A Writer’s Life: Frequently Asked Questions 1

This last weekend I had the privilege of being a guest author on the Romance Writers of Australia’s Aspiring Writers loop. I remember early on in my journey how important it was to hear from writers who had been published for a while and hear about their ups and downs and what worked for them.

It was amazing how many times as I was reading or listening to one of these writers that I went, ‘That’s me! That’s how I feel. That’s how I do that!’ And it helped me feel not so alone.

Image: People notes meeting team. Used with permission. Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

So in the spirit of reaching out to more writers doing it alone, I am going to share over the next weeks some of my answers to the questions I have been asked most frequently over the years since I first got published.

Here are the first lot of questions and answers:

Do you have a story, scene or idea first and then the title, or the other way around?

I don’t put too much stock into trying to think of the perfect title – due to all sorts of marketing and sales issues, publishers are very likely to change it. I always come up with one at some point, but it’s not a starting point by any means. Usually I have a scene in mind that keeps bothering me or a character who won’t leave me alone and keeps wanting me to tell their story, and I sit down and have a play and see where it leads me.

Do your characters ‘speak’ to you and tell you who they are? Or do you research names to suit the character? Or both?

My characters absolutely speak to me. They tell me what their names are mostly (sometimes they’re a bit more reticent) and we figure each other out as I write. The only time I research names is when I’m using a mythological character – a god or goddess or something like that – and need to find the right one to suit what I want to do.

What do you find the most rewarding about the writing process? The most challenging?

Creating something from nothing and figuring out intricate worlds and characters from a speck of an idea. That too is the most challenging – getting the world building, the plot building and the character conflicts and arcs right so they all weave together and create a magical whole.

What do you think makes a great story?

Characters. Their conflicts, their foibles, their imperfections and their perfections. The way they interact with the world and the other characters around them. How they respond to happiness, to grief, to a crisis. So much can be found through our characters and if the characters aren’t working, then the story isn’t working. This is particularly true for the romance genre, but I also think it applies to most other genres as well – because if we don’t care about the characters, why would we care what happens to them?

How important is consent to you in your books?

Very. I make certain that both romance leads always indicate they want to be touched and kissed and to have sex and that they both share the control. It’s never always the male driving those parts of the novel, or the female, but a shared need and understanding of the importance of equality in all areas of their relationship.

How much influence do you feel is in your books based on your theatrical background?

Certainly the way I write dialogue is influenced by that. I also use my acting training to get into the mind of my characters and feel them – I often find myself pulling faces and emoting as I am writing them, which has got some seriously strange looks from people when I’ve been writing in a café. Also the three act structure is just natural to me as that’s what I was trained in with acting and writing scripts. I think too finding ways of showing rather than telling has been helped by my theatrical background because when you’re playing a character, you don’t stand on stage and tell the audience what you feel or think, you have to show them with action and expression.

Have you written or considered writing a character from that background?

I have – I am writing a series now which includes characters in the music industry.

So far, what’s been your most challenging scene to write? Your favourite?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. Each book poses its challenges, especially the ones where the characters you have come to love are having a truly hard time. I think most recently, a scene I struggled with in Blazing Fear was the one where Flynn is fighting the bushfire and trying to overcome his trauma and the impact on him after that. It was tough to try to get that right, not overplay it, make him confused and disoriented but make it sensible to the reader. And in many ways, that was my favourite scene too, because it was so hard but it made me strive and dig deep to make it work. Of course, in the Pack Bound series, any scene between Adam and Shelley was a joy to write because he just loved getting a rise out of her and she fell for it each time.

Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?

I am working on two prequels to the Pack Bound Series – one a short novel that I’m self-publishing and the other a novella to go into the Fantasy Realms Anthology: Warlords, Witches and Wolves I’ve just got back edits on the short novel and am writing the novella. I am also working on the second novel in a romantic suspense series set up in the Victorian Alps near Mt Buller – the first book in the series is a reworking of the first book I had published with Destiny (Killing Me Softly) and is about a reclusive music producer, her secret past and the troubled rock star she agrees to work with whose very presence brings the danger from her past to her door. The second and third books in that series are about the other band members and things that happen as a consequence of the first book.

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