Meet the Author: Sean Rabin

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

Sean Rabin

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

Author insight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Lucy Ellmann – I’d ask her how she found the courage to write Ducks, Newburyport in this publishing environment, and how she didn’t lose faith when people started to say no.

Book byte

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

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Eugen Bacon

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

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

Author Insight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Toni Morrison. I’d ask her, how? Sula, Jazz, Beloved, Tar Baby, Love, Mercy, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye—how did you do it?

Book Byte

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

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Sarah Hawthorn

Sarah’s top tip for aspiring authors: Put in the hard yards and learn your craft from experts, it will pay off.

Born and raised in the UK, Sarah Hawthorn lived in Toronto, Dallas and New York before emigrating to Sydney, Australia. After career jumps from actress to journalist and then publicist, she relocated to the village of Bundanoon in NSW’s beautiful Southern Highlands to pursue her dream of being a full-time novelist. When not writing, Sarah enjoys theatre, cooking and walking her dogs. A Voice in the Night is her debut novel.

Author insight





Why do you write? I’ve always written – ever since I was a little girl and became fascinated by words, so I reckon it’s part of my DNA, like breathing. And when I’m not physically putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I’m writing in my head.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? It’s hard to conjure an alternative occupation that doesn’t involve some form of writing. For sure, I’d spend my time involved in a creative pursuit. Most probably I’d return to my first love, acting, and seek out podcast performance opportunities.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Before A Voice in The Night was picked up by Barry Scott at Transit Lounge, who bravely put his faith in me, I’d completed three prior manuscripts. Whilst each got good feedback, I was competing for attention with an enormous number of aspiring authors, and not standing out enough from the crowd. I believe coming up with a compelling hook was the key to becoming published.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? It’s been a fantastic journey. My editor Kate Goldsworthy was a hard task-master and really pushed me to make the book as good as it could be; I learned a lot from her during the editing process. My publisher has kept me super-involved in everything: selecting the right cover designs, and approving the cover content. I was also able to listen to audition tapes for the audio book, and provide my feedback and input.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Spending so much time with my imaginary friends, and never being quite sure what they’re going to do next. It’s never lonely.

—the worst? Procrastination. There always an errand or chore that seems to take precedence over knuckling down at the keyboard.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have taken the plunge into being a full-time novelist much sooner. In retrospect, worrying about the financial uncertainty stopped me from backing myself, and writing a book became something I’d do one day ‘when I had the time’ rather than a life career choice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m going to twist that question around and say how glad I am that no one told me how hard it would be to get published, and that it would take five years and three manuscripts before I nailed it. Patience has never been my strong point.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? When I was starting out as an actor, my father advised me to give it ten years. I think the same can be applied to becoming an author. You’ve got to be prepared to be in it for the long haul and not expect instant success.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s a bit of a minefield, but nowadays you can’t expect widespread exposure without taking social media seriously.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I try to push through it rather than be beaten down. If I’m just stumped, I find going for a walk works wonders. I can also get re-inspired by leaving my office and taking my laptop to a different space. I work really well in cafes, on planes or trains, or in our garden house. But if I’m seriously blocked, taking time away from a project and moving onto something else for a while can help to provide a new perspective.

How do you deal with rejection? I’m fortunate in that having started out as an actor, from a very young age I got used to constant rejections and not taking it personally. I tell myself it’s a numbers game, and I rarely get ‘down’ about rejections – it’s all part and parcel of the business.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Pacy, incisive, tight.

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?

There are so many authors I’d love to spend an hour with, but at this current stage in my writing career, I’d choose to spend time with Christian White who was gracious enough to advance-read my book and give a cover review. I’m so impressed with how he backed up Nowhere Child with The Wife and The Widow (such an incredibly clever concept), that I’d be fascinated to learn more about his creative journey, how he’s navigated his subsequent success, and where he finds his inspiration. An hour wouldn’t be long enough!

Book byte

A Voice in the Night

by Sarah Hawhtorn

Following a bitter separation, Lucie moves to London to take up a position with a prestigious law firm. It seems an
optimistic new beginning, until one day she receives a hand delivered note with the strange words: At last I’ve found you. A shock I ‘m sure. But in time I ‘ll explain. Martin.
Lucie hasn’t forgotten a man called Martin who was tragically killed twenty years ago in the 9/11 attacks. When
she was working in New York as a young intern Lucie had fallen in love with him and he vowed to leave his wife to be
with her permanently. As an inexplicable series of events occur Lucie wonders if her long-dead lover could have staged his own disappearance under the cover of that fateful day. Or could it be that someone else is stalking her, or that her vivid imagination is playing tricks?

