To Plot Or Not To Plot? by Helene Young

Wings of FearShattered SkyBurning LiesHalf Moon BayHelene Young, Safe HarbourHelene Young, Northern Heat     Robyn Bavati - Pirouette book cover

Anyone who knows me well knows that I write organically – or by the seat of my pants, if you want the honest truth.

For me the story starts with one or two characters, plus a setting and a theme. I start writing and then hang on for the ride until I reach the end. Plotting, sadly, is not my strong point. I gloss over it when I’m delivering workshops, waving airily at diagrams of Three Act or Five Act stories, and talking loftily of story arc, all the while knowing I don’t plot before I start writing.

So why am I writing a blog post about plotting? Because ultimately I do plot, but not until I’ve written the first draft. Sound a little nutty to you? You may be right… Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t something I’m proud of, nor have I publicly admitted it before, but I thought it was time to come clean. I hope it might bring comfort to those who do struggle to plot the whole story before they start to write. You may judge my process to be lacking in finesse, but I don’t plan to change it any time soon. You can be assured that it works for me and it may just work for you too.

Here is the Plot Backwards Approach, warts and all:

Firstly, I sit and write feverishly until I have a manuscript about 125,000 words, finishing with: The End.

Then I print a monthly calendar for the appropriate time frame, grab a handful of coloured highlighters, a large coffee, and get comfortable. This isn’t a quick process…

I start at the beginning of the manuscript and plot the scenes onto the calendar, using colour to show the different character’s scenes or point of view.

Next I check for alignment with the Hero’s Journey. I’m a devotee of Joseph Campbell’s and Christopher Vogler’s theory on how Myths and Legends have framed modern stories. Have I hit the high and low points? Is Act One about 25,000 to 30,000 words? Does my second act contain the bulk of the action and does it end on the black moment, when all is seemingly lost? The third act should be roughly 25,000 words long to balance Act One. Does it culminate in the blackest moment when lives are truly at stake yet still leave me room for a closing chapter to wrap everything up neatly?

If I’ve ticked those boxes then it’s time to look at the character’s individual arcs. Have their goal, motivation and conflicts been laid out in the first act? Is the conflict growing, changing and deepening in the second act? By the third act it should be inconceivable that those conflicts will be overcome right up until the blackest moment when the truth is rammed home and the light bulbs flash on for my protagonists.

So far so good? Then it’s time to prune the manuscript back to around 105,000 words. If I can manage that without my editor’s help then that’s a bonus but, if I can’t, working through the structural edit will help to achieve the required brutality.

Then it’s time to consider the beat sheet and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I was privileged to see Blake talk at a conference in America and his energy and vitality swept me away. His cinematic philosophy resonated strongly and I thoroughly recommend Save the Cat to all new writers. For me his outline helps to ramp up the rhythm of the story and ensure that the pace is moving along, leaving the reader with no option than to keep turning the page.

Lastly, I check that I have completed all the characters’ stories. If I’m leaving threads for a continuing story then it’s okay to leave unfinished business, but if it’s a stand-alone book then everyone’s arc needs to be wrapped up by the final chapter.

At about this point I usually realise I need to eat, go for a walk, and join the living again. So, you may well ask, wouldn’t it be easier to plot the story in the first place? Probably, but then I’d know the end of the story before I wrote it and where would the fun be in that?

What’s your process? Are you a plotter or an organic writer? Is your story compliant or is it a little rebellious? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To celebrate the release of my sixth book I have six prize packs to give away. Four of them are duos of Safe Harbour and Northern Heat and one major prize is a complete set of my six books. For international readers there is a duo of e-books to be won.

To enter, leave a comment here, or share the post and/or the trailer on a social media site and I’ll double your chances!

I hope to see you throughout May at the following blogs.

5th May:

7th May:

10th May:

12th May:

14th May:

17th May:

19th May:

21st May:

24th May:

26th May:

 28th May:

31st May:

2nd June: Wrap up and announce the winner on my blog:


Helene Young on Facebook
Helene Young on Twitter

Wings of FearShattered SkyBurning LiesHalf Moon BayHelene Young, Safe HarbourHelene Young, Northern Heat     Robyn Bavati - Pirouette book cover

The Australian Literature Review

Posted in Australian fiction author, Australian novelist, Queensland fiction author, Queensland novelist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Sandy Curtis – Writers’ Festival Organiser Interview


You are the Director of WriteFest, a writers’ festival held annually in Bundaberg, Queensland. For those unfamiliar, what is WriteFest and who will be presenting at the festival (to be held on May 16-17) in 2015?

Unlike most writers’ festivals, which are aimed mainly at readers, WriteFest is for writers, with workshops and masterclasses covering all aspects of the writing and publishing industry. This year’s presenters are Graeme Simsion, Professor Anne Buist, Dr Lindsay Simpson, Shannon Curtis, Kat Apel, Cathleen Ross, Kandy Shepherd, Jason Nahrung and Peter Ball. All are multi-published authors, in a wide spectrum of genres. Editor Liz Filleul is conducting a masterclass for advanced writers on both days, and these have a limit of 10 participants.

Each year we also have an agent, editor or publisher who interviews writers based on the quality of their submissions. In seven years this has resulted in eight writers being published.

