Ep 189 Meet author Louise Park, who writes under three pseudonyms.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 189 of So you want to be a writer: Walkley mid-year award winners have been announced, Keanu Reeves co-founds indie poetry press, and narrative arcs explained. Valerie gives her tips for writing across multiple devices. And meet author Louise Park, who writes under three pseudonyms.

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

Shout Out

From NigelWriter:

These women crack me up with their banter. Aside from that, their down-to-earth advice about writing, their knowledge of the field and their up-to-the-minute news about developments in the world of publishing are second to none. In the interests of transparency, I used to teach at Valerie’s Australian Writers’ Centre. I was also once a featured author in this podcast’s interview section. Having said that, as a published author and as a print and online writer with far more years’ experience than I care to admit, I continue to find this podcast invaluable. I often go back to listen to previous episodes while waiting for the next one to be released. Like many authors, I have a day job (I now write for government websites), and there are times when novel-writing in my lunch break, after work and on weekends can seem like a hard slog. I listen to this podcast in that day job and it keeps me going in my novel-writing life. Thank you Val and Al.

Thanks NigelWriter!

Show Notes

Young Australian Journalist of the Year, Arts Journalism and more: Winners announced for Walkley mid-year awards

Keanu Reeves Cofounds Indie Press, Poetry of the Asian American Experience, and More

What is the Narrative Arc? • A Guide to Storytelling Through Story Structure

What teaching kids about writing has taught me about writing

Writer in Residence

Louise Park

Louise Park draws from a strong background in Education, literacy and publishing to produce blockbuster bestsellers that include Harriet Clare, Zac Power Test Drives and Boy vs Beast.

She has taught primary school children of all ages, trained teachers in literacy education, developed and published successful reading resources to help children crack the reading code, and written books that have ignited such a love of reading in children that she has parents writing to her on a daily basis to thank her.

Louise’s books dominated the top ten slots on the children’s charts in 2013 when she held eight of the ten most coveted positions in publishing. She also holds position nine on the prestigious ‘10 best-selling books of all time in Australia’ (adults, children’s, fiction and nonfiction) .

With total sales over 3 million, Louise writes under her own name as well as the hugely successful pseudonyms: H. I. Larry, Mac Park and Poppy Rose. Find out more about Louise by clicking through the pages of this site.

Follow Louise on Instagram

Competitions

WIN: 2-book pack based on two 20th century literary figures

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

Louise Park is a bestselling children’s author under her own name, as well as three pseudonyms. She draws from a strong background in education, literacy and publishing to produce blockbuster series, including Harriet Clare, Zac Power Test Drives, Boy vs Beast, and her new series D-Bot under the pseudonym Mac Park, with total sales of over 3 million books. So welcome to the program, Louise. Thank you so much for popping along when you’re obviously a very, very, very busy writer.

Louise

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Allison

So let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get started in publishing and writing? How did we get to this point? Give us your journey.

Louise

Oh, my journey is an interesting one. So going right back to when I was about seven years old, that was when I won my first writing competition, and I won a book called Tell Me Why. And I think ever since then I wanted to write. But I got to high school and was quickly told that I didn’t have the potential and that I should think about going into education or maybe teaching, and maybe preschool teaching.

So I didn’t know about that. And at seventeen, I really didn’t know what I should do. So I just stumbled into primary school teaching. And that journey, I think, has taken me to where I really wanted to be.

So I did primary teaching for a little while. Quickly realised that literacy was my biggest passion. Moved across into teaching what used to be called back then – and now you’ll be able to work out how old I am – back then it used to be called the New Arrivals Program. So it was children who had just literally arrived in the country, had no English. And I was teaching them how to read and write in their second language.

I moved from that to working with teachers, educating teachers. And at about the same time I started moving into publishing. So I’ve had a relationship with Scholastic probably since 1989, I think, my first book was published with them. A long time. I worked with them, and I left in about 2004. And when I left I was the general manager and publisher of the education division. So a very strong bent in literacy. And I left to go out on my own. And I’ve been writing and packaging and publishing ever since.

Allison

Wow.

Louise

So that’s my journey.

Allison

Okay. So when you said you moved across from teaching into publishing, how did you do that?

