Louise Walters, the imaginative powerhouse behind Louise Walters Books (open for submissions!), is today’s guest. Louise Walters Books is a small indie publisher focussing on high quality output in adult and YA fiction in all genres. Louise is a first reader, and also a writer, and now editor and publisher.
LWOTW: Welcome Louise! So, when did you write your first story?
Louise: When I was ten years old. It was about a family of three children who spend the summer holidays with their cousin in her big rambling house in the country. It was full of adventures, and very episodic. I still have it!
That sounds like a perfect read for a holiday. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
What do I think of them? All three are important for writing. I day dream about my characters. I imagine conversations with them. I plan, to a degree; more with screenplays, less with novels.
That’s a few interesting conversations you must have. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I’ve had some amazing experiences since I found my agent for my first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, back in 2012. My debut being published was really something, a dream come true.
Long live such dreams, eh? What are you most busy with at the moment?
I am now a small indie publisher as well as a writer, and working on my authors’ novels keeps me very busy! I’ve been fortunate to find some wonderfully talented writers and I can’t wait to share their work with readers. Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso is the first book published by Louise Walters Books.
That’s marvellous – more power to you! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t aspire. Write. Rid yourself of romantic notions of “being a writer”. Writers write, that’s all there is to it!
That’s great advice! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Join writer, editor and indie-author Michelle Emerson and me in today’s chat-fest. I love multi-tasking too! Michelle is the first non-fiction author I have interviewed on LWOTW, and as I have published some non-fiction books myself, it’s lovely to touch base again with that place of writing.
Michelle runs self-publishing services for indie authors, as well as writing her own very successful (and useful) help books for writers of all stripes. She lives in the north east of the UK and has a Shih Tzu called Buddy.
LWOTW: Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to chat with us here on Last Word of the Week. Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Michelle: Primary school, I think. As 7/8 year olds we were tasked with writing a ghost story (it must have been around Halloween time) and although I can’t remember much about the story (apart from a dapple grey rocking horse rocking in a bay window on its own) I can remember my teacher (lovely Mr Lenaghan) showing my story to another teacher and how happy it made me feel.
LWOTW: That’s a great memory. As a writer, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
As a writer I think it’s always good to write when inspiration strikes. That way the writing process is much easier, the content comes from a place of passion, and often flows much better. Having said that, I’m a non-fiction author so I’m also a big advocate for planning. To me, the concept of writing a whole book is overwhelming. However, if I break it down into chunks, writing targets and using bullet points and mindmaps to brainstorm, I’m much more likely to finish writing my books in a shorter space of time.
LWOTW: That’s really interesting. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Publishing my first book. I’m a non-fiction / business book writer and have ghostwritten other books for clients. So to have my own name on the front cover was a big milestone for me. I no longer had the safety of hiding behind my authors’ names, and while it was scary to begin with, it has given me confidence to further publish another three books.
LWOTW: I suspect that there has always been an author hiding inside! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m writing a book about blogging at the moment. All the chapters are scoped out, I have set myself a target of writing 7k words a week, and hope to have it finished within the next month – just in time for Christmas.
LWOTW: Gotta love a target before the holidays! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
You can do this!
I love that! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Today I’m chatting with Karen King, who started her writing career writing for Jackie magazine (a British magazine for teenage girls), and children’s comics such as Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh. Karen is a multi-published author of children’s books and romantic fiction. She has published 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, five romantic novels and several short stories for women’s magazines. Karen signed up with Bookouture (the hottest digital publisher around) earlier this year for two romantic novels. The first one, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, will be available on 9 November.
LWOTW: Welcome, Karen, it’s great to have you here. Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Karen: I can’t remember. I’ve written stories ever since I was a child and had a poem published when I was about ten. My first published story was in Jackie magazine back in the early eighties.
A lifelong writer, then. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I think ideas for stories come in many different ways and often a dream can be the catalyst then imagination takes it further and planning knocks it into shape.
