Meet the Author: Brendan Colley

Brendan’s top tip for authors: Diversify. Write short fiction. Write poetry. Seek to get published in smaller outlets. If you’re writing novels, allocate time in your week/month/year to explore other forms. Publishing shorter work not only broadens your skills, but gives you the encouragement to persist, and stay the course.

Brendan Colley was born in South Africa. After graduating with a degree in education, he taught in the UK and Japan for 11 years before settling down in Australia in 2007. He lives in Hobart with his bookseller wife.

His debut novel The Signal Line won the Unpublished Manuscript Prize in the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Awards.

@brendancolley

Author Insight

Why do you write?

My reasons for writing have changed over time. Essentially, it’s something I must do at the end of every day. I had a passion for scribbling words on paper, so I started writing stories. That evolved into a wish to be read, then to be published, and after many fruitless years, a desire to create something I loved. These days, the act of fetching something down is organic to who I am. I’d write if nobody read what I wrote. There’s a pay-off in the discipline, and that’s the thing I learned after 25 years of rejection. Writing is its own reward, and I couldn’t have known that if I’d been published earlier.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

I have a day job, so writing occupies that extra time that might otherwise be spent on a serious hobby. If I didn’t write, I’d probably learn a musical instrument (piano). My wife also writes, and if we both didn’t write I’m sure we’d do something together, like learn a language (Japanese). We met in Japan, where we were both working as English teachers. We never became fluent, as we spent all our free time on our creative projects. That’s always been a regret.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

My passion for writing is greater than my talent for writing. The imagination and ideas were there from the beginning, but the craft took a long time to develop. Fortunately, I can outsit anyone if I love something enough J

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover?

Transit Lounge, my publisher, has been a true gift to me. My novel has received so much love and careful attention. At every point of the process I had an active voice: but the team that helped bring this novel into the world understood what it needed, and I tried hard to let go of my preconceptions and defer to their judgment as much as I could.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

That I can depend on it. My wife writes in the early morning, and tends to retire early; I write in the evenings. Regardless of what the day has been, writing is there waiting for me at 9 p.m. All I need to do is have the discipline to sit in the chair, and things will arrive that entertain me, mystify me, heal me, or make me suffer (in a beautiful way). It’s the surprise gift I get to interact with at the end of every day; and I need it.

—the worst?

I say ‘no’ a lot. I could have travelled more, seen more, met more people, socialised more. My wife and I live in a TV free house, and prioritise reading as much for our writing as we do for the pleasure of reading. I treat my 9 p.m. writing start time as seriously as I do the start time to my working day. I’ve lost count of the social invitations I’ve turned down over the years. It’s not something I’m proud of; and it isn’t useful. The well needs to be filling to have something meaningful to write about, and the tension between having the discipline to cut yourself from the world to write, and releasing yourself from the chair to make connections and have experiences, is a constant struggle for me.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Diversify. Write short fiction. Write poetry. Seek to get published in smaller outlets. If you’re writing novels, allocate time in your week/month/year to explore other forms. I’ve always been drawn to the longer form: feature length screenplays in the early years; and the novel. As such, I only got to test the quality of my work every 4-6 years. Two decades can pass with a room plastered in rejection slips from less than a half-dozen projects. Publishing shorter work not only broadens your skills, but gives you the encouragement to persist, and stay the course. Importantly, it will add detail for the bio paragraph in your query letter when you produce something that is ready.

How important is social media to you as an author?

I’m only recently published, so I’ve never thought of social media in terms of publicity. On the other hand, it’s great for sharing my writing journey with friends and family.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

I don’t know if I believe in writer’s block; although I certainly experience stretches of time where a scene or a project feels like it’s at a standstill. My way of pushing through these moments is to stay in the act of creating. If I can’t commit words to my work-in-progress, I’ll spend the session writing something else: a poem; a typed letter to a friend; a shorter piece; or play around with an idea I’ve been collecting notes for. In this way, I’m keeping the channel open. Like anything worthwhile, writing is hard, requiring a significant output of energy, so there’s an expectation at the start of any session that there’s a pain barrier of sorts to push through. But though it’s challenging, there’s a satisfaction to be gained; and if there’s none, that’s usually a sign for me to write something else for a bit.

How do you deal with rejection?

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of starting my next project on the same day I finish my current one. I always know what I’m working on next; so there’s an excitement for that first session. It involves A4 sheets of paper, index cards, coloured pens, and the sketching of schematics. That first session – though I may have been collecting notes on the project for years – is momentous. Everything’s possible, there are no mistakes to be made, and it hasn’t started to hurt yet. It builds anticipation for the second, third, and fourth sessions. In this way, as I go through the heart-wrenching process of querying my manuscript, I’m bit-by-bit gifting my creative spirit to something else. It doesn’t soften the blow of rejection, but by drawing life from another inspiration, I’m reminded that the act of creating something is the thing I need most.  

In three words, how would you describe your writing?

Quirky, strange, heartfelt.

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?

Diane Samuels is an author and playwright. I only learned of her last year, on a podcast in which she was in conversation with Paul Kalburgi on The Writer’s Toolkit. The way she approaches creativity, and how she articulates it, resonated deeply with me. She writes with a spirit and an attitude that is a true example. I’d love to with talk with her about it. One jewel she shared was a question someone put to her early in her journey:

Do you want a writing career; or a writing life?

I wish someone had challenged me with this question when I was starting out. For so many years I wrote with an angst that was counter-productive to the spirit of creating; when all along I had what I was looking for.

Book Byte

Brothers Geo and Wes are testing their relationship now that their parents have passed away. Geo and Wes rarely agree on anything, especially not the sale of the Hobart family home. Geo needs the money to finance his musical career in Italy. For Wes the house represents the memory of their father, and what it means to live an honest, working life.
But then a ghost train appears in Hobart, often on the tram tracks that once existed, along with the Swedish man who
has been pursuing it for 40 years. Everyone it seems is chasing their dreams. Or are they running from the truth?
The Signal Line is a warm-hearted, unforgettable novel about what we are all searching for, even when our personal dreams and aspirations have collapsed: love and acceptance.

You can buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Sharon Giltrow

Join a critique group where you can share your story with like-minded people. Take their feedback and make your story even better, while at the same time give feedback on their story.

Sharon Giltrow

Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and deaf-blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut picture book, Bedtime Daddy! was released in May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up picture book, Get Ready, Mama! was released through EK books last month. Her third and fourth picture books, Let’s Go Shopping, Grandma! And Let’s Go to The Beach, Grandpa! are due to be released through Dixi Books in 2022 and 2023. Samara Rubin and the Utility Belt, book one in Sharon’s early middle grade series The Utility Belt, will be released in 2022 through Clear Fork Publishing,  with book two Toby King and the Utility Belt to follow. Sharon is also a blogger for the Children’s Book Academy.

Author insight

Why do you write? I write because I have to. I have this need to write. If I haven’t written for a couple of days, I feel lost. Writing gives me a purpose and a creative outlet.

Where do you find your inspiration? All around me. In the everyday. A word, something I see or something someone says.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Humorous, relatable, inspiring.

How much of an asset is your teaching background when it comes to writing your books for children? Being a teacher is a great asset for my writing. I am surrounded by my audience and can see what they like and relate to. It is also very helpful when it comes to author visits as I know how to present to children.

Who has been the strongest influence on your writing life? The writing community that I am a member of both here in Australia and overseas. In particular my critique groups, for without them I would not have any books published.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Thinking I’m not good enough to be an author, even after I have had books published. Oh, and convincing a publisher to publish my work.

How involved are you in your book cover designs and illustrations?

So far, I have been very involved in the cover design and illustrations for my books. For Get Ready, Mama! I was given cover designs to choose from. I loved them all but in the end, I offered a different idea for the cover. The publisher loved the idea and that became the cover. When I receive the storyboards for my books, I write my text on it to see how the text and the illustrations match. Then if needed I offer suggestions.

What do you hope readers will take away from your books? That although the everyday can sometimes be challenging it is also very joyful. Also humour can be found everywhere if you take the time to look.

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have a story idea, what’s your next step? After writing the idea down, then finding it again, and deciding it is the one, I spend the next week brainstorming for twenty minutes every day. Then I plot out my story using the ‘Three-act structure’. Beginning – hook, intro, problem, set up. Middle – challenges, obstacles, confrontation. Ending – completion and resolution. Then I start writing.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I am a plotter so if I have followed the above creative process then I don’t usually experience ‘writer’s block’. I do experience ‘writer’s procrastination’ and that is usually at the start of the process. If I am in the middle of the process and I am feeling stuck I go for a walk with a question about the story in my mind and usually while I’m walking, I get an answer, which I then record using voice memos on my phone. Also, if I am writing a longer piece of work I try and stop in a spot that I can easily come back to i.e., in the middle of a scene.

Is there an area of writing that you find challenging? Choosing which idea to write about and getting started. Oh, and rejections from agents and publishers, they are hard on the ego. But I pick myself up and keep going.

What are you working on at the moment? I have an early middle grade book being released this year, which is about an 11-year-old girl who is given a mysterious gift. I am currently editing book two and writing book three in this series.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Taking an idea and making it into a complete world, with characters, settings, problems and resolutions. I love that as a writer I can create a character and build a world for them that never existed before.

—the worst? The waiting! Waiting to get a contract, waiting for the book to be published, waiting for children to read my books.

How important is social media to you as an author? For me social media is very important. It allows me to promote my work. It also provides me with an international community that supports me and who I can support.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t give up. That book contract could be just around the corner and if you give up now you will never get published. Someone told me that you need to aim for at least one hundred rejections before you get signed. This number gave me something to aim for. I signed my first book contract after a total of 190 rejections across different manuscripts.

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? That’s tough it would be a choice between Mo Williems, Mac Barnett or Jon Klassen. I love their humorous books. But if I had to choose one it would be Mo Williems. I would like him to tell me the secret to writing such funny books. Also if he has any ideas lying around that he didn’t need. And why can’t the pigeon drive the bus?

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? My family. My husband because he would keep me calm. My son because he would be more scared than me and I would have to pretend to be calm for him. My daughter because she would have her phone in her hand and could call for help while making a hilarious TikTok.

Book byte

Even the most reluctant risers will find the fun in the morning routine with this lively role-reversal story about a mama who just doesn’t want to get ready!

Getting Mama ready for the day can be a challenge… you’d better watch out that she doesn’t sneak back into bed, try to distract you with cuddles, get breakfast all over her top, or… wait, is Mama watching TV? Learn how to get Mama up and ready despite her mischievous delaying tactics with this essential guide to dealing with morning mayhem!

With gorgeous illustrations and playful writing, Get Ready, Mama! is the perfect way to introduce some fun into the morning routine. Little ones will delight in the cheeky role-reversal that sees a young girl doing everything she can to get her reluctant mother out of the house, while parents and carers will gain a strategy for motivating reluctant risers.

Getting ready in the morning is a mission for many families with young children, but this inventive, tongue-in-cheek story provides a fun way of speeding things along. Full of heart and humour, Get Ready, Mama! is for anyone who has heard enough of “five more minutes”.

Buy the book at https://ekbooks.org/product/get-ready-mama/?v=fdd13832cd81

or https://bookshop.org/books/get-ready-mama/9781922539083

Find out more about Sharon and her writing life on her website https://www.sharongiltrowauthor.com/

Meet the Author: Sean Rabin

There is definitely something to learn from rejection. Maybe the work isn’t ready. Maybe you’re not ready as a person. Maybe you’re not approaching the right publisher… I’ve always known persistence was key to writing.

Sean Rabin

Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Sean Rabin has worked as a cook, script reader, copy-editor, freelance journalist and librarian. He has lived in Ireland, Italy, London and New York, and now resides in Sydney, Australia. His debut novel Wood Green (Giramondo) was shortlisted for The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2017 and The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016 and was also longlisted for the ALS Gold Medal. It was published in the UK by Dodo Ink in 2016.

