Nola’s top tip for aspiring authors: Keep writing. It’s so easy to walk away from writing when it gets tough but you will be the poorer for it. Stick at it. Nothing beats that feeling when you finally finish a manuscript. It’s unreal!
Nola Smith is an Australian children’s book author. She is a retired teacher who’s relishing her new found freedom to focus on writing truthful, authentic stories that her readers can escape into. She wants her novels to give hope and courage to anyone doing it tough because of the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. Nola is passionate about writing, her family, spending time with friends, travelling the world and championing the underdog.
Why do you write?
I write because it gives me joy. After years of being so caught up in my work as an educator, I’m loving the freedom I now have to write and create stories that (hopefully) matter. Also, learning the craft of writing a fully fleshed out novel has been a fabulous challenge that I’ve embraced. I’m a firm believer in ‘You’re never too old to learn new things’. I’m absolutely loving the supportive writing community we have here in Western Australia.
Enough is Enough is a contemporary YA novel about unlikely friendships, secrets, trust and courage. It’s gritty but not dark. There were many scenes that had me smiling. What was the inspiration behind this story?
As a Deputy Principal for many years, I spent a lot of time with students who were doing it tough due to their difficult family circumstances. They were often too quickly judged by others. The resilience these young people showed, day in, day out, was inspiring and I wanted my novel to reflect the heart and courage of them.
Also, a few years ago, I read about the apology from both state and federal governments regarding the era of forced adoptions in Australia but particularly in WA. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it was still happening until recent times. I was appalled at the injustice and the lack of voice for women and families who were affected by this horrendous experience. I read as much as I could, especially women’s first-hand accounts. Being a mum of four sons and from a large family myself, I couldn’t imagine the pain and suffering the mothers went through having their child taken from them. Through my book, I hope to give women affected by forced adoptions a voice.
Walk us through your creative process. Once you knew it was a story you wanted to tell, how did you go about it?
I’m a huge planner. I mapped my story chapters using the 3 Act Structure ensuring I hit all the plot points and my characters’ arcs changed over the course of the novel. But, even though I had the main spine of the story outlined, when I started writing the story still had room to evolve and change, as it did.
Enough is Enough is a contemporary novel set in a real place – Fremantle so I researched a lot to get the details such as bus routes and settings accurate. I also read a lot of first hand accounts from women who have expereinced forced adoption.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?
Self doubt to begin with but I found engaging with writing courses and writers’ groups helped build my self belief. Also, being an active member of SCWBI’s Critique groups has been invaluable to improving my skill set.
Probably the biggest obstacle though is being an unknown writer as publishers are being asked to take a chance on me and my novel. A lot of my early rejections indicated they liked my writing style but the story wasn’t what they were looking for at that point in time. Persevering with putting the manuscript out there is tough but essential. It only needs one person to connect with it and you’re away.
How involved have you been in the development of your book?
The book hasn’t really changed since Dixi Books picked it up. I did act on one suggestion regarding the ending and my cute dog. Poor Fluffy!
How has your own adolescence influenced you as a YA author?
I grew up in Kalgoorlie in a large family with a strong social conscience. So, standing up for the underdog has always been important for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing another YA novel about an angry, grief-stricken Manhattan teenager Tessa, ripped from her privileged life to live in Australia where she confronts down-to-earth Aussie girl, Darcy who forces her to work out what’s important in her life. Imagine – Gossip girl meets down-to-earth Aussie girl. I’m calling it ‘Home Truths’ at this stage.
What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?
Funnily enough, ‘hope’. All teenagers go through periods of vulnerability and crises of confidence so I’d love my stories to help them realise they have it within them to find the courage to face life’s challenges whilst being true to themselves.
Is there an area of writing that you find challenging?
A great question. Probably killing off my darlings during editing. You get so involved with your stories and characters your vision becomes clouded. I find it challenging to step back and reflect on whether a scene or a great sentence/paragraph I‘ve pulled together really advances or adds to the story. It can be so hard to press the ‘delete’ button.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?
At times. More so when I have lots going on and I can’t clear my head to dive fully into the story I’m writing. When this happens, I procrastinate and happily get distracted from writing. I find having a routine and sticking to it helps where I know after a walk I’m heading to my desk to write. Making writing a daily habit helps me.
How important is social media to you as an author?
I’m not sure. You read so much about how important it is to have a social media presence but it can be a distraction. Having said that, I’ve found it to be a great way to connect with other authors and also to show others what a journey to publishing a book looks like.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
To read widely. I read a lot of books in the YA genre but also widely in adult and MG. Immersing yourself in others’ stories is so enriching and very helpful to my own craft.
In three words, how would you describe your writing?
Truthful, hopeful & satisfying
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life?
Roald Dahl. To me, he is the most creative children’s author and he’s stood the test of time. His story lines and playful use of language sets him in a class of his own. I’d love to know about his writing process and how he comes up with his incredible ideas.
Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why?
Gough Whitlam so I could thank him personally for everything he did for everyday Australians including giving me a free tertiary education. Being from a large family, I don’t think my parents would’ve been able to afford for me to go to teacher’s college in the city without his Government’s support.
Markus Zusak because he wrote my most favourite book in the world – The Book Thief and he is pretty cute. I’d love to pick his brains on how he comes up with his unique figurative language.
Dave Mundy because I’m a Fremantle Dockers footy tragic and I love Dave for his humanity, heart and footy skills. It’ll be a sad day when he retires.
Finally, Michelle Obama. I admire her for her class, intelligence and humanity. She could bring Barack along with her if she wants.
We all make them – we’re only human
Do we own them? Fix them?
Bury them deep in the dark till they fester into a tangle of
Secret and lies?
Waiting … waiting …
Underdog teen Leroy Jones’ life is a complete mess, shrouded with secrets to protect his vulnerable family. After his young step-brother is badly hurt while in his care, Leroy’s life spirals out of control. A fiery encounter at the hospital with an old lady, Betty, and an Asian boy, Aaron opens up an opportunity for Leroy to earn some badly needed cash.
When Betty reveals a shameful secret, one she’s kept hidden for over sixty years, Leroy has two choices – keep it hidden or act to make it right. What should he do? He seriously has enough on his plate but Betty was so young when she made her mistake. Was she even to blame? But, then again, how can Leroy possibly be Betty’s saviour when he can’t even save himself?
Enough Is Enough is a book about unlikely friendships and finding the courage to trust others with your secrets no matter how bad they are.
For more information about Nola, visit her website: https://www.nolasmithauthor.com
There are links on the website where the book can be purchased online.
Here are a couple:
Dixi Books: https://dixibooks.com/product/enough-is-enough/