Ep 113 Why women are killing it in crime writing and meet author Belinda Murrell.

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podcast-artwork In Episode 113 of So you want to be a writer: What was the defining moment that made you become a writer? Find out why women are killing it in crime writing and the reason why essay writing services are booming. Impress your friends with the origin of the word ‘nicotine’. Meet bestselling children’s author Belinda Murrell. Also: when should you call in a freelance editor and why author manners are important.

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

Jean Little recalls her father, a poem, and a day that changed her life

Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels

Essay writing industry ‘booms’ as students demand tailor-made coursework

23 words you didn’t know were named after people

Writer in Residence

Belinda Murrell

Belinda MurrellBelinda Murrell is a bestselling, internationally published children’s author with a legion of loyal fans and a history of writing in her family that spans over 200 years. After studying Literature at Macquarie University, Belinda worked as a travel journalist, editor and technical writer. A few years ago, she began writing stories for her own three children – Nick, Emily and Lachlan.

Her 21 books include The Sun Sword fantasy trilogy as well as a newly-released Lulu Bell series for younger readers. She is also known for her collection of other timeslip tales including The Sequin Star, The River Charm, The Locket of Dreams, The Forgotten Pearl, The Ruby Talisman and The Ivory Rose, which have been recognised by various awards, including Honour Book KOALAS 2013, shortlisted KOALAS 2014, 2012, and 2011, CBCA Notable List and highly commended in the PM’s Literary Awards.

Her new book, The Lost Sapphire is her latest time-slip tale.

Visit Belinda’s website

Working Writer’s Tip

What stage should I bring a freelance editor in to look at my manuscript before I submit it to an agent?

Answered in the podcast!

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Competition

Win a FIVE-book MEMOIR PACK!

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

 

Allison

Belinda Murrell is a best-selling internationally published children’s author with a legion of loyal fans and a history of writing in her family that span over 200 years. Her 21 books include the Sun Sword fantasy trilogy, as well the newly released Lulu Bell series for younger readers.

 

She’s also known for her collection of time-slip tales, including The Sequin Star, The River Charm, The Locket of Dreams, The Forgotten Pearl and others, which have been recognized through a host of awards.

 

Her new book, The Lost Sapphire is her latest time-slip tale and has come out in only the last week or so, I believe.

 

Belinda

Yes, Monday.

 

Allison

Monday? There you go. We’re all over it.

 

Alright, so welcome to the program, Belinda. It’s great to have you here.

 

Belinda

Thanks so much, Allison. I’m really excited about it.

 

Allison

Alright, so let’s start right back at the beginning. The first book that you had published was the first book in the Sun Sword fantasy trilogy.

 

Belinda

That’s right.

 

Allison

How did that come about?

 

Belinda

Well, I had been working on that book for about two years, and I actually wrote it for my own children. I’ve got three kids, and they were in primary school at the time, and they were voracious readers and they loved fantasy adventure, and so I sat down and wrote that book for them.

 

When I had finished it I thought I would be very, very brave and I’d send it off to Random House.

 

 

Allison

As you do.

 

Belinda

I was absolutely delighted when a few weeks later my publisher rang me, Zoe Walton rang me from Random House and said, “Belinda, how do you feel about signing a three-book deal?” And of course I was over the moon and delirious with excitement.

 

Allison

As you would be, and you had to write the other two.

 

Belinda

Yes, that’s right. And it took me… I had to do it a lot faster than the two years it took me to write the first one, of course. So, that’s when I decided to give up my day job as freelance journalist and travel writer and just focus on writing children’s books full time. And, I’ve been doing that ever since.

 

Allison

Wow, so you actually, like, right from the start you were like, “I’m just going to do this.”?

 

Belinda

Yes. It had been a dream I had for ages and I thought — my accountant thought I was insane, because I was giving up a really well-paid job, but I thought, “If I don’t give this a really good crack now I might regret it for the rest of my life,” and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. I thought, “I can always go back to what I was doing before,” but I just really wanted to give it a good shot.

