Meet the Author: Meg McKinlay

MEG’S TOP WRITING TIP: Focus on the writing rather than on being a writer. In that sense, don’t be an ‘aspiring author’; be someone who’s creative and curious and committed to their craft.

MegMckheadshotMeg McKinlay is a children’s writer and poet who lives near the ocean in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has published 10 books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her work has been shortlisted for awards such as the WA Premier’s Prize, the Environment Award for Children’s Literature, and the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award, and her novel Surface Tension won the Children’s/Young adult category of the 2012 Davitt Award for Crimewriting.

2015 will see the publication of two new titles – A Single Stone (Walker Books, May) for ages 9-14, and Bella and the Wandering House (Fremantle Press, September), for ages 7-10. To find out more about Meg and her books, visit


Why do you write? I’ve always loved playing around with language, finding the right words in the right order, seeing if I can nudge the world a bit, to paraphrase Tom Stoppard. I’ve always been a scribbler of fragments, snatches of poetry, the odd line here and there. That’s just something I find satisfying, a particular way of connecting with the world.

I’ve come to narrative itself, to story, much later. And I guess fundamentally I write that because it’s a way of honouring those fragments, of turning them into something that has a broader resonance and reach, a readership, and in the process turning my love of scribbled jottings into a craft and a career. I’m not one of those writers who sees herself as a storyteller. I struggle with structure and plot; for me, those evolve out of a desire to work with a particular image or idea, and are in a certain sense just a kind of necessary scaffolding.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think I’d probably be an academic, which is what I was doing before. I taught in the English and Asian Studies Departments at UWA for many years, lecturing and tutoring in subjects as diverse as Japanese Language and Australian Literature. I’d actually just secured a tenurable position at a tertiary institution when the writing started to take over and I made a sudden left turn.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My general ambivalence towards plot. I tend to favour image and interiority and forget that a story needs things to actually happen.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That I get to spend so much time in my head, with my own thoughts.

—the worst? That I have to spend so much time in my head, with my own thoughts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. We all have to find our own path, and what might seem in hindsight to be stumbles or wrong turns can be an important part of that; it’s certainly felt that way to me. I think it’s generally worth resisting that urge to re-cast things with the benefit of hindsight.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That I’d never have a sense of arrival, that no matter what I published or achieved, I’d keep moving the goal posts. That the perfect sentence, or the story I really want to write, would always be just around the corner, unreachable.

To be honest, I was told this, in a roundabout way. I just didn’t listen.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I’m sure Leonard Cohen didn’t mean to give me this advice, but I took it anyway.


ASingleStone_HiResA Single Stone

Every girl dreams of being part of the line – the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line – strong, respected, reliable. And – as all girls must be – she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question everything she has ever known? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

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Meet the Author: Sarah Elle Emm

SarahEmmAuthorPhoto SARAH’S TOP WRITING TIPS: Stay true to you, don’t compare yourself to other writers, write, edit your work, revise, edit your work again, and work with a really great editor! Most importantly, stay positive and keep writing!

Sarah Elle Emm is the author of the HARMONY RUN SERIES, a young-adult fantasy and dystopian series. Sarah has lived and worked in Mexico, Germany, England, the US, Virgin Islands, and has traveled extensively. Her love of journal writing, travel, and multicultural experience have all influenced her novels. She lives in Naples, Florida with her family. When she’s not walking the plank of her daughters’ imaginary pirate ship or snapping photos of Southwest Florida scenery, she is writing. Stay up-to-date with Sarah at, and go on a photography adventure at  Facebook: ‘Sarah Elle Emm.’ Follow her on Twitter: @SarahElleEmm


