Meet the Author: Juanita Kees

juanita-keesJUANITA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Write, write, write—every day. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Learn from your mistakes and be prepared for a tough journey. Writing is a highly competitive, emotional roller coaster and you have to learn to take the bad with the good—graciously.

Juanita Kees graduated from the Australian College QED, Bondi with a diploma in proofreading, editing and publishing, and achieved her dream of becoming a published author in 2012 with the release of her debut romantic suspense, Fly Away Peta. Under the Hood followed in 2013 as one of the first releases from Harlequin’s digital pioneer, Escape Publishing. Juanita works as a freelance editor assisting authors in polishing their work for submission. She escapes the real world to write stories starring spirited heroines who give the hero a run for his money before giving in.

When she’s not writing, editing or proofreading, Juanita is the cleaning fairy and mother to three boys (hubby included, his toys are just a little more expensive). Her not-so-miniature Dacshund, Sam is her critique partner and keeps her company while writing.

Juanita loves to hear from fans and would love for you to enjoy her writing journey with her at:

Author Site:


Twitter:  @juanitakees

On the Web:


Why do you write? I write because I love to. On paper, I can escape the challenges of living in the real world and visit the places of my dreams. I have the power to create perfect worlds or not so perfect ones, depending on my inspiration. In those worlds I can call up a storm, conjure magic, bring people together, nurture happiness or raise hell. It’s fun!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d still be searching for myself. Writing has brought a freedom I could never have achieved in the real world. It’s brought me out of my shell and made me a stronger person. I’ve made friends with other writers who can share and understand the dedication it takes to be a writer, and this in turn has helped me open my heart to non-writer friends too.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I guess the challenge for me was learning to believe in myself, to pluck up the courage to put my work in front of an acquisitions editor and to grow that thick hide we need to accept multiple rejections or less-than-satisfied reviews. We need to take the good with the bad and learn from both.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I get to hang out with hunky heroes and feisty heroines in worlds of my own making. I can be as creative as my muse wants me to be and have the power to right the wrongs, make peace not war, and bring people together to live happily ever after.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ― John Lennon

—the worst? Having to drag myself away from my computer and back into the real world, where that power is limited. J

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d do anything differently. Writing is a learning journey, and by mingling with other writers, going to conferences and workshops, joining writers’ groups and forums, I’ve learnt so much from both the experienced and less-experienced writers. Creating life-long friendships, acquaintances and connections in the writing world is definitely the way to go.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one. I don’t think anything could have deterred me from striving to become an author. It’s in your blood, an addiction whatever form it takes, whether it’s in fiction, non-fiction, poetry or any other outlet you choose. But, if I had to choose one thing, it would be that I’d do more writing development workshops before submitting my first manuscript.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Write, write, write—every day. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. There’s no point in saying, “I’m going to write a book one day”, you simply need to do it. The more you write, the more you learn, the more you learn, the better you get at it.


Under the Hood by Juanita Kees

Under_the_HoodWhen Scott Devin buys a struggling car dealership in a semi-rural area in Western Australia, the last person he expects to see in charge is a stilletto-wearing, mini-skirted foreperson. Exactly the distraction a struggling, male-dominated workshop doesn’t need! But there’s more to TJ Stevens than meets the eye. TJ Stevens has two major goals in life: to preserve her grandfather’s heritage and protect the teens in her rehabilitation program – and she’ll go to any lengths to do it. Scott Devin’s presence is a threat to everything she’s worked hard to achieve, so keeping him at arms’ length shouldn’t be a problem…or will it?

Available from

Meet the Author: Amanda Curtin

AMANDA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be a reader as well as a writer, and read widely. Much of what we know about storytelling—structure, pace, characterisation—and about the way words are used and sentences are put together is absorbed almost unconsciously through reading. I think that’s why often when I used to read books about writing, books that break down and analyse the elements of prose, I would have aha! moments, where I’d realise that someone had just articulated something I instinctively knew. Reading also keeps you learning as a writer, keeps you humble, keeps you striving.

