Meet the Author: Catherine de Saint Phalle

Catherine’s top writing tip: Be yourself in every way. Absolute honesty with oneself is my only tip. Does a mole lie to himself? Does a dog? Even if a dog tries to pull one over his human companion, like pretending he or she hasn’t eaten for weeks when they’ve just had their breakfast, you can see they’re whole. They do not slip out of themselves; they’re holding their lie like a bone in their mouth. It sounds childish to say ‘be true to yourself’ but it’s the only tip I have. Anyway, I think it’s none of my business to advise anyone. Maybe a prime liar could be a fantastic writer. I’ve just explained what works for me.

Catherine de Saint Phalle was born in London and was immediately taken back to Paris by her parents, where an English woman brought her up until she was eight. Her childhood was spent between Paris and Sussex, England. She started writing at seven. She did a modest year of university. Her way of learning was reading compulsively and writing; academia was not her element. She married and moved to the South of France in Provence where she lived till 1998 and had two subsequent relationships. She has the religion of friendship like her mother Poum. For a living, she’s been a Jack of all trades, translating, gardening, French lessons, cleaning etc. She has had nine books published: five in France with Actes Sud and Buchet-Chastel and two of her radio plays were broadcast by France Culture. She left France in 2003 to live in Australia and that’s the best decision she’s ever made. She’s the proud possessor of an Australian passport since 2008. She is now single, lives with her dog and it quite baffled at how happy she is.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  Throughout my life I’ve seen some of my dearest friends suffer in their effort to discover what they wanted to do in life – talented, inspired people who could not find their voice. I have written since the age of seven. I don’t think I can find a reason for writing. Writing is like breathing. If I don’t, everything becomes constricted and dark.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think I would probably be learning about essential oils or naturopathy. My grandmother was interested in herbs and the people in the village came to her when they were sick. She died in 1943, so I never met her. But I feel close to her all the same. She knew the first French naturopath Paul Carton – long before natural remedies became the fashion. She also knew about graphology. Maybe I’d be a gardener, and then I could read and write for myself even if no one ever read me.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? It was changing countries. Five of my books had been published in France and my two radio plays had been broadcast. When I came to Australia, I couldn’t find a publisher. I stayed more than 10 years like that. I got a few articles out in the Big Issue thanks to Rochelle Siemienovicz and Martin Hugues, but that was all. I wrote all kinds of things, short stories, a play, a novel, nothing came up for air. I felt I was living in my drawer. I think I was just undergoing a process of transformation. Going from the French world to the English was part of it of course. But it was more than that. In Jung’s preface to Richard Wilhem’s translation of the IChing, he says that Wilhem became Chinese in his soul and, when at the end of his life he returned to Germany, he died. I think that pouring oneself in another container can be very hard. I didn’t realise this at the time of course.

I wrote my first proper novel at 17, then several others and was not published in France until I was well into my thirties. The main obstacle was self-belief. I never had much of that. But if you have too much, it can be a problem too. It’s tricky.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? No. In my experience, that’s the publishers’ purview. The font, the paper, etc is all their domain. Of course, if a cover made you physically sick, they would not leave you in pain. I’m lucky, I have an intelligent, considerate publisher, but he’s also very good at what he does and I trust him. As for the editing, he has a marvellous editor called Penelope Goodes and she helped me immensely to stay with the heart of the story.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When I can write. That’s the purest joy. One is no longer in exile.

—the worst? When I can’t. When what is right there stays hidden in the moist earth – or when life is scary and intervenes.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t know. I feel like a mole. For me writing is being in darkness, in the moist earth, digging towards the light, moving forward blindly, softly or sitting there in buried silence and trusting to find my way somehow.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Nothing. It’s a private matter, a personal endeavour. I even hate yoga, because the teacher whispers: You are calm, you are detached, you are this, you are that … I can’t bear it. I hate having a voice in my head. It obscures the other one, the feeble, tiny, half-smothered one I’m trying to hear. I know yoga is brilliant and would probably do me a world of good, but I’d rather strangle myself with my own cardigan than go to a yoga class.

