What to expect when you’re expecting a book: #1 Blurbs

A handy blog series for debut authors has just been launched by the talented Jane Rawson and Annabel Smith. Here’s their first post – it’s on how to get that all-important blurb.

Jane Bryony Rawson

So your first book has been accepted for publication: congratulations! You’ve been through edits, the cover is chosen, and it’s about to go off to the printers. In the next few months your face will be all over television and you’ll be getting daily bank deposits of thousands of dollars. Right?

Maybe not.

All authors’ experiences are different, but we (Jane Rawson and Annabel Smith) thought you might like to know what we’ve learned about the period just before and after your book hits the shelves.

Jane: Recently my fourth book – a novel – was published. I’m with a small independent publisher, and they’ve previously published another novel of mine, and a non-fiction book about climate change that I co-authored with an environment journalist. My other book, a novella, was published by a different, even smaller independent publisher. None of my books has been published outside Australia, and…

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Authors on the menu: J.M. Green

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Crime writer, J.M. (Jenny) Green swung by the Rusty Bore Takeaway today to chat about her debut crime novel Good Money. We were pretty thrilled to have her call in. Good Money has been voted by Readings as one of 2015’s top ten crime books. Cass noticed they didn’t suggest where to read those books. A takeaway isn’t a bad reading spot, in her view. A good takeaway.

Welcome to the Rusty Bore Takeaway, Jenny. Cass is out on an investigation today and has left me in charge… here’s hoping I’ll manage without any grill-top emergencies. So, what can I get you? What’s your order?

One potato cake and two slices of buttered white bread please. And some tomato sauce. 🙂

We care a lot about cooking around here, especially, ahem, comfort food. Tell us about something you like to cook.

Mainly pasta because to be honest I CBF cooking (we have takeaway a lot), but I’m making an effort today: for dinner tonight I’m doing a spicy udon noodle soup with chill lime tofu

Sounds tasty! And Cass will be happy to hear you’re not into cooking – a potential regular, she’ll be hoping… speaking of which, what would you have trouble leaving behind if you moved somewhere like Rusty Bore (population 147)?

I have fantasies of living in a town that small and looking out over the hills. Unlike my protagonist Stella Hardy, I was not raised in a small country town so they still have a novelty value for me. But I guess I’d miss all the usual things, like really good Melbourne cafe breakfasts. All the great local takeaway in Footscray like Indian dosas, African injeera bread, Vietnamese everything, Malaysian curry. I think you see why I have a lot of takeaway.

I certainly can. I think Cass needs to think seriously about relocating to Footscray. Or at least letting her author move there.

Now, I was once told by a man at a writing festival that I shouldn’t write crime novels because “it’s just not good for you, my dear.”  Have you ever had any strange (or preferably, useful) advice about your writing?

What a ghastly and stupid thing to say! I suppose I have all the usual stuff, like you should write a story about my life from taxi drivers etc. But I can’t recall any gratuitous advice as such.

What, nothing gratuitous at all?  Maybe you have a certain expression you adopt that heads such people off?  I must pick your brains later. Anyway, if it’s not dealing with unwanted advice, what’s the best part of writing for you? What’s the hardest?

The best part is the solitude, I get into the zone and it’s so quiet and peaceful. The worst part is the solitude. After days of working and no socialising I start to feel a bit weird in the head.

OK. Now, swallow that mouthful quickly, and tell us about your novel, Good Money…

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Good Money is a crime novel with a dash of social commentary, a soupçon of pathos and a ladle of satire. Stella Hardy is a social worker at the end of her tether, a woman on the edge, and she has an overdeveloped sense of loyalty to her clients and her friends. That’s why she totally thinks it’s OK to stick her nose in other people’s business, including that of an unsavoury Melbourne gangland figure and a corrupt mining billionaire.

I love the sound of Stella. What does she think of you? Would she hang out with you?

Hard to say if she’d like me. Probably. She’s not overly fussy. As long as I bring the wine, she’d hang out with me, or pretty much anyone for that matter. Would I like her? Not sure, she can be prickly and she tells you what she thinks which is not always great in a friend. She’d be good fun in small doses.

What are you working on right now? Do you have a new book in progress now that Good Money has hit the shelves? 

Too Easy is the second Stella Hardy in the series and I’m just now finishing the first draft. I’ve also recently published an article for Overland about the false antagonisms between literary and genre fiction.

Those both sound really interesting! Thanks for calling in, Jenny. I’m looking forward to reading Good Money. All the best with your writing!

