Meet the Author: Kelly Van Nelson

Kelly’s top tip for writers: Dig deep and leverage willpower. It’s the ultimate superpower to ensure you never give up.

Kelly Van Nelson is a fiction author who lived in the UK and South Africa before immigrating to Australia. She has had multiple poetry and short stories featured in publications in the UK, USA, and Australia (Serenity Press, Short Story Society, United Press, Between These Shores Books, Fiction War Magazine, Wolvesburrow Productions, KSP Writefree Women’s Writing Group). She is represented by Clive Newman at The Newman Agency.

Graffiti Lane is her powerful debut poetry collection. As well as success as a poet, Kelly has also received multiple accolades for her manuscript, The Pinstripe Prisoner, which placed third in the Yeovil Literary Prize, shortlisted in the Wales PENfro first chapter competition, and longlisted in the Exeter Novel Prize. In December 2018 she was awarded a First Edition Fellowship through Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre. The fellowship is part of an emerging writer pilot program, funded by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries and Lotterywest.

Kelly is also the mum of two children, wife of her soulmate of more than two decades and the Managing Director on the executive board of a global staffing organisation. In short, she is a juggler.

For more information about Kelly visit her website: www.kellyvannelson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England (I’m a Geordie) and lived in a council estate in an inner-city concrete jungle. I didn’t have a great relationship with my mother and my father passed away in his forties. It was pretty bleak. My outlet was reading. I read endlessly under the duvet with a torch until the early hours. Enid Blyton and everything else I could get my hands on. At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer – I loved books and the escape that they brought from reality.

Now, in my adult years, I find writing the ultimate stress buster. I mostly write late at night, just before I go to bed. It helps me unwind from whatever crazy day I’ve had.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Hmm, I have a full-time day job already; one that I love. I’m the Managing Director for a global organisation, helping people find employment every day and shaping the future of work. If I didn’t write, I would still be working full-time, but I’d probably be going to bed a bit earlier!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were so many stumbles along the way. Not having a good writers’ support network early in the journey would be one of the biggest setbacks. I used to overwrite a lot, had no formal writing training, and didn’t have a great grasp of the intense editing process that is required to rewrite, prune, polish … then do it all again. It was only when I moved to Australia that I found an amazing writing community who helped me develop into a writer strong enough in my craft to make it into print.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Ahhhh, the cover. I had an enormous amount of input on that particular aspect of the book. I had a vision in my mind of what the cover would look like, then embarked on a photo shoot in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane to get the perfect shot. Almost a thousand photographs of street art were taken to get the frame that is now the cover of Graffiti Lane. The shot was chosen by my incredibly talented cover designer @thomaspaulartistry. Tom layered the photo with incredible graphics and captured the essence of my gritty author brand and the context of the book beautifully. It looks nothing like what I originally envisaged. It’s way better!

The rest of the book development, manuscript content aside, was managed by my amazing publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, although she gave me wonderful creative liberty with many decisions along the way.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Touching readers emotionally with something I created is an amazing feeling. If just one reader gets something positive out of words I have written, magic has been realised.

—the worst? My hands regularly ache. I use the laptop all day long for work and continue into the wee hours typing at fast speed. It’s bliss rubbing hand cream into them to try and ease the joints.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Join a writers’ group immediately. I found mine at Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre (KSP) in Perth only a year ago and it changed my world. Hanging out with like-minded writers is the best for learning all kinds of new tricks of the trade.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Your time will come, but only when you are ready. Every rejection in between is a stepping stone to learn and refine your skills.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t ever submit your work without editing it end-to-end at least six times. I never break this rule now, even for a tiny Haiku poem, and my submission success rate has shot through the roof as a result.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is a huge part of my writing world. I use four platforms; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, for varied content and to reach different audiences. I met many fellow authors, publishers, and other industry contacts through social networking and the time I spend online pays off ten-fold. Graffiti Lane shot to #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases and #2 Poetry Bestsellers on pre-sales alone, simply from reaching out to contacts online about my book launch. I’m also fairly disciplined about how long I spend reviewing content of friends and posting rather than just idly browsing random content.