 What’s the best advice you were ever given? Never take anything for granted. And listen.

How important is social media to you as an author? Well, emails, messaging, Facebook are great tools. Didn’t EM Forster have “Only connect…” written on his tombstone?

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? It’s the most awful thing. I have encountered it a few times in my life, once for a whole month. It feels as if the air were slowly being taken away from my lungs and I become more and more anxious – a tiger might as well be prowling around the room. I’m grounded when I write. I feel whole and useful, even when I’m writing in my notebook about a lady and her basket on the tram, about a streetlight, about the slope of someone’s shoulders … I feel I am saving them in some invisible, mysterious way. It’s ridiculous I know, but that’s how it is.

How do you deal with rejection? Because writing is such an inner thing, it feels like a jolt from above (again the mole), as if my mole hill had been squashed. It’s a tightening, a call to dig deeper. There’s a pinch of course, like all rejection. But it doesn’t make me lose heart entirely.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Oh dear, I’m incapable of describing my own writing. Sorry, it’s like trying to see what you look like from behind. It’s an inner endeavour, it comes from another world, the world of the unconscious where all our roots meet. So I have no idea at all.

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 it would be Helen Garner. I always like to know what she feels about anything, not only writing. In fact, hearing her talk about her toothbrush would be most illuminating.

BOOK BYTE

The Sea & Us

Catherine de Saint Phalle

From the Stella shortlisted author of Poum and Alexandre, this is a heartwarming novel about longing, absence and the people we unexpectedly come to love.
After many years spent living in Seoul, a young man called Harold
drifts back to Australia and rents a room above a fish and chip shop
called The Sea & Us. Who he meets and what he experiences there
propels him to question his own yearnings and failings, and to fight for
meaning and a sense of place that can only be reached by facing what
is lost.
By turns electric, tender, and hopeful, The Sea & Us is a gem of literary
imagination. Catherine de Saint Phalle brilliantly captures disparate
characters and their common human desire for community and
connection. Long after the last page closes, ‘we can hear the bell
tinkle. Someone wants some fish and chips.’

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Justine Ettler

Justine Ettler’s The River Ophelia, (Picador,
1995) was a best-seller in Australia and New
Zealand and has been taught at HSC and
university level. Her novel, Marilyn’s Almost
Terminal New York Adventure, (Picador) was published the following year to critical acclaim. In 1997 Justine was selected as one of six Australian authors to tour the UK as part of the New Images Writer’s Tour, and subsequently moved to London where she lived until 2007. She worked as
a book reviewer at The Observer, The Evening Standard, and The Times Literary Supplement, lectured in Creative Writing,
and worked as a reader for the London literary agency,
Cornerstones, as well as for The Literary Consultancy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because I love writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Difficult to imagine but I’d probably be a musician.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Learning how to keep writing through rejection and poverty.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Yes, I had input into designing the cover for Bohemia Beach; not so much with my first two books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The peace I feel when writing.

—the worst? Having my writing misrepresented in the media.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Take some time out from love relationships to concentrate on my writing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Choose a more nurturing publisher over a bigger chequebook.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep writing and don’t quit your day job.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Find an agent/publisher who understands what you’re trying to do and is in it for the long haul.

How important is social media to you as an author? It can lead to good contacts, I don’t use it for my personal life.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Accept it as part of the process and keep writing even if all I’m doing is journaling.

How do you deal with rejection? By trying not to take it personally.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? True, complex, original.

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? George Eliot, and I’d love to ask her tell how it felt to be married to a supportive, literary husband.