Meet the Author: Karyn Sepulveda

Karyn’s top tip for aspiring authors: Be kind to yourself. When you’re on submission, do other things that you love, not only to keep busy, but also to keep your mood uplifted. And, be proud of yourself for following your dream and writing a manuscript – that’s already an amazing feat!

Karyn Sepulveda 3Karyn Sepulveda is an author, podcast producer and creator of short, guided meditations. Through writing about characters triumphing over adversity, interviewing women about their strengths and designing meditations that help the listener tap into their own creativity, Karyn hopes to spread compassion, inspiration and connection. Karyn completed her Masters of Creative Writing in 2011 and published her first novel, Letters To My Yesterday in 2018. When she is not working on her creative projects, Karyn is busy raising her two children and working as a teacher in primary schools.
Social Links Weblink: https://www.karynsepulveda.com/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karyn_sep/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karynmsepulveda/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I am fascinated by finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Writing stories allows me to explore the extraordinary aspects of a character’s life and it is also how I make sense of the complexities of this world (or at least try to!)

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I do a lot of other things besides writing so I would stay busy! I’m a primary school teacher and I also create guided meditations and run a creativity course. But if I wasn’t able to write, I think I would have to find some other kind of storytelling to enjoy – maybe I would try painting (I would need some lessons though as I’m not very good).

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My own impatience. In the beginning, I would send out manuscripts that weren’t ready for publication, because I was just so eager to be published. As time went on, I soaked up the advice of the surprisingly nice rejection letters I was receiving and realised that I needed to spend a lot more time developing my manuscripts in the editing and re-writing stage before sending out to anyone. This lesson took quite some years to learn, but I’m happy to say that I am far more patient with my works in progress now.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I did have a little input into the cover. I was asked to send some of my favourite book covers to the designer so they had an understanding of the style I was hoping for. And then I had a choice between five early book covers to work from. But I can’t take any credit for the incredible cover – I never would have imagined something so beautiful!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Those moments when a scene comes together so vividly that it feels as though I’ve lived the moment and I can’t type fast enough to relay what’s happening. It’s pure magic!

—the worst? The nerves that come with waiting for an agent / publisher / editor / reviewer to read my book. I try not to worry and keep myself busy, but the underlying nerves are never too far away.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would take my time. I understand now that there really is no rush at all. And I would be more aware of how special the drafting process is and try to enjoy each moment of it more fully.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d known how helpful it would be to connect with other writers and support each other – I would have started making those connections a lot earlier.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My creative writing professor told me that reading is like breathing in and writing, like breathing out. I’ve never forgotten this and it’s the best excuse for reading a whole lot of books!

How important is social media to you as an author? I only really use Instagram, but it is very important to me. I love the community of writers and readers I have found there. I’ve developed some terrific friendships and it actually feels like this secret little world of books that I’m part of. I am inspired by the writers that I follow and I get all of my best book recommendations from other readers.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I haven’t experienced writer’s block, but there have been times where I’ve not written for long periods because I have let other commitments take over. When this has happened, I feel the lack of creativity in my life coming through as a type of ‘lost’ feeling. So I use meditation to help me get back in the creativity zone and open up to some new ideas coming through. And then I ensure that I put aside writing time again – even if it’s just a couple of hours a week.

How do you deal with rejection? Now, I deal with it fairly well. I understand that we all have different taste and my writing isn’t going to be enjoyed by everyone who reads it. But when I started out, rejection would devastate me, as I took it personally. Once I developed the ability to separate myself from my manuscripts, I found coping with rejection much easier. As difficult as it can be sometimes, it’s important to remember that it’s not us as a person being rejected, it’s the story we created. And if we persist, that story will find the perfect home at the perfect time.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? (I hope it is…) Engaging, relatable and compassionate.

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? What a great question! I would spend an hour with Khaled Hosseini and I would ask him to explain his writing process and character development to me. I am in awe of the way he can write from multiple perspectives with such depth and invoke such incredible emotion.

