Meet the Author: Sioban Timmer

SIOBAN’S TOP WRITING TIP: It’s important to have a clear vision for your writing and the direction you want your work to take. A solid sense of direction allows you to accept feedback that is constructive and valuable to the agenda of your work and disregard that which isn’t. This means you make the decisions that are best for your writing – and not your ego.

Sioban Timmer is a Western Australian writer who grew up in Perth’s southern suburbs and now lives near Sioban TimmerByford with her husband Paul and their two children. Sioban produces stories and poetry for adults and children on a wide range of themes and currently offers children’s readings and workshops, monthly literacy sessions for children called ‘Bonding With Books’. Sioban is the publicity officer for the Gosnells Writers’ Circle as well as coordinator of the Children’s Corner Competition in Showcase Magazine. Visit Sioban on Facebook at


Why do you write? For as long as I can remember I have always put my ideas down on paper, it’s part of who I am. Inspiration is like a persistent ringing phone, it won’t stop until you answer the call. If the ideas are there, I have to nurture them and give them the attention they deserve or they keep rolling around and popping back into my mind. That said, I can’t imagine a version of myself that didn’t write – for me the question is; how could I not?

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would love to be an artist, a dancer or a singer; anyone who has been subjected to me attempting to do these things knows – it’s a good thing I love to write.

If I were able to choose something else that would give me a sense of purpose it would involve working within the local community. I never cease to be amazed at what people can achieve by choosing to share even a little bit of their time for the good of others. People being willing to share their energy keeps a sense of community alive.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was very lucky to find Jasper Books, a Perth-based Western Australian micro publisher. I was able to establish a personal connection with the owner Cate Rocchi. Jasper Books has a passion for ensuring that Australian audiences have a chance to read books that contain local stories told in our uniquely Australian style.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I love getting positive feedback about the book; especially from children. Kids are very honest, if they don’t like your work they will tell you, if they think it’s awesome they will tell you. Children have commented how amazing it is to meet someone who has been able to write ‘a whole book!’ and it’s so wonderful to be able to tell them ‘I loved to write as a child and look what I was able to achieve. If you love to write, keep going, stick with it!’

—the worst? Trying to incorporate the business and creative aspects of writing can be challenging. Time feels better spent on the writing; the ideas and the thrill of a concept at the very beginning when you start to get a real sense that it’s a piece worth continuing.

But publishing is also a business and it requires all the same administration – invoicing, and bookwork. Not as creative, not as enticing – but required to present as a professional individual and also to ensure that your work remains financially viable.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have more faith in my abilities as a writer and put a copy of the quote below above my desk:

You’ll seldom experience regret for anything that you’ve done. It is what you haven’t done that will torment you. The message, therefore, is clear. Do it! Develop an appreciation for the present moment. Seize every second of your life and savour it. Value your present moments. Using them up in any self-defeating ways means you’ve lost them forever-Wayne Dyer

Most of the chances I have taken have had a successful outcome or positive flow on effect. If I have taken a chance and it hasn’t panned out – it certainly didn’t do me any harm.

Hearing ‘No’ doesn’t kill you, but if you don’t try – what opportunities have you unwittingly killed off?

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

  1. Do the math. Examine all of the costs – the obvious costs and the hidden costs. Don’t forget when pricing the book that retailers will want to add mark up.
  2. Immerse yourself in what you love – do workshops, join groups and get involved. You learn so much from other writers and their different styles, but it is also important for the networking side and the skills that can be shared between writers like feedback and editing.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Write what you love – Love what you write. If it doesn’t feel authentic to you, it won’t feel authentic to the reader.


cover with text copyToughen Up, Princess offers a new perspective on traditional fairy tales with a distinctly Australian flavour. The book is filled with delightful tongue in cheek illustrations by local artist Alison Mutton, which adds to the uniquely Aussie feel.

These humorous interpretations help children to see that there is another side to every story, even one they think they know very well. Many are told from the point of view of the supporting characters and encourage children to consider that we are all the star of our own story. The giant doesn’t see Jack as the hero, the dwarfs didn’t want Snow White to move in and maybe Cinderella liked cleaning. The commonly accepted ideas are challenged in a humorous and engaging manner while encouraging children to remember everyone perceives the world through their own eyes, their own words and their own viewpoint.

For a list of stockists visit

The book is also available from the publisher.



Meet the Author: Robin Bower

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beyond Home coverBeyond Home

Robin Bower

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

Where to buy Beyond Home

Get the Kindle version for Australia here

Get the Kindle version for the US here

Get the paperback here

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

Meet the Author: Lee Battersby


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

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


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


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

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

One out of five ain’t bad….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Corpse Rat King

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

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

Available from

Meet the Author: Kirsten Krauth

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Meet the Author: Annabel Smith

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Annabel’s book is available from: Amazon:

Meet the Author: Francesca Forrest

FRANCESCA’S TOP WRITING TIP: In following advice from writers, feel free to discard what doesn’t work for you. I’ve listened to lots of interviews with writers and read even more, and people are hugely different. This one gets up at dawn and writes for an hour every day; that one only writes on weekends. This one outlines everything; that one feels outlines kill creativity. This one swears by writing groups; that one was scarred by them. About the only universal truth is that you do have to write to be a writer, so embrace the things that help you do that. But maybe that’s not a very helpful tip—in which case I’d go back to the best piece of advice I was ever given and say, read broadly!