Louise

Initially, I was running in-service programs. There were two things that happened. I was running in-service programs for teachers and Scholastic had an in-service arm where they would do seminars for teachers. And I began speaking for them, doing that.

But I had also had two books published with them and I was doing a heck of a lot of their teaching notes and a whole pile of stuff on a freelance basis. And I just slowly moved into fulltime.

Allison

Okay.

Louise

And then had a career there.

Allison

So the kinds of books that you were writing in those early days were more sort of education based? Non-fiction stuff?

Louise

Fiction and non-fiction. So I worked on, a lot of people out there if their children have gone through primary school, they will probably remember Bookshelf. I was involved with that program. Reading Discovery, which was another massively successful reading program, fiction and non-fiction. I worked on the omnibus solos, Going Solo titles. And lots and lots and lots of things.

Allison

Wow, that’s interesting.

Louise

I think one of the most fantastic things about Scholastic is that when you work there, like most publishing houses probably, there just always seems to be not enough staff, and you end up doing just about everybody else’s, lots and lots of different jobs. So by the time you’ve been there for a couple of years, you have such a great grounding and background in publishing. It’s just one of the best places to work, to have a grounding and a sense of what the industry is about. Because you’re just across so many things.

Allison

All right. So when you started writing your own stuff, your own fiction, were you writing series fiction right from the start? Because obviously series fiction is where you’re probably best known under your pseudonyms and all that sort of stuff.

Louise

Yes. Yes, I’ve never really worked on standalone books. I’ve always worked on series fiction. And I think that comes from working in strands on big reading programs, because there will always be ten or twelve books under a certain area, or level or whatever. So I’m just used to working across a number of titles at once.

Allison

Can you explain a little bit about the process of creating and writing series fiction? We spoke to, a few episodes ago, we spoke to Marisa Pintado. And she was telling us a little bit about some of the series that she has worked on as a publisher. But how do aspiring authors get into it? And what actually happens? How does it work? Because Zac Power Test Drives comes out under a pseudonym, or the whole Zac Power franchise, really, comes out under a pseudonym. But there are a whole range of different writers who are working across it. So how does it actually work?

Louise

That’s right. So interestingly, I’m probably going to digress slightly here when I answer this question.

Allison

Feel free. We love a digression. We’re all over them.

Louise

So the concept creator of Zac Power, the core Zac Power, was Susannah McFarlane who at the time was the managing director of Hardie Grant Egmont. And I had been doing some work with her when I was at Scholastic. And when I went out on my own I started doing some more work with her. Once she had created that core Zac, she wanted a team of authors to write. So Hardie Grant Egmont owns the pseudonym H. I. Larry, and everybody writes under that pseudonym. She crafted that and she went out looking for authors. And interestingly, she wanted authors that weren’t that well known. Well, this is what she says to me, Al, I’m just telling you what I know from her.

Allison

Okay.

Louise

So I think she went to RMIT and places like that and just had people submit chapters and have a look and see what their writing was like and to see if they could sustain it across a series. And she went with that. So there are some writers there who probably got their first break. And it was a massively big break, because we all know what Zac is like. So absolutely fantastic. And hats off to her for being willing to give people a go who weren’t necessarily a big name. Then she came to me and she said, I want to do, well, she used to call it Light-Zac. And I said, if you keep calling it Light-Zac I’m going to hit you.

[laughter]

Allison

Fair enough.

Louise

You’ve got to stop it. Because when kids are learning to read and acquiring literacy it is so critical, it is so important, and it’s a make or break moment. And I really believe that. And you’ve got to get it right. You’ve got to get what’s going on between those covers exactly right or it just falls over. It doesn’t work. And there are plenty of examples of that out there, where it just hasn’t worked, simply because the environment within the covers just has not been controlled tightly enough. So she said, would you be willing to do something like that. And I said, yeah, sure. So I actually started working on Zac Power Test Drives, and did all of those.

Allison

All of them?

Louise

Yeah. I wrote all of them. I wrote all of Zac Power Test Drives, all of Zac Power Spy Recruit. So quite a lot. In the middle of me doing that particular project, she left Hardie Grant Egmont. And I had not long left Scholastic. And the two of us joined forces together, which is the Mac Park. So she’s Susanna MacFarlane and I’m Louise Park.

Allison

Oh, of course!