ElAmanda Curtin is the author of two novels, Elemental (2013) and The Sinkings (2008), and a short story collection, Inherited (2011), all published by UWA Publishing. She has also worked as a freelance book editor for most of her adult life, and occasionally lectures and presents master classes and workshops for writers. She has a PhD in Writing, is an Accredited Editor (AE) with the Institute of Professional Editors, and is an Adjunct Lecturer at Edith Cowan University.

She has been awarded writing residencies at OMI International Arts Center’s Ledig House in New York State; the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland; Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers at Lasswade, Scotland; and the Tasmanian Writers Centre, Hobart. She has won the University of Canberra National Short Story Award, the Patricia Hackett Prize for best contribution to Westerly, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award, and the Golden Key Honour Society Award for Excellence in Fiction (Asia-Pacific).

Amanda lives in an old house in an old suburb of Perth, Western Australia, and is currently working on a novella project. Visit her website at


Why do you write? It’s a great question, an intriguing one for any writer to ask themselves. I feel it’s what I’m meant to be doing, who I am at this point in my life. I don’t write because there are things I want to say but because there are things I want to explore, try to understand. It’s the grey areas I am interested in. That’s the short version! I wrote a longish post on this last year:

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a freelance book editor for close to 30 years, and still work as an editor, though far less frequently. But if writing (and editing, and occasional teaching) didn’t occupy most of my time, I think I would study photography.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of confidence. Three things helped me there. First, the encouragement of writers in my writing groups (initially, Annabel Smith, Donna Mazza, Danielle Wood, Carmel Macdonald Grahame; later, Robyn Mundy and Annabel Smith) and my academic supervisor, Richard Rossiter. Second, being fortunate enough to win a couple of awards. Third, being accepted into a PhD writing program.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I feel privileged, and lucky, to be able to do what I’m doing generally. And even more so when my work takes me to other worlds—either literally, through travel, or virtually, through desktop research. Beyond that, it’s immensely rewarding when readers go out of their way to make contact to tell me what they loved and why, or that they were immersed in the world I created, or that it connected with something in their own lives.

—the worst? Self-doubt is always the dark to the light, and I suspect it’s the same in any area of the arts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t have an agent. Having now observed what a good agent can do—working with a publisher, helping with marketing and promotion, etc.—I might have persisted in searching for one willing to take me on. However, it has to be acknowledged that it can be as hard, if not harder, to find an agent than it is to find a publisher. And I’ve also observed that there seems little benefit in having an agent who is not wholly enthusiastic and active on your behalf.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I didn’t realise how necessary, and how time-consuming, the marketing side would be. I’m not complaining, just acknowledging that I wasn’t prepared for it!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A wonderful piece of advice that I try to put into practice is this: leave something unfinished at the end of a writing day, so that when you return to it you’re plunged immediately into the writing itself, rather than the thinking process that precedes it.


Elemental by Amanda Curtin

elemental_COVER v low resIt has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

Nearing the end of her life, Meggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet sucked up from icefloes. A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.

Moving from the north-east of Scotland to the Shetland Isles to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.

Available from:

Meet the Author: Pauline Montagna

PAULA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Don’t write novels. The novel is a dying art form and the market is flooded. Look to the future. Write for the next generation in the formats they’ll be, in the jargon of the day, ‘accessing’ and ‘consuming’. My money would be on computer games.

Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After completing a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University, Pauline joined the Department of Social Security where it was decided that someone with a major in French would be perfect for the Finance section. Fortunately for them, as the daughter of shopkeepers, Pauline had a good head for figures.

While indulging her artistic interests by becoming involved in Melbourne’s burgeoning amateur theatre scene, Pauline pursued her developing accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces culminating in the Australian film industry which eventually took her to Perth. There she decided to return to university and qualify as a teacher, graduating from Edith Cowan and Murdoch universities with Graduate Diplomas in Language Studies and Education.

After returning to Melbourne, Pauline continued teaching English as a Second Language while she completed a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.

Pauline has now retired from teaching to concentrate on The Stuff of Dreams, a four volume fictional account of the life of William Shakespeare and the experiences and relationships that made him the writer he became. The first volume, Not Wisely but Too Well, traces his early life until 1593. She has previously published two other books, The Slave, an historical romance set in fourteenth century Italy, and Suburban Terrors a short story collection.