Why do you write? If I didn’t write, I’d be in some sort of support group for social outcasts. I don’t have anything against support groups, but writing seems to be a good way to express the pent up emotions and feelings that I sometimes need to release. Joking aside, for as long as I can remember, writing has been the most authentic way I can express myself. My first memory of feeling the need to write was around age seven. Since then, it’s never gone away. There have been times when I needed to take a break, but my entire life, it’s something that’s always been with me…the urge to fill up blank paper with words. Sometimes, I wish I could stop because I tend to obsess about writing. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. But I can’t stop. Maybe, I need to join a support group for my writing obsession.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I have a plethora of interests, but in the past couple of years, I’ve seriously become interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So, if I weren’t a writer, and I somehow avoided that support group I mentioned earlier, I’d probably be the world’s craziest health nut. My husband says I’m practically there already, but if I didn’t do anything else, I’d turn up the crazy a little more. I’m already vegan, but vegans can eat junk food if they want. Unfortunately, when I’m really knee deep in a project or manuscript, glued to my computer for hours on end, I tend to eat convenience foods and vegan junk food too much. But if I had every minute to devote to it, I’d try to educate people about how to make healthier choices. I’d combine my culinary arts degree with the nutrition knowledge I’ve picked up over the past 10 years, and I’d try to spread awareness about eating organic, healthy, non-processed, simple foods. I’d try to show people how to make traditional foods they cook healthier. I’ve experimented with this when I can, and I’ve managed to turn my great grandmother’s banana bread into a delicious healthy and vegan banana bread now. You can do that with lots of traditional recipes. I’d encourage people to support healthy restaurants and organic farms. I’d grow all of my own organic produce for my family, and I’d make everything from scratch. Right now, I make a lot from scratch and try to avoid processed foods. I juice every day, make lots of raw vegetable and fruit smoothies, don’t drink alcohol, avoid sugar and sweeteners, make homemade bread, and I maintain a vegan diet. But believe it or not, with my schedule and trying to write and raise kids, I don’t have time to be as crazy as I’d like to be in the health department. My poor husband jokingly calls our house ‘rehab’. He’s probably glad I’m only a part-time health nut. I’m sure he suspects and fears where my health nut quest could go. The good news for him is that I am not interested in a career change.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The first few years, I was trying to query agents because I thought that was the only way to get published. As many writers know, agents don’t typically read anything you’ve written except the query letter you send them trying to sell them your book. So, after a while, it was tough getting rejection letters from agents who hadn’t even read anything except my one page query letter. Fortunately, I started a blog, got an audience, and it was a positive experience, which eventually led to my first novel being published by a small press. If I had let those rejection letters get to me, I might never have started a blog or ended up where I am now. I’m glad I didn’t give up or stop believing in myself.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Honestly, the best part is when I get emails from happy readers, which isn’t an everyday thing, but it happens!

—the worst? I hate it when I’m intensely inspired, the words are flowing, I’m typing away, and then unexpectedly something comes up that requires me to stop. I have to drag myself away from the computer when that happens.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t try so hard to get the approval of my friends and family. I’d just write what I want to write without feeling the need to explain myself. People are reading my books, and there is an audience for every genre.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish someone had told me not to listen to every single person who claims expertise in the field. If I listened to every person who has offered me suggestions, solicited and unsolicited, since my first book was published, I wouldn’t be able to put two words together anymore I’d be so paranoid about following all of the rules and guidelines. It really doesn’t matter what works for one “successful” author, you’ve got to do what feels best for you. Tune out the “world” and listen to your heart.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Someone gave me an Eleanor Roosevelt quote once, and it ended up in my high school year book, under my picture. It’s probably some of the best advice I’ve ever received… “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”



About Prismatic…

Rare glimpses of birds are the only reminder of the freedoms Rain Hawkins once had. Now segregated into a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of the Authority, under tyrannical rule of President Nicks, Rain is forced to endure the bleak conditions set upon her. The possibility of a way out arises when Rain discovers an organised resistance called The Freedom Front, and learns that she, along with many other multi-racial people, has special abilities. Determined to overcome her situation, Rain sets out on a mission with the resistance that will fill her life with wonder, romance, and the undying hope for a better world.

Purchase Links: 

Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Nook

Meet the Author: Sarah Daltry

 This week my featured author is Sarah Daltry and instead of the usual  interview and Top Writing Tip, I’m joining in the celebrations of her latest book, Primordial Dust, by presenting an excerpt of the book. You can also find out Sarah’s Top 10 Fantasy Movies. First, a little about Sarah…


Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She’s written works in various genres – romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn’t as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she’s been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships – romantic, familial, friendly – because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn’t matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future – human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah’s stories.

Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.

When Sarah isn’t writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking the internet for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.

She has written several books, most notably Bitter Fruits, an urban fantasy in the Eden’s Fall series, Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story, and the six-book New Adult Flowering series, including Forget Me Not, Lily of the Valley, Blue Rose, Star of Bethlehem, Orange Blossom, and Ambrosia.