Louise

Which I thought was really clever. Take a bit of her name, and a bit of my name, and we’ll have this pseudonym Mac Park. I told my children this and they said, mum, really! You sound like an order from McDonald’s! A Mac Park!

Allison

I liked it! I didn’t even think of that.

Louise

I know. I thought it was good too. So when we joined forces, we did Boy vs Beast. That was Mac Park’s first big venture. And of course now, Mac Park has just brought out D-Bot Squad, which is the next thing. But he definitely stays in that space to capture boys, engage them with reading, and make sure they don’t fall that literacy hole.

Allison

Do you plan, with Boy vs Beast and D-Bot Squad for example, have you planned how many books are going to be in that series before you start?

Louise

Absolutely.

Allison

And do you work out the whole narrative arc for the entire series before you begin?

Louise

Absolutely. Yep, absolutely. And I do it with everything, just about. Except Harriet Clare, she’s the only one.

So my first trade series fiction was called SmartyCat which I did with Jeannette Rowe. And we knew straight away we were going to do twelve and that was how it was going to be. And we brainstormed the twelve, and we went through it.

When I did Star Girl, which was done under my own name, I knew there were going to be sixteen. I planned the sixteen, and I had the arc that went right through, and did it. But, I got to the end, and the publisher was saying, oh, we want you to leave it open just in case you want to go for another four. And I was like, this is two years I’ve had this, this is what’s going to happen to her in book sixteen! And I had to kind of leave it open. Which was fine. It was okay.

In Boy vs Beast, we worked in batches. It was a little different. We worked in batches of four. So we had, the first four books were core beasts of earth, wind, fire and what am I missing?

Allison

Water?

Louise

Yes, thank you.

Allison

I had to think about that.

Louise

So in the next four we combined them to make Border Beasts. So earth mixed with fire and so on. And in the next four we had mutants. And then in the final four we had mega mutants, where everything was just so mashed up it was a mess. So it kind of had that structure laid out for those sixteen. And that’s been left there so that if we want to go back to it we can. We’ve kind of produced a border guard team towards the end, but the team hasn’t actually joined. So there is opportunity to go back if we want to, but it is also a neatly wrapped up package of sixteen that we knew we would do from the start.

D-Bot Squad was always going to be eight books. It’s a cliff-hanger ending between every book. You read one to eight, and it’s all contained in one day. It all happens on the Book Parade day at school.

Allison

Right! And the first four of those are all out now, is that right?

Louise

They’re out now, yes.

Allison

And when will the second four of those drop, so to speak?

Louise

The next two come in September. And then the final two, I’m not sure, I would have to go and look.

Allison

That’s okay. But they’re spread out a little bit basically. So the first four are out and then they come in twos after that?

Louise

Yes. Yes.

Allison

All right. So as far as this goes, do you guys come up with the idea for the series and then pitch that into a publisher? Is that how it works as far as this creation of series fiction like this?

Louise

It kind of works both ways. Susanna and I created a little company called Stories Inc which is the two of us creating series fiction. So we pitched the concept of Boy vs Beast to Scholastic, they loved it. And that was a done deal.

Then we set up Stories Inc while we were thinking what will Mac Park do next. Allen and Unwin came to us and said, we’d like to talk about some series fiction working together with you. We pitched three concepts of which D-Bot Squad was one. And we all wanted to run with D-Bot Squad.

But by the time, it’s interesting, when you’re developing story arcs and pitches for series, of the three that we were developing we were completely in love with D-Bot Squad and in our heads were going to do it regardless of whether or not Allen and Unwin were interested in that particular one or not.

Allison

Right.

Louise

But it just seemed to jump out. You know when you get just one just lends itself really well? You’re just running with it and it’s working. So that was always going to happen.

So we work in different ways, depending on the publisher’s needs. Sometimes we’ll just pitch ourselves. We’re working on something at the moment that we intend to pitch. And we’ll probably pitch that to Allen and Unwin first. But yeah, publishers come to us and say, we’ve got a hole, we’d like a girl’s series, what have you got? And we’ll come up with some ideas and pitch. Or else we’ll just do our own thing.

Allison

Okay. And if I was an aspiring author and I was interested in getting into this kind of area, how would I go about it?

Louise

Into the area of writing series fiction?

Allison

Yeah, this kind of series fiction.