Francesca photoFrancesca Forrest has lived in the United States, England, and Japan, and used to boast about having given birth to children on three continents. If she’d started earlier, she might have tried for births on a full six (sorry Antarctica!) Currently she works as a copy editor, spending as much of her free time writing as possible. She’s had short stories and poems published both online and in print, but Pen Pal is her first published novel. She also volunteers as a writing tutor in a medium-security jail and with a program to make children’s books available in the various mother tongues spoken in Timor-Leste. She loves knowing which plants in a landscape are edible and the folk names of wildflowers. She blogs at


Why do you write? You know how so many good things are even better if you can share them with someone? You hear a beautiful song, and you want your friends to hear it, or you taste a delicious dessert and want everyone else to be able to enjoy it too. It’s like this for me with the stories in my head. I have these stories, these ideas, and I desperately want to share them. So I write. I want the story that’s alive in my own mind to live in other people’s minds, too.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I really believe in the power of storytelling outside of the official role of writer. We’ve all known great storytellers (it could be a grandparent, an old neighbour, the class clown at school) who never put a word on paper, but who could hold you spellbound when they started weaving their tale. Even though the stories they tell seem ephemeral—gone as soon as they tell them—they often really linger in the mind. They have strength. If for some reason I couldn’t keep on pursuing writing, I hope I’d be one of these storytellers.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My preconceived notions regarding publication were my toughest obstacle. These days, there are many ways to be published: you can publish with a major publishing house, a small independent press, or you can self publish; you can publish a physical book, an e-book, or both. You can serialise a story online. And, you can choose one route for one project and another route for another project. All the forms of publication involve difficulties. I had to learn to be flexible, and I also had to recognise that no matter what route I took, it wasn’t going to be easy.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I love the actual business of writing. I love turning scenes over in my mind, playing with dialogue, images, sensory details, the order in which events are going to unfold, and figuring out what works best. Some people dislike revision, but I love revision. I love going over a scene and finding a way to make it better.

—the worst? It’s very frustrating and depressing when a story doesn’t gel, when I work on something for a while and see that it’s just not going anywhere. Nothing’s ever really lost—you can recycle ideas later, and the experience you gain in any attempt is always useful—but I hate the moment when I realise that I should abandon some particular thing I’m working on.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? In a sense, I feel as if I am only just starting out now. I wrote a lot as a child and adolescent, but largely stopped when I was in college and bringing up small children. It’s only been in the past six years that I’ve gotten back to writing seriously. To answer a slightly different question, if I could do something differently with my life overall, I would never have let my writing slide—I would have kept at it during those small-children years.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? My father’s a writer, so I don’t feel like I was confronted by many surprises: I knew what I was getting into. I guess it would have been reassuring to know that I actually *would* have the tenacity to keep going—that in the absence of miracles, I’d be able to put in the hard work . . . and that sometimes there would be miracles, just not necessarily in the form or places I was expecting.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To read broadly. I really think the absolute best way to improve as a writer is to read, and to read many different sorts of books. It’s amazing what people can do with language; it’s amazing the way stories can be told. You can apprentice yourself in writing by reading.


Francesca_Forrest_Pen_PalPen Pal starts with a message in a bottle and ends with revolution. Em, a child from a floating community off the US Gulf Coast, drops a message into the sea. It ends up in the hands of Kaya, an activist on the other side of the world, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Em and Kaya are both living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon their correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.  Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

Pen Pal is available from and

Francesca has also set up a website for the book, with pages on remarkable real-life pen pals, messages in bottles, floating communities and indigenous languages. She’d love you to check it out at

Meet the Author: Annette Mahon

Annette Mahon

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

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


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

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

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

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

–the worst? Agonizing over those new pages!

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

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

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



Bright Hopes by Annette Mahon

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

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

Meet the Author: Elaine Forrestal

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Author: Claire Boston

Claire BostonCLAIRE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Find a writers’ group and a critique group that works for you. I have learnt so much from my membership of Romance Writers of Australia – things about the industry and the craft of writing that I wouldn’t have learnt elsewhere, and I have a wonderful network of friends who encourage and support me. My critique group has helped me work out what’s not working in a manuscript and makes suggestions on ways to fix it. In the beginning I knew my manuscript wasn’t publishable but had no idea how to fix it. RWA and my critique group helped me with that.