 

Allison

And what made you think, “I can write a fantasy novel?” Like, what made you think, “I’m going to sit down and write my kid’s book.”?

 

Belinda

Well, it’s a bit funny because I do come from an unusual family, so I obviously come from a family of writers. In my family I’ve had writers for generations, and my brother and sister are both published award-winning, internationally published authors. And, so I kind of went, “Oh, what could be hard about it?” So…

 

Allison

“What could be hard?” “I’m being left behind.”

 

Belinda

Exactly. So, I just sat down and did it. So, yes, I was probably quite unusual in that way. But, I guess I just had that sort of family… books had been in my family for such a long time. I had been a writing working as a journalist and a technical writer for years, so it’s not like I was starting from scratch.

 

Allison

You began writing fantasy, where did you go from there? Did you go to your time-slip tales after that?

 

Belinda
Yes, I did. So, I wrote the books in the Sun Sword trilogy and they did really well. And they were released in America, which is fantastic and were bestsellers, which was great. And so Random House said to me, “Fantastic, Belinda, what’s your next book going to be?” And it was actually… my first time-slip book was a book I actually started writing probably a few years before that and I started and it was a bit hard. So, I put it away in the bottom drawer and it was kind of collecting dust there.

 

So, when I was trying to think what my next project would be, I got this manuscript, I dusted it off and read it again. And I was really intrigued by this whole idea of time… slipping back in time and the links between the past and the present and things like that. So, I wrote The Locket of Dreams, and that was the first book in my time-slip series. And, that did really, really well and was shortlisted for lots of awards. And I started getting all of these letters from kids and I just decided I obviously struck some chord with children with this particular idea of time-slip, so I decided I was going to write a couple more and sort of make it like a series. But, each book was standalone with different characters and different period of history. So, that was kind of how I started writing the time-slip books.

 

Allison

So you sort of realized right from the beginning, once you got such a great response from them that they would be like a thing for you? That this was something…

 

Belinda

Yeah.

 

Allison

… you’d go on with? OK.

 

Belinda

Yes, I think so. I think it was just — the letters I got were just so passionate from these girls, just saying, “I love this, I love it.” And, “I’ve never read anything like this,” and, “Can you please write more books like this?” So while I had lots of kids that loved the Sun Sword trilogy and it went well, I didn’t get quite that sort of impassioned response that I got from my time-slip books and I still get now.

 

 

 

Allison

Tell us about the latest one, The Lost Sapphire, what’s the basic premise and how does it work?

 

Belinda

The Lost Sapphire, so it’s the seventh book in my time-slip series, and it’s set in the modern day period and also back in 1922. In the modern day period it’s about a girl called Marli, and Marli has gone down to Melbourne to spend the summer with her dad, very reluctantly because her mom had to go overseas for business, and she’s desperately missing all of her friends back home.

 

So, Marli is down in Melbourne feeling rather sorry for herself, but then she discovers this intriguing mystery. And her family is about to inherent this grand abandoned old mansion called Riversleigh on the banks of the Arrow River. And she becomes quite fascinated with this mystery and the secrets of the house. And, she sets out to try and solve those mysteries and she meets a boy who has his own links to Riversleigh. So, the two of them sort of work together to sort of sleuth the mysteries of the past.

 

And then back in 1922 it’s about a 15-year-old girl called Violet Hamilton and her family is incredibly wealthy and they live at Riversleigh and she has this life of luxury with extravagant balls and picnics and boating parties.

 

But, over one summer she sort of… I guess she grows up and tries to find out what’s important to her. And she has all of these new ideas about women and about society and about culture, and the difference between the very wealthy and the very poor. And so the 1920 section is all about her discovering herself and who will her sister choose to marry, and what will Violet do to change her world. And she also… they have an army of servants that look after them and one of them is a young Russian chauffeur called Nikolai.

 

And Nikolai has this sort of breathtaking secret that Violet needs to discover. So… it’s all about family secrets and mysteries and the secret of the lost sapphire ring, so that’s where the title comes from.

