I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Monday, May 30, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Mary Hawkins

Today I'd like to welcome a lovely lady I met several years ago at a Romance Writers of Australia conference.

With well over 800,000 books in print, Mary Hawkins has been a prominent figure in the Christian fiction world. Mary’s dream of becoming a published novelist became true in 1993 with the release of her first book.

Since then 19 titles have sold world-wide with AUSTRALIA, a collection of contemporary Christian romance novels becoming a best-seller.

Mary and her husband Ray, also now a published author of devotional books, have been in pastoral ministries in New South Wales, Queensland and England. They now live in Australia’s island state, Tasmania.

Mary's published with Harlequin Mills & Boon (Medical romance line), Barbour Publishing Inc (inspirational romance line) and Ark House Press.

Please give a warm welcome to Mary Hawkins. 

Mary, I know we both share a country life background, tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I'm a Queensland farmer’s daughter from the Darling Downs, then a registered nurse, I met my husband, Ray, at a Bible College in Sydney where I too had become a student.

Since my graduation there, for over 45 years we have enjoyed a wonderful romance of our own as we shared in church ministries in New South Wales and Queensland. We have a daughter and two sons who have added to our family two beautiful (inside and out) daughters-in-law and now grandchildren.

Tamar River, Tasmania, Australia
During more recent years we went with teams on three short term mission trips to Kenya, Zambia and Ghana. After Ray officially retired we ministered with a church in England for two years before returning to settle in Australia’s beautiful island state, Tasmania.

Over the years I became the author of five Harlequin Mills & Boon medical romances before I had to decide whether to keep writing them or my inspirational romance category novels which were being received very well also.

One of my volumes of four contemporary inspirational novels, AUSTRALIA, became an international best-seller. With my nineteenth title just released there is still that “next book” to write –  when I make myself stop reading books by favourite authors, of course!

Wow, congratulations and here's to the twentieth making it onto the bookshelves!

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
In hindsight I realise that I have always been a “writer.” Like many authors, I became a bookworm first and began to enjoy writing my own stories way back in primary school.

However, when I was fourteen I followed my father’s example and started keeping a diary. After we had been married a couple of years Ray read them and simply said, “You are a writer. What are you going to do about it?” I was absolutely dumb-founded.

These were the days long before even home computers, and of course the marvellous internet. I had no contact with other writers and no idea where to start until I enrolled to do the Famous Writers Course by correspondence.

As well as basic fiction writing skills, I was encouraged to “write what you enjoy reading the most yourself.” That was fiction and especially romance novels. A short story from one of their assignments was published in Woman’s Day (an Australian monthly magazine) and gave me more confidence that perhaps I could write well enough to be paid to do so. However, it took thirteen years of rewrites and thirteen rejections before I signed my first book contract.

It has only been because of my darling husband’s encouragement through all the ups and downs every writer experiences, his help with the children (and now grandchildren) and the housework still today at crucial times, that I am multi-published today.

I was so thrilled when Ray too had his first non-fiction articles included a few years ago in books from a major US publisher, Harvest House, and now his two own devotional books released to shops this same month as my own new book, JUSTICE AT BARAULA.

Thirteen years to receive your first contract is certainly dedication and perseverance!

Inspirational romance is huge over in the USA. So, what do you think it is about your genre that readers find fascinating?
Basically, as well as the emotional read of course, the spiritual elements interwoven through the story.

Sometimes writers discuss “deep point of view” that can really engage the reader in wanting to know – and care - “what happens next” to characters in our novels.

For me one important element of that is not only my characters’ deepest goals, motives, emotions, thoughts etc, but how their inner spiritual life influences those and is shown by their outward behaviour and responses to life.

Even a character who professes to be an atheist or a believer for whom “the church” is irrelevant is still proclaiming his “kind” of inner spiritual life.

The one thing readers dislike – and of course, editors first of all – are inspirational romance novels that are “preachy.” I do believe though, that what I may not see as preachy other readers may. This perception may also depend on the reader’s own experiences with spiritual matters.

While the hero and heroine’s romance still has to take the prominent role in inspirational romance novels the same as any other romance sub-genre, it is essential that the spiritual aspects of their lives are “shown” and not just “told” and be interwoven in the Goal, Motivation and Conflict of their story.

