Ep 104 The woman who plagiarised another author’s novels; win $10,000; Meet Pamela Hart, author of “The War Bride”.

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podcast-artwork In Episode 104 of So you want to be a writer: An author discovers her novels were plagiarised by a stranger, common online copywriting errors, apps for writers, and $10,000 up for grabs in the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. Plus: the meaning of “foment” and getting back into blogging after a break. Our Writer in Residence is Pamela Hart, author of The War Bride. Also: should you try and find an agent or pitch directly to publishers, and more.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger

10 common online copywriting mistakes

The Top 55 Apps for Writers in 2016

About The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers

I went for a drive and I thought about stuff

Writer in Residence

Pamela Hart/Pamela Freeman
image-pamelafreeman200Dr Pamela Freeman is the award-winning author of more than 30 books. Her most recent book, published under the name of Pamela Hart, is The War Bride (Hachette Australia), an historical novel.

She is best known for the Castings trilogy (published in the US, the UK, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany as well as Australia) and for Ember and Ash, winner of the Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel. Another children’s book, Victor’s Challenge, was published in 2009 in Australia and the UK and won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fantasy.

Pamela started as a children’s writer, and many of her books have been shortlisted for the State Literary Awards, the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, the Koala Awards and the Wilderness Society Environment Awards. Pamela – who is also an accomplished scriptwriter – taught creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney for many years. She has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney and taught writing workshops around Australia for the National Book Council and various state libraries. Pamela has a Doctorate of Creative Arts in Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney.

She has published numerous short stories and has spoken at various writers’ festivals around the country.

Pamela is also Director of Creative Writing Faculty here at the Australian Writers’ Centre.

Find out more about Pamela at www.pamelafreeman.com.

Find Pamela on Twitter

Hachette Australia on Twitter 

Working Writer’s Tip

Some of the big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, some agents do not read your submission if the manuscript has been submitted to any other agent or publisher. Where to start?Should I rather contact agents first and see what they say before submitting directly to a publisher?

Answered in the podcast.

Pitch Your Novel

Competition

The Road to Ruin by Niki Savva

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript

Valerie          

Thanks so much for joining us today, Pamela.

Pamela

It’s always a pleasure, Val.

 

Valerie

Now, for readers who haven’t read The War Bride yet, can you tell us what it’s about?

 

Pamela

It’s about a young woman called Margaret Dalton who married an Anzac solider in England, comes out on a war bride ship in January of 1920. And when she gets here she’s told that her husband was already married. So, it’s a bit of a shock to her.

 

Valerie

Yes. Now I’ve read the book, and I loved every word, but more on that later.

 

How did the idea for this book form? Where did it come from?

 

Pamela

It actually came out of the research I did for The Soldier’s Wife, the book from last year. I was reading a book called Bride of a Anzac, which is the story of a war bride, and Queenie Sunderland who wrote the book when she was 95, died when she was 103, and she was a fantastic character. And it’s her memoir and she told the story of this girl Margaret who was on the same war bride ship as she was. And when they got to Sydney they realized that the address her husband had given her was fake.

 

Apparently this happened so often that the army actually ran a hostile for these women.

 

Valerie

So, prior to reading that book were you aware of war bride ships and that sort of thing?

 

Pamela

I knew about war bride ships. For example, I knew that Tilly Devine, the famous Madame had come out on the same ship, in fact. But, what I wasn’t aware of was how prevalent bigamy was. It was incredibly common.

 

There was one Australian solider who married eight French women.

 

Valerie

Good lord.

 

Pamela

Every time he was transferred to a new town he got married.

 

Valerie

Wow, he just wanted to be with someone.

 

Pamela

He wanted to avoid the VD in the brothels, and have someone do his washing, I imagine.

 

Valerie

Of course. Yes.

 

Pamela

That made it all the way to British Parliament. There was a big inquiry.

 

But, bigamy was very, very common, partly because people were a long, long way from home and maybe they had separated before they left, but divorce was very expensive. And working class people generally didn’t get divorced, they just separated, lived with each other or sometimes went through what was a called ‘a form of marriage.’

 

But, also just that people got lonely.

 

Valerie

Yeah.

 

Pamela

And of course in those days a lot of girls wouldn’t sleep with you unless she married them.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

So you married them.

 

Valerie

Goodness me.

 

Pamela

These are our great bronzed ANZACS. We don’t hear these stories.

 

Valerie

No, we don’t. I learned so much from this book.