Find out more about Sarah on her website:

and Facebook:

Follow her on Twitter:


Sarah’s Favorite Fantasy Movies:

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Labyrinth
  3. The Neverending Story
  4. Brave
  5. The Wizard of Oz
  6. Shrek
  7. Pan’s Labyrinth
  8. Harry Potter (all of them)
  9. Bridge to Terabithia
  10. Mirrormas


young pretty kissing wedding couple against skyBook Byte

Primordial Dust

Genre: Fantasy (Romance/YA)

A princess, trained to behave. An assassin, betrothed to her. A thief, whose eyes she dreams of at night. A kingdom at war, torn apart by the suppression of magic and truth, as well as family secrets that threaten to destroy decades of peace. Questions of loyalty, of morality, and of free will culminate in a fantasy novel about forging one’s own path and choosing one’s own destiny.

Here’s a brief extract from the book:

Alusia smiles wanly. “What happened in Kooram?” she asks.

“There was a party. We were dancing. Seamus and I were celebrating our engagement…” I pause, ashamed. He sits beside me, unaware of my role in this, oblivious to my own deception. “It was my fault.”

Seamus takes my hand. “Alondra, stop. You know this has nothing to do with you.”

“It has everything to do with her,” Alusia interrupts. “And her mother.”

“Look, although Alondra seems thankful for whatever you want to share with her, I don’t care what these secrets are. This is not her fault and she does not need you blaming her.” Seamus’s anger is new to me. I have been so amazed by his calm, his kindness; he is more like a Demorian now than I have ever seen him, and I have watched him cut a man’s throat.

Alusia sighs. “I do not mean to assign blame. But we can no longer pretend that this was a rogue attack, that these events have not culminated in bringing you here, that fate has not worked its magic to get this book into her hands.” She runs her fingers along the book on her lap.

“It’s fine,” I say. “But it was not fate. Maybe I did not make the only bad choices, but choices got us here. And I, for one, am tired of hearing about fate.”

“The attack,” Seamus continues. “It was sudden. A siren spell warned us before the mages were slaughtered. I don’t know how they breached the Demorian guard, but without the dying spell of an elder mage, no one would be sitting here right now with you.”

“So you ran?” Alusia asks.

“I don’t run,” I argue. “In fact, I am only here because someone kidnapped me in my sleep.”

“It was her father’s wish,” Seamus mumbles.

“The forces came quickly. We spread the word to meet in the caves and Kooram split into two groups: those who were running for the caves, and those who would stay behind. My parents were with those running, but I stayed. Ereditus, our commander, rallied the troops. Seamus was already by my side. My friend, Lormander…”

I stop and think of that moment. Sanara’s face, broken by the choice he was making, is etched into my memory. I watched her fingers slowly fall from his hand and the agony in her glance as she turned back to see him one last time tore me asunder. And now, somewhere, are they reunited? Did she lead everyone to Tallagut? Did he stay behind in the caves to face his death, remembering her kiss as the blade entered his heart? I choke on the images and tears rest on the precipice of my eyelids.

“We stayed,” I repeat. “There were so many of them. It was chaos. Smoke billowed from the streets, from our homes, from everything that was my childhood. I saw young boys, thinking they were brave, split in twain as the attackers stepped over the corpses, trailing death. What I remember most was the sound. The crash of swords, the screams of the fallen, the crackle of burning. The details are hazy. We left Kooram in ruins when we saw that we were outclassed. I walked through fields of carnage to the caves, only to wake on the other side, in a mirror world, yet untouched.”

“The king, he asked that we come here. He said you had the answers, the only weapon we could use against him,” Seamus adds. My shattered body sits beside him, but my mind and my soul are still with the dead.

“I am an old woman, and a forgotten mage,” Alusia says. “I am also the keeper of secrets and memories. I do not forge steel. My only weapon is knowledge. But that I have in abundance, and I believe it is time Alondra take her share.”

She rises from the dusty chair and approaches. I sense my hands as they lift to take the book she offers; the leather cover is hardened, but smooth to touch. I run my hand along the spine and trace the embossed seal.

“Please take this to your room. You will need time, and you will need privacy. When you are done, I will be waiting for your questions.”


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Meet the Author: Kirsten Krauth

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Meet the Author: Annabel Smith

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Annabel’s book is available from: Amazon:

Meet the Author: Dianne Wolfer

DIANNE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Wait before sending a manuscript. Publishers are busy; you may have only one shot at their attention. Rewrite, edit and rewrite until you are so sick of the manuscript that you want to scream. By then it might be getting close.

dianne and Harry with Breaksea in the backgroundDianne Wolfer is the author of 14 books for teenagers and younger readers. Her books have been short-listed for various awards and are read in schools across Australia and overseas. She enjoys combining her love of history with writing fiction. Her picture book, Photographs in the Mud (a recommended History Curriculum text) was inspired by a research trip along the Kokoda Trail. It has been published in Japanese and is used as a reference for international workshops promoting peaceful ‘discourse analysis’. Dianne loves travelling and has spent much of her life overseas. She lives on the south coast of WA.