This year, for the first time, we will have a literary lunch on the Sunday, as we know readers would like the opportunity to chat with the authors who come to WriteFest and listen to them speak. One of our Bundaberg Writers’ Club members came up with the name Writefeast and it seemed appropriate.

What kinds of sessions can people look forward to at this year’s WriteFest?

Workshops include:

Plotting using six stage structure
Character relationships that work
Pacing and tension
Writing your own life: Memoir and how to tell a good story
When words aren’t enough: Picture books for all ages
Putting the thrill in Thriller
Introduction to screen writing
Research: Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story
Writing verse novels that engage and empower children
What novelists can learn from screen writers
An open door to Horror
How to self-publish
Formatting for Smashwords, or Draft to digital
The masterclass is Essential self-editing

There will also be two short Q&A sessions, with the presenters available to answer attendees’ questions.

What prompted the Bundaberg Writers’ Club to start an annual writers’ festival in Bundaberg, and could you discuss a little about how the club managed to get the first WriteFest up and running?

Eleven years ago I suggested to the club that it would be good to bring industry professionals to Bundaberg so regional writers could learn from them. I’d done the hard yards of travelling to capital cities for workshops and conferences and I knew how difficult it had been to find the time and the money to do so. I figured it would be easier, and less expensive, to bring workshop presenters to Bundaberg than to take many writers to Brisbane or other cities. Well, you know what happens when you make a suggestion at a meeting – you end up with the job. I was on the Queensland Writers Centre Management Committee at the time, and was impressed with the CEO’s (Hilary Beaton) assertion that writers should value their time and expertise and be paid accordingly, so insisted that the presenters be paid ASA rates as well as accommodation and travel. Luckily we received a Regional Arts Development Fund grant that enabled us to bring three presenters up for the day. We also used the talents of some local writers to conduct genre-specific sessions at which attendees could share their knowledge, concerns, and queries. Queensland Writers Centre sent a representative to answer attendees’ queries about their organisation and its benefits. Over 100 writers from this and other regions came, and it was obvious there was a need for this type of festival.

What have been some of the joys and challenges of running WriteFest over the years?

Definitely the joys have been seeing the enthusiasm of the attendees and knowing that some of them have found critique partners they’ve kept in touch with ever since. Seeing the growth of writers who have come back each year, and especially the result of eight writers having their work published due to the agent/editor/publisher writer interviews we introduced into the program seven years ago.

Challenges? The biggest is finding funding. We are lucky to have received several RADF grants, a Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund and three years of corporate sponsorship. Unfortunately, with the natural disasters that have affected the area it’s difficult to find sponsors who can see the value in giving money to an event that has no spectators (like sport does) and only 80-100 participants. We are grateful for the support of the Queensland Writers Centre and the Bundaberg Regional Library. WriteFest now attracts writers from all over Queensland and northern New South Wales, as well as several from Victoria and South Australia, so I hope we can again find a sponsor who shares our vision.

Who are some of the published fiction writers among the Bundaberg Writers’ Club members and what kinds of fiction do they write?

Kat Apel – children’s fiction
Sue-Ellen Pashley – YA paranormal
Cheryse Durrant – YA Fantasy
Dean J Anderson – dark urban fantasy
Jen Addicoat – romance
John Regan – historic adventure
Sharon Rushton – children’s and YA
Diane Esmond – short genre fiction
Laree Chapman – short fiction and poetry

We also have several self-published authors in the club:

Kim Faulks – horror/paranormal
Val Lewis – fantasy
Andrew Monk – fantasy adventure
Jacqui Read – short women’s fiction.

For those unfamiliar with your own books, how would you describe your fiction?

Australian-set romantic thrillers (sometimes called romantic suspense). Perhaps this review from the Australian Crime Fiction Database at describes them best: “Sandy Curtis writes with a lot of flair, seamlessly combining a furious well-constructed thriller with an emotion charged love affair.”

Or these might also:

“Dangerous Deception is a page-turner with all the elements of the classic airport novel: action, mystery, intrigue, double crosses, relentless pursuits, sexual tension and a nail-biting climax. Sandy Curtis has written an ideal travelling companion for a long journey or a day at the beach. This book is instantly addictive and pure escapism.” Lachlan Jobbins (freelance reviewer), Australian Bookseller & Publisher

“All I can say is I loved this! Very well written, fast paced with some very interesting sex scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed it!” Kelly McLean, posted on Aussie Book Reviews

“Between the homicidal maniac… the international terrorist… the P-plate hit man… and five school friends covering up a decades-old crime, this thriller wouldn’t have had a more comprehensive cast of killers if it was set in the middle of Long Bay jail. Crime lovers will be more than satisfied. VERDICT: Watch your back.” Michelle Cazzulino, The Daily Telegraph

Who are some Australian novelists from outside the Bundaberg region whose books you enjoy reading and why?

Kaye Dobbie writes wonderful Australian-set fiction with characters whose lives intertwine with people of a long-ago era. Her characters come alive on the page and I love the plots that keep me turning the pages, desperate to know what’s coming next.

Anne Gracie writes fabulous historical romance books. She has a warm and witty turn of phrase, her characters are endearing and there is always a suspense element in the stories.

What advice do you have for others considering starting an annual writers’ festival in their local area?

