A Pantster And Proud Of It

PlotterWriters all fall somewhere on the continuum between ‘plotter‘ and ‘pantster’. I’ve written a couple of posts about how screenwriters can teach authors a thing or two about plotting. How to use the three act structure. How it helps to plan out your inciting incident, your midpoint, your protagonist’s ‘dark night of the soul’. In fact my enormous corkboard has plot points pinned all over it. However I feel like a bit of a fraud in this regard, because when it comes to the crunch, I’m a pantster.

Save the Cat 233,000 words into the new novel, and my corkboard is struggling to keep up with the unexpected directions my narrative keeps taking. I’m cheating by updating my index cards as I go, pretending that character A was always going to be a pilot, and that character B was always going to have a ten year old daughter. It’s like forging a path into the unknown, and making the map afterwards. But that’s okay, because often it’s only in the writing of the story, that its direction becomes clear. Novel writing is a mysterious and deeply organic process, and it would be boring to always know exactly what was going to happen next.

magic of writingThat doesn’t mean an initial planning phase is wasted, however far the evolving story may depart from its original concept. A plan sets a writer off in the right direction, with a sense of purpose. That much updated, unforgiving corkboard will still shine a glaring spotlight on any ugly plot holes. And the final narrative must still contain every element of a rip-roaring yarn. Just remember that all the possibilities of a story might not show up until you’re well into the journey. Sometimes you need to throw away the plan, and let the magic happen!

Aussie Author Month – Rural Fiction (Plus A Giveaway!)

Aussie Auhor Month. 2 pngApril is Aussie Author Month and celebrates the uniqueness and quality of Australian literature. It was started in 2011 by a group of reviewers and readers who wanted something special to celebrate Aussie authors. Genre and style doesn’t matter, it’s about a love of literature and a desire to promote home-grown reading to a wider community. Another important aspect of Aussie Author Month is recognising that literacy in this country isn’t as widespread as it should be, particularly among Indigenous and remote communities. It aims to raise awareness and fundraise for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Indigenous literacy FoundationI’m an Aussie rural author, and am proud to be part of a burgeoning publishing success story – one being led exclusively by women writers. In a challenging time for publishers, Aussie rural lit has defied the trends with sales more than tripling in the past four years. Authors such as Rachael Treasure, Nicole Alexander and Fiona Palmer routinely outsell other local fiction.

One reason for the popularity of this genre, is that the heroines are generally tough, independent and capable people. Unlike the characters in a lot of chick-lit, they are not obsessed with shopping and finding a man. But there is another, more important reason. At the heart of this sort of fiction is a passion for the Australian countryside. Speaking personally, while I love to explore the complexities of human relationships, my narratives are always informed by the bush, together with its flora and fauna.

Brumbies In The BushAustralia’s wild landscapes are powerful settings. In cities, many people live lives so far removed from nature, that they rarely even touch the earth. But at what cost? The cost to our declining environment? The cost to our hearts? I think the world is hungry to reconnect with nature, to ground itself. The rural lit genre taps into this vein. When we lose touch with wildness, we lose touch with who we really are.

To celebrate Aussie Author Month I’m giving away a copy each of Brumby’s Run and Wasp Season. Just leave a comment saying what you love about Aussie stories for your chance to win! Winners announced April 30th. Aust & NZ entrants only.

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One Little White Lie – Loretta Hill

Loretta HillPlease welcome Loretta Hill to Pilyara. Loretta is a number one best-selling author of contemporary fiction set in unique Australian settings. Her books sell like hot cakes. In fact her new novella One Little White Lie is currently sitting at the top of the ITunes charts! Today she gives us an insight into her writing and hints about what’s coming next.

Good Morning Loretta. Tell us about the sort of stories that you write?

Broadly, I write commercial women’s fiction which incorporates some romance.  Specifically, I have written two big outback stories set on the Pilbara. They are called, “The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots” and “The Girl in the Hard Hat.” These stories are about strong woman trying to work in a male dominated environment against the glorious backdrop of Australia’s red north. I have also written two romantic comedies set in urban Sydney, “Kiss and Tell” and now just released this month by Random Romance, “One Little White Lie.”

So tell me about your latest release?

One Little White Lie CoverOne Little White Lie” is a romantic comedy novella that will be released as an e-book only.

 It’s about a girl called Kate who is the current project of the match maker from hell. She knows that her best friend is not going to stop fixing her up with strange men unless she tells her that she is happily dating someone. Who knew that one little white lie could so blatantly backfire?

The imaginary boyfriend she described to her friend suddenly walks into her life and starts making himself comfortable in it.  Trapped by her lie, poor Kate is powerless to stop him. But the real question is, does she really want to?

Where did this idea come from?