BOOK BYTE

The Womens CircleSydney, present day. Anna is released into the world after six years in prison. The entirety of her possessions stuffed into a single plastic bag. The trauma of her past, a much heavier burden to carry. Feeling hopeless, isolated and deeply lonely, Anna attends an alternative support group; The Women’s Circle. But when she touches an ancient crystal, Anna connects to a woman she has never met, in a past she doesn’t recognise.
In 1770, a brutal regime torments the English village of Quarrendon and is determined to keep its women apart. Young villager Aisleen desperately seeks a way to defy the rules, reunite with her sister, and live life on her own terms, without her husband’s permission. The stakes are high and terror of punishment inescapable, but doing nothing comes at an even steeper price…
While separated by generations, Anna finds herself drawn to the spine-chilling and courageous plight of Aisleen and Quarrendon’s women. Can their bond help her to face her past and embrace her second chance at life?
A heart-warming and inspirational portrayal of inner strength and vulnerability, The Women’s Circle shows us the true power of female friendship in all its forms.

BUY THE BOOK HERE.

Meet the Author: Michael Fitzgerald

DominicLorrimerMichael Fitzgerald is a writer and art magazine editor living in Sydney. His first novel, The Pacific Room (2017), was developed through a Varuna Publisher Fellowship; his second, Pietà, is being released in June 2021, also through Transit Lounge Publishing. His literary work has also appeared in magazines such as Kill Your Darlings and Westerly. He is Editor of Art Monthly Australasia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? This is something I’ve never really asked myself, and I wonder if it would be dangerous for me to find out at this late stage. Sometimes it’s best just to keep doing what you instinctively feel you need to do. With writing especially, I think there’s a danger in overthinking things. I’ll leave that up to actors to ponder: What’s my motivation?

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? A strange dream of mine would be to be a casting agent.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Life constantly interrupting and intervening. How dare it! … While my novels have been relatively short (in length) so far, they have taken me SO LONG to write.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Yes. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but at Transit Lounge my experience has been especially collaborative and creative.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being solitary and alone. It’s thrilling and scary, but very quickly things scribbled into notebooks and onto a computer screen begin to fill the void. And soon stories and characters flood your head and have a life of their own through this strangely mechanical and meditative process of pushing a pen or typing at a keyboard. I also love swimming for the same reason.

—the worst? Not having the time to write.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? To maybe think less about what other people might think, and to not try and second-guess what readers (or publishers) might want – but, at the same, not to ignore them, and to learn to lean into them a little more productively and meaningfully. Sorry if I’ve totally contradicted myself here, but I’m obviously in two minds!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Nothing in particular, because I think it’s important for everyone to follow and find their own path and to sometimes stumble and grope around in the dark. That’s how I’ve done it, and I can’t imagine anything different.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To never submit or press ‘send’ until a piece is absolutely finished and ready – though of course knowing when the moment is right is a whole other thing. I’m still not entirely sure … So, on second thoughts, maybe the best advice is something smaller and more technical – like Margaret Atwood saying (in the Paris Review I think) that the key to proofreading is a good ruler, and going through the text line by line.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Embrace the difficulty. It definitely doesn’t get any easier as you get older. I’m 56, but sometimes I feel like I’m still starting out. So, finding a voice, and the best narrative vehicle to express it is something I’m still wrestling with. It’s part of an ongoing process that never stops. Keep wrestling!

How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t succumbed to Facebook or Twitter (perhaps to my detriment), but I do enjoy Instagram (I’m @mf.novelist). When you’re writing (or editing all day like I am), it’s sometimes nice to do it with images. And I’ve found and friended other writers on Instagram, some of whom use it in interesting ways ‘to share and connect’ (those ubiquitous words). Though it’s sometimes difficult to find the right tone and to avoid appearing gloating and self-obsessed – those ugly hallmarks of social media. Of course, occasional ‘digital detox’ is essential for any writer.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? As I mature and life gets more crowded and noisier, the writing bit of writing is not so much the challenge, but blocking out periods of solitary time is. For me time, and it’s perhaps a cliché to say, time and silence is key. Finding myself up at Varuna, The Writers House late last year, and faced with a week’s residency and with no particular goal in mind – and no distractions – was heavenly. I ended up writing short stories, one of which will be published in Westerly magazine this year. The experience took me back to the two weeks I spent in a convent in Rome, researching Pietà.

How do you deal with rejection? Stoically, and to immediately latch onto another hopeful or positive opportunity – there are so many these days. And to learn to love your ugly ducklings and to keep trying to turn them into swans. I have also been meaning to maintain a special ‘rejections’ notebook, as there have been so many over the years, and to keep this as a badge of honour.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Different each time.

