Today I’m chatting to Rural Fiction writer Fleur McDonald about her creative process and path to publication. Fleur’s new novel Silver Clouds is out in April.
Silver Clouds is an enthralling rural saga about a young woman who must come to term with past mistakes and a major tragedy in order to find peace, happiness and love.
When marketing executive Tessa Mathison leaves London to attend her great-aunt’s funeral in Australia, her life is in turmoil.
An indiscretion during a boozy night out has resulted in Tessa’s name being mud in London’s cliquey marketing scene, and soon after she arrives in her homeland she discovers she’s been sacked.
Tessa’s childhood home, Danjar Plains, is an isolated station which holds some bad memories for her. She plans to escape it as soon as the funeral is over, but then an unusual request in her Aunt Violet’s will makes it impossible for her to leave.
When charismatic and charming Brendan McKensie introduces himself to Tessa, staying at Danjar Plains no longer seems such a hardship. As various secrets begin to unravel, Tessa realises letting go of her heart may hold the key to unlocking both her past and her future.
From the author of the bestselling outback sagas, Red Dust, Blue Skies and Purple Roads, this moving novel is about making peace with the past, overcoming fear and insecurity, and the healing power of love.
Thanks for visiting Fleur!
1. What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?
I always find listening to music is a big thing for me. I love the songs, which have stories inside the music – Taylor Swift is a classic example. She says so much, but with very few words – a real inspiration.
2. What sort of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or erratic, focused or easily distracted?
For me, it really depends on what is going on outside. If it’s a busy time of the year like lamb marking, there will be days strung together, I don’t get to turn my computer on, let alone write any words. I’ve had to learn this is okay and not to get uptight or worry about it.
If I’m sitting down to write I try to make sure the internet and email programs are off. They are my biggest distraction. I also won’t answer the phone any more, unless it’s my husband or kids. During the edits for Silver Clouds I had friends bombarding me with text messages and I couldn’t get anything done. So it’s new rule, but one I stick to.
3. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?
Oh, my worst nightmare! I tend to write quickly for the first ten or twenty thousand words, then get completely bogged down and think it’s too hard, my writing is rubbish and I can’t do it. I don’t usually write for a couple of months afterwards (on the novel. I write blogs and other things). Then I’ll realise I have a deadline and do what I did with Silver Clouds – realise it has to be done whether I like it or not. Then write sixty thousand words within six weeks and scrape in by the skin of my teeth!
4. Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?
I love it when I’ve got a really good flow and have a mini movie happening in my head. I watch that movie and write what’s happening.
I love being able to make it rain, when it isn’t outside, or have green grass, when in reality, I’m feeding hay to the cows.
My husband seems to think I do better in my imaginary world!
5. Which aspects do least love (or detest!)?
When I can’t get a scene right or I’m getting stuck with the little things. I try to have each chapter ‘perfect’ before I leave and that can really interrupt the flow of writing.
6. What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Rachael Treasure. She made me realise there was a market for Rural Lit and people found our lives interesting.
More recently, I have formed great respect for Kimberly Freeman (aka Kim Wilkins) and Belinda Alexandra in the saga side of story telling. Tony Park, Patricia Cornwell (her early writing) and Michael Connelly are the masters of crime and mystery, which I try to weave into my books as well.
7. Can you describe for us your writing process, from getting the original idea to completed manuscript?
Just sitting and writing. I don’t plan much – although because some of my books have interwoven family histories, I need to make sure I have the family tree clear in my mind.
Other than that, it’s something you just have to sit and do. I have a piece of card stuck on my desk saying ‘No one else will write this book for you’. No matter how much help you ask for or talking about the plot you do, the words won’t come unless you are physically writing.
8. Describe your path to publication.
I had two thirds of my first ever attempt at writing a book, ready to go. Not understanding I really should have the whole thing finished, I naïvely sent the first chapter and synopsis to the Allen and Unwin Friday Pitch Day. I was initially rejected, but after re-writing the first three chapters, of Red Dust, I sent them back in. Within about two months I had a contract and a half finished MS I needed to get completed!
9. What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?
Just keep trying. Because a publisher doesn’t want you one day, doesn’t mean she/he won’t want you in three months time.