Meet the Author: Rachel Nightingale

What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.

Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.

She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.

For more information about Rachel, go to


Why do you write?  Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.

How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.

Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.

—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.

How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.

How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.

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? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.


Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.

For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.

 Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.

Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4

Monday Oct 22

Tuesday Oct 23

Thursday Oct 25

Friday Oct 26

Monday Oct 29

Tuesday Oct 30

Wednesday Oct 31

Thursday Nov 1

For enquiries about Books on Tour visit



Meet the Author: Nadia King

Today’s author in the spotlight describes her writing as ‘raw, real and thought-provoking’ and is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects. It’s my pleasure to introduce Nadia King.

Photo: Louise Allen

Nadia was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. She is an author, blogger, and presenter. Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press based in Western Australia.
Nadia is passionate about using stories to reflect a diversity of realities in order to positively impact teen lives.
Her short fiction has been published by Write Out Publishing, and has appeared in The Draft Collective, The Regal Fox, The Sunlight Press, Tulpa Magazine, and Other Terrain Journal.
Nadia runs a teen book club for the Centre for Stories. She enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction and short fiction, and lives in Western Australia with her family.

Find out more about Nadia on her website and social media links:


Why do you write?  I write because I enjoy writing. The writing process is a way to connect with my creativity. I’m one of those people who feels too much and writing gives me a safe space to expel some emotion.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve always managed to work with words. My first job after school was in journalism and I worked for a number of years in corporate communications. Currently, I’m studying to build my editing skills with a view to freelance editing in the not so distant future.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I hate to admit this but my toughest obstacle to becoming published was tied up with myself. I held myself back from creative writing for a very long time so it was almost a relief to get out there and try my luck with publication.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? For my debut book, Jenna’s Truth I was very involved in the book’s development. For my short stories, I have little to do with choosing graphics etc although the magazines and journals I’ve been published by have been very open with me during editing. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ex-journo but I really enjoy the editing process and collaborating with other creatives.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I never know what will turn into a story and I find such possibilities exciting. Using stories to connect with others fills me with happiness. Stories are a way to share your perspective with the world in a profoundly human way. For me, stories are a constant source of joy.

—the worst? The worst is tied up with the best aspect of writing—wondering if what I’ve written will resonate with readers. I mainly try to ignore my wonderings and concentrate on being truthful with my writing. I believe if you are authentic and honest in writing, readers will connect with what you have to say.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would write more short stories to gain experience in the craft. I would read more (although I’m not sure that’s humanly possible). I would be kinder by reassuring myself there is no one way of writing and I would take time to find out what works best for me.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A tweet from author, Dea Poirier (@deapoirierbooks) lists five things she wished someone had told her five years ago. These points would definitely have been helpful to know before I embarked upon my writing journey:

  • You’ll never stop questioning yourself, no matter what you write
  • Don’t disregard praise and only focus on criticism
  • Impostor syndrome never gets better
  • Done is better than perfect
  • Perfect doesn’t exist

You are tackling some confronting issues in your fiction. What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? I’m very attracted to social justice issues and tend to tackle such issues in my writing. Even though I play with dark material, I strive to convey a sliver of hope and humanity. It’s that sense of faith and humanity I hope resonates with and engages readers.

Is there any area of writing that you still find challenging? All of it! Ha ha! Writing doesn’t get easier and I seem to be drawn to writing projects which I am ill-qualified to tackle. But that’s also what makes the work exciting. I jump in the deep end, swim bloody hard, and pray I’ll make it to the other side.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? ‘Just bloody write!’ While I was toying with the idea of writing fiction, there was a part of me which was paralysed with fear. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet with a playwright from New York who patiently listened to my rumination before giving me a shove in the right direction. His shove was exactly what I needed and before I knew it, I was writing every day.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Ignore everyone else. I don’t mean to sound facetious but it’s so important to listen to your own voice. What are your dreams? Chase after your dreams not someone else’s. Not everyone will aspire to be on the New York Times Bestsellers’ list, and that’s okay. Pursue your own goals and define your own reality rather than following someone else’s idea of success.

