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

#Books On Tour – Blog Tour -Tea with Mrs B: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

It was my turn to be in the spotlight this week as part of the online blog tour for When the Moon is a Smile. Tea with Mrs B was a treat.

Mrs B's Book Reviews

tea with mrs b v2.jpgWelcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, When the Moon is a Smile, is Teena Raffa-Mulligan.

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Teena writes tales to entertain children of all ages and her publications include poems, short stories, picture books and novels. Her first published picture book was a stranger danger tale about an elephant and a tiger (You don’t Know Me?, Darelle Publications, 1981) that brought her five minutes of fame and introduced her to the joy of sharing her passion for writing with children. She has been presenting talks, workshops and seminars for children and adults ever since and all her presentations have a strong focus on inspiration and encouragement. Teena has also had a long career in journalism, writing for and editing magazines and newspapers. She lives near the beach in a coastal city south…

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Writing the Dream Launch

An inspirational collection of writers’ personal stories was one of the special projects I was involved in this year. It was a privilege to be invited to share my story and when it was accepted, to know that in Writing the Dream I’m joining so many of my writer friends who continue to inspire, encourage and support me in my own creative journey. Sandi Bowie celebrated the launch with this blog post, which it’s my pleasure to share with you today.

Meet the Author: David Stanley

DAVID’S TOP WRITING TIP:  All authors were once ‘first-time’ authors, without knowing with any real certainty whether their books would become bestsellers or they would be considered ‘great authors’. Although the one thing all successful authors have in common – they went ahead and wrote their first book.

StanleyDavid Stanley is the pseudonym of a former New South Wales police officer who has opted to keep his identity secret due to the controversial nature of his recently released book. I haven’t read it yet but with the teaser that ‘every reader’s challenge will be to differentiate what is fiction and what isn’t’, I was certainly interested in finding out about its author.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I have stories to tell – stories that I have borne witness to that are too important not to be told. The nature of my previous work as a police officer has given me endless inspiration to write: about heroes, about villains, noble and corrupt conduct, the entertaining and the controversial.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I have already done it: police officer; corporate management, small business owner. Writing, in my case, is not all-consuming, it is a therapeutic activity I undertake out of passion, not a financial need.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The toughest obstacle to being published, for a new, and therefore unknown, author is to be given a chance. Without a reputation (good or bad) and without a catalogue of published works, finding publishers and then readers, willing to invest their time and money regardless is by far the toughest obstacle.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The ability, through fiction, to explore issues that through other means may be taboo, too controversial, or highly sensitive. Writing does, within reason, allow for the purest form of ‘free speech’ and to indulge in characters and situations that bring joy, entertainment, anger, suspense and thrills to the reader

—the worst? There are two. The first is the time and effort required to write a book. In an age when instant gratification is the norm, the motivation and self-discipline required to complete a book can shake the most determined author. The second is the unknown. Authors write with the deliberate intention of sharing their stories. Competing with millions of other books for readers’ attention, not knowing if your stories will be read, and enjoyed, is another negativity that must be overcome.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I consider myself to still be in the process of ‘starting out’ so my perspective remains steadfast on having no regrets. In that regard, write the story you wish to tell, even if it doesn’t conform to a ‘successful formula’. With my limited hindsight however, gaining a greater understanding of the challenges and obstacles facing new authors would have been beneficial.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set outto become an author? That the most daunting aspect of being an author is not the time, effort, or discipline required to get published (along with some good luck), but the vulnerability associated with your work being available to readers, reviewers and critics and their subsequent opinions.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

 BOOK BYTE

TJF Cover DuologyTJF Syndrome

The Complete Duology

by David Stanley

Optimistic. Naive. Ostracised. Isolated.

Oscar Herald’s first day as a Probationary Constable in the New South Wales Police Force did not go as expected. His dedication to policing, his emotions and his mind are pushed to their limits as he crashes headlong against a carefully indoctrinated organisational culture.

From the twisted political machinations that manipulate the very top executive officers, to the chasm between policy and practice separating criminals and victims at its grimy bottom, Oscar struggles to find support from those around him who have fallen victim to the syndrome ensuring justice will not be served.

As a multiple murderer threatens the lives of thousands, Oscar’s attempts to track him are hindered and dismissed. With no one willing to listen and nowhere to turn, Oscar seeks absolution in a desperate attempt to catch a killer and faces consequences that he could never have imagined.

The challenge for every reader will be to differentiate what is fiction and what isn’t.

For sales links visit

http://www.tjfsyndrome.com/

REVIEWER SPOTLIGHT: Write Note Reviews

Where would authors be without book reviewers? If you’re passionate about all things bookish, Write Note Reviews is the site for you. Monique’s reviews are always well considered and insightful and she complements them by adding a ‘matched’ food treat.

AusRomToday

Reviewer Spotlight: Write Note Reviews

 

Tell us a little more about Write Note Reviews:
As a book reader and food enthusiast in no particular order, I’ve always thought books and food go well together. For me, it all started with popcorn … eating a bowl of popcorn and reading at the same time. Write Note Reviews combines these two loves with two more – writing and photography. My book reviews (from 2013 onwards) are complemented by a suggested food treat that “matches” the book. But really, the site is just a way for me to immerse myself in the world of books in a way that suits me best.

 

What prompted the creation of Write Note Reviews?
I started reviewing books while working at a community newspaper as a journalist, and later, editor. Apart from writing a regular column, it was one of my favourite aspects of the role…

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Meet the Author: Amanda Curtin

AMANDA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be a reader as well as a writer, and read widely. Much of what we know about storytelling—structure, pace, characterisation—and about the way words are used and sentences are put together is absorbed almost unconsciously through reading. I think that’s why often when I used to read books about writing, books that break down and analyse the elements of prose, I would have aha! moments, where I’d realise that someone had just articulated something I instinctively knew. Reading also keeps you learning as a writer, keeps you humble, keeps you striving.

ElAmanda Curtin is the author of two novels, Elemental (2013) and The Sinkings (2008), and a short story collection, Inherited (2011), all published by UWA Publishing. She has also worked as a freelance book editor for most of her adult life, and occasionally lectures and presents master classes and workshops for writers. She has a PhD in Writing, is an Accredited Editor (AE) with the Institute of Professional Editors, and is an Adjunct Lecturer at Edith Cowan University.

She has been awarded writing residencies at OMI International Arts Center’s Ledig House in New York State; the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland; Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers at Lasswade, Scotland; and the Tasmanian Writers Centre, Hobart. She has won the University of Canberra National Short Story Award, the Patricia Hackett Prize for best contribution to Westerly, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award, and the Golden Key Honour Society Award for Excellence in Fiction (Asia-Pacific).

Amanda lives in an old house in an old suburb of Perth, Western Australia, and is currently working on a novella project. Visit her website at http://www.amandacurtin.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? It’s a great question, an intriguing one for any writer to ask themselves. I feel it’s what I’m meant to be doing, who I am at this point in my life. I don’t write because there are things I want to say but because there are things I want to explore, try to understand. It’s the grey areas I am interested in. That’s the short version! I wrote a longish post on this last year: http://amandacurtin.com/2013/09/25/writers-ask-writers-why-i-write/

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a freelance book editor for close to 30 years, and still work as an editor, though far less frequently. But if writing (and editing, and occasional teaching) didn’t occupy most of my time, I think I would study photography.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of confidence. Three things helped me there. First, the encouragement of writers in my writing groups (initially, Annabel Smith, Donna Mazza, Danielle Wood, Carmel Macdonald Grahame; later, Robyn Mundy and Annabel Smith) and my academic supervisor, Richard Rossiter. Second, being fortunate enough to win a couple of awards. Third, being accepted into a PhD writing program.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I feel privileged, and lucky, to be able to do what I’m doing generally. And even more so when my work takes me to other worlds—either literally, through travel, or virtually, through desktop research. Beyond that, it’s immensely rewarding when readers go out of their way to make contact to tell me what they loved and why, or that they were immersed in the world I created, or that it connected with something in their own lives.

—the worst? Self-doubt is always the dark to the light, and I suspect it’s the same in any area of the arts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t have an agent. Having now observed what a good agent can do—working with a publisher, helping with marketing and promotion, etc.—I might have persisted in searching for one willing to take me on. However, it has to be acknowledged that it can be as hard, if not harder, to find an agent than it is to find a publisher. And I’ve also observed that there seems little benefit in having an agent who is not wholly enthusiastic and active on your behalf.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I didn’t realise how necessary, and how time-consuming, the marketing side would be. I’m not complaining, just acknowledging that I wasn’t prepared for it!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A wonderful piece of advice that I try to put into practice is this: leave something unfinished at the end of a writing day, so that when you return to it you’re plunged immediately into the writing itself, rather than the thinking process that precedes it.

BOOK BYTE

Elemental by Amanda Curtin

elemental_COVER v low resIt has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

Nearing the end of her life, Meggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet sucked up from icefloes. A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.

Moving from the north-east of Scotland to the Shetland Isles to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.

Available from: http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/books-and-authors/book/elemental/

Meet the Author: Vanessa Garden

VANESSA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Read in the genre you wish to write but also experiment with new genres so as to expose your writer’s brain to as many voices as possible. Also, write a little each day. Even half an hour a day can produce a book in one year.

Vanessa Garden

Vanessa Garden lives on the coast of Western Australia with her husband, their three chatty children, and three calming goldfish. When she is not writing, Vanessa can be found at the local bookstore where she works part-time. Being a bookseller as well as an author, Vanessa loves nothing more than immersing herself in the exciting world of books. When she is not gushing about her favourite reads to customers, or dreaming up her next novel, she enjoys spending time with the people she loves most.

http://vanessagarden.blogspot.com.au/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I genuinely enjoy creating stories and spending time with my characters, and also because I simply cannot stop. There have been times, more so before I became a published author, where I have said, ‘oh well, time to throw in the towel and focus on real life’, only to find that a day passes, or perhaps only an hour, before a new idea takes hold and basically doesn’t allow me to give up on writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d most likely get back into baking and cooking. Before I took writing seriously I was always in the kitchen creating elaborate meals, but now I’m spending less and less time there due to my writing schedule and I do miss it. I’m sure my children and husband are getting sick of my ‘anything goes’ nights of eggs on toast, baked beans and two-minute noodles!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Sticking with it and trying to keep the self-belief alive even after 200 odd rejections! As soon as somebody said yes, my confidence shot up. It is amazing what we can do when somebody believes in us and, more importantly, when we believe in ourselves.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Sharing stories with fellow readers, meeting other writers, and the euphoric buzz that comes with a new idea! There is nothing more exciting than waking up in the middle of the night to jot down ‘the next big thing’ (which will most likely seem ridiculous in the morning, lol).

—the worst? Trying to balance writing with family time and work. I’m very conscious of writing only when my children are at school or in bed, which can be difficult with working hours at my day job eating up a lot of the school time, so often I’m sleep deprived from writing late at night. Sometimes I just feel so exhausted. I wish there was an eight-day week!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I learned as I went (making a lot of mistakes along the way) but it was all necessary to get where I am today. So probably not a thing!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That sometimes you wait forever to hear back on a manuscript, so instead of waiting anxiously, write something new in the meantime.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To write the story you want to read.

BOOK BYTE

Captivate by Vanessa Garden

backdrop captivateFor the past 12 months since her parents’ death, 17-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko…the King of this underwater civilisation. Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets…

Links: http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781488711282

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18683518-captivate

http://www.amazon.com/Captivate-Vanessa-Garden-ebook/dp/B00GX0PR40/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1388201052&sr=1-2&keywords=captivate

https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/captivate/id766191327?mt=11

Meet the Author: Pauline Montagna

PAULA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Don’t write novels. The novel is a dying art form and the market is flooded. Look to the future. Write for the next generation in the formats they’ll be, in the jargon of the day, ‘accessing’ and ‘consuming’. My money would be on computer games.

Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After completing a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University, Pauline joined the Department of Social Security where it was decided that someone with a major in French would be perfect for the Finance section. Fortunately for them, as the daughter of shopkeepers, Pauline had a good head for figures.

While indulging her artistic interests by becoming involved in Melbourne’s burgeoning amateur theatre scene, Pauline pursued her developing accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces culminating in the Australian film industry which eventually took her to Perth. There she decided to return to university and qualify as a teacher, graduating from Edith Cowan and Murdoch universities with Graduate Diplomas in Language Studies and Education.

After returning to Melbourne, Pauline continued teaching English as a Second Language while she completed a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.

Pauline has now retired from teaching to concentrate on The Stuff of Dreams, a four volume fictional account of the life of William Shakespeare and the experiences and relationships that made him the writer he became. The first volume, Not Wisely but Too Well, traces his early life until 1593. She has previously published two other books, The Slave, an historical romance set in fourteenth century Italy, and Suburban Terrors a short story collection.