Author insight

Why do you write? To clarify what I’m thinking. To catch the stories floating through my imagination. To wrestle with language. To feel I’m functioning to my full potential.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? It’s very hard for me to imagine not writing – maybe I’d be a cook, but a sad, possible drunken one.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The market. I could write, but I couldn’t write for the market. For a long time publishers were only looking for social realism, which doesn’t interest me at all. I prefer more imagination in writing – more elasticity in language – and it took a long time for me to find the right publisher. Barry Scott at Transit Lounge is the type of publisher a writer dreams of working with – interested in difference, supportive, professional, brave.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I had a large role in the cover for my first novel (Wood Green), so for The Good Captain I was interested to see what a designer would come up with. Transit Lounge gave me eight choices designed by Peter Lo, but we all agreed what the best one was. Everyone who sees it says, wow, great cover. Which is exactly what you want. I couldn’t be happier as it really captures the nature of the story.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The writing. It doesn’t always come easy, but the slow methodical arrival of something truly unexpected makes all the effort worthwhile. Sometimes it’s like an out of body experience – I forget where I am and the words just appear – like channelling some idea or message from another dimension – a bit like reading, I suppose. Of course there’s a lot of time spent wrangling those words into making sense, but the long years of persistent solitary intellectual work is the reason why I keep writing.

—the worst? Trying to understand and work with the priorities of the publishing industry can be depressing. Although it’s nice to receive recognition for what you do, be it financial or professional, I try to remember that publishing and writing are two separate activities.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I started writing when I was eight and wrote my first book at 15, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have listened to any good advice at that age. But if I could send back one message, I would definitely tell my younger self to turn off the television and read more and write more, and then read some more. I think I’ve always known persistence was key to writing, but perhaps I would also tell myself to speak less and listen more and ask other people about their lives.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? The only thing being published will change is other people. You, unfortunately, will remain exactly the same.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t give up. You may go insane, but don’t give up because what you have is what everyone else is looking for. Purpose.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read widely. I sometimes sense that many writers don’t have a very broad idea of what a novel can do. As a young man, my Friday nights were often spent exploring second-hand bookshops, learning about writers and the history of literature beyond the canon. Read writers who take risks – not just with their subject matter but also how their words appear on the page and how they sound in your head. Read writers who might even be dangerous or that history has tried to leave behind. Also, pay attention to contemporary writers doing brave work – Anna Burns, Lucy Ellmann, Marlon James, Fernanda Melchor, Paul Beatty, Alexis Wright. All very successful writers who refuse to play the game of squeaky-clean prose.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not on social media so not important at all.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t experience writer’s block.

How do you deal with rejection? I’ve had a lot of rejection for my work. My first short story was published when I was 42, and my first novel when I was 46. There’s an envelope in my desk full of rejection letters from agents and publishers. It’s pretty hard to take – I sometimes feel a little broken by the whole experience. But there is definitely something to learn from rejection. Maybe the work isn’t ready. Maybe you’re not ready as a person. Maybe you’re not approaching the right publisher. Maybe you’re being stupid – I certainly was on many occasions. Of course a rejection is personal – it’s your book. So feel the pain, curl up into a ball, give up the whole damn thing for a day, then get back to work the next morning. If someone has taken the time to write what they think is wrong with the work, give their comments your consideration. Just because they said no doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Doesn’t mean they’re right either. Just take what you need.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Active, unexpected, evolving.

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? Lucy Ellmann – I’d ask her how she found the courage to write Ducks, Newburyport in this publishing environment, and how she didn’t lose faith when people started to say no.

Book byte

Set in the near future – during a time of plummeting fish stocks, toxic algae blooms and jellyfish swarms – The Good Captain follows a group of radical environmentalists committed to a mission of extreme civil disobedience against the powers threatening to destroy the last of the world’s marine life.
Led by the wild Rena – born and raised by the ocean – the characterful crew engages in a high seas drama that contains all the thrill of a cat-and-mouse seafaring classic, while at the same time offering a timely warning for the political classes that their negligence will not go unpunished.
Evoking a disturbing vision of what the world might soon become – random, dangerous, surprising and sometimes even miraculous – The Good Captain is a gripping, confronting novel.

Buy the book here.

Off the page with Amra Pajalic

I’ve always been interested in learning how other writers work and what they do when they aren’t focusing on what’s happening on the page of their latest novel. Today it’s my pleasure to introduce AMRA PAJALIC, an award-winning author whose latest book is a short story collection, The Cuckoo’s Song.

I am constantly tweaking and updating my writing routine to fit in with my changing life. The first few years as a full-time high school teacher I squeezed my writing into the edge of my life, on weekends and school holidays, fighting to keep a foothold in my writing world as the demands of teaching pressed in on me. I used my writing group and sought mentorships to give me much-needed deadlines and accountability.

As I adapted to my teaching load I realised I needed my writing life to have a larger portion of my life. I needed to write every day to remain tethered to my work in progress and to have it flow quicker, so I began waking up at 5.30 am to write for an hour and a half before I had to get ready for work.

I write listening to music soundtracks that act like white noise, shutting of my editorial brain, as I immerse myself in a stream of consciousness state. Some days I woke up with no inspiration and would write song lyrics or diary entries, until my muse was nudged awake and the words flowed. Each day became easier with the novel unfurling before me. The only issue was that as a pantser I kept overwriting, my drafts extending longer and longer, to 140K that I then had to fight to trim down.

I discovered that I had to focus on getting a first draft complete before embarking on any edits. That when I hit the 20K mark the novel began writing itself, and that no matter how long I took to write a book, I would always return to the ending that I had first imagined.

Now I had to work on refining my structure and realised that when I hit the 20K mark I had to develop the rest of the novel so that I didn’t get caught up in overwriting. I experimented with various books on structure, Save the Cat, The Breakout Novel, and each one added to my toolbox. I now know to write a synopsis when I hit the 20K marks and to keep referring to that as I go.

I use Scrivener to write my work in progress and find it helps me with refining the structure as it is easy to move chapters around and have a synopsis of each. I love the feature to insert my research notes and websites I am using so that I can always go back and re-check facts. I use the  Character sheets to insert images of my characters and develop their profiles, and Setting sheets to find photos of my settings and record notes about description. I also like colour coding sections that might be in different points of view or timelines to help me visualise the structure.

One of my character sheets in Scrivener.

I am now working part time and have one day off to prioritise my writing and no longer need to have a rigid writing routine. When I am developing my first draft I write every day, at least 1000 words, and this can be in the morning or afternoon. When the draft is complete I seek feedback from my critique partner and refine it.

At my standing desk.

I am now also using a standing desk and move around the house to write around my household routine. With much needed time I don’t have to fight so hard to prioritise writing and find myself fitting in writing sessions multiple times a day. Each draft is getting quicker and my hope is that I can keep prioritising my writing life as I reduce my teaching life.