Information about her books and where to buy them can be found at her website


Why do you write? I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I guess I would say it’s what I do, what I am. If I had my way I would write all day and read all night. As a child I was always telling myself stories and writing them down is just an adult version of that. I remember my first effort was a four-page play when I was eight years old. It was about a princess in a tower waiting to be rescued by a prince. How original!

More recently, though, my writing has been inspired by a need to know more. I have always loved history. I love reading about history. I love doing the research, and I love writing about it. As I dig deeper into my subject, I discover stories which I just have to tell or bust. I can’t be sure where this love comes from, but it may be because I was born in Australia, a country with very little history, while my roots are in Italy, a country with perhaps too much history.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I don’t really know. There are times when I wonder how much longer I can do this, on both the psychological level and the financial. I’m doing some teaching at the moment to keep body and soul together. If needs be I could also get work as a bookkeeper. But I don’t know what would become of me if I ever gave up on being a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Strictly speaking, as a self-publisher, I haven’t been ‘published” as the mainstream would define it. Now I probably never will be. As far as the publishing industry is concerned, self-published books are by definition books that aren’t good enough to find a publisher and so they will not look at them. I daresay this prejudice will extend to the author. We self-publishers dream about being discovered by the mainstream, but there’s lots of competition out there, and unless you’re a breakout like Fifty Shades of Grey, the mainstream will never find you.

The irony is that while agents tell you that your book couldn’t find a publisher because it wasn’t good enough, in the same breath they will tell you they are having a great deal of trouble placing their clients’ books as the industry is in such dire straits. They are discovering what we self-publishers have known all along. The mainstream industry doesn’t have the capacity to publish all the publishable books out there. The rest of us have to either live a life of frustration as we try desperately to be accepted by the mainstream, or go it alone and live with knowing we’ve locked ourselves out.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? And the worst? I do love the research. My best summer ever was the one I spent in the State Library of Victoria doing the preliminary research for my Shakespeare series. You can almost hear the neurons firing as you go from one book to the other, making leaps here and connections there. There’s nothing better.

But recently I’ve discovered how much I love actually writing, though I made this discovery because I’ve done so little of it recently. Most of my time, energy and headspace has been taken up by marketing. For a self-published writer, marketing is difficult, much more difficult than writing. It’s where the drudgery and uncertainty comes in and can become all-consuming. Unfortunately it’s vital, unless you want to write in a vacuum.

I’m basically a shy person so I dread the very thought of going out there to sell myself. Instead I’ve turned to the internet. There’s lots of advice about online marketing out there, but in reality, no one knows what will and won’t work for your book. You have to try it all and hope that something pushes the right buttons. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to implement a detailed online marketing plan I developed while I was overseas earlier this year. It takes a great deal of time out of my day, and saps the writing energy out of me. I’m working towards finding some kind of balance.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? What’s the best advice you were ever given? As I mentioned earlier, there’s lots of advice out there. Most of it is about believing in your dreams and never giving up. Such advice assumes that your dream will come true as long as you work hard enough and that if your dream doesn’t come true it’s because you’ve given up. But sometimes there’s a brick wall out there and the only time banging your head against a brick wall feels good is when you stop. There’s only so much rejection a soul can take.

The only advice I wish I had been given is probably the only advice I wouldn’t have listened to. Quality has little to do with success. Marketing is everything. Don’t go out into a brutal and crowded marketplace unless you’re a salesperson first and a writer second. If you aren’t then don’t bother trying to become a published author. Be content as a closet writer, writing for your own pleasure alone. If you’re lucky you may find your niche, but don’t count on it.

{For a snapshot of Not Wisely, But Too Well go to Author Bookshelf.}

Meet the Author: Bob Rich

BOB’S TOP WRITING TIP: I plant a potato in a clearing in a forest. A plant grows, and a beautiful little flower blooms on it. Have a look at potato flowers. They are lovely. This flower doesn’t yield new life: potatoes reproduce from the tuber. It is there, just being, but it is not seen by anyone, not even a bird. Then, eventually, it wilts. That flower was still beautiful. It was still an essential part of the complex beauty of this planet. Write like that flower. If someone sees your work, great. But write to create beauty for its own sake, for the joy it gives you.


