Sara and I met a couple of years ago when she enrolled in my Intro to Chick-lit course at The Australian Writers’ Centre and we have been friends ever since. I love Sara’s easy, humorous writing style and was thrilled when her novel, Love By Numbers was picked up and published by Harper Collins.
As my blog goes online, Sara’s novel is on What’s Hot in Romance on iBooks and is on Best Reads of the Month in Kobo.
Sara, congratulations on your debut success!
First up, why do you write?
Sara: Years ago a US screenwriting mentor told me (after rejecting my tenth romantic comedy logline), that the reason I write is the reason all writers write – ‘because you’re a beta,’ he said. ‘You weren’t the Prom Queen in high school and you’re still pissed off about it, so you write stories about beta people coming out on top.’
Fortunately we were on the phone so he couldn’t see the look on my face.
Sara: Amused dismay. He really went on and on about it.
‘No female protagonists either if you’re trying to break into the movie business,’ he also said, instantly killing everything I found interesting to write about. His best advice was to write horror or a thriller.
Unbelievably, I persevered for a few weeks, but then stopped because I discovered the real reason I write – I write because I’m fascinated by a topic and have something to say about it. As it turned out, I had nothing to say that interested me about sci-fi monsters. Not one thing.
Agree. If I had to write about sci-fi monsters, my stories would be a couple of sentences. Tops.
So, what happened next?
Sara: I gave up trying to write for a few years after that experience, until I fortunately found my way to the warm, creative cocoon in Milson’s Point that is Lisa’s How to Write a Chick Lit Novel course. With your help, I discovered the right medium (novels, not screenplays), the right genre (chick lit for sure), as well as absolutely the right teacher.
Oh, shucks. (I promise Sara is not getting paid for this blog!)
Sara: Despite how intense my desire was to write, if there’d been no Lisa, there’d be no book! And if there’d been no book, I would have really missed out on one of the most personally fulfilling experiences out there – as well as the wonderful experience of getting to know you!
I knew that writing would be rewarding, but it was far more enlightening than I was expecting.
Every character I wrote had some aspect of me or was some opposite of me. Writing a novel turned out to be a self-discovery experience like no other.
So why not keep a journal then, if writing is about self-discovery?
Sara: I’ve really wondered about why we need to share our stories so much, (especially after reading the first scathing review of my book), but I think it’s because most writers want their books to not just entertain, but also help someone. Creating and sharing stories is in our DNA, as critical to helping us interpret life now as it was when we lived in tribes.
What inspired you to write Love By Numbers?
Sara: My fascination with the psychology of why we love who we do and the science of the “brain in love” inspired me to write my book. It’s about a borderline obsessive heroine who uses neuroscience and psychology to try and change her hard wiring so she can choose who she gets attracted to.
You also wanted to explore the issue of sexual polarity, didn’t you?
Sara: Yes. Being a woman with a lot of drive and energy when I was growing up, it was really confusing to be attracted to men just because they out-masculinised me.
A lot of these men were dominating, resilient, non-emotional types and many of them I judged pretty harshly, which is another idea I wanted to explore in the book. In my experience, some guys like that are players and other guys like that aren’t at all. I often put them into the same bucket I wanted to write a story that was compassionate to the alpha guy that loves women, as well as to the beta guy – of course, being a beta female myself…..
Sara, thanks for stopping by. Congratulations again. I loved Love By Numbers and can’t wait to read your second novel.
You can buy Sara’s book here:
And visit Sara’s website at www.saradonovan.com
First up, I feel I’m here under false pretenses because she wrote I was a ‘fabulous author who blogs’.
Hmm. Allison should have added ‘<em>sporadically, haphazardly, rarely…’ You get the picture. BUT because I have been handed this opportunity to show my naked, vulnerable side, I’ll give it my bestest shot.
Why do I write?
The simple answer is because writing keeps the demons at bay.
That sounds a bit dramatic, but truly, I’m a hell of a lot less wound up when I am writing. Don’t get me wrong. I find writing incredibly difficult sometimes. There are days, weeks and months when I feel that every word I write is banal crap. There are times when I want to give up completely but I don’t because I know if I didn’t write, I’d probably go insane.
Then there are days when my writing flows…even if it’s only in my mind. These days are joyful. More than anything, I feel relieved.
Writing is my escape, my outlet, my sanity. Plus, I choose to believe my imaginary friends really like me…
What am I working on?
