Ep 136 Stop having a “romantic fantasy” about your life as a writer. And meet rural romance sensation, Karly Lane.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 136 of So you want to be a writer: Discover 4 huge novels that started in NaNoWriMo and tips from famous authors to help you finally write that book. Stop having a “romantic fantasy” about your life as a writer and find out how you could win a copy of “Pilot: a diary for writers”. Meet rural romance sensation Karly Lane, author of Third Time Lucky. Let your inner-librarian loose with the Goodreads cataloguing app, tips on building your author platform and much 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.

Review of the Week
From Mongolian girl in Japan:

I discovered them through their podcast episode on typewriters and ever since then cannot stop listening to them. I used to write silly poems in secondary school, but still love writing in general. Currently I’m doing my PhD in environmental science. But I will never stop writing. This podcast encourages me so much and really grateful to these two amazing women for slaying it effortlessly.

Thanks, Mongolian girl in Japan!

Show Notes

Four Novels that Started as #NaNoWriMo Projects

15 Tips from Famous Authors to Help You Finally Write That Novel

Don’t Worry. Don’t Wait. Write.

Writer in Residence

Karly Lane

karly-laneKarly Lane is the best-selling author of nine novels including Second Chance Town, Gemma’s Bluff, and Bridie’s Choice. A certified small town girl, Karly is most happy in a little town where everyone knows who your grandparents were. Her novels range from romantic suspense to family saga, and she is passionate about writing stories that embrace rural Australia and the vast communities within it. She lives on the beautiful Mid North Coast of NSW with her husband and four children.

Third Time Lucky by Karly Lane is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now from iBooks | Booktopia | Amazon

Follow Karly on Twitter
Like Karly on Facebook
Check out Karly on Instagram @ karly_lane_author
You can also visit Karly’s website

Platform Building Tip

Can you repurpose your old blog for building your author platform?

Answered in the podcast!

Competition

COMPETITION: WIN the “Pilot 2017: A Diary for Writers” – two to give away!

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

Karly Lane is the bestselling author of nine novels, including Second Chance Town, Gemma’s Bluff, and Bridie’s Choice. A certified small town girl, Karly’s novels range from romantic suspense to family saga, and she is passionate about writing stories that embrace rural Australia and the vast communities within it. Her new novel, Third Time Lucky, is out now through Allen & Unwin. So, welcome to the program Karly.

Karly

Thank you very much.

Allison

Okay, so we’re going to go all the way back to the beginning, if you just cast your mind back many, many moons, how did a small-town girl make it into publishing’s big leagues?

Karly

Oh look, I honestly still pinch myself to this day. And it’s just so surreal. But… I actually went in through the Friday pitch with Allen & Unwin, and was lucky enough to be picked up with that. So I did it through that way.

Allison

Can you just explain a little bit about how that works?

Karly

Yeah. It was very hard for me to start out to find where to pitch something to. A lot of things online were very daunting. Like, you needed agents and things like this. But I came across the Friday pitch with Allen & Unwin on their website. And basically you submit something on a Friday, that’s the only time they’ll take unsolicited items, and it’s just a chance to get your first chapter or whatever it is in front of a publisher. So that’s what I did, I took the chance. Because it’s very hard to try and get your stuff out there if you don’t have agents and things like that when you’re first starting out. And they guarantee that they read everything. And if they’re interested you’ll hear back from them. If not, you don’t get any sort of reject or a slip or a reason or anything like that. But it’s just a good way to try and get your stuff out there.

Allison

Okay. so when was that, and how long had you been actually writing at that point?

Karly

That was back in 2009. Because North Star came out in 2010. So probably early 2009. I think… I started writing… When I was about 19, I decided I was going to write my first sort of novel, but it never really got past three or four pages. And then I figured it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. Then it sort of got put a bit on the back burner. I sort of dabbled. Then in between the next few years, between having babies, I’d do some writing and then it would get put away when it got busy again, and pulled out a couple of years later. So it was probably about a 12 year kind of timeframe that I was just dabbling in it. Until I decided one day I’m going to really actually try and figure out how to do this and give it a shot and see what happens. So that was sort of, I guess… Probably mid-2000s sort of thing, from then on, and then 2010 when I actually got published. It took probably about six years.