And for more info on Jenny…

JM Green studied professional writing at RMIT. Her first novel, GOOD MONEY (Scribe, Melbourne) is available now. The second Stella Hardy novel, TOO EASY, is in progress.

She lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

You can contact Jenny here or on Facebook or Twitter.

Authors on the menu: Tania Chandler

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Crime writer, Tania Chandler ducked briefly into the Rusty Bore Takeaway to chat about her debut crime novel Please Don’t Leave Me Here. And Cass will be happy to hear that Tania’s the perfect customer for a takeaway…

Welcome to the Rusty Bore Takeaway, Tania. Cass is out on an investigation today and has left me in charge… here’s hoping I’ll manage without any grill-top emergencies. So, what can I get you? What’s your order?

A piece of grilled flake, minimum chips and three calamari rings, thanks.

We care a lot about cooking around here, especially, ahem, comfort food. Tell us about something you like to cook.

Hmm, cooking is not really my forte. Toast.

Yes! We do like a customer who’s not into cooking in this shop – a potential regular… speaking of which, what would you have trouble leaving behind if you moved somewhere like Rusty Bore (population 147)?

Decent coffee.

I need to talk to Cass about getting a coffee machine… Now, I was once told by a man at a writing festival that I shouldn’t write crime novels because “it’s just not good for you, my dear.”  Have you ever had any strange (or preferably, useful) advice about your writing?

One of my writing teachers once told me that if you’re ever lucky enough to have a meeting with a publisher/agent: whatever you do, just pretend to be normal.

Another piece of advice I wish I’d taken notice of: have your author shots taken when you’re young.

What’s the best part of writing for you? What’s the hardest?

The best part of writing for me is the rewriting, the finessing.

The hardest part is the dreaded first draft when you know most of what you’re getting down is crap and you’re going to come back and delete it at some stage, but you have to plough on regardless.

Now, swallow that mouthful quickly, and tell us about your novel, Please Don’t Leave Me Here…

Please Don't Leave Me Here

Gulp.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE is a tale of murder, love and despair. It starts with my protagonist, Brigitte, married with three-year-old twins. Fourteen years ago Brigitte was left for dead by a hit-and-run driver. She claims to have no memory of events before her accident, or of the body found in her apartment. When the cold case is reopened, her marriage and her very sanity, is undermined by the pull of the past.

Whether or not Brigitte really is a killer is the anchor to the story, but the whodunnit element matters less than how Brigitte ends up, how she faces her inner demons and wins or loses.

What does your protagonist, Brigitte, think of you? Would she hang out with you?

We both tend to be a bit awkward and silly at times. She’d probably say I think things through too much. I’m sure we’d enjoy a drink together, but I would leave the bar long before she did!

What are you working on right now? Do you have a new book in progress now that Please Don’t Leave Me Here has hit the shelves? 

I’m finishing off my second novel, the sequel to PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE. It’s more crime fiction than psychological thriller, although, like in my first novel, the characters are more important than the crime. It’s set five years later, on an island in the middle of an inland lakes system where there is no way off after the last ferry leaves for the night. Brigitte and several of the original characters return.

Thanks for calling in, Tania. All the best with your writing!

You can catch up with Tania in person on Friday 23 October at 8pm. Tania and fellow crime authors Emma Viskic and JM Green will be in conversation with Sisters in Crime co-convenor Janice Simpson for “First Time Offenders”. For details click here.

And for more info on Tania…

Tania Chandler is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. She studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT, and her work was awarded a special commendation in the 2013 Writers Victoria Crime Writing competition. The sequel to Please Don’t Leave Me Here will be published in 2016.

You can contact Tania here or on Facebook or Twitter.

Authors on the menu: Jane Rawson

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Jane Rawson popped into the Rusty Bore Takeaway today for a burger and to chat about her book The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change. 

Welcome to Rusty Bore, Jane.  Sorry it’s so squashy in the shop, but climate change is a topic that most of Rusty Bore’s residents are worried about, so all 147 of them have come along to hear you talk… Anyway, what can I get you? 

This looks like a classic takeaway, so I’m going with a classic order – a burger with the lot (including pineapple and egg, thanks).

We care a lot about cooking around here, especially, ahem, comfort food. Tell us about something you like to cook.

I really like baking, particularly when I need to focus on something other than all the stuff in my brain. New Orleans-style bread and butter pudding is a favourite, with a bit of bourbon tipped on top.

Mmm, bread and butter pudding and alcohol sounds like a combination worth killing for.  Err, you’re safe here, Jane, perfectly safe… Just move that knife away from Vern, will you? Anyway, let’s move on. What would you have trouble leaving behind if you relocated to somewhere like Rusty Bore (population 147)?