How important is social media to you as an author? When I first started writing, social media was important because it gave me access to many other writers. Now though, it can often be a distraction. Social media can be valuable but it shouldn’t keep you from your work and if it takes away from your happiness, it may not be the right tool for you.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I was writing a manuscript a while back and it took me a while to ‘hear’ the voice of my protagonist. Writing can be a slow process. Respecting the process and nor coercing the words helps me find my voice for each project and overcome writer’s block.

How do you deal with rejection? Surprisingly well considering I’m quite a sensitive person. I’ve learnt not to take rejection personally and to realise the market can be fickle. There is a huge amount of competition out there and if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, your manuscript needs to be commercially attractive. Coming to that realisation has freed me from my own personal pressures to seek publication.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Raw, real, and thought-provoking.

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?

This is probably the hardest question of this interview. There are so many writers I would love to spend time with but I’ve narrowed it down to five:

  • Jane Austen (1775-1817, England) because she awakened in me a love of classic literature. I’m curious to know more about what made her tick and what were her motivations for writing.
  • Haruki Murakami (1949, Japan) because his stories make my heart pound in my chest. I would love to fangirl him one day and tell him how much his work means to me. If he could give me any tips on writing magical realism I would really appreciate it.
  • Favel Parrett (1974, Victoria, Australia) because her writing makes me weep. I would like to know why Favel writes and how she edits – I find her prose quite lyrical and she is generous, genuine and amazing.
  • Margaret Atwood (1939, Canada) because Alias Grace is one of my favourite books of all time. The structure of the book fascinates me and I would love to know how she went about planning the structure and tying it together with her research.
  • Germaine Greer (1939, Melbourne, Australia) because she’s fearless with her words and I admire her bravery and we both love drinking tea.


Jenna’s Truth
N L King

New and revised edition (previously published by Aulexic).

Jenna’s just a teenager who wants to fit in. The popularity that she wanted though, quickly turns into infamy when two “well-meaning” friends spark a controversy that alters her life forever. What happens when the popular kids are responsible for one of the most painful and humiliating events in your life? Inspired by Amanda Todd’s tragic story of bullying, Jenna’s Truth is more than just teen short story – it’s a lesson in empathy, self-awareness, and speaking out about what matters. Jenna’s Truth is a gripping story, which explores the themes of cyber bullying, teen drinking, sex, and suicide.

Life is not black and white, and sometimes teens can be the most insensitive people.

‘Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying…[and is] a deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.’ — Kirkus Reviews

Jenna’s Truth is available from the following outlets:


Meet the Author: James Cristina

My guest author this week is James Cristina whose debut novel, Antidote to a Curse, has been described as ‘an astute exploration of the nature of identity’ by the acclaimed author Janette Turner Hospital.

James Cristina was born in Malta. His parents migrated to
Australia in the late sixties and he grew up in Melbourne.
He has taught English in Australia, Malta, England, the
US, Jordan, Bahrain, Switzerland, Belgium, South Korea
and Oman. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the
University of East Anglia.


Why do you write? Because characters, scenes, plotlines and phrases materialise, take shape and evolve. It seems natural to want to write these down.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m first and foremost a teacher. I’ve enjoyed my years of teaching at home and abroad.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were many obstacles. Developing a book-length piece of fiction to a level that I was satisfied with was possibly the biggest obstacle.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Working with Transit Lounge has been great. I am involved. The creative and professional direction has been inspiring and productive. I certainly appreciate the sincerity of the dialogue. Yes, I’ve been given a lot of freedom and opportunity to express viewpoints.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing the characters and plotline take shape and eventually become independent of you. You essentially feel like you are making something.

—the worst? Feeling like you don’t have time to jot down ideas.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? While I think my teaching, my travels and experiences have been important, I wish I had given myself more time to write.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I think I was fortunate. From the very beginning, I met wonderful writers and academics who were sincere and generous.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? How far you go with any given piece is up to you and your internal critic.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? It’s an individual journey, but if I had to give advice it would be to keep at it.