A very neat summary. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Being asked to open a library at a local school when I lived in Worcester and discovering that they’d actually written my name on a plaque on the wall. I was so touched and honoured.
That really is a highlight! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I had a two-book contract with Bookouture earlier this year and my first book, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, is out on 9th November so I’ve been busy doing edits for it. I’ve also just finished writing the second book (I can’t divulge the title of that yet) so no doubt will have edits for that soon.
That’s a lovely sort of busy. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t think too much when you are writing your story. Get the story out of your head and down onto the screen/paper. Then you can think what works and what doesn’t, what you can improve, tweak, rewrite. The story comes first.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Thank you so much, Karen, for joining us for the Last Word of the Week.
Last Word of the Week: Today I am very pleased to welcome Patricia M Osborne, an English author/poet whose novel House of Grace: A Family Saga does for the 1950s-1970s what Poldark does for the late 18th century: presents us an immersive historical world with great characters, love, trials, conflict, tragedy, romance, and the promise of more story to come. (You know, part of me flinches when describing this period as ‘historical’!)
Patricia: Thank you, Clare for inviting me over to chat.
LWOTW: When did you write your first story, Patricia?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember but I was around twenty when I sent my first story into a competition. I’d typed it up on my portable typewriter. To be honest, after studying Creative Writing since 2011, I can now see that it wasn’t very good. It had far too much telling and not enough showing.
LWOTW: I think we learn a lot about our craft as we go along, the ‘telling vs showing’ thing especially. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I’m all for dreams and see them as a gift: whether it’s a nice dream or a nightmare, it can be used for story purposes. I have a vivid imagination, which is a great tool for a writer. Re planning, I plan to a certain extent but also run with it so see where it takes me.
LWOTW: Interesting. I think I need to do more planning! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
The publication of my debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga, in March 2017 just before my birthday but also winning first place in a poetry competition, student category at Brighton and Hove Poetry Festival earlier this year. The icing on the cake was having my prize presented to me by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. The presentation was worth more to me than the £100 prize.
LWOTW: How amazing! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m just finishing off my thesis and a poetry collection for my MA dissertation in creative writing. The research has been fabulous fun as I explore the myth, folklore and legend around trees and express these stories in poetry. I am also working on the sequel to House of Grace, called The Coal Miner’s Son, which can also be read as a stand-alone. I’m hoping to release it later this year in time for Christmas. So watch this space.
LWOTW: We certainly will! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Believe in yourself. Get involved with other writers and offer and receive critique/feedback. Critique helps to make a better writer. And never give up. Sorry, that’s three things.
Three very valuable tips! And the Last Word of The Week:What’s your favourite colour?
Purple is my favourite colour. As a child it was always blue. I love purple and plum and wear these colours a lot as I find they suit me. I had purple as my theme on my wedding day.
Thank you for having me, Clare. It’s been fun answering your questions.
It’s been an absolute pleasure! We must chat again 🙂
This week I am very happy to be speaking with prolific New Zealand author Deryn Pittar, whose novels range across several genres, but always includes interesting characters and arresting situations. Deryn is also a published poet, and her felicity with words is eveident in her writing. Welcome, Deryn!
Last Word of the Week: Deryn, when did you write your first story?
Deryn: When I was a young mother, surrounded by small children. It was a short story about a guardian angel who’d been demoted for losing a client and was a nervous wreck over the antics of her new charge. It was published in a magazine for women. I didn’t write seriously again for many years as life intervened. Then ten years ago I wrote three novels in a row, none of them ever published, but it was a great learning curve and I’m still learning.
LWOTW: What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Without my imagination I wouldn’t be writing. Yes, I dream, but they are hardly ever of any use. As to planning, I barely plan. Just a few goalposts/turning points to aim for. A basic premise and some bare bone plot lines – the rest is ‘pantstering’ . I do make notes and jot down ideas but often find by the end of the books I’ve only used half the ideas and plot lines.
