Meet the Author: Kelly Van Nelson

Kelly’s top tip for writers: Dig deep and leverage willpower. It’s the ultimate superpower to ensure you never give up.

Kelly Van Nelson is a fiction author who lived in the UK and South Africa before immigrating to Australia. She has had multiple poetry and short stories featured in publications in the UK, USA, and Australia (Serenity Press, Short Story Society, United Press, Between These Shores Books, Fiction War Magazine, Wolvesburrow Productions, KSP Writefree Women’s Writing Group). She is represented by Clive Newman at The Newman Agency.

Graffiti Lane is her powerful debut poetry collection. As well as success as a poet, Kelly has also received multiple accolades for her manuscript, The Pinstripe Prisoner, which placed third in the Yeovil Literary Prize, shortlisted in the Wales PENfro first chapter competition, and longlisted in the Exeter Novel Prize. In December 2018 she was awarded a First Edition Fellowship through Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre. The fellowship is part of an emerging writer pilot program, funded by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries and Lotterywest.

Kelly is also the mum of two children, wife of her soulmate of more than two decades and the Managing Director on the executive board of a global staffing organisation. In short, she is a juggler.

For more information about Kelly visit her website: www.kellyvannelson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England (I’m a Geordie) and lived in a council estate in an inner-city concrete jungle. I didn’t have a great relationship with my mother and my father passed away in his forties. It was pretty bleak. My outlet was reading. I read endlessly under the duvet with a torch until the early hours. Enid Blyton and everything else I could get my hands on. At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer – I loved books and the escape that they brought from reality.

Now, in my adult years, I find writing the ultimate stress buster. I mostly write late at night, just before I go to bed. It helps me unwind from whatever crazy day I’ve had.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Hmm, I have a full-time day job already; one that I love. I’m the Managing Director for a global organisation, helping people find employment every day and shaping the future of work. If I didn’t write, I would still be working full-time, but I’d probably be going to bed a bit earlier!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were so many stumbles along the way. Not having a good writers’ support network early in the journey would be one of the biggest setbacks. I used to overwrite a lot, had no formal writing training, and didn’t have a great grasp of the intense editing process that is required to rewrite, prune, polish … then do it all again. It was only when I moved to Australia that I found an amazing writing community who helped me develop into a writer strong enough in my craft to make it into print.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Ahhhh, the cover. I had an enormous amount of input on that particular aspect of the book. I had a vision in my mind of what the cover would look like, then embarked on a photo shoot in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane to get the perfect shot. Almost a thousand photographs of street art were taken to get the frame that is now the cover of Graffiti Lane. The shot was chosen by my incredibly talented cover designer @thomaspaulartistry. Tom layered the photo with incredible graphics and captured the essence of my gritty author brand and the context of the book beautifully. It looks nothing like what I originally envisaged. It’s way better!

The rest of the book development, manuscript content aside, was managed by my amazing publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, although she gave me wonderful creative liberty with many decisions along the way.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Touching readers emotionally with something I created is an amazing feeling. If just one reader gets something positive out of words I have written, magic has been realised.

—the worst? My hands regularly ache. I use the laptop all day long for work and continue into the wee hours typing at fast speed. It’s bliss rubbing hand cream into them to try and ease the joints.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Join a writers’ group immediately. I found mine at Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre (KSP) in Perth only a year ago and it changed my world. Hanging out with like-minded writers is the best for learning all kinds of new tricks of the trade.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Your time will come, but only when you are ready. Every rejection in between is a stepping stone to learn and refine your skills.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t ever submit your work without editing it end-to-end at least six times. I never break this rule now, even for a tiny Haiku poem, and my submission success rate has shot through the roof as a result.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is a huge part of my writing world. I use four platforms; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, for varied content and to reach different audiences. I met many fellow authors, publishers, and other industry contacts through social networking and the time I spend online pays off ten-fold. Graffiti Lane shot to #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases and #2 Poetry Bestsellers on pre-sales alone, simply from reaching out to contacts online about my book launch. I’m also fairly disciplined about how long I spend reviewing content of friends and posting rather than just idly browsing random content.

There is a downside though. My social media platform has evolved into almost 100,000 connections and I dread just one person slamming me – I need to develop a much thicker skin so anything like this doesn’t bother me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. If I sit down to write, I write. It’s often not what I intended to write during the session, but something always pops out. It’s common for me to sit down to work on a novel and churn out a couple of poems or a short story instead. I cut myself a break. As long as I’m getting words out of my head and down on a page, I figure it’s okay. The pressure is not so intense on myself as a result.

How do you deal with rejection? I used to get hung up on it, reading the piece again, unpicking the rejection note, then wallowing in self-doubt. Now I keep a spreadsheet of all submissions, track long lists, short lists, successes and failures. The percentage of accepted pieces has been rising month on month so this trend line fights off any negative thinking. When it’s a particularly disappointing rejection (I recently had my novel at final stages with the director of a major publishing house and it fell over), I give myself 24 hours’ reprieve before getting back on the horse and galloping to work again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Gritty, urban, confronting.