 

But, you’ve written in other genres, in many other genres. You’ve written picture books, you’ve written fantasy, you’ve written lots of different things.

 

Before The Soldier’s Wife, which was your last book, prior to that you wrote the Castings trilogy and then The Soldier’s Wife. The Soldier’s Wife is historical fiction. What made you move from fantasy to historical fiction?

 

Pamela

The Soldier’s Wife is based on my grandfather’s war record, because he was at Gallipoli. And I was looking — I was reading out to my son’s school class, the telegrams that the family got when he was wounded. And, it was such a terrible litany and I couldn’t help but think, “What was it like to get those telegrams?” And that’s where
The Soldier’s Wife came from. I just got overtaken with the need to tell the story.

 

I’ve always liked history. I’ve written — The Black Dress was another book of mine, which is a historical novel about Mary MacKillop. I love research. I’m addicted to research.

 

And as I wrote The Soldier’s Wife there were so many good stories, you know? And I just couldn’t stop writing them. So…

 

Valerie

So when you read that book about the war bride ships, about that particular Margaret, and it obviously struck you…

 

Pamela

Yes.

 

Valerie

… did you know at that point, “That’s going to be my next novel.”?

 

Pamela

Yes, I did.

 

Valerie

Really?

 

Pamela

Yeah, at that moment. I thought, “This story is too good not to tell.”

 

Valerie

Wow. OK. So, this is your billionth book — well, no…

 

Pamela

It’s my 29th.

 

Valerie

29th book, and that’s certainly something that’s hard for a lot of people to get their heads around, 29 books, you know?

 

Pamela

It’s hard for me to get my head around.

 

Valerie

You must always be writing, like in our previous podcast when we spoke, we spoke about your writing routine. I’m interested to know if your routine has changed over the years? Like, when you were doing book number one or two or three, is your writing routine and process now very different? Or is it very similar now that you’re at book 29?

 

Pamela

No, it’s quite different. But, when I was writing my first book I was working as a consultant in organization communications, and my writing was pretty much a hobby, really. I fitted it in around my clients’ needs. And I did that for several years, quite a few years.

 

And then I got married and had a baby. And then the writing got fitted in around the baby’s needs.

 

So, it was very good preparation, you know?

 

Valerie

Yeah.

 

Pamela

And then school came, school is wonderful. School gives you a guaranteed writing time. And, that’s when I was writing the Castings books. And that’s probably my most regular period of writing, you know?

 

But, recently — my parents are elderly. My mum died last year, my dad’s 93. And, so writing is fitting not only around being a mother, but also around helping my parents.

 

And so every year seems to have a different routine, you know? The only thing that’s constant is the need to write.

 

Valerie

Wow. So tell us with this book then, what was your routine? Did you have any ritual to start off with? To get into the zone? Or was it snatched in time, because you were busy with the things that you’ve got responsibilities with? What was this routine like?

 

 

Pamela

Mostly afternoons.

 

Now that my son is in high school he doesn’t need mum to pick him up from school or anything like that anymore.

 

So, my best time for writing is always between 3:00 and 7:00.

 

Valerie

Really?

 

Pamela

Which of course, it’s the worst time, because…

 

Valerie

Yeah.

 

Pamela

… and of course I teach at the Writers’ Centre two nights a week, from 6:30. So, that means leaving home about 5:30.

 

So, it’s a bit of a juggle. And sometimes I write in the evening, after dinner.

 

A lot of it is about — a lot of writing is actually not sitting at the computer, it’s the thinking. Today I drove up to Newcastle, for the Newcastle Children’s Literature Festival. So, I had four and a half hours in the car, five hours in the car, and I was writing in my head the last scene of the new book.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Pamela

So, when I come to write that scene I may not have all of the words, but I have all of the dialogue, you know?

 

Valerie

Right.

 

Pamela

And I have a really clear picture of… it’s not really a picture, it’s a feeling. I have the feeling that I need to get across in that scene.

 

Now I haven’t written the rest of the book yet.

 

Valerie

Oh, OK.

 

Pamela

But, I have the beginning, the very beginning, and for this particular book I really needed to know how it ended…

 

Valerie

Right.

 

Pamela

… before I wrote it.

 

Valerie

The thing I’m most scared of in doing something — I used to do long drives and I used to play these things out in my head as well. The thing that I was most scared of is getting out at the other end, or waking up the next day and going, “Oh my god, I’ve forgotten what I wrote in my head.”