BOOK BYTE

Bohemia Beach

Justine Ettler

Catherine Bell, a famous concert pianist, is struggling to
hold on to her career in a competitive international arena
that spans the classical music capitals of the world. After a
disastrous show in Copenhagen, Cathy is about to attempt
her first concert performance without alcohol in Prague
when her marriage implodes, her terminally ill, Czech-born
mother goes missing from her London hospital, and
a much needed highly paid recording deal falls through.
Cathy finds herself coping in the only way she knows how:
grasping a glass of forbidden pre-performance champagne
and flirting with Tomas, a stranger in a Prague nightclub.
While her therapist Nelly advises her to abstain, Cathy’s
relationship with drink, and Tomas, draws her deep into a
whirlpool of events as mysterious, tense and seductive as
Prague itself. Justine Ettler’s discipline in the writing is as
controlled as Cathy is out of control– the novel brilliantly
references classics such as Wuthering Heights – and as with
Rachel in The Girl on a Train the reader is drawn into the
protagonist’s predicament with moving, palpable intensity.
Bohemia Beach is an edge of your seat ride, a compelling
story of addiction, passionate love and the power of art. It
heralds the return of one of Australia’s most distinctive authors.

Buy the book here: http://transitlounge.com.au/shop/bohemia-beach/

 

Meet the Author: Shirley Rowland

A give-it-my-best-shot attitude and a commitment to learning has led to the realisation of a dream for West Australian debut author Shirley Rowland, my first guest on In Their Own Write for 2018.

Shirley was born in South Australia but now lives with her husband in a coastal suburb south of Perth, Western Australia.

Her interest in writing was sparked in primary school but lay dormant for many years. She joined her first writing group in 1998 and is currently a member of four groups, each providing a different writing relationship.

Shirley published her first fictional novel, Return to Crossways, in February 2017.

To find out more about Shirley, visit her website www.shirleyrowland.wordpress.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?

That’s a bit like asking, why do I breathe? It’s something that comes naturally, that I have always done, although not specifically creative fiction and novel writing.

The exact moment I decided to become a writer occurred in primary school. In Grade Seven (my last year at primary school). I was late returning to class one day. As I stood outside the classroom door, I heard the teacher reading “Compositions” from someone’s book. They sounded surprisingly good – but also vaguely familiar. When I entered the classroom and walked past the teacher to reach my desk, I glanced at the brown-paper-covered book in his hand and saw my name on it. No wonder those stories had sounded familiar! In that moment I decided one day I would become a writer.

I never dreamed that day would take half a century to arrive!

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

Either sailing around the world or doing something creative, like patchwork or painting. When I lived on the NSW coast I painted in oils for ten years. However WA’s harsh environment doesn’t inspire me, although I attended Forrestfield TAFE part-time for six years learning about colour and design – knowledge that has been useful for designing book covers!

Sailing is another activity that comes to me as naturally as breathing. If I hadn’t taken up writing, I would be on the ocean in some exotic location.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

The decision to self-publish. It’s a huge step to take, but when I sat down with pen and paper and drew up columns listing the pro’s and con’s, I realised it boiled down to one word – AGE. Most sources quote an average time of ten years for a writer to land his or her first publishing contract. I have already outlived my mother in age; one grandmother died two years older than I am now although the other grandmother lived to her mid-eighties, which gives me some genetic wriggle-room. With such poor odds for longevity, I decided self-publishing was the logical option. In life I have generally found that if I want something done, it’s necessary to do it myself.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations?

Self-publishing means I have had complete control of development, editing, cover and everything else that makes up a book, which is both good and bad. I have attended publishing workshops, and as a member of The Society of Women Writers had access to advice from others who have taken this route. I have probably made every beginner’s mistake, but hey! it’s all part of the total learning experience. I figure that ‘content is king’ and to date feedback has been positive.

What is the best aspect of your writing life?

The high after a great writing session, when the creative juices are in full flow, the word count is impressive and I surprise myself with what appears on the page. A close second is the friendship of the members of the four writing groups to which I belong, and the camaraderie and stimulation of other creative minds.

What is the worst aspect?

Probably every writer’s gripe – not enough time to actually sit at my computer and type! I could gripe about retired husbands underfoot and other life demands, but who’s listening?

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer?

Write faster? Seriously, I have considered enrolling in a TAFE or university course to up-skill more quickly, instead of ploughing through every “How-to-write” book in my local library! and then teaching myself by instructing other writers in two of my writing groups.