Right now, I am 70,000 words into a first draft…I like it but have stalled not knowing what conflict, disaster and humiliation to heap next upon my hapless characters.
In addition, I have a manuscript, tentatively called Starting Over, with Allen & Unwin undergoing a copy edit.
And another one, Sabrina’s Second Shot which is at the proofreading stage.
These two titles have been a long time coming!
How does my writing differ to others of its genre?
Goodness…because mine’s funnier, more poignant?
I don’t know. I guess I’d have to say my writing differs from others in my genre because of my voice. Every writing voice is unique. There’s only one of me and my voice will either resonate with you or it won’t. I can only be me. My writing is me. Different facets of me.
How does my writing process work?
Ah, well in the world of writing there are plotters and there are pantsers.
Plotters plan their story and have a fair idea where their characters are heading. They most certainly know how their story ends.
I am a pantser and as the title implies ‘I fly by the seat of my pants’. Basically, I have no idea where my story is going, or even what my characters are going to do in the next scene.
It makes for a lot of wasting time and hence probably why my current manuscript is only three quarters done.
But I can’t do it any other way. I have tried plotting but am too impatient. I get bored. If I already know how the story ends, I feel like I’m done and lose interest.
So, my writing process? I start with a vague idea or a first sentence and take it from there. I write, procrastinate, have a cup of tea, write, check Facebook, twitter and email, write, nap, procrastinate, eat, phone friends, complain that I’m not writing enough, procrastinate…
And there you have it. Now, I’m handing it over to four awesome writers who also blog:
Kate Gordon: http://www.kategordon.com.au/blog
Rebecca James: http://rebeccajameslollygag.blogspot.com.au/
Nicola Moriarty: http://nicolamoriarty.com.au/
Benison O’Reilly: http://www.benisonanneoreilly.com/blog
I am very excited to have the fabulously talented and funny James Worner visiting my blog this week.
I first met James at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival two years ago and even before a couple of wines, we were firm friends.
Since then, James has joined our (super selective) writers’ group. It was the best decision the other members and I made. Not only is it great having a bloke in attendance, he brings with him extensive experience, insight, wisdom and fun. Don’t ever leave us, James!
James is a contributor to Sight Lines, the newly published UTS writers’ anthology. Congrats, James!
James: Today is a big day for me in my life as a secret writer. And because of Lisa’s invitation to drop in on her blog this month (Thanks, Lise ?), for better or worse, it’s one you guys, her readers, are invited to share.
Secret no more
This blog post contains the last words this writer will ever tap out on his keyboard as an ‘unpublished writer’.
Forget for the moment the tweets, posts, updates, emails, letters, reports and other work-related public writing done on any given day. There are increasing numbers of platforms and ways in which we are all ‘published’—blogs like this one, for example. I’m talking about Old School—on paper, in print, out there.
By the time you’re reading this (June 2014), a copy of the anthology in which I have had my first short story selected for inclusion will have returned from the printer and be sitting on the desk in front of me.
Or perhaps it will be sitting in the little shrine I’ve been mentally preparing for its arrival for, let’s just say, the past 40 years. Or maybe it will be buried at the back of the bookshelf where I’ll never have to deal with the shame or provocation.
I’m not yet sure. It’s all getting a bit weird.
Congratulations! I am so so thrilled for you, super star!
James: Thanks, I’m really excited. Ridiculously so. But, wherever that copy ends up, one other thing is also certain: no longer will I be able to call myself an ‘unpublished’ writer. My secret writing self will have been outed to the world and a writing adolescence in which I’ve never been really accountable for the words I’ve written will have come to an end.
And this has got me thinking…
What changes? Does anything change once our words are made permanent and are out there to be read, with our names attached?
Anything? Everything? Nothing?
I can’t believe it’s nothing. If so much introspection and angst can come from the publication of one short story, I wonder what those of you with novels and multiple novels under your belts experience at the prospect of seeing your work in print. I’d love to know.
A bit of introspection is a healthy thing.
I get that there’s a difference between ‘writing’ and ‘publishing’; one is not the other. There are many reasons I love to write and in the future, no doubt, there will be many more.
But something has definitely changed.
Perhaps the real question to be asked— beyond Is it good enough? and Will they like it?’—is Why do I do this? People engaged in the world around them are continually brokering that deal with their inner critic. I should be doing the same.
So, why do we write?