 

Allison

Fantastic. So, when you set out to write a story like that, do you start with a historic angle? Or do you start with a contemporary title? Do you start with a character? Like, where do you begin?

 

Belinda

It’s sort of a very slow evolving process for me. So, I start partly with a time in history that I’m really intrigued by, but also the setting. I used to be a travel writer, so I think the setting is really important, for me. And I was first obsessed with this idea of abandoned houses, and I came across a couple… you know how when you’re writing something and then things seem to crop up all the time, just because you’re thinking about them. The series of abandoned houses, and it was also this link to The Secret Garden, which was a book I loved as a child. I was talking about it with my publisher, this idea of these beautiful classic books that kids still seem to really love today, even though they’re very old. So, this idea of discovering a secret garden. So, they were the two ideas I started with.

 

So, it was all about the setting.

 

Then I started to think about the characters. And, it slowly evolved over many months of research. I don’t know why, but I decided 1920s was a time I want to set my historical period in, because I think it was post World War I and I think there was just so many changes going on. And this idea of the grand old aristocracy of Melbourne, living on one side of the Arrow River and just across on the other side of the Arrow River were the slums of Richmond. And it was literally a bridge apart.

 

So, to me, that was just fascinating, again, the setting and then what was happening in the 1920s that then kind of, I guess, my characters were created from there, because I wanted to have a young girl who was really… not just accepting of the way things had always been, that was really questioning what was fair and wanting to change her world and how she set about doing that. So, Violet Hamilton is a character I really, really love because she’s so sort of passionate and determined and quite intriguing.

 

Allison

So how do you research the historic stuff. Are you in the library going through dusty old books or are you googling or what do you do?

 

Belinda

You’ve got to love Google. I don’t know how anyone — well, I know how they researched it before, but I use Trove a lot, which is the national library and they’ve got all of these newspapers online there. I get lots of books and I search for books, read lots of memoirs, letters, magazine articles, newspaper articles. The social pages of the 1920s, I just spent hours reading all of the social pages and finding out who was doing what and where and when, and it was just fascinating.

 

So, that’s how I start with my research. And, of course, being historical there is a lot of research, because even things like the day that it was a full moon, I had to make sure that when I was writing my scene on that day that there was a full moon, if that’s what there was on that date back in 1922. So… I’m very… I try to be very meticulous with my research.

 

Allison

Details. Yes. Would you get letters about that if you didn’t?

 

Belinda

Oh, absolutely. I’ve had letters from teachers/librarians saying, “Where egg beaters even invented in 1895?” And I’ve had to email back and say, “Yes, they were invented in 1877,” or whatever year it was. And, of course, I’ve been to historic kitchens to see… and I’ve cooked in old aga fuel stoves, and things like that, to just sort of make sure my process is sort of as accurate as possible. Not, that I want to beat kids over the head with historical detail, but just so that I know it’s right.

 

Allison

You obviously enjoy the research, like it’s clearly a thing that you like to do, but how do you know when you’ve done enough research? Because that’s always a big question…

 

Belinda

I think when my deadline starts looming. I go, “I’ll never finish this book if I don’t start writing…”

 

But, I do feel that sometimes when I try to write earlier in the process I find it very hard to write because I don’t know enough about my characters and I don’t know enough about my setting. And, so I think as I do that research my setting comes alive, my characters come alive. And, so I know that’s when it’s time to start writing, because it just becomes — I know their stories by then, but it does take me quite a long time to actually get inside that world so thoroughly that I know what’s happening.

 

Allison

That’s interesting. So, you’re really, like, absorbing the world, aren’t you? You’re sort of putting yourself right into it before you start.

 

Belinda

Yes, yes.

 

Allison

Is that your writing process? I know your sister Kate is a very world-renowned plotter of enormous proportion. Are you also that? Are you planning your stories out in advance?

 

Belinda

Yes.

 

Allison

 

Belinda

Yes, I think so, because I think the way that I work with my publisher, which I think many authors do, but not all do, is that I actually have to — I have to present a pitch to my publisher and I sign a contract based on my three-page synopsis. So, to pitch that I need to know the beginning, the middle and the ending of my story. I need to know my setting and I need to know my characters.

