This is a follow up to my previous article on writing romance.
My latest is EMILY’S GHOST. It has just appeared, and the setting is also on the South coast of Australia. Some of the previous characters appear, if less significantly.
Q. What is Emily’s Ghost about?
“When Billie Hatchman inherits a bed & breakfast from her estranged great aunt, she’s not prepared to be haunted by the well-intentioned ghost—or to be set up with her sexy but very much unavailable next-door neighbour.
Q What were your reasons for writing this?
I was interested in the situation a lonely and overworked single mum might find herself in when she unexpectedly inherits a dilapidated B and B with a single sexy chef as her neighbour. There’s nothing like a ghost to hurry a romance along.
Q Have you written anything else for adults?
A. My adult crime novels, now up as ebooks, have been grouped together under the title of The Grevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’. I have written many adult short stories. Some have won prizes. And both my ‘how to write’ texts, the latest being Mentoring Your Memoir.
Both romances are published by Boroughs Publishing House, and appear on all standard e-book sales sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Diesel ebook store, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Aldiko
for Australia Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/Emilys-Ghost-Goldie-Alexander-ebook/dp/B06XBBTBZZ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1488207561&sr=8-4&keywords=emily%27s+ghost
This advice was given by Anastasia Gonis, well known reviewer and writer for those who hope to write for young readers.
I thought them splendid enough to place on my blog.
1.Attend as many workshops/writing classes for beginners/emerging writers so you can fully understand the rules and demands of a writing life, if this is the new path you have chosen. This is imperative!
2.U3A has many of them and you need to look into what’s available. There are also Community Houses that run writing lessons, and so does the CAE (Council for Adult Education) state writer centres and other worthy organizations.
3.Buy a Style Guide, the latest edition, so you can learn about how to structure sentences, paragraphs, grammar and the rest. You can refer to it for hyphenated words, capital letters, punctuation and all the style of correct writing.
4.Read the age group and genre that you are writing for. This is the best research. Learn about Australian Children’s Writers’ lives. This will give you important information that you can apply to your own life. It will also teach you how difficult but rewarding, perfecting this craft can be. Go into their sites. Quite often, they have writing tips and advice available.
5. Be patient with yourself. You’ll learn that nothing is right the first time. Redrafting and perfecting any type of writing is a lengthy process. See it as a challenge.
6. Show, don’t tell, is the cardinal rule of writing. You will learn what this means in the workshops, along with the endless list of Dos and Don’ts in writing that will form your work.
7.Regulate your computer for Australian English if you haven’t already done so, and let the Spell Check be your best friend, but the dictionary should always be at hand.
8. Cut back on the adjectives and metaphors. Find an original way of using language so that you stand out from the crowd.
9. Watch your tenses.
10. Number your pages, so that when you are redrafting, you can note where you need change.
Q. You are best known for your middle grade and young adult fiction. What made you turn to writing adult romances?
A. Many of my young adult novels have a love story somewhere in their plot. These include Lilbet’s Romance, and the follow up Dessi’s Romance. Even my latest: That Stranger Next Door features a broken romance between a young Jewish girl and a Catholic boy. In Hades, my verse novel, brings a street boy and a wealthy girl together. Tackling romance novels was taking the concept one step further.
A. Can you give us some tips on successful writing romance?
Q. 1. Read. A surprising number of people who think they can write a romance don’t read romances much less do they read anything else. Good reading equals good writing and it’s impossible not to follow this most important rule.
2. Here’s what a romance reader expects from a romance:
A hero she loves and a heroine she sympathizes with.
A believable conflict. Something must keep the hero and heroine apart, and it can’t be anything cleared up too easily and quickly.
A happy-ever-after ending. The couple don’t have to get married or vow undying love but it should be clear that they’ve resolved their differences and are mutually committed.
3. Emotions. Readers read romance because they want to feel. Romances can have any number of dark moments but at heart they are life-affirming and the ending is always positive.
4. Action: Although romance is about feeling, characters need to be doing things: having conversations, going to work, throwing things, etc etc. The plot is important.
5. Points of View. Don’t jump between points of view. Most romance is written in the third person, and in the past tense. You can change that if you like, but you might make things more difficult for yourself.
6. The love relationship is most important. Your reader wants to see your hero and heroine falling in love. And remember: the ending must always be positive.
7. Physical attraction. Romances are about sexual love relationships, even if your characters never do more than kiss. Physical attraction and desire are important parts of your characters’ love journey, and your readers want to experience them. URST is alos important. Unresolved, sexual tension.