LWOTW: What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
When my first contract arrived six years ago. Such a thrill. From there I learned all about the editing and publishing process. I have had eight books published since with various publishers.
Earlier this year Junction Publishing released my dragon story, and a cozy mystery. In June/July they also released my series of five paranormal romances called ‘The Future Movers’. I sometimes enter competitions and have had short stories, flash fiction and poetry published both in hard copy and in e-books. I like to stretch my craft by writing in different genre.
LWOTW: That’s an impressive CV! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I co-wrote a novella this year with a fellow author. It was a first for both of us and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The process flowed as we swapped ideas, then chapters; rewrote, tightened and added, each improving the finished story. It is being released at the end of next month (October) in time for Halloween. Called Angelfire, it’s about an angel who falls in love with a soldier. He has to thwart her brother’s schemes for Halloween and rescue her from harm. It was supposed to be a horror but turned into a romantic black comedy. Lots of fun with quirky enchanting characters. We are hoping to write a sequel and all going well I should be doing that, or have just finished it! I don’t plan too far in advance in case a better idea pops up. I will certainly be busy promoting this release and hope to have the cover to show you by the time this goes to press. We both learned we can’t write horror.
In between I’ve had two sweet novellas accepted for anthologies and I’m currently writing a contemporary romance involving a wager between two guardian angels. The angel theme seems to be reoccurring. I have no idea how long this will be.
LWOTW: Angelfire sounds great. Can’t wait to see it.If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, Deryn, what would it be?
Listen to advice and take what applies to you, because some of it won’t.
Don’t slavishly follow all the instructions you read about how other people write. Everyone’s creative process is different and you need to do it your way. Some people plan to the nth degree before they start, others pantser from the very first sentence. I’m a bit of both…
You should write with whatever method makes you feel happy, because writing is a creative craft and being creative should give you satisfaction – not angst, worry or despair. If you are suffering from those, you are doing it all wrong. Throw away the advice books and try another method.
Join some writing groups (on line or off), find some critique partners (not family or friends) and just keep writing. Get feedback, try different genres until you find your niche. Read, read, read and write, write, then write some more. You can’t edit a blank page. Words are great things. You can put them in any order and make different scenes. Be brave!! Even if you get it all wrong, no one is going to shoot you. Laugh, learn and start again.
Sorry this isn’t ‘one thing’ is it? But then I’m a writer and words are my tools.
Thank you for this opportunity and good luck to all of you who have read this far.
It’s been an absolute pleasure, Deryn, thank YOU for taking part. And for the very Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
RED. (It’s vibrant and energetic, and warms me up when I wear it.)
This week we are being totally charmed by the gorgeous Felicity Banks, the Australian author who channels the Antipodean Queen (how cool is that?) among other things. Felicity is also published by the impressive Odyssey Books.
Last Word of the Week: Welcome, Felicity. Can you tell us when you wrote your first story?
Felicity: I can remember attempting my first novel when I was seven or so, during an idle afternoon at my grandparents’ house. It was about a family of cats, and the big drama was that Pamela (the mother) had gained weight. What unimaginable horror!
Then the amazing twist was that she wasn’t overweight after all. She was having kittens. There is no greater possible end to a story than brand new kittens.
LWOTW: A happy outcome indeed. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
It seems I was born to plan out my stories before I write them, given that I was outlining novels at age seven. Sometimes I write out pages and pages of character notes, maps, and so on. Most of the time I have about an A4 handwritten page of notes when I start writing a novel and if I’m having trouble with a scene I might write out another page of notes just for that scene. Sometimes things change dramatically partway through the story, and I’m fine with that. Once I had a weird dream and then woke up and started writing a novel that afternoon.
Imagining things is easy; real life is hard.
LWOTW: We’re with you there. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
It took me a long, long time to get published—fifteen years after finishing my first novel. At around the same time as my first novel was published, I discovered the world of interactive fiction (like “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, but usually digital), and nowadays my writing is actually in demand. That is absolutely amazing, and I love it.