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? Wow. This is the toughest question. There are so many authors I idolise, but one in particular made an impact on my life way back. Years ago, I sat next to Dame Stella Rimington, author and former director of MI5, at dinner. At the time I was struggling with working full time and raising two young children, and was planning a move from Scotland to South Africa. She spoke of how she managed to juggle her career and family life, even talking about an incident where she was trying to get an informer out of Britain while her daughter was sick in hospital. It put my whole world into perspective. I have a signed copy of her book, Open Secrets, with the coolest Bond quote inside. In that one dinner, I learned that a strong woman can succeed through hard work and determination, and mums can have amazing careers too. I would love another hour with her.

BOOK BYTE

Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.

With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and free-form poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.

Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.

Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.

The book is available from the publisher here.

Amazon Australia Book Sales: https://www.amazon.com.au/Graffitti-Lane-Kelly-Van-Nelson-ebook/dp/B07N33ZB21/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sonia Bellhouse

Sonia’s top tip for aspiring authors: Think about what excites you, what inspires you. Write about that. Even if it’s not in now, you never know what will become the next trend.

Sonia Bellhouse grew up in England, but she now makes Australia her home. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s comment, ‘One day you might write a book,’ writing is Sonia’s lifelong passion. She has published in magazines both in Australia and the UK and was awarded two major short fiction awards.

Sonia completed a university English degree as a mature student. She is a member of Romance Writers of Australia. Her journey to publication is included in the anthology Writing the Dream. She also contributed to the anthology Passages.  A longtime member of Armadale Writers’ Group she is their speaker coordinator. Her book Fire & Ice combines her interests in ice dancing, Vikings, love that spans time and Bergen, Norway, a place that she loved when she visited. When not writing Sonia can be found ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cats. She reads six to eight books a month and reviews them on her blog https://soniabellhouse.blog.

Visit Sonia on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soniabellhouse.author/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always scribbled since I was very young, writing and illustrating stories. It is something that won’t go away. I don’t want it to. Writing is a part of my identity. I write to clear my head, to clarify or explore my thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? A lot more reading!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Procrastination and self-doubt.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Far more involved than most first time authors can expect to be. I have been exceptionally fortunate a writer friend, who was procrastinating on her own writing , sent me six sample covers.  They were all good, but one really spoke to me and I sent to the publishers as an example. After seeking the relevant permission they decided to use it.

The editor was one I had worked with before , so I felt very confident in taking her  advice, which was comprehensive.  There were 13 pages of notes, comments on the manuscript  itself and graphs showing character arcs and plot tension points.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The ability to create what you want, limited only by your own imagination. A close second is no workday commute .

—the worst? The usual – the insecurity and self-doubt. The critical voice in  your head. The feeling that you should write more, write faster, be more like another author.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, be brave, send more work out, learn from rejections. Analyse what works, what doesn’t and remember you have a unique writing voice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the work hasn’t ended when you have written ‘The End’. in fact, it’s just the beginning of a much larger process.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Believe in your dreams you were given them for a reason.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’ll let you know! I enjoy Facebook and  ‘meeting’ authors that I admire. Now I have a Sonia Bellhouse Author page myself.

I also have a blog  https://soniabellhouse.blog  where I post about the 6-8 books I have read each month. It also includes aspects of writing and whatever else is on my mind And I dabble in Pinterest – I created a board for  ‘The Book I Am Writing’

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Luckily, I usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time , so if one stalls, I simply switch to another project.

How do you deal with rejection? It hurts!  I allow myself to experience it to rage , and  to feel they are unjustified. Then when  I have calmed down, I assess whether they have a valid point. Did I submit something unsuitable, or to the wrong place? If that’s’ the case, lesson learnt; if not then maybe they had just commissioned something similar.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? From my heart.

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 this is the toughest question. There are so many wonderful authors I admire and for different reasons. While I have listened to writers at various events and conferences, a one-on-one would give personalised advice.

After much deliberation I choose Joanne Harris. I loved  her series with Vianne Rocher. It started with Chocolat,  continued in The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure. The fourth in the series is due for release in April, that is seven years after the last book. What prompted her to revisit it? How difficult was it to return to those characters?  I enjoy how the series combines a fey quality of magic  with the practicalities of everyday life and well-drawn characters. Each book is different but continues the series.

I’d like to learn how extensively she planned it,  how difficult it was to get back into the mindset of the characters and whether she would do anything differently. Additionally, she has written other genres, they have a different tone and I admire her versatility.  There are even two cook books, some books spanning her French heritage Others on runes and fairy-tales. And we could always talk about our childhoods when we both lived behind a sweet shop.

Fire and Ice

Sonia Bellhouse

Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels’ partner has just called it quits – leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, Blaise travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled or will an old tragedy complicate their present?

