to promote – which goes hand-in-hand with debut fiction being notoriously difficult to get published. Difficult, but not impossible.

There is plenty you can do and plenty of resources to teach you how. Take the knock-backs on the chin, keep plugging away, and continue until you get some takers to profile your book. After all, getting published was the easy part: you should be up for a little challenge by now!

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Jo Riccioni’s debut novel, The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store, is published by Scribe in Australia and the UK. Her short stories have been published in Best Australian Stories 2010 and 2011, The Age and the Review of Australian Fiction. She has a Masters in Medieval Literature, is a Varuna Fellowship Alumna and also a graduate of the inaugural Faber Writing Academy in Sydney.

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