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

I can’t think of any advice that would have changed my writing journey. How hard it is would not have stopped me. Ditto time-consuming. Becoming an author is not something I “set out” to do; it was always something that I would achieve one day. When I decide to do anything, I go ahead and give it my best shot.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

To FINISH! Finish the story before beginning to revise it. Stephen King is probably the most famous author to give this advice. I remember Anna Jacobs giving it at a workshop, and reading it from many other authors. It’s the most-repeated, probably because it IS the best single piece of advice, although I think that until you have completed that first draft of your first novel, you cannot fully appreciate its value. A close second is a piece of advice you once gave me, Teena. When overwhelmed with half a dozen projects on the go, pick one and stick with it until it is finished – which comes back to the first piece of advice; to keep going until you finish.

Shirley’s top tip for aspiring writers: Keep writing! I would add, join a local writing group. It’s amazing how inspiring, encouraging and understanding fellow writers can be. I gain something slightly different from each of the writing groups I am a member of. And keep learning: the learning process never ends.

BOOK BYTE

Return to Crossways

Shirley Rowland

 

 

When Priscilla de Rossi’s glamorous marriage fails, she returns to Australia expecting to take no more than a few weeks to untangle her life. On a weekend visit to country Crossways where she grew up, she discovers her grandmother has died and she has inherited a run-down cottage. But someone does not want her there. Is it her estranged mother or local hotelier, Steve Moncrieff?

Meanwhile she makes new friends and lands a job in Melbourne. Does her future lie in the city or the country?

Then she has an impulsive one-night stand that changes everything…

At its heart, this is a home-coming story. Priscilla must face the people she fled from ten years earlier.

The book is availBook Blurb for Return to Crossways:  When Priscilla de Rossi’s glamorous marriage fails, she returns to Australia expecting to take no more than a few weeks to untangle her life. On a weekend visit to country Crossways where she grew up, she discovers her grandmother has died and she has inherited a run-down cottage. But someone does not want her there. Is it her estranged mother or local hotelier, Steve Moncrieff? Meanwhile she makes new friends and lands a job in Melbourne. Does her future lie in the city or the country? Then she has an impulsive one-night stand that changes everything… At its heart, this is a home-coming story. Priscilla must face the people she fled from ten years earlier.

The book is available in print and e-book format from Amazon.com here.

Meet the Author: Lois Murphy

Lois’s top tip for aspiring authors: One thing I always do is read my work aloud. It is essential for balancing sentences, getting them to flow and identifying redundant words and clunky phrasing. When you’re close to a work, your eye tends to skim it, but you can always pick up clumsy writing by hearing it.

Lois Murphy has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns. After four years in Darwin, she made a break for a cooler climate, moving to Tasmania in 2014.  She has had work published in a range of literary journals and anthologies, and has won a handful of prizes for her writing, including the Northern Territory Literary Award and the Sisters in Crime Best New Talent Prize.

Her first novel, Soon, won the 2015 Tasmanian Premier’s Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript, and has just been published by Transit Lounge.

To find out more about Lois, visit her website www.loismurphy.wordpress.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? The answer to this is quick and easy – because I enjoy it immensely and it’s fun. I can create worlds and people and explore them and then share them, which is pretty great.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve always daydreamed a lot, so I’d probably spend a lot of time staring out of windows. I do quite a lot of visual art practice too; my favourite mediums to work in are glass and ceramics.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Probably me. I’m not someone who pushes themselves forward, and lack of confidence is always an issue, so I found approaching publishers difficult to begin with. And I find the current processes of sending them work off-putting as well, the focus on a ‘pitch’ – reducing a creative work that’s taken you years to a marketing slogan. I find the whole concept a bit soul destroying, it has so little to do with creativity.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When a story works, when it hooks you and it’s like coming up for air when you stop because you’ve been so immersed in it all. The ultimate escapism.