 

 

Allison

Yep.

 

Belinda

Otherwise I don’t get my advance, and that’s how my publisher likes to work. They plan a year or so ahead and they sign you up for multiple contracts. So, they need to know what I’m working on and they need to be happy with that and approve that. And, so I know some authors just sort of write their book and then they go out to see where they can sell it or they show it to their favorite publisher when it’s finished. But, for me, and for Kate, it has to be all planned out before you start writing, because the contract is signed months before I actually start writing the books. So… it’s important to be able to plan really thoroughly, because it’s got to sound like a fabulous book in three pages, and you haven’t written it yet.

 

Allison

“I’ve got this random idea…”

 

Belinda

Yes.

 

Allison

Do you write every day?

 

Belinda

I try to write every day, but I have different patterns throughout the year. So, it’s just the way it works for marketing. I tend to have… my major book normally comes out around now, which is May, around the time of Sydney Writers’ Festival and all of those sorts of things. So this time of year I have lots of touring, lots of events, lots of school visits. Book store events and things like that. So, I’d be doing that a lot of the time. It’s a lot of tripping away from home and it’s a lot of weekend work, because you’re in the bookstores doing signings on Saturdays or launch events, or whatever it might be.

 

So, I try to write at this time, but my head is really not into the writing at that point. And then of course later in the year we have book week, which is when, as a children’s writer, you are just booked up for weeks doing school visits around book week, which is fantastic because it gives you chance to get out there into the schools and meet the kids and talk to them about what they love. And, it also is a really, you know, great source of income as well, to be earning the money from all of the school visits and then there’s odd festivals and things during the year. And, so then around those kinds of marketing waves then I set aside dedicated time for writing where I just try to focus really hard on actually writing.

 

So, I think I try to do a lot of research, say, around the time a book is coming out, because it’s easy for me to read or take notes or whatever, while I’m actually doing those events. You read on planes or in airports.

 

Allison

Oh, that makes sense, yeah.

 

Belinda

And then I have some time that I set aside where I just try really hard, certain months where I go, “These are writing months,” and I try not to do too many events in that particular time.

 

And then I love the summer because I tend to have the kids on school holidays and I take a pile of books to the beach and read a lot and relax and spend time with the kids and do things. But, I’m still thinking about the projects that I’ve got coming.

 

So, yeah, so it’s just kind of like, you know, very much a yearly routine as well as a daily or a weekly routine.

 

Allison

You’ve still got kids at school, obviously, if you’re looking at school holidays and things like that.

 

Belinda

Yes.

 

Allison

Do you still feel like you’re kind of writing around them as well? I mean is stuff…

 

Belinda

Yes.

 

Allison

… fitting in family, children, writing — do you find that juggle? How do you manage all of that?

 

Belinda

It is a juggle. And it’s hard sometimes, because, for example, this week Sydney Writers’ Festival week, the big glamorous opening party, and I had to choose between going to the big glamorous cocktail party down at the wharf, with all of the lights and all of the famous VIPs, or coming home and cooking dinner for my son who had exams starting the next day and was feeling a little bit needy and a little bit nervous and whatever. And so I thought, “Well, the right thing to do is come home and give him support through his exams,” because he’s a particularly important one.

 

It’s always been a juggle, and I think when I started out I used to do school visits within sort of a half-hour radius of home, when the kids were really little. And then an hour, and then it sort of extended from there.

 

But, it’s a lot easier now that they are older, because I can actually go to like Armadale or Tamworth for a week.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in Tasmania, earlier in the year, I’m down to Melbourne in a week. I’m down to Tasmania again in a couple of weeks. So, it’s much easier now to do that. But, when the kids were younger I actually did very little travel away, it was mostly just what I could do during school hours.

 

Allison

Yes, it’s not easy, is it? Were you doing your writing, like particularly when you were writing the first book was that, like, middle of the night stuff that you were doing?

