Meet the Author: Sophie Masson

SOPHIE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Don’t give up! But don’t be stubborn, either—be flexible and keep your wits and sense of humour about you!

Sophie portrait blue and redBorn in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the author of more than 60 books for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries. Her historical novel, The Hunt for Ned Kelly (Scholastic Australia), won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. She has also written four popular YA romantic thrillers under the name of Isabelle Merlin. Under the name of Jenna Austen, she has also published two romantic comedies for tweens and early teens.

2014 was a big year for Sophie, with several novels for young people published: The Crystal Heart (Random House Australia), 1914 ((Scholastic Australia) and Emilio (Allen and Unwin).

As well, her latest adult novel, Trinity: The Koldun Code, first in the Trinity thriller series set in Russia, was published by Momentum Books in 2014, and her non-fiction adult title, The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age , featuring interviews with more than 40 authors, agents and publishers on the state of authorship and the publishing industry today, was published by Keesing Press in the same year.

Forthcoming in 2015 are Hunter’s Moon (Random House Australia, June 2015) and Trinity: The False Prince (Momentum, October 2015).

Sophie is also one of the founding partners in new children’s publishing house, Christmas Press,

Sophie has served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the Book Industry Collaborative Council, the Board of the Australian Society of Authors, the Board of the New England Writers’ Centre and the committee of the New England and North West sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of NSW.

Sophie’s blog:


Why do you write? Because it’s as natural to me as breathing. Because I love stories. Because that’s what I was born to do!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would always have found my way to writing, no matter what. I loved acting too at one stage in my childhood. But writing was more satisfying.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Getting to understand why my first two books weren’t taken even though I had good feedback on them—and acting on that feedback so that the third book I wrote actually did get through!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I go on wonderful mind-adventures every day and take my readers along with me.

—the worst? Waiting around for publishers to decide on proposals!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Nothing, really—I think that the path to publication is different for every writer and I think instinct guides us, so that it’s difficult to take up a path someone else has trod, because it might not suit your way of doing things at all.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it doesn’t matter how many books you’ve had published, you still have to fight for every one of them, you can never ‘rest on your laurels’ in this business! When you’re an aspiring writer, you might think that once you reach a certain level, everything’s cool. Nothing could be further from the truth. ‘Established’ writer can be a misnomer—actually most of us who have been in the business a long time don’t feel ‘established’—that feels too settled, too solid. We can never take things for granted—rather than ‘established’ it should be ‘seasoned’—in the sense of a seasoned campaigner in a never-ending battle!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t give up.

Crystal Heart cover

The Crystal Heart
by Sophie Masson
Random House Australia, 2014A girl in a tower. An underground kingdom. A crystal heart split in two, symbolising true love lost . . .When Kasper joins the elite guard watching over a dangerous prisoner in a tower, he believes he is protecting his country from a powerful witch.Until one day he discovers the prisoner is a beautiful princess – Izolda of Night– who is condemned by a prophecy to die on her eighteenth birthday. Kasper decides to help her escape. But their hiding place won’t remain secret forever.

Will they find their happily ever after?

“A deftly woven tale of warring kingdoms and the redeeming power of love. Another winner from Sophie Masson.” – Juliet Marillier, author of the Shadowfell series


Meet the Author: Robin Bower

ROBIN’S TOP WRITING TIP: Keep writing, keep persisting at everything to do with the craft. Practise, join writers’ groups, associations, network, submit to publications and enter competitions. Travel as much as you can (but not cruises), meet the locals, experience the colour and the everyday. Listen to language everywhere you can and note it down – trains, buses, family gatherings, work, school – everywhere. Keep honing your craft but start something new often. Have several projects on the go at the same time. Read your favourite genres and authors. Then read outside your genre. Keep submitting, keep writing, self-publish eBooks while you’re working on the next great novel. Build it and they will come…

Amazon picThis week it was my pleasure to meet Robin Bower, a writer and accredited editor with more than 20 years publishing experience in Australia and overseas. In Melbourne she edited educational books and wrote freelance articles. She was managing editor and publisher of a magazine in Hong Kong, where she reported on the diamond industry for Asia and Europe. Robin taught Writing, Editing and Publishing at Curtin University, Perth in 2011. She has had almost 50 articles published in publications based in Hong Kong, Perth and Melbourne, and was awarded her Master of Creative Writing from the University of Canberra in 2011. Beyond Home is her first novel. Her second novel, set in Perth and Afghanistan, will be available in 2015. For more information, see


Why do you write? It’s a real release for my creativity that I constantly yearn for. Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to be a published author. It’s taken a while! I’m in my own little world when I’m writing and I love telling stories that I’ve created from nothing. I love to write because I want my voice heard about important issues (or issues I deem important); I want people to read my writing and feel moved by it in some way.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m also an editor and a publishing professional and have done manuscript assessing. I would probably help others to publish so be a publisher, designer, or an artist.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I’ve just released my first novel on Amazon Kindle. I have found that just getting through the process of writing, editing, development, rewriting, assessments, sending out to readers, rewriting and finishing with a final that I’m happy with is the hardest thing. So the whole process is time consuming and hard! It’s also a matter of confidence in what I’ve written – a confidence that grows with everything I publish. I have to let go of the critical self.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Having people read my work, love it and tell me about it. I also love the research that goes with writing a fictional piece. Absolutely everything must be researched so that I can bring authenticity to my characters and situations. This is an engrossing part of the whole process.