How important is social media to you as an author? The freedom to be able to use any social network is important, though till now I tend to work directly with people I have met in person over the years.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. I don’t think I’ve had the time or freedom to pursue the number of ideas that have come to me. I’ve certainly reached an impasse or two with the novel Antidote to A Curse over the years, but there have always been other pieces, mainly poems, to pursue.

How do you deal with rejection? Try again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Subjective, ambitious and exploratory.

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’ve been making slow progress with Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. I wonder if and what he would offer about writing this extraordinary epistolary novel. I certainly would love to know how this piece evolved. Would he meet up with me for a coffee?


Antidote to a Curse

James Cristina

It’s the ’90s. Silvio Portelli returns to Melbourne after
time spent teaching in England and rents a room from
the charismatic octogenarian, Nancy Triganza. Nancy is
having an elaborate aviary constructed to indulge her
passion for birds. At a city sex shop, Silvio meets the
mysterious Zlatko, a Bosnian immigrant and, in a previous
life, a collector of rare birds. Silvio becomes obsessed with
Zlatko, and his own journal and dreams begin to mirror
Zlatko’s past, and in time the reality of what happened
in Bosnia. Such revelations are counterpointed by Silvio’s
own tense wait to learn the results of his tests for HIV.
Bold in design, Antidote to a Curse is a story in which
the hunter becomes the hunted, the writer the subject,
and vice versa. Cristina lovingly captures Stalactites cafe
where Zlatko and Silvio often meet, and a city enmeshed
with Europe, both physically and in spirit.
Rich with images and allusions yet grounded in the
everyday Antidote to a Curse is a startling debut. Cristina
subtly draws the reader deeper and deeper into a state of
psychological obsession where only the truth can provide
a way out.

Meet the Author: Roger Averill

‘Lucid…beautiful…tender’ are three words that have been used to describe the writing of today’s guest author. Roger Averill joins me to talk about the why of his writing and how he channels his great-grandfather, a bricklayer, to do the work.

Roger Averill is the author of Exile: the lives and hopes of Werner Pelz, the novel Keeping Faith, and a travel memoir Boy He Cry: an island odyssey. Exile won the Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Non-fiction in 2012 and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards.  Roger lives in Melbourne, Australia.


Why do you write? I write because I have to. Because I feel compelled to. Not constantly, but regularly. Beyond that, I write because it gives me pleasure and because it provides me with a vehicle to explore the world and my responses to it. It gives me a chance to create some glint of beauty, which, if published, might also bring pleasure or meaning to someone who reads it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d probably be doing what I’m currently doing to support myself being a writer, that is, teaching at a university. I might’ve been doing that at a higher level, perhaps. Or I might have fulfilled my teenage ambition to become a tram driver.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? After publishing a few poems in journals in my early 20s, it took me another 20 years to have a book published. The main obstacle was having the right publisher read my manuscripts. In terms of craft, I knew I’d written a publishable novel by the time I was 30, but the mid-1990s was the time of grunge fiction and no one was interested in my gentler offering. As it turned out, Transit Lounge published that manuscript as Keeping Faith 16 years later.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? The people at Transit Lounge have very kindly sought my opinion about the look of each of my books. I really like all of them as artefacts, though I’m not sure my input has been that helpful. All I have to offer is the view of someone who’s bought way too many books over the years. I prefer to let the professionals do their job. The covers of all four of my books have been designed by Peter Lo. I think he’s brilliant.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I actually love everything about writing. The idea of it has given my life direction, although for 20 years that sometimes felt like a misdirection, and the craft of it has allowed me to work at improving the one thing I already had some talent in. It’s great to always feel challenged, knowing that you might be progressing further along the road to mastery but that you’ll never arrive there. Each new sentence, let alone each new book, raises its own unique set of questions, and knowing the answers to the last set only helps so much.

