If you’re wondering why I’m interviewing myself, you obviously haven’t read my post from Tuesday (Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!). Read it first and then hopefully this won’t seem quite so self-indulgent.
How long have you been writing?
I don’t know where the time has gone but it’s been over twenty-five years now. I started, like all children, writing adorable yet cringe-worthy stories for my primary school English class, progressed to angsty poetry in high school and by Year 12, I was writing a novella. When I started university, I moved into writing romance. I was so sure that I was going to be the next queen of Australian romance fiction. But I found the confines of the genre very limiting. I didn’t want to write one thing, I wanted to write everything.
Who are your favourite writers?
Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, The West Wing, Studio 60, The Newsroom. The writing and premises in these television shows are consistently close to perfection. There are plenty of novelists I enjoy reading but if we’re talking about writer envy, Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin are the two I wish I could write like. They do witty dialogue and suckerpunch storylines better than anyone.
You’ve self-published all three of your books so far. Why?
I tried half-heartedly to get my first book into the hands of the “right” people but it all seemed too hard. And when I started looking into it, self-publishing seemed so easy. Especially for someone like me who is also a trained editor. Right up until the point that I need a book cover, I can do it all myself. And I know a great designer, so even that seemed pretty simple. I’m not great at marketing myself but I know so many writers who say that traditional publishers don’t help you out much in that respect anyway. And a senior person at a publishing company told me I’d be better off not having an agent. So who am I to argue?
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I did but I tried to suppress it because writing wasn’t and still isn’t considered a stable career option. But even when I was studying non-writing subjects and working non-writing jobs, I would go home and spend my evenings writing. Because I didn’t know how not to write. And then I got a job editing accounting textbooks and a job after that writing corporate tender responses. As much as I like to believe in free will, there has to be a little bit of fate in that.
Why do you love writing so much?
Sometimes it’s more of a love-hate relationship! But I don’t really know. It must be linked to how much I love reading but there are plenty of people who love reading and have no desire to write. I love creating something from nothing but, most of all, I love that I don’t need anyone’s permission to write. I can do as much of it as I like and nobody can tell me not to write. Well, I suppose they can tell me but I’m unlikely to listen to that sort of advice.
You’ve published two books about how to write novels. How did they come about?
I never had any intention of writing books about how to write novels. Back in 2014, I started a blog as a means of increasing my profile and as a place where I could house samples of my writing. It became evident pretty quickly that I would need to generate a lot of new material to stay fresh. So I started writing blog posts about writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading. There was no rhyme or reason, it was just my random thoughts and advice. I got so into it and wrote so much ahead of schedule that I realised I had enough to fill a book. And that’s how Project December came to be. There was literally one week between me realising I had enough to fill a book and me releasing the book. All I had to do was arrange the articles into chapters so that they flowed, do some short rewrites, copyedit it, get my designer to do the cover and it was done. I even wrote a chapter for Project January inspired by the process: how to write a book without even trying.
What about Project January?
It was a similar process but because I’d done Project December a year earlier, I knew another book was a possibility so it wasn’t writing a book without even trying. It was a bit more stressful especially because I set a date for when I wanted to release it and that date went whooshing by without me meeting it. I’ve since become a fan of simply letting the writing dictate the release date. I release when I’m ready. That’s another advantage of self-publishing. No publishers putting pressure on me for my next book.
When will your next book be out and what is it about?
I’m aiming for the end of 2017 or the start of 2018. I’m trying to work according to a schedule of one book a year but if it’s slightly longer, so be it. My next book is called Black Spot and it was shortlisted for the Text Prize for Unpublished Children’s and Young Adult Writing in 2016. It’s a young adult mystery about a teenager named Livia Black. She lost her memory in a car accident six years earlier that killed her mother. Ever since, she and her father have been living an isolated life on the family farm and that suits her because the accident left her with terrible scars. For some reason, some of her memories start coming back – not many, just a few – but they don’t match up with what her father has told her. She has to decide whether her former identity is important enough to her to pursue it, especially since the things she is recalling don’t paint a rosy picture of her life before the accident.
Why did you decide to write a young adult book?
A friend suggested it. She saw the explosion in popularity that young adult books were having, even crossing over into the mainstream like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent, and said I should give it a go. I think she thought it was a potential money-making endeavour but I looked at it more like an artistic challenge. I was in the middle of writing another book and it was proving hard work so I put it aside to see what came of going down the different route. I wrote the first draft of the book within six months. The pace with which I was able to write it excited me and the story I came up with excited me, too. So it ended up being a good suggestion.
Will you continue writing young adult books?
I said earlier that when I first started writing, I didn’t just want to write one thing. My first novel was an action adventure, my next novel will be a young adult mystery, the one after that will be literary crime and the one after that will be speculative dystopian fiction. I wish I was better at sticking to a genre because it would be kinder to my reading base and my ability to develop a reading base but I tend to go where the writing takes me. When I try to force myself into a mould or to write things that I’m not feeling, it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried writing the sequels to my first novel and to the young adult novel – I’ve written about a third of both actually – but I was only doing it because I felt compelled to and I ended up getting to a point where I was stuck. I just didn’t know what the story was, only that I had these characters who my readers felt should continue on in other books. I hope I’ll figure out their stories eventually but in the meantime, I’ll continue writing other books.
What advice do you have for others wanting to write?
Buy Project December and Project January and read them! It’s two whole books full of my writing advice and they contain a lot more than I could ever squeeze into an answer to an interview question. But my general advice on writing is to just do it. Very Nike, I know, but they were onto something. The people who bug me the most are those who talk about wanting to write but never actually do it. Why? There’s nothing stopping them. Just sit down and write. Then write some more. And continue writing. There’s no big secret to being a writer other than actually writing. Whether you’re any good or not, that’s a separate issue entirely. If you take pleasure in writing, then you take pleasure in writing regardless of whether or not you end up published and feted.