—the worst? When I have limited time to research, write, edit, rewrite, publish and promote my writing. I have to be strict about scheduling or life will just get in the way!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would find myself a part-time job in a writing environment, dedicate myself to finishing my novel to a deadline and get the process done much more quickly. I wouldn’t be so harsh on myself or wait to get industry approval.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It takes five years to write a book. I finished my first book, Beyond Home, in 2008 after a five-year process. I’ve released it in 2014. In the meantime, I wrote my second book which is currently in the market for a publisher. That book also took five years so it’s a useful benchmark to have in the back of my mind. In retrospect, perhaps it’s better not to know and just do it!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em think. Just keep writing.


Beyond Home coverBeyond Home

Robin Bower

On her father’s death, Eve Robinson discovers a diary that reveals his life was a lie. He has not just been a public servant in Australia, but has a mysterious past in Burma far from Australian shores. Why did he lie to her? What really happened to her mother? Eve embarks on a journey to Burma to discover who her father was. On the way, she becomes involved in a kidnapping, political intrigue, corruption and murder. She forges an unlikely bond with a charismatic Burmese soldier who will do anything to become the leader. What starts as an accident turns into a crusade as Eve tries to rediscover the father she thought she knew.

Where to buy Beyond Home

Get the Kindle version for Australia here

Get the Kindle version for the US here

Get the paperback here

Check out Robin’s Amazon author page here and her website here.

Meet the Author: Pixi Robertson

Pixi RobertsonPIXI’S TOP WRITING TIP: Just do it; tap into the whole on-line experience; and remember that art for art’s sake is all well and good, but writing is like the performing arts and without an audience (reader) the art work is only half complete.

Pixi Robertson spent many years working on circuses in Europe and Australia before retiring in 2013 and putting her energy into writing her first novel. Aimed at young adults, Bunty Armitage Circus Girl is a time-travelling tale about a girl who is cast into circus life in regional and outback Western Australia in the 1890s.Using a mix of first and third-person narrative, film scripts, old photographs, post-cards and newspaper articles, the novel was inspired by tales Pixi heard from real-life Australian circus heroine, Evelyn Hyland Coverly. Evelyn travelled the state in her family’s horse-drawn tent show, Hyland’s Circus.
“Ev was in her late 90s when I met her and I enjoyed regular chats with this wonderful woman who died just short of her 103rd birthday,” Pixi said. “I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of Evelyn’s friendship and to have the opportunity of listening to her amazing anecdotes. She was a true circus legend and inspiration to many; I feel honoured to have known her.”

The road to publishing was not easy for Pixi, who self-published the novel through, after finding regular publishing channels difficult to breach.

“I knew I had a great story here that I wanted to share with young readers, and this seemed like a really good way to get my novel out there,” she said.


Why do you write?  Writing is a door-way to another life, both for the writer and the reader. Writing and reading allow me to live more lives than I could possibly fit into this life-time. For me, as you can see, writing and reading are inextricably linked. I don’t “plot” a story, just go with the flow and the excitement of discovery as the characters and plot develop is a never-ending pleasure. What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Hmm … interesting, as I am officially “retired”. A professional traveller, perhaps? What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Ah, that’s a good question. Without putting too many noses out of join, I hope, the greatest obstacles have been the “gate-keepers” of the publishing industry. Getting a publisher to actually accept, or even read an ms, seems like Mission Impossible, and if you have no track record most agents are not even interested in talking to you. Ask me another …! What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Fun, absolute indulgence. —the worst? Dare I say it again – getting through the gate-keepers. What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Get a job in publishing, get to know the people who have some clout. What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? See above. What’s the best advice you were ever given? To paraphrase the great American comedian, George Burns: “Have a good publicity pic and always be on time for auditions/interviews”.

 BOOK BYTE Circus Girl cover“Hey!” I called after him, “Do you and Lulu really meet at the pirate cave?”           Alfie turned, a cheeky grin on his face. I didn’t hear his reply. I walked towards him, my hand reaching out to catch him by the arm. I walked straight through him. I walked through the fire and the pot of stew.           My outstretched hand banged into something hard. It was a mirror. I could see my reflection and behind me stood Mrs D, her mouth full of pins.” What is going on? When Bunty Armitage wins the coveted TV role of Lulu Ireland, an early 20th century circus girl touring outback Australia, things just aren’t what they seem to be.

What is the mystery of the faded trapeze costume? Just what is Bunty’s connection to Lulu? And can she really be in love with somebody who lived 100 years ago?

The book is available from as a paperback or ebook.

Meet the Author: Rebecca Laffar-Smith


REBECCA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Trust your Muse, because doing so always leads to a better story. Even if it feels like she’s being stubborn and uncooperative, look at why she’s doing that. What is she trying to tell you? Let her lead you in the right direction because she’ll never steer you wrong. Your inspiration, your Muse, your inner angels, whatever you like to call that instinctive artist within you is tapped into real magic. They see the story the way it’s meant to be written and if you let them guide you the whole process becomes that much easier. Trust the misdirection, trust the quirky unexpected, just go with it and see what unfolds. Take risks and try new things because it can lead to remarkable discoveries. I’m certain you’ll always be pleasantly surprised; sure it might require you do some editing, but it’ll definitely lead to a richer, fuller story.