Perhaps being a preacher’s wife has made this even more difficult for me to do adequately so that my readers never feel they are being preached at! There have been times I certainly do heaps of revisions to try and address that.

You have a new book coming out shortly, can you tell us about it?
Bradley Hunter has fufilled his ambition to be the policeman stationed at Baragula. He longs to prove himself worthy to serve the community that rescued the abused, underprivileged boy he had been. Years before, Brad even risked his relationship with his teenage sweetheart, Madeline Honeysuckle, to leave the area for his essential training and experience. Now he realises she has changed so drastically from the happy girl she had been, his hopes of reviving their relationship seems hopeless.
Not long after Brad insisted he had to leave without her, Maddie’s life had collapsed around her. Her mother’s death was only another catalyst that forced her to believe she was unlovable. Even God no longer answered her prayers because of the woman she has become. Danger from the past begins to stalk and traumatise Madeline again. She is forced to turn to Brad the policeman for protection and his expertise to bring to justice the criminal who again threatens her and those she loves.
Can two young people with scars from their past discover a way back to love, not only for each other but for God whose ways may sometimes be hard to understand, but does exercise His justice, truth and love when and how He wills.

JUSTICE AT BARAGULA is a single title novel but the third in my Baragula series.

Baragula is a fictitious, small rural town set in the Hunter Valley, north-west of Sydney. Despite having now written three series, the only books I actually planned from the start to be a series were my Great Southland historicals.

As with my first novel in the contemporary Search series, there were minor characters in that first Baragula book, RETURN TO BARAGULA, that simply had to have their own stories written. This included the young policeman stationed at Baragula who has to help protect the main characters in Book One and also appears in the second book out in western New South Wales.

Then of course, there was the sister of the hero in Book Two, OUTBACK FROM BARAGULA, who from the very first book obviously (to me anyway!) had “past history” with that policeman. Maddie has never dealt properly with secret trauma from years before that has made her lose faith and become bitter and hard. When her old enemy threatens her and her family again, she needs Brad to protect them all and bring that criminal to justice.

The blurb on the front cover shows the basic theme: While seeking truth and justice, two people scarred by the past need to find forgiveness and real love to have any chance of a future together.

Having grown up near the Hunter Valley where the Baragula series is set and now living in a place that has a one man police station, I've just got to ask this next question.
Can you share a few fun facts about the geographic locations where your novels takes place?
Mmm...you mean for the first book something like ringing the Cessnock airport and asking questions of a bemused helicopter pilot how long it would take to fly one between two country towns? Then I had two people talking in a helicopter when my brother pointed out they would need microphones and ear sets etc, etc.

I knew absolutely nothing about police at a one officer station in rural New South Wales. I did wonder at the time if anyone would check out the person surfing through so much of the NSW Police website!

However, a retired detective friend from the Hunter Valley Command answered a page of questions and then kindly read the manuscript and assured me it was “okay” although he unfortunately never did meet a beautiful girl like my hero did!

As a large part of the setting is in the Barrington Mountains for this last book, my son who had worked in Forestry there had to read the manuscript and set his Mum right on several things she thought she had known.

Then there was the dairy farm. Having worked on my family’s dairy farm all those years ago I am glad – after thinking I knew stuff I didn’t about those mountains and forests – I checked out some facts with a dairy farmer from that general area. How that industry has changed since I was a teenager!

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing this book?
The easiest was already knowing characters from the other two books and being able to delve deep into these two characters who had teased my imagination for a long time.

The hardest part was trying to deal with the broken heart of Maddie and forgiveness – what one of my characters in the book calls “God’s Impossible Mission.” Do readers think a writer is “weird” who sheds tears for her broken-hearted heroine?

I was about to do the final edits on the manuscript when I heard a talk by a woman involved with an organisation that seeks to provide help and mentorship for women who suffered as my heroine had.

Horrors! I had not given my heroine time to heal! So that meant revision and an Author’s Note at the end of the book directing hurting women to where they too could find support and help.

One brave lady...
You've travelled to some unique countries, what's the most unusual place you have visited?
There have been several in Africa. Living in a pastor’s hut in a small village in northern Zambia for several days and realising how generous those dear people were with the little they had to share.