Louise

If you’re an aspiring author and it’s what you really want to do, the first thing I would so is what I call my reconnaissance, and I would get yourself into as many bookshops and sit on the floor of those bookshops for as long as you can, going through all of the series fiction that really works, and having a good look at what is there, what is claiming the space, why it’s claiming the space, and where the holes are. And come up with something to fill the hole. And read a lot of successful series fiction to see how it goes.

Allison

A lot of the series we’re talking about here are for those early readers. As you say, we’re trying to capture that market, trying to get them off to a good start. What are the constraints of this market? Obviously, vocab and complexity and all of those things have to be something that you have to consider every step of the way, but yet you’ve still got to create exciting stories. How do you do that? How do you navigate the constraints and still make a great story?

Louise

It’s surprising, and I know people will pick up the books and think, gosh these are easy, I could do these. And it is surprisingly hard. Because the constraints are just about crippling. And that’s where my education background comes in. Because I’ve been crafting levelled readers for so long, and it’s just a matter of delivering a fantastic story that you know boys will want to pick up and get lost in, and delivering that controlled reading environment that they don’t even known about. You kind of whack it up. Susanna has this phrase, and I don’t know how I feel about it, because I’ve spent all my life doing literacy, but she has this phrase that it’s muesli dressed up as Coco Pops.

Allison

[laughs] I love it!

Louise

I know.

Allison

I absolutely love it. That is fantastic.

Louise

But I get to be the muesli, don’t I? I don’t get to be the fun stuff, I get to be the muesli. So I’m in there, you know, secretly laying all the groundwork to make sure that this grand yummy Coco Pops delivers, so that they have reading success.

Allison

Delivers the fibre that they need.

Louise

Yeah. So they have reading success. So that’s my big job, to make sure that I’m delivering the reading success.

Allison

And do you do that at the editing stage? How do you do that?

Louise

I do it from the word ‘go’.

Allison

Okay.

Louise

Absolutely from the word ‘go’. Once I start… This is how we work. Because it’s quite mad, how we work.

Allison

Yeah, I’m interested in how you work. I’m just wondering how muesli and Coco Pops come together.

Louise

I know! So she’s in Victoria and I’m in Sydney. Kids love…

Allison

Can you do some kind of writing seminar about this? Call it Muesli and Coco Pops. We’ll all come.

Louise

I know. That’s her favourite phrase.

Allison

I love it.

Louise

It is really lovely.

Allison

So how do you work?

Louise

We do some stuff together. But anyway, this is how we work. And it’s quite funny when I go off, because I go off and work on my own as well. But anyway, she’s in Victoria, and I’m in Sydney. And we get on Skype and we have these insane three-hour Skype sessions where you’re absolutely rolling over laughing and trying to brainstorm. And I’m sure people must wonder what on earth we do for a job.

Boy vs Beast for example, we kind of fell into this pattern where – for everybody out there who doesn’t know Boy vs Beast, there’s a little boy who lives in the lighthouse, he has a Dog Bot, beasts are breaking through the border wall into Earth, and he needs to keep Earth safe, he needs to keep the beasts out and put them back into Beastium. So he goes to Beastium and he battles beasts and he makes sure they stay in their world.

And we came up with the idea, okay great. So then we were down to the, we’ve got the whole overarching story plan, but we’re down to what’s going to happen in each book. So we’ll go book by book and we’ll got on Skype. And we’d fallen into this pattern where she was always the Beast and I was always the Boy.

Allison

Well, that makes sense.

Louise

And she’d be saying things like, “I’m coming at you and when I flap my wings a wall of fire is going to come down on you and you’re going to go spinning back to Earth with your stupid little Dog Bot!” And I’d be like, “Hmph! I can take care of that. I’ve got this backpack on my back with a never-ending source of water, really, really turbo firing water jets here. You are just going to be a puff of smoke in no time. You’re going back to Beastium, take that.” And sometimes she’ll say, “Mm, I need a cup of tea.” You’re not done, are you? You’ve got nothing! You’ve got nothing! Yes, yes, yes!

Allison

I win. Fantastic.

Louise

I know. I know. It is pathetically, just about that.

Allison

That’s hilarious.

