Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fibro Five-Oh: Lisa Heidke

Today's Writer Q&A is wearing a new, eye-catching name. Did you notice? I'm not sure if I'm going to keep it, but I have a case of the Thursday blahs and a girl has to entertain herself somehow.


This, the latest in my series of writerly conversations, features Lisa Heidke, the fab Australian author whose new book Claudia's Big Break is on the top of my To Be Read pile, despite the fact that I've already read it three times. And yet, I still don't know how it ends.

To explain (and disclaim), Lisa is one of my crit partners, and I first read the manuscript for Claudia's Big Break around five years ago. The Romance Writers of Australia's online manager had put us together in a virtual writing group and we were sharing 'this is what I'm working on' snippets. In fact, Lisa was already writing What Kate Did Next (published as novel number two), and had a kernel of an idea for Lucy Springer Gets Even, her breakthrough novel. Claudia's journey to publishing nirvana took a little bit longer... but I'll let Lisa explain (I do allow her to get a word in occasionally).

Claudia was the first full-length novel you wrote, but the third published. What are the three main things you've learned between writing The End that first time, and publication of this book?
Lisa Heidke: 1. I thought it would get easier. I was wrong. There are no short cuts! Writing takes commitment, patience and discipline.

2. I didn't realise there would be so many drafts...endless writing, rewriting, deleting and fussing. Before I was published, I assume a manuscript needed two or three drafts, maximum. And maybe the manuscripts of other authors do, but Claudia's Big Break went through at least 15 drafts, five of them major.

3. I have also learnt that with the completion of each manuscript I doubt I have another 85,000-word story to tell. I find it incredibly daunting. So far I have managed to come up with ideas, but not all of them are winners.

Is there anything about being a professional author that has surprised you?
LH: "Yes! As an author, you  have to get out from behind your computer and generate publicity and interest in your books. I thought that once I'd handed over my manuscript to the publisher, my job would be done. But it's not. The onus is very much on the author to have their own website, create an online presence, and put yourself forward for speaking engagements... Now a lot of my time is eaten up trying to maintain an author profile."

Your books are known for their humour - is it hard to write funny?
LH: "I don't set out to write funny. I don't write puns or jokes. It's more observational and situational humour rather than laugh-out-loud funny. The characters I create lend themselves to drama and hysteria. I write about ordinary women who are thrown out of their comfort zone and I can find humour in that. But I try not to push it. I'm not out to make every page a giggle."

Do you think that 'chick lit' has moved beyond shoes and chardonnay to encompass deeper ideas?
LH: "Definitely! Chick lit is now such a broad term, encompassing mum lit, hen lit, lady lit, farm lit, lad lit... I don't mind how readers classify my books as long as they enjoy them. I am not trying to change the world, but I do write about real issues such as infidelity, divorce, teen sex, eating disorders and I think those topics have emotional depth. However, I don't mind the odd shoe reference being thrown in if it suits the plot line."

What's the one thing you do every time you sit down to write?
LH: "I make sure that the desk is tidy. I also make sure that I've tidied the house, put the dishwasher on, etc etc... delaying tactics, I know. Recently, I've taken to lighting a candle to signify the start of a writing session and that makes me happy."

Claudia's Big Break (Allen & Unwin) is out now. You can find out more about Lisa, her books, and her procrastinating habits (she's almost as good at it as I am) at


  1. Another fabulous insight into the world of writing. Thanks Al. Thanks Lisa. (Thank you ball boys)

    Interesting about the self-promotion. I reckon if I cranked out 85 000 words I would be spent. Bugger having to get my own publicity too!

  2. Very much looking forward to Lisa's next book - and the candle-lighting trick sounds like a good one! Might have to give that a go....

  3. Really interesting, thank you. Although the thought of 15 drafts makes my head spin a bit.....Now, where's my candle?

    Good to see the person behind the twitter name.

  4. I like your author interviews (not so much 'fibro five-o'... I think you know that already).

    I've never read one of Lisa's books, though. Hers is a genre I tend to steer clear of... is it the University Literature Snob in me or is it the fact that I've never been a very good girlfriend?

    BUT I have read a few on your recommendation (Cathy Kelly, the Maeves) and they were great entertainment so I think I'll give Lisa a go. x

  5. 15 drafts. This is what scares me. I reckon after I actually *finish* if anyone wants me to change anything I'll probably tell them to get stuffed. *sigh*
    Oh, just as a PS. I found this page incredibly difficult to read. Mr 4 spent the whole time screaming "Charlie & Lola", "Toy Storyyyyyy" and "Lego mennnnnnn".
    If you could make your images on the page less interesting to preschoolers, it would be greatly appreciated :)

  6. LOL - damn that Link Within! Keep going Cate. And prepare yourself to smile when they say 'if you could you just make some small changes...'