You can find Amra online at the following links:

http://www.amrapajalic.com/

https://www.instagram.com/amrapajalicauthor/

https://www.tiktok.com/@amrapajalic

https://www.facebook.com/AmraPajalicAuthor/https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amra-pajalic

Amra’s short story collection The Cuckoo’s Song features previously published and prize-winning stories. It features stories she has written over the past two decades and are the map that reveal her growth and evolution as an author. Delving into familiar themes of family dissolution, deprivation of war, tenderness of family and the heart-rending experiences of mental illness, Amra also moves into new territory with previously unpublished thriller stories.
Many stories are extracts of her previously published novels such as Suicide Watch which features her protagonist Sabiha in a scene cut from her award-winning debut novel The Good Daughter. Also included are previously published
stand-alone pieces that became her memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me, that was shortlisted for the 2020 National Biography Award.

You can buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Dimity Powell

It might take decades to be an overnight success. Persistence, patience and consistency are key.

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell loves to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews exclusively for children with over 30 published stories and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, and as creative digital content, but picture books are her jam. Her latest titles include, This is My Dad (2022), Oswald Messweather (2021), Pippa (2019), the SCBWI Crystal Kite 2019 award-winning At the End of Holyrood Lane (2018), and critically acclaimed, The Fix-It Man (2017) also in simplified Chinese. 

Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker, semi-professional chook wrangler, Border collie lover, seasoned presenter and dedicated Books in Homes Australia Volunteer Role Model, Story City Community Mentor and G.A.T.EWAYS presenter who can’t surf despite living on the Gold Coast, Australia. Visit her anytime at: www.dimitypowell.com

Author Insight

Why do you write and what is about writing for children that keeps you producing stories for young readers?

The magic of experiencing a story unfold both as a reader and writer is something I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of. Stories were one of my whole reasons for being as a kid and while not all kids these days love reading as much as I did and still do, I hope know there is a story out there for them that provides that same mystifying personal connection; maybe it just hasn’t been written yet or in a way that resonates with them. This is part of what compels me to write on.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author?

My sister and I still have aspirations of running a tea and book shop together; she’d drink and bake and nibble all day. I would hide in some corner and read, naturally. I’ve always wanted to be a Vet too, so I reckon I’d be in the country somewhere running an animal practice (and possibly writing in between birthing calves!).

What do you wish you’d been told before you decided to become an author?

Birthing calves might be slightly more lucrative than making stuff up.

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I truly think the best stories come from life – and simply living it. That said, many of my picture book story lines are promoted by a casual suggestion or request for something. I welcome story prompts as they are often the green-go buttons that set my creative thought processes in progress.

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have a story idea, what’s your next step?

Once the seed of an idea or story is planted, I normally allow it to germinate organically, in other words, I sit and think and ruminate on a number of possibilities, characters, names, outcomes. Then I’ll often draft these initial ruminations in long hand in a note book. I prefer to ‘hear’ my characters’ stories and let them tell them to me in my head before committing them to paper. Time, quiet and space are the best fertilisers for this part. Once the rough outline is captured on paper, I then switch to recording everything online: editing, exploring language, researching statistics, endings, character arcs, more editing … I normally get a trusted crit buddy to eye over the manuscript as well before even thinking about submitting.

How has your childhood influenced the writer you’ve become?

I think it’s more about the books I read and how they made me feel as a young reader that I still hold on to. I try to remember that when penning a story for a particular age group. No matter what happened to me in my own childhood, it’s how I reacted to it or felt about that experience that provides the most useful and authentic elements in my storytelling today.

Share a little about your path to publication.

After completing a creative children’s writing course while my child was still in Kindy, I promptly set up a spread sheet to record my rejections! This wasn’t for lack of confidence in my abilities rather simply an expectation as the norm. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it for a while as the first short story I ever submitted to the NSW School Magazine was accepted.

After that I won a publishing competition which resulted in my junior novel, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? (2012) and really launched my notoriety as an emerging children’s author. My ambition to publish a picture book was realised in 2017 with, The Fix-It Man after a long and arduous period of ups and downs. My publication apprenticeship continues to this very day.

How closely were you involved in the creation of the illustrations for your beautiful book This is My Dad? Are they what you envisioned for this story?

Nicky’s illustrations are again, 100% spot on for this story. We collaborate effortlessly but this time there was little involvement or back and forth necessary, possibly because this is our third book together and I have immense and implicit trust in her ability to ‘get’ my narrative intent.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?

I hope readers both young and old feel a genuine connection with my characters that transcends simple entertainment. I hope they are moved to feel and ponder on the experiences those characters endure and are better able to understand their own situations and the world around them because of their stories. And ultimately, to appreciate that everyone’s story matters.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

Not usually. If a particular narrative has too many road humps, I simply write around it, invite a bit of that precious ‘quiet’ time and wait for the solution to present itself. It always does. Walking my demanding dogs helps too. Never underestimate the cleansing, rejuvenating power of nature.

Is there an area of writing that you still find challenging?

Endings. And reaching them. So really, most areas! Honestly, though, when something ‘writes itself’, it’s awesome however without the challenge of the odd struggle, not only would my job be less interesting but my stories more pedestrian.

What are you working on at the moment?

There’s a second, Pippa picture book in the works for publication this year or next and I currently have a few other picture book scripts in various stages of development that I absolutely love.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? —the worst?

Best: I get to learn something new each and every day. EVERY day. I love that.

Worst: Hmm, not having a functioning Time Turner necklace thingy like Hermione had.

How important is social media to you as an author?

I’ve known successful authors who lived without it but for sheer visibility and accessibility, I think it’s pretty vital. If nothing else, it gives creatives a chance to preen and self-pontificate a bit, right! SM does provide platforms to celebrate each tiny baby step forward too, which is important in this business as not all wins are colossal to begin with. The key is finding the platform you are most comfortable with and represents, ‘you’ the best, then be consistent.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

It takes decades to be an overnight success.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

It might take decades to be an overnight success. Persistence, patience and consistency are key.

In three words, how would you describe your writing?

Are you kidding? I can’t describe anything in three words! Here goes: mellifluous, satirical, pure-hearted.

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?

Stephen Fry. He’s like every Shakespearean play rolled into one; tragic, comic, historically brilliant and desperately poetic. He could tell me anything he wants; I’m sure I’d find it illuminating.