Louise

I win, I win. And I’m the one who’s madly, you know, we get the notes down, and then I’m the one who then goes and actually writes up the story. And invariably when I go to write the story, we have these massive holes! And I’m like, what is this? What’s going on here? And then I have to make up all this stuff.

So when I send it back to her to have a read, I say, “Look, as usual, we had loads and loads of holes here so there’s a lot of stuff that you’re not going to know about, but I just but in there because I had to do it.” And so then we just go backwards and forwards until we have it exactly the way we like it. And then the heavy-duty editing starts. And that’s how we work on a book by book basis.

And it was quite funny because book seven of D-Bot Squad – so we’ve done a lot of books together – and I think it was book seven and I was off touring and doing festivals or something. And I just couldn’t write it. So Susanna had to write it. And she sends me this email while I’m away saying, oh, there are quite a few holes in our notes.

Allison

Funny that.

Louise

I just wrote back, welcome to my world!

Allison

Oh no. So how many words is each book, when you’re writing a book like that?

Louise

Depends on the level. Depends on the level. So Boy vs Beast, I haven’t written one for a while, but I’ve got a funny feeling that they sit about 4,000 words.

Allison

Okay.

Louise

D-Bot Squad is probably about 2,500. Star Girl was 6,000 words. Star Girl is more year three or four. So it depends on the reading level I’m going after. But I’ve really got to pertain, when I’m writing, I’ve really got to pertain to sentence length, I’ve really got to pertain to the right balance of high-frequency words and vocab. How I introduce new vocab, how I ensure that when new words are met they’re consolidated. So I reuse them fairly quickly soon after. I have lists and lists of words.

Allison

Wow. So you actually sit there with your high frequency words and the words you’ve introduced and where they’ve got to go back in, and you’re actually going through and looking at patterns and things like that as well?

Louise

Because I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t really need to have a list of words anymore. But, for example, when I started working with Allen and Unwin I had to go through all of that with the person who was going to be editing in Allen and Unwin. Because I learned very quickly, the first one went in, and it would come back and my nice six or seven-word sentences had been turned into 25-word sentences. And they were beautiful, they were absolutely beautiful, but they couldn’t stay.

[laughter]

Allison

Oh woops.

Louise

So that was a learning curve. Which was great. And it’s just been wonderful working with Elyse, absolutely wonderful, because she’s just brilliant. And we’ve both had a lot of fun. Not long ago she said to me, “Did you hate me on book one?” And I said, “No! Not at all!” I hated myself for not thinking. Because I’d been doing it for so long, for not actually thinking, okay, Elyse probably hasn’t done anything like this, I better hand over all my rules and guidelines so that she knows where I’m coming from. I just didn’t think about it. Because I’m so used to doing it myself. And normally, we edit and package in…

Allison

The whole lot?

Louise

Yeah. So the publisher just gets print-ready files at the end. Whereas this still was different, where the editorial and the design was taken in house, very different for us. And it’s been absolutely wonderful. But I just completely forgot. And I should have just explained everything to her before I started. But I was just in my own little world doing my thing like I do. But there is so much to pertain to, people would die.

Allison

And how many books, we’re talking lots of books here, how many books do you write a year? What is your actual, when you say, you take away the notes and you sit down and write them, what’s your process? Are you just sitting and writing every single day? You’ve got to get a fair few books out each year so how do you do it?

Louise

I do spend a lot of time writing. If I described my year it would be divided into three chunks. One chunk is writing, another chunk is going into schools and doing author days and festivals and things like that. And the third chunk would be administration, doing blogs and all those sorts of things. Promoting the books, working with publishers on upcoming proposals and things like that. So that would be the way my year is split. I probably, I’ve had really hideous years where I’ve done like twenty books. Which would include education. I’m still doing lots of big education projects. And that’s tough.

Allison

That’s a lot of books.

Louise

I’ve pared back. I’m doing less education now. This year, for example, I will… I quite often work across a number of things. So at the moment I’m still working on the edits of seven and eight of D-Bot Squad, I’m working on a Harriet Clare, and I’m working on a new middle fiction reader, and we’re developing a new proposal. So all of those things are going on at the same time.

Allison

Right.

Louise

So it’s fulltime, I’m a fulltime operator.