—the worst? Well, it’s not really an aspect of writing so much as an aspect of trying to get your writing published – rejections. I have a bulging manila folder stuffed full of them. Unless you are one of the blessed, rejections are an unfortunate part of the writing experience. Only those compelled to write push beyond them.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I probably wouldn’t do anything differently, because then I wouldn’t be me. If, however, I were advising someone very like my younger self, I would tell him he should mix more in literary circles and enrol in the best creative writing course that will take him. If I were that almost young me, I’d politely listen to that advice and then do my own thing, thereby becoming me!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m extremely fortunate to have a friend and writing mentor, Chris Eipper, who, being 14 years older than me, generously passed on to me everything he’d learned about writing, surviving rejection, and being published. I think Chris told me everything I needed to know.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice Chris gave me, which he did by deed as much as by word, was to embrace the editing process. That’s where you learn the craft. If you don’t learn to love editing and re-drafting, you’ll end up not loving writing.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, apart from embracing the editing process, it would be to find at least one very skilled, highly critical, and deeply supportive trusted reader. In other words, someone like Chris. You don’t need to agree with that reader’s opinions on your work, you just need to respect them and to know they are given with your best interests (or the best interests of your work) at heart.

How important is social media to you as an author? Unfortunately (at least for my publisher), I’m a fossil formed by the print age and I’m yet to fully find my feet in the 21st century. I write lots of emails … Don’t suppose that counts?

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No, I’ve never experienced it. One of my great-grandfathers, William Richard Averill, was a bricklayer. I feel I channel him: each word, each sentence, another brick. Just lay the bricks.

How do you deal with rejection? Feel crappy. Suck it up. Move on. There’s no other option.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Lucid. Beautiful. Tender. (I cheated: these are words others have used to describe it. I’m too close to it to know.)

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? There are so many I would love to yarn with, and my choice would be different on a different day, but just because I’ve recently returned to his brilliant and profound sonnets I will nominate Jorge Luis Borges. I wouldn’t ask him anything. I’d just listen to whatever he chose to talk about. Of course, I’d have to learn Spanish to understand him. Then again, with a brain the size of the world, I’m guessing old Jorge had a passable knowledge of English.


Relatively Famous

Roger Averill

Michael and Marjorie Madigan refuse to be interviewed by biographer Sinclair Hughes for his new book Inside the Lion’s Den: The Literary Life of Gilbert Madigan. This is not surprising as Gilbert is Marjorie’s ex-husband and Michael’s mostly absent father. He is also Australia’s first Booker Prize winner, a feted and much lauded author that the UK and US now like to call their own. Michael cannot escape his father’s life and work, and at times his own life seems swallowed by it. His father’s success is a source of undeniable pleasure but also of great turmoil. In a world that increasingly covets fame and celebrity, Relatively Famous subtly explores notions of success, masculinity, betrayal and loss, and ultimately what it might mean to live a good life.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Eliza Henry-Jones

Which author past or present would celebrated Australian writer Eliza Henry-Jones choose to spend an hour with and what questions would she ask? Find out this week when I chat with Eliza about her writing life…

Eliza Henry-Jones is the author of In the Quiet and Ache. Her latest novel, P is for Pearl, is her first novel for young adults. Eliza has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Age, Daily Life and The Big Issue, among other places. She lives on a small farm in the Yarra Valley.

Find out more about Eliza at her website:


Why do you write? I write because I love it – I get terribly despondent if I don’t have a story churning away. Writing fiction is A way for me to process and understand my world and even if I never had another book published, I’d never stop writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would be running equine therapy groups for children who’ve experienced significant trauma. That was my job before I decided to focus on my writing and it’s something I’d love to come back to.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Self doubt. In a way, it worked in my favour. I never really thought I was “good enough” to be a writer (whatever that means) and instead pursued a career in community services, working with high-risk children and families. The work changed me utterly and I doubt I’d be writing how I do without those years of experience.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations?  I’ve not had any input into my covers – but love them all. I know some authors are really involved in the design process and I’d love to be a bit more hands on down the track.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The community and the flexibility. The people I’ve met in the industry are some of my very favourite in the world. While I work longer hours than I ever did in my other jobs, I can set up my days to suit myself. For instance, I can do an extra long writing day when the weather’s bad and then work out on the farm and ride my horses when the weather’s pleasant. I also tend to work longer days during winter and shorter days in summer.

