Examining Life Under a Different Lens – Fantasy Author Bernadette Rowley

‘All children, except one, grow up.’ That’s the opening line in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and that’s the brilliance of fantasy writers – they grab our attention, drawing us into scenes that examine life through a different lens, under different rules.

Author Q&A:

What draws you to writing Fantasy Romance?

First of all, I love fantasy so that comes first. I spent decades living in the fantasy worlds of Feist, Tolkien, Eddings and Robert Jordan to name but a few. When I was challenged by my mentor, Louise Cusack, to write a romance, I naturally chose the fantasy genre. Princess Avenger was that romance and from there, my world of Thorius has given me seven other stories so far. What could be better than ‘happily ever after’ with a big serve of magic?

Why do you think your characters resonate so well with readers?

That’s lovely of you to say that, Carolyn. I’d like to think readers can relate to the faults and failings in my characters as well as their heroic qualities. I try to get to know the characters before I start writing and some really do capture my imagination and take on more of a life of their own- most do actually. Princess Alecia from Princess Avenger is a favourite and shares much of my idealism from my younger days. There are others like Lady Katrine Aranati from The Master and the Sorceress (soon to be released) who were secondary characters in previous books and demanded a story of their own.

Are there any rules you have to follow to ensure fantasy characters are believable and relatable?

Not rules as such. It’s the same for any character. The author has to know and understand the character to be able to portray them realistically and consistently. Before I start writing, I brainstorm each main character from physical characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, greatest loves/hates, ambitions, family structure they grew up in, place in family, their deeply held beliefs and much more. I get a sense of their experiences leading up to the start of their written story. The hero and heroine may be larger than life but they still have the same basic flaws and failings as the reader. It’s about placing challenges in front of them and having them solve them in an authentic way, but perhaps with magic or even in another form.

What’s the difference between an expertly written character that draws the reader in, and a poorly written character that readers don’t connect with?

Once I know the character, I can write deep in that head space. As I’m writing, I become the character and express what the heroine is feeling/thinking in the moment. This deep point of view allows the character to get their hooks into the reader and gives them a deeper experience. Of course my editor is such a help in drawing to my attention anything that isn’t consistent or believable for a particular character.

What are the Top 3 Best and the Top 3 Worst features of being a writer?

Editing is my favourite part of being an author. I love seeing the prose take shape into something I can be really proud of. The first glimpse of a new cover is such a buzz. Receiving praise from a reader who has enjoyed your book is totally wonderful.

Balancing that, the worse features would be the struggle to get your work out there (marketing), the poor monetary return and self-promotion which is so difficult for introverts- which most authors are.

Would you care to share with us your proudest moment in your writing career, and perhaps also a low-light moment for perspective?

I was really proud when Penguin Australia offered to publish Princess Avenger. It had taken six years of deliberate focus on writing to be published to get to that point. Penguin published The Lady’s Choice as my second book as well and I was over the moon. Then they declined further books. That was probably the lowest point. I knew I could self-publish but I wanted to have books with a major publisher as well. I pitched to Pan Macmillan Australia who offered me a two book contract-another very high point. The Lord and the Mermaid and The Elf King’s Lady were born.

Do you have a personal favourite from your booklist?

My favourite is The Lady’s Choice. The heroine, Benae, has a very strong relationship with Flaire, her horse, and is also a healer. She can communicate telepathically with Flaire and her healing style is also with her mind. Being a vet, I would love to be able to delve deep into the body and heal with nothing more than the power of thought. I also had a very close relationship with my horse, Captain, when I was a young woman.

Princess Avenger will always hold a special place in my heart, being my first published work. I love how sassy Alecia is. I also adore shapeshifting hero Vard.

Princess in Exile was the second book I wrote and continued Alecia’s love affair with her dark and dangerous hero. Once I self-published, I was able to bring this story to the world. I’m totally in love with the cover.

The Lord and the Mermaid is fabulous as it is such an impossible love story. The hero is sailing captain Nikolas and he is so delicious. He shelters Merielle when he finds her washed up on the beach even though he is sworn to hate mermaids.

The Elf Kings’ Lady tells the love story of two secondary characters from The Lord and the Mermaid, Alique and Kain. They are also impossible together but they manage to find a way to overcome that. This is another story where my healing background takes centre stage.

The Lady and the Pirate brings together a pirate hero and a desperate lady smuggler. I love these two so much! Again they beat the odds to find an enduring love. And this book gave birth to The Master and the Sorceress which will be released in April 2018. Katrine is the younger sister of Esta, the heroine of The Lady and the Pirate, and demanded her own story as only younger siblings can. I love her and I adore the cover of this book!

What’s next for Bernadette Rowley?

I have two books for release this year. The first is The Master and the Sorceress in April and the second is Elf Princess Warrior. Elf Princess is a spin off from The Elf King’s Lady and has a dark elven princess as the heroine. I can’t wait for you to read this one!

Carolyn Martinez is an author, editor and speaker.




Rachel Amphlett – Crime Fiction and Espionage Thriller Author

Before turning to writing, Rachel played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Call-to-Arms-3D-with-Spine-300x300Her latest release is Call to Arms. (Synopsis – Loyalty has a price. Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country’s most evil serial killers. Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation. DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil. Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser. But, as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good. Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role… Call to Arms is a gripping murder mystery, and the fifth in the Detective Kay Hunter series).

AUTHOR Q&A

What draws you to writing Crime Fiction and Spy Novels?

That’s easy – it’s what I was brought up on. Both my parents’ and grandparents’ bookshelves were teeming with books by the likes of Dick Francis, Ed McBain, Jack Higgins, Alistair McLean, Len Deighton, and Frederick Forsyth, so it was only a matter of time before I headed off down that path.

Why do you think your characters resonate so well with readers?

I’m hoping it’s because readers can relate to them, and that I make sure that they’re motivated characters – even the bad guy has to have a reason for what he’s doing, and if you have a motive for every single person on the stage, then it’s easier to get the reader to empathise with them even if that makes them uncomfortable.