 

Belinda

Yes, it was, very much when the kids were asleep. I’d have my day job and I would do all of the kids’ stuff outside their school hours or their preschool hours, and then I’d tuck them up into bed and send them off nice and early and I could sit at my computer and just write for as long as I could keep my eyes open.

 

Allison

Alright. So, as we just discussed you do a lot of school visits, workshops and other presenting work. It is actually a key part of the job for a children’s author, particularly as you say once the kids get a bit older.

 

Is it something that you enjoy, like do you enjoy doing it?

 

Belinda

I do, I really enjoy doing it. When I started out I was a bit nervous, but I actually love it. I love the kids’ enthusiasm and passion. You get into schools and there’s kids that come up to you and go, “You’re my favorite author in the world, and I’m so excited to me. It’s been a dream for years to meet you,” or things like that and you just go, “Wow, isn’t this cool?” And even kids that have never read of your books, then they get really excited about them and they might write to you afterwards or whatever it might be.

 

And the other thing that I love is sometimes I get letters from parents after I’ve been to a school, and the parents are telling me that actually I have inspired their child, their son or their daughter to read my books or to take up reading when they didn’t read before. And sometimes it’s just fascinating to find out the ongoing effect about how kids’ marks go up because they’re suddenly reading more and their comprehension improves and things like that.

 

So, it’s quite amazing when you get these wonderful letters from parents just saying, “Oh, thank you so much, you’ve changed my child’s life,” or, “You’ve changed our life…” or whatever. It’s just so incredible to get that feedback that what you’re doing, the work that you’re doing, is actually changing lives is something that I find incredible.

 

Allison

I find it interesting that you say that you used to be nervous, because I’ve seen you in action and you’re like a seasoned professional. You just look like you’ve been, you know, doing it for years.

 

Belinda

Yeah.

 

Allison

Do you have to kind of constantly develop new workshops and things to keep it interesting, or do you just have kind of a few tried and true favorites that you do all of the time?

 

Belinda

I think it’s a mixture of both. I think it’s really important to kind of keep changing up so that it’s not boring. So, I don’t get bored and that you get to the point where it might, you know, you might be doing things over and over again. So, for example, on Saturday I’m doing writing workshops at a local school and I’ve done them every year for the last four or five years.

 

So, there are kids that are coming back and coming back and coming back, so obviously you can’t be doing the same old same old, or they’d be bored to tears.

 

So, you’ve got to kind of keep it fresh and try to look for new ways to keep kids engaged. And I think that’s one of the things that I love about working with kids, they don’t cut you any slack really.

 

Allison

No — no.

 

Belinda

They keep you on your toes because if the presentation is not good or the workshop is not good they don’t… they get bored very quickly, so you’ve got to keep them really engaged. And, so I really enjoy that challenge.

 

Allison

You can tell by the amount of wiggling going on in the room.

 

Belinda

Yes. Or, just… you don’t want anyone yawning or falling asleep or anything like that. You’ve got to see them… I love… one of my greatest challenges is going into big assembly halls full of boys and girls and you’ve got kindies to year sixes and you might start talking about Lulu Bell and all of a sudden your year six boys start rolling their eyes and going, “Oh, for goodness sake.” And then five minutes later they’re all leaning forward in their seat with their mouths hanging open waiting to hear what you’re going to say. I love sort of seeing that transition with kids when you can actually really suck them in.

 

Allison

What are the three main questions that kids ask you all of the time? Like, you’ve done so many of these things now, you must…

 

Belinda

Yes, they love asking what my favorite book was as a child.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Belinda

That’s one of the things that they’re all fascinated with, every time.

 

Allison

And what was it, Belinda.

 

Belinda

I’ve been asked several times and I always tell them that I loved C.S. Lewis, particularly the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe was really inspirational for me as a child. And I loved the way… that complete feeling of disappearing into a different world, into the world of Narnia. So, that’s one of the questions.

 

The other question they always ask is what is my favorite book of my own. And that’s always a tricky question, because I tend to tell them it’s actually whatever the latest book is, because that’s the one you’re obsessed with, and obviously now that’s
The Lost Sapphire.