Information about her books and where to buy them can be found at her website http://paulinemontagna.net.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I guess I would say it’s what I do, what I am. If I had my way I would write all day and read all night. As a child I was always telling myself stories and writing them down is just an adult version of that. I remember my first effort was a four-page play when I was eight years old. It was about a princess in a tower waiting to be rescued by a prince. How original!

More recently, though, my writing has been inspired by a need to know more. I have always loved history. I love reading about history. I love doing the research, and I love writing about it. As I dig deeper into my subject, I discover stories which I just have to tell or bust. I can’t be sure where this love comes from, but it may be because I was born in Australia, a country with very little history, while my roots are in Italy, a country with perhaps too much history.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I don’t really know. There are times when I wonder how much longer I can do this, on both the psychological level and the financial. I’m doing some teaching at the moment to keep body and soul together. If needs be I could also get work as a bookkeeper. But I don’t know what would become of me if I ever gave up on being a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Strictly speaking, as a self-publisher, I haven’t been ‘published” as the mainstream would define it. Now I probably never will be. As far as the publishing industry is concerned, self-published books are by definition books that aren’t good enough to find a publisher and so they will not look at them. I daresay this prejudice will extend to the author. We self-publishers dream about being discovered by the mainstream, but there’s lots of competition out there, and unless you’re a breakout like Fifty Shades of Grey, the mainstream will never find you.

The irony is that while agents tell you that your book couldn’t find a publisher because it wasn’t good enough, in the same breath they will tell you they are having a great deal of trouble placing their clients’ books as the industry is in such dire straits. They are discovering what we self-publishers have known all along. The mainstream industry doesn’t have the capacity to publish all the publishable books out there. The rest of us have to either live a life of frustration as we try desperately to be accepted by the mainstream, or go it alone and live with knowing we’ve locked ourselves out.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? And the worst? I do love the research. My best summer ever was the one I spent in the State Library of Victoria doing the preliminary research for my Shakespeare series. You can almost hear the neurons firing as you go from one book to the other, making leaps here and connections there. There’s nothing better.

But recently I’ve discovered how much I love actually writing, though I made this discovery because I’ve done so little of it recently. Most of my time, energy and headspace has been taken up by marketing. For a self-published writer, marketing is difficult, much more difficult than writing. It’s where the drudgery and uncertainty comes in and can become all-consuming. Unfortunately it’s vital, unless you want to write in a vacuum.

I’m basically a shy person so I dread the very thought of going out there to sell myself. Instead I’ve turned to the internet. There’s lots of advice about online marketing out there, but in reality, no one knows what will and won’t work for your book. You have to try it all and hope that something pushes the right buttons. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to implement a detailed online marketing plan I developed while I was overseas earlier this year. It takes a great deal of time out of my day, and saps the writing energy out of me. I’m working towards finding some kind of balance.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? What’s the best advice you were ever given? As I mentioned earlier, there’s lots of advice out there. Most of it is about believing in your dreams and never giving up. Such advice assumes that your dream will come true as long as you work hard enough and that if your dream doesn’t come true it’s because you’ve given up. But sometimes there’s a brick wall out there and the only time banging your head against a brick wall feels good is when you stop. There’s only so much rejection a soul can take.

The only advice I wish I had been given is probably the only advice I wouldn’t have listened to. Quality has little to do with success. Marketing is everything. Don’t go out into a brutal and crowded marketplace unless you’re a salesperson first and a writer second. If you aren’t then don’t bother trying to become a published author. Be content as a closet writer, writing for your own pleasure alone. If you’re lucky you may find your niche, but don’t count on it.

{For a snapshot of Not Wisely, But Too Well go to Author Bookshelf.}

Meet the Author: Nora James

NORA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be in it for the long run. Yes, occasionally someone writes a book, sends it off to a publisher who accepts it straight away and it turns into a bestseller pretty much overnight. It is possible. So is winning Lotto. Generally though it takes years (sometimes decades) to get there, so find a way to sustain your passion for as long as it takes, and don’t give up your day job unless you have a kind spouse who can support you, you’ve saved a lot of pennies for a rainy day, won the lottery, inherited a tidy sum from your great-uncle John, or all of the above. More than anything, enjoy the daily work – being a writer is hard but it’s a privilege.