For information about Dianne and her books, visit her websites


Why do you write? It’s something I can’t not do. I keep getting ideas and thinking about how I could explore certain issues via various characters. I have notes all around the place. Each book takes years and so I only write a fraction of what is going on in my head.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I loved working part-time in a bookshop, until it closed, but I also have a teaching background. At the moment I’m doing full-time study; I’m fortunate to have a scholarship from UWA, so between that, school visits and other writing, there’s no time for anything else.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Exactly that, getting published! There are so many talented writers not yet published. Perseverance is very important, editing and editing (even though it’s so hard sometimes) and just continuing to sit for hours writing and editing even when you don’t know where something is going. I write dreadful early drafts but refine them again and again, dozens (if not hundreds) of times, even for a 350-word picture book, until what I am trying to say begins to emerge. I wish it didn’t take so long, but for me, it does.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Working at all hours of the day/night in daggy clothes, and taking the dog to the beach when others have to be in an office. I also enjoy travelling and going into new communities as part of my schools work.

—the worst? Rejection letters.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I started before the Internet and used to have to go to a library to research, so things have changed. I love being in the country and accessing information around the world. I think if I was starting I’d do what I did; join a writers group, work at manuscripts as best I can and then send off the darlings.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Getting a book published is just the first step…

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Believe in your work. Only you can write your story.


Annie's SnailsAnnie’s Snails by Dianne Wolfer

A chapter book for newly independent readers. Illustrated by talented WA artist, Gabriel Evans.

Annie loves her pet snails. They have lots of adventures together. She even makes them a special home in an ice-cream container. She thinks they ll be very happy. But will they?

Available from

Meet the Author: Elaine Forrestal

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Author: AJ Betts

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

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

For information about AJ and her books visit her website 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Zac & Mia by AJ Betts

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

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

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Meet the Author: Vanessa Garden

VANESSA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Read in the genre you wish to write but also experiment with new genres so as to expose your writer’s brain to as many voices as possible. Also, write a little each day. Even half an hour a day can produce a book in one year.

Vanessa Garden

Vanessa Garden lives on the coast of Western Australia with her husband, their three chatty children, and three calming goldfish. When she is not writing, Vanessa can be found at the local bookstore where she works part-time. Being a bookseller as well as an author, Vanessa loves nothing more than immersing herself in the exciting world of books. When she is not gushing about her favourite reads to customers, or dreaming up her next novel, she enjoys spending time with the people she loves most.


Why do you write? I write because I genuinely enjoy creating stories and spending time with my characters, and also because I simply cannot stop. There have been times, more so before I became a published author, where I have said, ‘oh well, time to throw in the towel and focus on real life’, only to find that a day passes, or perhaps only an hour, before a new idea takes hold and basically doesn’t allow me to give up on writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d most likely get back into baking and cooking. Before I took writing seriously I was always in the kitchen creating elaborate meals, but now I’m spending less and less time there due to my writing schedule and I do miss it. I’m sure my children and husband are getting sick of my ‘anything goes’ nights of eggs on toast, baked beans and two-minute noodles!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Sticking with it and trying to keep the self-belief alive even after 200 odd rejections! As soon as somebody said yes, my confidence shot up. It is amazing what we can do when somebody believes in us and, more importantly, when we believe in ourselves.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Sharing stories with fellow readers, meeting other writers, and the euphoric buzz that comes with a new idea! There is nothing more exciting than waking up in the middle of the night to jot down ‘the next big thing’ (which will most likely seem ridiculous in the morning, lol).

—the worst? Trying to balance writing with family time and work. I’m very conscious of writing only when my children are at school or in bed, which can be difficult with working hours at my day job eating up a lot of the school time, so often I’m sleep deprived from writing late at night. Sometimes I just feel so exhausted. I wish there was an eight-day week!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I learned as I went (making a lot of mistakes along the way) but it was all necessary to get where I am today. So probably not a thing!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That sometimes you wait forever to hear back on a manuscript, so instead of waiting anxiously, write something new in the meantime.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To write the story you want to read.