—the worst?  The pressure to sell well, get reviewed by the papers and be listed for awards.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Put less pressure on myself – I’ve pushed myself extremely hard over the last few years and I’m definitely starting to feel it. I’d take things more steadily, if I had my time again.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?That the anxiety and self-doubt doesn’t disappear when you sign a book contract – for me, it intensified (which I was not expecting!)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Read everything you can get your hands on.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Experiment – write short stories, poems and novels. Write plays and articles and essays. There’s so much value in the writing you do, regardless of whether it gets published.

How important is social media to you as an author? Some days I adore social media. I live on a little farm that’s quite a long way out from the city – 6kms from the nearest shops and 20mins from the nearest train station. Mostly, social media helps me feel connected and engaged with the writing community. Other times, it feels overwhelming. I’m getting better at recognising when I need to step back from it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t entirely believe in writer’s block. I think on some days writing is much easier than on others, but you can push on, regardless. Sometimes I’ll be gentle and let myself step away from the project for a while, but other times I’ll push through. I may write 20,000 words that are all wrong, but I know I’ll eventually hit my stride again.

How do you deal with rejection? Oh, there’s so much rejection! I always have another project on the go that I can focus on.

In three words, how would you describe your writing?  Grief, love, joy.

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? Oh, goodness! There are so many. JK Rowling is definitely one – I grew up reading Harry Potter and find her utterly fascinating. I’d love to find out more about how she plots her books – they’re so intricate and carefully layered.


P is for Pearl

Eliza Henry-Jones

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

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Meet the Author: Mirandi Riwoe

This week the spotlight is on a critically acclaimed author whose award-winning novella The Fish Girl is one of six titles included in the 2018 Stella Prize shortlist of extraordinary books by Australian women. The winner will be announced on April 12. In the meantime, meet Brisbane-based writer Mirandi Riwoe…

Mirandi’s debut crime novel, She be Damned, was released in 2017 and is followed this year with A Necessary Murder. She is the recipient of a Queensland Literary Awards fellowship and awarded an Asialink residency at the Shanghai Writers’ Association in 2018. Currently, she is Peril Magazine’s prose editor. She has won the historical category of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards and has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize, Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, Fish Short Story Prize, and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. She has also been longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella V. Mirandi’s work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Review of Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. Mirandi has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies (QUT).


Why do you write? I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was young and reading Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton. I wanted to tell stories that other readers could enjoy. I still want to tell enjoyable stories, but I also want my stories to be worthwhile.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think maybe I’d be a school teacher.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think it takes time to polish both your work and your skill at writing. Maybe the obstacle lies in your work and your writing not being ready. It’s also a pretty tough, competitive market to break into too.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I’ve been lucky because my editors have each been wonderful, in that there is a lot of negotiation throughout the editing process. Not so much input into the covers. Usually you’re presented with what they think is appropriate, and you can maybe change things you think do not work.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Working in my own time and environment.

—the worst? I guess it’s not necessarily great pay for most of us  🙂

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

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d known more about the short story competitions etc., literary journals and sites like Aerogramme that notify writers of writerly things.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Covered a bit below.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? I like what a Varuna ‘Publisher Introduction Program’ judge wrote in her feedback one year – to treat your writing as a craft, like you’d treat any other artistic pursuit. For example, you don’t just decide you’re going to be a painter or opera singer – it takes years of honing, training or practice.

How important is social media to you as an author? I like it because it keeps me in touch with other authors, but I don’t know that it’s that helpful in garnering new readers.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Sometimes it takes me a while to ease into a scene or the day’s writing. I think it was Hemingway who said to always leave something for next time to go on with in your writing. I like that idea. So I’ll write what I can for the day but leave the next sentence, paragraph, idea for the next day, to get me going again.

How do you deal with rejection? Ugh rejection is so hard, I think at any time in your career. My biggest reaction to this, and what I say to fellow author-rejectionees, is to “keep on writing, keep on writing,” a bit like Dory.

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? Well, I have always wanted to have a chat and a whisky with Val McDermid. I guess maybe I’d ask her how she copes with distractions, and if she works to a daily writing schedule.


The Fish Girl

Winner of the 2017 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize

Sparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, The Four Dutchmen, Mirandi Riwoe’s novella, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.

Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.

 The Fish Girl is available here.



Meet the Author: Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda’s top tip for aspiring authors: Never stop learning. The world keeps turning and life moves on, so if you don’t turn with it, you’ll be left behind. This doesn’t just apply to storytelling, but for everything be it software and IT, to marketing practices, to attending conventions. Everything! Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and never underestimate the power of networking.


Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda Bridgeman hails from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, her three brothers raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC.

She moved to Perth (Western Australia) to study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University, earning her a BA in Communication Studies. Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England) where she dabbled in Film & TV ‘Extra’ work.

Her third novel Aurora: Meridian was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. She has released seven books in total with more on the way.

Find out more about Amanda:





Why do you write?  I write first and foremost to entertain people. Dreaming up interesting worlds, relatable characters and nail-biting stories is always fun for me, but seeing the effect it has on readers is truly priceless. Making them smile, laugh, gasp, shout and cry, is such an amazing feeling.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d probably be making movies. I studied film and TV at university, so storytelling has always been in my blood. Anything that involves creating something that others derive pleasure from – is where I’d be!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Myself! It’s taken me a long time to be confident in myself and my abilities – and I’m still not quite there! But self-belief was definitely an obstacle that I had to overcome. The toughest part is making the decision to step through that door. Once you do, life gets easier. It’s still a challenge, but with each book I get better and stronger and more confident.

 How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Yep, the first five book covers of the Aurora series were done by my ex-publisher, Momentum, and I was always allowed to provide feedback on them. I only had creative input into the actual design of the covers from Meridian onwards (and Meridian onwards, I must say, reflect the story within better!). The cover concepts for Centralis and Eden, were definitely mine and the final result was very similar to what I had asked for. The last two books I released, Decima and The Time of The Stripes, were self-published, so I had full creative control to instruct the designers as I saw fit.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is hearing from readers about how much they’ve enjoyed your books. You really can’t put a price on that. It warms the soul.

—the worst? It’s bloody hard work – especially when working full time in another job. You essentially end up working two jobs and having little time for anything else. There’s a lot of admin/background stuff that needs attending to, so it’s not all just writing. And it’s certainly not as glamourous (or laid back/lazy) as people think!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d start sooner! I used to write stories as a teenager and honestly wish I’d continued through into my adult life. I drifted away from writing, went to study film and TV at university, then drifted away from that too – thinking my job prospects were slim. But my love for stories never died and years later I came full circle back to it. So what I would do differently is not give up hope and follow my dreams.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You’re going to need a whole lot of patience and thick skin, but if you’re prepared to work hard, the rewards will be worth it!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep writing. When you have a book on submission, don’t stop and wait to hear on it. Move onto the next project. The most successful authors have a production line of novels all at varying degrees in the life cycle. You can’t get published unless you have a finished novel and you can’t have a finished novel without a developed idea. Just keep moving because the book you have on submission may not be picked up, so you want something else waiting in the wings. And even then, if your book is not picked up traditionally, there’s always self-publishing which is a very viable option these days.


The Time of the Stripes

Amanda Bridgeman



They survived the alien visitation. But can they survive each other?

No one had heard of Victoryville before. But when an alien spaceship appears, hovering over the town, the whole world suddenly knows its name.

After twenty-four hours and a failed military assault, the ship disappears without a trace. When the outside world restores communication to the town, thousands are reported missing.

Those who remain in Victoryville are irreparably changed. However, only some have been left with strange red marks upon their skin.

Quarantined from the outside world and segregated within, alliances are made and relationships are shattered, as everyone fights for the truth – and for their own survival.

From the best-selling author of the Aurora series, The Time of the Stripes is a sci-fi thriller where The Leftovers and Under The Dome meets The Lord of The Flies.

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Meet the Author: Diane Guntrip

A passion to help young people address problems facing them in today’s world is the driving force behind today’s guest Diane Guntrip‘s decision to take a new direction into writing and speaking.

Diane is an educator of many years standing both in Western Australia and the UK. Since the release of Dear H in 2014, she has presented workshops in WA primary schools based on the book. In 2016 Diane presented to audiences in the UK, including Nottingham University students.