James: The shift for me started three or four years ago. Things expanded. Became less absolute but more urgent. It happened so incrementally I barely even noticed. No longer was writing something soft and quiet I would do to relax or escape from the world; it became something that is also often loud and feisty, something I do to be heard in the world.
There’s something satisfying about the latter, feistier exchange, where risks are run and the secret self performs guerrilla manoeuvres to ‘put it all out there’.
As my writerly adolescence comes to an end, I am realising more and more that much of what I write, I do want to be read. I do think I have something to say. And even if it remains on some dusty shelf of the uni library or some distant digital corner of cyberspace, my 2500 word short story is going to be out there with my name on top of it, waiting for some unsuspecting future reader to find and engage with.
A point of view I’ve put to the world is out there to be contemplated. And that makes me feel bloody good!
I am so, so happy for you, James, and even though you are elusive, I have managed to find a pic of you! Thanks Annarosa!
Check out the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/utswritersanthology
The UTS website is: http://newsroom.uts.edu.au/events/2014/05/sydney-writers-festival-launch-2014-uts-writers-anthology-sight-lines
And you can buy Sight Lines from a number of book stores but also online at: http://www.bookdepository.com/Sight-Lines/9781922057822
So excited to have one of my favourite gals chatting to me this week – and about a genre I love – and want to write! Young Adult!
F: Hi Lisa, thanks for having me over so I can talk about my new adventure into another genre.
Great having you here, Fee. What’s happening?
F: At the moment I write rural fiction set in my local area in Western Australia. This genre has become quite big and is still steaming along which is wonderful. It’s a big passion of mine, especially as I live in a remote farming community.
But I also love reading Young Adult and New Adult fiction. (Not to mention all the TV series and movies of the same brush.)
So do I!
F: I think it appeals to my inner 17 year old, or maybe it’s because it’s fast paced and I’m not having to sludge through lots of description and setting. We get right into the action and I love fast witty dialogue. They are usually quick reads, full of high emotions and first loves. (Ahh everything seems so important at that time in your life.)
So I guess it was a natural progression for me to turn my craft towards this genre too.
Sounds like you had a lot of fun writing your first book, The Recruit? I love the jacket cover, by the way.
F: Thanks. I absolutely loved writing about Jaz and her friends. It’s a first for me, writing a series. I am currently writing the third book in the MTG Agencies series. (Readers will find out what MTG stands for once they’ve read the first book!)
It might go to a fourth book yet, I probably won’t know until I finish the third one and see what is happening.
An outstanding achievement. And the second book in the series?
F: It’s called The Mission and will likely be out at the end of the year.
Congrats! You are prolific! Apart from reaching a younger audience, how does this genre differ to your rural novels?
F: The Recruit is very different to my rural work because it is set in the city of Perth, around the Mosman Park area and Cottesloe. It involves fight scenes, secret missions and guns. Although there are some similarities between my two genre’s, and that is a strong leading lady and romance.
Congratulations again, Fee. The Recruit sounds like a fab read.
F: I hope so. As with all my books I aim to entertain with a quick escape into another world. I hope my readers will try both genre’s as I’m passionate about them in equal measures.
Finally, who are some of your favourite YA authors?
F: Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, Katie McGarry’s books, and I enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth. There’s also Abbi Glines, to name a few.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Fee.
Okay, well here’s the blurb for The Recruit:
From one of Australia’s Queens of Romance comes the debut in a brand new YA series about secrets, strengths, and what lies beneath the surface.
Jasmine Thomas may not be completely normal, but she’s a pretty typical seventeen-year-old girl. She hates the rich mean kids, loves her best friends, and can’t wait to get out of school each day. Her spare time is spent at The Ring — a boxing gym where she practically grew up — learning karate, boxing and street fighting. So, yeah, Jaz can kick some major butt.
Life seems pretty normal until the day Ryan Fletcher enters her gym…mysterious and hot with heaps of bad boy charm. Sure, she checks him out. Who wouldn’t? But what doesn’t show on his gorgeous abs are secrets and lies that dominate his very grown-up world. Now Jaz has to figure out just how far she is willing to go to know more. Could Ryan really be offering the life-fulfilling life path she’s always dreamed of?
The first in the MTG Agencies series.
You can download The Recruit HERE!
You can visit Fiona’s website at fionapalmer.com
And follow her on twitter @fiona_palmer
I am thrilled to have reviewer, Paula Phillips guest blogging this week about author etiquette when approaching book reviewers.