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?

Ryan Reynolds. Because I’d really like to visit Canada one day and I need to know more about Deadpool 3.

Book Byte

Leo lives with his monster-battling, world creating, children’s author mother, and has never known a father figure. So when his teacher announces Tell Us About Your Dad Day, Leo’s tummy flip-flops; he worries that he won’t have anything to present to his class. Then he remembers that he already knows someone cool, courageous and clever – someone who’s not his dad, but is his everything. A heart-warming celebration of families of all shapes and sizes that will resonate with millions of children.

Available from EK Books:

Or

Dimity Powell: https://dimitypowell.com/this-is-my-dad/ – signed copies

Amazon Books:

Boomerang Books:

Booktopia:

Dymocks Books:

Readings Books:

Barnes and Noble:

Indigo Books:  

This Is My Dad Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgWxDgJnHpY

 

Meet the Author: Dominique Wilson

Don’t wait for the muse, she’s too flighty to be relied upon – just write. Be professional – ie: put in the work, accept criticism, meet deadlines. And lastly, read. Read constantly, in the genre you want to write and in other genres as well, because they all have something to teach you.

Dominique Wilson

Dominique Wilson was born of French parents in Algiers, Algeria. She grew up in a country torn by civil war, until she and her family fled to Australia.

Dominique holds both a BA [Professional Writing and Communications] and a Bachelor of Visual Communication [Illustration and Design] from the University of South Australia and, from the University of Adelaide, a Masters [Creative Writing] and a PhD, for which she was awarded the University Doctoral Research Medal.

In 2005 she was founding Managing Editor of Wet Ink: the magazine of new writing, a position she held until she resigned in 2012. From 2007 to 2010 Dominique was Chair of the Adelaide branch of International PEN.

Dominique’s short stories have been published nationally and read on ABC Radio. Her debut novel The Yellow Papers [Transit Lounge, 2014] and her second novel That Devil’s Madness [Transit Lounge, 2016] were both published to critical acclaim. Her most recent work, Orphan Rock, published by Transit Lounge, came out this month.

Author Insight

Why do you write? I have always been an avid reader, reading across many genres. Then when my daughters were born, I not only read to them every day, but also started making up stories for them. Going on to write for adults seemed the next natural step. I write because I’m interested in the human condition – why do people behave as they do? Why is it that some can withstand the most horrific conditions, whilst others collapse at the smallest upset? What makes a ‘good’ person? A ‘bad’ person? And is anyone truly all ‘good’ or ‘bad’? These are issues I explored in my previous book – The Yellow Papers and That Devil’s Madness – and in Orphan Rock, my latest publication, out in March 2022.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Probably trying to become a children’s book illustrator. I actually have a degree in illustration, but have let that fall by the wayside.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Myself – the self-doubt is very real. Even with two undergraduate degrees under my belt, a Masters and a PhD, I still question whether my writing is good enough. It’s not a case of false modesty or imposter syndrome – there really are some fabulous writers out there, and reading their work is a humbling experience.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Very much involved. From tossing around ideas with Barry Scott [my publisher at Transit Lounge], to working with Angela Meyers, who edited the book, to working with Scott Eathorne [of Quikmark Media] for publicity.

And yes, I did have input in the cover. To begin with, I asked Barry to please get Peter Lo to design this cover – Peter had done the covers of The Yellow Papers and of That Devil’s Madness, and I really like his work. Then Peter sent me six or seven possible covers for me to pick my favourite, and we went from there.

I may have written the words that became Orphan Rock, but it then took a lot of people to ‘birth’ this book.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The creative side can be pretty magical – when you come up with an idea, then a plot and characters, that you just know will work. Then there’s the thrill of having your work accepted for publication, and holding your book for the first time. And once the book is published, having readers email you to say how much they enjoyed the book is very special.

—the worst? The uncertainty – what if no one likes it/think it’s a load of rubbish?

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d do much different. I started out writing short stories, and they were a good training ground, not just for the writing itself, but to learn about sending work out, getting rejections and the importance of not sending work out too early, meeting deadlines when a piece is accepted and so on.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? How long it takes to write a book! I don’t mean just the first draft – I mean all the research beforehand, the actual first draft, the rewriting, the editing and so on. And even once accepted – I never realised it could take up to a year from the time a book is accepted for publication until it hits the shops.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? That the difference between those who make it and those who don’t, is that those who make it try just one more time.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m something of a hermit by nature, and a very private person. So on the one hand it’s wonderful for connecting with other writers and with readers, but on the other hand I can see how it can be intrusive, and a real time waster. So yes, it is important, but it must be controlled.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really – if I cannot go forward in my writing, it’s either a case that there is something serious [and not writing related] that is worrying me or, if there is nothing worrying me, then I haven’t thought the plot through well enough.

How do you deal with rejection? By not becoming obsessed by it. No matter how good you are or you become, there will always be rejections – be it for a piece of writing, a grant you applied for, a competition you hoped to win. Accept it and move on. It’s all you can do, really…

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Historical, engaging, thought-provoking.

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? Neil Gaiman – I’d pick his brain re his wonderful imagination and wisdom, and Rachel Kadish – how did she learn to write so beautifully?!

Book Byte

Orphan Rock is a complex and richly detailed story of secrets and heartbreak that will take you from the back streets of Sydney’s slums to the wide avenues of the City of Lights.

The late 1800s was a time when women were meant to know their place. But when Bessie starts to work for Louisa Lawson at The Dawn, she comes to realise there’s more to a woman’s place than servitude to a husband.

Years later her daughter Kathleen flees to Paris to escape a secret she cannot accept. But World War One intervenes, exposing her to both the best and the worst of humanity.

 Masterful and epic, this book is both a splendid evocation of early Sydney, and a truly powerful story about how women and minorities fought against being silenced.

Her writing is finely crafted, her prose poetic and subtle, and a joy to read.‘ Monique Mulligan, author of Wildflower and Wherever You Go

‘Dominique Wilson is a wonderful storyteller. The research is impeccable, the realism unforgiving.’ Brian Castro, author of Blindness and Rage and Shanghai Dancing.

Author website: http://dominiquewilson.com.au/

Facebook author’s page: http://www.facebook.com/DominiqueWilson.Author

Twitter a/c: @DominiqueWilsn

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com.au/dominique5758/_saved/

Buy the book here.