With the Detective Kay Hunter series, I was determined to have someone who didn’t have a broken home life – there are enough like that around. Instead, I wanted her to be resilient without being arrogant and gave her somewhere safe to return to after a day’s work.

I have a lot of fun writing the various series, and I hope that comes across in the stories as well.

What are the essentials for success on Amazon and the other big depositories?

I think the best things to do to give yourself a head start on any of the retailers’ websites is to make sure you have your work professionally edited and get the best book cover you can. Take a look at what other publishers are doing and emulate your cover design to be “on trend” – you can always change it in later years if tastes change.

I ran a series of advice segments about publishing and marketing for ABC Brisbane over the Christmas/New Year break in 2016 with lots of tips and tricks. The show notes for those can be found here.

How big a part have your series – Detective Kay Hunter, English Spy Mysteries, and the Dan Taylor Espionage Thrillers, played in your success?

I think series give readers and me as a writer a better chance to explore character development and to let otherwise “minor” characters their time to shine in the spotlight. Often, I’ll get to the end of a new book in a series and think “this person has more to say”, and off I go again.

The standalones were fun to write, too though, so I wouldn’t discount writing a standalone if that’s what you want to do. After all, if a story gets hold of you, it’s not going to let you go until you write it…

What have you been your most rewarding and fruitful marketing experiences?

Building a mailing list has to be number one out of everything I’ve done – I love hearing from readers, and the members of my Readers Group and launch teams are phenomenal about supporting my writing and helping to spread the word. Some of them have been with me since the beginning, and are from all over the world.

Would you care to share with us your proudest moment in your writing career?

One of the proudest moments was when I was asked by the local Sisters in Crime group to read out an excerpt from my first spy novel at the Brisbane Launch of Stella Rimington’s The Geneva Trap – she’s such an inspiration and has obviously had a very interesting life as the former director of the British Secret Service.

Do you have a personal favourite from your booklist?

LookCloserI think it’s Look Closer – that was the standalone novel that gave me the confidence to plan and research the Kay Hunter series.

What’s next for Rachel Amphlett?

Well, I’m halfway through writing book six in the Detective Kay Hunter series, so that will keep me busy for a while!

 

Carolyn Martinez is an author, editor and speaker.

 




In Conversation With Compulsive Reader’s Founder – Maggie Ball

Compulsive Reader has more than 10,000 subscribers, and over 1 million book loving visitors each year. It consistently ranks in the Top 20 Google and Yahoo searches for book reviews. The driving force behind Compulsive Reader is Maggie Ball – Poet, Book Critic, Podcast Interviewer and Producer, Mother of 3, Wife, and Research Support Lead (the day job). She and her poetry have been described as ‘… polished and brave. Intellect melds with emotion to soar,’ Jan Dean, Author of Paint Peels Graffiti Sings, and ‘… an intelligent poet whose writing is charged with imagery and language drawn from the sciences,’ Linda Ireland. These are just two amongst many, many exceptional accolades.

Maggie interviewed me on her podcast when Finding Love Again was launched. I found her a generous, intelligent, interesting, engaging host. I was particularly enthused that she read my book before the interview (I’ve found this to be the exception rather than the rule), and I’m very pleased to learn more about this extraordinary woman to share with you.

Your podcast is littered with great names. Which have been your top 3 most memorable interviewees?

I’ll never forget interviewing Tom Keneally (just after Bettany’s Book in 2003).  He was a joy – so interested in absolutely everything, loquacious and easy to talk to, utterly nice – we went way overtime and I wanted to keep going. That was a transcript though – I wasn’t actually recording the shows at that point.  It was pretty early on in my interviewing ‘career’, and I daresay his encouragement was part of why I continued to do it.  Another transcripted interview that I loved doing was the great, Late Dorothy Porter (interviewed just after Other Worlds in 2007: ).  She also was incredibly nice, intelligent and insightful – I felt that if I could only talk to her long enough I might absorb some of her greatness.  For the recorded ones – I hate choosing because I pretty much love everyone, but a few that have remained with me and come to mind immediately include Emily Ballou, who came on shortly after The Darwin Poems were published for the second time, and something about her resonated with me – not just because I loved the book, which I did, but because she had a quality – even a bit ditzy – which was very down-to-earth and appealing.   I also am partial to the face-to-face interviews as there are nuances you can’t get on the phone – the eye contact, the subtleties of body language etc. Ben Okri, who I interviewed at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2016, was rather wonderful in this respect – plus I got a hug (can’t get that over the phone):    I know that’s four.  Also you (Carolyn Martinez), which makes five :-).

Many writers are introverts, but we all must market our books. Can you offer any tips on how writers can ensure they’re a good interviewee?

Lol – that’s a whole course!  But in brief, it helps to do your homework – know your interviewer and their style (listen to their shows for a bit so you can come in with that knowledge). Always bring your book and be prepared to talk about it – so have a log-line or ‘elevator speech’ overview ready.  Once you’re in the conversation, treat the interviewer as if they are a good friend – so respond to their questions with warmth (even if you don’t like the question), and respond candidly, openly and feel free to meander a bit.  The listeners want to get to know you.  The worst interviewee is either hostile or non-communicative.  I’ve never had the former, but I have, once or twice, had an interviewee who basically responded with one word answers.  I couldn’t use the interview.

How do authors go about having their book reviewed by Compulsive Reader? I imagine you get far more requests than you can manage.

I’m afraid I do get far more review pitches than I can handle – I only have a small, busy volunteer team and our reviews tend to be pretty thorough as you say – I won’t publish a review that just skims the surface, so they take time which limits how many we can do. We publish guidelines on the site (under submissions) and basically the process is to send a few paragraphs of synopsis.  A few puffs or existing review blurbs doesn’t hurt either.  The query should be professional – no typos, really clear writing (sometimes I don’t even know what a person is asking for), with the right blend of familiar and professional.  They shouldn’t beg!  (it happens a lot).  Nor should they tell me how much work went into the writing of the book, how long it took, that it was self-published (we don’t mind at all, but set up a company and treat your book like a publisher would!), or that you are new at this and hoping to get some feedback (there are places that do that). Don’t send the book until I ask for it!  Do include a nice looking .pdf press sheet with any relevant backstory, a book cover, and the synopsis/blurbs.  Most publishers will create this promo sheet for a new book.  Don’t ask questions that can be easily found by visiting the site.  Always visit the site first and know who you’re querying.