Allison

You’re a fulltime operator. But we’re also moving in towards August now which of course is, you know, Book Week seems to stretch from about the end of July to the start of September these days. But is that when you do a lot of your school visits? Do you chunk them into sections? Or are you doing one a week? Because the management of that time, I mean I know just from going and doing them, because it’s not just the you have to be ready to go, you have to have your workshops all set up, or whatever it is that you’re going to do. You turn, you do your stuff, there’s generally a whole day gone there. But it’s also quite draining, so there’s that exhaustion.

Louise

Isn’t it? It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Allison

It is exhausting.

Louise

It’s like a performance, that’s why.

Allison

It is, yeah.

Louise

And by and large, we’re reclusive little authors, aren’t we? So it is, it’s exhausting.

It’s a really hard one to manage. Because you don’t have control over what schools are thinking and doing. The bookings just turn up and you can either just say yes or no. So for example, I’ve got, at the moment I’ve been really head down bum up in my bear cave writing for July, because I know that I am fully booked from August right through to the third week in September with school visits.

Allison

Wow!

Louise

So that’s a really big chunk. But prior to that I was at Newcastle Writer’s Festival in March, and other things come along. And I’ve sort of had a school booking maybe once a month in the quiet months. Schools don’t always want you in that hectic period. I’m going to see how this goes, this next chunk. And see if I want to pare it back a little bit.

But it’s just so great. It’s so great to interact with your audience and get out there and be with the kids and the teachers. It’s invaluable. And I think if you don’t have that, I would feel that I wouldn’t be fresh as a writer if I didn’t have that constant contact with my target audience. I just love it.

But you’re right. It is tiring. And you get to the fourth or fifth day in a row, and you just don’t want to talk to anybody when you come out.

Allison

No. No. And then you have to get up and do four workshops back to back.

What do you think, what would your, for aspiring children’s authors or new children’s authors, what would be your number one tip for making a successful school visit?

Louise

Oh, a successful school visit? Definitely speak to the booking person. And the booking person is quite often the librarian. And when you ask what they want, at the end, very politely, at the end when the librarian tells you what she wants, then say – “and are the teachers happy with that?” Or “what would the teachers like?” Because invariably it’s very different.

What the teachers are hoping to get out of a session, and what the librarian is a session will deliver, there can be a disconnect. In some schools they’ve obviously spoken really well. But in other schools, not so much. I’ve been into schools where the teachers have seen something and said, “oh, I thought you were going to do your writing workshop, I really wanted that one.” And I thought, “well, if you’d have told me I would have done it.” But I didn’t realise.

So in terms of being really successful, you really want to know what they want so that you’re giving them what they want, as well as making it highly engaging for the students.

And I think involving the students as much as possible. Letting them have a chance to talk, and do things. Because they are sitting down on their bums for an hour. And they’re really, really excited and they just want to know things. I mean, the funny questions that they come out with. So to just go in and talk at them for an hour kind of leaves them out of the equation, almost. So I think if you think about how you’re going to involve them, make it as interactive as possible.

I always, when I go into a school, and I’m put in a big room or a hall, I always ask for an aisle down the centre, and I am up and down that aisle with a microphone, in and out of the rows, putting the microphone under their mouths, just involving them. So that not only I get to hear what they’re saying or contributing or asking, everybody else does. And they know that I am in there. I am right in the crowd.

Allison

So they’re not hiding at the back? You’re seeing them.

Louise

Yeah.

Allison

Okay. What about online stuff? Do you do much in the way of building an author platform online? Or is it mostly through those school visits and festivals and that sort of promotion stuff?

Louise

I wish I was good at doing things online, but I just get so confused! I get so confused. Here’s an example, right. Up until about a year ago I didn’t have an Instagram. I still don’t have a Twitter. I had a Facebook page and it was just for family and people overseas, so I could see their photos. So it was very tight, and it’s not even my name, it’s my first name and my middle name, not even my last name.

I went to a seminar thing at Harper Collins where they were talking about social media and what you need to do. And I was kind of hiding, because at that point I literally had nothing. I had a family page on Facebook, it was just so bad.