Born to the magical beauty of her sunburnt country home in Western Australia, Rebecca Laffar-Smith always yearned to explore the wonders of this world and beyond. After 12 years as a freelance writer and editor, she gave up writing about the non-fiction world in favour of the fantastical creatures and fanciful things she could create and immortalise in fiction. Now she writes in the moments she can steal away from homeschooling her son, raising her daughter, and volunteering as an events coordinator and mentor for her local writing community. She dreams of someday running a farm-stay writer’s retreat on the outskirts of Perth and writing her stories in a detached, hexagonal room with floor to ceiling bookshelves and plenty of natural light.

Rebecca welcomes comments, questions, and feedback. Readers can find her on Facebook: and Twitter:

For more information about Rebecca and her writing, visit


Why do you write? There are a million answers and no answers to this question and I’ve asked it of myself hundreds of times over the years. Usually I ask it when I’m having those bad “can’t write” moments, especially when the anxiety is looming and I feel overwhelmed by it all. Or when a bad review comes in. Or when it’s three in the morning and I can’t seem to make that vital scene work. Or it’s three in the morning and I can’t shut up the ideas and get to sleep. OK, you get the idea, there are a lot of times when I ask myself that question although it’s phrased more like, “Why do you do this to yourself?”

When it comes down to it, I’m just not happy when I’m not writing fiction. I’ve gone through periods in my life when I put the fiction aside to pursue other things (like paid non-fiction freelance work), but deep in my heart I was always yearning to come back to the stories. Whenever I wasn’t writing I had a lingering sadness, a void, like I wasn’t living into the person I was meant to be. Writing fills the void and lets me create lasting meaning and connection for myself and for my readers.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m not really sure because it’s never been a real option. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was six years old and other than a short school-leaver dip into retail, it’s all I’ve done professionally. For years I worked as a freelance writer, editor, and Web designer before giving that up to focus on family, community, and fiction. I think if I weren’t writing I might gravitate toward education. I was in Uni finishing the first year of a Bachelor of Education degree when I decided to homeschool my son and I really love the topic. The opportunity to homeschool has been fantastic for our whole family, not to mention finally giving me an excuse and opportunity to focus on my fiction. So, if I weren’t a writer, I might be a teacher.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Perfectionism. I was too obsessed with making everything perfect. That’s the only way I can explain spending eight years on my debut novel. It was by no means my first book either; there were several that are buried deep in my archives because they weren’t perfect.

I had to learn to put aside that need to get every detail perfect and instead focus on telling a good story. The important thing is to get the good story onto the page, because it can then be crafted into a great story. And that’s what readers really want, great stories. They don’t care if it’s perfect, they just want to be entertained. Once I got over the need to tell the perfect story it became much easier.

I think one of the toughest obstacles authors face these days is a traditional mindset. The industry is changing so rapidly that you have to be willing to jump in feet first, make mistakes, get messy, and be willing to do things a different way. There used to be only one long, cold, lonely road to publishing, but that’s not the case any more. Find your supporters, work on your craft, and chase your dreams, because there is no one right way to get there.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I love exploring stories. That’s the best bit. I think it’s why the outlining process is my favourite part, because there is so much to discover. I get to meet my characters and get to know them. I get to look at how the story moves and grows and shapes. During the drafting process there are still some discoveries and I love how the story changes and evolves through the drafts, but outlining is like seeing the world for the first time. I’m a toddler, eyes bright and wide, in awe at all the wonder. Feeling like that is pretty amazing.

—the worst? OK, there are a few downsides that leap to mind. Hitting my head against plot holes can be pretty nightmarish. I’ve found writer’s block stems from trying to force the story to go in a direction it’s not supposed to go. And I can be pretty stubborn so I’ve been known to do that a good dozen times per draft. I’m learning to be less of a control freak and to let the story change and evolve, but sometimes when I’m being particularly stubborn the frustration and depression of not being able to get the words on the page can be painful.

I also have problems with the fact that it’s entirely self-directed. I’m having to learn how to set deadlines, plan and manage projects with time, and develop more discipline about treating my writing self as a professional. I’ve been a pretty slack boss in the past; I give myself too much leeway and it’s not an efficient way to work. It’s important to be a fair but firm boss of your writing self, set your boundaries and act professionally within them.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would focus more on quantity. I spent so many years obsessing about the quality of one story that I missed fantastic opportunities and left so many stories untold. The thing about being a writer professionally is that it requires more than one book to succeed. The more you produce the faster you’ll learn and grow as an artist, the faster you’ll develop your own voice, the sooner you’ll acquire a degree of mastery.

This is one of the reasons I am now so deeply involved with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m the Municipal Liaison for Australia :: Perth :: South and an advocate for the literary industry across the state. NaNoWriMo promotes the idea of writing quickly to produce a good book that you can turn into a great book with editing later. It challenges writers to write a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November. That’s a pretty impressive feat but thousands of writers around the world do it every year. (In fact some do it in months other than November as well!)