I first met Paula (via email and online) in 2009, when she reviewed my first novel, Lucy Springer Gets Even and we have been buddies every since. Paula is a great champ in promoting New Zealand and Australian authors and I admire her honesty, integrity and enthusiasm when it comes to doing what she does best – reviewing and promoting books!
Paula, tell me a bit about what it’s like being a reviewer.
Being a book reviewer, like an author is not an easy task and in more ways than one, I can imagine that it’s probably more difficult being on the reviewing side of the book world as reviewers are the ones who can do the most promotion for your book.
They are the ones who can plaster their reviews all over the bookseller’s websites, bomb the waves of social media with the links to their reviews as most reviewers subscribe to all means of social networking.
The Phantom Paragrapher belongs to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and BlogLovin. It also publishes its reviews on its site www.thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com , Amazon, Goodreads and if you happen to be writing a Chicklit Novel or New Adult – then the review also gets the chance to star on the site www.chicklitclub.com.
This post is a quick do’s and don’ts, the ins and outs of what I call Author Etiquette when approaching a book reviewer in five easy steps.
1) Please read the review policy on the blog before submitting a review query – this is the biggest one that authors need to do, especially first-timers as a lot of blogs only review specific genres, age-groups etc. If you are unsure then take a looksie through the site and check out what books they have reviewed in the past.
For The Phantom Paragrapher – I review based on what I think I will enjoy – so I always ask for a synopsis to be sent so I can make my decision from that.
2) Do not rush the reviewer: Book reviewers have lives too and we do not get paid to review books. We do this because we love reading and want to share our love and passion of books to the world of readers. If you imagine the amount of review requests, reviewers get and then think that your average book size is 300 pages. That’s a lot of books and more often than not, reviewers have day jobs and other commitments.
On The Phantom Paragrapher, I try and read as fast as I can – I have read 75+ books so far for 2014. But it’s just me and I also work 40 hours a week and studying a Diploma in Child and Adolescent Psychology and have a weekly quiz night on a Tuesday and of course friends and family to see and spend time with.
(That’s a lot of books!)
3) Do befriend the reviewer: One of my pet hates is when authors send you Facebook friend requests, Twitter friend requests or even Goodreads requests. You accept and the first thing out of their mouth is Can you review my book?
It makes the reviewer feel used and worthless. I believe in getting to know the author and striking up an acquaintance etc before reviewing their books. Authors you don’t have to talk to them all the time but make time to get to know your reviewer as they are people too and we love to hear from authors. In saying this though, most reviewers are huge bookworms so we will probably have read your books before getting to know you but it’s polite and a courtesy to show we are appreciated.
4) Do not abuse the reviewer: This is one of the biggest things that I’ve come across in the publishing world at the moment; it’s huge and happens more often than not. Remember book reviewers have the power of the written word in their hands and their reviews can reach so many different people. When this happens, it makes the reviewer question what they are doing. It makes the reviewer take a step back and think –can I handle this abuse? Is it worth it all in the long run?
Does this really happen?
Absolutely. As a book reviewer, I have been sent emails, Facebook messages and wall posts of abuse from people who think that their book should be reviewed straight away. This is not the way to go about it. Also it is a review which is just another’s person’s view. Remember the old saying one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That’s what a review is simply, everyone has their own opinion. But remember reviewers have the power to get you blacklisted or sky-rocketed sales – so it pays to be nice and keep the abuse inside.
Yes. I agree. What would your final piece of advice be?
5) Last but not least, compliment the reviewer or like their review – Reviewers like anyone else, like to be acknowledged now and again. So just as a courtesy as an author if you come across an awesome review of your book – feel free to like the review, comment on it, send a quick thanks email or share the review. It makes the book reviewers of the world feel appreciated and we feel awesome about what we are doing.
Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by, Paula. Love the pic of you in the newspaper print jacket! I want one.
You can find out more about Paula, her blog and the books she reviews by checking out these links.
The Phantom Paragrapher FB Page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Phantom-Paragrapher/196830633685451
Twitter : https://twitter.com/beau_angelnz
Goodreads Profile : https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1969584-paula-phillips
This week, I have the vivacious Dr Anita Heiss as my guest blogger.
As regular tweeters and FB friends will know, Anita is a very close tidda of mine. Not only is she outrageously funny, gorgeous and does great bling, she is also multi-talented.
