Ep 244 How to get the right agent. And meet Anna Snoekstra, author of the YA thriller ‘Mercy Point’.

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In Episode 244 of So you want to be a writer: Discover tips from other authors about how to get the right agent. The 2018 Better Reading Top 50 Kids’ Books list is out. The saga of ‘Cockygate’ and the Amazon algorithm continues. And you’ll meet Anna Snoekstra, author of the YA thriller Mercy Point.

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

Links Mentioned

The Children’s Books You Championed: 2018 Better Reading Top 50 Kids’ Books

BAD ROMANCE: To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm

11 Authors Discuss the Road to Getting a Literary Agent

Writer in Residence

Anna Snoekstra
Anna Snoekstra is a full-time writer. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, Filmme Fatales and she is a regular contributor to Lindsay.

Her first novel Only Daughter was released in 2016, and is currently in the works to be turned into a feature film with Universal Pictures.

Her second, the acclaimed Little Secrets, was released in 2017.

Her first novel for Young Adults, Mercy Point, is out now.

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(If you click through the links above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission from this purchase. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

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Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

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Interview Transcript

Valerie

Thanks for joining us today, Anna.

Anna

Thanks so much for having me.

Valerie

Now congratulations on your latest book, Mercy Point. Now, if there are some listeners who haven’t got their hands on the book yet, can you just tell us what it’s about?

Anna

So it’s a very twisty turny book, so I have to be careful with how much I say. But basically, it’s about a group of teenagers in a fictional town, but I think it’s pretty clearly based on Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

And this group of teenagers, they’ve met online. They all are sure they’re adopted. And they can’t talk to their family about it. So instead they talk to these strangers that they’ve met online. But of course, when they finally meet up, the strangers are people that they know, it’s a small town, people that they go to school with and people that they vehemently hate.

So they decide, we’re never going to talk to each other again, we’re never going to be friends. We’re just going to forget any of this happened. Even though they’ve been very honest with each other online in a way that they weren’t in real life.

So they make that decision. But then they realise that there’s something a lot more sinister going on than just adoption, and their parents are all hiding it from them. So they have to work together to find out what this secret is. And they realise that this secret is much bigger and actually goes to the centre of the town itself, rather than being just about them, and it just gets darker and darker as they go along.

Valerie

What a great premise for a book. Now how in the world did this enter your brain? What made you think of this premise?

Anna

Well, I actually find it’s really fun – I don’t know if fun’s the right word – but it’s really interesting I guess to write about the things that you’re really scared of. And I remember when I was a bit younger, when I was probably about 12 or 13, I think maybe I’d just watched The Truman Show. And I was really scared of this idea that the people around you have something they’re hiding from you. This whole idea that you can’t trust the people around you, the people that you should love.

And it’s something that I used to think about a lot when I was a little kid. And then kind of forgot about. And then a few years ago I read an article about Russian sleeper agents and the way that they have lied to their whole families. Some of them had gotten married, they’d had kids and they had no idea who they really were.

And so I found that idea so terrifying and also so interesting. So I guess that was the starting off point. And then it all got a lot more complicated from there. But that was where the seed of the idea began.

Valerie

Now let’s just take it back a bit, because your debut novel, Only Daughter, was released to great success. In fact, Universal Pictures have optioned it as well. And that was adult fiction. Why did you decide to then do YA for this book?

Anna

I guess there’s a few reasons. For me, I’ve actually always wanted to do young adult. And writing adult crime, in some ways that was the diversion from writing young adult.

So I’d been writing… I’d always been interested in coming of age stories and things like that. And I entered the Sisters in Crime short story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto, which is a great competition.

And it was something I hadn’t really thought of before, writing crime. And then when I wrote this short story for that competition, I realised that it was just such a good fit for me, and I was so interested in it, and everything just clicked together, and I found it really easy to write that kind of thing. Just really natural for me.