HardHat cover finalWhen I was much younger, I’m talking high school, my single girlfriends and I always used to get a giggle out of talking about our dream guys.  When you’re young and going through all that teenage angst, you always think you’re never going to meet anyone. I always thought, wouldn’t it be great if one day my fantasy guy just appeared in my life as if he’d always been there.  This is sort of what I did to Kate. It was such a fun story to write. I think everyone’s been in an embarrassing situation brought about by their own foolishness.  You know the feeling where you just wish the ground would open up and swallow you. I loved giving Kate exactly what she wanted in exactly the wrong way.

What are you working on next?

Steel caps coverAt the moment I’m working on the third and final instalment to my Fly in, Fly out Girls Series. The title is The Girl in the Yellow Vest. It will include some characters from my previous two books but also a lot of new ones. The job is now in Queensland at the Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal. I think this one is going to be heaps of fun. If readers haven’t tried one of my books before, I know Random House is offering a free e-sampler. (http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/loretta-hill/loretta-hill-sampler-9780857980304.aspx)

Thanks Loretta, and I look forward to your next great read! For more information about Loretta and her books see www.lorettahill.com.au

BB2013_Nominee

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop!

australiadaybloghopTHE ORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS

Welcome to this Australia Day book giveaway blog hop. It’s the brainchild of Shelleyrae and Confessions from Romaholics. The aim is to connect aussie authors and readers. My post today is about the original Australians. I’m not talking about our indigenous people, who share a proud history with this continent dating back at least 50,000 years. No, I’m talking about the flora and fauna that evolved along with our land over millions of years.

Tasmanian TigersIn Australia we have an exceptionally high number of unique species, yet we also have the highest extinction rate in the world. 126 species of plants and animals have vanished in just 200 years. Another 182 species are classified as endangered, and 201 more are threatened. Many are locally extinct, only surviving precariously on offshore islands or in captivity.

Brush tailed BettongThankfully we have moved beyond the worst cruelties of the past. For example, in the early twentieth century, live Brush-tailed Bettongs were sold for ninepence a dozen to be chased and torn apart by greyhounds. Today’s flora and fauna face more modern threats. Habitat loss and feral animals, such as cats, foxes and cane toads, are contributing to a second wave of extinctions.

We all have a part to play in protecting our precious native plants and animals. Why not celebrate our national day by doing something to help these original Australians?

  • BilbyGrow native plants. They provide wildlife with food and shelter.
  • Keep your cat inside, at least at night. Most marsupials are nocturnal and birds are at their most vulnerable at night.
  • De-sex your cats and dogs.
  • Put in a birdbath.
  • Avoid using pesticides in the house and garden. Most are toxic to reptiles and insect eaters.
  • Look out for native animals when driving.
  • tasmanian devilInstall nest boxes in trees for hollow-dwellers.
  • If fishing, do not leave fish hooks, line, sinkers, plastic bags or any other litter behind.
  • Join as a volunteer or member of a wildlife or conservation group.
  • Donate to groups like Bush Heritage Australia and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

I’m giving away two signed books – one copy of Brumby’s Run and one copy of Wasp Season. Just comment on this post, naming an extinct or endangered Australian plant or animal. Entries close at midnight on January 28th. Winners announced Sunday Feb 3rd. Giveaway for Australian residents only.

Click these links back to Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics to visit other participants in the Blog Hop and Book Giveaway. A peaceful and happy Australia Day to everybody!

BB2013_Nominee

Rachael Johns and Heroes

Rachael Johns 2In 2012 a fresh new voice burst onto the rural fiction scene. Rachael Johns (author of Jilted) writes heartwarming, contemporary romances with engaging characters and well crafted stories. She is proving to be one of Australia’s favourite rural romance novelists. (Rachael is also enviably prolific!) I’m very pleased to welcome her to Pilyara for a chat about her new releases, and her sexy small town heroes, including her husband …

Hi Jenny

Thanks so much for having me on your blog!! I’m really excited to have two books out in January – STAND-IN STAR with Carina Press and MAN DROUGHT with Harlequin Australia  – and today I’m talking my MAN DROUGHT hero.

Gibson Black is a rather grumpy and guarded character when he first arrives in the book. Personally, I’m rather partial to grumpy heroes but I knew I needed to give him something (and quickly) that would make him sympathetic to the readers.

In addition to giving him a gorgeous relationship with his grandfather, which showed he could be a nice and caring person, I also made him a volunteer ambulance officer. In my rural romance books I like to explore all aspects of small communities and since living in rural Australia myself, I have noticed that it is the volunteers that keep the towns going.

Probably at least half the adult population of small towns volunteers for some community group at some stage or another – whether it be a sports group, community daycare, clubs, fundraising events, the fire brigade, State Emergency Services or the (in WA) St Johns Ambulance.