Dr Bob Rich is an Australian storyteller whose main passion is creating a sustainable society. This is because of his love for children. You can look up his writing showcase his psychology site and his Mudsmith site What’s a mudsmith you may ask? Have a look and find out.

{Visit the Author Bookshelf page for a look at Bob’s 15th book, Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance.}


Why do you write? Why do I breathe? I was a writer long before I knew I was a writer. I did long distance running, and filled the hours and the miles with inner monologues. I never thought to share them with anyone, or even to record them — who would be interested in my raves? I was terribly depressed as a youngster. Running and studying/reading were my antidepressants, and so actually I had a very wide range of knowledge, and could tell a story or two. Many years later, a friend called me an encyclopaedia, and I’d be a Trivial Pursuit champion except that I have not the slightest interest in gladiatorial sports, horse racing, or the doings of the rich and famous.

Once I started writing, it also became an antidepressant. That happened in 1980. I was playing a game of soccer with the kids, when I slipped and tore cartilage in a knee; not a good idea. There I was in hospital, deprived of my usual physically active lifestyle, so I borrowed the office typewriter (remember those?) and wrote a couple of articles on building with mudbricks. This resulted in a byline column in a marvellous magazine, Earth Garden, and my first book, The Earth Garden Building Book: Design and build your own house. I still have a regular column with the magazine.

Fiction writing started in 1986. I decided to train as a nurse, and because of the distance of my home from the city, that meant living in a nurses’ home. So, I had a choice: make a fool of myself running after gorgeous 18-year-old girls, or finding something productive to do with my time. I started writing short stories, by far the better choice. This resulted in a long self-instructed apprenticeship that has led to currently 15 published books, four of them award-winners.

 What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Maybe watching TV like normal people? I don’t even have one of those things. But writing is only one of my occupations. I have so far retired from five different ways of earning money, with several still to go, and I do many useful activities that earn me a lot of joy, satisfaction and meaning, but no money.

My most important occupation is as Professional Grandfather. I have four genetically related grandchildren, ranging from 21 to two years of age, and hundreds of others I’ve adopted. Many I’ll never meet. They contact me via the internet with a cry for help, and I have the magic skill of leading people out of hopelessness and despair to hope and inner strength. I’ve exchanged occasional emails with some of them for years.

I’ve just retired as a counselling psychologist after 22 years, but I’ll never retire from the joy of relieving distress.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The first time? Nothing! I believe in the judo approach, as contrasted to Sumo wrestling. As I’ve said, I’d been sending building-related articles to Earth Garden magazine for years. One day, I thought there would be enough for a book, so wrote a letter to the magazine’s publisher, Keith Smith, suggesting we cooperate on one. He already had eight published books.

Synchronicity: after I posted my letter, I checked my post office box. There was a letter from Keith, with the same idea. He lined up the publisher. So, this was the judo approach: use the energy of a situation to get what you want.

The second time took a few years. I wrote a book that was a collection of short stories, many autobiographical, with each story ending in a woodworking lesson. Penguin, who had bought out the publisher of my building book, couldn’t cope with something that was both literary and instructional, so I moved on to other things like learning to write fiction. Then a small publisher contacted Earth Garden, asking if they knew anyone who would write a woodworking book. So, Woodworking for Idiots Like Me was published, and sold some 60,000 copies. Later, I reissued it as an electronic book, and it’s still available to amuse and instruct.

With my fiction, I was a pioneer of electronic publication, and got accepted by a publisher called Bookmice in 1999. I have all my fiction and psychology titles with several small publishers.

The main problem has not been getting published, but getting noticed. I am the world’s worst businessman, and proud of it, and I am expected to market my books! I actually know how to do it. Marketing is closely related to psychology. But I hate blowing my own trumpet, however sweet the sound may be judged by others. I am much better at giving than at demanding or grasping, and so, selling is definitely not one my joys.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? There is no one best aspect; there are many. I love doing research. This is why writing historical fiction is so much fun. I enjoy grappling with difficult concepts. At the moment I am in the middle of a bit of writing of so far unknown length (essay? pamphlet? book?) about my concept of spiritual development: the ages of the soul. It’s wonderful when I am gripped by inspiration, and the words flow, and time stops. I’ve been working at getting rid of my ego for years, but it’s still sweet when someone expresses admiration for one of my publications.