Her wide interests have actively involved her in many creative pursuits and as well as writing and teaching, she has created businesses in jewellery design and interior decoration.

Diane is now semi-retired and her aim is to continue writing and introducing her books to a wider audience. She is passionate about helping young people address problems that are facing them in today’s world.

To find out more about Diane and her books, visit her website.


Why do you write? Writing is only a part of my creative psyche. I have and am still involved in other creative pursuits.  Writing is just one way of expressing myself creatively.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would have to be involved in another form of creativity. In the past, I have been a teacher of textiles, have been involved in jewellery design as well as designing home furnishings. I am presently learning to play the piano and learning French. I am also a traveller by nature so visiting other countries would be high on the list.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My first book, Dear H was started many years ago. It was meant to be just a short story and I had no thoughts of publishing it at the time. A long the way and over the years, the book developed into a story that was relevant to today’s young people. I decided to self publish as I wanted to reach my audience whilst the topic of bullying was hitting the headlines.  For me, the biggest obstacle in submitting the manuscript to traditional publishers is the time factor between submitting and waiting for a response. However, I have recently submitted the manuscript to traditional publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I have had total control in the development of both of my books. They are diaries and I was specific in my instructions to my type setter and chose a font which was closest to the handwriting of a young girl. I also chose the daisy theme on the covers of both books as it is important as the daisy was  chosen as the emblem for an anti-bullying group.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Visiting schools and giving presentations. I find it very rewarding. I have been a teacher all of my working life but giving presentations gives a different perspective into working with students.  The feedback I receive from the students makes the writing process worthwhile.

—the worst? Spending hours on book promotion.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? With the knowledge that I now have of the writing process, publication and book promotion, I do not think I would contemplate writing a book at all.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? How hard and frustrating the whole process is.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I cannot recall being given any advice.

Diane’s top tip for aspiring authors: Write to fulfil yourself.



Both books are available here.










Meet the Author: Lucy Desoto

LUCY’S TOP WRITING TIP:  Always maintain back-up copies on a separate hard drive. Give your editor’s advice due consideration and defer to them. Enjoy what you write by pursuing your ideas like a lover pursuing the beloved and if you lose your passion for your subject, refresh the romance by taking a break, a temporary separation while you spend enough time elsewhere forgetting the reasons why you’re bored, irritated or otherwise over it. Above all, respect yourself by honouring your muse. Check out her website at

Lucy Desoto was raised in Sydney’s Western suburbs in the 1960s and ’70s and graduated with the Higher School Certificate in 1977 from Sydney’s Fort Street High School. After suspending studies for a Bachelor of Arts in 1979, she went on to become went on to become the editor of the Sydney University Union Recorder while writing songs and playing in inner city pubs in The Living Daylights, her first band. Inspired by the song, Lucy took a walk on the wild side, playing the blues and rock music in bands with various line-ups around the country throughout the 1980s and throughout her life so far. Lucy returned to Sydney University in 1997 and graduated with a first class honours degree in Media Arts in 2000. In 2002, she was awarded a Commonwealth stipend to undertake a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her doctoral thesis focused on the modes and influence of unofficial cultural practice in Australian history. In 2007 the production component of her doctoral work, a documentary film titled, Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaw, was invited to screen at The Melbourne International Film Festival to wide acclaim. The film was dedicated to her partner of 22 years, an Australian rock musician of renown, the late Pete Wells who died in 2006. Lucy  with her band, The Handsome Devils continued to play in inner city bars and pubs in Sydney until her decision to re-locate to Alice Springs in 2013, where she wrote the book Australia Rocks, her first commercially published work.