—the worst? Justifying the time you spend on it. There’s always so much to do and sometimes it can be hard to relax and enjoy something that seems such an indulgent pastime.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would be more confident in sending work out, not be so hesitant. Getting work accepted and published is hugely helpful, in many ways.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I didn’t really set out to become an author, I just write because I enjoy it. For many years I mainly wrote letters to people. I always wanted to write a book though, it seemed such a huge thing to do, such an achievement. I think, probably, write for yourself, write what you enjoy, don’t try to emulate.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? For me, one of the best things I ever did was voluntary editorial work at a couple of literary journals. Reading the sort of work writers send in helps tremendously, you get to see where people tend to go wrong. The most common problem is lack of an actual story, just an idea left hanging. No matter how great the writing is, there has to be a point. And get rid of adverbs and adjectives, keep the writing clear and fresh, not bogged down with descriptives.

Soon

Lois Murphy

  • Winner of Tasmanian Premier’s Prize for an Unpublished
    Manuscript
    • The story of an ex-cop and a haunted and dying
    Australian town and the handful of residents who can’t,
    or won’t, leave
    • Literary thriller with a page-turning plot. Heralds a
    compelling new talent

An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere,
Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they
ever truly existed – are long gone. These days even the
name on the road sign into town has been removed. Yet
for Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li and a small band of
others, it’s the only place they have ever felt at home.
One winter solstice the birds disappear. A strange,
residual and mysterious mist arrives. It is a real and potent
force, yet also strangely emblematic of the complacency
and unease that afflicts so many of our small towns, and
the country that Murphy knows so well.
Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated
West Australian asbestos town, Soon is the story of the
death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people
who either won’t, or simply can’t, abandon all they have
ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant
storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the
people we come to know, and those who are drawn to
the town’s intrigue, must ultimately fight for survival.

Sales site: http://transitlounge.com.au/shop/soon/

 

 

Meet the Author: Shona Husk

Shona’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read your genre to see what is currently selling, but also read widely. Be a magpie and learn from other genres.

Shona Husk is the author of more than 40 books that range from sensual to scorching, and cover the contemporary, paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance genres. Her most recent series are Face the Music, Blood and Silver and Annwyn. As well as writing romance she also writes sci-fi for the Takamo Universe game and urban fantasy under anther pen name.

She lives in Western Australia and when she isn’t writing or reading she loves to cook, cross stitch and research places she’d one day like to travel.

You can find out more at www.shonahusk.com

www.twitter.com/ShonaHusk

www.facebook.com/shonahusk

Newsletter: http://mad.ly/signups/119074/join

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?

I’ve always made up stories. They used to be just to entertain myself, but while I was on maternity leave I started writing them down. It was about three years before I got serious about wanting to be published. Even now I write the stories I’m interested in and that I want to read—I have to because I spend so long working on them.

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

I’d probably still be a civil designer (designing roads, drainage and sewerage infill etc), and I’d probably have more free time for my other hobbies like cross stitch. However, I’d still be a reader and I’d still be making up stories to entertain myself.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

When I started writing it was time (I had babies) and a lack of knowledge. It was taking me 12-18 months to write a novel and I couldn’t learn about story arc and character development when it was taking so long. I switched to writing novellas (I was already reading novellas because I didn’t have the time for novels) and it all came together. The next novel I wrote then sold (the other two live in a cupboard).

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations?

I fill out a cover art form then the publishers take over. Edits are always a negotiation, but most of the time I agree, or I look to see what they are trying to achieve and find a way to do it if I don’t agree with their suggestion. Everyone is trying to make the best book they can. For my self-published books I generally get a premade cover. I have a few sites that I search and I find something suitable that conveys the mood and genre of the book.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

I love plotting and researching. Creating the characters and their world is so much fun.

—the worst?

The final page proofs. By the time I get them I’m sick of the book, yet at the same time it is the last chance to catch mistakes so there is pressure involved.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer?

I would pick a sub-genre and stick with it. While I write romance I write in several sub-genres (contemporary, paranormal, sci fi and fantasy). For branding I think sticking with one sub-genre would’ve been more effective.

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

Getting published isn’t the hardest part nor is it the end. Staying published and marketing are hard work.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Stories are all about conflict and the conflict has to keep escalating.