 

And the third question, I think often — they love to ask how much money you make.

 

Allison

They do like that one, don’t they? Yeah.

 

Belinda

That’s a bit popular, yes.

 

Allison

How do you respond to that?

 

Belinda

Well, I do this really detailed and long explanation of exactly how much of each book an author gets. And so I started off with the, “Well, you know the book might be $18 and we’ve got GST and then that goes to the publisher, they’ve got to pay for the printing and the design, and the editor…” and I go on and then by the time you get down to, “The author gets…” you know, “… ten percent.” So, Lulu Bell, you know, less than that, because I share it with the illustrator. And by that stage they have their eyes glazed over, or they’re just going, “Heaven’s…” it’s just like a little economics lesson.

 

Allison

That’s hilarious. I haven’t thought of boring them into submission. I have never considered that. So…

 

As you say, you’ve got the Lulu Bell series, which is sort of more chapter books for younger readers and you’ve got your time-slip books, you’ve got the fantasy — obviously the Sun Sword trilogy is still out there doing its thing, which is amazing.

 

Belinda

Yeah, it’s going really well, which is fantastic. It’s ten years old now. So, that’s fantastic that it’s still being read and still selling well, so that’s fantastic.

 

Allison

How do you work that publishing schedule in the sense that you’re doing, as you say, The Lost Sapphire is out in May, when the last Lulu Bell was only out in… not so long ago, I believe.

 

Belinda

No, that’s right. Yes. So, with the Lulu Bells what I’ve been doing is actually writing one major book for the last ten years. So, I’ve got essentially ten novels out. And then around that I’ve been doing smaller projects, so Lulu Bell, they’re quite short. And I also sort of try to those in around… just when I have a little bit more time or whatever.

 

So, with that series I actually started writing them a couple of years before they came out so that I could sort of get… we wanted to bring them out quite quickly, so that gave me the time to sort of work on it. So, I worked on it for a year or 18 months before we brought the illustrator, Serena Geddes, in.

 

Allison

 

Belinda

And then it was very collaborative. We worked together very closely on what the series would be. So, then the books are coming out sort of… I think we’ve had 13 books in three years.

 

And then a couple of bind-ups.

 

And I’m even getting my own Lulu Bell watch in a few weeks.

 

Allison

Oh, how exciting.

 

Belinda

Target is launching a box set of Lulu Bells, a little wristwatch with a Lulu Bell character on the face. So, I can’t wait to see that, that’s going to be amazing.

 

Allison

So, you’ll be wearing your Lulu Bell watch with pride the next time we see you?

 

Belinda

A new fashion statement.

 

Allison

Did you find the process of working with an illustrator to be… like, was that a challenge for you, in the sense you’ve been doing your own… just, words, words, words all this time. Was the concept of bringing Serena in, was that a challenge?

 

Belinda

Yeah, it was very much so, because the Lulu Bell series is very much based on my own childhood, so it’s about a girl growing up in a vet hospital. And so a lot of the adventures are based on things that actually happened to me as a child, or things that I’ve done with my own children. So, it’s very family-based.

 

And I know from other authors, in fact, I earlier did four picture books and I was really disappointed because I had no say in the artist and how the art was done, and I was a bit disappointed with them. So, I was quite nervous about Lulu Bell, because I felt like it was really, really important to me.

 

And Random House was great. I had written the first four books and then they said, “We’re going to start looking for an illustrator,” but, they assured me I had the right of refusal. And so luckily Serena did some roughs and they weren’t quite right the first rough, but you could just see that she just had this beautiful sensitivity and warmth about them that I was really excited about.

 

And so I just loved what she did with the illustrations for Lulu Bell.

 

Allison

Perfect, well, that makes it a bit easier, doesn’t it?

 

Belinda

Oh, yes. It’s just been a joy working with her, an absolute joy. And, I was so nervous when we sort of started the process.

 

Allison

Oh, that’s good.

 

Belinda

Yeah, it’s great.

 

Allison

I’ve seen you guys do your presentations and at a couple of things, and it looks like you’re having a lovely time together. So, that’s always such a nice thing for the kids as well to see that, I think.