There is a downside though. My social media platform has evolved into almost 100,000 connections and I dread just one person slamming me – I need to develop a much thicker skin so anything like this doesn’t bother me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. If I sit down to write, I write. It’s often not what I intended to write during the session, but something always pops out. It’s common for me to sit down to work on a novel and churn out a couple of poems or a short story instead. I cut myself a break. As long as I’m getting words out of my head and down on a page, I figure it’s okay. The pressure is not so intense on myself as a result.

How do you deal with rejection? I used to get hung up on it, reading the piece again, unpicking the rejection note, then wallowing in self-doubt. Now I keep a spreadsheet of all submissions, track long lists, short lists, successes and failures. The percentage of accepted pieces has been rising month on month so this trend line fights off any negative thinking. When it’s a particularly disappointing rejection (I recently had my novel at final stages with the director of a major publishing house and it fell over), I give myself 24 hours’ reprieve before getting back on the horse and galloping to work again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Gritty, urban, confronting.

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? Wow. This is the toughest question. There are so many authors I idolise, but one in particular made an impact on my life way back. Years ago, I sat next to Dame Stella Rimington, author and former director of MI5, at dinner. At the time I was struggling with working full time and raising two young children, and was planning a move from Scotland to South Africa. She spoke of how she managed to juggle her career and family life, even talking about an incident where she was trying to get an informer out of Britain while her daughter was sick in hospital. It put my whole world into perspective. I have a signed copy of her book, Open Secrets, with the coolest Bond quote inside. In that one dinner, I learned that a strong woman can succeed through hard work and determination, and mums can have amazing careers too. I would love another hour with her.

BOOK BYTE

Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.

With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and free-form poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.

Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.

Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.

The book is available from the publisher here.

Amazon Australia Book Sales: https://www.amazon.com.au/Graffitti-Lane-Kelly-Van-Nelson-ebook/dp/B07N33ZB21/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sonia Bellhouse

Sonia’s top tip for aspiring authors: Think about what excites you, what inspires you. Write about that. Even if it’s not in now, you never know what will become the next trend.

Sonia Bellhouse grew up in England, but she now makes Australia her home. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s comment, ‘One day you might write a book,’ writing is Sonia’s lifelong passion. She has published in magazines both in Australia and the UK and was awarded two major short fiction awards.

Sonia completed a university English degree as a mature student. She is a member of Romance Writers of Australia. Her journey to publication is included in the anthology Writing the Dream. She also contributed to the anthology Passages.  A longtime member of Armadale Writers’ Group she is their speaker coordinator. Her book Fire & Ice combines her interests in ice dancing, Vikings, love that spans time and Bergen, Norway, a place that she loved when she visited. When not writing Sonia can be found ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cats. She reads six to eight books a month and reviews them on her blog https://soniabellhouse.blog.

Visit Sonia on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soniabellhouse.author/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always scribbled since I was very young, writing and illustrating stories. It is something that won’t go away. I don’t want it to. Writing is a part of my identity. I write to clear my head, to clarify or explore my thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? A lot more reading!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Procrastination and self-doubt.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Far more involved than most first time authors can expect to be. I have been exceptionally fortunate a writer friend, who was procrastinating on her own writing , sent me six sample covers.  They were all good, but one really spoke to me and I sent to the publishers as an example. After seeking the relevant permission they decided to use it.

The editor was one I had worked with before , so I felt very confident in taking her  advice, which was comprehensive.  There were 13 pages of notes, comments on the manuscript  itself and graphs showing character arcs and plot tension points.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The ability to create what you want, limited only by your own imagination. A close second is no workday commute .