Her latest novel, Tiddas, is about five Brisbane based long time girlfriends, Issy, Xanthe, Veronica, Nadine and Ellen – all believable witty characters who are dealing with everyday life problems that many women face, career anxiety, relationship angst and friendship dramas. It is a smart, entertaining read and I loved it
Anita has said she writes because she wants to change the way the world views Indigenous Australians. It may be fun to do at times but it’s deadly serious work. In Tiddas, as in all of Anita’s books, she puts Aboriginal women, their arts and culture and politics into the commercial fiction arena.
I put these five questions to her.
1. What/who was the inspiration for your new novel, Tiddas?
The amazing women friends in my life form the basic inspiration for Tiddas. http://www.anitaheiss.com/tiddas.html The work is really about paying homage to those who have been there through thick and thin for many years, and still love me.
I was also inspired by Brisbane – I have adopted myself to the city – and the sense of peace I have always found there. My circle of women friends in Brisbane in particular provide a support base beyond the phone and social media – and we catch up in person more than my friends back in my home city. I think that’s what sets those friendships aside from my life in Sydney, where I can speak to friends every day but see them only every other month, sometimes years, because logistically it just seems to be more difficult.
Brisbane as a setting is also a character in the novel, with the river and jacaranda trees featuring heavily – hence the cover of the book.
2. Tiddas is a story about what it means to be a friend and examines the strength and challenges of life-long friendships. The five women are often brutally honest when talking/arguing with each other. What does being a friend mean to you?
Yes the characters in Tiddas are (at times) brutally honest and that’s because they love each other and understand that truth is essential to the longevity of their relationships. To me, honesty is part of the overall role of communication in any relationship, and is an important part of true friendship. I also think that unconditional support, even if we don’t agree with something our tidda chooses to do with their life, is at the core of being a real friend.
3. In the novel, the friends belong to a book club, the Vixens. Was it difficult choosing which books to include? Can you give me an example of a couple of the books and why you chose them?
Choosing the books the Vixens would discuss was actually quite easy for me. They are all works I have read and either loved or I’ve felt they are important Australian works that needed to be read more widely. The novels range from old titles like Terri Janke’s Butterfly Song (2005) to Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby (2013), which took out the QLD Book of the Year. Both give insights into contemporary Indigenous women’s lives and concepts of place. It was important for me to include Nicole Watson’s The Boundary as it is set in West End and talks about the history of the invisible boundary that Aboriginal people couldn’t cross to go into the city. Everyone in South Brisbane at the very least should know this history.
I also included non-Indigenous women’s titles like The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper because I wanted to have some references and discussion in my own novel around the sad reality of Black deaths in custody and in particular the history of Palm Island.
4. Reading Tiddas, I enjoyed learning more about Aboriginal culture. I especially liked reading about Mudgee in central NSW, about Ellen’s job as a funeral celebrant, and about the light hearted rivalry between Queenslanders and those born in New South Wales. Being a Brisbane girl, I also loved the Brisbane setting. It felt genuinely authentic to me.
You obviously do a lot of research for all of your books. What aspect of the research did you enjoy most when writing Tiddas?
I’m really glad you enjoyed all those aspects of the novel Lisa, because as you know you can’t control the way people read once you put your work out into the public domain.
To answer your question, I am a method writer and immerse myself completely in the character’s headspace and physical space where I can. So for me, research is the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of any writing project. I spend months reading about places, walking the areas I write about, talking to locals and visiting recommended places; restaurants, cafes and cultural venues.
I lived in Veronica’s house in The Gap for a week. I spent ten days living in Kangaroo Point and walking (and trying to run) the course along the river that Ellen did. I spend a long time in West End in the flat Izzy lives in and caught that city cat to Southbank many, many times.
I went out to Mudgee and did the tourist sites and the sacred sites. I stayed in the hotel Veronica stayed in and I sat in the club where Aunty Molly’s wake was held. I wrote down everything I could see, hear, smell, touch and taste because I wanted the experience to be authentic for the reader. In that way, I experience the story as it unfolds. And that’s what I love most.
To be specific, I guess I’d have to say checking out all the great bars and restaurants in Brisbane was my favourite part of research. And who could blame me, really?
5. Your books have been called Koori-Lit. As well as being an entertaining and thoughtful read about friendship, relationships and real life, how important is it to you that readers take away something about Aboriginal culture and history?
The whole point of my books is to make a change in the literary landscape, especially for readers. I want them to go away having felt something for the characters of course, but I also want them to have a greater awareness of a group of women in society they may never have thought about before.