If you are considering a festival like WriteFest, which is for writers rather than readers, make sure you have the following in your team:

Someone with great organising skills

Someone with good financial ability

Someone with expertise in writing grant applications

Members willing to take on the various small but essential roles

Speak with your local council to see if they are willing to get behind the festival in a financial and promotional way.

Liaise with the writers centre in your state to see what help they might be able to give.

Ensure you are able to provide workshop presenters who can share their knowledge and skills, not just talk about their own books.

Be prepared to devote months of your life to the festival each year.


Bundaberg Writers’ Club’s website:
Bundaberg Writers’ Club on Facebook

Sandy Curtis’s author website:
Sandy Curtis on Facebook


The Australian Literature Review

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Karen Wood – Author Interview

Jumping Fences, by Karen WoodRain Dance, by Karen WoodTriple Magic (Trickstars), by Karen WoodSummer Spell (Trickstars), by Karen WoodSecond Chance (Trickstars), Karen Wood

You began your career as an author with your Diamond Spirit series. For those not familiar with the Diamond Spirit series, how would you describe these novels?

When I set out to write Diamond Spirit, I wanted it to be so much more than a traditional ‘pony book’. As a person who has lived with horses all her life, these types of books never had a satisfying level of horsey detail for me. Diamond Spirit is about a girl called Jess who loses her beloved horse, Diamond. She makes sense of her loss by exploring indigenous themes of spirituality and reincarnation. The books have a strong sense of outback Australia and explore big ideas about connection to family, place, ancestors and nature. In the second book, Moonstone Promise, Luke camps on an outback river bed with three Aboriginal elders and explores the idea that horses could be his totem. There is a lot of authentic detail about horses and horse cultures, namely campdraft and rodeo, in rural Australia. It explores the deep connection people like myself feel towards horses, but also the spiritual fear Aboriginal Australians had towards horses, which stemmed from the massacres that happened during first contact. By the time I wrote the third book, Opal Dreaming, Jess and Luke were ready to meet and fall in love. By total accident I became a romance writer!!!

You have gone on to have two rural romance novels published so far, with a third due for release in September 2015. What are some of the biggest differences between these and the Diamond Spirit novels?

At first I was apprehensive about writing rural romance novels, but my publishers at Allen & Unwin thought I could do it. Writing about horses is my comfort zone, but I’m not a farmer, so I was worried about my work not being ‘authentic’. With Jumping Fences I tried to stick to what I knew – bush festivals and dog high jump with some horses in the sub plots. I was surprised when Jumping Fences began to outsell Diamond Spirit and this armed me with a lot more confidence to tackle some rural issues in Australia. As I began researching for Rain Dance, I found a way to weave in the words of our drought stricken farmers, word for word via dialogue, in a way that I felt gave an authentic voice to farmers in Australia and helped to show their plight. I tried to flip the clichéd losing the family farm, theme on its head by showing that city people lose their properties too. I explored themes of sexuality, depression, environment and health through both city and country, and tried to find empathy between the two. Again, I seemed to be exploring the idea that the deeper you dig into various cultures, the more we are all the same.

You have recently announced that you have an upcoming children’s book series called Trickstars, due for release in July 2015. How have you found the experience of writing children’s fiction after writing novels for teens and adults?

These books were so much fun to write. When I first started working on them my daughters were aged seven and ten. I’ve loved being able to consult with them about the series and share ideas. Ruby was adamant that there had to be magic in them and Annabelle insisted the characters have fabulous blingy costumes. When A&U sent me the draft covers for them, my girls picked them to pieces and made me send them back, demanding more sparkle. Even though they were smaller books, I still had to find that story arc, but they didn’t require as much ‘block time’ in the actual writing process as my previous books. I could write in shorter bursts and have more time for my family. I’d really love to write more for this readership.

Horses are a common element in all your books. Do you find that lots of horse enthusiasts find your books by seeking out horse fiction or by friends recommending your books because they are horse-related?

I’m not really sure. Lots of my readers write to me (I love it) and tell me a friend recommended them, or they say they loved the covers. Some say I HATE HORSE BOOKS… but this one was pretty good… I do get a lot of genuine horse lovers contacting me. They send me photos of their horses and tell me all about them. I think we horse mad girls have a special connection somehow. We just totally get each other.

I recently discovered that John Flanagan, author the Ranger’s Apprentice series and the Brotherband series, is your uncle. Have you taken any lessons from the Ranger’s Apprentice series, the Brotherband series or from John Flanagan himself that you apply in your own fiction writing?

Oh yeah! It was John who inspired me to write Diamond Spirit. I was standing in my mum’s kitchen when he rang with the news that he had landed a big international book deal. We were all so excited for him. I had an old manuscript that I’d been tinkering with on and off for years, and I thought, I want to do that too! John has been so generous with his time and his advice. He advised me on how to get a book published and if I ever have questions about contracts or how the industry works he is never more than a phone call away. The biggest thing I’ve learned from the Ranger’s Apprentice books is that it’s okay to write in great detail about the things you know and love. His fans may not know but he is a talented guitarist and song-writer and he has always loved archery. His books are full of loving detail about stringed instruments and medieval weapons – the things he knows and loves. I must say, the horsey details in his books are spot on too – you’ve gotta love Tug. And no he didn’t get advice from me. When I wrote Diamond Spirit I wasn’t sure how much horsey detail to use. I was worried about boring people with it, but I was guided by RA in a lot of ways and I think it did my books well.

If your next book had to be a thriller/adventure novel with an urban setting, what might it be about and why?

I would really like to set a book in a vet’s practice – there are all sorts of murderous props in a surgery – it would be a comedy, based on some people I know. I have it all plotted out. They will freak if they read this.

In a writing workshop you run for school groups, you ask students to structure their own story around a framework of: orientation, complication, events and resolution. Is this the basic framework you start from to form the core of a story for a novel or children’s book? [See Structuring Your Novel: Chapters And Their Endings, by Karen Wood and Structuring Your Novel: Using A Chapter Summary, by Karen Wood for more on what to do after you have the core of your story.]

In a very basic sense, yes. This was something I had to really concentrate on with my first couple of books, but now, after fourteen books, it just comes naturally and I don’t have to think about it as much. It’s an excellent framework for teaching though.

What can readers look forward to in your new releases for 2015?

For those who want more horses and romance, my next novel is about rodeo-loving Kirra who has just left school and taken up a job as a horse breaker on a remote station in central Queensland. More info will be released as it gets closer to publication date in September.

For younger readers, aged 6-10, meet the Trickstars! Ruby, Lexie and Kit are triplets with a penchant for performing breathtaking tricks on horseback. After discovering an old trunk full of their grandmother’s old costumes in the stable loft, the triplets realise that their gymnastics-meets-dance riding style runs in the family, and the girls set about making a name for themselves. The books are full of family intrigue and a colourful Romani past; gymnastics and dance meets horse-riding; and the engaging lead sisters, triplets, each with their own personality, issues and emotional life.


Karen Wood’s author website:

Karen Wood on Facebook

Jumping Fences, by Karen WoodRain Dance, by Karen WoodTriple Magic (Trickstars), by Karen WoodSummer Spell (Trickstars), by Karen WoodSecond Chance (Trickstars), Karen Wood

The Australian Literature Review

Posted in auslit, Australian author, Australian author interview, Australian children's book author, Australian horse fiction, Australian novelist, australian rural fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Watt – Author Interview

Your Frontier series, which some might know as the Macintosh and Duffy family saga, has followed the Macintoshes and Duffies from Colonial Queensland to South Africa during the Boer War, Europe and the Middle East during World War 1, and now to Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region leading up to and during World War 2. How has it been as a writer weaving the stories of the Macintoshes and Duffies through these historical times and places?

I guess writing the family saga has been an opportunity to entertain and educate readers about our past. I think if I had not chosen the life that I did I would have loved to have been either an archaeologist or history teacher. My role model in pursuing the saga is Professor Michael Roe, who taught me Australian history at the University of Tasmania, back in the mid 1970s. When I research and write the novels – including those outside the family saga – I feel the wonderful professor’s eyes looking over my shoulder, to ensure historical accuracy. Maybe I aim for a High Distinction from him.

Your Papua trilogy also leads up to and includes World War 2. Is this a time you want to write more about, or will you soon move on to post World War 2 or another time period?

So far I have only reached WWII in all my writing but there will be at least two more novels in the family saga post WWII. I have considered using my characters Karl Mann from the Papua trilogy and David Macintosh from the Frontier series to team up and fight those forgotten campaigns of Korea, the Malayan Emergency and Konfrontasi, leading into the Vietnam campaign. I knew such soldiers when I was in the regular army, back in my own enlistment in 1969 for three years.

You have written: “Research is vital to producing a credible novel that is historically based. I think readers expect not only to be entertained but also educated.” How would you describe your approach to combining entertainment and education in your last novel or in your current work in progress?

Once I reach 1963 I will then pursue novels set in the 19th century to remind readers of our forgotten, colourful past. I guess I love picking up musty old books with stories of people and events that were truly exciting and history changing.

As usual much of my time is taken up in research of events that happened before I was born but close enough to a time that many of our older population remember with the latest books. So accuracy is vital. Get just one tiny detail wrong and credibility is lost. I am pleased to relate that a few old WWII diggers I know gave me the thumbs up. It was not hard because it was their stories I was writing. My current work for release next year takes the reader to 1945 and the end of the terrible conflict. It was interesting to hear men who were facing the Japanese in the Pacific say that the defeat of Hitler in Europe did not mean a lot to them. How could it when they were still fighting and dying against an enemy who refused to surrender?

You have mentioned that you are a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s novels. What other kinds of novels do you enjoy reading?

Besides Bernard Cornwell (who is also a favourite of Wilbur Smith) I read our own great story teller of Africa, Tony Park. I guess because of having to research I get little time to seek out new authors, so my head is still in the past with greats such as James Clavell (who was an Aussie former POW of the Japanese who made it big in Hollywood), James A Mitchener, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith and Joseph Wambaugh (a former cop from LA who wrote great cop stories). More recent authors have been Tom Clancy and our Aussie author, John Birmingham. I guess I like novels that grip you and hence try to write the same turn-of-the-page style.

Where, in your opinion, do writers sometimes go wrong with wartime historical fiction, and what can an aspiring novelist do to avoid or fix such things in their manuscript?