And so I went with that and embraced that and started writing crime. But in the back of my mind I really had always wanted to write young adult. And so it kind of swooped back around to young adult when I thought of this concept. It seemed like a much better fit for a young adult readership rather than a crime adult readership.

Valerie

So you live in Melbourne, but the book is set in – it’s not Katoomba, but you know. But Katoomba is the Blue Mountains of Sydney. Like an hour and a half west of Sydney. How did that work? Do you know the area or how did that work?

Anna

I’d been there a few times and I found it really interesting. I think it’s just such a beautiful, beautiful magical place. And I guess writing about it was an excuse to literally, physically go there as a way of researching. But also going there in my mind.

For some reason I’ve just always been interested in mountain towns. There is something that I find just so fascinating about them. And I love to watch things set in mountain towns.

And I also went to Varuna last year, early last year, and did the two week residency, which was just fantastic. And that just made me love it even more, in Katoomba.

Valerie

So when did you first think, you know, I want to be a writer?

Anna

I think it was pretty early, for me. I mean, when I was a kid I had a lot of problems hearing and problems with my ears. And so I felt quite shut off from people and I found it hard to communicate.

Because I was having problems with my ears, I also was having problems verbalising and speaking, and it took me a lot longer than most people to talk. And when I did learn to talk, I had a terrible lisp and I was so embarrassed about it. So I would just not speak even when I could speak. And because I had trouble hearing people it just made it even worse.

I also had real trouble reading and writing. But I was lucky to go to a really great school in Canberra and they really helped with that and really encouraged it. I think when you have a teacher saying to you, oh you’re so good at this, and really encouraging you, you just think, oh, okay! I must be really good at this. But I think they were, in some ways, back then just trying to say it to make me feel more positive about it.

But when I found writing I think it was just a way for me to have a bit of a voice that I didn’t have in a literal sense, and a way of communicating what I was feeling inside, because I found it so hard to talk. So it was a really early thing for me.

Valerie

And so when you are writing, so whether that’s Only Daughter or Mercy Point, when you’re in the thick of it, is it something that you focus on full time? Do you have that opportunity to do that? Or is it something that you do after hours? How does it work on a practical level in the way you fit it into your life?

Anna

Well, it’s really changed, actually. The last few years everything in my life has really been changing quite quickly. So when I wrote Only Daughter I was working at a cinema. And so I’d write during the day and I’d work at the cinema at night time. And I never thought of writing as a job in any way. So for me… Everyone was like, oh, it’s like you’ve got two jobs, but I didn’t see it that way at all. Because I just loved writing so much.

And so that was one way of doing it. And I quite enjoyed that in a lot of ways. It was quite tiring after a while. And so I did that for Only Daughter. And then when Only Daughter got published and I was travelling a lot, I ended up leaving that job at the cinema, and have just been focusing on writing fulltime.

I do a few other things. Like, I work at 100 Storey Building. Have you heard of that one?

Valerie

Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

Anna

Yes. I think there’s one in Sydney, as well. It’s kind of a centre for youth literature in Footscray here. So I work with them. And I do bits and pieces. I teach some writing classes sometimes at RMIT. So little bits and pieces, like a bit of a patchwork that comes together. Which can be really fun as well.

And it’s nice that now when I’m not writing, I’m often doing things that are similar or have something to do with writing, as well.

Valerie

And so now that you’re able to concentrate on it a bit more than when you were at the cinema, with this book specifically then, Mercy Point, did you have… Well, firstly a deadline from a publisher? And therefore did you have to in a certain number of months generate this manuscript? And how did you then discipline yourself to get it to the right point at the right time in terms of your output?

Anna

Well, with this one, it was a bit of a funny one. Because I wrote Only Daughter and then I wrote the first draft of Mercy Point. Because I’d read so many writing manuals, so many blogs about writing, and there’s that really good advice which is that once you’ve finished writing your first book you should start writing your second when you’re sending it out. Which I think’s really a great idea.

