Ep 172 We review Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice, And meet Anna Daniels, author of “Girl in Between”.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 172 of So you want to be a writer: Are you a writer or an author? We review Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice! Some unexpected writing tools (which do you use?). You could win a copy of Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough! Plus: meet Anna Daniels, author of Girl in Between, discover authors to follow on Instagram, 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.

 

Shoutout of the Week
From Peter:

Dear Val and Al,

I have recently discovered the Australian Writers Centre and I am loving the podcasts. I do not iron or dissect insects as being a Sydney-sider I am driving. I am now also learning a lot and loving the episodes thank you. I just caught up with episode 165 which covered several interesting things including showing me that I have bright shiny writing syndrome and now I don’t feel so bad. I love the approach of Kate Forsyth and have recently begun something similar, although my discipline on the major work clearly needs development. My collected scraps are no where near the 140 novel mark and I love that she managed to finish one and hopefully can go on to finish more. As I am now off to do.

Thank you both for a brilliant podcast series. I look forward to learning more in my coming commutes 🙂

All the best, Peter.

Thanks, Peter!

Show Notes

 

Writer? Author? A Difference Worth Noting and Distinction Worth Making

Amazon Whispersync for Voice

A Series of Unexpected Writing Tools

Writer in Residence

Anna Daniels

Anna Daniels was shortlisted for the 2016 Vogel’s Award for her debut romantic comedy novel, Girl In Between. It was published by Allen & Unwin on the 26th April, 2017.

Anna has had great success as a comedic storyteller and presenter. She is also a journalist and has written, presented and produced exciting content for some of Australia’s and the UK’s highest rating programs.

Find out more about Anna on her website

Follow Anna on Twitter

 

Platform Building Tip

6 More Aussie Author Instagram Accounts I Love

Competition

WIN: 4x Sarah Pinborough’s thriller “Behind Her Eyes”

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, Anna.

Anna

Thanks very much, Valerie.

Valerie

Now, for readers who have not yet read your book, which is Girl in Between, tell us what it’s about.

Anna

Well, basically Girl in Between is about that moment in a woman’s life when you’re at a crossroads, and you don’t really know where to turn. So Girl in Between traces the journey of Lucy Crighton. She’s back in Rocky [Rockhampton], she’s a bit lovelorn, she followed her ex up to north Queensland with disastrous consequences. And she’s really sort of in between relationships, careers and cities. And she doesn’t really know what she wants to do next, Valerie. She’s living back at home with her parents. She doesn’t know how she got there. She’s in her early 30s, everyone else seems to have their life sorted out. So it’s really following the journey of Lucy and her wild best friend Rosie, as they try to sort of get their lives back on track.

Valerie

I love it. Now, is this semi-autobiographical perhaps?

Anna

Well, that’s the question everyone asks me, Valerie. And my answer is that, you know, as a debut author I think perhaps you write about what you know about. So in some respects it is autobiographical. Lucy’s a journalist and I’m a journalist. She’s at a stage where she’s finding her feet, and I think when I wrote Girl in Between I was feeling very much like that. But I can also say that it is fiction, Valerie. If you flip over the back of my book you’ll see this one word on the back that says ‘fiction’ and I often point that out to people. But it’s very comic and exaggerated, and yes, very much fiction as well.

Valerie

Now how did the idea for this book form? It just hit you like a bolt of lightning one day, going I’m going to write this book? Or did it evolve over time?

Anna

It’s funny, because I started out writing Girl in Between as a screenplay. Because I’ve always loved comedy that has heart, but also makes you think and makes you laugh out loud, but is quite poignant. So I loved Muriel’s Wedding growing up, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Gavin & Stacey, the British TV series. And I’d always had grand ambitions of creating a romantic comedy Aussie series for the small screen.

So I initially found myself with time and space on my hands in 2013, and I started writing it as a screenplay. But as I was writing, I realised that the characters and the storyline really had a depth that lent themselves more to a novel format.