BOOK BYTE

 

Servant of the Forest

Shona Husk

“Remember to be wild,” Orabella’s mother would say.
But her mother is dead and Orabella’s days are taken up with chores for the small estate that barely keeps her stepmother and stepsisters fed.
Then an invitation arrives. The King is throwing a three-day party for the Prince, a last attempt to find a cure for the curse that will claim him on his twentieth birthday. The witch who saves Gauthier will get his hand in marriage and will eventually become queen.
Orabella is forbidden from going to the party even though everyone is invited. She wants to see the castle and the Cursed Prince. This time she refuses to obey her stepmother.
As Orabella discovers the secrets of her past and the truth about her mother and the prince’s curse, she learns that no one is to be trusted and not everyone wants the prince to survive.

Buy Links: Amazon Kobo iBooks Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Michael Fitzgerald

Michael’s top tip for aspiring authors: Embrace difficulty and keep curious and alive to the process. Don’t think too much about what’s hovering over the horizon, but stay focused on what’s there on the page. Keep moving those words around and trust they will show you the way.

Michael Fitzgerald lives on a lush gully in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. He first journeyed to Samoa in 2005 as arts editor for the South Pacific edition of Time, and has since worked as a magazine editor for Art & Australia, Photofile and now Art Monthly Australasia. His writing has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review and Harper’s Bazaar. The Pacific Room is his first novel.

 

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? There’s nothing I love more than moving words around on a page, watching them take shape, building up images and scenes transmitted with a certain emotion, transforming them into stories. It’s a creative urge in me that has recently flowered into The Pacific Room, my debut novel. And the urge only grows as I get older.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? When I’m not moving words around on a page as a writer, I’m doing the same as an editor. My early life as a journalist in Melbourne and Sydney (most recently as the arts editor for the South Pacific edition of Time magazine) led to art magazine editing – currently for Art Monthly Australasia, which involves different ways of thinking and looking at the world but which feeds back to creativity. And, of course, words.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The perception of being a former journalist brought an expectation from agents and publishers that non-fiction or memoir was a more natural evolution for me as a writer – I’ve heard that said many times – and that my fiction didn’t travel in the usual narrative arc. But I’ve stubbornly resisted and persisted with fiction writing. It’s the biggest challenge and satisfaction for me (when I get it right), and I’m still learning.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Research and writing requires marathon-like lengths of solitude and (in my case) travel – a solipsistic discipline not unlike swimming, which I also love and can’t do without. With the cacophony of demands from our working and private lives, that lulling ocean of time that writing requires – flowing over months and years – seems a precious luxury which is utterly intoxicating and desirable.

—the worst? Not having that time to luxuriate in. The Pacific Room took nine years from a glint in the eye to final realisation. This was in between editing Art & Australia, Photofile and now Art Monthly Australasia, and as one’s other life speeds up, it’s increasingly hard to slow down into that deep meditative space that writing a novel requires.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? It’s hard to say. Because all the stumbles I’ve experienced along the way to publication have – I hope – made me a better writer. Life experience helps, finding patience and dealing with disappointment. Absorbing the world and learning from it takes time – for me anyway – and I’m only just making my literary debut aged 52.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tricky one, because the allowance or freedom to make mistakes is essential for any writer’s passage. For me the desire to become an author was unshakeable, but my own pathway needed to unfold in precisely the way that it did, and – now that I think of it – not unlike that of Teuila in The Pacific Room: ‘She has always been led by the forest, through a path never clear, found by touch, fumbling, rather than sight.’

What’s the best advice you were ever given? In the literary world, opinions and advice can fly thick and fast – sometimes confusingly so. And, for a young writer, rejection can be brutal. When I was researching The Pacific Room in Samoa in the late 2000s, I must have seemed quite anxious as someone told me to relax my mind and let the stories in. Looking back, that was the best advice I could have received.