With your passion being poetry why are you interviewing and reviewing other writers besides poets?

I choose who I want to interview or review based on my reading tastes rather than my own writing.  I do actually also write fiction and nonfiction as well as poetry and I read very widely in a pretty extensive range of genres.  Also poetry is a harder sell, so I do get more feels from promoting it than say, from promoting a blockbuster novel that doesn’t need help.  Compulsive Reader is very much a passion project – it’s not a business for me at all – I’m able to please myself creatively without worrying about things like sales, page hits, etc.  It is definitely cross-promotional and complementary (and I know I’m a better writer from reading deeply and talking to other writers), and the perks are pretty good, but mostly, it’s something I do because I truly love doing it.

Which of your books of poetry is your favourite?41A+DUEXKaL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m so humbled and moved by reviews I’ve received – they keep me writing.  I think, poetry is such a hard sell, why do it – and then I think of those reviews and think – well, someone (intelligent and wonderful) has been moved. That’s enough.  I’m not entirely sure I have a favourite.  In terms of sole-authored, full-length collections, there are actually only two books – Repulsion Thrust  and Unmaking Atoms.  There are quite a few chapbooks including about 8 collaborations but those are my two big books.  Both cover a lot of ground, and explore different ground (though perhaps there are some similarities – the science inspiration, the ecological focus, the mingling of dark and light), so it’s hard to choose one, but If I have to I’ll say Unmaking Atoms just because it’s more recent and as an author you’re always trying to go a little further with each book.

Would you care to share with us the proudest moment you’ve experienced so far in your career?

Maybe, because it was recent, winning the Hunter Writers Centre’s Member’s Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize.  I know it’s not a massive award, but the Newcastle Poetry Prize means a lot to me – I’ve been entering it for a long time, and I’ve been a member of the Hunter Writers Centre for a long time too – about 25 years!

What’s next for Maggie Ball?

I’ve got another full-length poetry book ready to go which I’m going to be sending out very soon, and then I’m thinking it’s time to go back to the world of fiction for a bit. I have finally decided to move on from my abandoned third novel, and start over.

Carolyn Martinez is an author, editor and speaker.




Nothing Stock-Standard about this Writer – David Bobis and his alter ego Dean Blake

There is nothing stock standard about writer David Bobis and his alter ego Dean Blake. I’m not going to spoil anything with preamble. I’m awarding him an honorary ‘most honest writer’ I’ve interviewed. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed talking with him.

You’re quite diverse in your writing. Describe the projects you work on.

In terms of work that’s commercially available, my short story, Child, has been published in a number of anthologies in Singapore and the United States. A special edition of Child is also available on Amazon and iBooks for a few cents.

I’ve published a book of short stories, Surface Children, under a pen name, Dean Blake. It contains stories I’d written as a young adult, stories that I’d give to my friends to read whenever they were bored. It contains stories about love, horror, vanity, stories about my friends themselves.

I’m working on a full-length novel. It’s still in its infancy, but it’ll be a story about magic and everything that’s beautiful and dangerous about it.

Full time, I’m a co-owner of a digital marketing agency, Studio Culture. It’s a great job, because I get to help craft brands and stories for a number of different businesses, both in Brisbane and around the world. I also get to work with an amazing, super-creative team.

Besides that, I write for a design magazine called No Cure Magazine, which allows me to interview some of the greatest artists in the street art / skate / surf scene.

I also publish my short stories on my blog.

As you can probably tell, I don’t get much sleep.

Which of your works are you most proud of, and why?

I’m proud of everything I’ve released to the public. I remember once in uni, a friend of mine was giving his most treasured books to other friends, and I asked him, “How about me? Don’t I get a book?” He turned to me and said, “You’re too simple for books.” One day, when I see him again, I’m going to shove a copy of Surface Children up his arse and email him an invoice for it the next day.

Although I’m proud of everything I’ve done, I’m also ashamed of everything I’ve done, if that makes any sense. I believe that I should always be improving my craft, and that my newest works should always surpass (and ultimately embarrass) their predecessors.

Which has been the most commercially successful?

Surface Children has been the most commercially successful. As it’s my first “book”, it’s been sold at the higher price point. It’s also received the most marketing attention.

How did you choose the pen name Dean Blake? When do you write as David Bobis, and when as Dean Blake?

Back when I was studying, a company paid me to write a blog about the nonsense I’d get up to in my life. As I didn’t want potential employers to google “David Bobis” and see a treasure chest of dirt, I opted for a pen name instead that contained my initials – hence “Dean Blake.” That blog (now called Generation End) then developed a bit of a following, so I couldn’t exactly let Dean Blake go. Plus, I was becoming quite attached to this alter ego of mine. Someone in a book signing once commented, “You’ve chosen a really white name.” There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

As a general rule, my professional and G rated stuff go under my actual name. The rest belongs to Dean Blake.

Why are you a writer?

Reality can be a turd sometimes. I believe it’s my job to help people escape, or live another life, or travel to a distant planet, or laugh, or see things from another perspective, through the stories I write for them. I wrote my first story at the age of six – it was actually a comic about kids who loved to fart, and I gave it to my friends and family so that they could smile a little.

How do you define success as a writer? Are you successful?

I think success as a writer, or success in any aspect of life can be narrowed down to this question: are you happy with what you have? Well, reader, are you? Are you happy with what you have?

There is a lot I am grateful for and am proud of, but I have a long way to go. So I would say I’m far from successful. But I suppose you’ll never really know how truly successful you are until you reach the end of your life.

