Over the last few months I’ve had many wonderful authors answering my questions about creativity and the writing process as well as their path to publication. Recently I sat down and had a go at answering those questions myself. And here is the result – hope you enjoy it!
So today (even though this is very weird) I welcome Pamela Cook to the blog.
Pamela is the author of Blackwattle Lake, a rural fiction novel set in the south-east of NSW.
For Eve Nicholls, walking up the driveway of her childhood home brings up many emotions, and not all good. The horses that she loved still dot the paddocks but the house is empty, and the silence inside allows her memories to flood back. She’s glad to have her best friend Banjo the kelpie with her . . . and a bottle of bourbon. Her plan is simple: sell the farm, grab the cash and get the hell out.
Despite Eve’s desire to keep a low profile, within days of her return she runs into all the people she hoped to avoid. At the house she is surrounded by memories and worse. But with a lifetime of clutter to sort out, there’s plenty to take her mind off it all. Slowly, she begins to discover the girl she used to be: Angie Flanagan – adventurous, animal-loving, vulnerable. When tragedy strikes, Eve realises that changing her name all those years ago in an attempt to hide from her past has not changed the truth of what happened or who she really is.
Blackwattle Lake is an engaging debut for those who long to uncover who they used to be, and who they might still become.
- What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?
Reading would have to be number one. Since I’ve been writing I can never read a book without analysing the sentences, structure, characterisation and writing style. This has it’s down side but also gives me great ideas for my own writing.
When I get the chance I love a solitary beach walk. And riding my horse is a great way of getting away from it all because I have to be totally focused on what I’m doing.
- What sort of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or erratic, focused or easily distracted?
Generally it’s very undisciplined and wildly erratic. Time management is not my thing! At the moment though I’m working on a new book which has a very tight deadline so I am learning to be more organised with my time and trying to write every day
- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?
If writer’s block is having no idea of what to write next and feeling completely stuck then I definitely suffer from it on a regular basis. The only way to get unstuck is to sit down and write. Anything! You have to switch off the critic, accept that you may – and probably will – write pages of rubbish but at some point your right brain will click on and the ideas will start to flow again.
- Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?
Where do I start? I absolutely love it when I’m so involved in what I’m writing that I enter the place, see and hear the characters and become part of the story. It’s an amazing escape to be physically sitting at my computer but to be somewhere else in my imagination.
The other part of the writing life I adore is connecting with readers and other writers in person, via Facebook, my blog and on twitter. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations with people I’ve never met, not only about my own novel but about other author’s work and about books in general.
- Which aspects do least love (or detest!)?
If I have to come up with something it’s probably the review process which can be very nerve-wracking. Luckily I’ve had great reviews for Blackwattle Lake so I can’t really complain.
- What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?
I have a passion for Australian Literature. My absolute favourite is Tim Winton. His succinct yet vivid description and realistic characterisation is something I can only aspire to. I also love Geraldine Brooks and Kate Grenville. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is wonderful. There are too many others to mention.
The book I first read that made me think “I want to write like that” is The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I’ve yet to actually write a book like that of course but I’ll keep trying!
- Can you describe for us your writing process, from getting the original idea to completed manuscript?
The two novels I’ve completed have been completely different in terms of process. The first one (still unpublished) evolved from a short story I wrote as part of my Masters Degree. I put it away for a while and then spent over 5 years writing and revising it.
Blackwattle Lake was a Nano novel. The Nano challenge requires you to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November which I did in 2009. I then put it away for a year, took it out and started revising it and sent it off to the Hachette Manuscript Development Program (more on this below). I didn’t need any major revisions just additional scenes and some tidying up. I really believe that writing fast and continuously is the way to go. It keeps you in the “dream” of the story and helps the ideas to flow.
Lucky for me that I do believe that as I have about two and a half months to complete my current project!
- Describe your path to publication.
After years of High School English teaching I wanted to do something more creative. I enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing and was hooked. I also did a year-long course at The NSW Writer’s centre over the course of one year where I met the writers who were to become my writing group. That group is The Writers’ Dozen and initially there were 13 of us. We meet on a fortnightly basis to support and provide inspiration and feedback for each other. We self published an anthology of our work called Better Than Chocolate, the proceeds of which went to Room to Read the not for profit organisation I then became a volunteer for. That anthology was a great process and allowed us all to see out work in print. It also sold enough copies to fund the setting up of a library in Nepal. The group has shrunk to a half-dozen these days but those of us still involved are all committed writers. Along the way I also had a few poems and memoir pieces published in other anthologies.
I had entered the Hachette/QWC program twice with my first novel but entered again in 2011 with that one (revised – again!) and Blackwattle Lake. I was over the moon to receive the phone call to say I was one of 9 writers selected to attend the four-day program in Brisbane. I learnt so much, met a great bunch of writers and managed to speak one on one with a publisher who had read my manuscript. She liked what she had read, gave me some advice which I followed and then re-submitted. That was on April 30 2012. Words cannot describe my elation when my now publisher called me to say Hachette loved the manuscript and wanted to publish it. The novel was released in December 2012 and I’m still pinching myself that I am actually a published author.
- What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?
Firstly, just write. Write because you love it, write for yourself first and others later. You learn how to write by just doing it.
Don’t censor yourself and learn to ignore your inner critic. You will never find your voice as a writer if you’re constantly worrying “is it good enough” or listening to the voice that tells you you’re writing is rubbish.
Join a writing group. Get feedback on your writing and be open to criticism. Give back too – constructive criticism helps make us better writers. Support your writing buddies – celebrate each others successes and spur each other on in the face of rejection.
Be brave and put your writing out there – once you have been through the writing, editing and revision process and also have had trusted readers give you feedback. If you put your writing out there too early you’re not giving yourself the best chance of success. But if you never put it out there you’ll never know what might have been,
Expect to be rejected. Use it to make your writing better.
Lastly, keep on writing.
Blackwattle Lake is available at all good book stores In Australia and New Zealand – if it’s not on the shelf please ask for it be ordered in.
It’s also available as an e-book on:
You can connect with me via this blog
My website: www.pamelacook.com.au
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PamelaCookAuthor?ref=hl
Thanks for visiting 🙂