And with the subject matter, I was in my early 30s and I kept hearing all these hopes and concerns and hopes and dreams echoed throughout my social circle of friends, all about the conundrums as a woman that you face in your 30s. Because you’re not in your carefree 20s anymore, suddenly you’re in this decade where you know there’s a bit more responsibility and there’s this expectation that you might have sort of figured things out by now. And I sort of wanted to capture that moment in time where you’re in your early 30s but you don’t really know what you’re doing, and things haven’t gone to plan. And it’s that quest to figure out what do you really want from life.

Valerie

And had you always wanted to be a writer? Or had you ever wanted to perform? Because you say you write comedy. So have you always wanted to be in this space?

Anna

Yeah, absolutely, Valerie. When I was a little girl, I grew up in Rockhampton, a regional town in central Queensland, and I just devoured Enid Blyton, Anne of Green Gables was my favourite, Roald Dahl, Paul Jennings. And I was a voracious little reader and I always loved writing. I think I was penning stories when I was five years old. So absolutely. And now to become a published author and to see my book on the shelves is just a dream come true, really. And I’m still pinching myself!

Valerie

Now before we talk more about your writing process for this particular book, you do write comedy. So when you write comedy, tell us a little bit about the process. How do you actually structure what you’re going to say or write? How do you actually write it? Do you start off with a joke? Do you start off with an idea and then build a joke onto it? How does it work?

Anna

Well, for me, as you say I’ve done a lot of comedy writing, I’ve done stand-up, and I often write my own stories and present them for The Project. And with my comedy, I see myself as a comic storyteller, telling stories in a heartfelt affectionate way, but also in a self-deprecating way. So my modus operandi is I love making people laugh, and if it’s at my expense then all the better.

So when I’m writing a script for The Project, I’ll start with a central idea of all the gags that I’d love to work into that script, and then think about how I could structure the storyline to encourage those gags to come out. And my writing for The Project is very much heavy with puns. I love to play on words.

With Girl in Between, I just went to town, Valerie, with some of the dialogue that these characters are saying to each other. And with that, I was reading the dialogue out aloud to myself as I was writing it. And actually to be honest I was cracking myself up with some of the… I was just sort of writing away here in my Paddington unit in Brisbane, and my neighbours probably thought I was mad because I was often just cackling away. So for me, comedy has to be authentic and it has to have heart, but it also, you know, you just have to laugh. My aim in life is to make people laugh but in an affectionate heartfelt way that also makes you, you know, sort of pulls at your heartstrings.

Valerie

Where did that come from? That drive to make people laugh?

Anna

Well, I’m one of five kids. I grew up in a big crazy chaotic family in Rocky. And there was always, growing up in my family, mum and dad had a great sense of humour, and there was always the sense of seeing the hilarious in the tragic. So if there was ever a sad situation, it was always flipped around so that you’d be laughing rather than crying.

And also maybe just growing up in a town like Rocky, which is probably similar to a lot of regional towns in Australia, you sort of get this appreciation of the ridiculous things in life. Just because everyone knows everyone, everyone’s bumping into each other all over the place, and you learn not to take yourself too seriously in a country town where people call a spade a spade.

And I’ve just always, I loved performing from a young age, I was always up on the Eisteddfod stages making people laugh. And I’m happiest when people are chuckling, and if it’s at my own expense, Valerie, then that’s all the better for me.

Valerie

Now, you mention Anne of Green Gables and Roald Dahl. They’re not exactly comedic. Where did your comedic influences come from?

Anna

My comedic influences? Well, my grandma had a wicked sense of humour. And my parents were both pharmacists in Rocky, and it was quite funny because they both owned their own pharmacy but they were competing against each other. Which was quite… Can you imagine? Which was quite hilarious. And my grandma was always out the back of my mum’s pharmacy cracking people up with bawdy jokes, and she had a wicked sense of humour. And I think from an early age, because mum was working so much, my grandma was a really prominent person in our lives, and I think my sense of humour probably developed from her.

But there’s also just pictures of me when I was a little kid, and it almost looks like I’ve always got a joke on my lips. I think I was just born with this silly sense of humour that just delights in the absurd and the ridiculous.