—the worst? The usual – the insecurity and self-doubt. The critical voice in  your head. The feeling that you should write more, write faster, be more like another author.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, be brave, send more work out, learn from rejections. Analyse what works, what doesn’t and remember you have a unique writing voice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the work hasn’t ended when you have written ‘The End’. in fact, it’s just the beginning of a much larger process.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Believe in your dreams you were given them for a reason.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’ll let you know! I enjoy Facebook and  ‘meeting’ authors that I admire. Now I have a Sonia Bellhouse Author page myself.

I also have a blog  https://soniabellhouse.blog  where I post about the 6-8 books I have read each month. It also includes aspects of writing and whatever else is on my mind And I dabble in Pinterest – I created a board for  ‘The Book I Am Writing’

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Luckily, I usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time , so if one stalls, I simply switch to another project.

How do you deal with rejection? It hurts!  I allow myself to experience it to rage , and  to feel they are unjustified. Then when  I have calmed down, I assess whether they have a valid point. Did I submit something unsuitable, or to the wrong place? If that’s’ the case, lesson learnt; if not then maybe they had just commissioned something similar.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? From my heart.

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 think this is the toughest question. There are so many wonderful authors I admire and for different reasons. While I have listened to writers at various events and conferences, a one-on-one would give personalised advice.

After much deliberation I choose Joanne Harris. I loved  her series with Vianne Rocher. It started with Chocolat,  continued in The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure. The fourth in the series is due for release in April, that is seven years after the last book. What prompted her to revisit it? How difficult was it to return to those characters?  I enjoy how the series combines a fey quality of magic  with the practicalities of everyday life and well-drawn characters. Each book is different but continues the series.

I’d like to learn how extensively she planned it,  how difficult it was to get back into the mindset of the characters and whether she would do anything differently. Additionally, she has written other genres, they have a different tone and I admire her versatility.  There are even two cook books, some books spanning her French heritage Others on runes and fairy-tales. And we could always talk about our childhoods when we both lived behind a sweet shop.

Fire and Ice

Sonia Bellhouse

Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels’ partner has just called it quits – leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, Blaise travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled or will an old tragedy complicate their present?

The book is available from Daisy Lane Publishing, Book Depository and leading online retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: William Lane

 

William’s top tip for aspiring authors: Find the thing that is most important to you to say, and that you are able to say at present.

William-Lane-publicity-image-2William Lane lives in the Hunter Valley, NSW, where he is raising three children. After completing an Honours degree in Australian
literature, he travelled and worked in a number of different jobs. In addition to reading and writing, his interests include music and education. He has completed a doctorate on the Australian writer Christina Stead, and has had several critical articles on Stead published in literary journals. He is the author of three other novels: Over the Water (2014), The Horses (2015) and The Salamanders (2016).

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write to understand. I explore questions that bug me, because something about them does not seem to add up. A story is a form to tease out questions important to me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Being very unhappy.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Perhaps believing I had a finished work, which I thought worth trying to publish.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The privilege of being published, and of having a readership, even if it is only small.

…the worst? The vulnerability of being published. Once your name is on a public work, you have to wear it.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have more faith in following my intuition than I had.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I had been more aware of the differences between publishers; there are a lot of publishers, but only some will be a good fit for your work.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Time is a writer’s best friend.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not very aware of how important it is, as I don’t understand social media well. I don’t have a blog or a website, but I am aware enough to know I probably should. Social media makes me feel socially awkward, which is not a feeling I really want to be reminded of! The email form interests me. I have a few stories composed entirely of emails.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? If I have nothing to say, which is quite often, I don’t write. I see no reason to push it. So I suppose I simply don’t label a time of not writing as writer’s block. I just see it as a fallow time – or, more likely, a time to research a future work or polish an old one. In other types of writing, such as academic writing, I do experience writer’s block, which in that case is shying away from doing the hard yards, the slog, of getting out an idea. Writing stories should hopefully never be a slog.

How do you deal with rejection? I sulk. But then it goads me. I only become more determined to revisit the rejected manuscript and make it better. It’s all part of the game. Every rejection has led to a better work.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? It’s just play.