I really enjoy going to conferences and fairs, especially meeting people who’ve read my books and come back for more.
LWOTW: That must be very affirming. What are you most busy with at the moment?
Trying to actually do the writing I’m meant to be doing! Which is precisely why I’m here, doing other things.
LWOTW: Well, we’re glad you took the time out to talk with us. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t! The average full-time writer in Australia earns only $12,000 per year.
But if you’re the type of person who thrives on being told not to do something, then the long years of rejection will be perfect for you. Or you can just write for fun (and if you get paid, great). That’s what I do.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Thanks for speaking with us!
You can find out more about Felicity’s steampunk fantasy books here.
Felicity’s interactive writing can be found under the name Felicity Banks at the site here – but beware, it’s addictive!
Felicity’s latest book is a middle grade novel called The Monster Apprentice and features monsters AND pirates. You can find Felicity’s various pirate tales (some for children, some not) here.
Today we’re speaking with the Melbourne writer Deborah Sheldon.
Some of Deborah’s latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the noir-horror novel Contrition, the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the bio-horror novella Thylacines, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (winner of the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017”) and the monster-horror novel Devil Dragon. Deborah’s short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.
Something to Say: Welcome, Deb! That’s quite a list of achievements. What project are you talking about today?
Deborah: Award-winning press, IFWG Publishing Australia, is releasing my noir-horror novel, Contrition, today – September 3rd. The back-cover blurb reads:
In her late teens, Meredith Berg-Olsen had all the makings of a runway model. Now in her late forties, after everything she had been through – including horrors that John could only guess at – she looked bloodless instead of pale, skeletal instead of slender, more dead than alive…
John Penrose has two secrets. One is the flatmate he keeps hidden from the world: his high-school sweetheart, Meredith. His other secret is the reason he feels compelled to look after her.
Contrition is a horror story with noir undertones and an atmosphere of mounting dread.
STS: Is there one aspect of Contrition that you relate to the most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?
My novel has two timelines: the present day and the 1980s. For the latter, I drew upon my own memories of high school for inspiration. If some of my old chums were to read Contrition, the basis of a few events might seem vaguely familiar. Since I hadn’t thought about my teenage years in a long, long time, it was interesting to sift through the memories, both good and bad. I think doing so gave the novel’s earlier timeline its rawness and pathos.
STS: What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?
My brain is hard-wired to write. I started writing when I was a kid, and I’ve been a professional for 32 years. I’ll write until my dying day. There are two of me: the subjective self who lives this life; and the “observer” who squirrels away occurrences, feelings and thoughts to use in fiction. Every experience is potential fodder. I often reassure myself while going through a rough time, “Deb, elements of this will make good stories.” And it helps!
STS: That’s an interesting way to approach hard times. I like it! Now, many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
I see each writing project – whether it be a short story, novella or novel – as a kind of jigsaw puzzle. I know what “picture” I’m trying to create. I just need to find some way to put all the pieces in the correct order. I’m technique-driven. To use another analogy, I build a story like an engineer builds a bridge.
STS: Jigsaw-like, that’s excellent. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
This week, I’m chatting with the intriguing Kathryn Gossow, whose YA novel Cassandra (published by the magical Odyssey Books) explores questions of future, knowledge, love, and fanily duties.
Last Word of the Week: Hi Kathryn! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Kathryn: The first story I remember writing in primary school was about the moon and a little girl falling in love. When the moon had to return to the sky, it slipped out of the girl’s grasp and you can still see her hand print on the moon. I remember writing the line ‘forgotten like the man who invented matches’ which impressed my teacher. In grade 7, I wrote the end of year play. It was about a girl trapped on an alien planet at Christmas time. The aliens feel sorry for her and organise Christmas for her including an upside down tree and an electric dustpan for a gift.
