Sunday, June 12, 2011

The key to getting your fiction published

June is a month of bonuses. Well, here at the Fibro it's about bonus Writer Q&As anyway. As we head toward the end of financial year, I'm having a stocktake sale and there will be two Writer Q&As this month. Two this week, in fact. Are you on the edge of your seat?

The first person on the Fibro lounge is author Christine Stinson. Christine and I met at the 2010 Romance Writers of Australia Conference. In a line for something. Her first book, Getting Even With Fran, had been out a few months and we were chatting about Facebook and this and that and the other. Specifically, how she'd been writing seriously for 20 years before her first book was accepted for publication (in a two-book deal with Pan McMillan... the second book, It Takes A Village, is out now).

Twenty years. Unsurprisingly, Christine believes that persistence needs to be a key part of every writer's makeup. 'Dogged persistence' is, I believe, the phrase she uses. I figured this was a woman with plenty to teach us all about what finally worked, and what didn't, and the importance of 'waiting' well. And you know how I like to ask questions...

Given that it took 20 years to see a book with your name on it, how did you keep going? What made you think you'd get there in the end?
CS: "I don't know that I was convinced I would get there in the end... The only thing I've ever known for sure about writing is that I love doing it. Joining RWA in 1992 helped keep me going through the rejections: misery does love company. I've learned a lot from being in a critique group. We work hard, help each other through the tough times and make a point of celebrating each other's successes with gusto."

What was different about Getting Even With Fran, do you think? What finally got you across the line?
CS: "Getting Even With Fran was the first novel I ever submitted that wasn't a romance. I finally worked out that my writing voice wasn't best suited to the romance genre. Within three weeks of sending Fran to a publisher, I was offered a two-book contract. What sold the book, according to the lovely people at Pan MacMillan, were the 'strong female voices', the humour and the way the novel tapped into the concerns and issues affecting women in their late forties - an age group not particularly well represented in contemporary women's fiction."

Is being a published author what you thought it would be?
CS: "I didn't have too many preconceptions, so it's fair to say that most of it has been a surprise. I did expect to feel some satisfaction, as well as the pinch-yourself thrill I'd heard about from other writers, the first time I saw Getting Even With Fran in a bookstore... Instead, what I felt was mostly relief that the long wait was finally over, coupled with a sense of disbelief that the name on the cover was really mine.

"I definitely didn't realise how many things I'd have to learn to juggle at the same time: working to a deadline with the second novel, doing structural and copy edits on it, while dealing with the promotional work for the first novel and starting to write the third. Thank goodness housework's expendable."

Was the second book more difficult to write than the first?
CS: "Much more difficult. This time last year I was in intensive care with a burst appendix, peritonitis and sepsis. It took quite a while to get over that: I lost the better part of three months working time on It Takes A Village. But the people at Pan Macmillan were wonderful, giving me the extra time and help I needed to get the book finished, polished and ready for publication just before Mother's Day this year."

Do you agree that perspiration is as important as inspiration when it comes to writing?
CS: "I do. Writing's often described as a muscle: if you don't use it, you run the risk of losing it. Words don't always come easily; there are days when you can sit at the computer for hours and do nothing more productive than move a couple of commas around. All the same, it's important to stay sitting there and keep yourself in the habit of writing. If you're lucky, the good days will outnumber the really sweaty ones."

You can buy Christine's books here at Booktopia. Or say hello to her on Facebook here.

17 comments:

  1. Thank you. Seriously, thank you.

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  2. This is both terrifying and encouraging all at once. Congratulations to you on reaching your goal.

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  3. Christine you're an absolute inspiration. I'm going to get back to work on mine again. All the best with your new book. I'm definitely buying a copy.

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  4. I really identify with the notion that writing is like a muscle that atrophies when it's not used. I've often described blogging as calisthenics for the mind. To me, blog writing acts as warm up exercises for the day I can finally turn my attention to the novel that I started writing.
    It actually kind of makes me sad when I think about what I'd really like to be writing if I only had the time. But at this time in my life, i can only deal in paragraphs and posts, not pages and chapters. :-(

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  5. Great interview! Very helpful!

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  6. Great words! Great advice. So interesting! Haha I'm on my phone so an trying to be concise!

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  7. Christine StinsonJune 13, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    Thank you so much for inviting me over to the pink Fibro, Allison! Thanks also for the lovely comments, everyone.

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  8. Inspiring!, I love that your hard work and persistence payed off, Christine. Congratulations on seeing your book in the bookshop - must be a fabulous feeling. Gill xo

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  9. Two gorgeous books, a third on the way, and you still have time to support fellow writers on their road to publication. You're a wonderful writer and a very generous friend.

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  10. You have a way with questioning to the heart of the matter . If I were a writer-in-waiting , there is some wise advice to be had here .

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  11. Whoa, what an inspiration - 20 years of keeping the faith has paid off in spades :) Will be looking for it in stores!

    And cant wait for more Fibro Q&A's!

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  12. Christine,
    Congratulations on 'It Takes a Village.' It is sitting on my bedside table and I can't wait to read it after June 30 when I have sent off my structural edits! Nice piece in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, too!
    Lisa xx
    Did I mention that I love the cover!

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  13. Christine,
    Congratulations on 'It Takes a Village.' It is sitting on my bedside table and I can't wait to read it after June 30 when I have sent off my structural edits! Nice piece in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, too!
    Lisa xx
    Did I mention that I love the cover!

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  14. Love the cover. I'll have to seek these out at my local bookstore. Writers are like runners, aren't they? Solitary, sweaty, habitual, determined, focused.
    Inspiring and yet very grounding advice.

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  15. Oh, I'll have to track these books down.

    Thanks for the advice, Christine, and as always the great questions Al.

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  16. Really useful, if slightly depressing. This is inspiration to keep plodding away and not get discouraged.

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