If you had a 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? Could I divide my time between two writers? Emily Bronte – it would be fascinating to observe how she interacted with the world, to try to get an idea of how she came to understand so much so young. And Jane Austen – she would just be wicked fun.

BOOK BYTE

The-Word.jpg

The Word

William Lane

Kenric is an oddball advertising eccentric who possesses an
unusual gift for language. The brands he names, sell. Yet he
comes to believe advertising uses language too cynically.
He is inspired by Maria to abandon the corporate world
and establish a small residential community called The
Word. The idealistic community relocates from Pittwater to
a warehouse in industrial Mount Druitt, gathering about it others concerned with the misuse of language.
The Word is both a charming ensemble piece of unforgettable characters, and an astute and humorous exploration of the ways in language beguiles, creates connections, but also misleads. The novel parallels current world trends, while evoking
with candour Sydney’s watery beauty and suburban harshness.

It is available here.

In the Picture: Veronica Rooke

In this new occasional series, illustrators share the stories behind the pictures. Today, the spotlight is on Veronica Rooke, artist, graphic designer and cartoonist. When Veronica isn’t trying to master baking gluten free muffins or hanging out with her neighbour’s cat, she’s absorbed in her next illustrating project. That could be anything from fire breathing frogs to peeing dogs. After 32 years of drawing, she’s done it all and still loves it.

Veronica illustrated Who Dresses God? by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, a sweet picture book about a small girl who also wants to know how He can see, hear and speak without eyes, ears and tongue.

 

Did illustrating Who Dresses God? present particular challenges because of the nature of the topic? Very much. The art needs to be engaging to people who don’t have faith, while appealing to people who do.

 How did you approach the project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you came up with some ideas, what was the next step? Firstly I read the story to get it into my head. This helps my mind visualize it while I’m doing ‘domestic’ stuff. When I start drawing, I already know how the pictures will look, so I avoid staring at a blank page.

The cover is unusual for a spiritual book for children. What inspired you to use the clothes line and the cheeky dog? I wanted to avoid boring clichés and use visual humour. It’s funny to watch dogs yank clothes that we humans have so carefully pegged up. (I guess funny when it’s not your clothes- Then it’s #@* dog!) And I used word relation: ‘Dress’ in the title and ‘clothes’ on a line.

How closely did you work with Teena on the development of the book? I call Teena a ‘dream’ client. She comes into a project with a lovely ‘let’s see what you come up with’ approach. However she knew that with WDG, she wanted a soft, water colour look. The mum in the story took a bit of adjusting to get right, but after that, she ‘let me loose’ on the roughs. Once they were good, I got out my old paintbrushes.

 How long did it take you to complete the illustrations? They took roughly a few months. As usual, I had to start and stop it because I’m often working on several projects at once. I can’t pick when I’ll get work, so I juggle them depending on which has the closest deadline.

Do you have a favourite medium? Not really, I work in all sorts. I find the paintbrush medium for WDG a bit unforgiving. I’d colour the illustrations in bits and pieces and scan them into the computer. Photoshop then allows me to adjust things that a paintbrush can’t.

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? I’d probably say getting art ‘past’ sales reps and shop owners while working for a t-shirt company. I’d study previous ‘good selling’ designs and felt I could ‘see’ what worked. I’d create something with those elements, but if those two parties didn’t believe me, it would be rejected. However, it was great when I COULD get those designs through and they sold well. 

Is social media important to your work as an artist? Yes. It lets me showcase artwork. But I don’t advertise current publications very often. A large number of my followers want to be entertained, that’s why most of my posts are cartoons that people are welcome to repost.

What are you working on at the moment? 1. I’ve just finished illustrating a picture book for Aly Bannister called  ‘Johnny the Leprechaun…breaking school rules!’ 2. Two book covers for Teena called: ‘The Apostrophe Posse’ and ‘Sleepy Socks & Sometime Rhymes’. 3. A range of children’s t-shirt designs for the clothing company ‘From the Bush’. 4. The last 10 books in a 30-book reading program set by Jackal Ed Publications.