Unless you are tackling something tremendously literary and innovative, you must be aware of these basic rules before you dare throw them out.
Q. Can you tell us about Penelope’s Ghost your first romance novel? What is it about?
A. “Fleeing a humiliating end to a passionless marriage, Lisa Harbinger seeks refuge in a posh summer retreat on Australia’s lush South Coast.”
Q. And your newest romance?
A. Emily’s Ghost will appear in late January, the setting is also on the South coast of Australia. Some of the previous characters appear, if less significantly.
Q. What is Emily’s Ghost about?
“When Billie inherits a decrepit house from her unknown aunt Emily, she hardly expects neighbour Sam, to be so attractive, so helpful, yet so elusive…”
“Have you written anything else for adults?
A. My adult crime novels, now up as ebooks, have been grouped together under the title of TheGrevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’. I have written many adult short stories. Some have won prizes. And both my ‘how to write’ texts, the latest being Mentoring Your Memoir.
Both romances are published by Boroughs Publishing House, and appear on all standard e-book sales sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Diesel ebook store, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Aldiko
I once found these words of advice about writing a synopsis and they hang above my desk:
They might be helpful to other authors because no matter how experienced we are, we are always being reminded of basic rules and learning, learning, learning…..
· WHO WANTS WHAT AND WHY OR WHAT HAPPENS?
· WHO IS YOUR STORY ABOUT
· WHAT DO THEY WANT
· WHY DO THEY WANT it
· WHAT IS THE TRRIBLE ‘OR ELSE’ THAT WILL OCCUR IF THEY DON’T GET WHAT THEY WANT.
I have now written 2 adult romances. However, for one reason or another, it has taken two years between them appearing. So I thought I might put up a first chapter of Penelope’s Ghost as a foretaste of what Emily’s Ghost might be about. Both books are set on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and overseas readers might be interested in what they also say about this environment. Both are published by Boroughs Publishing Group as eBooks and can be found on Amazon and every ebook reader,
Here is part of the opening of Penelope’s Ghost:
As I looked up at the house, a shiver ran down my spine. The tremor was small, but it was definitely there—much like a malicious waft of air or a jarring note in a piece of music.
I took a deep breath and dismissed it as nerves. It had been too long since I last applied for a job.
Across the courtyard, stairs led to a carved door surrounded by stained glass. On one side was an electronic buzzer. I pressed it. When no one answered, I pushed it again.
This time the door flew open so quickly I took a step back.
The guy on the other side was in his mid or late forties. Maybe because of his colouring, I had the impression of an older Jude Law, only not nearly as handsome, not quite as picture-perfect.
He stared at me for a good half minute as if equally startled at finding a stranger on his doorstep. “Lisa Harbinger?”
Looking at him, I felt a tingle of awareness and I had a sudden hunch that this man would be important to me. The knowledge was certain and frightening. I swallowed hard before saying uncertainly, “Mr. Prescott?”
“Yes.” His tone was abrupt. “I’m Richard Prescott. Please come inside. Hope you don’t mind being interviewed in the kitchen.”
“Course not.” I stumbled over the step. Something about his intense gaze turned me into an awkward teenager.
He led me into a huge entrance hall, the walls lined with wooden wainscoting and grey and blue flock wallpaper. A flight of stairs curled to an upper floor and a magnificent chandelier glittered like a frozen fountain. Every surface shone as if recently polished and the air smelt of lemon and lavender. It all reminded me of an old-fashioned hotel; everything seemed too large, too grandiose for ordinary people.
I followed Richard past the stairs down a narrow passage into the kitchen. Part of this room was taken up by a long table scored by decades of use and flanked with bentwood chairs, the seats covered in colourful cushions. Everything here also seemed oversized—from the double bank stove to the industrial refrigerator, long marble counters and sinks. I later was to learn of a walk-in pantry, shelves stacked with preserved fruit and vegetables, and a cellar filled with expensive and often irreplaceable wine.
It all spelt money, lots of money.
Richard gestured at a chair and waited for me to settle. “Tea or coffee?”
My throat felt as parched as after a heatwave. “Ahh… Just water, thanks.”
He filled a glass from a ceramic vat and placed it in front of me. I swallowed the contents in almost one gulp. It tasted cold and sweet.
He sat opposite me. “I’ve read your references.” His tone was abrupt. “One refers refer to you as Lisa Wall. Are you married?”