Allison

All right, so from the time you got serious, it took another seven or eight years?

Karly

Probably five to six… Yeah, yeah.

Allison

And how many manuscripts did you actually write in that time?

Karly

Basically, only, probably about two, two or three. But I concentrated mainly on the first one, which was nothing like what I’m doing now. I sort of started out in the military romance action stuff. And at the time, the only place I actually thought I could submit to was Harlequin and Mills & Boon because they had that line of romantic suspense sort of thing. And I sort of started aiming it at them, but I sort of… I submitted to them probably twice over five or six years, I got the nerve up to do that, and it got rejected both times. Then when I joined Romance Writers, we actually got to pitch to a publisher who was with Harlequin. And I pitched that same book that I had rewritten and gone back and changed and done things over the years. And they took the whole book to look at, but it was ultimately rejected again. And it was only self-published probably about 2010, just before I started doing it for Allen & Unwin. So it was about 2009, 2010 I self-published it online.

Allison

Oh, you self-published that first book, did you?

Karly

Yeah.

Allison

Okay.

Karly

Which turned out to be four books.

Allison

Oh. Okay. And that was a military romance?

Karly

It was, that sort of genre. It became a series. But I have actually got about, I think there’s eleven all up, self-published at the moment. That’s what I was doing before I got the nerve to do it through an Australian publisher.

Allison

All right. So let’s just talk about that. I’ve got a couple of questions to ask you that have come out of that little conversation we just had. First of all, Romance Writers is Romance Writers Australia. That’s the Association of Romance Writers. When did you join that? At what point in your journey did you join that association?

Karly

I joined it about 2009, just before I submitted to Allen & Unwin. It could have been possibly 2008. Before that, I had actually only done my military stuff through competitions with Romance Writers. Because you don’t actually have to join, you can just do some of their competitions and stuff. So I got a lot of feedback from them earlier on through that. When I actually joined was when I decided that I was going to do it properly. And it was through them that I actually realised other avenues that I could go and different types of writing, and that’s when I changed to a more rural type of book.

Allison

Okay. Because that was going to be another question I was going to ask you. You started out writing military romance, action, suspense kind of stuff. How did you then come to rural romance? Because it was rural romance that got you into a mainstream publisher, correct?

Karly

Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t actually know I was writing rural. I mainly just thought to myself, it hasn’t been working out too well with the romantic suspense. It’s obviously not a big genre at the time that I could actually get into, that I could find. So I decided to just try something different. You know, I was learning a lot more, I was picking up so many great things through their workshops and things like that. So I decided I was going to write women’s fiction, I thought. But because it was set in a small town and because, as luck would have it, when I submitted to Friday pitch that’s exactly what Louise Thurtell was looking for with Allen & Unwin. And that’s how it sort of, I think, caught her eye. Because she was looking for something that was more rural, and it fitted that genre.

Allison

And did you feel, like, when you were writing that first rural romance, so you’ve already at this stage self-published eleven military romances at this stage?

Karly

Oh, at that stage, probably only about two or three. I kept doing it later.

Allison

You self-published two or three of those. What made you think at that point “I’m going to try to get into a traditional publisher here?” Was it because you were finding that it wasn’t coming together for you with the self-publishing?

Karly

I was happy self-publishing. It was exciting and I was learning a lot. I think it was because I was learning more as I went along that I thought that I want to keep going and I want to see how far I can get. And I guess ultimately I wanted my books in bookshops. Because the online stuff is great, except you don’t get it out in your mainstream areas, the buyers and things. And I think that was always my original dream. I was always picturing a book on a bookshelf somewhere. That was originally what had prompted me to keep writing. And I think I wanted to try. I’d been writing that. And that was sort of what I started with. But I was feeling like I wanted to try to go a bit further and do a few different things. Challenge myself, I guess, a little bit. See if I could actually change what I was writing, and I did.

Allison

All right. And so then you’ve also continued to self-publish the military romantic suspense at the same time as you’ve been doing the… And why have you done that? Because that’s a lot of books you’re writing there, every year, to keep all that together.