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Meet the Author: Antoni Jach

Draft zero of your novel is your friend. Write with freedom. Write without the fear of making mistakes.

Antoni Jach

Antoni Jach is the author of three novels – The Weekly Card Game, The Layers of the City and Napoleon’s Double; a book of poetry, An Erratic History; and two limited edition artists’ books – Still River in the Numinous World and Faded World. He is also a playwright and a painter, and a highly lauded teacher of fiction writing who has mentored many well-known authors in their careers. For further information see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Jach.

Antoni Jach. Photo: Sabina Hopfer

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Life’s work. Writing fiction is an obsession. The desire to create something beautiful and true. The desire to create literature.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would spend more time painting in my painting studio. A painting is a poem without words (a variation on a Horace quote).

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Writing in a literary style that has been influenced by European modernism. The preferred mode in Australia is for fiction to be simple, clear and direct while the preferred Australian theme par excellence is ‘stories of struggle’. The ur-text for Australian fiction is ‘The Drover’s Wife’ by Henry Lawson. Though having said all that, I have been fortunate to have worked with some talented publishers who have been prepared to publish my non-mainstream indie novels, so I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude. Thank you to Sophie Cunningham (at McPhee Gribble/Penguin) who published The Weekly Card Game, Caroline Lurie (at Hodder Headline) who published The Layers of the City, Ivor Indyk (at Giramondo) who published Napoleon’s Double and more recently, thank you to the highly supportive Barry Scott (at Transit Lounge) for Travelling Companions.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Kate Goldsworthy was a highly perceptive and skilful editor to work with and it’s a brilliant cover by Josh Durham that perfectly captures a sense of movement (the world seen out of a train window) and that spirit of sunny optimism when you set out on a journey. I also particularly like the fact that the cover image could be either a Spanish or an Australian landscape as one of the key themes in my novels is that mixing together of Europe and Australia (my father was Polish and my mother was Australian, but of Irish descent). I am fascinated by the themes of ‘Europeans in Australia’ and ‘Australians Abroad’ (in 2019, the Smartraveller website stated that, “At any time there’s around one million Australians living and working overseas”). Josh Durham’s cover is easily the best cover that I have had for any of my four published novels.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Inventing characters, placing them in a fictional world and letting them interact and converse with one another; together with being able to create a fictional world out of words that replicates (and even, on some days, replaces) the real world and ends up as a work of art.

—the worst? The VAST amount of time it takes to create anything worthwhile. Whole years disappear, never to be returned.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? If I were eighteen and starting out as a writer now, I would enrol in the best creative writing course at a university that I could find. When I was studying at university there were no creative writing courses and so when I had the chance at RMIT in Melbourne to create (with Thames and Hudson author, Anne Richter) a writing course, I did so — the course was (and is) called RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing. However, another way to answer that question would be to say that the actual process of writing a novel would be the same: you write, you make mistakes, you rewrite, you make more mistakes, you rewrite ad infinitum, you receive feedback and then at some point you have to let the novel go out into the world, even though it is far from perfect.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That novels convey an attitude towards life. The fiction writer encodes signs while the reader decodes those same signs in her own (or his own) image. Also, “a story is a system for the transfer of energy” (which is a quote from George Saunders in his wonderful book on writing, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain).

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be persistent. When I was a young writer there were people — such as the poet Judith Rodriguez, the poet Philip Roberts, the critic Brian Edwards and the critic Helen Daniel — who encouraged me as a writer. Also, the Fellowship of Australian Writers was incredibly helpful when I was a teenage writer. They ran competitions for young writers and I was lucky enough to win prizes for my plays and for my poetry. One year as a teenager, I would have been eighteen at the time, I was playing cricket for Panton Hill and I was pulled off the playing field late one afternoon because I had to go into Melbourne to receive a ‘best play by a junior writer’ award. The guest presenter of the awards was William Golding of Lord of the Flies fame. That was such an unexpected thrill.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Instead of a top tip, I have a series of top tips. Firstly, draft zero of your novel is your friend (write with freedom, write without the fear of making mistakes). Secondly, removing a whole section of a novel and rewriting from scratch can oftentimes be necessary; sometimes simply revising what is already there isn’t enough. Thirdly, develop your own authentic and original voice. Fourthly, go for broke — write following your own aesthetic, in spite of the consequences. (There will be always people who misunderstand your aesthetic and your approach.) And fifthly, cherish your darlings.

How important is social media to you as an author? Not important, though some of my friends who are fellow writers use it superbly and I can see how it could be positive in some ways in spite of the negatives.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No. For me, ‘writer’s block’ is like a car with no fuel; you can’t blame the car. I have a process to follow in order to return to the intuitive zone for good writing. A writer needs an energy source and for me those energy sources are music (Philip Glass and indie rock bands such as Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and The Fainters), painting in my painting studio, reading literature and philosophy, having conversations with friends, bike riding, playing tennis and writing endless ‘draft zero’ versions of whatever it is I want to write next.

How do you deal with rejection? ‘Rejection’ for an author is to be expected and is a normal part of a writer’s life. Though ‘rejection’ is overstating what actually is involved. Often, it’s simply a difference of opinion (about aesthetic values and/or commercial values) between an author and a publisher rather than a rejection of oneself as a person. Often ‘rejection’ is simply a business decision where the publisher feels that your novel is not going to make enough money to justify the money spent on it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Literary, artful, amusing.

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? I have met a lot of writers, and I have taught a lot of writers throughout my career. When I was a freelance journalist, I used to interview writers for print publication and I was able to ask them the questions about writing that I was interested in. Also, I have interviewed a lot of writers for the Melbourne Writers Festival and occasionally I have interviewed writers for the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Some of the writers whom I have enjoyed interviewing (for print publication) include Joseph Heller, Salman Rushdie, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Ian McEwan. While some of the writers whom I have enjoyed interviewing on stage, and having a drink with after the interview, include John Connolly, Tim Parks, Alain de Botton, John Armstrong and Gerald Murnane.

