You have written numerous novels each set over a period of a week or two. What advice do you have for aspiring novelists setting out to write a story with a timeframe of a week or two?
That’s a tough question. In Claudia’s Big Break, the action takes place over two weeks and in hindsight, subconsciously I probably divided the action into fourteen chapters of roughly 6,000 words each. I set about writing a drama/conflict for each of those days, building to the major crisis and ultimate resolution. Given that I am a pantser, my character’s conflicts changed quite a lot over the course of writing the novel, but having a finite time frame encouraged me to think about my characters, their motivations and conflicts and how to reveal those conflicts and resolve them quickly but realistically.
In a previous interview, you wrote, “Rewriting is a crucial part of the process!” Do you aim to write your first draft of a novel as close as you can get it to what the final text will be, do you write the first draft to get the story out and then put the emphasis on shaping a good reading experience when you rewrite, or something else? And why do you think you prefer to work this way?
In the first draft, I write to get the rough story out. It’s like a purge. I don’t do a lot (any) planning and so inevitably, my first draft will have many holes. I always need to re write and layer to add depth to characters, include sub-plots and relevant narrative. It’s time consuming but it’s the way I write. I’m too impatient to plan the entire novel before writing it. #flawedlogic
In your previous interview, you mentioned your appreciation of novels by Jane Austen, Enid Blyton and Marian Keyes. Beyond these three authors, what is a novel you enjoyed reading in the past year, and what made it such an enjoyable read?
I really enjoyed Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity because apart from Perlman’s superior writing skills, he’s a gifted story teller and I really connected with the characters.
I have also been reading a lot of Young Adult novels such as It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, to try and keep up with what my daughter is reading. I admire her taste. Both totally amazing books. #cried
In a guest article on Sara Foster‘s author site, you wrote, “When starting a new manuscript, I’ll think about the general theme and develop it more specifically, for example infidelity and its’ repercussions, and then create a character to embody that crisis.” How important is theme in your novels, and why?
To me, theme is what keeps the plot moving forward, the character developing and evolving, and that leads to the ultimate resolution of the crisis.
In an interview on Mandy Magro‘s author site, you wrote, “It took me seven years of serious writing and endless rejections before I got a contract.” With the benefit of hindsight what writing advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say ‘don’t be in such a rush to send your manuscript to a publisher. Take the time to rest your manuscript, re-write, edit and REPEAT. You won’t be sending in your best effort if you don’t rest your manuscript for at least a month before you start re-writing. Objectivity is paramount.’
If your next novel had to be set before 1900, when and where might you set it, and why?
Another tough question. This is the first time I’ve thought about such an idea because my head is so firmly set in the modern world. However, I have always been very interested in history, Ancient Rome in particular, so maybe I would write a romance set in Pompeii just before the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79.
Your author desk has been featured on Beauty and Lace. How important is your writing environment to maintaining good writing habits?
Important, but not crucial. I do try to chain myself to my desk but it’s not always possible. Therefore, I carry a notebook with me so if I arrive at school early or am waiting for an appointment, I can write notes and jot down ideas. They might be illegible when I come to read them and type them into my computer but at least I try.
Before I had children I was strict re-sticking to my writing schedule and where I wrote, which was always at my desk. Since having kids, I’ve trained myself to be a lot more flexible. I have to be.
What is next for your fiction writing?
My next novel has the working title of Lily’s Little Flower Shoppe. It’s about a corporate city girl, Lily, who gives up everything to go and live in the country and open a flower shop.
Lisa Heidke’s author website: www.lisaheidke.com
The Australian Literature Review