—the worst? Finding time for it. Even though I have retired (again), I still have many interests, many activities I want to be a part of. Writing is best done when you can devote sustained attention and regular time for it. That’s a luxury I rarely have.

This leads to the second one: getting cold on a story. Writing fiction is a matter of becoming a character, then doing and saying what comes naturally to that person, not to me. My characters continually amaze me with the stuff they get up to, the wisdom they teach me. Well, that means that returning to a story after a break needs a period of re-reading, immersing myself in the created reality once more, bringing the characters back to life again.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? If I could go back in a time machine and be that young fellow again? I don’t know that I’d do anything differently.

If I were a starting writer in today’s world? Self-publishing is now very easy, but it has traps. With you as both author and publisher, the temptation is to skip quality control. I think training (not necessarily a formal course) in the mechanics of language, and of writing, is essential. Hiring an editor like me is a very good way of learning. I got a different freelance editor for each of my first three fiction books, and learned an immense amount from each.

I think my judo strategy of getting a readership and reputation in some field first, then expanding this to books is still a good trick. For me, it was owner-building. Now, I might use my psychological knowledge to get a following.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t give away your day job. (Well, I didn’t.) The best writing has passion, because it is driven by an intention far beyond just making a buck from it. The more you give, the more you get, and I am not talking about free giveaways. Write because you intend your words to make this planet a better place.

 What’s the best advice you were ever given? As a young fellow, I wasn’t much good at listening to advice. It wasn’t arrogance, but a false face to hide my lack of self-respect, but the result was the same. Nowadays, people come to me for advice rather than the other way.

Meet the Author: Dale Harcombe

DALE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Write, write, write. Don’t be content with first, second or even third drafts. Make it the best it can be. The hardest part then is knowing when to stop. Read, read, read as much as you can of all different writers and different kinds of books. Try and analyse why things work or they don’t. I’ve found since I’ve started to write I have become a more critical reader. I get impatient if the author doesn’t move the story along in some way. When I write I try and leave out the bits I would skip through while reading.  For example those passages that convey information because the author found it interesting but it does not advance the story or help the reader know the characters better.

Dale Harcombe

Dale lived in Western Sydney and the Central West of NSW before moving to the South Coast which immediately felt like home.  She started writing articles and poems. Many were published in magazines and newspapers. She has also written short stories, educational materials, bible studies and Sunday school materials, puppet plays, skits, and songs for young children. A radio play, called Edge of Silence, was broadcast in 2005.

Chasing after the Wind, her first published children’s novel was published by Scholastic in 1997. Since then she has had Kaleidoscope, a book of poetry and six other children’s books published.  Many poems in Kaleidoscope had been previously published in Australia’s literary magazines and newspapers. Her poetry has won prizes and been published in several anthologies. Streets on a Map, her first general fiction book, was published in December 2010. It is now also an E book. Dale is currently at work on another novel with the working title Sandstone Madonna.

As well as jobs as a bookseller and other sales positions, Dale has been a houseparent for a family of twelve boys, manuscript assessor, book reviewer and run creative writing classes at NSW Writers’ Centre, Parramatta Evening College and Central West Community College. She also wrote for several years about marriage and home related topics for She has a BA in Literary and Australian studies. More information about Dale can be found at or on her Write and Read with Dale blog


Why do you write? Sometimes I wonder! No seriously, because there are stories bubbling away inside that want to come out and hopefully, I might have some insights or knowledge that may be helpful to others in their life journey. I guess in another way it is something that has always been in me. I was one of those kids who sent off poems and stories to the newspapers back in the day when newspapers did such things. Do they even do that any more?