What aspects of your personality or background make you the writer you are?

I grew up in the Philippines, where we had to pump water out of our backyard, so all the crazy stuff that happened to me in the past adds a bit of colour to my personality.

Also I’m not a normal person. If you talk to me, I’ll probably be smiling and nodding, but deep inside I’ll be somewhere else, like in a canyon, or in a drive in cinema, or in a cabin inside the moon or something. Through my writing, I believe I can take people with me, to where my mind goes, and we can go on a few hiking trips.

What’s next for David Bobis?

I’ll be speaking with a number of authors in Brisbane about how to get published (link here) so please do come along. I’m also working hard on my next novel, so please subscribe to my mailing list at davidbobis.com to be kept in the loop.

Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.




Sh*t Asian Mothers Say – Best Title Award – In Conversation with Michelle Law

Your writing is diverse – theatre, TV, film, newspapers, journals and magazines. How did you diversify so early in your career?

I think I was able to diversify because I remained open to and searched for all kinds of opportunities, from playwriting programs, to self-structured mentorships, to pitching ideas to literary journals. For instance with grants, I applied for many of them and kept applying for them despite being rejected a lot, so you need to be persistent. Diversifying my skill set was a strategic move, because I wanted to build a sustainable career, but also a result of me loving all different kinds of writing.

I’ve heard you speak of your frustration when an aspiring writer says they don’t read much. Please elaborate.

It frustrates me when aspiring writers don’t read because you can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. I tutored writing at university and the number of writing students who didn’t read always astounded me. We learn how to write well by reading the works of better writers, so if you’re not reading you’re not going to get far.

I love the title of your book, Sh*t Asian Mothers Say. I understand you co-authored this book with your brother. What was your Mum’s reaction to the book?

Mum loves the book and can identify the parts we’ve written that are almost direct quotes from her! My brother and I write about Mum and the family quite a lot and I think for Mum, who’s always been very creative but didn’t have the opportunity to go to uni herself – she really enjoys that we document stories from her life.

Where can people purchase your book?

They can order it at Avid Reader Bookshop (my favourite bookshop in Brisbane) or directly through the publisher Black Inc’s website: https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/sht-asian-mothers-say

What was it like seeing your play Single Asian Female come alive on stage?

Amazing! I’d been developing it for years so to finally see it come to fruition on stage was surreal and extremely exciting. I also love how actors make your words sound better than they look on the page!

Writers often struggle prioritising writing when they’re working at home. Is this an issue for you, and how do you manage it?

It can be an issue when I have a lot of projects on and they’re clashing, but generally I try to deal with the most pressing deadline first, and if I get stuck working on that, then I hop onto another project and back again.

What’s coming out next from you ie. what should we look out for? 

A web series that I’ve co-created, co-written and am acting in called Homecoming Queens. There’s some more info on it here: https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2017/08-11-homecoming-queens?utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter-1&utm_campaign=homecoming-queens

Photo by Tammy Law.




A Seismic Shift in Thinking – Shriek an absurd novel – In Conversation With Davide A. Cottone

Davide A. Cottone introduced me to the Absurd genre. Frankly, before I read his book Shriek: an absurd novel I didn’t even know what the Absurd genre was. The cover enticed, the exemplary writing held me.

Davide wrote the book to join the discussion/debate on how the world could change for a better future. ‘When the dominoes fall, it will be the lateral thinkers not the reactionaries who will triumph,’ he says. In the past, writers have written fables and parables to make social commentary. Davide has used the Absurd genre, and in so doing the parallels with current world events surrounding the rise of Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, Bitcoin, the demise of conservative religious values, people’s social response to broken government promises, and new technologies are so compelling, it’s ludicrous.

“The world can be a mad place and sometimes we need to proffer absurd solutions to confront or at least contain situations that are spiralling out of control,” Davide says.

He argues that technology, and the social implications of the populist mindset, has necessitated a seismic shift in thinking and the corresponding changes to the structure and organisation of society are inevitable. He says we need to ‘take the wisdom of the ages and reapply to the problems of today’s world.’

Shriek: an absurd novel is a fictional work about Aleph, an ‘idiot savant’ confronting a maelstrom of social, political, economic, technological and religious upheaval. The content and the genre mean that this book is for the lateral thinkers. Conspiracy Theorists, philosophers, academics, and those with an interest in social commentary are likely to enjoy the book.

I’m keen to hear from people who’ve read Shriek. One could put hundreds of interpretations to this book. It’s one I can envisage as a catalyst for debate in universities, especially in sociology or political courses.

THE MAN BEHIND THE TAPESTRY THAT IS SHRIEK:

IMG_0326What is it about writing that draws you to the craft?

It’s an opportunity to do some genetic engineering by mingling my thoughts (DNA) with those of my audience. Especially when I write in the absurd genre, the end product can very well be something one never intended. That’s very exciting. Try reading Shriek: an absurd novel and you’ll know what I mean.

You’ve had published or performed 5 novels, several musicals and plays, and two volumes of poetry. Tell us two of your most outstanding experiences/memories.

The musicals and plays which I have written have been performed in Australia and overseas and they comprise my most outstanding experiences and memories by far. With a live audience, the interaction and feedback is immediate. You know if you have achieved your goal of getting your message across without having to wait for faceless reviewers to determine your success or otherwise.

My latest novel, Shriek: an absurd novel where I wrestle with the statement by Salvador Dali is my most challenging. He claims, Madmen think they are sane, I know I am mad. As a result, I don’t know where I stand. Hence the novel. It could be a trap to tie you to the same dilemma!

Is your greatest love plays, poems or novels?

Poetry is my first great love; it’s really heart-to-heart stuff. Plays and especially musicals are my other great love. It’s the in-the-raw, face-to-face interaction with a live audience that consumes you whether you are writing it or seeing it performed. My third and greatest love is fiction based on fact. It allows me to create super humans out of mere mortals. Can I have three great loves please?

Your writing career has spanned over fifty years. Summarise for us what you’ve learned during that time?