Obviously in Tiddas the Wiradjuri women are like their non-Aboriginal friends in terms of careers, desire for companionship and their shared love of books. But Xanthe, Ellen and Izzy are also conscious of their community responsibilities, they have accountability as professionals representing their mob, and they feel the personal pain of government policies of child removal in the past. Most Aboriginal women I know are like these characters, and I want other Australian women to understand that.
I also want to showcase the endless talent in our community in terms of arts and culture and so always weave into the storylines theatre, music and visual arts, hoping that readers might also read beyond my novels and search out more information themselves. In fact, I know they do. I have had journos tell me they googled musicians for instance that they first read about in my novel (Manhattan Dreaming) http://www.booktopia.com.au/manhattan-dreaming-anita-heiss/prod9781864711288.html
Thanks for sharing, Anita!
Most importantly, you can buy Tiddas from:
Bookworld (free shipping in Australia)
Booktopia (autographed copies available)
Readings – Melbourne (free shipping in Australia)
Gleebooks – Glebe, Sydney
Avid Reader – Brisbane
Pages and Pages – Mosman, Sydney
Better Read Than Dead – Newtown, Sydney
QBD nationally (free shipping)
It’s also stocked in Dymocks, BigW, Kmart and Target.
This week, I’m delighted to welcome Sherryl Caulfield to my blog.
Sherryl has just published Seldom Come By, her first book in The Iceberg Trilogy.
I have taken precious time away from Seldom Come By to post this. (According to my Kindle, I am 32% of the way through.) And I’m loving it – the story, the characters, the language, the romance and the setting…
I’m being swept away by this historical romance between Rebecca and Samuel and can’t wait to read what happens next, especially knowing there will be another TWO books!
Congratulations, Sherryl. What was the inspiration behind The Iceberg Trilogy?
SC: There were many elements: a holiday to Canada, a girlfriend from Newfoundland, my leaning towards epic adventurous love stories, particularly those about compelling young love and, would you believe, the Titanic.
In 1998 the world was abuzz with with the epic romantic disaster film, Titanic. Even to this day it is the second highest grossing movie of all time behind Avatar.
The pairing of Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson, yelling, ‘I’m the king of the world,’ dancing an Irish jig in steerage class, and steaming up the Renault Coupe de Ville, was simply mesmerising. Who noticed that it was 3 hours and 14 minutes long? Certainly not I.
My sister was so enamoured with Rose’s red locks that she died her own hair copper. After holidaying with her for four days, my colour-blind father said to her: ‘Your hair has been wet ever since we got here – what’s going on?’
And our mother, whom we thought would love this film, wasn’t having a bar of it. She’d seen the 1953 version when she was 13 years old, never cried so much in her whole life, apparently. It was not something she wanted to do twice.
Unlike me. I like a good cry. I’m a bit like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. There’s something quite cathartic about letting the tears flow.
I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard the story of the Titanic, but I do remember how fascinated I was by the fact that a pure, pristine iceberg moving so slowly could wreak such damage. And from that day forth, icebergs for me were both mysterious and a marvel.
There is the the barest glimpse of them in those sombre icefloe-laden waters of of the Titanic, but how majestic they are in their glittering white grandeur, each one a unique creation calved from the glacial north.
Even before the Titanic people called icebergs a curse, many still do today. However for me, and my young heroine, Rebecca, in my new novel, Seldom Come By – Book 1 of The Iceberg Trilogy – they represent something magical; a sign of lightness in darkness, a sign of hope and endless possibilities.
Tell us more about Rebecca and Samuel.
SC: For Rebecca, a soon-to-be fifteen-year-old who lives on a remote Newfoundland Island overlooking Iceberg Alley, icebergs are the most exciting spectacle in the months of monotony and mediocrity that mark her year. If it weren’t for icebergs Rebecca doesn’t know what she would have to look forward to. Just the thought of climbing on board one of those frozen forms and seeing where it might take her is magnetic.
And then one spring, this young woman who lives and breathes longing, is looking out to sea, yearning for an iceberg, multiple icebergs, when she discovers a shipwrecked sailor and her world is never the same again.
Nineteen year old Samuel, near death, with his blonde straggly hair and his out-of-this-world Samuel smile and his far-flung experiences and talk of nude sculptures and the teal waters of the Carribean, is like no one Rebecca has ever imagined, let alone met.