BOOK BYTE

Solitary travellers and a couple encounter Nina, an eloquent storyteller, on their travels through Spain, France and Italy.
She entrances them all with her tales, which prompts her fellow travelling companions to share their own stories.
A handsome young man from Staten Island, who believes that life forms exist in other galaxies, vows to never work in an office again and travels by container ship to a commune in Italy. A lonely postal worker from Lodz takes home and reads the most interesting love letters, often becoming convinced a relationship needs his intervention, before delivering them the next day. A woman named Pauline calls herself Kim because her surname is Nowak. Depressed about turning forty, she mysteriously disappears from her own birthday party. Told by people on a journey, these are stories – rich with unexpected wisdoms – of lives in transit.
Travelling Companions is charming, amusing and philosophical – a wholly original exploration of what it means to honour our strangest dreams and disappointments. It is both a confrontation with, and a sweet diversion from, these, the darkest of times.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Eugen Bacon

Eugen’s top tip for aspiring authors: Edit, edit, edit. If your first draft is so bad, you can’t give it a second read yourself, how do you expect someone else to read it? As a writer who is also an editor, I treasure good editors or peer reviewers who understand my work—their feedback helps me to bring out the best form of my work before it goes public.

Eugen M. Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Foreword Book of the Year, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Her novella Ivory’s Story was shortlisted in the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. New releases: Danged Black Thing, story collection by Transit Lounge Publishing (2021), Mage of Fools, an Afrofuturistic dystopian novel by Meerkat Press (2022), Chasing Whispers, story collection by Raw Dog Screaming Press (2022). Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon

Author Insight

Why do you write? My writing is a curiosity. It is a search, a journey, a coming through… I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and the writing shapes itself.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I do have a day job and probably always have a professional career on top of writing. I am a mother, a scholar, an educator, an editor, a reviewer, and once held a career in computing. I’ve woven writing so intricately around everything else I do, I don’t see myself not writing.   

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Breaking through was really tough. I guess it’s a commercial industry of networking, marketability, relatability—and I’ve always been… different. I write… different. Non-conformist. It took two masters degrees and a PhD in creative writing for publishers and editors to begin to notice, and I guess things picked up from there.  

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Transit Lounge Publishing is one of the best publishers I’ve ever worked with. The publisher, Barry Scott, was earnest, accommodating and inviting from go. Soon as he determined he wanted to publish Danged Black Thing, it felt like an amazing partnership that I hope is the beginning of more.

I fondly remember the cover design process. I said, ‘Something black? African and Australian, maybe?’ Barry sent me a link to Kara Walker’s stimulating and complex art, and I was enamoured. Kara Walker is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, filmmaker, and professor who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She’s best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes, and Barry suggested a silhouette that was just perfect for Danged Black Thing.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Creating is cathartic, it’s immensely fulfilling. The road to publication, first cresting with publisher acceptance can be truly amazing. Working with a skilled editor rocks. Kate Goldsworthy was my remarkable editor!

The thrill climbs to book release, promos, interviews, blogs—like this one, reviews… I am always astonished, seeing what readers distinctively take from each read. 

—the worst? Rejections—they are never personal, but some feel like they are. An agent once replied, ‘Please remove us from your spam list.’

Not winning an award—being so close and not winning can suck, but it’s an honour to nearly make it when you do.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Early on, I was eager and put out work that wasn’t ready. Now I’m older, a little more patient, perhaps wiser, and have a good instinct on quality. I’m also bolder and can experiment more with my writing.  

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Never do it for the money. But I knew this already. I do it for the love.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? When I was doing my PhD, my supervisor looked at me and said, ‘Write, or perish.’ She meant it in terms of having publications across my candidature as part of my portfolio. I wrote like I was possessed. And was published, published… which set me right on my odyssey as a writer.

How important is social media to you as an author? I am inherently quite private, but writing has compelled me to have a presence online. I mind it, and I don’t. It’s priceless for networking.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’ve had rare periods of deep trauma in my life where I couldn’t write, and others of deep trauma where I wrote as if a daemon was doing the writing. I deal with the blank page with distraction: I watch a movie, listen to a song, go for a walk, read my favourite author, write prose poetry—it always helps.  

How do you deal with rejection? Early on, I taught myself not to keep a shrine of rejections. I don’t save rejections and move on. If I believe in the work, I move to next mode. I find the right publisher for it and, mostly, I find one.

My book Writing Speculative Fiction by Red Globe Press (Macmillan, now Bloomsbury) was once rejected. By Macmillan. I reworked the proposal, draft manuscript, resubmitted. Someone liked it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Lyrical. Abstract. Immersive.  

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? Toni Morrison. I’d ask her, how? Sula, Jazz, Beloved, Tar Baby, Love, Mercy, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye—how did you do it?

Book Byte

Danged Black Thing is an extraordinary collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, patriarchy and womanhood, from a remarkable and original voice. Traversing the West and Africa, they celebrate the author’s own hybridity with breathtaking sensuousness and lyricism. Simbiyu wins a scholarship to study in Australia, but cannot leave behind a world of walking barefoot, orange sun and his longing for a ‘once pillow-soft mother’. In his past, a darkness rose from the river, and something nameless and mystical continues to envelop his life. In ‘A Taste of Unguja’ sweet taarab music, full of want, seeps into a mother’s life on the streets of Melbourne as she evokes the powers of her ancestors to seek vengeance on her cursed ex. In the cyberfunk of ‘Unlimited Data’ Natukunda, a village woman, gives her all for her family in Old Kampala. Other stories explore with power what happens when the water runs dry – and who pays, capture the devastating effects on women and children of societies in which men hold all the power, and themes of being, belonging, otherness.
Speculative, realistic and even mythological, but always imbued with truth, empathy and Blackness, Danged Black
Thing is a literary knockout.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Lorraine Horsley

Books can change the world, and the right book at the right time can change your life.

Lorraine Horsley

Lorraine Horsley writes stories for children and adults along with non-fiction. Her first non-fiction book, You’ve Got This, Tips for the Uncertain Student was published by Dixi Books in October this year. Her first picture book, When You Left, is scheduled to be released by Dixi Books next year. She also has two stories in Don Cronk’s anthology Ghost Stories from Down-Under.

Lorraine has a Bachelor of Arts in English, an Associate Degree in Training and Development, a Masters of Arts in Professional Writing and Literature and is about to embark on another education journey with a Higher Degree by Research.

Lorraine calls Australia home and for most of her life she has worked in the media. For many years she was a presenter and producer with ABC Radio. She’s also spent the last couple of decades teaching and tutoring students at the start of their higher education journeys.