Though half expecting this, I paused before saying, “I was. I’ve now gone back to my single name.”
“Hmm.” He frowned as he thumbed the pages. I wondered if he was prejudiced against divorcées.
“I note you have no formal experience with kids.” His voice was dry. “But you have two years college, and you worked seven years in real estate.” For a second he looked puzzled. “What led you to that?”
If only I had a dollar for how often I’ve been asked that same question. I said, “During a uni vac, I took a job organising rental properties and found I was good at it.”
His eyes narrowed. “So why throw it in?”
His tone was so patronising, I was half ready to walk out. Only needing this job kept me seated. Anyway, this wasn’t the time to explain that I was sick of mean landlords and rude whiny clients, tired of prattle about an erratic real estate market—and fearful of meeting more ghosts.
I cleared my throat before saying. “I needed a fresh challenge and, anyway, I wanted to get out of the city.”
He sat back and stared at me quite openly. “So what’s your experience with kids?”
“Nothing formal,” I was forced to admit. “I used to babysit for the neighbours through high school and uni. We got on well. There was never any trouble—” My voice trailed away. But as this didn’t seem enough, I lamely added, “Kids and animals seem to like me.”
Convinced he was about to send me away, I was astonished this answer seemed to satisfy him. Possibly because it was honest. I had already concluded that he was a terrible snob—he had to be. But he could recognise truth from lie. That, at least, was in his favour.
The slight resemblance to the actor was emphasised by brown hair streaked with grey flopping over a high forehead, thick eyebrows, and the kind of dark blue eyes that catch people’s attention. Smudges under his eyes could be due to stress or maybe lack of sleep. Weathered skin told me he worked outdoors. Add to that paint-spattered jeans and a washed-out T-shirt. I glanced under the table. His boots were dusty. His nose had a slight kink as if it once was broken and that cleft chin hinted at a stubborn personality. The backs of his hands seemed strong though the fingers were long and slender, the nails slightly grimy, his right thumb covered in a bandaid. They were rough hands but sensitive. Those fingers looked as if he knew exactly where to touch—
“So”—I woke up to what he was saying—“you need to know what your duties will be.”
I almost blushed. What had I been thinking? Instead, I leaned forward to show he had my full attention.
“My brother, Thomas, and his family will be staying here over their summer vacation. The children are Mitchell and Willow, aged five and seven.”
No babies or toddlers. I hoped he doesn’t notice my shoulders subside.
“Their mother, Anna, insists on a break from childcare.” His mouth gave a slight twist as if he didn’t quite believe this. “It will be up to you to look after the children and keep them outdoors as much as possible. Think you’re up to it?”
I swallowed, still finding that piercing gaze disconcerting. “Yes.” I hoped my voice sounded firmer than I felt. “I’m sure I can. Kids like the sort of things they can do here in summer: surfing, swimming, exploring the beach. I noticed horses in your paddocks.”
His eyebrows lifted slightly as if implying, what would someone like me know about horses? “You ride?”
Hating his condescending tone, I said tersely, “I’m no expert. But yes, whenever I can find time.” I didn’t add that this was a hobby I could no longer afford.
He rubbed his chin as if remembering he’d forgotten to shave. Then he got up to refill my glass before returning to his chair. “I suppose we need to discuss wages and hours.” He cleared his throat. “As we’re offering room and food, how about—” He named a sum I considered generous. “We’re paying well as it’s a six day week. You can let us know when you want time off. That okay?”
“Sounds fine,” I assured him, though I had no idea of what conditions other nannies worked under.
He stood up. So did I. I was so close to him, I could feel the warmth of his breath. The top of my head barely reached his chin. I felt myself softening toward him, but he broke the spell, saying, “If you take this job, you need to see where you and the children will sleep.” And with that, he led me out the back door into the courtyard.
My lovely group who reads children’s books.
I am often asked questions about my writing career. Here is one I filled out earlier this year. Perhaps emerging authors can learn something from it, even if not to make all the mistakes I have made in the past,
When did you know that you were a writer? I only became serious about becoming a professional author when I was in my forties. But I was a very serious reader from the age of three. I believe this is what creates the writer, apart from imagination and perseverance.
When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?I had a cousin who was a famous writer and I gave him one of my short stories. He was totally scathing abut it without being helpful. I might have been totally put off except I decided to ignore him. But it’s wise to keep in mind how vulnerable inexperienced writers can be. The cousin’s attitude never changed, no matter how many of my books were published. He always pretended I was that novice.