Karly

Yeah. It was. I haven’t published anything probably for the past two years myself for that reason. I’m now sort of really getting busy with the Allen & Unwin side of it. But, I think it was too because I loved doing that romantic suspense. And I loved all the different genres. Different genres. I do a little bit of fantasy, there was a little bit of young adult, there was a bit of everything. I think that was my release. Because Allen & Unwin really only wanted me for rural fiction, but I had all these other stories that weren’t fitting storylines for rural fiction. So I had to write them down, as you do, when you write. So I was basically writing them for myself, I guess.

Allison

Okay. And as far as the distribution and self-publishing goes, have you found that as your mainstream profile has grown, that those self-published books are also selling better as well?

Karly

Not necessarily. I don’t really promote them as much as I should. I probably should. But I have got a lot of my earlier readers were buying those. Because I only had a couple of Allen & Unwin type ones out. I guess they were looking for more. So I would refer them on, “I’ve got these other ones if you’re interested, but they’re not rural”. And people really seemed to enjoy it, and I guess I had the same sort of voice, it was just a different… Maybe it was broadening their little genre scopes as well, I don’t know.

But I found, as a reader, when the whole Amazon thing took off and there was suddenly, I discovered all these different genres and different things, I really went out of my comfort zone, read lots of different things myself. It was different when it first came on the market, there was just so much more to read. So I guess it was just exploring things and doing something new and writing.

Allison

So obviously you’re very drawn to romance, because you write different facets of romance, and your commercial, your women’s fiction has strong romantic elements. What is it about the romance aspect that draws you in?

Karly

I guess I started out reading romance. I remember reading, my nanna used to always have Mills & Boon sitting around the house. There’d be three or four different books going, little tables here and there. I started reading that. And then I moved on to… Well, actually before that I was reading the teenage romance things that you could buy then. And then went on to Mills & Boon. It just seemed to be a natural thing. I think it’s just something I’ve always had. I guess I just like that fact, even though it’s not probably full-on romance, I just like to have that core story, there’s still something nice in the world. I think you need romance just to have something safe, and that there can be some sort of happiness after, an ending type thing.

Allison

So basically you write what you like to read.

Karly

I do. Yeah.

Allison

And was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process? When you first, when that first book was taken up by Allen & Unwin and you had self-published a couple yourself, so you had an idea of what was involved. But was there anything about publishing with a mainstream publisher like that that surprised you?

Karly

Yeah. I wasn’t a millionaire instantly. That really surprised me. I was counting on buying that castle in Scotland somewhere.

Allison

Oh no. Goodness me.

Karly

I am still recovering from the shock of that, I know. I guess, it was all a bit of a surprise. Because even though, like you said, I had a little bit of an insight to what was going on, it’s sort of not the full-on thing that an actual mainstream publisher has. But even that, I was for a long time in the dark with what happened. I just sent them my manuscript and then other than edits the next time I heard from them was “your book’s out”. And that sort of surprised me, because I was like, oh, isn’t there something in between? What happens in between? But over the years, I guess, I had to speak up and ask. I think they assume that you know a lot more than you do, too. Yeah. But over the years I’ve been told what happens. And it is, it’s very interesting. Yeah. I don’t think I really thought much in the early days past the point of a publisher ringing and saying “we’re going to publish your book”. That was sort of the only thing I thought of. And after that I don’t think I really knew what happened. Or cared, really. It was just that one phone call I was waiting.

Allison

As long as it got out there, who cares?

Karly

Yeah.

Allison

So why do you think Australia has taken the rural romantic genre to heart the way it has? What do you think it is about it that… Because you know they’re huge sellers in the Australian market. And it’s actually becoming quite a crowded market, too. So I’d be interested to know why you think Australians have taken to it so much.