Why do you write? Like a composer or any artist, for me the creative process gives life its meaning and like a mountaineer or a marathon runner, I enjoy the challenge. Writing is an immersive experience, so I think, like most people who write, you have to be comfortable in your own skin and with your own company so you can get to that place where you’re just working in the moment, forgetting the time and just spinning a yarn for yourself, and maybe to share with others.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I don’t know what I’d be doing otherwise. Maybe I’d be a statistic in a mental health ward. There’s an old Zen Buddhist saying, goes something like “fetching water, chopping wood”. To me it doesn’t matter what you’re doing – whether it’s writing or serving in a bar or washing cars or traveling the world in a rock band, the simple things in life are the main things to be doing well and the rest will follow – basic self-respect, care for others, cook, clean, work, play, sleep…enlightenment.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Time. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I spent a lot of time researching and writing material that was never published, but if you have the capacity for working without an eye on any particular outcome, and a willingness to develop the virtue of patience, then while you use your obstacle to write, then your toughest obstacle to becoming published passes of itself.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Deep listening. Australian Indigenous writer Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann speaks of deep listening as a way of being that is similar to a state of contemplation. In her language, the term is “dadirri”. From what I understand, that’s a big part of human perception, the way to wholeness, and through being able to listen deeply to the silence within, you can gain access to a kind of gateway to soulfulness. That’s where you can begin to listen to your muse. As an adult, that essentially is the best, most comfortable and rewarding place to be, but that’s just me.

—the worst? Poverty. Living below the breadline is no fun, and being forced to do time working for a pittance is hard on your mental health. Australian writers and artists are among the least valued in the world. It’s a disgrace, but these days it’s part of the national agenda. Being a true Australian means you’ll cast your vote for living in an economy rather than a society. Now more than ever we’re encouraged to celebrate and support a lack of imagination, narrow-mindedness and shallow voracity as a matter of national policy and pride. Corporate culture is pitiless infection.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’m not sure I understand this question because I could be wrong but I think the assumption is that there’s something in particular that I could do in the past, and that would adjust things so that the present would be different, and not just different, but better. If I were starting out as a writer now, how would I benefit from hindsight by doing something differently? And my answer to that is, the whole process is so organic that if you did something differently it would all be different – not necessarily better, but not the same as it is. I don’t think I’d do anything differently because it is what it is.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish someone had told me a beautiful secret, full of rich insights and practical advice that I could simply adopt as a way of life that would make everything feel like an effortless ecstatic dream, while in reality I became healthier, wealthier and wiser with each passing day. I didn’t really set out to become an author, to be honest. I enjoy writing and I enjoy the research process but I didn’t give a thought to ‘becoming an author’. I just followed the shape of the book project as it emerged from day to day and now there’s a lovely book that I wrote, and I’m very happy I did it, because it seems a lot of people are very pleased with the result.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Life is mainly froth and bubble/Two things stand like stone.

Kindness in another’s trouble/Courage in your own.”

These are the words my father would often recite in a philosophical tone and never with any sense of irony, and with such regularity that they’ve stuck to me like a tattoo on my memory. They were written by the Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon sometime in the 1850s and come from his poem “Ye Wearie Wayfarer”.  I think my grandfather passed the words down to my father, and they’ve now become a familiar part of the family conversation – like an old saying.


australia-rocks  Australia Rocks,

Remembering the Music of the 1950s to 1990s

by Lucy Desoto


Australian rock music has a rich history of performers and bands that have created not just the soundtrack for Australian lives but have also shaped the international music scene. In the early days of the 1950s and ‘60s, Australian rock saw performers like Johnny O’Keefe and The Easybeats. The 1970s saw Cold Chisel and AC/DC, among others, performing to packed halls locally. AC/DC turned this into international success, blasting through three decades of touring and performing. However, it was only in the 1980s and 1990s that Australian rock truly made its mark on the international stage with iconic bands such as Men at Work, Midnight Oil and INXS. Australia Rocks brings the bands and the times to life through unique photographs and evocative text. Written by a rock musician, it also goes beyond the ‘big names’ to highlight the many independent, often lesser-known performers who played such an integral part in shaping the industry, and shines a light on how rock music was not only influenced by global events (the Vietnam War, for example) but also formed part of enormous cultural shifts (the Swinging Sixties, the protest movement, etc.).

From the demure dance halls of the 1950s to the smoke-filled pubs of the 1970s and the packed concerts of the 1990s and beyond, Australia Rocks will have music lovers dusting off their vinyl collection and remembering the good times.

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