Your creative life has been diverse and as well as illustrating picture books, you’ve created cartoons for newspapers and magazines, designed T-shirts, giftware, jewellery and logos and presented cartooning workshops for people of all ages. Is there any aspect of being a working artist that you would prefer to concentrate on? It’s easier to say what I DON’T like concentrating on – quoting for jobs. Each project is different, so working out how long you’re going to take is hard. Over quote and the client walks, under quote and you work for peanuts.

 What is your creative dream? Where I am now. I make a living from drawing in my slippers. Sweet! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked in freezing cold to boiling hot factories and in shops. Those times make me appreciate ‘now’ so much more.

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? The New York Literary agent who rejected my manuscript. A while ago I pitched my comic to this agency. They loved it and asked me to turn it into a 60,000 word MG novel. Hey, I’m an artist, not a writer! But I tried…..Man did I try! They mentored me; there were talks of a three-book set, picture books. I was beyond ecstatic. But one day, after two years and four rewrites I received the dreaded email: “Unfortunately, Veronica, I no longer have the time to-.”

 I was gutted. I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with that agent. Then I could say: “Since we’re not going anywhere for a while, NOW you have the time to tell me what was wrong with my manuscript!”

Veronica’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: Draw…and draw and draw and draw until you become good and fast. Creating books is a business and it’s uneconomical if an artist takes an entire year to create the illustrations!

For more information about Veronica, visit http://www.fishbitten.com.au

Who Dresses God? is available from Little Kids Business, Amazon and other online retailers. Contact Novella Distribution for trade orders.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Jan Golembiewski

Jan’s top tip for aspiring authors: I really believe in the power of story. If you don’t have a good yarn, even the prettiest of prose has nothing to say. And if you don’t have a good story, then turn away from your keyboard and head for the door. Don’t bring anything with you other than what you’ve already got. And go forth to elsewhere and come back with a story. When I left Australia, I had very little to offer life. I chose the Sahara and returned with Magic.

Jan Golembiewski grew up in suburban Canberra and in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He has a PhD in psychological aspects of architecture, and he runs his own architectural practice specialising in psychological aspects of design. Jan lives in Sydney with his wife, the novelist Bem Le Hunte and their children (Taliesin,
Rishi and Kashi) and a revolving collection of friends.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? The brain is a story telling machine. It looks into the chaos of existence to extract meaning. Communication is as basic as life itself (recent research suggests that even plants do it). But one thing that separates humans from animals, is that we can write and through writing, our stories can benefit humanity as far as it stretches, and as long as readers will be here.

Until now, most of my writing has been scientific and academic – and the benefits of that kind of writing are limited to the topic at hand (let’s say approaches to design to protect against the onset of dementia, useful – but not a pool-side page-turner). Magic is different. It’s my own memoir, and I wrote it to inspire people to reach out beyond the muck of everyday life and to find the swirling lava of pure magic beyond.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I run an architecture firm, specialising in design for bespoke psychological impacts and I spend far more time doing that than writing books. It sounds like a completely different focus, but in its essence, I’m doing the same thing in my day job, only using a different language: in place of words and sentences, I use the language of design to shape people’s worlds and experiences. And like with my words, the narratives I create are for the psychological benefit of those that experience the creation afterwards.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had some surprises in my publishing journey. Firstly, it took ages, but I wasn’t hit by a string of rejections. If anyone read my manuscript (and bothered to get back) it was to say ‘yes’. One big publisher did just that, only to return a week later with bad news from the marketing department who couldn’t find a sufficient budget to bring a book like Magic to market. On another occasion, I had to turn down a publisher because we disagreed about a vision for the book.

The one thing I thought I’d hate (and thus put off for 20 years) was the editing. But once I started, I realised that it’s a joy and privilege to make the time to read through your manuscript, slashing and re-writing – turning a jungle into a manicured garden. It must’ve started overweight. I slashed 50,000 words – and far more, if I were to count the bits I re-wrote.

