Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Wilbur Smith, Michael Koryta and Alexandra Potter

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog. My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and  Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


“It’s not a game for sissies. If at first you don’t succeed try! Try! And then try some more.”

Read the full interview here…

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“Write every day, for as much time as you can spare, because it isn’t a craft that can be learned through random bursts of creativity, but rather slow, steady, and focused efforts. Read in as wide a range as possible, read interviews with the writers you admire, try to find out as much as possible about the process. The craft should be viewed as a constant education.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy The Ridge from Booktopia
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“I get a lot of emails to website ( asking for advice on how to get a novel published. And I say the same thing over and over: If I can do it, so you can you. But you have to really REALLY want it.

I love being a writer, but it’s not all about book launches and bestseller lists and glossy interviews. Writing isn’t glamorous. In fact most of the time it can be deeply frustrating, lonely, terrifying and long… very, very long. A book takes me eighteen months from start to finish and a lot of that time is spent battling writer’s book and thinking it’s all a big mistake and is anyone ever going to read this!

So you have to be determined. You have to keep putting in the hours, even when you only have one deleted sentence at the end of a weekend you’d devoted to writing a whole chapter. You have to believe you can do it, even when that inner critical voice of yours is yelling, ‘Give up! It’s rubbish’.

And you just have to keep writing. Day in, day out. Like you’re running a marathon. A few words. A line. A whole paragraph. Until one day you will finally reach the finishing line, and you will look up from your computer screen and realise that all those words have made a novel. And the pain will all have been worth it. Trust me. There is no feeling in the world like it.

Just don’t give up.

Read the full interview here…

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For more advice from published writers go here

Wilbur Smith, author of Those in Peril, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks


author of Those in Peril, When the Lion Feeds, Elephant Song, River God, Assegai, Hungry as the Sea, Cry Wolf, Warlock and many, many 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 on the banks of the Zambesi River and roaring lions heralded my birth. I was raised in the bush and schooled by sadists wielding canes. Now go and read the truth on my website.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a matador because I had just read Death in the Afternoon. At eighteen I wanted to be a gigolo because girls smelt so good. At thirty I wanted to be a novelist so I was.

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

That it was obligatory to marry every girl who came to my bed.

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?

King Solomon’s Mines by Rider Haggard, Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin’s polynesian women, and Jungle drums beating in the African night.

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

For me there was only one avenue open. I couldn’t sing nor dance nor wield a paint brush worth a damn.. but I Continue reading

Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

I have been selling Wilbur Smith novels for nearly twenty years and I have come to the conclusion that there is no typical Wilbur Smith reader. Anyone can get the Wilbur Smith bug. Anyone, and at any age. I’ve known teens who have made their way though the entire Wilbur Smith backlist. I’ve had dinner with toffs who drop the elitist claptrap and break into sentimental reminisces at the mere mention of Smith’s Elephant Song. I’ve sold Wilbur Smith to men and to women, the young and the old, the silly and the wise.

Wilbur Smith’s novels are appealing. His stories range far and wide – in time and space, from present day to Ancient Egypt. They are a perfect escape and that is why he has topped the bestseller lists for nearly fifty years.

Those in Peril is an outstanding adventure from one of the world’s best loved storytellers.

About Those in Peril : Hazel Bannock is the heir to the Bannock Oil Corp, one of the major oil producers with global reach. While cruising in the Indian Ocean, Hazel’s private yacht is hijacked by African pirates. Hazel is not on board at the time, but her nineteen year old daughter, Cayla, is kidnapped and held to ransom. The pirates demand a crippling twenty billion dollar ransom for her release. Complicated political and diplomatic considerations render the civilized major powers incapable of intervening.

When Hazel is given evidence of the horrific torture which Cayla is being subjected to, she calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter. Hector is the owner and operator of Cross Bow Security, the company which is contracted to Bannock Oil to provide all their security. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.

If you haven’t read a Wilbur Smith novel before, Those in Peril is a perfect place to start – it’s fresh off the press, contemporary and thrilling. If you have a read Wilbur Smith, I have no need to say anything because you’ve probably already added the book to your shopping cart!

Click here to visit our Wilbur Smith author page.

Click here to pre-order Those In Peril

P.S. We have the entire Wilbur Smith backlist from as low as $9.50 each! – The Courtneys, The Courtneys of Africa, The Ballantyne Novels, The Egyptian Novels and the standalone novels.