Valerie

Okay. So you started writing Girl in Between as a screenplay. At what point did you think, “you know what? It’s actually not going to work as a screenplay. I’m going to turn it into a novel.”

Anna

Well, I think I’d written the pilot script for the screenplay. And I had sent it into the ABC and I’d sent it into a production company in the BBC. And they both said they really enjoyed it but they’d need it to be fleshed out a lot more. And I sort of thought, well, if I’m going to flesh it out more, why don’t I just try to flesh it out as a novel? And that’s sort of when I changed tack.

But the funny thing is, Valerie, when I changed tack, I completed it in 2013 over a period of six months and I got it to about 38,000 words. And then I sort of essentially stopped. And I thought, oh well, that’s it. I’ve told my story. And it wasn’t really until 2015, I sort of remembered it again. I remembered that I’d done this. And I tried to think about getting it published. And I was on the Allen & Unwin website and I think I came across the Vogel awards which were of course for an unpublished writer aged under 35, and I was 34 at the time. And I thought, oh well, I better give this a go. And I saw that the minimum word count for the Vogel’s is 38,000 words, and mine was 38,230.

Valerie

Perfect!

Anna

Yeah! And I thought, oh well, I’ll tick that box, too. So I submitted it to the Vogel’s, but I never really thought much of it until early 2016 I got the most exciting email from Allen & Unwin saying that I was progressing through the rounds. And I almost fell off my chair, Valerie! You know, when you get that sort of email. And then in early February of last year, I got a phone call from Annette Barlow, the head judge of the Vogel’s at Allen & Unwin, saying that my manuscript was going to be shortlisted for the Vogel award. And that was just, you know, in a writer’s life that was just an incredible moment, really.

Valerie

Absolutely.

Anna

So from there… Shall I continue telling you the story?

Valerie

Please! Tell me the story!

Anna

So from there, I think I sort of knew, Valerie, in the back of my mind that at 38,000 words my novel wouldn’t really take out the Vogel’s because it was quite short. But I also knew that my dearest hope with it all is that I would meet a publisher who would recognise the potential and promise in my writing and wish to work with me to get it to a stage where it could be published. That was my dearest hope for my manuscript at that stage. And whilst I’d been on the Allen & Unwin website I’d done a bit of stalking, of course.

Valerie

Of course!

Anna

And I saw that there was this publisher who worked for Allen & Unwin called Louise Thurtell. And I did a bit of digging about Louise, and I saw that she really loved championing rural and regional writers. Because she sort of thought that a lot of people from country areas and smaller towns can feel a bit daunted by the publishing process, and she really liked telling the stories of rural and regional Australia. And she grew up in Orange. And of course I grew up in Rockhampton, a country town in Central Queensland. And so I thought, you know, if there’s ever anyone who I might click with it might be Louise.

So I went to this glittering party atop the Allen & Unwin terrace in Sydney, Valerie, and it was just incredible. A writer like myself who has not been on the national stage to walk into this party and just see a who’s who of the publishing world. Like, I look left and there’s Thomas Keneally, and I look write and there’s Jennifer Byrne from The Book Club. And I just thought, I knew in my heart that I really had to be on my A-game that night. So of course I took along my mum and dad as back-up. And it was funny, because I said to someone at the party, “I’d love to meet Louise Thurtell.” And she went and got Louise and introduced us.

Valerie

Great.

Anna

Yeah. And from that moment, Louise and I, we just clicked immediately. I think because we’re both from the country and just sort of got each other.

And Louise said to me, “did you bring anyone tonight?” And I said, “oh yeah, I brought my mum and dad.” And she said, “oh, I’d love to meet them.” So it was funny, because I introduced Louise to my mum and dad, and then I turned around and went to the bar and got them all drinks, and when I turned back I saw that mum and dad just had Louise trapped between them on a couch. She wasn’t getting anywhere. And I went over to them and I was like, “oh, Louise do you need me to save you from my dad?” And she said, “no, I love your dad!” And so I thought, righto, I’ll leave you all to it.