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? Patricia Highsmith or Tennessee Williams. They both transgressed conservative convention in postwar America – one through spare, eviscerating psychological thrillers, the other through poetic and transcendent prose and plays. I would just like to hear them speak, look at their quizzical faces, and spend time in their writing studios while perhaps passively inhaling their cigarette smoke – you can always find out so much from the physical spaces writers inhabit.

BOOK BYTE

Pieta

These are the last days of 1999. At St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, as the world waits for the new millennium, Lucy, a young Australian woman looks up at Michelangelo’s Pietà behind its pane of bullet-proof glass; a red kabbalah string circles her wrist. She has come with the mysterious parcel her recently deceased mother asked her to bring to the box marked POSTE VATICANE.

But before Rome there is Saint-Cloud. Here, on the outskirts of Paris, Lucy works as an au pair for Jean-Claude and his wife Mathilde. When Mathilde leaves for Central Australia to research the Aboriginal artist Kumanjayi, Lucy’s circle of contacts becomes smaller and strangely intimate: Jean-Claude, the baby Felix for whom she cares, and the couple’s charismatic friend Sébastien, a marble restorer.

Yet Lucy’s homesickness for Australia and its vastness haunts her world, surfacing in the memories of her mother, the Australian garden at Empress Joséphine’s Malmaison, and Mathilde’s letters from Alice Springs. Lucy’s mother, Jude, who was a nun in the 1970s, once warned her daughter ‘to be careful what she wished for’. It is a caution that marks but rarely alters the choices these characters make.

With lushness and tenderness, and revelation, Fitzgerald’s unforgettable novel Pietà exquisitely captures the glorious and imperfect relationships between parents and children, between art and life.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Jenn Gott

Jenn’s top tip for aspiring indie authors: Make friends with other indie authors, especially if they write in your genre. It can be tempting to think of them as your competition, but in fact they’re your greatest allies. You can partner up with them to cross-promote through newsletter swaps and giveaways, let each other know about upcoming conventions and podcast opportunities, and just generally get support and encouragement when things get rough.

Jenn Gott is an indie author, as well as a writer for Reedsy, where she posts about books, publishing, and craft advice. So basically, she’s writing all the time. On her few breaks, you can find her snuggling with her cats, watching superhero movies, or designing houses in The Sims.

Find out more about Jenn at her author website: https://jenngott.com

 

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always been a creative person. Making things up and then finding ways to bring them to life is woven deep into the core of who I am. Over my life, I’ve dabbled in a huge range of hobbies and interests, from drawing to programming to music to Ukrainian egg decorating. Writing stuck around the longest. It’s also the most expansive creative form for me. That isn’t to say that other people can’t create vast worlds with other mediums, but I never got to the point where I could.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? This is going to sound weird, but in another life I’d kind of like to be a mortician! Which I know is not most people’s idea of a “dream job” by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve always been interested in the macabre, and, like writing, it’s work that seems ideally suited to people who don’t mind spending a lot of time in a small room by themselves.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Honestly, money. As an indie author, there was technically nothing standing in the way of me publishing my book — but I knew that if I wanted to be taken seriously by readers, and have any chance of being successful, I’d need to produce a book that was at least as high-quality as what they’d see from a traditional publisher. That takes time, money, or (ideally) both, and I didn’t feel like I had either to spare when I started out. It was definitely a challenge.

Why did you choose to be an indie author? For me, there were two main factors. One was, ironically, money. I know I was just complaining about the investment it took to get started, but I also knew that if I played my cards right, I would make it back and more, a lot faster than waiting on advances and royalty checks.

The other big factor for me was simply the ability to retain my full creative control. Not that I didn’t trust a publisher to do the job well, I just didn’t trust them to do it the way I would choose. I’m also a very independently-minded person — I like my successes to be entirely my own, and I’m perfectly willing to embrace responsibility for my failures as well. This all combined to make it an easy choice.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Aside from just the joy of creating, I love it when I hear from readers! Getting an email or a message on social media from someone who’s taken the time to read one or more of my books is always such a thrill.