But I didn’t really understand that if you write something that’s for a certain kind of readership and a certain genre, that publisher’s probably going to expect your second project to be similar. And I had no idea about that. I never even thought of it.

And so I wrote an adult crime book and was like, okay, I think my next one is going to be a young adult thriller with a bit of sci-fi and that’ll be fine. And so I sent it to my publisher after Only Daughter and they looked at it, and were like, well, you know we don’t even publish young adult fiction? I said, oh. Oh, okay. Hm. I hadn’t even thought of that. I just thought publishers published anything that the author wrote.

And at the time I’d been writing some picture books, as well. So I thought, oh, okay, I guess I should put those away. So I kind of put Mercy Point to the side for a while and just focused on the crime writing. And then came back to it…

Because the thing is about crime writing is, as well, I love it and I think there’s so much about it that’s so fascinating and so cathartic. But then on the other side, researching crimes all day and thinking about it all the time, it kind of puts you in touch to a pretty dark part of your mind which can be pretty confronting sometimes. And it puts you in a bit of a strange mindset. I’m not the best person to have at dinner parties sometimes, because your brain just leaps to the most horrific thing you’ve read today and everyone looks at you as if you’re totally crazy.

So writing young adult, even though it is a thriller still, it was quite nice to write something that was a bit more hopeful and a bit more positive. And really it’s a story about friendship and identity. And so that was quite nice to come back around to something that didn’t give me nightmares.

Valerie

Yes. Well, with crime and thriller writing, it is something that is very reliant on the plot. And it is so important for it to make sense to the reader and for the reader to be convinced and satisfied at the end. And I have to say, I love reading crime and thriller books. But I know that it would not be my skill to be able to write them, because of the complexities that are inherent in a crime and thriller book.

With this book, and with your first book as well, did you know all of the plot points before you started and did you map it out? Or did you let it unfold and let the crime and all of the characters and what they did and how they reacted unfold as you started to write it?

Anna

It’s interesting. I think I fall in between those two categories, that whole plotter/pantser thing. I think I’m kind of in the middle of that spectrum a little bit. Probably more on the plotter side, just because my background is all screenwriting and film. And so I find structure really, really interesting.

So in terms of plot and things like that, I really like structure, and I find it so, so helpful. I don’t know how someone just sits down at a computer and just starts from nothing. I would find that completely terrifying.

So I do do a lot of plans beforehand, just in terms of getting the structure right. But my usual method is to write something quite short to begin with that’s got the structure all there. Only about 30,000 words or so. And then just let it grow and grow and grow.

And especially with the character. I feel like characters and that more emotional side of things, you don’t want to plan it too much. You want it to feel organic and to let that magic of writing exist.

So I think for me when I write, it’s this real push and pull between those two things. Because they don’t necessarily sit perfectly together in wanting to structure something perfectly but also let it grow organically. So it kind of just keeps flicking back and forth between the two as I go. And I often have to do a lot of editing.

But I do find screenwriting techniques really helpful especially when you’re editing at that final stage. Just to find the things that aren’t working. Because sometimes it’s hard to know exactly why something’s not working. You can feel that it’s not working, but you don’t know how to fix it.

And I think that things like the – there’s something called the eight sequence method, I find that so, so helpful. And really getting into the nuts and bolts of it can really, really help. Even doing diagrams and mapping your story visually, I think, can be really helpful as well.

Valerie

So I’m intrigued by this. You write the short version of around 30,000 words and then let it grow. Can you expand on that? Because I’m not entirely clear on how you let it grow. Like, you write 30,000 words and hope that they multiply? Or what do you physically, on a practical level, what do you do to then make those 30,000 words more?

Anna

Well, so basically usually I start and I’m so excited about an idea and so excited about what’s going to happen. And so I find it hard to move at a regular pace. I kind of speed through the book. And I just get so excited to get from one stage to the next.

The whole book is there but it’s so condensed. It’s almost like a screenplay in some ways, because it’s just action, action, action. And just all the bits that I’m really excited about together.