And I ran off and just kept networking my way around the party. And it’s so funny, because at one point my dad, who’s a very country Aussie bloke, and calls a spade a spade, he turned to Louise at one stage and he said, “so are you going to be able to help out this daughter of mine or not, Louise?” And apparently Louise said, “well, I mean, you know her manuscript’s too short? She’d need to write another 40,000 words.” And apparently my dad said, “Oh Louise! She’d do that in her sleep!”

He told me this the next day, and I said to him, “god, dad! Thanks for saying that. I’m not going to get any sleep now if I have to do that, write 40,000 words!”

But Louise was just so lovely. And she said to me at the end of the party, “look, send me your manuscript and I’ll have a look at it and I’ll tell you my thoughts.” And I sent my manuscript to her, and within a week of me sending it to her she wrote back and said, “I loved Girl in Between. I hope that we can work together and turn it into an amazing novel. I think you have the talent to do so.”

And I just thought, oh my god! This woman is amazing. But it is still quite funny, because when I remind dad of the Vogel’s party, he still tells all his friends that he actually got me a publishing deal. It was his sweet-talking Louise.

Valerie

And of course that’s a great story, because it shows you the importance of researching your publishers, and making sure that you are trying to connect with the publishers that are most likely going to resonate with you. But also a lesson in, when you’re actually at an event, a lot of people are daunted and don’t ask to be introduced to people. And good on you for taking that step and making sure you connected with Louise, as well.

Anna

Oh, absolutely Valerie. And you’re absolutely right. Louise had that country background, and I just sort of knew that we might be able to connect on that level. And I also knew that, as you say, sometimes as a new author on the scene, you only get one shot, really, at these big networking events.

And so I just, you know, sometimes you feel a bit daunted, but I just had to step up to the mark and say, look, I’d like to meet Louise. And she looks back on that night and she says, “Jeez, I just thought your parents were lovely country people, but now I realise I was being expertly bloody schmoozed by them!” So she’s got a cracking sense of humour, Louise, and we really have gotten along like a house on fire.

Valerie

So you obviously wrote the extra 40,000 or whatever words, and that became the final novel. Now just tell me, when you are in the day to day of writing, did you commit to that full-time? Did you write on weekends? Did you set yourself a wordcount target each day? How did it actually work on a practical level?

Anna

Yeah. On a practical level, I set myself a wordcount each day. I was really pleased with myself if I got over 700 words a day and gave myself an extra pat on the back if I was able to do about 1200 words a day. During that period, which was about six months of solid writing, I could do nothing else.

Valerie

Really?

Anna

No. I could do nothing else. Because I had these deadlines. And the funny thing, Valerie, is that from the day I was shortlisted at that Vogel’s Award party last year to this year when my novel is on the shelves, it’s exactly a one year period. So I don’t know if it’s unusual or not for an author to be that intensely writing a manuscript over such a short period of time, but it was all-consuming. And I really couldn’t have achieved working, as well, during that period. Because Louise was there to sort of cheer me on from the sidelines and guide me, but I just had so many words to write.

Valerie

Was it full time? How many hours a day would you have dedicated to it in that six months, approximately?

Anna

Eight hours a day.

Valerie

Wow. And so how did you support yourself?

Anna

That’s been the toughest thing about the journey. Of course, you get an advance, but in terms of the practicalities of paying rent and stuff, I did have to have a few IOUs from my younger sister Sally. Who I have assured it will all be worth it one day.

But yeah, it’s funny, because I’ve been doing a lot of events, lovely events with Louise in my hometown of Rocky, and she said to me, “I didn’t realise how intense it was for you to be writing that much during that period.” And I said to her, “the intensity wasn’t the hard thing. The hard thing, Louise, was pretty much just being broke.”

And that was just the reality of it, though. Because I knew that to give it my best effort, and to meet the deadlines, that that was the commitment that was required.

Valerie

Sure. That’s very committed. So, you hand in your manuscript. There’s obviously a gap of a few months between when you hand that in and the release date. So what have you been doing since?

Anna

Since then? Well, I’ve been continuing to present on The Project. Just recently when my hometown of Rocky was flooded, with the crazy system from Cyclone Debbie, I was up there doing stories for The Project. And I did another report for them about the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. So I continue to write and present for The Project.