Over time that writing urge got pushed aside by other aspects of life. But like the phoenix it came back to life in later years. I started with poetry and articles, later moved to children’s fiction, back to poetry and then onto general fiction with Streets on a Map. Now I’m concentrating on fiction with a smattering of poetry still thrown in, because I can’t leave it alone. Fiction and poetry are my two reading loves as well.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Just living and enjoying life in this piece of paradise where I live. But I probably wouldn’t be as much fun to live with. I tend to get grumpy when I am not writing.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of knowledge of the way the industry works. When I first started, I didn’t have a website, know how to organise a book launch or anything else. It’s been learn as I went along and still learning.  I thought when my first children’s book Chasing after the Wind was published, I had a foot on the door and it would be easier. That didn’t turn out to be the case. The editor who had picked my manuscript out of the slush pile left. Sadly, the new editor didn’t seem to connect with what I was writing. So it was back to square one, and trying to learn more about writing and find markets. Six other children’s books were published before I had Kaleidoscope a book of poetry published. That was the quickest acceptance ever, less than 10 days from submission to acceptance by Ginninderra Press. By then general fiction was calling. Poetry got put aside. Streets on a Map was published and now I am working on another novel but also starting to work on a second collection of poems.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing books I wrote in print and getting feedback from people when they like a book and take time to let me know. I have a few letters which live on my corkboard near my desk which are from readers who have told me how much they enjoyed my books. One of the most special is from a girl who struggled to read. Chasing after the Wind was the first book she ever actually read and enjoyed. That still gives me a thrill when I think about how I got her started on her reading journey and the response from her and her family.

 —the worst? Waiting. Writers spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for publishers to decide, waiting for contracts to arrive, waiting on proofs and editing, waiting for the book to be published. Waiting is not my strong suit. I usually try and forget about it and get busy with some new work in the meantime. E books and self publishing has changed a lot of that and cut out much of that waiting time but it’s not something I’ve investigated a lot to date. The promotion and marketing aspects that go with writing these days I also find hard. I’d rather just write.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d be less naive. I’d build a website and blog first and then go from there.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be yourself because the reality is you can’t be anyone else anyway. So play to your strengths and don’t worry about things you can’t do or comparing yourself with others.

 {Visit the Author Bookshelf page for a snapshot of Dale’s novel, Streets on a Map and details about availability}.

Meet the Author: Nichola Hunter

NICHOLA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Unless you are writing something very generic, like a Mills and Boon and purely for money, don’t think about money. Think about getting it right. Likewise don’t think about getting famous or get overexcited about being an author. Think about getting it right. The manuscript takes precedence over your ego at all times. Also, when you think you have finished – you have probably just completed phase one of your mss.

Nichola Hunter

Nichola Hunter grew up Victoria, Australia and moved to Western Australia in her early twenties, where she studied Film and Television and Creative Writing at Curtin University of Technology. She has worked as a freelance travel writer and has published short stories, poems, travel articles and one novella, Ramadan Sky. She has travelled and worked extensively in South East Asia. She currently lives in Fremantle, Western Australia where she teaches adult migrants, works as a freelance writer and is writing another novel.


Why do you write? First of all, it’s about communication. I think writing is a way of creating an intimate relationship with a lot of strangers. I think if you write something really well you become an investigator – you have to slow down and watch what you are perceiving and then try to understand and describe its quality exactly. So in a way, writing is really very careful listening. Sometimes people will hear or see something but don’t have time to notice that they have seen it until they read it as someone else’s observation. When somebody reads what you have written and recognises or “gets it”, that’s very enjoyable.

Also some things are just so beautiful or so sad or so funny or so unfair, that they have to be observed and told. The lives of the poor in South East Asia fit all of the categories above for me. SE Asia with its dramatic, weather and its volatile politics, whose people seem to live beneath a mask of impassivity, is largely unexplored in Australian writing, which surprises me, considering our geography.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Well I’m doing a lot of things besides writing now. I am a keen photographer and would probably give this more focus if I weren’t writing. Also I would like to make a documentary one day.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? First, the book is a novella, and many publishers won’t accept novellas from debut authors. Also simply being a first time author with no contacts in the industry. That’s why I posted my book on HarperCollins’ website, authonomy, where it was noticed by the editor.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being able to share the exact quality of a perception – to describe something so that someone else “gets it” and to stop and notice for enough time so that you can put your finger on something precisely. I also enjoy the act of creating something from a blank – going from the terror of an empty screen to creating a story, novel or even a blog post. The words emerge like invisible ink becoming visible. Sometimes it feels like someone else is moving those keys.