I have learned that it often doesn’t matter how well you write, it’s the chatter that matters. You have to have a pathway for getting your work out there. You have to get people talking about your work and wanting to own it.

What do you see as the characteristics that a writer needs to be successful?

The writer needs to be true to the genre as well as add something different, something new.

How do you choose what you’re going to write about?

I listen to the buzz. What people are talking about at any particular time gives me the opportunity to put my views forward. I try to give them a picture of how I think it is, rather than pander to them with what they want to hear. Not always a good strategy and that’s why you have to wait a generation sometimes before the audience is far enough removed to grasp the point which is so often in their face, yet they don’t want to acknowledge it.

Give us your take on traditional versus Indie publishing in 2017.

Traditional publishing is dead. Indie publishing is the new reality. It is augmented reality personified.

What is your background and how did you become a writer?

I am a farmer’s son. He planted seeds in the soil and hoped they would grow. I plant words and ideas into people’s minds and hope they will grow.

One of your novels – Vietnam: Viet-Bloody-Nam – has been adapted into a play. What was that experience like?

Brilliant and it was so easy. It is a good book with a strong and everlasting message that was easy for the playwright to get across and easy for the audience to grasp.

Which has been your most successful commercial product and why do you think it was popular?

My historical fiction novel Canecutter has been my most successful commercially. The feedback from the novel made me realise how the power of the phenomenological experience transcends all barriers to understanding, compassion and empathy. There is a social agenda in that book that cuts across all human experiences. The teacher, the lawyer, the doctor, the street-lounger and the bum are all able to walk the walk through the North Queensland sugarcane fields and identify it as their own albeit on another stage.

Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.




3 Million Books SOLD … and Counting – In Conversation with Romantic Storyteller Amy Andrews

Warning: Swearing and blasphemy ahead, along with bloody good advice for aspiring writers.

AmyAndrews Amy Andrews is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Brissie and proud Aussie author who has written sixty-five plus contemporary romances. She’s been translated into over a dozen languages. In her words, her books bring all the feels from ‘sass and quirk and laughter to emotional grit to panty-melting heat’. Yes, her books feature lots of sex and kissing. ‘You probably shouldn’t try one if you think that stuff belongs behind a closed door,’ she says. She loves good books and great booze although she’ll take mediocre booze if there’s nothing else.

To dip your toe into her style, here’s a quote from ‘Numbered’, the book Amy co-authored with her sister Ros Baxter.  ‘Numbered’ this month (August 2017) won the Romance Writers of Australia, RUBY (Romantic Book of the Year) award in the Romantic Elements Category. The RUBY is the most prestigious award for romance writing in the country. ‘I bet if cancer of the penis was more prevalent there’d be a cure for this fucker. I bet if dicks were being amputated or dropping off left, right and centre there’d have been a cure decades ago. There’d be a whole fucking government dick department dedicated to it.’

Yep, this author is your best friend – the person who tells you as it is, political correctness be damned. If all your friends are straighty one eighties because that’s your preference, Amy is not for you. But My God, she’s definitely for me. Amy Andrews is full of energy and charisma – great company for an afternoon interview over a bottle of good wine (I’m super professional); the stories! …She describes writing a book as ‘hard’ but having written a book, ‘awesome’. Amy has contemporary romance novels in these categories: Sexy, Small Town, Medical, Sport, Urban Family, and Mystery. Her books are in translation all over the world from Russia to South Africa and Iceland, and have even gone into Japanese manga and been turned into graphic novels. Super talented, and happy to share hard-earned knowledge.

More than 65 books… Share with us two of your most precious experiences.

That first phone call from London at nine o’clock at night to tell me they were buying my first book – after trying to get published with Harlequin for 12 years! – was very special. It was State of Origin night and everyone I rang to tell was out somewhere or not answering their phones!

Another precious experience was being in the Times Square Marriot in New York for the Romance Writers of America conference a few years back and discovering my book cover was on one of the elevator doors. My cover!!! It was ridiculously thrilling!

When did you decide to leave your job as a Registered Nurse and become a full-time writer, and how big a decision was that?

I retired three years ago – so I’d been published ten years at that stage – and it was a very big decision for me. I loved being a nurse – loved it from the moment I first put on my uniform at the age of 17. And I loved the people I worked with. But changes at work were making me rethink my direction and I started to wonder if maybe the universe was telling me I should just write instead of trying to juggle two professions. Financially, though, I knew I’d be cutting my income in half so it was a leap of faith. Luckily it’s worked out okay, with my writing income increasing year on year. I haven’t made up the short fall yet but I’m getting closer!

That’s a lot of books! How do you find new story lines at this stage in your career?

HoldingOutForAHero-AmyAndrews-ebook-FINAL-500PXI don’t. They reckon there’s only about 9 original plots in the world and all stories are a fresh twist on them. I mean, a boy wizard was hardly a new idea, right? But, it’s how each writer tells that age-old story that sets each book apart. So I guess I try to do that, bearing in mind there’s something very comforting to a reader – a genre reader anyway – about the familiarity of stories. Writing something to be new and innovative is, for me, the wrong way to approach my job. I don’t write to be clever with words or to set the world on fire. I write to entertain. I am Netflix!

What have you learned about writing, agents and publishers along the way?

I’ve learned that all you can really control is the writing side – so much is actually out of your hands unless you self publish but even then, there’s no guarantee your book is going to find an audience. I’ve learned that it takes talent, persistence, agility and a sprinkle of luck (sometimes a shit load of it) to make it as a full-time writer. I’ve learned that a good agent and a good publisher /editor is gold but they’re all not created equal and they are first and foremost a business.

You wrote the novel Numbered with your sister. Can you tell us about that process? At any point did you want to strangle one another?

