Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions for Spotlight Sunday. Our Australian Speculative Fiction group is growing and we love seeing Australian authors taking the spotlight.
You have published multiple novels and short stories. When did you start writing?
I started writing in high school, when I was sixteen. Those early stories mostly featured my friends and me having amazing adventures and drew heavily on my love for Doctor Who and all things speculative. I soon moved on to creating my own stories, though it took me another ten years to actually finish a first draft as I kept bouncing between ideas.
What has your journey to being published been like?
While I have been writing since I was a teen, I didn’t start taking it seriously until I became a stay at home mum in 2008. That was when I began attending conferences, signing up to courses and working on my craft with industry professionals. In 2011 I signed on to Queensland Writers Centre’s Year of the Novel Online course and wrote the first draft of Lost Reaper, an urban fantasy. I spent the next couple of years finetuning it, attending masterclasses and getting it to a publishable quality. It was accepted by a small press in 2015, with books two and three in the series coming in subsequent years. From there I decided to give indie -publishing a go, and in 2018 released a paranormal fantasy novella series. In 2019 I will have the first two books in a post-apocalyptic series coming out with Odyssey Books.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’d like to share more about with us?
My all-time favourite is still the first story I ever finished. I started writing Intergalactic Heroine for Hire while I was at school, and it featured a wise-cracking, butt-kicking, teenage girl who is transported to go another planet to fight brain-eating aliens. It was terribly written, but I still have a soft spot for Sharon. I even wrote a sequel and started on a third book before realising I needed to focus more on my craft. One day I hope to go back over the story and see if I can salvage it.
You’re also an avid reader. Do you think this has helped your own writing?
I would not be an author if I wasn’t a reader first. It was reading so many awesome books when I was young that inspired me to want to write my own. I feel my love of books has been a huge help in my writing as it allowed me to see the great depth and variation in stories already published. From reading thousands of books over the years, I gained an instinctive grasp on story that has helped me craft a plot that hits the right beats. Long before I heard about story structure, I had absorbed the basics and was already putting what I had leaned into practice. Now that I am aware of what goes into crafting a story, I find myself analysing why I did or didn’t enjoy a story, and this has helped me to pick up similar issues with my own writing.
Who is your all-time favourite author?
David Eddings. It was discovering his Belgariad Series in the school library that propelled me into the world of speculative fiction. I wanted to write stories that made me laugh, cry, rage and wonder like his did. I loved his characters, the worlds he created, the fantastic action and tension, pretty much every single word he wrote. I have wanted to write an epic fantasy series ever since but have been waiting until I felt qualified to do so, sure I would never be able to match his genius. But after reading many other epic fantasy books I now know there are other ways to write them that still make for a great read. So, once I get my current series all complete, I hope to start my own epic fantasy. I know it won’t be an Eddings style one. It will be my style, and I’m more than happy with that.
What is your current work in progress about?
I am currently working on book three in my post-apocalyptic series for Odyssey Books. Book One, Dark Justice, features a super solider who becomes one of the infected his kind were created to fight. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman he is compelled to protect her even as the infection drives him to kill her, all while holding out against a group who are determined to bring about the Apocalypse. Book Three, Dark Allegiance, follows on from the events of the first two books as the threat the world faces from the infected worsens and my super soldiers will have to ally themselves with their enemy to have any chance of protecting the human race.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
Professional mentoring and editing has had the most influence on my writing. With targeted feedback from industry professionals, I have been able to see my work in a new light, gain confidence in my ability to craft a good story, and work to overcome any issues in my writing toolkit.
What was the best money you ever spent on your writing career?
Attending masterclasses, mentoring programs and hiring a developmental editor. I would not be published today if I hadn’t paid for the opportunities to have my work assessed by industry professionals. Knowing that editors who worked for the big five publishers in Australia thought I could write was a huge boost for me. It gave me the confidence to start submitting to publishers as well as to indie-publish.
Any advice you would give your past self or other writers just starting out?
Look for opportunities to have your work read by industry professionals before you start submitting to publishers or indie-publishing. Many conferences have developmental opportunities that you can apply for. The feedback you gain from having an experienced editor or agent read your work will be invaluable in identifying your strengths and weaknesses.
If someone was to write your biography, what would it be called?
Weird but Wonderful!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Never be afraid to dream big. All authors were once aspiring writers. They just didn’t give up.
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Shelley is also one of the wonderful reviewers that we have here at ASF. Check out her reviews here.
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