Once, When We Were Innocent – My Pre-Internet Pursuit of the Forbidden

Back when I was growing up, in the dark days before the Internet, there were very few ways to learn about sex.

There were, on occasion, a few glimpses of nudie pictures –  usually someone’s older brother’s Playboy. But these pictures were inert and added to the mystery surrounding sex, instead of offering illumination.

As a child of the eighties, I looked to TV for entertainment, for knowledge, for guidance. I shunned all books. In fact, I never noticed any books in my house, though I now know there must have been books, my father being a reader. Who needed books when they had TV? But TV never spoke of sex. At least not directly. Obliquely maybe, cleverly, but I was a boy who had no finer senses. Even as a grown man subtlety is still somewhat baffling.

It was my best friend who first drew my attention to the strange rectangular objects grown ups and dorks read. He was the first to show me that there was a link between books, reading and sex.

His father liked to read big, fat, trashy novels, which he left about the house when they had revealed their secrets and were useless to him. My best friend would have to move these spent entertainments from chairs before sitting, tables before eating and in the bathroom he would have to kick aside an overfull basket of novels to do his business.

It was in the bathroom that he made his discovery.

At twelve my best friend was my confidante, there was very little he did not know about me and little I didn’t know about him. By thirteen, however, there were secrets. One of which was knowledge of what was contained in these books. My best friend did not share his forbidden fruit with me.

Overnight, my best friend became a reader. This felt like a betrayal. Wasn’t TV good enough for him?

Every time I saw him he was reading a new book. I only lived two doors from him so I saw him at least five times a day. Five fat books a day? Boy! that kid could read...

Then I began to notice him using a patronising tone whenever our discussions turned to the subject of girls and sex. We were thirteen, all of our discussions turned to girls and sex. This tone was annoying and would have lead to a complete rupture had not his secret been revealed.

“I know because I read about it!” he said, in the midst of a heated of a dispute about the mechanics of sex.

“You read about it? There is sex in books!?”

To prove his point he had to find the book and the particular passage. We went into his house and wandered from place to place picking up this book and that. Each time he would do the same thing. He’d hold the book in his palm and let the book flop open by itself. He’d scan the open pages and then say, “No, that’s not it.”

Finally, he discovered the passage and showed me. Mamma Mia! My eyes almost popped out of my head. Here, in print were all the words we were told were forbidden. Here, in words, were all of the acts we were told were forbidden. The rudest, filthiest practices known to mankind were between the covers of these seemingly innocuous objects.

And my best friend’s father left them around the house for the whole world to see!

There was a book called The Godfather, another called Shogun, and books by James A. Michener, Wilbur Smith, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins and on and on and on. Some opened easily on the pertinent passages, some hid their lessons deep within pages of boring clap-trap, and some made you feel like a prospector panning for gold, sifting through the mud and the slime for a few lines of smut.

And then suddenly you’d discover a copy of Clan of the Cave Bears and a cry would ring out of the mountains – Eureka! (Just imagine if our parents were more imaginative and owned copies of Story of ‘O’, Henry Miller’s Sexus or the Marquis de Sade?)

I certainly looked at adults differently after the discovery. Is that why they were always trying to get us to read?

And apparently, we were both slow on the uptake. We soon learnt that his sisters and my sisters had known all along that there was sex in books. Their books had sex in them. Virginia Andrews, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susan.

Even Judy Blume!

Years later, some of these books and their detailed accounts of sex lead to problems. One girl I knew had read in a Harold Robbin‘s novel that a girl will know she has lost her virginity because her lover will bite hard on her earlobe at the crucial moment. Another friend had almost ended up in traction trying to re-enact a favourite scene from an Eric Van Lustbader novel.

My best friend’s discovery lead to me reading. True, this was an inauspicious beginning to my reading life. In fact, it was years before I read an adult novel in its entirety, from cover to cover. And when I did, the choice, Jaws, did not encourage further attempts.

But by then I didn’t need books in the same way. So, after reading Jaws, I gave up reading for a time.

The beginnings of my other reading life, which began a few years later, had nothing to do with sex… well, not as much to do with sex. So I’ll leave that story for another time.

It all must seem a little quaint to modern kids who gain a thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of sex the first time they search for images of the Wiggles on Google or look up Enid Blyton‘s series of novels – The Adventurous Four, or watch music clips on Rage on a Sunday morning. But in the eighties if you wanted to know stuff, you had two options – TV and Books.

If you wanted to know forbidden stuff, however, there was only one option, the trash your parents read.


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