 

Do you have a tape recorder? Or a notepad?

 

Pamela

No. No, I think this is my script writing training. Part of the work I do at the ABC, when I was working in children’s television was film research. And, I would have to watch a whole lot of archival films, ABC has this extraordinary archive, and then report back to my producer on that.

 

And what that means is that I developed a very specific kind of memory for image and dialogue. And, so once I’ve written it in my head it’s like I’ve watched it on a movie or a TV show, and I would remember it in the same way that you would remember a really good scene from a show that you loved.

 

So I might not get every word right, but I’ll get the general flow right.

 

Valerie

Wow. OK, we’ll come back to that in a minute. I just want to delve a bit deeper into the War Bride. It’s set in Sydney in 1920. Without giving anything away, there are scenes in the city, there are scenes in Milsons Point, in Manly, in the Camperdown. And as I was reading them, and just watching these scenes unfold, they are so real. And, I found myself wanting to be in Sydney at that time and explore it.

 

Now, first you obviously needed to do research. You said you love research…

 

Pamela

I do.

 

 

Valerie

… into these specific suburbs, because there’s detail in there that, as I’ve said, makes it so real. Where did you do this research, and what did it involve?

 

Pamela

Before the north Sydney side of things, Lavender Bay, Berry’s Bay, Stanton Library has an extraordinary local history section and the librarians there were very helpful.

 

So, a lot of that was done there.

 

The city of Sydney has an amazing photo archive. And, you can find almost all sorts of streets there in the 1910s and the 1920s.

 

And then I stole people’s houses. The house that Frank and Gladys live in, in the book, is actually the house that my friend Chris lives in, in that particular street in Camperdown. So, it’s a house I know, so I just used the house that I knew.

 

The house that Margaret lives in I found on Domain. It was for sale, and…

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Pamela

So, I just went looking, I went looking on Domain in that area for the kind of house I knew would be built around the period that it had been built, in the 1890s.

 

So, sometimes you’ve got to look sideways to find what you need.

 

Valerie

I have to confess, I have been walking around the streets of Lavender Bay trying to pick the house and trying to go, “I wonder if it’s that one, I wonder if it’s that one…” “Now, it said it was this far away from this… so, I wonder if it’s that one.”

 

Pamela

Well, that particular house is actually in Northridge, because the place where the house is in the book is now a modern house.

 

Valerie

 

Pamela

So, I just put another house on that block.

 

Valerie

Right. Right, right.

 

How did you form your characters? Obviously you started with Margaret and that was inspired by a real person. But, obviously there are other characters in the book. Did they develop also from people you knew, like some of the houses? Or how were they created?

 

Pamela

Well, Tom, who is the main love interest in the book, is a hold over character from
The Soldier’s Wife, and he just turned up one day. I needed a decent man.

 

I’m kind of tired of books where men are horrible. And, the men in my life are decent men, and I think in most people’s lives the men are pretty decent. And so I like to represent that sort of person.

 

And he just — I don’t know, he just arrived sometime.

 

Margaret comes from West Bromwich in England, and my mother-in-law comes from West Bromwich. And, so I drew on her childhood, and on that of some of her friends and did a lot of research into the back country, because, of course, it was quite different from Australia.

 

So, I did quite a lot of work and she helped me with that, which was fantastic. I’m very lucky in my mother-in-law.

 

But, as a character I knew I needed somebody who had gone through a difficult war, and who was reaching out to Australia as a symbol of hope and light and warmth and happiness. And, so she had to be somebody who was the kind of person to reach, to look forward, not back.

 

And, that’s really where she came from.

 

Valerie

Before you start writing, do you have these characters already mapped out, or do they evolve as you write? And similarly, did you, like the book you’re currently writing, already have your ending sorted out? Or did you discover the plot as you went along? How did it work for this book?

 

Pamela

This book had a lot of backstory, first. So, I knew a lot of what had happened to my characters up to the point where Margaret arrived. I wasn’t quite sure how it ended, and in fact I cut the last 10,000 words of the book off.

 

Valerie

Oh, wow. Was that painful?

 

 

Pamela

No, actually it was quite freeing. I realized that I had come to an emotional climax about 10,000 words in from the end.

 

Valerie

Right.

 

Pamela

And although I had done so much… because the last 10,000 words were about a divorce, and I had a done a huge amount of research. You can’t always use it, sometimes you just have to cut it off and be ruthless, and it’s no good being kind of, “Ah…” they were good scenes, but they weren’t… they didn’t have the emotional impact of this earlier scene. So, I thought, “No, that’s actually the real climax. And so I just cut the end off.