It is interesting to pick faults in some writers of war novels. As an example, the myth that Aussie soldiers were landed on the wrong beach at Gallipoli has been discounted by recent research into British military records. An over flight by British recon aircraft very shortly before the landings discovered the beach we were supposed to land on was covered by Turkish artillery. It was artillery that killed most soldiers in WWI. There would not have been ANZAC Day if we had landed on the original choice, as it is likely very few would have survived the shelling to reach the heights and a retreat would have been ordered. I still read in popular novels this myth of the wrong beach being told. Those authors should learn to carry out more intensive research. Maybe my days as a police investigator, coupled with academic training, has taught me to be thorough and not simply copy what was written before.

Given the subject matter of your novels, do you or your publisher have any plans for readers around the centenary of ANZAC Day that you can share?

As I still remain one of the least known writers in Australia, the government does not know I exist, and because of my age I do not fit into the publicity machine. I think the great British writer, PD James summed it up. It is worth quoting her:

“I imagine I will continue to undertake major writer tours as long as I continue to write and have the strength. But this method of selling books, promoting the writer rather as if he or she were a pop star, seems a curious, even farcical concomitance. I note that today a new writer who is young and physically attractive starts with a considerable initial advantage. He or she will be a hit on the publicity trail. The image is promotable and acceptable.”

Are there any major surprises coming up in your future writing, or more of what your readers enjoy and know you for?

Future books will be written along the lines of historical saga. My genre is shrinking, as readers turn to whatever the media promotes, but I love history, and I think I am not completely alone. After all, history telling is about ghosts. Who does not like a good ghost story?


Peter Watt’s author website:

Peter Watt on Facebook

Peter Watt is willing to Skype with book clubs and writing groups to answer questions about his books. If your book club or writing group would like to Skype with Peter about his books, you can contact him via his author website or via Facebook.

Fans of Peter’s books can also join the Fans of Peter Watt books Facebook group.

The Australian Literature Review

Posted in Australian author, Australian author interview, australian fiction, Australian fiction books, Australian historical fiction books, Australian historical novel author, australian literature, Australian novelist, Australian war fiction, author interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stephen Ormsby – Publisher Interview

Jack Dann - JubileeDirk Strasser - Stories of the SandSatima Flavell - The Dagger of DresniaBevan McGuiness - The Only Evil

You and your wife, Marieke, run Satalyte Publishing. For those unfamiliar with Satalyte, what kinds of services does Satalyte offer for writers?

Satalyte Publishing is a traditional publishing house. If your novel is accepted by us we will edit and design the novel. We talk to the author through every stage of the process, producing a result that we will both be happy with. A novel needs to find an audience, and if an author is not happy with the way their novel looks, then they are going to struggle to sell it.

Currently our submissions process is closed, as we had well over 200 submissions in the first six months. We will open it on an ad-hoc basis, but at the moment I am approaching the authors I want to publish.

We have also started a new branch: Satalyte Book Services. This offers the opportunity for a self publishing author to work with us and allow them to create something they would be proud to release. This service will brand the author’s novel as they wish. If you want to self publish, we will build a professional product for you. Obviously, this is a fee based service.

Satalyte is still relatively new. What has it been like starting a publishing business?

When I decided to start the business, Marieke announced that we were pregnant. Even with the knowledge of having that new difficulty in our lives, I pushed on. To say that it wasn’t my wisest choice would be an understatement. Would I change it now if I got the opportunity? No.

For the first nine months of getting the business set up, Marieke was carrying our youngest daughter. A week before Elizabeth was born, we released Great Southern Land. We both hope to build this business up as a legacy for our children, and to make a difference much like Text does.

It’s exciting, frustrating, intense, difficult, fun… and that’s a standard week. We put in a lot of hours a week to produce our works, and struggle to do so much between Marieke, myself and our incredible intern, Lyss. (PS: If you would like to intern with us, please contact us! Help us bring great and creative literature to life.) We love the thrill of meeting our readers, and the best way we see to do that is to get to as many events as possible.

Satalyte has some established authors such as Jack Dann and Dirk Strasser, as well as some early-career authors such as Tarran Jones, whose short stories Dance of the Gods and The Old Jenson Place were shortlisted in competitions on this site in April 2011 and December 2011). What makes Satalyte different from other publishers and attracts authors to choose Satalyte?

We’re not sure, to tell you the truth. I think it’s that everybody is getting to know us, and they see that we do get to the events and that we push all of our titles all of the time. We like to think of Satalyte as a big family, and this means that the authors pitch in! That means if we do a convention, such as Supanova, we will have authors there behind the desk selling not only their book, but the range of Satalyte titles to a customer.

I think that they feel part of something new, exciting and potentially big. That’s how we see it.

When you have Jack Dann telling you that you’re making all the right noises, you have to believe it.

Satalyte promotes authors’ books at events such as the recent Foster Show in regional Victoria. How important is marketing and publicity – an area that is sometimes neglected by small publishers – to what you do?

Marketing is everything after the book is released. In the case of the Foster Show, it’s a chance to meet our potential new readers in our most immediate vicinity. The other side of it is that we need to keep selling books to keep relevant, and the best way to do that is to be out there. As we have authors in almost every state, we can have someone signing almost all the time. That gives us an opportunity to market an event as a Meet and Greet.

