For those not familiar with your fiction, how would you describe it?
Women’s contemporary fiction – chick-lit, hen-lit, mum-lit…I’ve had my books called all of these. I don’t mind how people want to label them as long as they read and enjoy them!
In an interview on Fiona Palmer’s website a few weeks ago, you wrote that you don’t really have a writing pattern but 2011 is your “year for being super organised”. How’s that working for you, and do have any handy tips for writers to organise their writing schedule?
Hmm, I’m still trying to get organised. I am good at procrastinating and that’s a dangerous occupation. The best thing you can do to avoid the procrastination trap is not to think about the process too much.
Dive straight in and start writing. In the mornings, I’ll allow myself an hour to answer emails, answer online interviews, check Twitter and Facebook and then once that time is up, I try and write for four hours – with the internet turned off. Do whatever you can to make the time you have work for you. If you’ve only got an hour, unplug the phone and go for it!
Getting started is the hardest part, but once words start appearing on the page, it becomes less daunting – and it’s an enormously satisfying feeling to have added another 2,000 words to your work in progress.
In a recent blog post, you wrote: “Because of the premise of Claudia’s Big Break – a story about three best friends who re-connect on a two week holiday, it wasn’t difficult to choose the idyllic setting of Santorini. I’ve holidayed there and had enough photos and memories to bring the island to life. Of course, I also researched it as well, but the setting was firmly in my mind the entire time I was writing the manuscript.” What do think tends to be the key to integrating setting and story to make them work together well?
In Claudia’s Big Break, the setting is crucial because the action takes place during the course of a two week holiday. To me, the key when integrating the setting and the story is not to make the writing sound like you’re reading a travelogue. Of course the reader wants to get a feel for Santorini and to imagine themselves swimming at the beaches and eating in the restaurants, etc, so it’s vital to authentically capture that setting, but it needs to be done subtly so that the reader can use their imagination to fill in the gaps and make the story work for them.
In the same blog post from the previous question you wrote: “Because What Kate did Next revolves around the main character, Kate, getting back into the workforce, coming to terms with her daughter’s blossoming sexuality and other domestic issues relating to her parents and sister, I felt the setting was secondary. Kate and her family are based in Sydney (like I am) but really, she could live in Perth, Boston, Oxford or Brisbane.” What do you think tends to make a story with characters and confilict interesting enough for it not to matter too much where it’s set?
I think when the story is character driven as with What Kate did Next, the focus is very much on creating interesting, vivid, three-dimensional characters. The characters in this story aren’t changed by their setting, i.e. Sydney, the conflict they encounter comes from internal struggles as well as tension with family and friends. For example, Kate and her daughter’s relationship is played out over seemingly mundane situations, being at home, going to school, first boyfriends, etc. As a backdrop against this, Kate is struggling internally with her own sexual frustration while deal with her daughter’s blooming sexual confidence. These scenes wouldn’t be played out differently if they were set in Melbourne or Monaco except that the language would differ slightly, as well as any specific mention of city icons etc.
On your website, you have ten tips aimed at helping writers develop a ‘fresh voice’ or original style for their fiction. In hindsight, what is the main fiction writing skill you would have loved someone to help you develop (or to have developed by yourself) when you were starting out?
Rewriting is a crucial part of the process! When you’ve finished writing the first draft of your manuscript, try to rest it at least a month before re-reading it again. When you do, it will be with fresh, objective eyes and you’ll have a much clearer view about what scenes need to be rewritten, deleted, added to, etc.
My second tip would be to buy Stephen King’s On Writing and keep it handy!
You have written that Marian Keyes is one of your favourite authors and you found her novel Watermelon “fabulous and laugh out loud funny”. What makes her fiction work so well for you as a reader?
I find it easy to relate to Marian Keye’s characters. She has a knack for creating very real, compelling and flawed characters, and in turn writes fabulous dialogue which is relevant, poignant and very often hilarious. I want to cringe at her characters sometimes but she always manages to pull a story together even when there are several plot-lines. I think she’s very clever.
Who is one of your favourite fictional characters and what makes them stand out for you?
I would have to say the fictional characters of Jane Austen. She captured her era of manners, morality, life and love, perfectly. Austen was also funny. Today, her writing remains as sharp and nuanced as it was when it was first published 200 years ago.
Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourites, as well as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility.
What are some of your favourite fiction books from childhood, and have they had a significant influence on your own fiction writing?
I loved Enid Blyton, in particular The Magic Faraway Tree series. Fantastic. I wouldn’t say Enid Blyton’s books have had an influence on my own writing, but they certainly instilled in me a love of writing from a very young age.
What’s next for your fiction?
It’s all about the repercussions of a girls’ night out. The story is set over one week, and examines how one seemingly random meeting can change your destiny…
More on Lisa Heidke and her fiction can be found at www.lisaheidke.com.
The Australian Literature Review