And you can’t really write a book that’s at that pace. You need to leave a little bit of breathing room for the reader, and for the characters within the book, as well.

So usually I think, oh this is beautiful, it’s perfect! And I write and write and I look at it and I go, oh, I’m finished, and it’s only 40,000 words. Or 30,000 words. And then I put it to one side and I usually get a bit upset and have a glass of wine and I’m like, oh no! I don’t know what I’m going to do now!

So then I go back over it and look through it and realise that it’s just this speed race and I start going back in and just pulling things apart a little bit. And really going into each action and finding more of the motivations and letting that be on the page.

I think I suffer from something a lot of writers do where it’s in my head, but I’m not necessarily putting it on the page. I think that happens a lot. So I’ll go over it and expand and expand it.

I think when you write something, you start off with this really clear idea of what you want to write, as well, and what it’s going to be. And then you’ll write it and because it has to be expanded, sometimes you lose sight of that. And I find it really interesting to have that clear idea and then to write a substantial amount of words and then to go back to that idea and say, is this actually explaining what I want it to and saying what I want to say? And often the answer is no. So then I go back to it with those clear ideas in my head and see what works and what doesn’t. And whether there needs to be a bit more.

Valerie

So can you give me an idea of some timelines here? So how long might it take you to do the first 30,000 words? And then how long do you spend on the fleshing out?

Anna

So I guess the first 30,000 words usually… Because I’m so sure, I think, I’m going to write a whole novel in two months and it’s going to be great. So I guess not even that long. Two or three months. And then I’ll realise that it needs a lot more work and a lot more development and you need to just calm down a little bit.

And so usually I would take about a month or two off it completely, and just won’t look at it for a little while. And then I’ll re-read it and I’ll go back over it. And I guess in another year or so end up pulling it out and developing it a bit more and giving things a bit more space to breathe.

Valerie

So with your characters, you were talking about your characters before, and this has a group of characters that are all integral to the story, do you start off with a particular character that you’re very clear in your mind? Do you develop all of them? Do you have dossiers on them? How do you keep track of your characters and their differences and their quirks and their idiosyncrasies and characteristics and all that sort of thing?

Anna

Well, I guess to begin with, especially with this book, and with everything I write, I just have so many notebooks. I’m always writing down ideas and concepts in notebooks. And then I usually don’t even look back at what I’ve written, but the things that stick in my head are the things that stay.

And sometimes I’ll look back at the previous notebook of something that I’m halfway through developing, and all these ideas will be there that I’ve forgotten about. And they just so don’t work.

And so I think it’s really interesting to, yeah, work those things out just with pen and paper. But whatever sticks in your head is the thing, the character, the real core of that character.

And then so on a more practical level, when I’m actually writing it, I mean this one was quite difficult to write, having four perspectives but one plot that they are all in together. But I thought it was really important for what I was trying to say with it, which was the difference between how people seem and how they really are.

So it was really interesting to have three people’s perspectives on one person, and all their perspectives would be different. And then that person’s real self and also the way they saw themselves, which could be different. So each character could have five or six different versions of themselves within the book, just to make it really difficult.

And it was quite hard but it was also really exciting and really fun. I was really lucky to discover Scrivener. Everyone was telling me about it, but I didn’t try it. And so last year I finally was like, okay, I’m going to give Scrivener a try. And that was so, so helpful for me. Just to be able to… Because before that I just had it in one big Word document.

And so I had the same thing last year, I had the, I think it was about 40,000 words, the manuscript. So I pulled them all separately and made sure, had each four stories work within themselves.

Valerie

Right.

Anna

And so each character had their own separate stories in there. So I tried to make those four separate books work on their own merit and make sense themselves, and the character growth makes sense, and kept them all separate right until the very end. And then put them back altogether and then reread it again and made sure it worked as one thing.

Valerie

That would work really well with Scrivener.