 

So, it does evolve as you go through.

 

The Soldier’s Wife I had no idea what was going to happen in the end, none at all.

 

This one I knew who’d she end up with, but I wanted the reader not to know.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

And in the one that I’m doing…

 

Valerie

I couldn’t pick it.

 

Pamela

Oh good!

 

Valerie

Until the very end.

 

Pamela

That’s great, because she’s put in a difficult position.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

I don’t think it’s a spoiler, the reader knows in the first two chapters that in fact Frank is not married, was not married when he married her. So, her marriage is in fact a legal, even though she believes it’s not.

 

The other thing, of course, was the mix up with the ships that caused that confusion, that’s a real thing. So, that change from the Waimana to the Borda did in fact happen, exactly as it’s described in the book. And it was putting those two things together, Margaret on the ship realizing that she’s been conned, and this change of war bride ship, putting those things together was what gave me the plot.

 

Valerie

The 10,000 words that you cut, I’m interested to know at what point in the process you cut it, because you’re cutting it from your very first draft, it is very different when you’re cutting it after you’ve done an incredible amount of work over the whole thing.

 

So, when was it that you chopped the end off?

 

Pamela

Very late.

 

Valerie

Really?

 

Pamela

Almost the last thing we did.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Pamela

So, it was at the second structural edit.

 

Valerie

OK, gees. Did you, before that, have any niggling feeling that there was something that could go?

 

Pamela

I wasn’t sure. I have to say that I wasn’t sure of anything at that point, my mother had just died. And, I had no objectivity at all about anything.

 

Valerie

Sure.

 

Pamela

So, I was relying on my editors. But, it came from me, not from them, whereas the more I felt the book as a whole in that edit, the more I felt it tapered off at the end, rather than ending strongly.

 

And so it was… I happened to be in at my publishers for something else, and I went into my publisher and said, “How do you feel about me cutting 10,000 words off the end?” And she went, “OK, talk to me…”

 

But, I think it’s a much stronger book, and it’s certainly not the most I’ve cut out from a book. I’ve threw 45,000 words away once.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Pamela

And rewrote those, there was a whole storyline that had to be rewritten. But, you know, people think that redrafting is changing your sentences around.

 

Valerie

No.

 

Pamela

But, real redrafting is that radical assessment of the story, and saying, “Do I need it all?” And, “What could be better?”

 

Valerie

Well, it’s a very tight book, so obviously you did the right thing.

 

You say, because of your background in the ABC, you’ve got this visual skill of really playing out the scenes like a movie in your head, like scenes from a movie. Presumably you did that with The War Bride, did you cast any characters as in any actors or anything when you played the scenes out in your head?

 

Pamela

No, I don’t. Sometimes I do with minor characters, but not in that particular book.

 

The thing is they’re so young, these people. You know?

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

Like in The War Bride Margaret is only 22.

 

Valerie

Yeah.

 

Pamela

And apart from anything else her hair color changed when they changed the cover on me, so she was originally a blonde, and then they did the cover design and on the cover she’s a brunette with green eyes instead of blonde with blue eyes. And so I’m glad in a way I didn’t have a particular image of her.

 

Valerie

Right.

 

Pamela

It’s more like a radio play than a film in my head, you know?

 

Valerie

Yes, right.

 

Pamela

Because you’re looking out of your character’s eyes, when you’re in close point of view and when I’m looking out of Margaret’s eyes, I don’t see her, because she doesn’t see herself.

 

Valerie

Yes, yes.

 

Pamela

So, what she looks like is less important.

 

Valerie

Of course I’ve casted the whole thing.

 

Pamela

Oh, have you?

 

Valerie

I know who’s going to star in the mini-series.

 

Pamela

Tell me, tell me.

 

Valerie

I won’t say it here, I’ll tell you later, because I don’t want people to be tainted by my version of it, because it’s a very personal experience when you read a book. But, I will discuss my casting choices with you.

 

Now you’re the director of creative writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre, so obviously this is a loaded question, but I know you well enough to know that you’ll answer honestly, do you believe that writing can be taught? And what I mean by that is if somebody wants to write a novel that they can, and they speak English and all of that, can they learn the skills they need to make that happen?

 

Pamela

I believe that what we do at the Centre is like what an opera coach does. We can’t give someone a voice, but if they want to sing we can help them improve their voice.

