If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just start writing. Don’t think about your stories, write them down. They’re not silly and getting published isn’t a pipedream. You can – and will – get there!
What research do you do when you are trying to brainstorm for writing a book?
The brainstorming part that comes before I start writing a new book is a kind of dreamy, kind of thought-filled process of moving ideas around in my head. I don’t do much focused research until I’ve worked out what I want to write about. Once I’m there, I start to collect ideas that I think will fit with each other. Sometimes I’ll jot down a thought or put aside an article I’ve read, but mostly it happens in my head. And yes, it gets a little crowded in there but it just doesn’t work for me on paper or a screen. The actual research – Googling, reading, asking and answering specific questions – doesn’t start until I’m ready to write. And most of that is done when I need to know something for the scene I’m writing. I’m a pantser, I don’t like to get ahead of myself or a story, and I find if I do a lot of research too early, my muse starts to panic about getting the facts right.
Can you tell us a scene that didn’t make the cut while writing Amber and Alice?
There was a lot that didn’t make it into the final version of Amber and Alice! I wrote the original version more than ten years ago. It was the first novel I finished and I thought it was great but it went nowhere so I tucked it away and wrote something else. Then a couple of years ago, with six novels under my belt (five thrillers writing as Jaye Ford and my first Janette Paul rom-com Just Breathe), I pulled the old manuscript out again, read the first couple of chapters and realised it was awful! But I remembered the trip I took into Central Australia that had inspired the story and I decided to rewrite it. What got chucked out? Terrible characters, themes that didn’t work, boring dialogue, bad jokes. Most of the scenes, in some way or another remained – worked over, reworded and injected with something fresh and funny. And the book on the shelves isn’t much different from the manuscript I handed over to my publisher.
What is the most difficult aspect of your artistic process?
The deadline. It tends to hold down my muse when it needs to be up and roaming around. I find writing is so often a balancing act between freeing up my creativity to find the joy in a story, and getting enough words down to hold off the panic that I won’t meet the deadline. I never know how many words it’s going to take to finish a story or how many months I’ll need to write it. Consequently, I’m always trying to stay ahead of my word count and telling myself not to panic through the weeks when the story isn’t playing well. Probably not surprising that I love editing.
How many hours a day do you write?
Writing is my job and I like to keep business hours. Usually, I start around 9am, work through the morning, take a lunch break, then work through the afternoon. It works out at somewhere between five to eight hours most days, five days a week. I’m my own boss, which is good and bad. I get time off to do other stuff but I’m also a bit of a slave driver (see answer above!) and have to remind myself to take a break.
What can readers expect next from your writing?
I’m working on another rom-com at the moment, a quirky story about a woman who loves rain, a town that believes she’s the reason for their claim to fame as the wettest place in Australia, and a man who gets stranded there and thinks they’re all nuts.
About Amber And Alice by Janette Paul
When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage’s speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .
Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.
And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.
But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets – and Amber must decide which horizon to follow . . .
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