Anna

It was very helpful. Because I was trying to do that before with Word. And it was really difficult. And I think stuff like that, people don’t necessarily talk about that much with writing, the program that you use in a practical sense can make a huge difference to the way you approach something.

And it really helped. Really, really helped me. Because it was a bit of a patchwork quilt and stripping it back and then putting it back together, it really helped.

Valerie

Yeah, definitely. I think Scrivener’s really useful when you’ve got those different points of view or different timelines. Definitely.

So tell me about your typical day while you’re in the throes of writing a book. Do you aim for a word count? Or do you have any rituals or anything like that?

Anna

Yeah. I’m lucky I have a writing space. I share a studio space with a bunch of other creatives in Thornbury. It’s actually an old football factory. And I think my spot in it used to be the reception. We’re not sure. We were trying to figure out how it all worked because it’s a bit of a strange rabbit warren type space. I think I’m in the old reception section.

So that’s really fantastic. Being able to have a space that’s just for writing. So I guess for me, I mean, it’s one of those things where you aim to get there at 8:30 every day but I probably don’t get in until closer to 10. And then you already feel like you’re behind.

And so you sit down and you have this mad race. I mean, you have to do your emails and all the practical side of it. But I’ll usually have a list.

And I’m also a big believer in something I know some other writers do where you finish the day before in a part that you’re really excited about. And you know that you could finish it all in that day, but rather than doing it all and then starting the next day being a bit unsure, you kind of… Even if you finish halfway through a sentence, in the middle of a sentence, so then the next day it’s right there and it’s really immediate.

So usually I’ll read over at least the chapter, if not a few chapters, just to get more in the tone of it. And I’ll keep writing. And I try and leave the studio for lunch. There’s a park quite close to me; I’ll go and sit in the park. And I’ll read one short story every day at lunch time.

Valerie

Oh okay.

Anna

And I find that’s really helpful. Yeah, I really enjoy doing it. It’s a really nice thing to do, I think. Just one complete story every day and just working your way through…

I’ve got a few different short story anthologies always sitting on my desk and working your way through. Especially if it’s a theme that you’ve kind of got in your head for what you’re writing. That can be really helpful.

And just having that complete story separated from the story you’re writing. It’s really nice. Because I find sometimes if you’re reading a long epic novel and you’re trying to write a novel, I don’t know. You’re kind of jumping between these two stories. When I’m writing a novel, I just want my story in my head. But yeah, that’s really, really helpful.

And then I guess I’m usually aiming to leave early and go to yoga or go for a run or something. But I’ll end up sitting there until at least 7. At least until it gets dark, kind of tapping away. And that’s when I’ll finally actually do the majority of the writing is that last few hours when the sun’s going down.

Valerie

So I don’t know how you can be so self-disciplined in that, how you were saying, to stop in the middle of something that you’re excited about. I mean, if I was excited about something, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Is it hard to do that?

Anna

No. I don’t know. I guess, not really. You have to force yourself, that’s true. But because I often get that real burst of momentum with writing, usually when I’m meant to be getting home in time for dinner, or doing something else, it’s kind of nice to leave when you’re excited.

Because if you leave it when you’re pushing through something and you’re feeling uncomfortable with it or it’s not quite right, that’s such a frustrating place to leave something. And you come home feeling frustrated and keep ticking it around in your head but not necessarily in a pleasant way. Whereas I think that time away from the computer or away from however you write is just as important as when you’re actually physically writing.

And so having something really positive in your head, just while you’re having a shower… Like when I’m in the middle of a project, it’s just absolutely constant. And so it’ll just keep ticking around, when I’m walking, when I’m on the train, all the time.

And it is hard, I definitely know what you mean, to stop at a point like that. But I think it definitely makes a big difference. It really helps.

Valerie

Yes. Now what’s it like working with other people, though? Other creatives? Could that be distracting? Is that distracting or do you just kind of do your own thing?

Anna

I do my own thing. And it’s not distracting. But I think it’s really fantastic, for me, at least. I think that because I’m doing it basically fulltime at the moment, I’ve had other times where I’ve had a place to myself or just going to the library or working at home, as well. And it is really isolating.