When not teaching or studying, Lorraine spends her time writing. She is a long-time member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is a committee member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia WA Branch (CBCAWA).

Author Insight

Why do you write?  For as long as I can remember I’ve loved stories. I used to bang away on my mum’s old typewriter long before I could actually write. I knew back then that this was what I was born to do. I can’t not write. A day not writing just doesn’t feel right.

You’ve Got This: Tips for the Uncertain Student aims to help students kick-start their higher education and overcome their self-doubt and fear of failure. What inspired you to write it?

I work with Curtin University in their enabling program, helping students get started on their higher education journeys. One of our activities is to get the students to write about how they think they will go at studying and what barriers they might face. I was shocked to see that around a third of them were crippled with anxiety and fear of failure. But when I thought about it, I realised that I too had felt that way when I started my first degree. You’ve Got This is a book for my students and it’s the book that I wish 17-year-old Lorraine had too.

Your focus in the past has been on writing fiction, mainly for younger readers. Was it easy to make the switch?

Actually it was. I had one of those light-bulb moments while I was driving along one day. While I’ve always written fiction, in my day jobs, working in the media, I spent a lot of my life writing non-fiction – I’d just never really thought about that before. I was driving along and thought, what if I wrote a non-fiction book? What would I write about? By the time I pulled up in my driveway I had the whole contents page drafted out in my head.

This book didn’t have a conventional path to publication. How did that come about?

I’d decided I would self-publish this book. I have sent out lots of manuscripts over the years and while the rejections were getting more positive and a couple of books nearly got over the line, I decided that enough was enough and I’d just do it myself. Ironically, one of my picture books was picked up by UK publisher Dixi Books at that time. I couldn’t believe it! They asked what else I was working on. I told them, and about my determination to self-publish. They asked to see it first and this cheery yellow book is the result of me sending it to them. Never say never.

The cover design is eye-catching. Were you involved in that process?

Yes! Ayse from Dixi Books asked me had I thought about the cover. I sure had. I wanted it to be simple with an academic scroll on the front. I also wanted it to be yellow. When I first started working in a library, I noticed there weren’t many yellow books. I said to myself if I ever get a book out there, I want it to be yellow. It turns out that psychologically speaking yellow is a happy colour which fosters thinking and mental activity as well as increased energy levels – all things a student needs!

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

That they are good enough, that they are smart enough and that they can succeed. For many of my students the biggest hurdle is one they have created in their own minds. As they work through the book, they will be encouraged to challenge their fears and negative self-beliefs. I hope they will see that success really is just a matter of putting one step in front of the other and refusing to quit. There is no magic, just persistence.

What are you working on at the moment?

Ooh, many things! I’ve just finished a first draft of a contemporary women’s fiction. I’m letting that lie fallow for the moment. It’s NaNoWriMo month so I’ve just started a junior fiction mystery book that will be part of a series. It’s called Hannah B Mysteries. Hannah has been living in my head for many years now. She’s been stomping her foot asking to get on the page, she’s a bit happier now I’ve started. And I’m working on another non-fiction title with a colleague of mine, Linda Parkes. We have both worked in the media for many years, so we are writing a book to help people approach and engage with all types of media to get their messages out there.

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have a story idea, what’s your next step?

Story ideas can be little puffs of things so I make sure to write them down as soon as I can, even if it’s just a sentence. I often email myself these ideas to come back to later. Then I usually let the idea roll around in my brain for a bit, Then, when I’m feeling brave enough, I start writing. I’m a pantser so I never know what’s going to happen on the page. That is both wonderful and terrifying!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

Yes and no. I don’t really think there is such a thing as writer’s block, I think there’s a thing called ‘writers procrastinating because they are afraid to commit to the blank page’. I do suffer from that a lot. The only way to overcome it is to put your butt in the chair and write. Trust the process. The words will come. And don’t be too self-critical. The first draft is supposed to be a mess, that’s why it’s called the first draft and not the final.

Is there an area of writing that you find challenging?

I missed a lot of school as a kid so a lot of, as my teacher put it, ‘the more pedestrian aspects of writing’ I missed out on. Commas have been my nemesis for years, but we have a pretty good working relationship now.

How important is social media to you as an author?

I love Facebook and Instagram. I love having the ability to connect with readers and writers all over the world. I’m thrilled when a well-known author notices a post I’ve put up about one of their books. The world is a lot smaller now. When I was kid the idea of ever talking to a real live author seemed a fantasy. I also love being able to share in my friends’ successes. You’ve got to be careful of comparisonitis though!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep showing up.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Just do it, you’ve got nothing to lose. And don’t delay. I spent years delaying my writing until I had the ‘perfect’ amount of time to write. That would be a day or a half-day – consequently it never happened. I’ve since learned that I can really only write in 40-minute bursts anyway. I drafted a whole junior fiction novel just by writing 20 minutes each day. Just put one word after another and keep going.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Varied and hopeful.

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?

It would have to be Enid Blyton. Like so many people I grew up reading her books. I’d love to know how on earth she managed to write so many!

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?

My husband, Geoff Horsley. He puts up with my ramblings and is always the first one to hear of my new story ideas. I could come up with a lot in several hours. You might have to check if he’d be keen on this scenario though!

Book Byte

Want to go onto higher education but you’re afraid of failing? Keen to enrol but just don’t believe you’re smart enough? Then this book has been written just for you.

Author Lorraine Horsley is a tutor at an Australian university and has helped hundreds of students to kick-start their higher education journeys and to overcome their fear of failure. Throughout the book, Lorraine draws on her own experiences and challenges you to assess why you are so afraid and how you can succeed despite the fear.

There are many books out there that teach you how to study. This book isn’t one of them. This book will help you to be brave enough to start studying in the first place. You’ve Got This!

Buy the book here. Visit Lorraine’s FB page here.

Met the Author: Nola Smith

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.

Author Insight

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.

Book Byte

Mistakes

We all make them – we’re only human

But

Do we own them?  Fix them?

OR

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:

Dymocks: https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/enough-is-enough-by-nola-smith-9781913680275

Dixi Books: https://dixibooks.com/product/enough-is-enough/

Booktopia: https://www.booktopia.com.au/enough-is-enough-nola-smith/book/9781913680275.html