I’m definitely planning to focus the coming months on increasing productivity. I’ll be writing more words faster, and hopefully that’ll mean it won’t take another eight years before the next book.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told that the best way to stay motivated is to immerse yourself in the writing community. I spent a long time thinking that writing was something you do all by yourself. After all, surely writers are tortured hermits and drunks holed up in their basements bashing away at their typewriters, right? The truth is, the more people you bring into your writing circle who encourage, support, and inspire your writing, the easier you’ll find the whole process. Yes there are times when you need to close the door and get the words written (although I also do really well writing in the company of others at our local write ins), but if you open the door and spend time with others in the industry you’ll find the community helps you maintain your enthusiasm, excitement, and motivation.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “Write. Publish. Repeat.” – This is actually a book by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant with David Wright, three hyper-prolific writers who have the Self Publishing Podcast. The book itself is targeted specifically to authors (particularly indie or hybrid authors) who are ready to look at their career with a business mindset. There are lots of great tips in it for building your writing business but what it breaks down to is exactly what the title says. The way to succeed is to “Write. Publish. Repeat.” And more specifically, write good books, publish professionally (be it traditional or self-publishing), then jump right back into the fire and write the next book. The key is to never stray far from production. Many writers get stuck in the promotional circuit trying to play up the marketing for their latest book, especially if it’s a debut novel, but the best marketing for your latest book is actually the ones you write after it. Build your catalogue because every book exponentially increases your reach.

I also had an eye-opening experience at a workshop with film producer, Karel Segers, a couple of years ago where I first discovered The Hero’s Journey concept. If you’ve never heard of it I recommend checking it out. It’ll blow your mind and make you see books and movies in a whole new way. I’ve found it’s also done wonders for my own writing process and led me to write richer stories.


FlightOfTorque_Cover_Laffar-SmithThe Flight of Torque

When investigative reporter, Tori, chases the story of an underground smuggling network, she stumbles into something significantly more sinister. Instead of the illegal trade of exotic reptiles, she finds a temple of devout snake worshippers. Taken by the cultists, Tori is subjected to a savage ritual and irrevocably transformed. Now something dark and primal slithers within her.

Lucas, charged with Tori’s protection, struggles against an overwhelming sense of helplessness. He should be stronger, faster, and more powerful than any human, but in the past 20 years all of his charges have been murdered. Their deaths and his failures linger in his nightmares. They writhe in his mind like the chilling sense of brooding hunger that floods Tori’s thoughts.

Filled with violent rage and dark jealousy, the cult’s High Priestess rears up between Tori and the truth. The only thing protecting Tori from the long, cold embrace of death is the darkness within and the tingling warmth and light of her guardian angel. (Amazon US – Kindle & Paperback) (Amazon AU – Kindle Only)

Local Perth-based readers can also order an autographed copy directly from me and arrange for local pickup during one of my roaming write-ins using this form:

Meet the Author: Lee Battersby


LEE’S TOP WRITING TIPS: Live. Travel. Take millions of photos. Go out at night. Visit museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, zoos. Drink. Dance. Have sex as often as you possibly can, and if you’re single, with as many people as you can. Read. Watch movies, plays, TV. Learn to juggle. Go to the circus. Play a musical instrument, badly and loudly. Ride a horse. Sing out loud as often as possible. Fire a gun. Argue. Take courses in history, criminology, art theory, whatever, it doesn’t matter, but take courses. Have hobbies. Do stupid things. Do brilliant things that are going to make you look completely cool. Try out different jobs. Milk a cow. Crack a whip. Feed lambs. Ride an elephant. Ignore the critics, the naysayers and the fools. Be a fool. Eat all different kinds of food. Get drunk. Try everything that comes across your path and then find other paths to try everything that crosses them.

By the time I published my first short story I’d been a tennis coach, stand-up comedian, watch salesman, graduate student, public servant and cartoonist. By the time I’d published my third I was a widower and single father—not that I recommend it. But if all you know is your day job, writing and reading, then what the *hell* have you got to talk about? Writers are interesting not because we write—anyone can do that—but because of what we write about, and the way we write about it. And that comes from experience: of the world, of our fellow human beings, and of the spaces in between everything that we notice but everybody else walks past without seeing. And enjoy the sex.


rsz_battersbyLee Battersby is the author of the novels The Corpse-Rat King and The Marching Dead (Angry Robot Books) and the collection Through Soft Air (Prime Books) as well as more than 70 short stories in the US, Europe and Australia. Winner of the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Writers of the Future awards, his next novel, a work for children entitled Magit and Bugrat will be released by Walker Books in early 2015. He lives in Mandurah with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby, two insane children, and an ongoing sense of doom. He lives online at and blogs at


Why do you write? Every time I run a writing workshop I start with an exercise I smurched from my friend Dr Stephen Dedman (link:, wherein I ask participants to note down, as truthfully as possible, the five reasons they write. I did it myself for a workshop I ran at this year’s Perth Writers Festival, and these were my five reasons:

  1. Fame
  2. Money
  3. Critical Acclaim
  4. To hang out with other writers
  5. To leave something behind when I die

One out of five ain’t bad….