So in short, the toughest obstacles were phantasms – the ghosts of other people’s difficulties that somehow haunted me.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I submitted my manuscript with a cover I designed myself. But in truth I wasn’t happy with it. I did a couple of others, but somehow they were all wrong. And then the publisher’s designer sent me his first idea. It was meant to be coloured flames but looked like someone had vomited on a notebook. I rejected it. The publisher wasn’t displeased. I don’t think he’s was impressed either.  The next cover was lifeless. So I sent a brief to the designer detailing the visual themes I wanted to see.  Just as I was thinking I’d have to insist on one of my own covers, the designer presented a third  – and I loved it. I have no doubt it is better than any I could have done myself. It takes a village…

 What’s the best aspect of your writing life? This question is like being asked, “what’s the best bit of the ride?” when you’re still on the roller-coaster. So far it’s been sharing my story with my friends, students and family and the general public. But I just don’t know. The ride hasn’t reached the loop de loop where the fixed camera takes the shot I’ll no doubt see in the gift store afterwards. You never know, I might hate that the world at large knows all my boyhood secrets. I might balk at the reviews.

—the worst? So far the hardest thing has been in paring the story to the bone. While editing has been fun, I’ve suffered when I’ve had to  slash out countries, people and experiences because they don’t add to the overall narrative or because publicity about what happened may have compromised real people in some way. Magic is a true story, and so it has to tell other people’s stories, at least in part. And I feel genuinely sorry for the characters who deserve to be represented in the book, but didn’t ‘fit’.

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d embrace the editing phase sooner and with less caution. I’d stop listening to the nay-sayers who complain how hard it is to get published. I think the stories we tell ourselves need as much pruning and re-writing as those we prepare for publishing. Tell yourself a story you want to hear. There, that’s your first lesson in magic!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told that I’d get a killer advance. Sadly it didn’t happen. Instead, I chose to publish with an independent who offered something more important, but less glamorous – passion and commitment.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Good advice is a major theme of my book: I was told to pare back my belongings. Good advice – advice I took so much to heart, that in the end I had nothing more to protect me from the harsh Sahara sun than a loincloth and string bag containing my vaccination certificate, some quinine pills, a hand-traced map of northern Nigeria, an empty water bottle and some tarot cards. It was good advice. It made for a good story, and later for a good edit!

How important is social media to you as an author? I hope it’s not important. When the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit, I was in the first wave of people to quit Facebook. Bye bye to all my ‘friends’, au-revoir to my connected life. For me, integrity is everything. I could no longer believe in Facebook, and I wasn’t going to support them with my patronage.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? What is writer’s block? Is it what happens when you’ve got nothing to say? If so, go and explore. The world is a fascinating, contradictory and extraordinary place once the humdrum of normalcy slips away. Take some risks in your life and in your writing.

I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. But I do teach creativity, and one of the lessons I share is to leave your editor persona turned off until there’s something substantial to edit. Having a strong critic on your shoulder won’t assist the creative and generative impulse – it’ll turn your words (however presentable) a bit anaemic.

How do you deal with rejection? As I say, rejection isn’t the narrative I write for myself. But I understand it can happen, in which case, be rational: there are reasons that a publisher might need to reject a manuscript, even if it’s a heart-rending work of unadulterated genius. It might be a boring reason – a marketing budget overrun for example. Would you prefer a publisher to offer you a half-arsed deal, with a shit cover and without the resources your book needs to make it in the market?

There’s also always the possibility that your work isn’t the genius you thought it was. Once it’s written, it’s essential to read it through again and again, and if you can’t muster a worthy critic when one’s needed, get a professional editor to look at it. What do they say? If it’s junk, do you really want to put your name to it?

In three words, how would you describe your writing? An amazing story.