Claire Boston was a voracious reader as a child, devouring anything by Enid Blyton as well as series such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. Then one school holidays when she’d run out of books to read, her mum handed her Hot Ice by Nora Roberts and she instantly fell in love with romance novels.

The love of reading soon turned to a love of writing and Claire struggled to keep within the 1500 word limit set by her teachers for any creative writing assignments. When she finally decided to become serious about her stories, she joined Romance Writers of Australia, found her wonderful critique group and hasn’t looked back.

When Claire’s not reading or writing she can be found in the garden attempting to grow vegetables, or racing around a vintage motocross track. If she can convince anyone to play with her, she also enjoys cards and board games.

Claire lives in Western Australia, just south of Perth, with her husband, who loves even her most annoying quirks, and her two grubby, but adorable Australian bulldogs.

Visit Claire’s website at and Facebook page

Follow her on Twitter @clairebauthor


Why do you write? I write because I have so many ideas going around in my head that I just need to get them out. I fill my days with dreams of characters in different situations and I want to tell their stories to other people.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Organising things. My day job is a records administrator and librarian and so I have to classify and file information so that people can find them again. This has spilled into my writing life where I have databases for my files, my submissions and my blog posts.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Getting a publisher to say yes! Seriously though, when I look at my first attempts at writing novels, they weren’t any good. I had to learn the craft of writing before I could write a book that people would want to read. There were also periods where I asked myself why I was still trying to get published and sometimes that was hard to get through.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Getting to immerse myself in the world I have created and trying to figure what is going to happen next.

—the worst? The waiting. I’m not a patient person and having to wait months to get a response from an agent or editor is frustrating. I try to forget that I’ve submitted anything and just get on with writing the next novel.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d join Romance Writers of Australia sooner and I would set up a more structured writing regime. It’s only been the past couple of years where I’ve made sure I have writing time every single day. I have to get up at 5.30am to get it, but it’s been worth it.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It’s going to take time and you need to be in it for the long haul. I had these naive fantasies of writing my first book, sending it off and it being a big smash hit. I believe my five-year plan included earning enough that I could give up my day job to write full time.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Anna Jacobs told me time is the best editor. She said the best thing you can do is let your story sit for a year before you edit it and submit it. She was right. You need the time to give yourself the distance from your manuscript, otherwise you don’t see what really needs to be fixed.


What Goes on Tour by Claire Boston

book cover

What goes on tour, stays on tour or does it? Few people know that socially awkward Adrian Hart is actually rock god Kent Downer, and that’s the way Adrian likes it. His privacy is essential, especially now that he has guardianship of his orphaned, ten-year-old niece, Kate. But when the nanny quits in the middle of his tour Adrian finds himself in a bind. Until Libby Myles walks into his life.

Libby has only ever wanted to become a full-time author and prove to her parents that she can make it on her own. On the surface, the temporary job as the nanny for Kent Downer’s niece looks perfect the pay is fabulous, the hours are short and Kate is a big fan it’s the rock star that’s the issue.

Arrogant and way too attractive for anyone’s good, Kent Downer has enough swagger to power a small city. But when he’s out of costume he’s different shy and uncertain. For Libby it’s a far harder combination to resist. She needs to find a balance between work, writing and ignoring her attraction to the rock star, because if she falls for him, it could mean the end of her dream. But when a horrible scandal is unleashed putting young Kate in danger there’s more heat between Libby and Adrian than just sexual attraction. Libby must figure out if Adrian ever cared for her, or if it was all just part of the show.

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Meet the Author: AJ Betts

AJAJ’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be fearless. Read every day, write every day. Don’t fool yourself: being published will not make you happy or rich. Being published is not the goal.

AJ Betts is an author, teacher, speaker and cyclist. Zac & Mia, the winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, is her third novel for young adults. Her others are ShutterSpeed andWavelength. She lives in Perth, and writes when she’s not pedalling.

For information about AJ and her books visit her website 


Why do you write? I’ve never chosen to write – it’s something I’ve always done. I write to clarify the thoughts in my head but also to create stories that intrigue me. What motivates me to finish a book is the desire to know what happens.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? If I wasn’t a published author I’d still be writing for my own enjoyment: stories, poetry and articles. I’d be teaching full-time, and travelling more than I do now.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Finishing the first book! I kept stopping, distracted by travel and other things. I think it was my lack of confidence holding me back.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Currently, the are two great things: receiving wonderful feedback about my recent novel Zac and Mia, and the excitement of working on my next book.

—the worst? The fear and self-doubt when writing. Also, the sacrifices that need to be made, such as spending lots of time alone and reducing social time. There’s a lot of time spent on the couch with my laptop…

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d be more involved in the writing community, such as subscribing to the writingwa emails and connecting with a workshop group. I’d also spend less time planning and more time writing.

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

What’s the best advice you were ever given? ‘If you want to write, write.’ (Liz Byrski)


Zac & Mia by AJ Betts

9781922147257_large_coverThe last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note—then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.

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