A sacred crocodile pond in Northern Ghana near the Burkina Faso border – and holding (nervously!) the tale of a crocodile there.

Last question - do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you'd like to share with unpublished authors?
You mean something authors have not heard before? I doubt it!

However, after all those years of rejections and writing with virtually no face to face contact with other writers, the one thing I try to encourage writers who are serious about trying to become published is if at all possible to join a local writers’ group.

There is nothing as tremendous as the “iron sharpening iron” principle. While the internet fellowship we can share now is wonderful and I value it greatly, if at all possible there is nothing as awesome and important as face to face interaction with other writers – and even more awesome if they are trying to write similar kind of books that you want to.

Even if distance only allows a once a year face-to-face time like writer conferences, seminars, workshop etc, it is still very important to keep informed, learn, learn, learn – and then go home and try to put it into practice of course!

Even after over eighteen years since my first book contract, the one thing I do know is that writers should never stop learning about the current publishing industry, and must important of all, how to write a better manuscript – next time!

Mary, thank you so much for spending time with me today answering my questions. It's been lovely chatting and learning more about you.

Now, Mary has generously offered a give-away of one of her Baragula series books to one lucky reader. Leave a comment by 12 noon, Thursday 2nd June 2011 (Aussie EST) and you'll be put into the draw!

Some of Mary's books: (to see her entire backlist, click here)

Baragula series
Because he has seen what happened to his mother and father's marriage as well as others,  Steve Honeysuckle has vowed never to marry a non-Christian. When he realises his attraction to Jillian Davidson, he tries to avoid her but finds himself very involved in her life when her twin brother is injured by cattle thieves on their large outback property.

Since her older sister's death and her brother Matthew's new faith,  Jillian, while being challenged about spiritual issues, is bitterly hurt by thinking the "religious" Steve considers her not good enough for him to love. Their different lifestyles also remain major hurdles. She loves the wide plains of the west while Steve loves his home in the mountains.

As danger threatens, how will they be able to not only overcome murderous men with the help of an odd outback character and friends from Baragula, but find the spiritual differences between them are really obstacles that can be overcome?
RETURN TO BARAGULA (finalist in the 2010 CALEB Award for Christian Fiction)
Emily Parker's actions as a teenager not only impacted her own life but the lives of many others.

Now, six years later, she returns reluctantly to her home town of Baragula only to discover the man at the heart of those actions, Matthew Davidson, is the community's respected doctor.

While Emily's faith is now severely weakened by all that has happened, Matthew's life has completely turned around since he committed his life to Christ. His personal relationship with God is tested when he discovers how his behaviour when a non-believer hurt so many, especially Emily, and feels responsible for her hardness of heart towards the Lord.

Disease attacks the community while danger from another source threatens Emily and her family. Through it all, will Matthew and Emily's faith be strong enough to forgive each other and put the past behind them?

You can learn more about Mary on her website, or follow her blog.
She's also a regular contributor on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Few More Good Books...

I really like recommending a good book or two to read, so without further ado, here a some I've read and enjoyed lately. They've also made my "keeper" shelf.

Care to share what's on your "keeper" shelf?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Janni Nell Give-away Winners announced!

Thanks to everyone who left comments or dropped in to say hi to Janni earlier this week.

All names were placed in my freshly cleaned dragon coffee cup and two were randomly selected.

Congratulations to these two people:

Paula Roe



You get to choose which book of Janni Nell's Allegra Fairweather series you'd like to read.

If you can contact her - janninell(at)janninell(dot)com  - let her know your preference and she can arrange for you to receive your prize!

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who's That Girl? interview with Jane Beckenham

We're winging our way across the Ditch to learn more about one of our Kiwi sisters! 

Name? I write as Jane Beckenham (my married name), though have thought of using another name, Joan Desmond (my parents’ names), Trisha Sullivan (my full given name was Patricia Jane O’Sullivan, and think I was meant to be Patrick because I’m the 3rd of 3 girls and there aren’t any boys! 

Where are you? North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand, but only for another 3 weeks!  Yes, after 24 years of living in this house, we are FINALLY moving – we’re going country – well about 18km away, but it’s rural and on 9 acres of beautiful native bush.  I believe we even get wild deer visiting! 
How many years have you been a member of our organisation? I'm a member of RWAustralia and RWNZ, so RWAustralia about 3 years, and RWNZ about 12 years. 

What genre/s do you write? I write contemporary, but am also published in time travel/romance, and my first Regency is being released in May/June 2011. 

Who are your favourite authors? I love Sophia James who writes historical for M&B and love both historical and contemporaries of Sandra Hill.  Of course I love lots of the Desire authors. 

What inspired you to write romance? Friends say I always said I wanted to write, but you know, I don’t remember that. However, I was an avid M&B reader and I suppose it just followed on from that. 

Who's your dream publisher? Silhouette Desire is my dream publisher, but I also love writing my historicals and so would love to be picked up by M&B Historical. 

What's the best thing about going to conference? Catching up with everybody, learning even one tiny thing that will help me on the road forward. (and getting to travel to Aussie and go shopping LOL) 

And lastly, finish these statements... 
My greatest strength as a writer is...perseverance. 
A sexy hero needs...bedroom eyes. 
My latest WIP (work in progress) is about...a bachelor prince. 
When I write I like to...um…you know this is a hard one.  How about…when I write, I pray it’s going to make sense. 
My best writing milestone to date is...writing the end, then realising I have another book inside me, and being eternally grateful that I do. 

It's been great having you here, Jane. Thanks for answering my questions!
Many thanks, Kylie.

Jane will be visiting my blog again later this year as one of my guest authors but in the meantime if you'd like to learn more about her, she has a website that you can check out.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I have a fellow Dark Sider (Dark Side DownUnder) visiting today! Janni writes fun paranormal mysteries.

Bio: After growing up in a beachside suburb of Sydney, Australia, Janni Nell travelled overseas, working in the UK before returning to Sydney, where she now lives.

Janni began writing in her late teens. She won prizes for short story but her dream was to publish a novel.
Carina Press fulfilled that dream when Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator was published in June 2010. Janni’s work represents the lighter side of the dark side. Her goal is to write more books featuring Allegra and her drop-dead gorgeous guardian angel, Casper.
When Janni isn’t writing, you can find her line dancing or working in her vegetable garden. 
Janni, welcome to my blog!

Hi Kylie, it’s great to be here. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself? I live in the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia. Yeah, I know the traffic sucks, but I love it here. Especially my little corner of the northwest, which is a just short drive from semi-rural areas.

So far as hobbies go, I love to line dance. Actually I love any kind of dancing. Give me music and I’ll move to it.

I also enjoy growing my own herbs and vegetables. Not that I’m very good at it. My pumpkin vine only has one pumpkin. Mind you, it’s a big one. I mean Cinderella could ride in this thing.

Oh yeah, and I also like to write.

What do you think it is about the paranormal genre that readers find so fascinating? It’s pure escapism.

Personally, I love being taken on a journey away from the real world where anything is possible. I love books that give me an experience I can’t get elsewhere.  If I can provide that for readers, I’m a happy camper.

Allegra Fairweather here. Paranormal investigator. Got problems with specters? Shapeshifters? I’m the woman to call. Just don’t call me a Ghostbuster. The last guy who did that ended up flat on his back with my boot at his throat.
With my 99.5% success rate, solving the mystery of a bleeding rose that has sprung up on the shores of Loch Furness should have been an easy gig. But already I’ve heard the shriek of the local banshee, discovered two bodies (and then lost two bodies), and had a near-death encounter with a three-hundred-year-old ghost. And perhaps most dangerous of all, the hot pub owner who hired me now wants to show me exactly what’s under his kilt.
Luckily, I’m ably assisted by my very own guardian angel. I’m grateful for his help—but he’s also drop-dead gorgeous. A bit distracting when I’ve got a mystery to solve, and the clock is ticking… 

To read an excerpt, click here.

 What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book? I wish I could plot in detail, but whenever I try this, I get bored and never finish the book. So I just have to jump in and start writing.

Before I start, I always know the main characters and the general direction of the story. Sometimes I know the ending, but not how the characters get there.  About half way through the first draft, I usually realise I’ve made a huge mistake with the plot. This means lots of cuts and rewriting.

Terribly inefficient way to work, but this seems to be my process so I just suck it up. Usually I don’t write the last chapters – even if I know the ending – until I’m happy with the rest of the manuscript.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with unpublished authors? When I began writing, I followed every hot trend. No matter whether it was fantasy, romance or crime, I tried to write it. In short I was focussed on being published rather than becoming a good writer.

Then I attended a workshop on Finding Your Voice run by the wonderful Barbara Samuel. I went home and took a long hard look at my bookshelves. Eighty percent of my books were mysteries. My favourites were the quirky ones. And that’s the direction I took.

So, my advice to unpublished writers is to find your voice and be true to that.

Can you tell us about your latest release? SOUTH OF SALEM is the second book in the Allegra Fairweather paranormal mystery series. (Think fun and quirky rather than dark and serious.)

This time Allegra has to figure out who or what is killing her stepfather’s blood relatives.  Not that she cares much about him. But her mom’s kind of upset at the prospect of becoming a widow.

SOUTH OF SALEM is out this month (May) with Carina Press!

What’s next for you? What are you working on? The third Allegra Fairweather book. I’m almost finished. Yay!

Janni, it's been great having you come over from the Dark Side to visit.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Kylie. It’s been great fun! 

Now, folks, Janni has two (2) fabulous give-aways to share with us today. It's readers' choice  (if you're drawn out of my dragon coffee cup) of the first or second book in her Allegra Fairweather series.

Just share with us what fascinates you about the paranormal genre! Is it the world-building, the spooks and not-so-spookies, the mythical, the danger...what? 

Leave a comment by midnight (Aussie time), Thursday, 26th May 2011 and I'll throw your name in my coffee cup for a chance to win one of Janni's Allegra Fairweather books!

If you'd like to know more about Janni, wander over to her website! She also has a Facebook page and Twitter account (you can find the links on her website).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

CRAFT: How deep can you go? (Deep Point of View)

For a long time one of the techniques I struggled with in my writing was deep point of view. Some of my contest feedback alluded to it, many of the responses I received from agents and editors often sometime said “I felt distanced from your characters, I couldn't engage with them.”

And for a very long time I had no idea what they meant. It wasn’t until one judge gave me an example that I “understood”.

Being told over and over just doesn’t do it for me. I have to see a practical sample of work – before and after - to understand what something means. I need to see the details and how to do it before applying it in my own work.

(NB: I'm no expert at this. I'm just passing on a little of what I learned along the way in my own writing journey. It's the technique (aka the tool) I want you to take away from this post. OK?)

What is deep POV? Well, it’s like writing third person as if it was first person.

Linnea Sinclair defines it really well - "It's writing AS the character rather than ABOUT the character. Qualifiers like "he thought" or "she wondered" are dropped in favor of just writing what it was she thought or wondered about. It encourages a more intimate relationship between reader and character, almost like the reader is IN the character’s skin."

So, because I needed practical samples, and many writers prefer this learning style, here are some examples of what I mean.

ORIGINAL: She located the owner of the outraged voice.  A jeweller stood in front of his stall, hand grasping the back of a shirt worn by a small child.  As the child struggled in his grip, Nea saw the frightened face of a girl peer up at her captor.

TO: The jeweller stood in front of his stall grasping the back of a small child’s shirt.
"Get back here!" The child cringed at the growled order and fought to get free.
Nea’s heart pounded. Fists clenching, she pushed through the crowd. The trader was twice her size. There was no need to man-handle her. What had the child done to earn such treatment?

Rather than a "blow by blow" list of what happened (telling), the second example shows the action from a closer perspective. There's no "She located..." or "Nea saw..." - this serves to distance the reader from what's happening.

Removing them brings the reader in closer to the action. And see how the last two sentences also add that little bit more - a visceral reaction (automatic response generated by the body without conscious thought), and a question from Nea's point of view.

Let's take a look at another example...

ORIGINAL: Pointedly she raised her eyebrows at the firm hold he still had on the child.

TO: Her eyebrows raised at the firm hold he still had on the child.

Look at the words I removed from the first sentence - "Pointedly she raised her eyebrows...". Read the sentence out loud. Sound clunky? It sure does. Why? Well, the sentence starts with an adverb and then we have some more of those "distancing words" again.

So, let's look at the second example. I've taken out the adverb and the distancing words. (By the way, you'll hear a lot of people say to get rid of all of them, but to be honest, nothing says you can't have them in your work, just use them judiciously. If you can replace them with something else that makes a better impact, then do it.)

It might only be a simple one sentence edit but which one has more impact on you as a reader?

Another example...let me set the scene. Nea's been captured after helping two children escape some bad guys and she's on her way to prison.

ORIGINAL: Nea swallowed dryly.  This time there would be no escape.   The flutter of a curtain in the window of one of the nearby houses caught her attention.  She saw the scared face of a young child peering out over the sill, eyes wide as he watched the procession going by his house.  Her thoughts turned to Jarrod and Lani.  She hoped the children had escaped safely.  If they had it would make what lay ahead bearable.

TO:  A curtain in the window of one of the nearby houses fluttered.  The face of a young child peering out over the sill, eyes wide as he watched the procession going by his house.
Nea swallowed dryly. This time there would be no escape. Had Jarrod and Lani made it to freedom?  Were they safe?  If they had it would make what lay ahead bearable.

OK, now it's your turn. What changes did I make from the first to the second examples? Did I remove any "distancing words"? Which ones? If you said, "She saw, she hoped, Her thoughts", you're right. They're all telling you what the character did.

How did I go from telling to showing? Did I restructure any sentences? How did I do that?

Yes, I kept an adverb. See, you can use them. But remember, use them wisely.

I kept this one because there are a heck of a lot of ways to swallow or reasons for swallowing. I put it in for brevity and clarity. I didn't want the scene to be about how she swallowed, that wasn't the focus (the aim was to feel Nea's concern for the children and their safety).

So, I used an adverb to keep the pace moving and the focus on her internalisations. Use them, but make an impact. Make every word pull its own weight in the sentence.

Internalisations - I've used questions again to pull the reader into the characters skin.

Seems simple doesn't it? :-)

All right, last example, another easy fix...

ORIGINAL: Her cheeks heated. Merciful Mother, what had possessed her to respond with such an asinine response?

TO: Merciful Mother, what an asinine response. Her cheeks heated.

Can you identify the differences? The first sentence is clunky, too many words. Tweak and restructure and in the second example you now have a more intimate, more engaging, more true-to-the-character response.

So, homework, folks! (yes, sorry, but that's my teacher-side coming to the fore, can't get away from it!)

First task...go to your bookshelf. Pick out a couple of your favourite books. Open up to any page. Read a few paragraphs and analyse them. How did the author construct their work? Is it written in tight point of view? How did they do it?

Second task...(if you're a writer)...look at your own writing. Select a random page. Read it. Can you identify areas where you could improve it? How? Try it.

Apply what you've learnt and your story will be much stronger for it. Here ends the lesson. :-)

Happy writing!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winter Rose winners!

Congratulations to my fellow RWAustralia members who took out their respective sections in the Yellow Rose RWA "Winter Rose" contest!

(This is the contest I took out 2nd place in paranormal section last year.)
  • Bec Skrabl - The Devil of Whitechapel (Paranormal section)
  • Bec Sampson - Alli's Playground (YA section)
Must be something about the first names...

Go, Aussie, go!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TOPIC: Kylie Griffin FAQ's

After months of interviewing my friends in RWAustralia, RWNew Zealand and RWAmerica, I thought it was only fair to turn the tables on myself.

Where do you live?
Outback Australia
New South Wales, in an outback rural community (Australia). 

What sort of books do you write?
Broadly speaking - paranormal romance. Breaking it down, I love writing fantasy romance and science fiction romance, with paranormal elements. 

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
When I'm teaching full-time I write early in the morning. I get up anywhere between 4-5am and get a few hours in before I head off to work. I'm fresher and much more creative then, than when I get home from being on the go with a classroom full of little kids. If it's school holidays, I like to stay up late and write then. Less interruptions, quieter and I can sleep in the next morning if I've had a late one.
Hugh - sigh...

Are there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?
I like to get a cuppa and brekky first thing in the morning, and while I'm doing that I clear out my emails or post promo's of my upcoming blog posts.
Desktop inspiration!

I also change my desktop picture daily - usually I select a natural scene that encapsulates a setting from my WIP or one of my many hunky guys who resembles my hero.

Once I've done that then I light a scented candle, put up my DO NOT DISTURB sign on the front door and go for it. Sometimes I put on easy listening music, down low so I can't get distracted by the lyrics, but mostly I write in silence. 

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?
I'm evolving. I started off as a pure panster when I first began writing and found I had a LOT of half written manuscripts sitting in boxes. As I learned more and improved I would have called myself a panster in the fog - you know, you can see the tops of the hills and your destination in the distance (aka some scenes and finale) but still muddle our way through to get there.
Now, thanks to entering a couple of competitions where I had to submit a synopsis with the work (and I haven't actually finished the ms) I'm seeing a need to plan. I won't say full on plot because I don't think I'll ever convert to pure plotting and structure. So, I'm a panstering scener with a final destination and the journey there remains a mystery.

As for editing, I do it as I go. Usually I writer a few chapters at a time then go back and add in detail and layering. Once I finish the whole manuscript I'll send it out to some beta readers for comment then with their comments I'll check for holes and errors and give it that final once over.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing?
When I first start a book I set myself word goals to get into the routine of producing work. Once I meet those goals I begin lifting the targets. I'm competitive with myself once I get into that routine. I like to see if I can beat the target and if so, by how much. And once I'm immersed in the whole process those word totals tend to become redundant. I just write until the end.

I do like to write every day, no necessarily on my WIP but something writing related. Keeps the brain ticking over and the creative eye in. 

What writing tools do you favour?
Long hand, computer…I'm definitely a lap top girl. I'm a fast typist. The only time I'll go long hand is if I'm in town shopping and inspiration strikes. Then I'll write on any scrap of paper and put what I've done in my pocket for later.

I do have a notebook beside me in the lounge room and on the bedside table for jotting down ideas. They tend to come to me when my mind is switched off and in neutral watching television or just as I'm drifting off to sleep.

During an editing phase I like a hard copy of my ms sitting in front of me rather than a screen. There's something more tangible about being able to mark it with highlighters (using the Margie Lawson EDITS system) or with red pen line edits. For repetitive words/phrases I use Wordle, a natty tool that counts the number of times you've used each word in your ms. (I discovered this one via Mel Scott - thanks, Mel!)

Lastly, when I'm writing a series I use an A4 spiral bound notebook with sticky-note labels on the edges of pages and turn it into a "Series Bible" - characters & descriptions, terminology, culture, history, places & names, facts, animals & plants, possible ms title lists etc. I also stick in any maps I've created, a synopsis and back cover blurb for easy reference. Anything that pertains to the series that I might need to refer to when I create the next book. It saves me having to flip back through the first one looking for a hair colour or some other hard to find thing. 

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Are you prepared to show evidence of your claim with a desk photo?
My cave...
 My writing space can be all that, but my OC side (obsessive compulsive) likes it to be mostly organised. And yes, here's my desk - I waited nearly 15years to find the "right" one - a recycled timber with imitation leather top. Sigh.

You can see my "Series Bible" for the Light Blade series (the one Berkley just recently bought) on the right hand side, it's bright pink. It goes with me where ever I take my laptop.

You can also see the ever present coffee cup, a small rock that has the word CREATE carved into it near my lamp and on the wall are inspirational sayings as well as a tiny picture of my great Grandma Griffin above the left hand corner of my laptop (I use her surname as my author surname to keep it in the family, it just happens to match my genre as well), and a photo of my agent and editor (I like to see them when I'm corresponding via emails or talking to them over the phone). 

What books are due to be released?
VENGEANCE BORN: A Novel of the Light Blade (Book1) is out in the USA in Feb.2012 with Berkley.
Book 2 & 3 in this series haven't had definite dates set yet. 

Who is your agent? Who is your editor?
I'm represented by the incredible Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. At Berkley Publishing the wonderful Leis Pederson is my editor. 

Are you a member of any writing organisations or groups?
Yes, and I can't tell you how much I enjoy being with such supportive and encouraging people within these organisations.
Romance Writers of Australia
Romance Writers of New Zealand
Romance Writers of America®
Science Fiction Romance Brigade
Romance Writers of Australia (paranormal e-loop)
2010 RWA Golden Heart® "Unsinkables" e-loop 

Where can I find out more information about you?
I have a website, this blog and a Facebook page. 