  7. Lovely insights in an author's life, Lisa and Allison.

    I'm still waiting for my copy of 'Claudia' to make it north.... sigh... it will be worth the wait :-)

  8. I LOVED your answer to number one! As a writer ploughing through my fifth novel (two are published, two never will be, and who knows about this one, but I sure do hope so) all I know is that I CAN write 90K books... but that it doesn't get any easier. Each book is a journey and a summit and like having a baby, to be honest. I feel mortally offended when I'm told (and I am quite often) that it looks "easy peasy" (direct quote) or- as a friend said to me after reading a writer friend's book in my genre- "It can't be that hard. I could do it."

    Sorry-didn't mean thsi to turn into a rant, but there is a lot of effort and anguish that goes into making a lovely breezy and funny book like Lisa's. The PR stuff is sadly all too true too. I'm so glad you do make the effort though Lisa- love your stuff!

  9. Hello! Thanks for all the great, about those 15 drafts, I think it might be closer to 20 but I didn't want to put people off.Cate and Deerbaby, I am not exaggerating - as Al would know. I'm pretty sure it's like that for most authors. You lose track of how much you've rewritten, torn apart, stomped on, etc. Which is why it's a VERY good idea to take a two month break after you've completed your first major draft. When you reread the first draft after time away, you can be a lot more objective about all the scenes/dialogue that need to be finessed!
    Once all that's done, MultipleMum, it's all about promotion!
    Maxabella, thanks for your honesty! As I said, I'm not trying to change the world, so if you're looking for that, steer clear. If you're after some light relief on a Sunday afternoon, read my books.
    And yes, Becky, I'm a huge fan of the candle lighting!

  10. Lisa got some things right - the multiple drafts and the need for author promotion once the book is out. That's where I'm up to at present with my novel, Streets on a Map, planning a book launch etc. The thing that did make me smile was Lisa's insistence on a tidy desk. I look at mine. Never going to happen.

  11. Meant to also add in the promotion ideas, emailing libraries and bookshops in the area where you live or have lived about the new book.It takes time but is helpful.

  12. Lisa, I'm half way through CBB and I'm loving! I think it's your best yet (and I loved the other two, so thats saying somthing!) I'll be wanting to hit you up to be my crit. partner, before long! PR needs one! x

  13. Lisa this was perfect timing for me to read. I've just had a break from my manuscript and am diving back into do a massive rewrite of the whole thing shortly. While the number of redrafts you said made my heart skip a beat, I'm slowly beginning to see the process is just so much bigger than I ever imagined.
    and totally agree about the depth of what "chick lit" actually encompasses. The beauty of the genre is it makes virtually every topic accessible to the would be reader.
    Great interview. Thanks.

  14. Lord Lisa! I could never do the candle thing. I'd sit and watch the reeeeeaaaalllly slow burn and be reminded about how long it takes to hear back from publishers and agents LOL. Can't wait to read CBB.

  15. This is unreal. Clearly I have no idea how these things work. I was probably under the impression that you bang out the words, hand it over (assuming someone even wants it) and then they just make it up all fancy and voila` you have a book.

    Wrong. Man.

    Thanks to you both xx

  16. Love your books Lisa. I've read two out of three (still need to pick up a copy of Lucy Springer).

    I can identify with the re-writes too. I'm working on a non-fiction manuscript and find it very frustrating when well meaning friends comment 'so, you're STILL working on that? I thought you'd be finished by now.' *sigh*

    Claudia's Big Break was the perfect school holiday read, although it did make me long for a holiday on a picturesque Greek island...

  17. Can't say much more except I LOVE YOUR BOOKS! And I am happy to help promote. As some of your other writerly types already know about me!

    What I love, but also find daunting, is that it is much more about persistence and dedication than it is just "having a brill idea for this novel". Hell, I've got a Steven King-esque one that I came up with 14 years ago...have never written a word of it, but sometimes characters and plot points will drift into my mind.

    The fact that NONE of it is easy-peasy, from the writing, rewriting, reading critiques, pitching, getting editors notes, and THEN having to jump on the publicity train makes me that much more in awe and admiration for any writer. In fact, I already admire the writing of most of these commenter...

    Now if Al would just finish that m/s that she let me take a tiny peek at...

  18. Such a great insight into writing - thanks both of you.
    Love the candle idea, too. I might try that - it would at least hide my messy desk ;)


Thanks for popping by the Fibro. I love to hear from you!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...