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 live in the heart of a wonderful literary scene, and I’m married to Bem Le Hunte, one of the greatest writers I’ve ever read. My friends also include a bunch of other wonderful writers – Louise Katz, Libby Hathorn, John Zubrzycki, Sofie Laguna, Dominic Smith and so many others, and frankly I’d probably prefer to do something fun with any of them, than be stuck with a total stranger. But the possibility of drawing someone from the dead using some time-travel magic (just to ask a stupid question) wouldn’t lead me to literature, but to music. I’d probably end up with Bob Marley or Leonard Cohen to ask about how they got here (to Sydney in 2018) and how was the journey!

BOOK BYTE

Magic

Jan Golembiewski

This is a true story … A young man heads off on a journey to find out if magic still exists in the world, to know its wonder, and to see if it might save him when his own life is unexpectedly at stake. In the Caribbean, he meets a Rastafarian Don Juan who teaches him about the ‘natural mystic’. Fate propels his travels through
the Americas and Europe to locate the source of this knowledge in Mother Africa, where his own emerging mastery of mysticism is tested by the Sahara Desert. He is imprisoned in Nigeria, and tortured, and then sold as a slave.

Magic is an incredible journey, both physical and spiritual, that reverberates with the uniqueness of lived adventure and of a passionate heart and vision. Upon closing the last page of this book, we ache for the innocence to lose our way and travel deeper, to rediscover the savage but delicious nature of the
miraculous in our own lives.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Cameron Macintosh

My guest this week is celebrating the release of a new adventure in his popular future detective series for young readers.

Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has been trying very hard to grow up there ever since. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor in the educational publishing sector. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves playing the guitar, reading music biographies and drawing angry-looking owls.

To find out more, visit Cameron’s website: cameronemacintosh.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? It’s just something I feel compelled to do. I think a lot of it comes from being quite introverted – I’m generally a person of few words, outwardly, so writing is how I make my noise.

What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t become involved in the world of books and writing? I think I probably would’ve done an art or music therapy course, and gotten into that line of work. I still like the idea of doing something like that in the future, using creative writing as the medium.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my own rush to get published actually hindered the journey. I sent a lot of things off before they were ready, and then took it pretty hard when they were rejected. I’m taking things more slowly these days, and it’s definitely proving less painful!

I love the idea of a future detective and his robo- dog. What sparked your idea for the Max series? The first spark of the idea came about a few years back on a visit to Pompeii, and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I was especially fascinated by domestic items from the Pompeii excavations, particularly the most mundane things like hair combs and cutlery. I found myself wondering if future people will find our domestic items so interesting and mysterious. From that question came the idea to invent a character in the distant future who actually does find our present era fascinating, and who makes a living from investigating long-forgotten everyday items that would be familiar to a present-day reader. Max Booth soon popped into my head to apply for the job!

How involved have you been in the development of the series? Do you suggest the ideas for new titles to your publisher or is a brainstorming session? How closely do you work with your illustrator? So far it’s been quite simple – I conceptualise and write up the stories, and hope the publishers like them (so far so good!). I’d envisioned Max being a series from the get-go, so I was very excited that Big Sky were open to the idea of further adventures.

As far as the illustrations go, I write the illustration briefs as I write the manuscripts, and our illustrator, Dave Atze, interprets them beautifully. I get to see Dave’s rough sketches and comment on them, but he really understands the characters and the feel of the stories, so it’s been an incredibly smooth process with the three books we’ve released so far.

Do you have any detective buddies who give you clues about how they solve crimes? Sadly not, but if you know anyone, feel free to give me their email!

How does your experience as an editor influence your own writing? Although I never trust my editorial eye when it comes to my own writing, I do think my editorial background has helped me write more concisely, and to be aware of my own convolutions. Having worked in-house, it’s also given me an appreciation of how incredibly busy publishing people are, and how passionate they are about what they do. I implore everyone out there to be very nice to them!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work strange hours is something I’ll never take for granted. Being a total night owl, this suits me extremely well.