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d be stuck working in the bowels of the ATO, suffering from suicidal depression and clouded in misery so thick I’d probably have ruined my marriage and my life by now. My writing career played a large part in landing my current day job in arts administration—not to mention putting me in the path of my wife– as well as providing me with a refuge whenever Real Life ™ has left me feeling under siege, so contemplating life without it isn’t a pretty thought.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Patience. It’s still my biggest obstacle. I wrote for a lot of media before I focused on writing narrative fiction, so I had a good education in the written form: stand-up comedy, short plays, poetry, cartooning, legislation, business letters, and on and on. It took me just on two years between writing my first story for publication and my first sale, and my wife at the time wasn’t really attuned to what I was attempting to do with my artistic ambitions, which led to conflict. It’s very difficult to explain to someone why you want to come in from a day at work, spend a short period of time with them, and then disappear into your own worlds for the rest of the evening, if they’re not absolutely simpatico with your goals. There was a strong desire to justify what I was doing, and to achieve something I’d set up as a pretty major life-goal. Every week without a breakthrough made it harder to justify the sacrifice.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That moment, when you’re in the midst of creation and nothing else in the world is as pleasurable as the sheer joy of skating along on the thin edge of your creative powers, and all the words are laying themselves down in front of you and suddenly, out of nowhere, all those years of research and mental filing and subconscious connections just bubble up and go POW! And you realise that you’ve just said something in a way that nobody, ever, has said it, and now that you’ve seen things in this particular way they can never be unseen, and that once your readers read it, they’ll never be able to see it the same way again, that you have created something genuinely new that will, without a shadow of a doubt, change the way other people view the world. The awards and contracts and payments are nice, but they’re not as visceral as that moment, not as powerful. The rewards are wonderful, but that moment, that white-hot moment, that’s crack J

—the worst? The worst point for me came a couple of years ago when I realised that I’d done my best work as a short story writer over the previous two or three years and yet the stories I’d produced had pretty much disappeared without any sort of notice. I felt like I’d gone as far as I could with that form, and didn’t want to continue working on something for months for a token payment and no critical or commercial attention. Writing is the way I communicate my worldview, and if there’s nobody at the other end of the communication then what’s the point? I came very close to quitting altogether at that point: my Real Life ™ is quite stressful, and I need an outlet that rewards me, not adds more stress to the pile. I was fortunate in that a novel I’d submitted made it through the slush pile shortly thereafter and gave me new impetus and new direction, but that was the worst moment: the feeling that nobody was reading, nobody was listening, and all I was really doing was shouting into the mirror.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t spend so long writing short stories without moving into novels. It was 11 years between my first short story publication and my first novel publication, and looking back, I don’t think I learned anything in the last five or six years that merits sticking solely to that form for so long. I’d have been better off establishing my novel career much earlier. I’d have avoided sticking so closely to one genre for so long. I want to be known for my variety.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? “It’s sad, because I’d absorbed this advice and still managed to ignore it: don’t get tied to one form or genre. Don’t get typecast. All I wanted to be when I started out was a writer. Not an SF writer or a horror writer or a poet or any other badge that gives people a chance to pigeonhole your work. And yet, somehow, once I tasted a bit of success in one genre I focused on that single area of my work to the detriment of my full range. It’s only recently that I’ve worked to branch out again and move away from the speculative fiction field. I’ve always sold poetry throughout my career, but with a children’s novel under my belt now I feel I’m slowly establishing myself across numerous forms again.

Work as widely as you can. Wish I’d paid attention. ”

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice I ever received came when I was studying writing at Curtin University. I had a student interview with Elizabeth Jolley, who was my tutor at the time, and while she was explaining why she was failing me advised me to give up: I lacked a basic understanding of fiction, had little facility for constructing a believable narrative, and would simply never make it. I should save myself a lot of heartache and be better off pursuing some other goal. Frankly, she said, even if I sold an occasional story, I’d never be known for it and never be read. I’ve always been grateful for her honesty. I always work best with a “f- you” at my back.

The best bit of positive advice came from a brilliant book called Booklife by the American writer Jeff Vandermeer. It’s a manual on how to be a writer, rather than an instruction manual on writing. He talks about managing your career arc, in particular how to have a clear view of your goals and how to analyse every opportunity in light of those goals. One thing he stresses in the book is the need to be unafraid in turning down opportunities because they don’t lead you towards those goals, even if they seem attractive. I’ve felt much more in control of my career since reading that: I tend to be a serial accepter, so being empowered to say ‘no’ is a good feeling.


The Corpse Rat King

TheCorpseRatKing-144dpiMarius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running away.

Available from

Meet the Author: Kirsten Krauth

KIRSTEN’S TOP WRITING TIP: If you work on something you are passionate about, be loyal to it, stick up for it, and eventually an agent, a publisher, a reader, who is the right fit, will come to you. Don’t write for a market (unless you are into a very specific genre); try to find your unique voice.

Kirsten KrauthKirsten Krauth‘s first novel just_a_girl was published in 2013. She lives in Castlemaine, edits the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine, Newswrite, and is regional arts reporter for ABC Arts Online. Kirsten’s writing on literature and film has been published in Good Weekend, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, RealTime, Island Magazine, Empire, Metro Screen and Screen Education. She blogs at Wild Colonial Girl about all things literary — where she runs the series ‘Writing Mothers’, and a monthly club for debut novelists and short story writers: Friday Night Fictions. She was one of the judges for the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Best Young Australian Novelists awards in 2013.