Can readers email you?
Absolutely, I love getting emails from readers.

You can contact me on - kyliegriffin71 (at) optusnet (dot) com (dot) au - and you can expect a response within a day or a couple of weeks depending on what deadlines are coming up.

If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comments section of this post and I'll do my best to answer them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Maggie Andersen

I'm very excited to be introducing you to a new author to my blog, one who hasn't been here before. Please say g'day to Maggie Andersen!

Hi Kylie, thank you for inviting me to your blog.

Maggie, it's great to have you here. As this is your first visit, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm an Australian author of historical romance, romantic suspense and young adult novels.

I live in the countryside outside of Sydney with my husband, a retired lawyer and our rescued Champagne Persian, Affie who lies beside my computer with her furry tail waving over the keyboard. You can’t say no to a purring cat can you?

Townies all our lives, we now find ourselves besieged with the local wildlife: possums demand fruit and noisy yellow-crested white cockatoos eat the chicken feed. Pretty brown ducks that swim in the creek at the bottom of the garden visit our pool and like a bit of bread. So far the snakes and spiders have minded their own business I’m glad to say.

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I began writing after raising three children and completing a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing. My first novel was a crime/mystery/suspense, but I found my voice suited the historical romance genre and my first published work was a Regency novella, Stirring Passions. I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer and Victoria Holt. My historicals often contain adventure, mystery, or suspenseful intrigue and are always passionate romances.

What do you think it is about your genre that readers find so fascinating?
Historical intrigue, passionate characters, and beautiful gowns. What’s not to like? They can be entertaining, but also informative about history and human nature. One of my past jobs was an interior decorator and I am an artist’s daughter, so I enjoy painting a picture of a vibrant era of history by drawing on the fashion, architecture, and décor to create a fascinating world for my characters to negotiate; hindered of course, by the strictures of the times.

What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
My first draft just gets the story down. It’s critiqued by a talented group of historical writers who will pick up any historical inaccuracies I might have missed and it comes out pretty clean, but short on word count.

With a better understanding of the story and my characters who have done surprising things I didn’t anticipate, I begin a more thorough second draft where I deepen character motivation, add more detail, and check that each scene moves the story forward. I also add new scenes which tend to go off in startling directions I hadn’t thought of before.

Does this sound like fun? It can be when it goes well. When it doesn’t, well, we won’t go into that. Where’s that bottle of sherry?

Maggie, I think we've all had days like you mentioned! LOL

You've published quite a collection of novels and short stories. What's your latest release?
My Regency novel, RULES OF CONDUCT has been released in print and received some great reviews. Viola has lost her memory and is taken under the wing of Hugh Beauchamp, the Duke of Vale. She and Hugh try to find out about her past and the mystery behind the locket she wears. What happened to her before he found her dressed as a male servant, unconscious on the road to Vale Park?

Discovering her to be a Classically educated young woman, Hugh calls her Viola and places her with his nanny in a house on his estate. Viola tries to ignore her growing love for her kind benefactor, for he is soon to marry, while Hugh nobly struggles with his desires and the demands of his family.

 Click here to read an excerpt.

So, what’s next for you? What are you working on?
My Victorian/contemporary romance SURRENDER TO DESTINY, comes out in June with New Concepts Publishing along with an anthology of my stories titled Regency Bucks in print.

I’m working on another Victorian mystery romance, THE FOLLY AT FALCONBRIDGE HALL. Here’s a taste:
Recently orphaned, Vanessa Ashley finds employment as a governess at Falconbridge Hall, the home of Viscount Falconbridge and his troubled daughter, Blythe. A sad past clings to gloomy and shuttered Falconbridge Hall. Lord Julian, a botanist and explorer, is soon to depart for the Amazon. Uneasy about leaving his daughter, he decides on a marriage of convenience. Vanessa accepts his proposal for Blythe’s sake, or so she tells herself, but fears she lacks the social graces to please her handsome husband. After an old murder mystery is brought to light, danger stalks Vanessa and Blythe.

Maggie, thank you for answering my questions and sharing more about yourself. I wish you all the best with your latest release, SURERENDER TO DESTINY.

Maggie's other books:

Check out Maggie's website for more excerpts and information about her books.