 

I do believe that a lot of writing is technique. A lot of the times when people come to me and they say, “I’ve got this problem and I never finish anything,” or, “I can’t get past this point,” or, “I know my dialogue is no good,” that can all be fixed, you know? The thing you can’t give someone is the desire to sing, which is the desire to tell the story.

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Pamela

So, it’s my belief that if you have the desire to tell the story, we can help you tell it better than you would otherwise do.

 

Some people will take that on and do the work, because that’s the other ingredient. You know, like the opera singer you have to do your scales. You have to practice, you have to do the writing, you have to sit down and actually type the words.

 

And the number one reason that your book won’t be published is that you haven’t written it.

 

Valerie
Yeah, so true.

 

Pamela

I think if you’ve got someone who has the voice, that is the desire to tell the story, we can help them do that.

 

Valerie

Apart from not having written the book, what else do you see most aspiring writers struggle with? And how do they overcome that common struggle?

 

Pamela

I think there are two main issues, and they’re almost at opposite ends, funnily enough. One is the desire to have everything perfect on a first draft. So, people keep going back over and over the early chapters, but that’s not what a first draft is for. A first draft is to find out what your book is about. And you can’t get beginning perfect until you know what the end is, because as a writer you need to seed ideas through your book that will come to fruition in the climax, and unless you know what the climax is — and most people don’t know what the climax is when they start writing the beginning, then you can’t possibly get the beginning right.

 

And so people are trying to do something that’s literally impossible. And what I say to them is, “Promise yourself that you will do 100 drafts if that’s what it takes to get it perfect. Trust yourself that you’ll do that. But, just keep writing and get to the end of your first draft and then you can start working on perfecting it.”

 

The other problem is that people aren’t prepared to do the work.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

They write one draft and they think it’s finished and they like copy-edit it, you know, and they fix up their commas, and they think it’s done. But, that’s not true. You know? And, when I talk — I know a lot of editors and publishers, obviously, and what they say to me is the single most common mistake that people make is sending the book in too early.

 

Valerie

What do you think, in terms of The War Bride, back to The War Bride, was the most enjoyable part of that whole process or experience, whichever part was best for you?

 

Pamela

I love the hairstyles.

 

Valerie

The hairstyles?! Seriously?

 

Pamela

Yeah, I just loved it. I did a lot of research about hairstyles because in the process of the book she gets a haircut, because that’s when bobs were coming in, that’s when women were getting rid of their long hair. So, that was lots of fun.

 

And, also the whole surf stuff.

 

Valerie

Oh, yeah.

 

Pamela

So Margaret has never swum before and she’s inducted into surfing, surf shooting as it was called then, which is body surfing, in the course of the book, and it becomes very important to her.

 

Probably one of the hardest scenes to write was the scene she first goes into the surf, because like most Australians you’ve been swimming since you can remember, trying to write how it feels to go into the surf for the very first time, that was a real imaginative exercise for me. Trying to figure out how she would feel about it, not how I would feel as someone who’s comfortable with water and knows she can swim, but how she would feel about it as someone who literally, literally never got wet except in a bath or a shower before.

 

Valerie

And also how she would feel wearing whatever it was that they wore in those days.

 

Pamela

Well, that’s a big issue too, of course. And there was a lot of research that went into the kinds of suits that people wore. Australian women were very in the forefront of swimming costume redesign, to make it safe, because most of the women’s costumes at that period were very dangerous, because they were so heavy, they were made of wool, a lot of them, and with skirts and sleeves and caps, and a lot of women drowned, particularly in England and America. So, Australian women they were at the forefront of getting the one-piece swimming costumes.

 

The funny thing is that in the 1920s it’s the only time in history that women and men have basically worn exactly the same thing in the surf. So, they both had the singlet tops and the kind of thigh-length shorts, all in one piece. Funnily enough, much like the Olympic swimmers wear now.

 

Valerie

You obviously do love research, why do you love it so much? What is it?

 

Pamela

Well, I don’t know, I just think it’s fascinating. There’s so many interesting bits, and quite often you’ll find something and it will lead you onto something you didn’t expect.

 

Valerie

Yes.

 

Pamela

Certainly the lifesaving stuff in this book, I didn’t know there were two surf clubs in Manly, one was the Manly Lifesaving Club and the other was the Surf Club. And that goes back to 1905. There was a difference between the people who wanted to just surf and the people who wanted to save people, you know?