—the worst? As Hemingway says: There’s nothing to writing. You sit down at the keyboard and you bleed. In order to write well I think you have to be looking for the truth and the truth hurts like hell sometimes.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would write to a plan. With Ramadan Sky I just started writing and then wrote some more and added bits and pieces and joined them up at the end. There are three narrators and the story takes place over twelve months. In the editing phase, I had to untangle the story lines and time lines for these three narrators. There were moments of acute brain freeze while doing this and the phrase “never again” almost became a mantra. Next time a clear plan at the beginning. And one narrative voice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been pushed to produce more. At university they had us writing short stories, which was very good training, but there isn’t much of a market for short stories. I wish we’d learned more about how to extend an idea into a bigger one and how to maintain pace in a longer work. Keep going—that’s it, I guess, in a nutshell.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The first is “Write like every word is worth a million bucks.” By far the most prevalent mistake that I see on the authonomy website, which has thousands of aspiring authors, is that the writing is overly descriptive—too many adjectives, too many adverbs and too much information in general. This happens to everyone when they are writing. The trick is to keep a sharp knife handy and cut them out as you go along. I liken it to a haircut. Each piece you cut contributes to the overall shape you are making.

Along the same lines is this tip from John Fowles: Edit when you are feeling sick and tired of your manuscript. Mistakes jump out more, and you are more likely to be necessarily ruthless when you are a bit sick of it.

* Visit the Author Bookshelf page for a snapshot of Ramadan Sky and where to obtain it. For information about Nichola’s work visit her blog at

Meet Margaret Sutherland

MARGARET’S TOP TIP: Set a regular time to work and show up. Don’t discuss new ideas, plots or brilliant insights with anyone. They tend to dissipate when talked about. Don’t try and be your most admired writer. Read, read, read and sort out the wheat from the chaff. And share with your fellow writers. You will make some good friends and share the good times and the bad.

Margaret SutherlandMargaret Sutherland has followed a number of careers: nursing, writing, marriage and motherhood and music teaching. These experiences have provided invaluable material for her seven novels and three short story collections.

Her early books were well received in Britain, America and New Zealand. Great reviews and competition successes earned her a NZ Scholarship in Letters, two Australia Council writing grants, and first prize in a recent national short story competition. Radio NZ and Radio Denmark have broadcast Margaret’s stories. More recently, she has self-published, on-selling to Ulverscroft large-print.

Margaret’s goal in writing is to uncover the small truths at crisis points of everyday life. She writes affectionately about ordinary people who share our hopes, joys, loves and sorrows. Her settings include the languor of the tropics (Fiji, New Guinea), New Zealand (her birthplace) and Australia, a country she loves for its warmth, landscapes and generosity of dimension.

Writing about love’s many facets has always featured in her work. Recently she began writing romance. She enjoys happy endings for her lovers, while including children, the elderly and dogs in the stories. Margaret’s next book, to be published by Sweetcravingspublishing in America,  will be out for Valentine’s Day and is appropriately titled Valentine Masquerade.

Look for Margaret’s books on Amazon USA, Kindle, or


Why do you write? I think the urge to write is an inborn thing. It has certainly followed me throughout my life, even when I’ve had years when nothing has been written. I don’t see this as a disadvantage. We must get out and live life in order to write about it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? If I wasn’t a writer, I would be doing what I’m already doing! That is, teaching music, enjoying life with my husband and pets, managing a home, garden, and maintaining a correspondence with friends and family, as I am a NZer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My first publication came relatively easily. It was when I tried to re-enter the market after moving to Australia that I found standards had changed and my  background made no difference. There was a lot of competition, and it has only become harder as time passes. I found self-publishing, fortunately, as it is only this year that I have connected with a publisher for a new line in the romance genre.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Finishing a book and seeing it between covers and up for sale is the most rewarding moment.

—the worst? Making no money, low sales, too much competition, spending time on promotion when I would rather be writing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? If I was starting out again, I might be more consistent, I might be more outgoing and self-promotional. I might stick with a genre rather than always experimenting with styles and techniques. I might not take those long breaks to do something completely different. How can I say? I might do exactly what I did!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It doesn’t matter what I might have been told. I probably wouldn’t have listened.

{Visit the Author Bookshelf page for a snapshot of Margaret’s latest publication and a link to her website.}