Friday, June 29, 2007

Today's headlines...

Congratulations to Amanda Ashby, who just signed a two-book YA deal with Puffin. Amanda's debut novel, You Had Me at Halo (who could resist that title, eh?) comes out in August. Hooray, Amanda!

Another author celebrating tonight is Alexandra Adornetto. At 15, I believe she's the youngest published writer in Australia. Isn't that amazing? Her book, The Shadow Thief will be released on July 1.

Well done, ladies! Happy sales to you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Eight Random Facts

That dastardly romance bandit Anna Campbell tagged me and I've been trying to think up eight random things about me that won't send anyone to sleep. I'm sure this list is the blog equivalent to Valium, but here goes anyway...

1. When I was a kid I once scared the heck out of my sister, with whom I shared a bedroom, by sleep-talking in Spanish. And that's weird, 'cause I can't speak Spanish when I'm awake (but I do know what El Pollo Loco means).

2. I'm fascinated by ghosts and write about them but I'm not keen on the idea of actually meeting one.

3. I was one of the tallest girls in Grade 7. Now I'm the shortest person in my group of friends.

4. I am the sudoku champion of my household.

5. I can never pick just one favourite thing.

6. I got married in Savannah, Georgia, which is about 9,444 miles (or 15,197 kilometres) from where I live. Apparently a ghost was there too but I was too nervous to notice.

7. Many years ago, in a nightclub, a high-profile football player once accused me of throwing ice at him. (A friend later said to me, "Are you sure he wasn't saying 'You've got nice eyes' and not 'Did you throw ice?'")

8. It has taken me 30 days to come up with this list.

I now pronounce Philip, Stephanie Hale, Elizabeth Scott, Tracey O'Hara, Joanna Challis, Tina Ferraro, Elle Royce and Simone Elkeles tagged! You can post your random facts here, on your own blog, or to really mess with people, post on some random blog.

Four non-random rules about the Eight Random Facts game:
1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Excuse Me, Haven't I Seen This Plot Before?

Picture this: A proud moment. You’ve just spent months (maybe years, maybe weeks if you’re disciplined) writing a whole entire novel. Your characters are so real they could be made of flesh and bone. The story zings in all the right places. There’s an action-packed beginning, the middle is sinewy and not one bit saggy, and the ending – well, you’ve outdone Stephen King, haven’t you?

Then you go to a bookstore and treat yourself. The first tome you pick up is in the same genre as yours and has an enticing title. Its cover is to die for. But when you read the blurb, you want to die for a whole 'nother reason. Why? Because this published book, with its snappy name and shiny cover, is exactly like the one you’ve just finished writing. Same setting, same plot, same everything.

How does this happen? Is it a product of collective unconsciousness? (Great time-waster here.) Where the heck are you going to find an original idea?

I’ll leave the how’s and the why’s to scientists and philosophers. What you, the writer, need to focus on is your own book. It may seem like the end of the world, but don’t panic. Unless you plagiarised whole sections word-for-word (and you wouldn't have done that), you really shouldn’t throw your hands up and abandon the project.

What will set your story apart from that Doppelganger? I’m sure you’ll find lots of things, starting with:
a. Your voice. It comes from within. Sure, you can mimic someone else’s voice, but it won’t ring true.

b. Main characters and bit players. Maybe they’re motivated by different things; maybe they’re more tortured or more emotionally stable; maybe your heroine’s tall and the other book’s heroine is short. You get the idea.

c. The basic plot maybe similar to yours, but it’s likely you’ll see twists in other directions.

So your book has a fraternal twin. Where to from here? Choose your own adventure:
a. Scrap your book. (Not recommended – I’m just throwing options around here.)

b. Tweak, revise, polish. Remember, you have the advantage of creating a stronger hook.

c. Do nothing (that includes wallowing in depression) because you’re convinced your book is similar...but different.

d. Put your manuscript away to marinate and start on something new.

e. Vow never to read again, that way you won’t be influenced by others. (Er...also not recommended.)

f. Google that elusive factory where new ideas for books are invented daily by a crack team. Or is it a team on crack? I think they have a MySpace page...

g. Read widely, keep developing your skills and style, quit comparing yourself to other writers.

h. A combination of the above.

So, fellow writers, has this happened to you? How did you deal with it?

Friday, June 8, 2007

YA Author Interview - Sara Hantz

At school, my fellow Antipodean Sara Hantz was the girl most likely to get sent to the principal's office for disrupting class. Now she's the girl most likely to create a stir when her debut YA novel, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green (Flux), storms the bookshelves on September 1.

In between writing her next book, running a motel in beautiful New Zealand and vetting potential pool boys, Sara sat down to answer a few burning questions.

Tell us about your protagonist, Suzy Green.
Suzy is a typical fun-loving teen, whose life spirals out of control after the tragic death of her sister, Rosie, for which she blames herself. After one major incident she comes to her senses and decides, misguidedly, to emulate high achieving Rosie so she can ease the pain of her parents’ loss. When she starts her new school she reinvents herself, including joining the virginity club (for which she isn’t qualified), which has some amusing and poignant consequences.

What inspired the plot?
This is a tricky question because there wasn’t any one thing that inspired me. I had a title in mind, which I loved - Virgin on the Ridiculous - and I wanted to write something around that (as you can see it’s not the title I ended up with, but that’s okay because I love the new title even more). I remember brainstorming with one of my crit partners and she told me about virginity clubs and I researched them on the net and came up with the idea of someone lying about being a virgin so they could join. And the rest of the story sort of evolved through my planning.

Describe your writing process.
Little and often. I have a very low attention span and am easily distracted. So, I open my manuscript up first thing in the morning and dip in and out of it during the day. Some times I get more done than others, depending on how busy the motel is and how sidetracked I get on the internet.

I’d love to know more about your Call story.
I’d been writing chick-lit and hen-lit for a couple of years, when in November 2005 I decided to try a teen-lit. After writing three chapters I did what you’re not meant to do and started to send it to agents, to test the water. Ooops!!! That’ll teach me. The story seemed to hit the right nerve because straightaway five agents asked for the full manuscript and six for partials. I sent the partials and said to those requesting the full that it still needed some tweaking (aka writing) and I’d send when ready. In only a few days one of the agents had read the partial and asked for the full.

I managed to finish the full by January and send to all those who requested it… most of them asked for it by email which was an added bonus… and 10 days later the agent I mentioned above phoned and offered representation. I said yes pretty much straight away. By February I’d done some revisions for my agent and she sent it out to lots of publishers. Andrew, the editor from Flux, phoned asking if I’d be prepared to do some revisions. I said yes (obviously!!!) and he sent me a very detailed letter. I did them. He was happy and then asked me to do some more, saying if they were okay he’d take it to the Acquisitions Committee. He took it to the committee and they offered me a contract. The actual ‘call’ was staged. First, my agent emailed asking for me to let her know a time I’d be available for a chat on the phone. So I sort of knew they’d offered. So I didn’t scream or burst into tears because I’d already prepared myself.

How has your life changed since you signed that first contract with Flux?
Well, now I get up at midday, have a long soak in a bath full of bubbles, then my chef will prepare a light lunch and I’ll go to my office and write. I’ll write for maybe an hour and then go for a massage, after which I’ll sunbathe by the pool reading. The pool-boy will be on hand at all times to pander to my every need… no, not those sort of needs!! I mean peeling grapes and dropping them gently into my mouth.

What??? You don’t believe me. Okay… Not a lot has changed, except I have both an agent and editor to work with, and when given a deadline I must meet it. It’s also great to have such fabulous editorial input. My books are a thousand times better than they were originally because of their help.

What do you know about publishing now that you wish someone had told you earlier?
That publishing moves at a snail’s pace. Two days in publishing time is like two weeks for the rest of us. I’m slowly learning to be patient… but it’s very hard for someone who’s made impatience an art form.

Your book debuts in September – how are you going to celebrate its release?
Being stuck in NZ I won’t be able to stalk all the high street stores looking for it, and placing it to its best advantage. So, I guess I’ll be with my family drinking a toast to its success. I’m hoping to enlist friends in the US to go on a hunt for it and send me photos.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a book called Dating The Megan Russell Way, which is about a teenage girl who sells psychic dating advice to pay off a huge debt.

What’s the best part about being a writer?
Being able to make things up! I spent many years in academia, having to research and write papers on some very dry and boring issues. Writing is like a breath of fresh air. Oh yes, and being able to wear track pants every day. Now that really is heaven!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors who might be struggling with agent/editor rejections?
Hang on in there. Very often rejections don’t mean you have no talent, just that your manuscript isn’t right for them at that particular time. I believe there’s an element of luck involved in all sales. Take The Second Virginity of Suzy Green as an example. It landed on the editor’s desk just as he was thinking about broadening their offering to include books set overseas from a different culture. Right place, right time!

Great answers, Sara. Thanks so much!

The Second Virginity of Suzy Green is available for pre-order now at Fishpond and Amazon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Plymouth Independent Film Festival

Tired of seeing the same old blockbusters at your local cinema? Most major cities have an annual film festival where you can discover new film-making talent, namely my good friend Brinsley Marlay. His short film, Briefings, is in competition at the Plymouth Independent Film Festival, Massachusetts (July 18 - 22). The taut and suspenseful plot is punctuated beautifully by a haunting score. (Okay, I'm a little biased - my husband did an amazing job with sound design and he composed the score.)

Congratulations, Brinsley and Mr. Authorness! Best of luck.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Why Writing Is So Darn Hard

My biggest problem isn't writer's block or procrastination.
No, it's a two-kilo feline named Possum. Here she is, asleep at the wheel again.

What are your obstacles to writing? Are they animal, mineral, physical or spiritual barriers? (Apologies to Joan Armatrading)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Olde Brisbane Town

My sister dug up this great ('50s? '60s?) photo of Queen Street, Brisbane. On the right you can see the old Regent Entertainment Centre, which still operates as a cinema. I worked there for nine years. The best part about going to work was stepping into the magnificent foyer:

(photo from

Plenty of history there, like bullet holes in the ceiling from a police chase. Director Baz Luhrmann stood at the side of the staircase and signed my Romeo + Juliet poster. In the garish neon Candy Bar (thankfully not in shot), I made millions of choctop ice-creams, approximately two tonnes of popcorn, and poured an ocean's worth of Coke. Most importantly, it's where I met my real-life hero. Ah, memories!