NumberedAt no point did we want to strangle each otherJ. We’d already written 2 books together so we were confident in our process and we have such similar writing styles and personalities, it was actually incredibly easy. And fun! I think the secret to co-writing is to plan/plot as much as possible in advance. Our process was to each own a POV character and tell the story in alternating POV chapters. Then we sent the chapters via email when we were done and the story came together. I used to love getting Ros’s chapter and reading her take on what we’d decided was going to happen. It was always fresh and wonderful and inspired me to go on and write the next chapter. I really think it pushed us to be better writers because I wanted my contribution to be just as good.

Describe your life as a writer for us. I know you occasionally get whisked to Europe for decadent lunches with publishers. Is that common?

Lol – I do visit my publisher when I’m overseas and they do take me to lunch which is hands down soooo freaking cool! But no one’s shouting me business class airfares to swan around the world just yet J I might have to be more like JK or EL before something like that happens! Sadly the everyday reality is me staying in my PJ’s for way too long and bleeding all over the keyboard. Writing a book is hard! Having written a book is awesome.

I’ve heard you say that networking is a cornerstone of a successful writing career. Any additional advice for fellow authors who may be earlier in their careers? For instance, how important are competitions and awards, writers conferences, etc?

Troy-300dpi (1)Comps are great for learning craft as long as you only enter the ones that give you feedback. Awards are lovely but not something you can count on. Conferences are gold. G.O.L.D. Find your tribe – the body that’s there to support your particular genre – join them and go to their workshops and conferences and get into their online communities. Not only will you find kinship but you’ll improve your craft and get to know industry people as well. This is where your networking really comes into force. You can face-to-face pitch manuscripts at a lot of writer conferences these days to an editor or an agent. That’s worth the admission price alone! If I had one piece of advice I’d recommend you invest in attending a writing conference (appropriate to what you’re writing) every year. If you’re looking at ROI, it’s the best bang for buck IMHO. But make sure you work it work it, when you’re there – get your money’s worth! Learn craft but also go to industry workshops, introduce yourself to people etc. The connections you make at conferences may not be immediately evident but they can be career starting/building.

Intrigued? – Freebies and loads of new Amy Andrews titles.

Her latest release is Troy: American Extreme Bull Riders Tour.

Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.




In Conversation with ‘Baby Farm’ Author – Debbie Terranova

Author of the beautifully written ‘Baby Farm’ and ‘The Scarlet Key’, Indie Author Debbie has practical advice for editing, which she likens to getting rid of head lice.

Head lice you say?

In my experience, ridding your work of cliches, repetition, banal words, limp similes, and typos is as painstaking as zapping head lice … only a whole lot harder. You need to zap all the words you routinely over-use or are just plain lame out of your manuscript. The words on my personal lame-list are ‘very’, ‘always’, ‘like’, ‘really’, ‘just’, ‘quite’ … and so on. You get the idea. Everyone will have a different list of feeble or threadbare words.

Your first book Baby Farm started out as a factual piece about forced adoptions in Australia in the 1970s and ended up as a crime mystery about baby trafficking. How did this happen?

There’d been an Australian Senate inquiry into the draconian government policies of the 1950s, 60s and 70s that saw newborn babies forcibly removed from their unmarried mothers and put up for adoption. Submissions were requested from mothers and their children, and anyone else who had an interest. Hundreds were received. Some were one-pagers in faltering handwriting, some were long and heart-wrenching, some were professionally written by church and charitable organisations who were the chief providers of ‘care’ for pregnant teens.

BabyFarm_4The ABC picked up the story and produced a 4Corners documentary called Given or Taken? Do watch it. Be warned though, you’ll need a box of tissues.

What struck me most was the anguish the women had suffered over so many years. One said she’d knitted her son a jumper, one every year, from the age of one to the age of twenty-one. She kept them all so that when he eventually turned up – if he was still alive – he would know that she loved him.

The other thing that struck me about the stories was the secrecy and shame.

According to the evidence many women gave to the inquiry, the harder they argued to keep their babies, the more persuasively they were told they’d be hopeless mothers and their child would grow up a criminal.

Those stories formed the inspirational spark. The raw material was harrowing. I didn’t want to write a tear-jerker that went from woe to abject misery. I wanted to highlight the effects of the forced adoptions policy on those involved. And I wanted to update the subject matter, because the same thing is still going on today. Now it’s called commercial surrogacy, epitomised by the true story of Baby Gammy, the child with Down Syndrome born to a Thai surrogate mother and abandoned by his Australian ‘parents’.

In ‘Baby Farm’ those difficult themes have been transformed into a crime mystery.

How do you define success for an author? Are you successful?

In my opinion, success is when your work is ‘out there’ and enjoyed by lots of lovely readers, not only in your own country but also in other parts of the world.

Using this rather unwieldy yardstick, I am not yet successful but working on it. As an indie-published author, discoverability falls squarely on my head. The online market is a completely different beast from repositories of physical books. The challenge of how to crack into the former is what keeps me awake at night.

How do you research your books?

I looove Google and Wiki as first ports of call. The trove site of the National Library of Australia provides free access to 170 years’ worth of digitised newspapers, and the National Archives of Australia with immigration and internment records are pure gold. Beyond those, I call on personal experience – my travels have taken me to countless cities in Europe, Asia, the US, and within Australia – as well as working with people over a long career in recruitment and human resources.

The common refrain for writers is to ‘write what you know’. For that reason, my stories are set in places I know best. You may not be able to recognise the actual locations, as I’ve been known to change names to protect the innocent, but I know those places like the back of my hand.

Everyone has wonderful stories to tell. I often include snippets and anecdotes from people I’ve encountered on the way.

Do you have a favourite/s from the books you’ve written?

The story dearest to my heart is the one I’m currently writing. The working title is ‘The Enemy Within These Shores’. It’s about the internment of ‘enemy aliens’ – civilians of Italian, German and Japanese origin – in Australia during World War Two.

It is based on the true experiences of my father-in-law, Luigi, and his two brothers. All three were cane farmers, ‘captured’ in Far North Queensland and transported two thousand miles to the Riverland District of South Australia, where they were imprisoned for the duration of the war.