Meet Kirsten at UWA Publishing:
Visit her blog at Wild Colonial Girl:
Hang out with her on Twitter @wldcolonialgirl, Facebook ( and Goodreads (


Why do you write? I love playing with language. I like shaping words and seeing the results. I enjoy being able to inhabit characters very different from myself. As a child I was always happiest working on projects in my room, doing research, becoming fully immersed in whatever I was creating. Nothing has really changed! I get into a meditative state when I work. There’s nothing quite like it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? In my dreams: an actress, musician or dancer. In reality: editing a magazine (which I do, anyway).

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? It took a long time for me to get the confidence to know I could write fiction. I ended up enrolling in a Research Masters of Creative Writing at Sydney Uni to give me the little push I needed. Like any writer, I was unsure about the process of submission: To try to get an agent? To send to one publisher at a time? I was very polite and waiting for people to respond (they often didn’t). I’d be more assertive the next time round.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The continual challenge. Always having the chance to observe the often small things going on around you. Spending lots of time in libraries and reading about subjects you (at first) don’t know a great deal about. The peace of sitting down and doing it.

—the worst? Always feeling like there’s never enough time and it’s a juggling act.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d send my draft out to more writers to comment on before I approached agents. I’d try to get an agent before I signed my first contract. I’d listen hard to general comments about the manuscript and try to nut out the common threads in the feedback. I’d organise more events to promote the book immediately after publication (I sat back and waited for things to happen).

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it is addictive. That each book comes with different challenges, so you feel like you are starting anew as you approach the second (then the third). It’s challenging to always feel like you are starting again.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Look after your readers. Always respond to people who contact you and add a personal touch. Be part of a community of writers who can support you and give advice along the way (it can be a lonely process).


justagirljust_a_girl tears into the fabric of contemporary culture. A Puberty Blues for the digital age, a Lolita with a webcam, it’s what happens when young girls are forced to grow up too fast. Or never get the chance to grow up at all.

Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot’s caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.

Meet the Author: Annabel Smith

ANNABEL’S TOP WRITING TIP: Join or form a writing group. The feedback and support you’ll get from other writers at a similar career stage will be invaluable and will improve your writing more than anything else.

????????Annabel Smith is the author of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards.

She has been writer-in-residence at Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA), had short fiction and commentary published in Westerly and Southerly and holds a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University.

In 2012 she was selected by the Australia Council as one of five inaugural recipients of a Creative Australia Fellowship for Emerging Artists, for the creation of an interactive app to accompany her experimental speculative fiction The Ark, to be published in 2014. She is currently working on an epic quest with a sci-fi twist featuring a monkey, an evil priestess and the mother of all tsunamis.



Why do you write? Quite simply, I’m unhappy if I don’t.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Ideally I would be a lady of leisure – pilates, lunch with the girls etc. More likely I would return to my former job as a teacher of English as a Second Language.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The changes in the publishing industry in the last few years have made getting published more difficult than ever before. Consequently I found getting my second novel published more difficult than my first. I attempted first to find an agent, and then when that was unsuccessful, I began sending my manuscript to small independent presses. It took three years and 17 rejections before I was offered a contract.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? What a hard question. There are so many things I love about my writing life it’s hard to choose one favourite. The satisfaction of crafting a sentence or paragraph that I’m very happy with would have to be up there; also the pleasure of receiving feedback from a reader who says my books have touched them in some ways is very special.

—the worst? The fact that rejection is just part of the process – sometimes that’s hard to take.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Ignore the instructions from publishers and agents that insist you only submit to one organisation at a time. Submitting to several simultaneously is a much better strategy.


WhiskyCharlieFoxtrot CoverIt is less than twenty-four hours since Charlie received the phone call from his mother  and in those hours his only thought has been that Whisky must not die. He must not die because he, Charlie, needs more time. He and Whisky have not been friends, have not talked or laughed together for months, years. But he has never thought it will end like this. He has always thought there will be time.

Whisky and Charlie are identical twins. But everything about them is poles apart. It’s got so bad that Charlie can’t even bear to talk to his brother anymore – until a freak accident steals Whisky from his family, and Charlie has to face the fact he may never speak to his brother again.

Annabel’s book is available from: Amazon:

Meet the Author: Annette Mahon

Annette Mahon

ANNETTE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Sit down, write, finish the book. Find a writer’s group or organisation and join. Interacting with other writers is greatly beneficial, even if they aren’t writing in the same genre you are.

Annette Mahon is a former librarian who likes to think that she’s moved from tending the library shelves to filling them, as both of her early publishers sold primarily to the library market. Annette writes the St. Rose Quilting Bee mystery series where a group of quilters in Scottsdale, Arizona, solve mysteries over the quilt frame, and sweet romances set in her native Hawaii. She currently lives in Arizona, USA, with her husband and spoiled Australian Shepherds. Her latest St. Rose Quilting Bee mystery is Bright Hopes, due out in September 2014.
For more information about Annette’s books visit


Why do you write? I can’t NOT write. I’ve always heard a voice in my head, telling stories, narrating my life. Once I started writing stories, I can’t imagine not doing it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I worked as a librarian before I became a stay-at-home mother, and I enjoyed that very much. I’m sure I’d still be doing that.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My own procrastination. I’ve never been able to commit to a full day of sitting at the computer. For me, four hours of writing time is doing a good day’s work.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?  The friends I’ve made among other writers, and seeing my books on the library shelves.