What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel? Tremendously excited. I was fortunate enough to be commissioned to write four ‘Dolly Fictions’ and because the instructions were very precise they taught me a lot about the craft. Back then there were no creative writing classes. I wrote those 4 novels under a pseudonym so when the first book under my own name ‘Mavis Road Medley’ appeared that was a great cause for celebration.
What is your favourite genre to write? Why? I’m a jack of all trades. I write in almost every genre (except horror, eroticism or film scripts) for both adults and kids of all ages. I like to float between genres, viewing each new take as a challenge.
How long have you been writing? And what have you written? I have written over 85 fictions and non fictions, many short stories, scripts and about a million articles. Just kidding! If anyone is interested most of longer works are on my website. These include 3 collections of short stories amounting to 30 stories condensed from longer work I wrote when the market was down and publishers taking very little. The secret is to be adaptable.
Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite? The last thing I wrote. Then none of it because I never feel that anything is quite good enough.
What is your favourite genre to read? Why? I am a voracious reader. However, I tend to stick to literary work these days. I’m probably the last of a dying species. I belong to 2 bookclubs, an adult and a children’s and both meet monthly. That means 4 books every month, plus whatever others recommend. I have become lazy about finding hardcopy and read just about everything except picture story books on my kindle. It’s soooo easy to just download!
Do you mentor others? What do you do? I taught part time Creative Writing at Holmesglen TAFE for fourteen years. I have also over the years mentored young authors for the Australian Society of Authors and I run classes for adults in memoir writing.
Do you write full time? Most writers write full time even if they don’t sit at their computers. We constantly mull over possibilities and observe our surroundings for inspiration. Does that man on the tram look as if he takes good care of his kids? Does that bunch of schoolboys bully others? Using public transport is an excellent way of creating convincing characters. At my age I have become invisible. If age has its drawbacks it is also very useful for observing people’s idiosyncratic behaviour.
What are your other jobs? Boring housework. Is that still considered a job? My family are all grown and where my contemporaries are babysitting grandchildren, ours are either grown or live interstate.
Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for? Yes. Please check my website for details. My awards in 2015 are for the verse novel ‘In Hades’ shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. And a 1st prize for the Rolfe Boldewood short story literary award.
Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you? These days I only belong to ASA, SCBWI, Writer’s Victoria. They tell me what is going on, provide legal protection and have me knowing I belong to a fellowship. Writing can be a very lonely game.
Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?No, I ran them. I had wonderful students. Some became well known and celebrated authors
Do you run writing workshops? What do you include? Yes I do run workshops on all aspects of writing for young readers. In particular, fictionalising history, writing science fiction and fantasy, writing mysteries and creating convincing characters. For adults I run writing memoir workshops that are extremely popular.
How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits? I do this quite frequently and happy to be asked. I can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org
We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice? In one word: perseverance. Don’t let anyone or any situation put you off.
This is a conversation about political correctness and the Lionel Shriver affair. If you haven’t heard of Lionel Shriver, she is a well-known established author who was invited to give the keynote address at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. In her speech, she bemoaned the push by certain academics and less well known authors to ‘only stick to what you are’ in your books. In short, to never try to fictionalise anyone of a different gender, ethnicity, religion and, we assume, age.
Apparently she got into trouble with some hardliners by writing about a black woman with dementia and the novel was viewed as racist. She also caused an enormous upset at the festival by not sticking to what she was told to talk about. Other, lesser known writers walked out. Do I dare suggest that this is an excellent way for them to get media attention because it sure worked!!! What is most upsetting according to all reports (but as I wasn’t there and only gleaned this from the media} the festival organisers were uncertain how to handle the situation.
If this swing to what and what characters we can create is taken seriously, it doesn’t leave much for authors to write about. The whole point of fiction is to get into someone else’s shoes. The challenge is to see the world from a different point of view.
I suppose that over the years I have sinned in many ways. My novels for young readers include a fourteen- year old Moslem cameleer, a first fleeter, a badly disabled young woman, a street kid teen, a girl dying from anorexia, several dragons and monsters (if these characters are made up are they ok or am I impinging on Disney?) a Chinese boy, even aliens, and lots and lots of young people of both genders whose lives I only dreamt up. In the 80 plus books I have written only three can be levelled as truly belonging to my own life: ‘That Stranger Next Door’ where the protagonist’s life style is based on some of my early memories of that affair, ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’ though I was never a victim and certainly never lived or fought in the Warsaw Ghetto, and ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’ self-explanatory as it is a memoir of my first thirty years. What a load of poppycock. But the resultant flurry is exactly what Shriver was talking about and in this way her point is fulsomely made.