Currently I’m editing my third ‘first draft’. I hope to have it out before the end of this year.

What’s your writing schedule/habits?

When I’m writing, I aim for 5000 words per week. Why 5000? I read in Stephen King’s wonderful memoir/self-help book called ‘On Writing’ that he does 2000 words per day. As I write part-time, 1000 words per day is achievable. The most productive times for me are early mornings and early evenings. While I don’t call myself a fast writer, when on a roll I can bash out around 500 words in an hour.

How do you come up with new ideas that haven’t been written before?

Inspiration is a curious thing: it can come from absolutely anywhere.

The inspiration for ‘The Scarlet Key’ came from a shopping trip to Bunnings. In the coffee shop, I spotted a woman in her fifties with dozens of fresh tattoos. What would drive a woman her age to get inked all over?

What are your tips for aspiring writers in terms of character development?

Observe people around you. Listen to how they speak, watch what they do and how they react. Project yourself into the shoes of others. What conversations are going on inside your head? What senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste – are triggered? How would you feel in the same circumstances?

What are you working on now?

Apart from ‘The Enemy within these Shores’, I’m toying with a series of murder mysteries set in the famous cities of Europe. The investigator is a mature-aged woman who employs quirky techniques to track down the culprits.

Blog administrator, Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.




In Conversation with Author of Losing Kate – Kylie Kaden

by Carolyn Martinez

She’s hot, hot, hot on the charts, and best-selling international author Kylie Kaden is right on our doorstep. Brisbane based Kylie graduated university with Honours in a Psychology degree. Her debut book Losing Kate was a massive success. Multi-award winning author Helen Young called it a ‘stunning debut … a rich evocative read that kept me riveted right to the end’. Kylie is renowned for her cracking sense of humour and enthralling complex characters and relationships. Not only is this delightful author about to release her third book, she writes a regular column for My Child magazine where she vents (I mean writes) of the frazzled joys and pains of parenting three boys. Below she shares her insight on character development for aspiring authors, amongst other delightful tidbits including a possible upcoming domestic noir. I had a wonderful time interviewing this extraordinary woman. Since starting this blog I’ve been seriously impressed with the wealth of talent percolating in South East Queensland.

How many books have you written?
My first crack at a full-length novel happened by accident while on maternity leave with my third son. The product of my housework-avoidance/sanity saver was Losing Kate, which was published by Random House in 2014. Another suspense, Missing You followed a year later, and my current story The Day the Lies Began is about to be submitted. So, two books. Or three. Or even four, if you count the god-awful attempt written on on my brother’s Commodore 64 in grade eight😊.

How do you define success for an author? Are you successful?
I reckon anyone’s success in anything they set out to achieve can only be judged by themselves, and pitted against what they hoped to get out of it in the first place.

In my case, I wanted a creative outlet while housebound with a new baby (achieved). I then realised I had something that looked like a book, and wanted someone with cred to validate my need to feel like it was worth printing (achieved). I then wanted to keep feeling good at it, justify the time it takes by being paid, and do it again (achieved). Anything else I may have picked up on the way – nominations, translations, festival appearances, wonderful friendships, were unexpected delights. But in general, when I can write something, and have another person connect with the story in exactly the way I hoped, that is magic. That is success.

Am I a success? I’m sure some of the faces in the crowds, seeing me frolic about at festivals see me as successful, but I still feel like a newbie impersonating a ‘real’ author most of the time, and have so much more to learn about this amazing craft.

What happens if you stop doing the thing that made you successful. Are you still a success? Life is about joy. If you enjoy what you do, you achieve your own goals, you’re a Rockstar in my eyes.

How do you research your books?
Research? What’s that?

Other than the odd Google search for trivial facts like what song was big in 1993, I just write what I know. I’m too lazy and time poor to do much else. But I do have a few mates (a detective, a pathologist, a social worker) who help me keep my plot points believable.

Do you have a favourite/s from the books you’ve written? Just like your first child makes you a parent, my first book made me an author, so Losing Kate will always have a special place in my book-shelf (even though I’m sure my writing has improved in four years, and I would probably cringe if I re-read it now).

What’s your writing schedule/habits?
My inspiration is totally dependent on the school bell. I generally write in fits and starts, devoting myself monogamously to a story for a few months, then leave it to ferment.

Do you believe in writer’s block?
Creativity isn’t like working in accounting. It is a diva. If you can’t write, you just have nothing to say in that moment. So find something to say. Read. Walk. Observe. The world is full of beauty and bullshit in equal measures, you just have to tap into it. Even watching an old lady waiting for a bus might inspire a scene. Just get out there and take notice.

Do your fans influence future works?
Once you are published, you never quite go back to that blissful pre-debut anonymity where you write in a vacuum, without that invisible audience lurking in your living room, expecting, waiting. I love hearing from readers, but you can’t write to not offend Aunty Marjory, or the reader that didn’t like you swearing. You write what the story needs.

How do you come up with new ideas that haven’t been written before?

I start with a premise then fit characters around it who will maximise the conflict. I then work backwards, and invent lives that would have developed the cast you need for your story.

What are your tips for aspiring authors in terms of character development?

• Read your dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds authentic.
• If the characters don’t sound distinct, they are probably sounding like you.
• Gauge them against real people you’ve met. If the character is like your second wife, would she say/do that?
• Write the things people are afraid to say. Even nice people think bad thoughts sometimes. Flawed characters are more easily relatable.

What’s your background, how did you become a writer?
I studied psychology for six years, which I’m sure subconsciously informs my story telling and explains why my characters are all flawed. I worked in people-jobs in the public service for 15 years, had a few kids, then started to make things up…

What are you working on now?
Blogs like this for the lovely Carolyn!
Book three is currently being re-read by my agent (I haven’t had an agent before now, and I feel posh saying ‘agent’ so see how I slipped that in there?), so I am actually getting to the mountains of washing that I’ve ignored, a few articles I’ve been putting off…before I invite new imaginary friends into my life.

