When community health worker Bronwyn Hall found out her first novel was going to be published she was delighted – and terrified!
“Firstly, I felt a profound shock,” recalls Bronwyn, who is based in Victoria. “It was a case of, ‘Really? I mean, have they thought it through?’ Thankfully, my anxiety faded and the happy came back when the editing started.”
Bronwyn has now published two edge-of-the-seat thrillers with HarperCollins: The Chasm and her debut Gone to Ground.
Learning the ropes
Bronwyn has always loved reading, but had never considered writing. That all changed when she had a seed of an idea and began sketching it out.
“When I started, I just wrote scenes and dialogue and got a plot down on paper,” Bronwyn says. But she didn’t yet know how to tie it all together into a narrative. It was obvious that help was needed!
“The Australian Writers' Centre’s online courses were ultimately my choice as they gave such flexibility around my other life commitments,” Bronwyn told us. “After the first one, I came to understand not only the value of the course's content in relation to writing craft, but also the process of learning alongside others and sharing the journey.”
Crucially, Bronwyn learned to give and receive feedback in her Novel Writing Essentials and Write Your Novel courses, an experience she says helped her in a thousand ways. She also met her critiquing partner, and the two were able to conquer their fears and attend writing conferences together.
“We still regularly swap our work and give each other feedback.”
Bronwyn took advantage of an opportunity through the Australian Society of Authors to pitch Gone to Ground to Rachael Donovan at HarperCollins.
“I can’t be more grateful that she championed it and tabled the manuscript for the acquisitions process. From that, they offered me a contract for that book and a second one (a massive HOLY CRAP! moment),” Bronwyn says. “HarperCollins could honestly not have been more lovely. Everyone through the process has been approachable, professional and extremely supportive. For a novice at the industry, working with them has given me a huge amount of confidence and I pinch myself frequently that I’m so lucky.”
Itching to write
Gone to Ground tells the thrilling story of Rachel Forester, a UN surgeon working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who must flee through the jungle to safety, uncovering secrets and shocking truths along the way. It’s a far cry from Bronwyn’s real life in Australia, but she has always been fascinated by new cultures and environments, and even lived for several years in Papua New Guinea and Brazil. Her second novel, The Chasm, is a white-knuckled mystery set among Victoria's most rugged mountains.
Even though she’s now a published author, Bronwyn has no intention of giving up her day job in community health and aged care.
“I genuinely love the ‘people interaction’ and I find this complements my writing as my brain is required to switch in and out,” she says.
Most of her thinking around plot points happens while walking or driving, and she fits her writing around her busy schedule.
“By the time I sit at the keyboard, I know what direction I need to take with the story. This works for me. I don’t have word or hour quotas – I find that because my time is limited, I’m generally itching to type, and it means I find the windows I need. Sometimes the housework gets done late.”
(We highly approve of prioritising writing over housework.)
Bronwyn credits her writing discipline to her time with the Australian Writers' Centre.
“AWC tutors gave kind, but firm encouragement that showed me that writing consistently is the only magic way to get books written,” she says. “If you really want to be a good writer, you need to be prepared to mine every moment for the information and advice that will make you better. AWC has a great approach – a rounded approach – to imparting knowledge through course content, industry information and ‘on tap’ advice from experienced professionals. Taking advantage of all of it will help propel you in leaps and bounds and it’s money and time extremely well spent.”
Course/s taken at AWC: