Michael’s top writing tip: Before you start, have a rough idea of the beginning, middle, climax and end. Get the first draft down. Keep going until you do. The craft and joy is in the rewriting. Get your novel in the best shape you can by as many new drafts as necessary, editing and polishing before you send it out. Get a good independent assessment, irrespective of cost. Friends and family won’t/can’t tell you about the smallest of faults. Someone with no fear or favour will. Be kind to yourself. If something isn’t coming, let the world turn a bit then come back to the problem.
Michael Costello is an AWGIE winning playwright, television and screenwriter. His plays have been produced around Australia and New Zealand. Of his award winning play Royal Affair, Chris Mead, the Curator of the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference, stated “… rich, intelligent and seductive, (Michael Costello) writes with sagacity and wit”. He was commissioned by Sue Smith to write an original episode for her Close Ups series for the ABC and has received funding from the NSWFTO for a feature film. He is currently working on a new play and has two other novels in the works.
Why do you write? I used to write as a child, and then gave it away when I joined the Public Service. Then at one stage I said to myself that I wasn’t going to get to 70 and regret not pursuing my writing. I went on part time work, did courses, got my skills up and went for it. I have had some success and no regrets.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Painting. Pictures, not houses!
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? To believe in the quality of my writing enough to self-publish rather than send off to various publishers and wait to hear back or be rejected because my novel wasn’t to their taste. I wasn’t prepared to throw away the years put into this novel. I backed myself and self-published.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? It is something pretty wonderful when the right words and ideas align. You come to understand that this is why you write.
—the worst? Having to take out your editor’s scalpel and cut away favourite bits of plot and characters that slow down the narrative. You know you are doing the right thing, but it is hard to let go sometimes. You just have to be tough.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d continue writing from an early age and not waste creative years by letting life and work take over.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Enjoy what you do. Of course there will be ups and downs and a lot of rejection along the way, but it will be worth it.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Have a number of projects going. When you finish a draft or rewrite on one, put it aside to filter through your brain and work on another. When you come back to the first project with fresh eyes, you’ll see the faults with clarity and sometimes the remedy is at hand as well.
It’s 1985 and Pat returns to his small wheat town to settle his father’s estate. He recalls the events when he first moved there from Sydney as an eight year old in 1955 with twin brother Doug and his GP father.
Season of Hate explores the friendship between Pat and Doug and Johnny, a mute Aboriginal teenager. In those first two years in their seemingly ideal world, the boys are exposed to the best and worst of human nature as they become aware of the undercurrents of discrimination and racial bigotry that erupt into violence. In particular, that one night where Pat’s own life is challenged. The night where one wanton act places the town’s very livelihood in jeopardy. The book is available here.