Also, we try to launch as many of our novels as possible. This gets us into the bookstores, which gives attention to our releases, which, if the event goes well, has the bookstore more willing to stock Satalyte titles. It all about push, push, push, but being seen as doing it the right way.

What do you look for in submissions sent to Satalyte?

This is what got me into so much trouble early on. I found so many great works out there, just being neglected by everybody else, that I signed up way too many books for our own good. I think we have just got through that initial block and still have a great backlog of titles. We also have some of our authors wanting to release more than one title with us, which is the main reason we have closed submissions.

We also have a bulldog! Our intern, Lyss, does all of the submissions reading now, and we have found she has a very good eye for it.

At Conflux, we were involved in pitching sessions, which really exposed Lyss and I to the authors. That changed things for me, as it was the first time I looked at an author for both their words but also how sociable they appear. In the day of social media, I’m starting to see that an author needs to be willing to get amongst the readers, as they love being able to be personable with their favourite new author.

Satalyte publishes across a variety of genres but are there some particular kinds of fiction that Satalyte is becoming known for or would specifically like to build on with more books of that kind?

This was all personal choice based on my reading over 35 years. I suppose I’ve read more science fiction and fantasy than anything else, and that shows with our releases. Another thing may be that I was known in the spec fic scene a little more early on.

We realised this and made a determined effort to fill out our list with a select set of genres. We continue to look for titles in as many genres as possible. We see this as the best way to be found, using the logic that if you like one of our titles in a specific genre, then you may just be willing to try one of our titles in a different genre.

We will probably continue to have more speculative fiction titles, due to recurring authors, and I don’t mind that. It gets us to the Confluxs, Continuums and Nat Cons, which are a buzz.

What are some of the new books can readers look forward to from Satalyte this year?

Are you really for this? We look like having some twenty more titles (in both paper and ebook) out this year, including:

The Rebel: Second Chance by Jack Dann
Tales of Cymria by K. J. Taylor
The Cloak of Calliver (The Talismans Book Two) by Satima Flavell
Into the Heart of Varste (Across the Stonewind Sky Book Two) by Ged Maybury
The Art of Effective Dreaming by Gillian Polack
North of Dragonlands by Stephen Dedman
A Quiet Place by Andrew McKiernan
The Morgan Template edited by Paul Collins (including names like John Alderson, Patricia Bernard, Russell Blackford, Paul Collins, David Lake, Sean McMullen, Wynne N. Whiteford, Jack Wodhams and A. Bertram Chandler).

Our titles are (usually) listed early as pre-orders.


Satalyte Publishing’s website:

Satalyte Publishing on Facebook
Satalyte Publishing on Twitter

Jack Dann - JubileeDirk Strasser - Stories of the SandSatima Flavell - The Dagger of DresniaBevan McGuiness - The Only Evil 

The Australian Literature Review

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Belinda Murrell – Author Interview

Your Lulu Bell illustrated children’s books have been quite popular. What, in your experience, makes a good author/illustrator/publisher team for producing an illustrated children’s book series?

Of all my books, the creation of the Lulu Bell series has definitely been a collaborative effort. The series is about a girl called Lulu, growing up living in a vet hospital and it was partly inspired by my own childhood as the daughter of a vet. I wrote the first four books initially before pitching them to my publisher Zoe Walton at Random House. We then worked closely together to refine the language, tone, positioning and title of the series. When illustrator Serena Geddes was originally briefed to create the roughs she came over to my home, met my children and pets, and took some of her inspiration from family photographs. Serena and I have a very close working relationship where we frequently get together or chat on the phone to discuss the illustrations or ideas for covers, and have lots of laughs. The close relationship between author, illustrator, publisher and editor means that we share ideas, listen to feedback and work together to create the best possible series. There are now 11 Lulu Bell books, with another two being launched at the Sydney Writers Festival in May. The books have been translated into Afrikaans and Portuguese, so I am thrilled that kids as far away as South Africa and Brazil will be reading my stories. It is so exciting to see the books doing so well and I feel very lucky to have such a strong team working with me on Lulu Bell.

You have a series of time-slip novels for readers aged about 10-14. For those unfamiliar with time-slip novels, how would you describe the concept of time-slip and the appeal time-slip novels have for readers?

I love the concept of time-slip, and it obviously appeals to many readers as well, as I get hundreds of letters from children telling me how much they love them. My time-slip books each tell the story of a modern day child who finds an old piece of jewellery which is a link to someone who lived in the past. The protagonist then goes on a voyage of discovery, slipping back in time, to solve the mystery, find out what happened to the historical characters, and explore what life was like back then. I’ve always been fascinated by history and the idea of travelling back in time. I also love the idea of taking a modern day character, with all their experiences and foibles, and putting them in a completely unfamiliar environment where they have to deal with the dangers and difficulties that were faced by our ancestors. Through this experience, each of my modern day protagonists discovers something about their own life, strengths and inner courage. Each one is a stand-alone book, with a different setting and characters. My time-slip books have been recognised with various awards, and I am particularly thrilled that for the last four years, one of my books has been shortlisted for the KOALA and YABBA awards, where thousands of children around Australia nominate and vote for their favourite book.

