Last week, I was contacted by Brisbane writer and artist Julie Kearney about participating in a blog-hop, where one writer talks about what they’re working on and their writing process, and then passes the blog off to another writer or two to do the same.
Julie herself is currently working on the second of what she hopes will be a trilogy of historical novellas set on Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) in the 1860s. The first one, ‘True Story Man’, was written in just five weeks, and she’s now working on the sequel, entitled ‘Truth is Green’. She’s been published in The Griffith Review and other journals, was shortlisted in the Fish Short Memoir Prize, and the Finch Prize, and won first prize in the CJ Dennis Literary Award. You can find her site at (http://juliebowenkearney.wordpress.com/).
Two writers will follow me next week.
One is Beau Hillier, a Melbourne-based writer and freelance editor. He won the Grace Marion Wilson competition run by Writers Victoria in 2011, and in 2012 was featured in Possessing Freedom, an integrated YA short story collection. He currently is the chief editor of page seventeen, an annual collection showcasing emerging writers and poets. His blog will appear at http://www.busbird.com.au.
The other is Donna Joy Usher, the multi-award winning, Amazon best-selling author of The Seven Steps to Closure, Cocoa and Chanel, and Goons ‘n’ Roses. Born in Brisbane, she started her working career as a dentist. After fifteen years of drilling and filling she discovered there was more to life, and put pen to paper. Now she drills by day and writes by night. When not doing either of those things she likes spending time with her husband and two little dogs, fishing and camping, motorbike riding, stand-up paddle boarding, traveling and drinking wine on her deck. She has lived in a myriad of places: Melbourne, Perth, England, Rockhampton, Roxby Downs, Sydney, Cairns and is now situated on the New South Wales Central Coast. You can find her blog at http://donnajoyusher.com/.
Now onto me …
What are you working on at the moment?
A few things. I usually work on a couple of things at once – something completely new, and something in revision. Revision gets me in the headspace for whatever else I might write. Writing something new is always harder, so revision acts almost like stretching before exercising. This year, I’ve added the weekly blog to the schedule.
The new thing is my current novel, ‘House of Cards’. This was originally a (long) short story (almost ten thousand words), although when I was writing the short story I knew I was skimping over scenes to get it finished. Feedback from friends suggested it would work better as a novel. I had something else I wanted to work on, but went with this first because it seemed a story ready to be told (at least as far as my imagination was going). It’s about a relationship, and the things we keep to ourselves when we’re just starting out.
I’m also working on The Other Me, my regular blog here (updated every Tuesday), which is about my experiences with neuroses and how they impacted my life. The purpose of The Other Me is if it helps anybody else who’s reading it (and might be going through anything similar), then it’s done some good.
I’m also (slowly) revising some old screenplays I wrote about ten years ago. I should work on the last novel I wrote, ‘Prudence’, which I finished after ‘Just Another Week in Suburbia’, a winner of the 2013 Hachette Manuscript Development Program, but my screenplays have just been sitting there, unattended for ten years, and I’m a much better writer now than I was when I initially wrote them, so I thought I might be able to do something with them. It’s also nice to be able to work in a completely different field of writing.
How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?
I don’t know if you can really differ in any way other than your own unique voice, and how you tell a story. That’s what makes your writing yours. I could say a number of other lofty things, but that’s what it’s comes down to ultimately. Whether you’re original with your ideas or you’re rehashing tropes in tried and true genres, it does come down to how you do it and tell your story which makes you unique.
Why do you write what you write?
I write whatever idea appeals to me, whatever gets my imagination going and which I’d like to tell as a story, although lately, that’s become more of an exploration of relationships and the way people interact with one another, and how they do (and don’t) fit into one another’s worlds. I think often, regardless of what you write, it’s a way of exploring your own head and making sense of the world (or what’s happened to you).
What’s your writing process, and how does it work?
I begin with the general idea of the story in my head. When I think I have enough, that I’m interested in taking on the job of writing it, I map out the world of the story. This involves naming all the characters and locations which I think might be involved in the story – so even if I think the characters might need to visit a café at some point throughout the story, I name the café, and the staff, even if they’re not used. But it gives me an idea of the world they’re navigating, and means that it’s there waiting should my characters go there.
Generally, after I finish writing for the day, I’ll bullet point any things that might happen later in the story, as well as any revisions I need to make. I usually address the revisions first thing the next day, as that helps me get back into what I’m writing.
Another trick I use is I leave my writing for the day at a relatively high point, where I know what’s happening – it’s easier to pick up and get straight back into it, rather than if you finished somewhere and were low on ideas as to what came next.