What a delight this month to gather around the table with three new authors, each with their first published novel.
Publishing my first book was a dream come true, as it is for so many of us. All the hopes, fears, joy, dread, delight, and everything else that comes with it, all wrapped up in a cover with my name on.
We are joined by Rania Battany, Cassie Laelyn, and Wendy Lee Davies. Please help yourselves to a plate from the buffet, grab your favourite drink, and settled down to chat about first books.
Q1. Tell us about your passion for writing. How long have you wanted to be an author, and where are you on your journey?
RANIA: I started writing poetry around eight years old. When I was a teenager, a few of my poems were published in very small local magazines. Around eighteen, I dreamt of writing a novel, but I could never write anything worthwhile. In my twenties, I started writing screenplays for local theatre, where I also performed some of my own work. As I got older and life got busier, I gave up on writing completely. Fast forward to thirty-six years old, I had three kids aged 2, 4 and 6, and I had no mental space for anything, let alone anything creative. Yet, in all the chaos, I woke up one morning and a story just popped into my head. It quite literally felt like a ‘POP’. It’s something I could never explain. I wrote several thousand words that day and every other day until my first novel, ‘This is Kaylah’, was finished. Completing that first book sparked my love of writing all over again and since that morning, I haven’t stopped.
CASSIE: I’ve had stories floating around in my head for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family and I went on loads of road trips and I daydreamed heaps in the backseat of the car—we didn’t have cool things like DVD players! Each time I saw somewhere new, especially old, creepy buildings, I’d wonder who lived there and of course, what scary things happened at night!
In my teens I began writing down those stories. I won my first short story competition when I was around 14yrs old and I think that’s when I first thought I’d like to be an author. But then my life took a detour. My spark for writing returned about three years ago when Raven, the hero of Unforsaken appeared in my head. I wrote down the scene and bam! As though I’d opened a doorway to another world, other characters waltzed through and The Fallen Guardian Series unfolded. That was when I decided to give authoring a real shot.
I joined RWA, completed heaps of workshops and wrote Raven’s book! In May 2018 I signed my first contract and Unforsaken released in January of this year. Yay!
WENDY: I think I’ve been making up stories for most of my life. No surprise there. But wanting to be an author? That never occurred to me until recently. But I’ve worked as a technical writer, as an editor to a forestry magazine and as a senior online editor, writing daily news articles and information for parents about Victorian government schools. So, writing has been a big part of my working life. Now I’m giving writing romances a go.
Q2. Are you traditionally or indie published? Why did you choose that path?
CASSIE: I’m traditionally published. I chased this path because my dream is to one day have a print deal that lands my book on the shelves in bookstores. But I won’t rule out becoming a hybrid!
RANIA: I’m indie published. This was something I considered very carefully and something I researched in great detail. In the end, it was all about control. I wanted full creative control over things such as cover design and editing etc. I also felt that with POD and ebook platforms such as Amazon and Ingram Spark, I had a great chance of getting my books out there.
WENDY: I self-published my first story Good enough for love last July for two reasons: Control – the ability to set my own timeline and being totally responsible for the outcome; and Impatience – it felt like I’d spent years waiting to be picked up, waiting for a publisher to take a risk on me, waiting for the stars to align. So, I decided to step up to the plate and take responsibility for Good enough for love on my own terms.
Q3. What challenges do you find the most difficult?
CASSIE: Turning my raw story into the published version was a steep learning curve for me. My formal qualifications aren’t in writing, so I’ve had to learn craft, editing, romance beats and tropes etc super-fast. I also needed a quick refresh in grammar, so my editor didn’t keep shaking her head at me!
RANIA: Marketing! Promoting! Yikes! I knew writing the book would be the easy part, even still, I had no idea how overwhelming marketing actually is. It’s the hardest thing about being indie published – getting noticed! As I only have my one published book, my focus is on getting my name out there, (which feels like a full-time job at the moment), so that by the time my second book comes out, people might recognise my name at least.
WENDY: I could fill a book with the challenges I faced writing Good enough for love. I’d never written a romance story before and I had no idea how difficult, challenging, heart-breaking, exciting or addictive writing a romance story was…until I started. Then it was too late. I was hooked. Now, my biggest challenge is writing the second story … which is much harder than the first one for some reason.
Q4. Is there an author/s or book/s you adore and use as your inspiration to write?
RANIA: I’m a big fan of Colleen Hoover. She writes my style of emotional, contemporary romance.
CASSIE: My all-time favourite genre is paranormal romance. I’ve always been drawn to the possibility of paranormal beings existing around us and I love the idea of different worlds.
My inspiration comes from paranormal romance authors like Kresley Cole, Lara Adrian, Dannika Dark, JR Ward and Jennifer L Armentrout. I love how they all write over the top flawed heroes who are intense, fiercely protective and loyal, and who’d move heaven and hell for the one they love. I also like how their heroines aren’t willing to sit on the sidelines while all the action happens. Plus, their world building skills are legendary!
WENDY: Lots – too many to mention really. I read widely so I have heaps of favourite authors. Some I’ve met at RWA conferences, others I know via Facebook but anyone who can write fantastic book after fantastic book gets my vote.
Q5. What advice would you share with someone just starting out?
RANIA: Network, network, network! The greatest thing I ever did was join the RWA and author Facebook groups. Everyone is incredibly helpful, super supportive and ready to share knowledge. This way, when everything starts getting a little overwhelming, you have supportive and understanding people to bounce off and learn from.
CASSIE: One piece of advice that really stuck with me is to stay true to yourself and stay true to your story (JR Ward said this!). Self-doubt creeps in all the time, and if you let it take hold it sucks the life out of your story. Believe in yourself! And listen to your characters—they’re cheering for you to write their story.
WENDY: The road ahead is often hard, sometimes disappointing journey with few rewards. But don’t give up. Keep writing and learning your craft. Enter competitions, especially ones that give feedback on your writing. And accept the comments with as much grace as possible, no matter how much you want to rant and rave or justify. Believe those comments are there to guide you and assist you be a better writer. Because it will. Getting a “reader” prospective on your story is a privilege and vital, well worth the risk and possible heartache.
THIS IS KAYLAH Rania’s Tasting Sample
Rania Battany lives with her husband and three children in the beautiful Yarra Ranges, Melbourne, Australia. When she isn’t getting her hands dirty in the garden, frolicking with her chickens or dog, or chasing after her three young children, she is writing contemporary romance novels that tug at the heartstrings or curled up with a cup of tea and a book.
UNFORSAKEN Cassie’s tasting sample
Growing up in a military family, forever on the move, Cassie had a childhood filled with countless crazy adventures. Eventually, sunny Queensland stole her heart, and she now calls it home with her husband and their two BMX-crazy boys.
Borderline obsessed with the paranormal world, Cassie has a passion for crafting stories involving strong, otherworldly characters in need of redemption. She’s a self-confessed book-a-holic and a sucker for a gut wrenching happily ever after.
When she isn’t narrating imaginary characters, Cassie loves binging on TV shows, spending time at the beach, and curling up listening to the rain.
GOOD ENOUGH FOR LOVE Wendy’s tasting sample
Wendy Lee Davies began writing romances as a lark after leaving her communications and editing job of many years. She enjoys cycling and makes good use of her amazing pedal-assist electric bike exploring the bike paths around her home. She makes her own jewellery and loves travelling and taking photos.
Wendy won the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in 2017 with her small-town contemporary romance, The Drover’s Rest. The same story (renamed good enough for love prior to publication), was also a finalist in the 2017 Mid-American Romance Writer’s Fiction from the Heartland competition. Her short story, Taking a Chance, will be published this year in the RWA’s 2019 Spicy Bites – Masks anthology.
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.