You have described the character dynamics between two characters in your novel The Sequin Star, set in Australia during the Great Depression, as: “One is escaping poverty and the other is escaping wealth – can the two find happiness together.” What were some of the joys or challenges in depicting these character dynamics?

My character Rosina is a real battler, but a chameleon, who is very good at reinventing herself. She was a wonderful character to explore because she is strong and confident and resourceful, largely because of her tough life and having to fend for herself with limited resources. Kit on the other hand, has grown up in a wealthy family, but with his own challenges, particularly a distant father, the early loss of his mother and the weight of family expectations. Kit is very drawn to Rosina’s strength and flamboyance, while Rosina appreciates his sensitivity. I particularly loved creating the character of Rosina, both for her personality and for her occupation as a circus performer. Some of the challenges were researching and understanding traditional social expectations in the 1930s to ensure that my characters were believable and their relationships reflected these values.

What are your thoughts on the relative importance of historical accuracy and entertaining storytelling in historical fiction?

This is a tricky one. Firstly, it is very important to me that my books are as historically accurate as possible – and I do often get people writing to me to check tiny details. For example, were egg beaters invented in 1895? Or would a 15 year old girl really drive a circus truck without a license in 1932? So it’s important that I do thorough research over many months and double check my facts – reading memoirs, historical texts, letters and interviews, and visiting the settings. However I also believe that my primary purpose is not to deliver a history lesson. My primary motivation is to create a vivid world and to write an enthralling story, which children will want to keep reading. So the history needs to be accurate, but I need to tread lightly so that the story is not bogged down by the facts.

You have written: “Elizabeth Bennett has always been one of my favourite protagonists and I imagine that in many ways, she was based on Jane Austen herself.” To what extent would you say that any of your own characters are based on yourself?

Lots of my characters have a little spark of me in them. One of the obvious ones is young eight year old Lulu Bell, growing up living in a vet hospital just like I did as a child. She is the eldest child in her family – practical, caring, creative, sometimes a little bossy, and a tomboy who is good at solving problems. Like me she has a father who is a vet, a mother who is incredibly patient with all the animal chaos, a younger sister who is dreamy and imaginative, and a little brother who is funny and naughty, plus of course loads of loveable animals. Likewise some of the characters in the time slip books have elements of me – sometimes shy and awkward, sometimes bold and adventurous. But one of the characters that I admire the most is Charlotte Atkinson, the Mamma in The River Charm. She is a woman with true grit and courage, who would do anything to protect her children, and while she was not based on me, I like to think I too would be a formidable adversary if anyone was threatening my beloved children.

You speak often at schools, conferences and literary festivals. What are some of the things about your writing that people ask about most at these events?

People are fascinated by the process of creative writing – how do I research, how long does it take me to write a book, do I plan a book, how long does it take, where do I work, what do I do about writer’s block and the editing process. I often show them my notebook, which I carry everywhere with me – filled with jumbled notes, ideas, research data, character sketches, mind maps, lists of names from different historical periods, photographs of settings or people, and diagrams where I plan out my story arc. This is my first stage of planning a book and it looks rather disorganised. Next I write a synopsis of the story, covering the setting, characters and the basic plot, which I share with my publisher before I begin writing. Once I have signed the contract with Random House, I begin work on writing the story, setting myself word goals – for example 5000 words per week, to help me meet my looming deadlines. I often emphasise that for me, the researching stage and the editing stage each take about three or four months, almost as long as writing the first draft. And my number one tip for writers block? Just keep writing!

If your next book had to be science fiction, what do you think it would be about?

I worry about what the future will be like for coming generations, as our current first world lifestyles are simply not sustainable. Issues like climate change, loss of species, pollution, over population and the misuse of resources, mean that life will be very different for future generations. So if I was to write a science fiction book, I think it would focus on how life and technology changes in the future to manage these problems, and perhaps encourage readers to think what they could do now to protect our planet. And it would definitely have robots to do the housework!

What can readers look forward to from you over the rest of the year?

This year will be a busy one!! The six books in my time slip series has just been re-released with beautiful new covers, plus I have four new titles being launched in the Lulu Bell series, (two in March and two in June) which means lots of touring. I have trips planned to the Somerset Celebration of Literature, the Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference, Voices on The Coast, Sydney Writers Festival, Geelong festival and book tours in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria visiting lots of schools, so I will be away for about one week every month for the next few months. In addition I am also actively involved as an ambassador for Room to Read, Books In Homes and the CBCA, doing various events to promote children’s literacy. After writing five new Lulu Bell books last year, I have just started work on writing another book in my time slip series, set in Melbourne during the 1920s, exploring rebellious teenagers, Russian spies and an abandoned mansion. It’ s due out in March next year so I really need to get cracking on it!!


Belinda Murrell’s author website:

Belinda Murrell on Facebook

The Australian Literature Review

Posted in Australian author, Australian author interview, Australian children's book author, australian fiction, Australian novelist, Australian novelist interview, Australian writer, Belinda Murrell, children's fiction author from New South Wales, interview with Australian children's book author, New South Wales novelist, novelist from NSW, NSW children's book author | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elisabeth Storrs – Author Interview

     The Lavender Keeper

You are involved in organising the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia conference, to be held in Sydney on March 20-22 this year. What is one thing you are personally looking forward to at the conference, and what makes this thing particularly special to you?