The book is available from Daisy Lane Publishing, Book Depository and leading online retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Tracy Ryan

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Don’t aspire; just write. Don’t think of yourself as “aspiring”; think of yourself as writing. And read widely, and/or deeply, because that goes with writing. Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan was born and grew up in Western Australia, where she now lives in the wheatbelt, but has also lived overseas in the UK, USA and Ireland. She has worked in libraries, bookselling, editing, community journalism and teaching. As well as five novels, she has published nine collections of poetry.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  I have always written, since I could first read, so it’s a habit of thinking, a way of processing experience.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I can’t imagine that. I’ve also taught a lot, so I’d probably be teaching, but I don’t see it as either/or. Writing would be as well as, no matter what else was involved. This is true for many other writers too. Sometimes people put writing on hold while they do other things, but even then they’ve often been jotting things down in their spare time. What we see that gets published is usually only a small portion of what people have been writing across their lifetimes.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I don’t think in terms of obstacles. I was brought up with love, I was well-fed and looked-after in my family of origin, and I have a supportive family now. For some people life is much harder, so I’m not saying obstacles are nonsense, just that I don’t focus on them for myself. If you focus too much on them it’s discouraging. There’s always someone who has it worse, and someone who has it apparently easier. You just keep trying. If opportunities seem to elude you, you try to create them.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? My publishers have been great about this, in that we always end up discussing the choices for covers. I’m not a designer, though, nor a particularly visual person, so I defer to those who are. Nonetheless, it’s good to have that discussion, to clarify where writer, publisher, designer and marketing people are coming from. With regard to the content, I’ve always had terrific editors too, from whom I’ve learned heaps.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When a book is finished.

—the worst? The feeling of being stuck – grinding to a halt – which is actually a normal part of the process. It’s a stop-start thing, and sometimes there are many stops and starts!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? The internet did not exist when I was starting out; people didn’t even have home computers. So it’s crazy for me to try to picture how it would be to start out now. I think, though, that the basic principles of commitment to your work (to the value of imaginative writing in general too) and of persistence, self-belief, have not changed.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it was an OK choice. My parents thought so, but I can remember a guidance counsellor at school who said basically, “That’s not a job.” Fortunately, to counterbalance that, I had some teachers who were great encouragers. I ignored the guidance counsellor. (Most writers probably do.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “Everything comes at a cost, so if you can’t see the cost of something, look harder.”

It was said at school, in a then-Social Studies class, but has applied to so many things in life I can’t count how often I’ve recalled and quoted it. It applies to the writing and publishing life: if anything looks suspiciously easy, or suspiciously obvious, reconsider. It makes me sound paranoid, or sceptical, I suppose. But it’s a helpful principle when making decisions.

There’s logic at work there, whether it’s in new technologies that appear to make life better but come at too great an ecological price – or some sort of deal you are offered that seems too good to be true. Or that someone somewhere is paying for a benefit you enjoy. It stretches to so many examples…

 

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not on social media, other than a blog I share with the writer John Kinsella, who is my life-partner (but I don’t post frequently). Our shared blog is at: http://poetsvegananarchistpacifist.blogspot.com.au/

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, lots – that’s the “being stuck” I mentioned above. I overcome it by recognising that it’s part of the writing process (not opposed to it) and eventually it goes into abeyance. Also I mess around with translations or other ways of working with language – journal entries, whatever – so as to keep connected while letting go of the problem. So far, it hasn’t been fatal. I think it’s quite common.

How do you deal with rejection? Get over it. Like writer’s block, it’s part of the deal. A certain degree of stubbornness is necessary to do this work. It can sting, as for anyone else, but if you let it stop you, you might as well try some other kind of work. People see the big successes that writers have, and don’t understand that they had lots of rejections too. Persistence is a key writerly trait, even if sometimes a piece of writing really is no good, and does deserve rejection. You go back and say to yourself, “How could I do it better?” or “Where else could I send it?”

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Questions, ruminations, excavations.

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? Probably the French author Stendhal (real name Marie-Henri Beyle), 1783-1842. He was known to be very witty and his books are breathtaking. His writing is quirky, lively, intelligent, full of passion and compassion, and he felt he was writing for readers well into the future. Especially women! I’d love to hear his take on being a writer now, and as his biggest fame came posthumously, I’m sure he’d have something pithy and facetious to say about that. He’s a serious novelist who also makes you laugh; a great combination.

BOOK BYTE

We are not most people

Tracy Ryan

 

 

Kurt Stocker’s Swiss childhood is dominated by strict and God-fearing parents. He enters a seminary with the intent of becoming a priest and making his parents proud of him, but struggles to adapt. Leaving this vocation behind, he marries Liesl and they eventually emigrate to Australia.

Decades later in small town Australia, Terry Riley feels drawn to convent life, despite her parents’ objections. At the convent she is haunted by a strange sickness and knows in time that she must return to a more conventional life. It is then she begins a relationship with the now divorced Kurt, who was once her high school teacher.This is the story of an odd couple, of an older man and a younger woman in love with one another, but so damaged by their past lives that even a regular sexual relationship seems impossible. Beautiful in its frankness but disturbing in its examination of faith and human existence, this is a novel that is affectionate, haunting and ultimately unforgettable.

The book is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/we-are-not-most-people/