 

Belinda

Yes, I think it is. And we do have lots of laughs. And we’ve done lots of tours together, so we might be driving around Melbourne visiting lots of schools, and we actually are sitting are the back laughing and saying, “Oh, wouldn’t be great if we did a Lulu Bell pajama party,” and then I go, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” And so we kind of come up with some ideas together as we’re driving around or seeing each other, which is really fun.

 

Allison

That’s fun.

 

So, The Lost Sapphire is obviously out there at the moment, what are you currently working on? Have you started your next thing?

 

Belinda

I have. So, the next thing that I’m working is a whole new series. And, I think it’s really important to start with fresh projects. While I absolutely adore writing the time-slip books I think it’s time for a little change of direction and the same with the Lulu Bell — I love the Lulu Bell books, but I think it’s time now to sort of do something completely fresh.

 

Allison

Wow.

 

Belinda

So what I’m working on is a series for kids just a bit older than Lulu Bell. So, Lulu Bell is junior fiction, about six to nine years old, so that very early reader fiction. And so what I want to do is for slightly older kids, sort of about eight to ten, and a series about friendship, set around a main character and a group of friends and work from there. So, it’s in the very stages at the moment, but I’m really enjoying sort of a fresh set of characters and a fresh challenge.

 

Allison

What fun.

 

Belinda

And it’s quite different writing for different age groups, so it’s quite tricky to get it right.

 

Allison

Alright, so I guess we’ll finish up today with our famous — well, I’m calling them famous, they’re probably not really famous at all — but, three top tips for aspiring authors. What have you got?

 

Belinda

Well, my three top tips all start with ‘T.’

 

Allison

There you go.

 

Belinda

I think it’s quite clever because it’s easy to remember.

 

Writing, of course, is all about talent. And most people who have a lot of passion for writing, of course, do have talent. But, that’s not enough.

 

So, technique is the next thing, which is just practicing and practicing and practicing and doing workshops and honing your skills and working on your craft.

 

And the third thing, which I think is the most important is tenacity, because there are so many great writers out there. There’s lots of people who can write beautiful stories, but I think to succeed as a writer you just have to have bucket loads of tenacity, which is the determination to just keep going and to pick yourself up when you get knocked down and to not be disheartened when things don’t quite go your way, because I don’t think people realize it does take years and years of writing to actually be good enough to be published. And then once you’ve been published it’s just the beginning of the journey. It’s still lots and lots of hard work, so lots of tenacity.

 

Allison

Just judging our conversation earlier, have you experienced the sting and pain of rejection?

 

Belinda

I think I’ve been incredibly in my publishing journey in that my very first manuscript was picked up straightaway and very quickly. And I know that is very upsetting to a lot of authors who have been trying to get published for years. But, I had also been working as a writer for years before that. So, I had been writing for newspapers and magazines and I had been writing technical books, textbooks and things like that. So, it wasn’t an overnight success. I had been working for decades really on my writing, and I started writing when I was eight.

 

Allison

So you put in a lot of apprenticeship.

 

 

Belinda

Yes, and I think over that time I had my fair share of setbacks and knockbacks and things like that. And even as a published author you can get really excited about an idea for a book and then you go and talk to your publisher and they say, “Belinda, that sounds great, but actually… what else have you got?” So, you do.

 

But, luckily for me I don’t have to write the whole book and get that rejection because of the way I work with my publisher. Again, I’ve been working on an idea and I’ve come up with a three-page synopsis and we’re working off of that.

 

If it’s not strong enough to sell off the three-page synopsis then it’s kind of back to the drawing board.

 

Allison

Alright. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Belinda. We really appreciate it. Best of luck with all of the promotional stuff and the various bits and pieces that you’re doing. I hope you find some time in the next month to get some actual writing done, that would be good.

 

Belinda

Yes.

 

Allison

We look forward to watching your progress and seeing what the new series is all about.

 

Belinda

Thank you so much, Allison. It was lovely talking to you.

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