My heroine’s best friend goes into premature labour in MAN DROUGHT and Gibson is called as an ambulance officer to attend her. I won’t give all away, but suffice to say both Gibson and Imogen (the heroine) see a different side of each other this night. Imogen realizes there is more to Gibson than meets the eye – that to give so much of his own time to a volunteer role and to be so tender with her friend, he must be a good bloke underneath. This insight piques her interest and she determines to find out more.

craig amboI’m lucky that when writing these ambulance scenes, I had my own hero at home to read what I’d written and make sure it was authentic. My hubby, Craig, has been a volunteer ambulance officer in two different rural towns for six years now. I love the ad on TV that shows these volunteers as heroes rather than some of the people given hero status in our community. Craig goes out in the night, he leaves our business sometimes for hours on end to attend to calls. He has spent four out of the last six Christmas’s always from our family for part of the day doing ambulance work. All unpaid, all because he knows this can be a life or death service in rural Australia. Craig is one of many men and women in rural Australia who gives hours, even years of their lives to helping their towns and the people in it.

I’m glad in MAN DROUGHT I got to pay small tribute to the work that these amazing volunteers do! And I hope that if you read MAN DROUGHT, you won’t judge Gibson’s grumpy exterior too quickly. He’s soft and gorgeous inside!

(NB. The photo is of my hubby – but it’s a few years old, he won’t let me take a recent one! )

What about you? What qualities do you like to see in a hero? And what is something that immediately puts you off?

Blog – www.rachaeljohns.wordpress.com
Website – www.rachaeljohns.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RachaelJohns
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns

Thanks for this great post Rachael. Nice to know you have your own real life hero at home! Best of luck with your new releases …

ManDrought_C2 (1)Man Drought – January 1st 2013, Harlequin Australia (currently only available in Aus/NZ territories)

Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival.

Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone — least of all a hot redhead from the city — change a thing.

Imogen has never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when it concerns her last chance at happiness. She’s determined to rebuild the pub and create a future for the little town. But can she create a future for Gibson and herself, too?

To buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Man-Drought-ebook/dp/B00AB9VS0G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354267465&sr=1-1&keywords=man+drought

Harlequin Australia: http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781460892978

Also available on iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.

StandInStar_finalSTAND IN STAR – January 7thst 2013, Carina Press

As an anthropologist, Holly McCartney is more comfortable in a museum than shopping on Rodeo Drive. She isn’t prepared for the media frenzy on her arrival in L.A. to accept a posthumous acting award for her late sister….or for her sister’s gorgeous friend Nate Devlin to come to her rescue. Though he resents her for some reason, she can’t fight their irresistible chemistry—especially when the paparazzi force her to stay at his mansion.

Photographer Nate only agrees to help Holly survive Hollywood for her sister’s sake, but she soon gets under his skin in a way no other woman has. The more time he spends with her, the more his attraction grows and he finds himself opening up to her in ways he never expected. But will ghosts of the past stand in the way of their perfect Hollywood ending?

To-buy links:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Stand-In-Star-ebook/dp/B00A22UVJQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354516932&sr=1-1&keywords=stand-in+star

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stand-in-star-rachael-johns/1113832187?ean=9781426894909

Carina Press – http://ebooks.carinapress.com/AE8854D0-A46D-4313-926A-F5A35553A6F9/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=1CF30CE0-647B-44D8-8A96-5EEF7044BB18

BB2013_Nominee

The Birth of a Book

I’m a few thousand words into my new novel, bearing the working title of Kingfisher. For a novelist, the process of beginning a brand new story is many-faceted. Firstly, you have to leave the world of your last one behind. This isn’t as simple as it might sound. Particular characters and their problems become very real for authors, and forgetting about them can seem like emotional abandonment. But as with most relationship breakups, time tends to heal wounds. That’s why it’s important to have a hiatus between finishing your last book, and beginning the next one.

I gave myself a month-long break. During that time, the imaginary landscape of my last novel retreated into the distance, allowing a new one to emerge. I mulled a lot – in the garden, in the car, in the bath. I read poetry. I breathed life into shadowy characters, and tried different personalities on them for size, like a child with paper dolls and dresses. I played the ‘What if?’ game. Closing my eyes, I grew to know the Red Gum flanked river, so central to my narrative.

And gradually the story took form. Obstacles stand between novelists and their new narratives. Home made obstacles. What if I can’t find my voice? What if my protagonist is boring? What if the conflict just isn’t as interesting as I think it is? So, part of preparing is giving yourself pep-talks. Trust your imagination. Trust your characters. Doubts will stem the flow of ideas. Believe in yourself as a writer. Your story deserves it.

Here’s an excerpt from The Four Quartets by TS Eliot, the poem that helped inspire Kingfisher.

‘I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.’