Privacy, I reckon – everyone would know something about you.

Fair enough. Nosy questions are a specialty around here… and unasked-for advice. Speaking of which, I was once told by a man at a writing festival that I shouldn’t write crime novels because “it’s just not good for you, my dear.”  Have you ever had any strange (or preferably, useful) advice about your writing?

I’ve heard it from a lot of sources but it’s always worth reminding myself – there’s no point waiting for inspiration, you just have to sit down and write.

What’s the best part of writing for you? What’s the hardest?

My fiction is mostly speculative fiction, and I love getting to the end of a chunk of writing and realising I’ve made up something that never, ever existed before; it’s completely new. (I also really love being part of a community of writers and talking with people about writing and books and ideas.) The worst is the fear and the shame – that everything is terrible, that nothing I write will ever be worth anything. I’m learning to deal with it, but it’s no fun.

Now, swallow that mouthful of burger quickly, and tell us about your book, The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change…

Climate Change_cover for publicity (1)

I co-wrote The Handbook with an old workmate of mine, James Whitmore – we were editors of the Environment and Energy section of The Conversation (theconversation.com), and he still is. We’d seen lots of books about the science of climate change, about the politics, and about how to change your life to reduce emissions. But we hadn’t seen much that grappled with the fact climate change is already here and getting worse and you need to start planning for its effects. So we decided we’d write that book. It’s mostly practical and partly political and philosophical, and we think it’s got something for most people, even those who aren’t even a bit worried about climate change.

Do you have any tips for a takeaway business in the post-climate change world?

Oh good question! Be flexible in what you have on the menu, so if it’s hard to get hold of something you can replace it with something else. And have your own source of power for the fridge and the fryer so you don’t have to worry if the grid goes down in fire or a storm.

What are you working on right now? Do you have a new book in progress now that The Handbook has hit the shelves?

I’m just about to get back into writing – I’ve been doing lots of promotional stuff for The Handbook and my other new fiction book, Formaldehyde, all of which has kept me from my desk. I’m keen to delve back into a historical fiction I’ve been writing and see whether it’s possible to execute a crazy idea I have to turn it into sci-fi.

Sounds intriguing! Thanks for calling in, Jane and all the best with your writing.  

Here’s a little more about Jane:

Jane Rawson grew up in Canberra. During years as a travel editor and writer, mostly for Lonely Planet, she dawdled around the streets of San Francisco, Prague and Phnom Penh and left smitten. She has also worked as the Environment Editor for news website The Conversation. She likes cats, quiet, minimal capitalisation, and finding out that everything is going to be OK.

Jane’s novel, Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award.

You can contact Jane here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Authors on the menu: Emma Viskic

 

Emma Viskic Author Photo low res

Award-winning Australian crime writer, Emma Viskic dropped into the Rusty Bore Takeaway today. Emma’s debut crime novel Resurrection Bay has just been released and she was kind enough to call by and tell us about it.

Welcome to the Rusty Bore Takeaway, Emma. Cass is out on an investigation today and has left me in charge… here’s hoping I’ll manage without any grill-top emergencies. So, what can I get you? What’s your order?

A veggie burger, minimum chips and a pickled onion.

We care a lot about cooking around here, especially, ahem, comfort food. Tell us about something you like to cook.

If we’re talking comfort food, it’s my chocolate almond cake. It’s made with melted chocolate and brandy, and is deliciously dark, moist and… Excuse me, I’ll be back in 55 minutes.

OK, now I’m drooling… moving swiftly on, what would you have trouble leaving behind if you moved somewhere like Rusty Bore (population 147)?

Coffee.

I was once told by a man at a writing festival that I shouldn’t write crime novels because “it’s just not good for you, my dear.”  Have you ever had any strange (or preferably, useful) advice about your writing?

A man at a party said that I should write his life story because it was “more interesting” than crime fiction. I was up for it, but he backed out when I told him that I’d have to kill him first.

What’s the best part of writing for you? What’s the hardest?

The best part is falling into the story when the writing is going well. It’s my happy place, which is somewhat troubling when you consider what I put my characters through.

The worst part is ploughing on when the writing is going badly. I write most days, even if I have to delete every putrid, bloated sentence the following day. It’s the classical musician in me – you practise your scales whether you want to or not.

Practising your scales – that sounds like good writing advice. Now, swallow that mouthful  of veggie burger quickly, and please tell us about your novel, Resurrection Bay…

Res Bay cover

Rmmm bmmm *gulp* Resurrection Bay features Caleb Zelic, a profoundly deaf investigator who has always lived on the outside. When a close friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. The investigation takes him places he’s rather not go, including his hometown and estranged family. As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.

What does your protagonist, Caleb, think of you? Would he hang out with you?

We’ve got similar senses of humour, but he thinks that I panic too easily. I’m a fast talker, which would make lip-reading tricky for him, but my Auslan is slowly improving, so we could bond over our common love of swearing.

What are you working on right now? Do you have a new book in progress now that Resurrection Bay has hit the shelves? 

I’m working on book two of the Caleb Zelic series. I’m really enjoying writing it, but I’m afraid that it’s pretty rough on Caleb.

Thanks for calling in, Emma! All the best with Resurrection Bay – I’m looking forward to reading it.

You can catch up with Emma in person on Friday 23 October at 8pm. Emma and fellow crime authors Tania Chandler and JM Green will be in conversation with Sisters in Crime co-convenor Janice Simpson for “First Time Offenders”. For details click here.

And for more info on Emma…

Emma Viskic has won two of Australia’s premier crime fiction short story awards: the Ned Kelly S.D. Harvey Award (Web Design, 2014), and the New England Thunderbolt Prize (The Hero, 2013). She has been published in Award Winning Australian Writing 2014 and 2015.

A classical clarinettist by training, she lives in Melbourne’s inner north with her family and divides her time between writing, performing and teaching.

You can contact Emma here.

Australian Women Writers Challenge

So it’s already August? How that happened, I don’t know – possibly something to do with spending every waking moment editing DEAD MEN DON’T ORDER FLAKE (and let me just clarify – when I say ‘every waking moment’ what I mean is not during my day job – just in case my boss is reading this).

Anyway, it’s definitely time to formally sign up to the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW).

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If you haven’t heard of AWW, perhaps because you’ve been living underground, or have recently returned from a stint on the international space station, you can read all about it here. It was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The idea is to encourage readers and book bloggers, male, female, or of non-specific sex, Australian, or non-Australian, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year.

I already read quite a lot of books by Australian female authors (why wouldn’t I, when I’m one myself?) but you don’t have to be a writer to sign up.

So I’ve enrolled. For the Franklin level (10 books), which is easier than it might sound because I’m including the books I’ve already read this year (which I hope doesn’t constitute cheating).

So far, I’ve read four:

Already Dead by Jaye Ford

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist

The Dying Beach by Angela Savage

These are on my TBR pile:

The Wonders by Paddy O’Reilly

Every Word by Ellie Marney

Eden by Candice Fox

And I plan to buy and read:

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

unmarryme by Nicki Reed

which leaves me one more to choose for my 10. Suggestions welcome.

I’ve signed up as a reader, not as a reviewer. I know authors who post reviews of the books they read, but I’m not entirely comfortable doing that myself. I’m not sure I could be objective. After all, I often know the person who wrote the book. Chris Cleave raised interesting points about this dilemma here.

What do you think? Should novelists review novels?

 

 

 

Unputdownable funny novels

I’d like to introduce the next two authors to take up the Meet My Character baton – Nicki Reed and Kathryn Ledson.

 

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Kathryn Ledson

In Kathryn’s words, in 2005 she ‘had a hissy fit and divorced the corporate world.’ She left her 25 year career and returned to study with relief and a great sense of homecoming. What emerged from that was Erica Jewell, lead character in Kathryn’s series of funny, romantic, action-packed novels. Kathryn had intended going back to corporate life, as a writer. That’s until Erica took over.

I’m glad she did. If Erica hadn’t taken Kathryn in hand, I would have missed out on her laugh-out-loud funny romancey-crimey novels Rough Diamond and Monkey Business.

I was lucky enough to meet Kathryn at a Sisters in Crime do and she’s as warm and funny in person as she is on the page.

Read more about Kathryn and her novels here. And – good news – she has a new novel, Grand Slam,  coming out in 2015.

 

 

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Nicki Reed

I met Nicki at Box Hill TAFE, in the Professional Writing and Editing course. I don’t know what she was doing there, to be honest. It seemed pretty clear to me that Nicki didn’t need a course to improve her writing.

Nicki is the author of the unputdownable romantic comedy, Unzipped, and is hard at work on her second novel Unmarry Me.

She also happens to be my writing partner and good friend (and I’ll be hanging onto her for as long as she’ll let me).

You can read about Unzipped here and more of Nicki’s writing here.

Check out Kathryn and Nicki‘s blogs next Thursday, where they’ll introduce you to their main characters.