So I went away and I opened up an Instagram account. And then I heard you speak and I pertained to that, too, it’s social, and so make sure you’re putting some social things on there and all that sort of stuff. So last week, I want my website to be redone, so last week I engaged the services of what I think of as a good group. He gets on my Instagram, and he’s looking for me on Twitter, he’s looking for me on Facebook, and then he gets on my Instagram and he goes, “I don’t know why Louise, why are you mixing this up? You’re mixing up with the personal with the professional.” I said, “Because I was told to!” And he was like, “Mm, no, I think you should keep this completely professional. And have a different Instagram account if you want to post with your friends and all of that.”

So I was getting all this conflicting information about what it should be and what it shouldn’t be. And he said, “why don’t you have a Twitter account?” And I said, “I just want to write.” I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with a Twitter account.

Allison

Maybe we should talk about this later. I think the thing to think about with – just while we’re here, having this discussion – with your Instagram, is to pick a couple of aspects of your personal, that you’re happy to share. So you’re not necessarily wanting to share your family stuff, or whatever. But if you have a look at mine, for example, I will share my dog, my garden, that kind of stuff. So it becomes a part of what people understand about you as an author. So you would choose a few different things out of your life. Like, perhaps if you walk on the beach every day, you might share that. When I say be social, be personal, it’s what am I happy to share with the greater world that tells people a little bit about who I am but doesn’t necessarily give away the whole farm, if you know what I’m saying.

Louise

Right. Yeah, right.

Allison

So that’s kind of, it’s that idea of what sort of things do I share? I share books that I’m reading or music that I’m listening to, so that people get a sense of who I am as a person, but not my whole life online, so to speak.

Louise

I share books I’m reading, as well.

Allison

See!

Louise

Do you think it works? Do you think social media works?

Allison

Honestly, yes, I do. Honestly, I do. I think as far as building a profile for yourself, of taking you as an author off the page and into people’s lives and giving them a sense of you as a person, and a sense of who they’re getting books from and who’s writing the books, absolutely I do think it works. Otherwise I wouldn’t be out there talking about it.

Louise

I promise to get better, Allison, I promise.

Allison

I’m just sharing a small piece of advice. Anyway, speaking of advice, my last question to you today is your three top tips for aspiring authors. What have you got?

Louise

Well, my three top tips for aspiring authors is, I think, I kind of touched on this before, if you want to write know who you’re writing for. Know that audience. Get in there and be with them. It’s not enough just to think that I want to write for ten-year-olds and I remember what being a ten-year-old was like. It won’t cut it. You need to get in amongst them. You need to get in amongst your target audience. And you need to share your writing them in the developing phases and get their feedback. Because they’re going to be your toughest critic and you want them, you want them to be addicted to your books and waiting for the next one to come out. And the best way to know you’re hitting the mark is to hear direct from the horse’s mouth. So know who your target market is.

Then, as I said, go into stores, anywhere you can where you can see books and look. And look and see who your competition is, what they’re doing right, where there’s a gap, and go for that gap. Try and fill that gap. So that would be my first tip.

My second tip would be to join as many worthwhile industry organisations as you can. So at these organisations, you can get access to published authors who are willing to share their advice and their steps along the way. You can get access to publishers where you might be able to pitch a story or you might be able to have a session where you get some feedback to help you continue working on that manuscript. They have a lot to offer. They offer really good courses, validated courses. So SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Australian Writer’s Centre, the Australian Society of Authors. Established places, they’re invaluable. So join as many of them as you can, and make use of everything that they offer to you because it will help. It will help. And it will help you get out there, and it will help get you in front of people that you want to be in front of.

My last one, I’d say, was to have a really good writers’ group that you can work with. A group of friends who want to write and keep writing. Some groups meet once a week, some groups meet once a month. But you have something you’re working on, you know you’ve got to have a certain amount finished by that meeting. It’s a criticism free zone, but it’s a lot of constructive advice. So you read, you share, you talk it apart, you look at plot holes and fill them in. And it will keep you going to get to your endgame of having something written. So I’d say they’re mine, yeah.

Allison

Excellent. Very, very good. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Louise. Really appreciate it, and I’m sure that our listeners do. If you would like to find out more about Louise and her books, you can visit her at Louisepark.com.au. And best of luck with your new series D-Bot Squad, and also with all of those various thousand things that you have in the pipeline.

Louise

Thank you so much. And thanks for having me, it was fun. I hope our listeners find it useful.

Allison

I’m sure they will.

Louise

Thanks, Allison.

 

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