LWOTW: What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Inspiration rests in our dreams and imagination, but have you ever had someone try and tell you about their weird dream? Dreams don’t confirm to storytelling conventions. On the other hand, have you ever read a washing machine manual? Too much planning and the heart that comes from the inspiration – the dream or imagination – loses its emotional impact. There needs to be a balance – like eating both your vegetables and your cake.
LWOTW: First time I’ve though of writing as a balance between vegetables and cake! Nice. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
This year, by far, it was having my book Cassandra short listed in the best fantasy novel category of the Aurealis Awards.
LWOTW: Fantastic achievement, Kathryn. Congrats! What are you busy with at the moment?
So crazy, crazy busy. I am working on my new book about a librarian who can heal people with books. I am editing my almost completed collection of short stories – The Dark Poet. I am also on the marketing train with my first book Cassandra. Then there is blogging and sending stories to magazines. I also have to dust my house, prune my stone fruit trees, buy a new thingamabob for my broken swivel mirror…do you really want the whole list?
LWOTW: I reckon that’s enough to be getting on with 🙂 If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Put your bum in the chair and write. It won’t write itself.
You’re right there – and no one else will write it for you either. Thank you so much for your insights, Kathryn, and all the best with the writing. And the thingamabob of course.
This week we are pleased and just a little bit excited to meet the author K J (aka Katie) Taylor. You can find out more about Katie’s fantastic (in every sense of the word) books here.
Last Word of the Week: Welcome Katie! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
KJ: In primary school, aged about six. I loved books so much that I started making my own – not just writing them but putting them together with pages, cover art, and even little publisher’s logos I made up. I still have them, and they’re adorable.
LWOTW: They sound divine. Maybe the world should see them. You must have been an imaginative kid. Tell me, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Usually dreams are too silly and illogical to easily translate into novels, but I’ve had the odd one which inspired a book. Imagination is important too, though when it comes to writing – and especially in spec fic – sometimes it’s equally important to do as Terry Pratchett suggested and apply a lack of imagination. By which he meant to ask yourself the sorts of logical questions little kids ask because they haven’t learned that it’s not polite to ask those questions. Such as, if Death rides a horse, does the horse have to poop? Does it have a stable? What does it eat? Where did he get it from? Asking questions like that lead to far superior worldbuilding – lazier authors often just resort to explaining things away by saying “it’s magic” or “it’s like that because I say so”.
Some authors plan out their books; I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of terrifyingly elaborate diagrams with highlighter pens and sticky notes. This isn’t a technique that’s ever worked for me, but I do plan what I write – it’s just that the plan is in my head, and is therefore more flexible and loosely defined. I often don’t know how the book is going to end when I start writing it. However, going into a book with no plan at all is rarely a good idea and will generally lead to the story meandering all over the place, which was a problem I had a lot when I was younger and still occasionally encounter today.
LWOTW: Great advice for us spec fic folk! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I’d say it was back in 2011 when I made my first and so far only appearance at ComicCon in San Diego, and a packed audience of more than three hundred people all cheering. I felt like a rockstar!
LWOTW: That must have been completely amazing. So, what are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m currently working on a bunch of things, and at this particular moment I’m focusing on the final trilogy of the series I’m most well known for, which began with The Dark Griffin in 2009. There have been a few shall we say hiccups along the way – I had to find a new publisher after the bottom fell out of the fantasy market in about 2015 or so and publishers dropped most of their fantasy authors including me. Then the new publisher I found shut down without notice, so I had to start all over again. It’s been a major pain in the proverbial booty. Honestly, I find the writing side of the business easy. It’s the business side of the business that’s aged me horribly.
LWOTW: Haha, I would like to be so *horribly* aged 🙂 Now, if you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t write for the fame and the money (or assume that there will be either). Write for the love of the craft, and because you have something to say. If your heart truly is in it, you’ll get to where you need to be in the end. It won’t be easy, but you’ll get there one way or another.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?