One look at her sister Rachel, and Rebecca knows they both are in the same boat; Samuel’s boat. The summer Samuel stays with them, recovering from his misadventure at sea, ignoring requests from his brother to come home, is the most exciting summer of Rebecca’s life.
And then one day she casually asks him, ‘Have you ever been up close to an iceberg?’
‘No,’ he tells her, ‘but you know it would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?’
‘Yes,’ she sighs, in a way that is more an inhalation than an exhalation.
I’m loving reading Seldom Come By. I actually feel like I’m there with Rebecca and Samuel. (Not in a perverted way, of course!)
What was the inspiration for the name?
SC: Seldom Come By, is named after an actual place in Newfoundland, however it’s more than that, it’s about a chance happening: Rebecca finding Samuel adrift if the vast Atlantic; it’s about the two of them finding the love of their life on the edge of the world really; and it’s about events that rarely happen but do.
Thanks, Sherryl! Seldom Come By is out now.
Where can readers buy it?
SC: At Amazon, iTunes and loads of other sites. For the full list, come over to my website and meet Samuel and Rebecca and the iceberg that started it all at www.theicebergtrilogy.com.
Oh, did I mention, it’s set in 1914. Don’t let that stop you.
Here’s what Amazon reviewers said:
“I must admit this isn’t my usual genre for books, but……OMG what a read!! I often judge a book or film by how it affects me after the experience, by how much it moves me and captures my thoughts and emotions. This book did just that. It made me reflect a lot on my own experiences with loneliness, loss, grief, but also hope, love, celebration and appreciation.”
“I really enjoyed this beautiful story – once I got into it I couldn’t put it down! heart-wrenching, epic, inspiring! Truly wonderful characters.”
“This is a book for the reader who revels in love stories and enjoys being totally involved in the story and its characters as well as a good romance.”
I am excited to have Children’s author, Aleesah Darlison, guesting at my blog this week.
I first met Aleesah when I spoke at Manly Library several years ago and more recently, when we both spoke at the Gloucester Writers’ Festival. (http://www.gloucesterwritersfestival.com)
Aleesah’s latest book is Ash Rover, Keeper of the Phoenix, which I have just finished reading. It combines fantasy, adventure, and humour along with a rollicking good story complete with wizards and mythical creatures. Sure, I’m not the target audience (8 years +), but I loved it!
In one word, Aleesah is AMAZING!
With TWENTY books published in three and half years and about to have her fourth child, I asked Aleesah how she does it all and still manages to presumably eat and sleep!
Over to Aleesah!
In the immortal words of John Denver, I consider that in life, some days are diamonds, some days are stone.
Some credentials first, if you’ll allow me please … I’m a children’s author with twenty books published in the last three and a half years. And yes, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. A fun one. Most of the time.
Besides being an author extraordinaire, I’m the mother of three young children (hold onto your hats) soon to be four.
I’m also Vice-President of the Northern Sydney Sub-Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) and Director of the 2014 NSW Writers’ Centre Kids & Young Adults Festival, two roles I absolutely relish.
Wow! That’s a lot to take on!
Yes. It’s a lot to try to juggle and coordinate.
On good days – the diamond days – I have loads of energy. I feel like I’m flying because I’m achieving so much and my writing is going well. I’m satisfied and happy that I’m moving ever-forward. The endorphins are doing their job!
Then there are the other times. Those days of stone when I feel like I’m getting nowhere, when I’m exhausted from pushing myself too hard or when I receive (another) manuscript rejection. Some days there are simply too many balls in the air to juggle and as I come crashing to the ground I realise I’m not Superwoman.
Needless to say, I don’t like those stony kind of days. Who would? The only way to fix them is to have a lie down or a cuddle and a laugh with the kids or a Crunchie chocolate bar. Or all three.
Do you think you take on too much?
Sometimes, I think yes but at other times, I know I’m doing what comes naturally. I don’t like being busy and challenged. I thrive on it.
People often say to me “I don’t know how you manage it all.” Well, I have a little secret to tell: neither do I.
What’s your secret?
I don’t have one. I don’t analyse what makes me like this … and I’m not the only person like me, there are many of us out there juggling loads of things every day. Every multi-tasking woman, mother and housewife knows what I mean. Not just authors.
At the end of the day, I simply try to make the most of every minute I have at my desk because being an author and all that it entails is pure joy to me. It’s not like work at all. I always try my best and keep in mind that I should never give up, that fresh opportunities are forever around the corner. It doesn’t mean that the disappointments won’t be there also, but hopefully the wins will outweigh the losses.