The HNSA conference will be the realisation of a vision that started back in 2012 to organise a forum for historical fiction lovers to celebrate the genre. HNS’s founder, Richard Lee, has pledged support to HNSA to help it develop a regional presence and establish a ‘third’ conference in addition to HNS’s current UK and US events. We plan to hold the event biennially while rotating the cities in which it will be held. I’m personally looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people with whom I’ve been corresponding who are attending from far and wide: New Zealand, US and Ireland, as well as those from interstate Australia. I’m also very excited to finally meet all the authors who have generously agreed to appear on our program. We have over 40 speakers, so there will be a lot to talk about.

You have had a novel published by Sydney-based Murdoch Books, followed by a novel published as an independent author and, more recently, have signed a three-novel deal with Amazon’s Lake Union imprint. Could you tell readers a bit about the progression of these publishing arrangements and how they have worked for you?

I wrote my first novel, The Wedding Shroud, over a period of ten years and was thrilled when my agent finally secured a contract with Pier 9 at Murdoch Books. It was like a dream come true. Unfortunately it was released in the same week Borders collapsed and the book industry was thrown into a spin. Luckily, the digital revolution had begun. When circumstances lead to Pier 9 being taken over by Allen & Unwin, I decided not to assign the rights and self-published the book internationally. I then released the sequel, The Golden Dice, in 2013. ‘Going indie’ was fantastic as I was freed of restraints and could choose how to market my book aggressively using pricing strategies that were then frowned upon by traditional publishers (but are now being adopted by them). I also discovered a huge readership in the States. Altogether, my books have received over 300 reviews on Amazon, and over 2000 readers have added them to their Goodreads lists. As a result of this, Amazon’s publishing imprint, Lake Union, approached me out of the blue and offered me a three book deal to re-release The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice in April this year, with the third book in the trilogy, Call to Juno, being released in April 2016. This is a fantastic opportunity for me, as Lake Union will produce a print run for release in American bookstores. The novels will also be translated into seven different languages and be produced as audiobooks.

For those unfamiliar with your novels, how would you describe your fiction?

The Tales of Ancient Rome trilogy is set in the early Roman Republic but, more importantly, it explores the civilisation of the Etruscans. These people were incredibly sophisticated compared to their Roman neighbours who were still fighting turf wars when Etruria had already established a vast sea faring empire. Etruscan women were afforded independence, education and sexual freedom compared to their Roman and Greek counterparts. As such they were considered wicked and decadent. The Wedding Shroud tells the story of Caecilia, a young Roman girl married to an Etruscan nobleman, Vel Mastarna, to seal a truce. Determined to remain true to ‘Roman virtues’, she finds herself faced with conflicting moralities while slowly being seduced by the freedoms her husband offers her. The Golden Dice continues Caecilia’s tale after war is declared. I also introduce two other female characters: Pinna, a Roman tomb whore, and Semni, an Etruscan artisan. As such, my books explore themes of destiny versus self-determination, and tolerance versus prejudice, while accenting the lives of women in ancient history.

What advice do you have for independent authors or for traditionally published authors who want to be proactive about how their books are published and publicised?

I believe that the snobbery that has existed amongst publishers and authors alike concerning self-publishing needs to be banished. The advent of improved digital technology, publishing portals, and savvy marketing strategies means that an author doesn’t have to wait to ‘be discovered’. They can make success happen themselves. However, this means running a professional business. An indie author has to be publisher, printer and publicist as well as a writer. I now understand the value of the backlist. I am still selling copies of The Wedding Shroud even though it was published in 2010. If I hadn’t produced a version myself, it would have been long forgotten. Also, writing a series means that readers can enter at different access points. This leads to cross-selling between titles. Lake Union understands this. That’s why I was prepared to enter into a traditional publishing contract again.

Who are a few of your favourite historical novelists, and what makes their novels stand out for you?

My favourite historical novelist is Mary Renault. Her prose is lyrical and compelling. When I read The Persian Boy and The King Must Die as a school girl, I was immediately hooked on the idea of writing about the ancient world myself. I also enjoy Hilary Mantel for the effortless manner in which she establishes the pathology of her characters within the historical framework of Tudor politics. More recent favourites are Hannah Kent, Alice Hoffman and Madeline Miller.

Other than historical fiction, what kinds of fiction do you most enjoy reading and why?

Of late, I’ve enjoyed reading Henning Mankell’s Wallander series. It is dark and nuanced yet easy to read. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time at the moment for reading, due to organising the HNSA conference.

What is next for you as an author?

I am currently writing Call to Juno to a deadline which has required me to be extremely disciplined. I have finished the first draft and am now refining the manuscript. I really enjoy the editing process, so I’m feeling a little more under control. Facing the blank page every morning and knowing I needed to produce a certain word count by night was very daunting.


Elisabeth Storrs’s author website:

Elisabeth Storrs on Facebook
Elisabeth Storrs on Twitter

HNSA conference website:

     The Lavender Keeper

Posted in Australian indie author, Elisabeth Storrs, Historical Novel Society Australasia, HNSA conference, Tales of Ancient Rome trilogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment