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Before you were published, what were you doing to scratch the writing itch?
Living life. I didn’t write at all. Not even on a paper napkin. Oh, the stories flowed through my head and I mentally allowed them process in my mind until I got to the end of the story, but they never came out further than that. I mean, why would I bother? I’m just Renae from Perth, Western Australia. I don’t have any training in creative writing, or an English Literature degree.
But then one day there was a little voice in my head who wouldn’t shut up, saying, “Try it! You never know!”
How did you end up getting your first book published?
So this voice is bugging me, and I kept pushing it aside. There’s a great Australian movie called The Castle where the most oft repeated line is, “Tell him he’s dreamin’.” For about 3 months this voice was saying, “Have a go.” I was a mum with two young kids. My life was about vegemite sandwiches, playgroup and kindy. I would say, “Tell him he’s dreamin’!” (And yes, I used the actor’s voice in my head to say this).
But in the end I gave in to the voice. In order to prove him wrong (I’ll show you! I can’t write a novel!) I sat down each night for a couple of hours and bashed away at the keyboard. When I was about 75% finished, I emailed it to my BFF and had her read it to see if it was any good. I still remember her reaction. We were meeting in a coffee shop and she walked in, threw her bag down on the table and said, “Oh my God! You’re going to be a published author!” It was the first time that I had a glimmer of hope that maybe it would be okay.
The first novel I wrote was m/f, because I was scared of writing a m/m sex scene. After I finished it, I quickly shelved it and wrote the story I’d been dying to write – Loving Jay. But I was too nervous to send it off to a publisher.
I had been chatting to (ie fangirling at) NR Walker, and she told me to just send it off. She said I’d never know if I didn’t try. So I picked my favourite publisher – Dreamspinner Press – stressed, drafted synopsis after synopsis, and finally sent it off. I was hoping their rejection letter would give me a few pointers on how to improve my writing.
Instead they sent me a contract. It took days before I realised that they hadn’t sent it to me by mistake.
Was the process anything like you imagined? What fit the dream? What was different/surprised you?
I really didn’t have a lot of expectations, because I never thought it would happen. When my editor first contacted me, I told her I was completely inexperienced, and whatever she needed to do to my manuscript, that was fine.
I was completely surprised at the level of detail that goes into editing. The rounds of editing, the professionalism, the sheer hard work. I was also surprised at how much say I actually did have during editing. I had heard authors complain bitterly about not getting their own way, and how much editors took away from them. I found the exact opposite – Dreamspinner involved me in it all.
What fit the dream? The excitement and pride at seeing my name on the cover of a book.
How long did it take you to write your first published book?
About ten weeks. But then I put it away for three weeks and worked on The Blinding Light before I came back to it with “fresh eyes” and read it like a new reader would see the book. I don’t understand how some authors say, “I just typed THE END. Sending it to my publisher now.” No, I want to polish it to the best of my ability before letting the professionals at it.
What’s your advice to unpublished authors trying to get their work read?
Don’t give up. First you must push through and finish that manuscript, then you need to persevere with sending it to publishers and beta readers. Don’t ever think that a published author didn’t do the hard work. I often think to myself that I put in 2-4 months of writing the story, I slaved over edits, I considered every single word in that book at least eight times over, and then the reader whips through it in a matter of hours. Sometimes it can seem almost anticlimactic.
The second piece of advice I have, is to write what you want to read. It’s no good writing a book that is in the style of such-and-such author, or that is just like the story what’s-his-name wrote. By forcing the story, it will come out stilted and wilted. But if it is the type, the style and the story you would want to pick up and read from an author, then it’s probably a safe bet that there are others out there, just like you, that will want to read that too.
Is writing not as fun/as fun/more fun once you have your first book published?
I never imagined (even in my wildest dreams) the generosity and good will of the people who have read my stories. I have people who email me to tell me “thank you for writing this beautiful story.” I just have to write back and say, “No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. Thank you for reading and taking time to let me know you’ve read it.” The interaction with readers, the friendships, the memes and the pictures, the level of love the readers of m/m have is more fun (multiplied by ten thousand) than I thought.
But oh wow, how I underestimated the amount of work it takes to promote yourself and interact with readers. I also underestimated the time it would take to edit a story. The Shearing Gun took me 6 weeks to write. With the enthusiasm of knowing Loving Jay would be published, I wrote like the wind. But then comes the hard bit – editing and promoting. Editing is not fun. Not just the boring, repetitiveness of it, but the emotional toll of someone pointing out all of your errors, line-by-line. I had this silly idea that I could possibly write a book every 2 months. Add a bit of time for editing, a bit of promo – eh! I could churn out 4-5 books a year, easy!
With two small children, my writing is whenever I can fit it in (for example, I’m doing this interview at 10pm). So I will have to say the editing and promo work is not as much fun as I anticipated.
What’s next up for you?
I have another novel coming out in early March. It’s called Shawn’s Law and is zany, crazy, silly and a total hoot.
Blurb: Shawn is single, twenty-nine, the full-time carer of his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and a frequent victim of Murphy’s Law—although his family call it Shawn’s Law. Other than caring for mum, his day consists of painting nude men and spying on the guy who walks his dogs along the street every day at four o’clock. When he takes a spectacular fall on his front steps, who is there to witness it other than the man of his dreams?
Harley doesn’t believe in Shawn’s Law – but he soon changes his mind.
The two men make it through a memorable first date and Shawn’s sexual insecurities to begin a relationship stumbling toward love. But when Shawn’s Law causes Harley to be injured, Shawn is determined to save Harley’s life the only way he knows how—by breaking up with him. Not once, but twice. Throw in a serial killer ex-boyfriend, several deadly Australian animals, two dogs called Bennie, a mother who forgets to wear clothes, an unforgiving Town Council, and a strawberry-flavored condom dolly, and Shawn’s Law is as solid as if it’d been written in a legal manual.
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