 

And things like that. The Lifesaving Club let me have access to their records, their archives, and that was just fascinating.

 

Valerie

Yeah, I bet.

 

Your research for The Soldier’s Wife led you to this novel.

 

 

Pamela

Yes.

 

Valerie

You’re already planning your next one, obviously, has the research for this led you to your next book?

 

Pamela

Yes. Yes, it has.

 

Valerie

Can you give us some hints?

 

Pamela

Well, I can tell you about it. It’s fine.

 

Valerie

Great.

 

Pamela

It’s called A Letter from Italy. And it’s about one of the first woman war correspondents. So, she’s not a real character, but she’s inspired by a real character, Louise Mack, who was one of the first women in the world to be a war correspondent. She was Australian, and she reported from Belgium on the Invasion of Belgium by Germany, like behind enemy lines and all sorts of stuff, and wrote a book about it and then came back here.

 

And the reason I got onto her was because when I was doing the research for
The Soldier’s Wife and The War Bride, I kept reading the women’s pages of The Herald and The Age. And there was this woman writing, no byline or anything, but this woman writing, who was incredibly feminist, like, unbelievable… the sort of thing you could pick and put straight down in a contemporary newspaper, which is kind of sad, really, that we’re still fighting the same things. But, she was so modern, and that turned out to be Louisa Mac, when I did a bit more research. So, I thought, “That’s really very interesting.”

 

And when my publisher suggested that we go more international for the next book, that was kind of a no-brainer to say, “Let’s have a war correspondent.”

 

And we’ve gone to Italy because the Australian Navy was in Italy.

 

Valerie

Right.

 

 

 

Pamela

And this is a part of WW1 nobody knows about. They were helping blockade the Adriatic Sea against Lieutenant von Trapp in a submarine. So, the Sound of Music guy was on the other side, he was on the Austrian-Hungarian side, as the submarine came under.

 

Valerie

Wow!

 

Pamela

Yeah.

 

Valerie

Oh my goodness.

 

Pamela

So the Australians were working with the Italians to blockade the Adriatic, because a lot of the major Austrian ports were on the Adriatic.

 

Valerie

And how far into it are you?

 

Pamela

I’m only about 10,000 words into it. I’ve done most of the research. The Navy has been fantastic, just fantastic.

 

Valerie

Wow, I can’t wait to read that already.

 

So, is this a book that you’ll be fitting in with life? Or have you got a timeline and delivery date, all of that sort of thing?

 

Pamela

Normally I’m asked to deliver in August, and that means that I have to really put my head down now, and I’ll be aiming for 10,000 words a week

 

Valerie
Oh my god.

 

Pamela

That’s OK, for somebody who’s doing it more or less full time, that’s not too bad at all, 2,000 words a day, five days a week. And sometimes you do more and sometimes you do less, but it averages out about that.

 

But, now I feel like I’ve imagined the ending, now I can really dive into it and get right stuck into it and get going.

 

Valerie

Now you mentor many people who are writing their novels. You run our six-month novel writing program, and you see entire manuscripts. What’s your advice for aspiring writers who hope to be in a position like you are one day and have their 29th book come out? OK, maybe don’t cast that far ahead, just maybe to get their first book out.

 

Pamela

I think the first thing is you have to give it priority. There’s always a reason not to write. People are very busy, and people are working, they have a family and there’s always demands on your time.

 

And writing — and I think this is particularly true for women, writing can seem like a selfish thing to do. And you just have to decide, “Well, OK, if that’s selfish I’m going to be selfish.” You can always vacuum tomorrow, or you can cut out a TV show. If you’ve got time to watch two television shows regularly every week, you’ve got time to write a novel, but you have to say, “This is important to me.”

 

Valerie

Yep.

 

Pamela

I think it’s a big statement to make, to say, “This is important enough for me to guarantee that much time a week,” because that sets you up for failing. And I think people are afraid, “Oh, well if I do write the novel and it’s no good, then I’ve wasted all of that time,” and I would say, “No, you haven’t any more than a garage band has wasted time playing in the garage, or amateur photographer has wasted time taking photographs.” It’s worth doing just for the love of it, even if you don’t get published. And very few first novels get published, you’ve got to learn on your first book, usually.

 

So, just because your first book doesn’t get up there, that doesn’t mean your second or your third won’t. And none of it’s wasted, none of that time is wasted.

 

Valerie

Wonderful advice. On that note thank you so much for talking to us today.

 

Pamela

Thank you very much, Val.

 

 

 

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