- Tell us, in a nutshell, how you got your start in the industry. I was working as Editorial Coordinator at The Sun-Herald and mentioned to one of my colleagues that I was writing a book. She passed it on to her agent who really liked it. The book got picked up by ABC Books. My latest novel, Unwanted, has just been published by Penguin Books.
- What were some of the difficulties you encountered when trying to establish yourself as a writer? Did you rely on any tools, mentors, groups or writers centres/courses for help? I’d been writing fiction since I was a child, but when my mother died I went through a stage where I simply couldn’t write. I was 22 years old and she’d been the one to encourage my writing most. Finding my voice again was a matter of willpower – I went overseas, I explored new things, I constantly compiled notes and ideas for novels.
To strengthen my skills and renew my confidence, I enrolled in a creative writing course at UTS and attended seminars at the NSW Writer’s Centre. I also started writing travel pieces for The Sun-Herald. The strict word counts and deadlines forced me to be very disciplined. I had to juggle the writing around other tasks and constant distractions. Once I knew I could do that, I realised I could write anything, anywhere.
- What has been your biggest career highlight so far? And the biggest lesson you have learnt? The biggest highlight for me was when my first book, The King’s Fool, made the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards. As a newly published author I was thrilled. It was included with some terrific books by authors I admire.Biggest lesson? Not to take criticism too seriously: everyone has his or her own perspective and some criticism can come from an ugly place. Learn to differentiate the negative criticism from the constructive kind – that which can help you improve your skills.
- What gets you inspired? Oh, so many things: people and how they relate, new advances in science and technology, history, current affairs. The things that inspire me sometimes turn into themes in the writing. Everywhere I look I see a new idea.
- What’s next on your goals list? I’m currently working on a follow up book to Unwanted for Penguin. After that I have a whole swag of book ideas.
- What’s your typical day like? I’m usually up around 6.00am, but writing doesn’t start straightaway. As I like to write in uninterrupted blocks, I tie up as much of my other work as possible then I head for the gym. Exercise puts me in the perfect frame of mind for writing. I usually spend some time on the treadmill going over my book in my head, often reaching for my smart phone to type in notes. When I’m back home I settle down at my desk and get stuck in. I never wait for the mood to hit – I aim to get the story down, as I know it will change in the second draft. I actually love the revisions phase, as that’s when I really get to craft the story and perfect the characters. Unwanted has quite a complex plot so I revised it over and over until everything clicked. Time is precious so I always aim to be as productive as possible. I stay at my desk for as long as I can – at least five hours on a typical day. I break again in the late afternoon to run errands or make dinner. If I’m on a roll I return to my desk after the table has been cleared. Most times though, as night rolls on, I like to settle down with my family and find out about their day.
- What advice can you offer to those who aspire for a similar role? Persevere. It’s great to have talent, but it won’t take you very far without perseverance. Strive to improve your skills constantly. Don’t listen to the naysayers – they’re everywhere and they’re boring. Have faith in yourself and your writing.
The Speedy Six:
- Describe yourself in one word: Passionate.
- You wish you wrote: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, but if I’d written it I wouldn’t have had the joy of reading it.
- Can’t leave home without: A pen and notebook.
- First thing you wrote: Supercat, at age five. It was a comic and I wrote a whole series.
- If you were a character in a novel, you’d be: Holly Short (I wish!) of the LEPrecon unit from Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books. She’s funny, smart and knows how to kick ass!
- The best thing about being a wordsmith: Building worlds out of words.