But I should add that it is only too easy for writers to get unwittingly into trouble. I have done so at least twice. The first time when I made a joke about a Canadian singer also called Goldie Alexander, the second when I wrote an article about my early days as a music teacher. In a way it’s good to know someone is reading what I write, if only to get angry with me.
“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life.” -Stephen King, On Writing
When I was a child I read every day. I read everything including billboards and other advertisements. I just needed to read. I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed in the wealth of literature and we belonged to a ‘sixpenny a book’ library.
I never stopped reading. If I started with AA Milne, ‘Milly Molly and Enid Blyton, as I grew older obviously my tastes changed and developed. Out of that love of reading, I developed a love of writing though I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my forties.
I meet people regularly who want to be writers. They tell me that they don’t read because they don’t have time, or that it will negatively impact their own personal style of writing. They say they can only be original if they are not influenced by other people’s writing.
I have been teaching creative writing in one form or another for over thirty years. When I ask students who is going to read or buy their book they have few answers. The main issue with claiming that you are not going read because your personal writing style might become tainted or overly influenced by reading other writing styles is the fact that even if you never read another book, or form, or even an email for the rest of your life you would still be influenced by other people’s writing.
When you watch a TV show it is written by someone. When you listen to a song it is written by someone. When you see a move, it is written by someone. So these written things are already influencing you. There is no way to avoid being influenced by others.
The other response I get is that the plan is to write a picture story book as that is so much shorter and therefore easier. In my opinion these five hundred word stories are more difficult to write than a long adult novel. They have been described as ‘haiku for children’.
So the first question I ask any students regardless of age is what they read? The most popular genre presently tackled is Young Adult, possibly because this can be thinly disguised autobiography, and because so many YA books have been serialised on TV. Often the original books have never been read. These are not fantasy genre readers. They just liked the show and wanted to write more like it, completely unaware of the original work.
Besides, it really is impossible to avoid reading. If someone is only reading error riddled emails, and casually written Facebook posts, but not actually reading well edited novels and thoroughly researched non-fiction books, their writing will not be influenced for the better. No matter what one does, one is going to influenced by outside sources. But the quality of writing will be much better if influenced by the same medium that they are producing.
The more you read books the more you can understand the elements that go into them, and the better your craft can become. To be a good writer I believe that one has to read a lot of books. Fifty a year would be a good place to start.. I also think that the kind of books one reads should vary. Even though I primarily write fiction, I also read a lot of non-fiction
I have read entire books that I did not like, that have still helped me improve my skills as a writer. I belong to two bookclubs which means that every month I must read four books – an adult novel, a young adult novel, a middle grade novel, and a picture story book. As well, I read more, often the latest ‘big event’ in publishing so I will have some idea of what publishers were looking for a year ago (it takes at least a year to produce a completed novel) and help my own writing. Often the books I read I don’t like, or they are poorly edited, or simply overlong and boring. But I needed to read widely to develop my writer’s toolbox. Besides, reading is my passion.
So often I am told by parents that their children are not interested in reading. What a shame that is, because we know by now that the more a child reads the more literate he or she will become. and the more they will achieve in the future.
If I am cheeky enough to query the parent on his or her reading habits, far too often I am told that he/she doesn’t have time. Children learn from their parents. If the parent can’t find time neither will the child. So when I am asked how to improve a child’s reading skills I suggest some of the following tactics:
1) Read to them! Not just when they’re babies. Continue reading books together. It will encourage their reading habits and surely encourage parent/child closeness.
2) Read with them! (as above)
3) Let them see YOU read! And not just newspapers and magazines. Let them see you reading ‘proper’ books. They don’t have to be fiction. If the child is interested in accumulating ‘facts’ or learning more about science and technology, there’s lots of non fiction out there.
4) Help them find books that they WANT to read. Just like they can’t eat unless you keep food in the pantry, they can’t read unless there are books on your shelves.5)Make sure those books are within their reading ability and interest. No point leaving ‘War and Peace’ on your bookshelves if your child wants to read Andy Griffiths or The Hunger Games.
6) If there is a movie or a TV version, read the book, too! Sometimes the movie helps clarify plot and characters.