–the worst? Agonizing over those new pages!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t know that I would do anything differently, as I know myself and how I work. However, it would probably be easier now just because of the internet and the simplicity of finding information. For example, you no longer have to write to each publisher for tip sheets, as all that information is available on their websites.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I don’t really have an answer to this, as I was pretty well informed early on. I was lucky enough to discover RWA where there were many authors ready to offer tips and advice.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Finish the book. When I began, many people recommended just doing “partials” to send out and not spending all the time finishing a book that no one wanted. However, new writers rarely, if ever, sell a first book on a partial, so it is essential to finish the manuscript.



Bright Hopes by Annette Mahon

BrightHopesFront, finalLoud explosions are ruining sleep for hundreds of Scottsdale residents in the hot July nights, including members of the St. Rose Quilting Bee. Things become serious when Michael Browne, Maggie’s police officer son, is injured by one of the blasts. Then a church member dies when an explosion topples a roof onto the lounge chair where he lies sleeping. Most of the Bee members think bored teenagers may be playing with fireworks, but Edie is thinking terrorists. The others scoff, until a bomb at a power substation throws the entire neighborhood into darkness. Suddenly, terrorism is a real possibility and the national media descends on the neighborhood.

The quilting bee women work through some convoluted theories trying to get to the bottom of the “noises in the night,” as they suspect a local connection to the death of their fellow parishioner. Are there terrorists working in Scottsdale, or is it a clever murderer covering his or her tracks? To buy this and other St Rose Quilting Bee mysteries, visit  

Meet the Author: Norman Jorgensen

NORMAN’S TOP WRITING TIP: Give it a go. What have you got lose, other than a little dignity and a small hit to the self–esteem if your story is not accepted?

NJ at Ithica, Home of Mark Twain2Norman Jorgensen is one of Western Australia’s most versatile authors for young people, with 10 books published, including the highly regarded In Flanders Fields,  and several more nearing completion. He is one of only three Western Australians ever to have received the prestigious Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in its 60-year history. He has been short-listed twice for both the WA Premier’s Book Awards and the WA Young Readers’ Book Awards and he has been honoured by the ASPCA Henry Burgh Awards in the United States.

Norman was born in Broome in 1954 when his father was the sole Post Master General Department’s  Technician for the entire North West and lived there, blissfully,  until his father was transferred to Mullewa then Narrogin and eventually Perth, where he now lives with  his wife Jan, an enthusiastic  children’s book devotee.

He has a deep love of books and literature and has worked in the book trade for much of his life, as a school book seller, publisher’s agent and as a bookshop owner, where he experienced the dubious joys of small business ownership.

His novel Jack’s Island, set on Rottnest Island during World War II has been well received, not only by teenagers who study it at school, but also by their parents and grandparents who seem to appreciate the way he accurately captured a simpler, more gentle Western Australia.  His picture book with James Foley, The Last Viking has been well-loved by thousands of children and has won six awards.  The sequel The Return of the Last Viking will be published in October 2014.

Norman is proud that his books are nearly always set firmly in Western Australia in a landscape that is recognisable to his readers and pleased that his young fans are still able to enjoy his work even though it is not set in Springfield, a rather unusual English boarding school, nor vampire-invested Forks, Washington.

For information about Norman and his books, visit or   


Why do you write?  I love the creative side of the story making. I love seeing how a single word or a sudden flash of just one small idea can grow and expand until the sentences, paragraphs and chapters all add up to become a recognisable book with interesting characters and setting and conflicts. Jack’s Island developed from hearing someone being called a dafty. A Fine Mess was sparked by a poster of old comedians Laurel and Hardy hanging perilously off a building. The Last Viking was sparked years before when my nephew added horns to his bike helmet, but not developed until I saw James Foley’s illustrating style and asked if he would draw a boy Viking.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Judging by my recent efforts, I’d probably be a Professional Facebooker. I gather the working conditions and annual holidays are reasonable, but the wages are virtually non-existent.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Trying to think and sound like a real12 year old and one who was 12 now, and not my vaguely remembered version of what it was like when I was that age. If my story was going to appeal to the audience I was aiming at, I had to get that basic problem sorted first off. So often I would add in references that amused me but no modern kid would have any idea at all. When the first manuscript had its 1960s gloss removed, and did not sound condescending, it had a much better chance of being considered for publication.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I really like living in a magical made-up world with imaginary friends (and enemies) who I can actually push around. When I’m bored or alone, I love being able to drift off into my head to my latest pretend landscape and watch what my characters are all up to. I don’t have as much control over them as you would expect, and I’m often surprised to see what they do and what happens next. They can be such an obstinate bunch of man-made souls.

Working with an illustrator can be a genuine pleasure, and I am amazed at seeing how someone like illustrator, James Foley, can take a whimsical idea we have thrashing about, and with a few quick sketches, suddenly give it life and the possibility of a whole new saga. I find the illustrating process fascinating, and being involved has been an unexpected part of the joy of my profession.

And I especially love seeing a new book come out and holding the printed, bound pages with a striking cover for the very first time. It is a wonderful feeling.

