Welcome to a different Tasting Table, a lovely gathering of three successful authors to share experiences from their careers. Please join in welcoming Anne Gracie, Annie Seaton, and Anna Jacobs. The wealth of experience at the table makes for interesting insights and I invite you to choose your favourite drink and come sit with us for a while.
Anne Gracie, Annie Seaton and Anna Jacobs
- When was your first book published? How many books since? What is your genre/genres?
ANNE GRACIE: First book in 1999, 21 books since. I write Regency-era historical romance and romantic comedy.
ANNIE SEATON: In 2011, I decided it was time to follow my dream and retired from my position as a high school principal. I was lucky to pick up contracts for my first books.
My first two books, Winter of the Passion Flower, and Holiday Affair were coincidentally published on the same day in March 2012, by two different publishers. Holiday Affair took me to a US best seller list in the first month after release.
Since then I have been quite busy! I currently have four books in print in Australian and New Zealand stores, and have had twelve books published with the US digital publisher, Entangled Publishing. I have self-published seventeen books, and there are another six underway, (one for print in 2019) in including another two print books contracted for 2020 and 2021… so I guess the answer is thirty-nine books in six years!
I have experimented in many genres from steampunk to paranormal to historical, and time travel.
At the moment I have settled into commercial Australian fiction (with an eco-adventure theme) as well as contemporary romance, with the occasional time travel thrown into the mix!
ANNA JACOB: My first books were French textbooks. My first novel won $10,000 in an Australia writing competition – a regency romance, published in hardback only, it sank without a trace.
My second novel was published by a UK publisher, and has been steadily reprinting since 1994. My agent said I could ‘squeeze’ two others out to follow on. I had to kill the heroine’s second husband to make a new romantic plot and that’s when I found that I sob aloud at the computer when ‘killing’ a nice character. If my husband comes home and sees me looking red-eyed, he still asks, ‘Who did you kill today?’
I’ve also written fantasy under another name (Shannah Jay), but I’m now fairly settled into historical sagas and modern relationships stories for different publishers.
My 85th book came out in October 2018 and I’m producing three + novels a year. My idea of fun.
- Are you traditionally published, indie, or hybrid? Why have you chosen this path and do you recommend it to new authors?
ANNE GRACIE: I’m traditionally published, though I plan to dip my toe into indie publishing. When I started, trad publishing was the only gig in town. I’ll stay with my trad publisher as long as I can because they pay me well and my earnings support me.
Recommendations to new authors? There are so many pathways to success these days. Some want the validation of a mainstream trad publisher. For others it’s all about the money. If you get an offer from a trad publisher, make sure they’re reputable and well-known — small publishers can tie up your work for very little result. I’d check the contract very carefully, and I’d probably base my decision on the advance they offer.
ANNIE SEATON: I am a hybrid author; that decision allows me to fulfil my desire to be in stores in print, and also to self-publish and have control over my digital titles. The best advice I can give new authors is to focus on establishing your brand before making any decision as to which path you choose. Marketing is a key aspect of writing these days.
ANNA JACOB: Traditionally published. I prefer to write an extra novel a year and leave production to the publisher.
Unfortunately self-publishing is easy. New authors rush into it when their first novel gets rejected. Writing one novel isn’t usually enough to develop a professional touch. I wish they’d wait and write 2 or 3 novels before publishing.
- Tell us about your approach to writing. Do you have any rituals or habits? What is your work area like?
ANNE GRACIE: Early drafts of scenes, thoughts about characters and plot ideas I do in handwriting in notebooks. I write sequentially, but scenes pop into my head all the time, and I scribble them in a notebook for later.
My work area varies, from writing in bed on my laptop first thing in the morning, to working in my study, or at my local library. Rituals are mainly to do with coffee. I can’t start the day without it.
ANNIE SEATON: I have a very structured day, working from 7.30 a.m. until 4 p.m. four to five days per week. I sit at my desk in a room with no distractions—the blind is closed—and there is no music or sound. I also often work in the living room after dinner.
ANNA JACOB: I have 2 computers, one for the Internet and one for writing, not on the Internet. I can’t write efficiently with other people around. I need silence. I am incapable of keeping my work area tidy so we won’t talk about that!
I start around 6.30 am by checking my emails, then play solitaire for at least 15 minutes to relax my brain. If I get stuck, I play solitaire again and that gets me going. I write most days. I love it.
- What is the secret to your success?
ANNE GRACIE: I’ve been very lucky, finding editors who believe in my writing. I think people like my voice, which means the kind of characters I write, and the themes I explore. Readers say the books make them laugh and also cry — in a good way.
Consistency helps — that readers know what they’ll be getting. If people love one book of yours, they’ll want a similar kind of read — not the same story of course, but the same kind of emotional experience.
I also think it’s hanging in there, writing the next book and the next and the next. So that when a new reader finds and likes your work, there’s a backlist waiting for them to glom. That’s why all my books are still in print.
ANNIE SEATON: A combination starting with passion, determination and tenacity. A prolific output, and the early establishment of my brand, with constant tweaking and daily marketing. Also joining Romance Writers of Australia when I began writing and learning about the craft of romance writing, and self-publishing was a key factor in my development as an author.
ANNA JACOB: Hard work. You can’t beat it. I wrote six novels in pre-internet days to teach myself to write.
I’ve always paid attention to my readers and my own story likes. Both are important. I don’t write graphic sex, horror or shock-you violence, and all my stories end happily. Why would I create and invest months of my life into characters who seem as real to me as people, then kill them off?
- What authors do you read? Who inspires you?
ANNE GRACIE: I read constantly — romance, crime and fantasy/paranormal mainly. Georgette Heyer and Eva Ibbotson are classic historical romance writers who inspire me but otherwise there are too many to list. I can never pick favorites.
ANNIE SEATON: Essie Summers was my original inspiration back in my teens, along with Anya Seton and Sharon Penman. Now, Kate Morton, Kristen Higgins and many of the Australian authors (romance, sagas, women’s fiction) who have been published in recent years make up my reading lists… when I have time to read!
ANNA JACOB: Georgette Heyer was a big inspiration, with her vivid characters. CJ Cherryh’s ‘Foreigner’ series is an ongoing inspiration –19 books so far. I’m loving Angela Thirkell. Her 1940s publications are reissued by Virago delightful, gently poking fun at people’s foibles rather like a female PG Wodehouse.
I get inspired by any superb book I read (out of at least 3 a week) and when I’ve finished it, I sit and think why I enjoyed it so very much. You can always learn something and that keeps me interested.
- If you could talk to your younger self about a career as an author, what would you say?
ANNE GRACIE: I wish I’d started writing for publication sooner. I was always a storyteller and a reader, but it never occurred to me that I could write books that would be published.
ANNIE SEATON: Perhaps, start my writing career a little earlier, but honestly, I don’t think I could have done it when I had a full-time professional career or children at home. I certainly admire authors who work, or have children, or have both work and children!
I wouldn’t really change anything. I am very happy with the way my career began and is progressing.
ANNA JACOB: I’d say you might not like how it’s going now, but actually it’s teaching you a lot about writing. Hang in there. Luckily, I was born with the stubborn gene and I did persevere.
Anne Gracie started her first novel writing by hand in notebooks while backpacking solo around the world. Now a national best-selling author in the USA, she is published by Berkley USA, Penguin Australia, and Harlequin International. Anne has written twenty-one books, and has been translated into more than eighteen languages (including Japanese manga editions.) A five time RITA finalist (but never the bride) Anne has won a number of RWA and ARRA awards and for the last three years has been voted ARRA’s “Favourite Australian Author.”
Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the east coast of Australia, fulfilling her lifelong dream of being an author. After majoring in history at university, her career and further study involved working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor until she took up her full-time writing career.
Annie was first published in print in Australia and New Zealand with Pan Macmillan, with the Porter Sisters series, and she is now with Harper Collins Australia in the Harlequin Mira imprint. Whitsunday Dawn was released in 2018 and will be followed by Undara in 2019.
You can find Annie’s many digital books in a convenient slideshow on her website: http://www.annieseaton.net/
Anna Jacobs has had 85 novels published and writes family/relationships stories.
She lives in Western Australia and spends time every year in the UK, where she was born. She uses her love of both countries to produce powerfully written historical and modern stories. She receives numerous fan emails each week, and her readers most commonly tell her that they can’t put down her novels! She doesn’t mind that at all.
Anna produces three novels a year, and is totally addicted to story-telling. She was the fourth most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK library service in the last count for 2016-17 and is similarly popular in Australia.
Phillipa Nefri Clark
Phillipa grew up along lonely Australian beaches with wild seas and misty cliffs. From a young age she wrote stories and dreamed of being a writer.
These days she spends half her week running part of the family business and the other writing. Currently she is working on the third in her River’s End series.
Living in regional Australia on a small acreage close to a mountain range, Phillipa’s great loves – apart from writing – are her family of two young adult sons and husband, their Labrador, music, fine wine, and friends.