7) Listen to talking books. Either in the car or maybe before bed. Don’t just stick to DVD’s
8). Talk about books as a pleasurable experience, not something one should do like swallowing vitamins. Books are fun. We learn about life from books.
8) Don’t just give them books and be done with it. Ask them questions about that book. Talk about the book. Maybe it is a book that you read as a child? And if you didn’t. there is nothing wrong with reading children’s books. Often they are better written, their plots more intriguing and their characters more interesting than those found in adult novels.
1. What is your writing process like?
Do you write consistently or only when inspired? Do you write many drafts quickly, or have an early draft that’s almost perfect?
I admire splurgers like mad. My writing process is more ‘snail like’. Sometimes it seems that I have to squeeze out every word. Then it needs lots of re-editing. Mark Twain once said that he spent a whole afternoon putting in a comma, and another afternoon taking it out. No early draft has ever been perfect.
3. Can you tell me a bit about your inspirations and what drew you to writing in the first place?
In one word: reading. I learnt to read when I was three and I have never stopped. Books take me far away from my present reality to other worlds.
As for what inspires me: what I read, what I see, what I hear. I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys listening to people talking on their mobiles. In a word, the world around me is my inspiration.
4. Is each novel you write easier than the last? Or is every one challenging? Where there any specific points at which you struggled with this novel?
Each novel is as difficult as the last. Because I write in so many genres (otherwise I get bored) I am always challenging myself. For example, in the last two years I have had two middle grade novels written and published: ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’, (historical fiction) and ‘Cybertricks’ (science fiction), and completed the first drafts of two YA novels: ‘Ferdie & Miranda’ (science fiction) and ‘Gap Year Nanny’,(contemporary fiction)
5. Is having a book published exclusively as an ebook a different experience to having a book in print? Do you prefer reading either format? Do you think the print book is on the way out?
I adore my Kindle. I adore being able to download within minutes. But ultimately what format a book appears in, isn’t all that relevant. What matters are the words, the characters and the narrative drive. I think hardcopy might gradually disappear. What will remain are story picture books for little readers, and maybe elegant coffee table books. Of course this is a time of transition and who can predict the future? The monks who illustrated all those wonderful bibles must have felt the same way when they first caught sight of a printing press. ‘Never catch on,’ they must have told each other. Same as when Penguin decided to produce soft covers.
6. What tips do you have for other writers?
I have a blog where I post lots of tips, both for very beginning writers, and those that are trying to promote their work. Social networking is important, so I recommend using facebook, tweeting, and logging into other blogs. Promoting on You Tube is useful though I have to confess I’m technologically too stupid to do this. My major piece of advice is to never give up. A book may be rejected many times before it takes off. Sometimes it can take many years, and of course this has happened to me many, many times. After I lick my wounds at yet another rejection, I remind myself that it might be the wrong time, the wrong publisher, and probably needs another draft. Now the book revolution is on us, perhaps it’s useful to think of self publishing. But be warned: too many self-published books are badly edited or frankly, need more work.
7. Imagining you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenaged self about writing and life, what would you tell her? And would she listen.
I would tell her to start writing very much earlier and not leave it all so late. For some years I lived next door to Elizabeth Jolly. While she was writing I was swanning about. If I had been writing alongside her, maybe I would now be as good and famous as she was?
8. What tips can you give for writing fantasy?
All fantasy must have certain common elements. They take place in a consistent, if imaginary world, and have exciting and convincing protagonists. Their major theme, much like the fairy story, is good versus evil, with good eventually winning out against what seems like insurmountable odds. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief with a completeness that is not required in more traditional genres. If the best fantasy is written with flair and imagination, it can also be used as metaphor – coping with climate warming, protecting the environment, ensuring endangered animals survive, and overcoming totalitarian rule. They all offer the hope that everything can and will turn out for the best. My next blog will concentrate on historical fiction.
9. What is the most important thing to remember when starting a new work?
In my opinion, a character must become a living breathing person easily recognisable. I always recommend writers create a character profile to start with. Once your character is living at a specific time and you know his/her likes dislikes/conflicts/ family etc. you already have half your plot. I can’t emphasise this enough. In ‘Cybertricks’ set so many years in the future, my characters might look odd, but they behave like normal youngsters with disparate personalities.
10. What other advice can you give beginner writers?
Perseverance is what counts. It’s said that inspiration is only 10% and hard work 90% . I am often approached by people who tell me they ‘have a book in them’ as if I can give a magic tip. Wish I could.