I like sharing the reaction from audiences of school kids when I read something that appeals to them, and their excitement at meeting me.  And I like the special way I get treated by strangers when I say I’m a writer. It is almost a pity my family and friends see just the real me.

And I especially love the happy band, we happy few, of other children’s book creators in this state with whom I hang about. Their talent is contagious and they are all so generous in their support of each other.

—the worst? Everything else that comes with job – the self salesmanship needed, rejections, having to edit, or be edited, the constant lack of money, writing unsuccessful jargon-filled grant applications, staying in seedy country motels, the uncertainty of knowing if a manuscript is any good or not after having just spent months working on it, revising a story over and over until can’t stand it anymore and can almost recite every damn word, days when only the wrong words land on the screen, being beaten at awards by books you privately think are not that good, reviewers who think all children’s books should convey a message or a moral lesson…  Stop me now as I’m sounding like a sad and embittered old man.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would treat my writing more like a business than a hobby and really work harder at it. I would go to typing school, and I would pay more attention to my English teachers at school, especially on the days we did grammar.  I would travel more when I was younger so that I’d have more experiences to write about. I would listen more to everyone around me and pay more attention to all my senses. I would read better books, and more of them, so as to learn more from the literary masters and great storytellers. I would learn patience, because the publishing trade is so unbelievably slow and every aspect of the process takes forever.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Writing it not just fun, but takes a lot of effort. Like all creative endeavours, it is said real skill needs a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice. At 20 hours solid writing each week, it will take 10 years to reach that figure, and even then success is not guaranteed, it just gets a little easier to find the words.

I wish too, I had been told how much work and time is involved that is not actual writing but promotion.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Carry your notebook at all times. Ideas are fleeting, so need to be written down the minute they pop into your head as they will often never reappear. Great sentences can also arrive at such unexpected moments that unless you write them down they will be lost forever.

Write your own story and don’t try following trends. By the time your book is ready, the current trend for vampires or wizards or angels or horse stories or whatever will probably be passed and your book will look a bit sad and unloved on a bookshop shelf along with the other unsold copies of clones of Hunger Games.

And secondly, use two characters who talk to each other so that their dialogue can push the story along, instead of writing great long passages of descriptions and sentences that include, and then she… went….did…said, etc. This is actually another way of saying, show, don’t tell.

Thirdly, try not to take rejection too personally. Pick ya’self up, dust ya’self down, start all over again, and send your story to another publisher, and another and another.



The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen (Illustrated by James Foley)

9781921888106_LASTVIKINGYoung Josh is afraid of everything – he isn’t brave like the mighty Vikings his Pop tells him of. One day Josh decides to become a fearless Viking too. He calls himself Prince Knut,  builds his own armour and sails a dragon-headed longship through stormy seas. When bullies threaten Knut, he must find the courage to defend himself – and lucky for him the Viking Gods, Odin and Thor, have been watching. They won’t let one of their own stand alone…

Available from

Meet the Author: Elaine Forrestal

ELAINE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Read, read, read. And write, write, write. Nothing is wasted.

Elaine Forrestal is a lyrical writer with a strong appreciation of nature, music, history aelainepic-1nd the sea. She lives in Perth with her husband, Peter, and their dog, Fling, just a few paces from the untamed beauty of Scarborough Beach. Elaine is the author of many highly acclaimed and popular novels for children, and has also written for television. Her novel Someone Like Me was commended in the NASEN Children’s Book Awards in the UK and won the WAYRBA Hoffman Award. It also won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers.

Elaine coverWith the publication in 2008 of her first picture book, Miss Llewellyn-Jones, and her first novel for older readers, Black Jack Anderson, she widened her horizons and entered a new phase of her writing career. To See the World: a voyage of discovery aboard the sailing ship Uranie is her latest book, due for release on April 1st 2014.

For information about Elaine and her books, visit her website at


Why do you write? I am a story teller. Ever since I was a small child I have told stories. Once I learned to write, I discovered that I was also a story writer. I love the way that words can be made to work together – the beauty of them and the way they can be juggled and swapped around to make different meanings

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I was a Pre Primary teacher for 23 years and loved it. If the pressure to become a full-time writer hadn’t been so great I would probably still be doing that.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Becoming published was almost an accident for me. After that the toughest obstacle was making enough time to teach and write. Since I have been a full-time writer the biggest challenge has been to keep re-inventing myself as a writer. To keep my writing relevant in a changing world.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect of my writing life is being able to work from home.

—the worst? Balancing the budget on a low income.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Maybe nothing. In spite of a changing world you still have to do the hard work, believe in yourself and keep on sending your work out to publishers. Never give up – that hasn’t changed.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? As I’ve said, I didn’t really set out to become an author. If someone had told me, back then, that I would earn my living from writing books I would not have believed them.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Elizabeth Jolly told me never to throw anything away. She meant drafts, failed stories, ideas. And Julie Watts sent me a copy of Eleanor Nilssen’s book on how to write for children. The best advice I got from that is to take out the manuscript you are working on every day – even if you think you can only spare 10 minutes. That 10 minutes (which will often turn into a lot more) is enough to keep the story fresh in your mind. Your subconscious will keep working away at the ideas while you are doing other things, but only if you remind it to.