—the worst? The truth is that I really don’t dislike any aspect of writing and publishing. But the hardest part is definitely trying to find new ways to get the word out about my books. Book marketing is an ongoing learning process, in part because the tactics, including how to best influence search algorithms, change so quickly. There are some fundamental marketing principles that will serve you well long-term, but you always need to be open to seeing what’s new, what’s working now — and what’s stopped working. I’ve grown to embrace it and even enjoy it over the years, but it’s absolutely the part that keeps me on my toes the most.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Along those same lines, I wish I had researched and understood book marketing better from the onset. I had been told most of the common pieces of marketing advice before, but since I didn’t really understand why they worked, or what the purpose of each suggestion was, it was easy for me to brush off anything I didn’t feel like doing as a waste of time. This was a huge mistake, and one that definitely hindered my ability to reach readers in my early years of publishing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? When you tell people you’re an author, a lot of them are going to suddenly look at you like they’re starstruck — yes, even when you’re just starting out and are literally nobody — and you’re going to need to get comfortable with finding a balance between being honest (no, really, I’m not topping the NYT Bestseller charts) and not talking down about your accomplishments. Too often, especially for women, we tend to downplay our successes, and there were times after my first book came out where I made it sound like it was no big deal at all, really, you don’t even have to read it, it’s fine. That’s terrible marketing! But if you’re a newbie and embarrassed about your low sales to start (even though everyone has low sales to start), it feels weird to have someone suddenly get all flustered that, oh my gosh, they’ve just met a real life author. You need to learn to respect that people are genuinely excited by your accomplishment, and that it is an accomplishment, even if you’re not where you want to be yet.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? This is on the craft side of things rather than the business side: have a place where you can just free-write thoughts about the project you’re working on. This can be a journal, or just a file in your notes, or a series of emails to a friend you don’t mind telling all the spoilers to, but it’s important to be able to “talk through” your thoughts as you figure out the details of your story and characters. Especially when you run into snags, having an unstructured place where you can just write out things like: Okay, if I do plot point X, it means that Character B suddenly knows way more than she should at this point in the story. But plot point X really needs to happen here, because… And then just keep writing through the issue until you have (at the very least) a better understanding of where the problem really lies.

This has been far and away the most helpful tip I’ve gotten for untangling my messy outlines and drafts!

How important is social media to you as an author? Probably of medium importance? From a purely marketing perspective, it’s not the best way to gain new fans, but I’ve always enjoyed it for its ability to connect me with both readers and fellow authors. I’ve made a number of good friends through it, and these connections allow me to be part of the bookish community in a way I’d definitely miss if I weren’t on social media at all.

That said, you should only dip into as much social media as you’re comfortable with. People can absolutely tell if you’re there because you want to be there and connect with people, or if you’re just there to push your books. You don’t need to always be the most active if you’re shy and introverted (goodness knows I take frequent breaks and hiatuses!), but make sure that when you are there, you’re present and engaged.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, of course. In my opinion, “writer’s block” is so polarising because,  although we use a single phrase to describe it, we’re actually talking about a variety of different things that all lead to the same, surface-level result: making it hard to get work done.

Instead, I think it’s important that we understand what’s causing our so-called “block” — because the thing that will unblock you in one circumstance will make the block worse in others. As a quick example, if you’re stuck because you’ve realised you made a misstep in your story, taking the tough-love approach and forcing yourself to continue even though you’re miserable will only lead to a messy draft that may well write itself into a corner and worsen your misery. A break here, to clear your head and approach the problem fresh, could easily help. On the other hand, if you’re just feeling tired and unmotivated, allowing yourself to “take a break” can easily lead to a downward procrastination spiral.

So for me, I always try to identity what kind of “block” I’ve run up against (motivation, plot or character struggles, distraction, mental health issues, laziness, fear, etc.). Then I plan a path that will allow me to get back on track the right way.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Vivid. Fun. Devastating. That’s the goal, anyway! Up to readers to see if I’ve managed it.

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?

Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve only ever read Big Magic, and even though I don’t agree with everything she wrote in that book, I’d really love to sit down and pick her brain and compare our ideas on creativity and what it means to live a creative life.

BOOK BYTE

The Private Life of Jane Maxwell

by Jenn Gott

As the creator of a popular new comics franchise, Jane Maxwell knows a thing or two about heroes, but has no illusions of being one herself. All of that is shattered, however, when she finds herself swept into a parallel world—one where her characters are real, and her parallel self is their leader.

There’s just one problem: that Jane is missing.

Under the growing danger of a deadly new villain named UltraViolet, the team has no choice but to ask Jane to do the impossible: step into the suit left behind by her double, become the hero that they need her to be. But with budding powers that threaten to overwhelm her, a family she only half-recogniSes, and the parallel version of her dead wife staring her in the face, navigating her alternate life proves harder than she ever imagined…

Book links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0743H95RH

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w?ean=2940158789236

Apple Books: https://itunes.apple.com/book/id1261935002

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ebook/the-private-life-of-jane-maxwell

 

 

 

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/