Sometimes I’m presenting on a freelance basis for ABC Radio here in Brisbane. So I’ve just sort of been picking up bits and pieces of work since finishing Girl in Between. I don’t have a fulltime job. But I’m also realising, now that my book is out, a lot of my energy now is focused on the actual spreading the word of my debut novel.

Valerie

Yes.

Anna

Because as a debut author, as your listeners would understand, you don’t have that established name. And Louise has said to me that it’s fantastic that I’m committing so much of my energy to actually now getting my book out there. Because the first six weeks are quite critical.

Valerie

Absolutely. So now, what’s your view on writing fiction? Is this now your thing? Or do you want to combine it with other things? Or what’s the plan?

Anna

Well, I’ve loved it. I’ve loved every minute of working with Louise, and I’ve loved the process of writing Girl in Between. But really, what my grand plan for it is now, is I’d love for it to be picked up by a production company and then realise its initial genesis of becoming a TV series, a romantic comedy TV series. And I’d love to be involved in that process as a screen writer.

And we’ve had some interest so far from production companies. And it’s very exciting, because it’s going to be made into an audio book, and I’ve heard that the rights have been sold to Germany, and apparently there’s interest in the UK.

So I’m just sort of taking one step at a time with it, Valerie, because I’ve learned that in this industry you have to hang in there because you just don’t know what’s around the corner with it all. So that’s my dream next for Girl in Between.

And in terms of writing fiction again, Louise sort of gives me a few elbows in the ribs and says I should be working on my next novel. But I just feel, to be honest, like my head and my heart is still so invested in this. And I think you hold your breath a bit and you hope that it all goes really well. And that’s sort of where my headspace is at the moment.

Valerie

What was the hardest thing, or the most challenging thing about the writing process?

Anna

Well, I changed it all. So from that initial manuscript that I mentioned to you at 38,000 words that I’d sent to Louise after the Vogel’s and she’d read it, she made a couple of suggestions to me. She said to me, “does Rosie have to die?” Because Rosie is one of the central characters, one of the 30-something-year-old best friends, and she’s just this wild lovable devil-may-care laissez faire attitude, says what she thinks, doesn’t care what people think about her. And in the original manuscript I had her dying. And Louise said to me, “does that really need to happen? She’s like my soul sister. She’s my favourite character.”

And so I completely re-thought the whole latter chapters of my manuscript. And I completely changed it all. And it’s funny, because Louise recently read my initial manuscript a couple of weeks ago, because we were doing these events, and she said to me, “gee I forgot how much you actually turned it all around.” And she said, “it was quite an incredible feat what you achieved.”

So I think that was the challenging part, was that it wasn’t that I was just adding words and fleshing out the storyline from that initial manuscript, it was that I was totally, totally changing the whole storyline and really creating a lot of work for myself. But in saying that, I’m really very pleased that I did change it, and I’m really pleased with what the final outcome is with Girl in Between.

Valerie

And what has been the most rewarding thing about the process?

Anna

One of the rewarding things is… Actually there’s a few things. I’m getting reviews coming back. And people have been saying that they’ve been laughing and crying uncontrollably at the same time. And I’ve been hearing that people just think it’s a love letter to Australia, and a great celebration of Australia and friendship and everything Aussie. And to read those reviews where people have just got it, have got what I exactly intended to achieve with Girl in Between has been so heart-warming for me.

And then the other thing that I’ve really loved about the whole process – because I love in Brissie [Brisbane] now, but I’ve been going back to Rocky and I had a little launch there and went back to my former high school – and it was just so lovely for me to be able to chat with people and schools and stuff and let them know that you don’t have to be based in a big city to achieve these big goals. And also that you can set a book anywhere. I’ve set mine largely in my regional hometown of Rockhampton, and yet it’s resonating with people all over Australia and overseas. So you don’t have to live in a big city to have a big life. That’s been really lovely for me to really show people that you can really be based and write anywhere.

Valerie

And what a great message. And on that note, thanks so much for your time today, Anna.

Anna

Thanks Valerie. It’s been a pleasure.

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