Karly

Well, from a personal point of view, I know when I was reading, any time I found a story that was Australian I would jump at it. There was just nothing out there. When Rachael Treasure’s stuff first came out, that was sort of the first grown-up romance in Australia that I could find. I had had the teen romances, and you had Mills & Boon, the Australian ones, that would come through. But as far as mainstream, there was just nothing that really was Australian, I don’t think, in that genre. There were lots of other Australian writers and things, but for that romance and that rural sort of aspect…

And I guess, for a lot of us, even city people, a lot of people move from the country to the city, and it might have been years ago, but I think maybe there’s something there that they can connect with that. Like, they’ve got their roots still there, and maybe it’s sort of familiar or something, I don’t know. I think it’s the Australian side of it, and that familiar, where you can pick a book up and read about it and know that that’s really only just up the road. Probably more achievable to go there then it could be to fly to Paris or something, and they can relate to it probably.

Allison

Given that you draw on small towns, and you live in a small town, do you ever find that you get a little blur in the lines of what’s going on in your community and what you’re writing about? And how do you hide that?

Karly

You say, it’s fiction!

Allison

Just asking for a friend.

Karly

Yeah. I only ever based one character on a real person, and that was in my first book, and I swear to god I will never ever do it again. Because, not realising it was going to be published, really, I don’t know, I don’t, I think I just made that comparison, but I was absolutely petrified this one person would figure out it was them. And it was horrible.

Allison

Oh no.

Karly

So I’ve never ever ever done it again. But I think you do just take bits and pieces and you develop these characters in your mind. Maybe something sparks it about a certain person or something. But as far as people and basing characters, I’m very careful about that now. But often I will use, often I use the situations and things that are going on in town. I’ve got one coming up that features heavily on teenage pregnancy and things. And I think, it’s not even just country towns, I think it’s an issue everywhere, but I know that it’s really obvious and really highlighted… There’s a lot of contributing factors that go towards that sort of thing, and I really wanted to focus a book on that sort of thing. And that’s for next year.

Allison

Okay. And so the fact that you live, that you do live in a small town, do you think that there needs to be an authenticity to this kind of writing to really help, to make it stand out? Do you think that that’s… I’m just thinking, as I said, it’s a very crowded market. Has it become harder to stand out and cut through? And what do you think are the key factors to it?

Karly

It is getting crowded. But then, I think we have such a huge fan base. Like our readers just love it, and they support us all so well. They really do buy just about every person that writes rural fiction. They’re really supportive of the whole genre. But I think they’ve got such big appetites for reading that they will, I don’t think you can give them enough, you know. I suppose as far as trying to stand out, I think you’ve just got to have your voice. You’ve just to stay true to that. And obviously will follow the readers [sic] that they really enjoy, and that’s just what I try to do, I guess. Just try to tell my story, my way, and the way I have been, and hope that that’s just enough to stay good. Yeah. I don’t know!

Allison

Just hope for the best.

Karly

But we do have a wonderful readership. They are so good and so supportive.

Allison

Terrific. So you’re also writing romantic suspense, although you haven’t for a couple of years, and also family saga. Do you know what a novel is going to be before you start? Do you know what you’re writing before you begin?

Karly

No.

Allison

Okay.

Karly

Not really. Oh, sometimes I have a vague idea, but mostly it tends to develop as I go. Sometimes I start off and it might be just something that’s going to be really simple. But then throughout there will be different things that happen that suddenly turn it into a massive family saga or something.

Allison

Yep.

Karly

But I don’t always go into something thinking I know what I’m going to do. Which is very frustrating. It would be kind of good if I did. But I very much make it up as I go.

Allison

Fair enough.

Karly

Yeah. I wish I was organised.

Allison

So how many books a year are you actually writing at the moment? What are you up to? Your ninth or tenth novel?

Karly

Ninth. Yeah. I write a couple ahead. I try to keep a couple ahead. But lately we’ve been doing two books a year.

Allison

Oh, that’s a lot.

Karly

Which is really messing up my whole, it’s messing up my thing. But they’re not two books that I’ve written that year. I’ve sort of had them started and then I finish them and move on. Which is why I like having a lot started so that I’ve got something to go to. This will be the first year, I’ve already submitted both books for next year. So that’s good.

Allison

Wow.

Karly

Yeah. I’ve got one more on contract, and then another two that I’m hoping will come from the last one. So if I can just, I’ll have that bit of timeframe up my sleeve, which is what I like. I don’t like working to a deadline. But yeah, they are putting two out a year. But I’m probably writing one and a half a year, realistically, ahead of them.