And especially before, when I was writing crime, which I am again now, sitting alone all day in a dark corner researching murder and body decomposition and things like that, you actually do a little bit weird. And so I think it’s a lot healthier for me to have people around doing their own thing.

And they all do really different things to me as well, which I find really interesting. There’s a painter and there’s a jeweller. And there’s a girl that runs her own business. And there’s just all sorts of things going on. It can give you a lot of creative energy as well, just seeing what other people are creating.

Valerie

It’s like a mini co-working space?

Anna

Yeah. Exactly. It’s really nice. It’s really good.

Valerie

What do you find most rewarding about the writing process? And what do you find the most – oh my goodness, I want to hit my head against the brick wall, kind of thing?

Anna

Well, rewarding. I think, for me when I’m reading, and you’re so involved with something that you kind of lose yourself and your physical self, if you’re reading on the train and then you look up and you realise that you’ve missed your stop by three train stations.

That kind of feeling, which doesn’t happen to me, at least, all that often, where you’re so into a story that you just kind of dissolve into it. When I get that when I’m writing I think is the most rewarding thing. Where I’ll sit in front of the computer and I’ll be just so involved with what I’m writing and that story that it’s bizarre. It’s almost like you lose physical body. You’re just so in that other world.

And then suddenly, something will happen. There will be a noise or your phone will ring or something and you’ll come back and you’ll realise that four or five hours have gone past. And you’re really hungry and you really need to use the bathroom. But I think it’s just so amazing that you can do that, that you can have that experience writing as well as reading. That’s one of the positives.

But negatives. I mean, it can be so frustrating. I think, for me, editing when things just aren’t working and you don’t know why. I get just so, so frustrated.

Because it’s just you as well. I always get a bit jealous of the writers that collaborate, because I think it would be so amazing to be working on something with someone. I think I would also really struggle with that and find it hard in other ways.

But not being able to talk it out with anyone who knows it the way you do and not being able to problem solve. And you’re kind of going around and around in your head in circles, it can be so frustrating. Because you know it’s not working.

And I think I can be a very practical person, sometimes, and not being able to just sit down and figure it out, I find it makes me a bit crazy. I just get so incredibly frustrated. And the only thing you can do is just give it time and just keep thinking of it and keep it in the back of your mind until…

Usually an answer will come when you’re not even thinking about it anymore. But I find that really hard, because I like to be… If there’s a problem, then I will find the solution, and I won’t stop until I’ve found that solution. But it’s just not really how this kind of thing works, I don’t think. So I find that’s probably the most frustrating for me.

Valerie

I’m intrigued that you mentioned that you start a lot of things in your notebook, as in using pen and paper. And you develop some things in your notebook. Do you write scenes in your notebook? Or at what point do you know, okay, it’s time to go to the computer?

Anna

I’ll do all my planning in my notebook. I won’t do any planning on the computer. I’ve tried a few times, but it just doesn’t work. Because I think something about being able to delete… I like to be able to scrawl and have a million ideas on the page at once and drawings and everything kind of mushed together. I like it to be a bit messy and to be a bit more straight from your brain on to the page.

And so I’ll get to a stage where I’m just really, really excited. There’s nothing holding me back saying, oh, you need to understand this first. Or you need to figure out this side character a bit more.

When there’s nothing really holding me back then I’ll go onto the computer as quickly as I can, because I get so excited. That’s why I have that problem where things often are much too short.

But then I will go back to my notebook when I’m really stuck on something and I can’t push through. And then I’ll just close…

I mean, I prefer to use technology as little as I can, anyway. But I’ll go somewhere. Even if you can, to go out in nature is so nice and just bring your notebook and a pen and start trying to write a scene out or a chapter out that way, I think is really, really helpful as a way to unstick your brain a little bit. And I think that’s partly because you can not delete. You’re not trying to edit as you write at all. It’s just all straight from your brain on to the page.