 

BOOK BYTE

The Pacific Room

Michael Fitzgerald

This remarkable debut novel tells of the last days of Tusitala, ‘the teller of tales’, as Robert Louis Stevenson became known in Samoa where he chose to die. In 1892 Girolamo Nerli travels from Sydney by steamer to Apia, with the intention of capturing something of Jekyll and Hyde in his portrait of the famous author. Nerli’s presence sets in train a disturbing sequence of events. More than a century later, art historian Lewis Wakefield comes to Samoa to research the painting of Tusitala’s portrait by the long-forgotten Italian artist. On hiatus from his bipolar medication, Lewis is freed to confront the powerful reality of all the desires and demons that R. L. Stevenson couldn’t control. Lewis’s personal journey is shadowed by the story of the lovable Teuila, a so-called fa‘afafine (‘in the manner of a woman’), and the spirit of Stevenson’s servant boy, Sosimo. Set in an evocative tropical landscape haunted by the lives and spirits which drift across it, The Pacific Room is both a love letter to Samoa and a lush and tender exploration of artistic creation, of secret passions and merging dualities.

The Pacific Room is available from Transit Lounge and other retailers.

 

Meet the author: Nicola Moriarty

Nicola’s top tip for authors: Just keep writing! Try out different genres and different writing styles until you find your perfect fit. Take on board feedback, but don’t let criticism define you and don’t let it shape your writing unless you want it to. Write for the joy of telling a story, write because you have a need to share a story with the world.

nicola-bwNicola Moriarty is a Sydney-based novelist, copywriter and mum to two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum, consuming copious amounts of cocoa-based products and studying a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop. She has published two novels and one novella along with contributing short stories to the two UK ‘Sunlounger’ anthologies. Her next novel, The Fifth Letter, will be published in 2017 in Australia, the US and the UK. She blogs sporadically on her website here: www.nicolamoriarty.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because it’s addictive! I love to tell stories and I love to read stories and I love the thought of other people consuming my work!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Probably teaching. I did half of my teaching diploma at uni when I was completing my BA with the intention of becoming a high school English teacher – but I didn’t follow through because my writing ended up consuming me!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Fear and self-doubt. I procrastinated sending my first manuscript off to an agent because I was terrified of what would happen if they hated it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The fact that I’m doing what I love and the flexibility it provides me to spend time with my family.

—the worst? The continued fear and self-doubt! Any time I receive a bad review or a rejection letter or even if I just find myself stuck and can’t get any words written on a certain day, the insecure person inside comes out to tell me I can’t do it and to just give up. But luckily perseverance and a glass of wine usually sees me through and I can silence the inner critic!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d change too much – I’m pretty happy with how my journey has progressed so far, but maybe I’d spend more time researching before writing that first book? Although then again, perhaps that would be a mistake and would just turn into another way to procrastinate!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it will never be enough. For me, I’m always striving for that next goal and each time I think it will bring me satisfaction. i.e. landing an agent, landing a publisher, your first great review, your first sale, your next book deal, your first overseas book deal. You always think the next step is going to be the one that makes you feel like you’ve made it… but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever have that complete sense of satisfaction. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe if I felt completely satisfied, I’d stop trying to be a better writer.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Caroline Overington told me to read bad reviews of my work out loud in a silly, loud, over the top voice until it makes me fall about laughing. I absolutely love that advice!

BOOK BYTE

thefifthletter_ausThe Fifth Letter

Nicola Moriarty

 

 

Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina try to catch up once a year for some days away together. Now in their thirties, commitments have pulled them in different directions, and the closeness they once enjoyed seems increasingly elusive. This year, determined to revive their intimacy, they each share a secret in an anonymous letter to be read out during the holiday. But instead of bringing them closer, the revelations seem to drive them apart. Then a fifth letter is discovered, venting long-held grudges, and it seems that one of the women is in serious danger. But who was the author? And which of them should be worried?

THE FIFTH LETTER examines the bonds of women’s friendship groups, and the loyalty and honesty they require. It looks also at the pain of letting go of obsessions and relationships that once seemed essential but have hollowed and withered.

The book will be released in January. It is available for pre-orders from Booktopia and Amazon.