—the worst? Constantly facing your own demons and insecurities as part of your job is arguably a strange way to make a living… but then again I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not much. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, and experienced so many knockbacks, but they’ve all paved the pathway to the opportunities I enjoy now, and hopefully more in the future. As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d probably take the journey a bit slower, and pay more attention to who’s publishing what in the genres I’m interested in.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You might possibly require a secondary source of income! (That aside, go for it – it really is the best job on earth.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My teachers at RMIT constantly encouraged us to keep actively seeking out constructive criticism, particularly by joining a writing group. They were so right about this. I’d be in all sorts of bother without my trusty writing posse.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t take rejection personally – if you’re struggling to find a publisher for your book, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. There are so many factors at play in publishing decisions – if you really believe in your work, keep polishing it and sending it out. You never know when it will land on the right desk at the right time.

How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t needed to use it to market my educational writing, but now that Max has taken flight I’m working to build up that side of things. It’s a very useful promotional adjunct, and I’ve already found it a great way to connect with kindred spirits in the writing community.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, but there are definitely times when ideas just aren’t there when I need them. I usually find physical exercise helps clear the mental fog. If that fails, I often make a spiderweb-style mind map, writing the main problem I’m facing in the middle, and branching out with any possible solutions, however ridiculous they seem. It’s amazing how often seemingly disparate ideas link up to get me back on track.

How do you deal with rejection? I’ve experienced enough that it should be water off a duck’s back by now, but it’s never enjoyable. I do allow myself a few days of sulking! I think it’s reasonable enough to feel deflated for a while, especially if you’ve put a lot of heart and sweat into a story and other people aren’t seeing its potential. But I try to get back on the bike pretty quickly.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Clear, fun, unpretentious (I hope!)

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? He isn’t a children’s author by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to be Dante. I was lucky enough to study his work at uni, with the guidance of some incredible lecturers who were able to draw out its astonishing levels of meaning and symbolism. It was extremely humbling, to say the least, and I’d love to know how he structured his work days (200 years before coffee made its way to Italy!).

BOOK BYTE

Max Booth Future Sleuth

Stamp Safari

Written by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze

 

A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.

Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…

Sales site: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/books/max-booth-future-sleuth-book-3/

Check out Cameron’s blog tour at the following sites:

Monday Nov 12 – Wednesday Nov 21 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday Nov 12 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/

Wednesday Nov 14 www.readforfun.com.au

Thursday Nov 15 www.meganhigginson.com/blog

Monday Nov 19 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Tuesday Nov 20 www.kelliebyrnes.com

Wednesday Nov 21 www.whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au

For details about Books on Tour visit www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour

Meet the Author: Rachel Nightingale

What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.

Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.

She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.

For more information about Rachel, go to https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.

How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.

Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.

—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.

How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/2018/the-introvert-paradox/ My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.

How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.

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? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.

BOOK BYTE

Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.

For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.

 Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.

Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday Oct 22 www.maureeneppen.com

Tuesday Oct 23 www.karentyrrell.com

Thursday Oct 25 www.readforfun.com.au

Friday Oct 26 www.littlebigreads.com

Monday Oct 29 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/

Tuesday Oct 30 www.carolyndenman.com

Wednesday Oct 31 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Thursday Nov 1 nikkireads.blog

For enquiries about Books on Tour visit

www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour.

 

 

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Libby Iriks

True Blue Librarian | Sharing quality children's picture books

MAUREEN EPPEN -- WRITER

WRITING, READING -- AND WRITING ABOUT READING

olsolomeoh

The sentimental claptrap of a 50-ish overthinker

LOUISE ALLAN

writer & author

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Julia Lawrinson

An Australian author of literature for young adults

a little birdy told me

Neridah McMullin

DeeScribewriting Blog

Young Adult authors, books, childrens' writers, authors, interviews and reviews

Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="http://www.designmom.com/">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="http://www.designmom.com/category/childrens-lit/">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="http://www.rpcontent.com/">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

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Just Write For Kids is an online group of writers and illustrators, with a distinct focus on advocating Australian children's literature.

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