Captivate by Vanessa Garden

backdrop captivateFor the past 12 months since her parents’ death, 17-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko…the King of this underwater civilisation. Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets…


Meet Paula Boer


PAULA’S TOP TIP: Don’t be put off by rejections. Learn from them and keep writing, while being true to yourself about what you want to write.

Paula Boer started her lifelong love of horses when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada, aged 7. On moving to England at age 9, she commenced weekly riding lessons and became hooked. Paula’s horse infatuation led to her bedroom being filled with toy stables, posters of golden stallions, horse gear and, of course, horse books.

Paula’s writing career started at school where she wrote a story from the horse’s perspective for her final English exam. Combining her love of horses with her passion for travel, she raced the native horses in Mongolia, climbed the heights of Colombia on horseback, and competed in Endurance rides around Australia. She claims the best way to experience a country is from the back of a horse.

Although not always on horseback, Paula has travelled in 60 countries on six continents. After retiring from the hectic life of computer consultancy, she wrote her first novel, The Okapi Promise, based on her adventures in Africa in 1990. This fictional memoir was published by IFWG Publishing in November 2010.

From her own experiences of catching and breaking in brumbies, Paula decided to set her next novel in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. The Brumbies series was created, with the first book of five becoming an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012.

Paula is a regular contributor to horse magazines. She has also had numerous short animal stories published in journals in the UK.

Paula lives on 500 acres in the Snowy region of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband, three retired horses and a stick-loving dog.


Why do you write? I started writing to capture my memories, thinking that when I became too old to experience adventures first hand, I could read my stories and remember the great life I’d led. Once I started, I found I needed other people to read my stories, primarily to share my travels, but also to help me polish my writing skills. This is how The Okapi Promise, my debut novel, came about.

As it turns out, soon after having my first book published, I had to give up my lifelong passion of horse riding for health reasons. Now I write horse stories that give me the opportunity to re-live those moments in the saddle, the smell of hot horse, the sound of breathing in rhythm with a powerful canter, the close bond one builds with a trusted equine partner. Writing the Brumbies series fills the void in my life that used to be filled with horses.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?  If the definition of a writer is someone who writes, then this question is really “What would you do if you could no longer write?” One of my nightmares is losing my vision—I have wondered if I’d be able to use voice recognition and speech software to continue writing. Or what if my arthritis became so bad I could no longer type or hold a pen? That would also preclude me from playing piano, the other part of my life that fills my days. Simply put, I don’t know what I’d do. The thought scares me.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Becoming published, for me, was not tough. I was extremely lucky to have my debut novel accepted by the first publisher I submitted it to. However, getting it ready to submit was the tough part. I went through many painful lessons at writing workshops, even being brought to tears at times while learning how to develop a novel. After completing a full manuscript, I suffered through several assessments which tore my self-esteem to bits. In hindsight, it was all wonderful advice, but oh, the pain at the time! Learning to take critique as constructive, not criticism, has probably been my hardest lesson.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Hearing from readers that they love what I write, especially young aspiring horse riders.

—the worst?  These days, the worst part of writing is the inevitable marketing that comes from wanting to be read. Gone are the days when the publisher organised copious events and interviews, at least for mid-list writers like me. Time spent marketing detracts from time spent writing. It is a hard balance to get right.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t believe there is an easy way to learn the craft. The important thing is to be constantly challenged; to write outside one’s comfort zone. I would like to have read more widely, not only books I found entertaining. Having left school at age 15, I don’t have any classical training. I think that undertaking a creative writing course, or a literature course, could have been useful.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I didn’t set out to become an author, per se. What I would have liked to have known, before many of my travels, was that I would want to write about them eventually. I would have written more extensively in my journals, and kept diaries of characters I met along the way. I would have paid more attention to seasons, flora and fauna, architecture and local customs. I would have taken more photographs and jotted down ideas for plots. Now I am never without a pen and notepad.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Every scene must move the plot forward. If something doesn’t contribute to the plot—character development as to why someone will act in a certain way, backstory to provide a clue, information that enables the reader to understand certain implications—take it out. I work from an outline that guides me as to what I want to achieve in each scene. When I have completed the first draft of a manuscript, I go back and write down what every scene achieves. If I can’t easily identify the point of a scene, I have to rethink why it is there, and either rewrite or discard those paragraphs.

{Visit Author Bookshelf for a link to Paula’s website and information about where to obtain her books.}