What does the future look like for Kylie Kaden?
Darker! My stories have always been about relationships under strain and focused on some heavy issues, despite having romantic elements. My current book The Day the Lies Began (working title) is more of a crime mystery/domestic noir so we’ll wait and see what direction I turn to next. Any ideas? I’m all out!

Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.




In Conversation with Modern Romance Writer, Maggie Christensen

By Carolyn Martinez

‘There’s no such thing as Writer’s Block when there’s a deadline looming’ – Maggie Christensen.

I’m part of a group called Brisbane Book Authors – it’s a non-profit social networking group for published authors. The authors I’ve met there have shared their experiences and skills generously with each other. Writing can be a lonely profession if you allow it. Successful authors I know, however, consider peer contact and ongoing learning experiences to be a vital part of a thriving career. Author Maggie Christensen is one of the inspiring Queensland authors I’ve met at the monthly get togethers. Her books are impossible to put down once you open one. She writes heartwarming stories of second chances with her lead characters being mature women facing life-changing situations. Maggie is the quintessential author – she lives in Noosa and uses beach walks to fuel her imagination.

Fans of Maggie’s love that her heroines are mature, real, raggedy around the edges, funny, quirky, narky. Her characters are soul food for readers who are sick of beautiful humans in their 20s who want to start families. Maggie’s characters are more sure of themselves, complex, interesting and facing different priorities and responsibilities. Their matching heroes are equally interesting; men worthy of them.

I loved my ‘cuppa’ with Maggie Christensen. Below she shares her story, her characters, and valuable tips for aspiring authors.

How many books have you written?

Seven. My first was published in 2014. Three are part of my Oregon Coast series, two are set in Sydney and one is set in Noosa and includes characters from the Oregon Coast books. My seventh book, to be published later this year, is set in my native Scotland and features a minor character from one of my Sydney books.

How do you define success for an author? Are you successful?

Initially I defined success by completing a book and seeing it in bookshops. Now I feel successful when strangers either write reviews, email me or tell me how much they enjoy my books and how much they have meant to them.

How do you research your books?

I set my books in locations with which I am familiar. My Oregon Coast series is set in Florence, a small town on the Oregon Coast to which my mother-in-law moved in her eighties, and which we visited frequently. My Australian books are set in Sydney and Noosa where I have lived. I do use the internet to research more detailed information about the locations, such as buildings, restaurants – and their menus.

For The Sand Dollar, I had to research the Indian tribes of the Florence region, for The Dreamcatcher, information about the Vietnam War, for Champagne for Breakfast, reporting mechanism for the CCC, for Madeline House, issues relating to domestic violence, for Broken Threads volunteering at Taronga Zoo, and for my current book, part of which is set in Glasgow during WW2, I had to research what the city was like then.

Do you have a favourite/s from the books you’ve written?

I love them all, but I think my latest is always my favourite. I fall a little bit in love with all of my heroes.

What’s your writing schedule/habits?

I try to get my main writing done in the morning – at least 1000 words. It doesn’t always happen, so I’ll get back to work in the late afternoon. I aim to write every day and always begin by reading over what I’ve written the previous day. I like to have the first draft of the next book written before I publish my current book.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Not really. I know that a lot of writers, myself included, can procrastinate. I like to set my daily goal and take breaks. When I find the ideas aren’t flowing as well as I’d like, I take a break, do some housework, read, take a drive or walk. I often get my best ideas when ironing, walking or driving – or falling asleep! But I do find it’s important to get my daily words down – I can always edit them later if they’re not any good.

I always remember hearing Di Morrissey answer this question by saying there was no such thing as writer’s block when there was a deadline to meet.

Do your fans influence future works?

When I published my first book, Band of Gold, I didn’t intend to write a sequel, but readers asked for one, so Broken Threads became the story of Jan, the sister of Anna (Band of Gold).

Also, I’ve often been asked why I didn’t set a book in Scotland so, in Broken Threads, I gave one of the minor characters an aged aunt in Scotland. At the beginning of my current work, The Good Sister, Bel returns to Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt.

How do you come up with new ideas that haven’t been written before?

I listen to what people say and often find ideas in things I hear about or read.

For example, Band of Gold begins with Anna’s husband placing his wedding ring on the kitchen table on Christmas morning and saying he doesn’t want to be married any more. I heard of that happening to someone and wondered what would happen next.

Champagne for Breakfast came about when my husband and I were walking along the Noosa River one Sunday morning and saw a woman sitting alone with an empty bottle of wine. It made me wonder what her story was and Rosa’s story came to life. It begins with her celebrating her 50th birthday drinking champagne alone by the Noosa River.

What are your tips for aspiring authors in terms of character development?

I can only tell them what I do. I immerse myself in my characters, step into their shoes and see the story through their eyes. I like to write about characters my readers come to know as they will meet them in other books. As I write, I have a clear picture of each character in my mind, although, unlike some authors, I don’t search for and pin up pictures of them.

I was thrilled when a reader told me she was in a café in Noosa and kept expecting the characters from Champagne for Breakfast to walk in – even though she knew they couldn’t

What’s your background, how did you become a writer?

In my mid-twenties I was lured from Scotland by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where I worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management.

I’d always been an avid reader and, while enjoying writing fiction in my youth, as my career progressed I became trapped in writing course materials, conference papers and reports. It was only when close to retirement that I began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations, mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.

What are you working on now?

I’m editing The Good Sister, my seventh book which is a dual narrative set in Scotland. It’s the story of two Isobels – aunt and niece. Bel Davison returns to Glasgow to visit her terminally ill Aunt Isobel. While there she reads her aunt’s account of pivotal events in her life beginning with the war years and ending in 1985 and discovers a link between her aunt’s life and her own.

What does the future look like for Maggie Christensen?

Very positive. My goal is to publish two books each year. I already have the ideas for my 2018 and 2019 books in mind and have started writing one of them. I also plan to improve my marketing. I envisage a long writing career ahead of me.

 

Carolyn Martinez is an authoreditor and author’s coach.