What do you think are the key characteristics that busy or successful authors need to possess?
Ability to work independently
Ability to work in a team
A Super Thick Skin
Excellent Time Management Skills
Did I mention Insomnia? The less you sleep, the more time you have to write!
I love this list, Aleesah. All of those characteristics are vital…the determination, passion, focus and especially, the super thick skin!
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but if you have some of these characteristics, then you’re on your way to becoming a juggle-all-balls author. But a warning – even juggling authors need to take days off. So I do. And so should you.
Here’s wishing you all many diamond days to come.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Aleesah – and I love the super cute pic of you, the kids and your adorable pups!
Aleesah Darlison writes picture books and novels for boys and girls of all ages. Her story themes include humour, courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, friendship and teamwork. Aleesah reviews books for the Sun Herald and is also Director of the 2014 NSW Writers’ Centre Kids & Young Adult Festival. When Aleesah’s not writing entertaining and inspiring stories for children, she’s usually looking after her children and her frisky fox terrier, Floyd.
I met Geena when she attended my ‘How to Write a Chick-Lit Novel’ at the Australian Writers’ Centre in Sydney, 2012.
Little did I know, Geena was writing her memoir, Call Me Sasha, which has just been published by Allen & Unwin.
Call Me Sasha is a compelling, honest and often heartbreaking read about Geena’s journey from sexual abuse through to prostitution and eventual salvation, as she recounts the highs and lows of her amazing years in the sex industry.
Geena, why did you write Call Me Sasha?
The reason I wrote Call Me Sasha is because I have overcome many challenges in life and thought that others would read it and say to themselves; “If she got through that – then I can get through this!” What I’ve also found is that readers who have had a privileged (or perhaps a normal) upbringing are reading it and feeling a great sense of appreciation for their own lives. One lady sent me a message saying; ‘I’m going to ring my parents right now and thank them for the amazing job they did raising me and for the opportunities they presented me with’. Parts of the book are resonating with different people. I wrote it primarily for women in mind; however men are responding extremely positively to it too.
How long did it take you to write and where did you go from there?
It took me seven months to write. What I didn’t foresee, is that I fell into a deep depression once the first draft was completed (apparently focussing on everything horrible thing that has ever happened to you and you’ve done, and then describing it in all vivid detail can do that!). I didn’t even actually believe that depression was a real disease until then – I used to think that depressed people just didn’t have the resources or they were lazy. I now have a new level of empathy for those that suffer from depression. After two random strangers hugged me in the supermarket and in the mall (I must have looked as hopeless as I felt), I took the advice of a doctor and went on anti-depressants for a few months.
The editor I sent the manuscript to recommended it to a personal contact of hers at Allen & Unwin, who then offered me a contract.
And the editing process?
The editing process with the publisher was also smooth and easy. The publisher said that the manuscript was ‘strong to begin with’ (plus I already had it edited by a professional editor) so it was more of a tweaking process. The only major cut was the chapter about a short stint I underwent in prison. They advised that it was too long and it began to sound ‘like a prison memoir’. (Wow! There is a little bit in your book about a short prison stint in Greece but perhaps there’s more to the tale?)
I wasn’t attached to every single word so cutting it was easy. I was more concerned with retaining the overall momentum and impact for the reader. Whenever the editor made a suggestion e.g. ‘cut this sentence out to make it punchier’ – they were right. I found it was only my ego wanting to keep some words to (try to) make me look funny or clever.
(I know the feeling!)
As each step towards publication drew nearer, it was thrilling and at times scary – because everyone I knew (and people that I didn’t know) were soon to all find out about my wayward past. It was a past I’d kept so secret up until now. Some family members were (and are) not happy about the book, and that’s ok. I felt ‘on purpose’ writing it. I knew that the book was going to do some good in the world and nothing was going to stop me from writing it or having it published.
And since publication? Now that you are truly ‘out’?
Since publication, I feel a great sense of empowerment. The entire process has been a wonderful growth opportunity and ultimately a freeing experience for me. A book is not like a two hour movie; people are taking days out of their busy lives to read it, which makes me feel privileged. And I’m thrilled to hear people are enjoying it.
Geena, thanks so much for chatting with me. I wish you every success with Call Me Sasha, (Allen & Unwin 2013)
For more info about Geena, drop by her website www.geenaleigh.com and make sure you read Call Me Sasha!