Allison

Wow. So your Scottish castle is getting closer, is it? I’m imagining.

Karly

I wish. Not so much!

Allison

We wish.

Karly

It still stuns me! I still can’t believe.

Allison

What is your writing process then? Like how do you, you say you’re doing one and a half a year. That’s what, 150,000 words approximately?

Karly

Yeah, I’m not good at maths. But yeah. Sounds good.

Allison

I’m making it up too. God, we’ve got two writers here doing maths, so let’s not talk about that too much.

Karly

It’s a disaster waiting to happen, isn’t it?

Allison

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you sit down every day and do x number of words? How does the process happen for you?

Karly

I don’t do a certain, I don’t work on word numbers, I suppose. Mainly because I have an allergy to maths. But it’s mainly, I do try to do it every day, and I do write from nine to three most days. That’s my aim. Now that I can do it full time it’s really good. I’ve got that time there. Some days work out better than others. Some days I can do 5,000 or 7,000 words maybe, on a really good day.

Allison

Wow.

Karly

Other days it might be just a bit here, and then I might write a bit later at night if I’m really needing to do some more. But I don’t do a fixed number. It’s just what comes out. But I do try to do it every day if I can, because I feel like I’ve done something then.

Allison

Something useful. So you also have a husband and four children. Which, I’m imagining when you started writing, because I know we were talking earlier and you said that two of your children are older and have left home now. But I’m imagining you were having to wedge the writing in around a lot of other things. How did you manage that?

Karly

Playschool. Playschool was my saviour. Sometimes we stretched it with DVDs that I could sit them down in front of. But, it was just crazy. But I actually wrote more when I was doing that and working part-time at one stage there. It was ridiculous. But I would just grab every ten minutes. Or every time the kids were distracted I think I’d sit down and try to squeeze more in. I think it’s that knowing you’ve only got a certain amount of time, you really do tend to make the most of it. Whereas now I’ll go and hang the washing out or I’ll go down and hug the horse, or I’ll do something just, I don’t know, because I can. And it’s like, oh dear, I wouldn’t have done this three or four years ago.

But it’s a lot harder, I think, when you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. It shouldn’t be, but it tends to be. You’ve got to be a lot more disciplined, I think, now. But I definitely got a lot more done when I was running around like a crazy person.

Allison

Okay. Do you spend a lot of time on the other aspects of publishing? If you’re doing a couple of books a year, you’ve obviously got structural edits and copy edits and all of that. But then also promotional work for each of your book launches. Are you doing a lot of that yourself? Like on social media for instance?

Karly

I do Facebook a lot, because I am on there a lot. That’s kind of an easy thing for me to do, I just incorporate that.

Allison

Yep. Procrasti-facebooking.

Karly

Yeah. I love Facebook. Twitter does my head in, and Instagram I’ve got no idea about, so we’re just plodding along with those. But my publisher handles a lot of that, which is good. I just share. I love it when they sort of put it all out. But it does sort of take up a bit of time. You’ve sort of got to fit… And it’s usually the days that you really start writing, out of all the days that you’ve got up your sleeve, it’ll be those days that you’ve got all these other things scheduled. It definitely does take up a bit. But it’s usually only for the first couple of weeks, probably, the lead up for the new book.

But edits and things like that have always been a… Yeah, you just get into a new book, start really getting into it, and then your edits will come back, so that’s another week or so, a couple of weeks, you’ve got to put that aside and concentrate on those. That does take up a bit of time, too.

Allison

So tell us about your new novel which is called Third Time Lucky. When and where did you first get the idea for the book and then how did that, how did it proceed from there?

Karly

It started off as a novella actually, that one, which I had self-published years ago. About three or four years ago. December’s Wish, it used to be. And it was just that, I just wanted to always write a Christmas, I love Christmas novellas. When it comes around Christmas time and they’re all available, and I love those stories. And I just thought, I want to write one one day. But I could never really, for some reason, get into it. So I sort of made it a rural-based one. And I wasn’t really good, novella writing was really hard, I found. Like it was really hard to condense a story to that sort of word count. So I did it. But I always felt that it needed more. I don’t know. There was something about it, it wasn’t natural for me to have that, such short story out there. But Allen & Unwin decided that they wanted to pick it up and we could make it into a full book. Which was really good, because I think that’s what was missing inside me. I think I just felt like these characters have been ripped off, like there’s so much more to tell.