Nora James

Nora James started her working life at age 14 in a bakery in Paris. She held a number of other jobs before studying law at the University of Western Australia and becoming an international resources lawyer and translator. She has travelled extensively, both as a child and adult, for family reasons, work and pleasure. She now writes novels and screenplays from her home in coastal Western Australia where she lives with her husband and daughter and a menagerie of furry friends. Visit Nora’s website at http://www.norajames.com.au/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I seem to have a million stories in my head, and characters dancing around my mind, too. I feel I’m meant to bring those stories and characters to life and share them with other people. I find writing gives another dimension to my existence and allows me to live more than one life. It’s a little bit like reincarnation or time travel but all you need to do it is a pen (or computer) and paper.

I was drawn to writing from a very young age, too. In fact, as far back as I can remember, I wrote stories. Granted they were a little simpler when I was six, but I already loved how it made me feel. I get an incredible sense of achievement and purpose from it. And also, although I’m working, the focus and concentration of it seems to bring me balance and peace by blocking out the day-to-day issues I might face as a mother and a wife. In brief, it can be quite therapeutic at times!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? If I hadn’t become a writer I’d be working as a lawyer or translator, which is what I was doing immediately before I started writing with a view to being published. I was lucky enough to be involved in some high profile cases, and to work for a few large companies on international matters. It was very interesting work – although I did my fair share of mind-numbingly boring stuff – and I travelled a lot. But at the end of the day I felt I was put on Earth to do something more creative and so I wrote whenever I could, on the train, plane, during lunch breaks. Eventually I threw in the towel and jumped into the world of writing in the hope that I’d become published and one day make a living out of it.

If I had to stop writing now, first of all I’d cry for days on end and then I’d probably start a small business. Something to do with animals, perhaps – I love animals – or maybe something to do with food, like having my own little French café. I spent many years in France and am married to a Frenchman and together we’d make the business quite authentic, I think.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Dark Oil was a little different, not your usual romance. It didn’t quite fit into any boxes and as a result was a bit more of a risk for a publisher, I suppose. I sent it out to a few publishers and got knocked back, as you do, sometimes with a lovely email telling me it was an interesting and thoughtful project that they’d enjoyed, but it was still a “no, thanks”.

I decided to put it aside and didn’t send it out again for a number of years. Then I heard about Escape Publishing through Juanita Kees, a very talented author who’d just joined the critique group I’m in, and it sounded like Escape was open to projects that were unique in some way. I tried it with them and was absolutely thrilled when it was accepted. I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful feeling it is!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Feeling that way about your work is extremely rewarding. A close second is that I’m completely in control of my days. I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck. I don’t even have to get dressed if I don’t feel like it: I can just write in my pyjamas, which I have been known to do on a cold morning.

I don’t have to sit at my desk, either. I quite often sit on the couch or retreat to my favourite armchair with my laptop on my knee and type away for an hour or two before returning to the desk. Varying my position allows me to not feel stiff and sore.

—the worst? I’m torn between loneliness and uncertainty. Loneliness because even if you are like me and enjoy working on your own most of the time there are moments when it would be nice to wander down to the coffee machine or the photocopier and have a chat with someone, the way people do in companies.

And uncertainty because you never know if you are going to get published, and if so when. And once you are published, you don’t know if your next book will be accepted. And once it is you wonder if it will sell well or not. Uncertainty about the future seems to come with the territory. You have to be able to live with that.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d find out about markets. It can be very disheartening to write something beautiful and meaningful only for it to remain on your desk gathering dust because no one is publishing that type of manuscript. The best way to find out about what’s being sold and therefore improve your chances of publication is to join writing organisations such as the Romance Writers of Australia and go to their conferences.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish someone had told me that it is extremely difficult to get started in certain genres. You’re better off writing in a more popular genre to break in, and perhaps later on trying your hand at other things. Also, that it usually takes a very long time to make a decent living out of writing and many writers never will.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Join a critique group. It makes such a difference not only to the quality of your work as you learn from others but also to morale. Writing is a solitary pursuit that can’t be likened to many other professions: I can’t think of another job where you have no regular income, perhaps no income at all for years, your work is constantly rejected, you don’t see another living soul all day, you depend on no one but yourself for creativity, motivation and reward. At the same time, it’s a job that gives you an incredible amount of freedom, as well as the opportunity to express yourself, lead a meaningful life and leave behind in your art the essence of who you are and how you see the world.

So in summary join a critique group to find people who not only will help you develop your craft but also truly understand the trials, tribulations and exquisite joy of being a writer.

{For a snapshot of Dark Oil and a link to where to buy it, visit the Author Bookshelf page.}