I love notebooks. I think that they really, really help.

Valerie

I love them. Now, I understand that you’ve made some short films and music videos. What has been your involvement with, in particular, music videos?

Anna

Music videos. I’ve made a few. It’s been a while now, though. But I would… It’s hard to say ‘write’ a music video. But write the concept and direct and produce.

At the time I was writing my own short films and feature films. And I thought I definitely was going to do film making. So music videos was a really fun way of telling a story completely visually without any dialogue. So it was a kind of a good experiment in that way. And really fun, as well. And just taking a song and trying to make something auditory visual.

So I would do everything. I would do writing, directing, producing. Just the whole thing.

Valerie

So when you storyboarded the music videos, did the scenes follow the song lyrics? Or was it completely independent of what the song was saying?

Anna

Not the direct song lyrics. It wouldn’t be a visual representation of the actual words, line by line, or anything like that. But I would just try and understand the feeling of the song and the mood of the song. More that. Like, how it was trying to make the person listening to it feel. And then I would try and have a visual representation of that feeling.

Valerie

Okay. Fascinating. Okay, but that’s a whole other podcast!

Anna

It is, yeah. It’s a whole different thing.

Valerie

So what are you working on now?

Anna

Well, I’m working on a few things. I should be writing the sequel to Mercy Point. Because everyone who has read it is sending me messages online and on Instagram and all those things saying, what’s going to happen in the sequel? When’s it coming out? And I haven’t actually started writing it yet. But I do have a really strong idea of what’s going to happen. So there’s that.

And also I actually have another book coming out in the next six months, which is my next adult crime book, which I’m really excited about. So things are starting to pep up around that, which is always really exciting.

And also Mercy Point has been optioned by an independent producer in Melbourne. So we’re working together to write a screenplay and get that ball rolling as well, which is pretty exciting.

Valerie

It’s all happening for you. Okay, well congratulations on your latest book. And we look forward to the next one. Maybe you’ll surprise your publisher and actually go, I wrote a picture book this time, or something like that.

Anna

They wouldn’t like that! But maybe.

Valerie

All right. And let’s finish up with what would be your top three tips for aspiring writers these days?

Anna

Oh. So my first one would be don’t try and write something good. Which sounds counterproductive. But I think it’s really important when you write something, especially when you’re first starting out, to not be too focused on whether it’s good or not.

I think there should be so many more things in your head before that. Like, is it saying what I want it to say? Why am I trying to tell this story? What kind of hole is it trying to fill? Rather than, is it good? Because I think if you’re too afraid of it being good or bad, it can almost stop you writing, because there’s that fear about other people’s opinions as you’re just trying to tell the story you want to tell.

So I think, you know, try and make it good down the line. But at the very beginning, just allow it not to be good and be okay with that. That would be the big one that I don’t hear very often, but I think is really, really helpful for people who are starting out.

I remember one of my friends said it to me and I looked at her like she was insane. Because that just seemed crazy to me. But I found it really helpful. So I think, don’t worry about it being good.

The second one fits with that. Which is try and not have too much fear when you’re writing. Because the things that are really exciting that new writers are writing are things that really push boundaries and tackle a subject that other people haven’t tackled in that way before. So I think write your truth and write in a way without fear, which can be really hard. But if you’re scared to write it, often it’s something that really needs to be written. So that would be…

And then the other one, and I know this is what everyone says, but it is just so important, is you have to read. You can’t be a writer without reading. And I know a lot of young writers who some of them, they want to write, but they get bored when they read. If you want to write, you do, you just have to be reading a lot.

Valerie

Absolutely.

Anna

And not just in your genre, as well. Just all sorts of things. Anything you can find. Just really broadening the normal things you read and just getting things from all over the place, I think, is really valuable.

Valerie

All right. Great advice. And on that note, thank you so much for your time today, Anna.

Anna

Thank you so much. This has been really fun.


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