Allison

Oh right. So you were able to fully develop the story more and you were happier with that.

Karly

Yeah.

Allison

Okay.

Karly

Yeah. So we did that. We developed that one. It’s sort of still got the Christmas theme, I guess, is the central part of it. But it’s more than that now, it’s sort of more like a normal rural fiction book, I suppose. It’s just got that Christmas element in the centre of it.

Allison

Okay. And what do you think is the key to making that romance and romantic elements work in a novel? How do you… Because you read bad romance. What’s the key to making a good one?

Karly

Well, just for me I suppose, I like to make my characters realistic. Usually the women are really out of their element. Very much like me, if I was expected to do something, I’d always stuff it up somehow. I like to keep them normal so that you could actually feel like you knew these people. And I think maybe that helps, if people, it might be easier to relate to someone who lives in a small town who is a single mum, or is a stressed mum, or something basic that a lot of people can relate to. I guess. I don’t really know.

Allison

So you start with the heroine though, always? With regards to making the romance work?

Karly

Not always. No, not always. Sometimes. Most of the time. Although I think in this one especially, Third Time Lucky, it was the character of Seth who came back to town, it was his sort of story that started it. And then I developed her through that and then the town around that, as well. So it just depends. It depends what comes to mind first, and how to work it in.

Allison

All right. As our last question for the day. Let us discuss your throp… Throp? Your three top tips. Those throp tips. Your three top tips for aspiring authors.

Karly

I guess… The most important one I found was you don’t give up. It gets really depressing. Especially if you’ve got to the point where you’re actually sending out things and they’re coming back, it sucks big time.

Allison

Not to put too fine a point on it, it sucks.

Karly

It sucked. It really did. It was so bad. And, I don’t know, there were times where you just go, oh it’s too hard and throw it down. But then you’ve got to get back in there. And if they’ve given you some reasons, which they don’t always, it’s good to try and focus on that feedback. Which is where the competitions and things, I think, which is my second point, come into it. I think you should probably, when you get a bit more confidence, you think it’s up to where it should be, send it off to some kind of competition. And a lot of the times they will have feedback come back from those. Which I know really did help me. Because it’s like giving it to someone to read. And even today, I still will get my friend to read my rough draft just to see if there’s something that I’ve missed. Like a link to the relationship that doesn’t seem real, or a jump from one thing to another, and just that it actually makes sense. Things like that is what these competitions will pick up. So it gives you a better shot at sounding a bit more professional.

And rewriting. My original story, I thought it was the best thing ever when I finished it, it was the best book, and couldn’t believe that it was getting rejected. These people were obviously insane. But having re-read it, several years later, I’m like, oh my god! How would I have ever sent that out? What was I thinking? And from that first story, the actual book now that it is, is so different and doesn’t look like a kindergartener wrote it.

Allison

Not to be too hard on yourself or anything!

Karly

It was bad! It was so bad! But at the time, I thought it was brilliant. You need to sort of step back, but you need to not be frightened to go in and basically rip its guts out and re-do it. Because it was still the same story, but it was just professional compared to what that was. And that only happened after it was, lots of years being put down, picked up, re-done, sent to a competition and then gone back in and tried to fix that. It happened over time. But you’ve sort of got to really keep writing to make it better. Because your first one is not going to be brilliant. And you need to hone in your techniques and things. That only comes with practice.

Allison

Fantastic.

Karly

So don’t give up and keep going.

Allison

Excellent advice that we can all take on board. So thank you so much for your time today, Karly, really appreciate it. Best of luck with Third Time Lucky. We do love a Christmas story.

Karly

Thank you.

Allison

And good timing for a Christmas story, as well.

Karly

It is.

Allison

Perfect. Funny that. And thanks, and good luck with that crazy publishing schedule that you have as well. It sounds incredibly punishing.

Karly

I’ll need a good Christmas drink after that.

Allison

You certainly will. All right. Thanks Karly.

Karly

Thank you.

 


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