Ep 249 Iceland Writers Retreat; and meet Dianne Blacklock, author of ‘Jack and Kate’.

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In Episode 249 of So you want to be a writer: Discover short story comps for children’s writers and learn about scholarships to a Writers Retreat in Iceland. Plus, you’ll meet Dianne Blacklock, author of Jack and Kate.

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

Anne C West from South Africa:

I’ve listened to each and every podcast since the beginning. This podcast is both entertaining and educational. Thanks gals!

Links Mentioned

StoryLinks 2018 Short Story Competition

Buzz Words Short Story Prize

Win a Writer’s Retreat in Iceland

Writer in Residence

Dianne Blacklock

Dianne’s first manuscript was picked up off the publisher’s ‘slush pile’ in the year 2000, and since then, she has written ten novels of contemporary fiction.

Dianne is also a busy freelance editor, working for a number of Australian publishers. To find out her rates and availability, or to discuss your project, please feel free to email her directly below.

Her latest book is Jack and Kate.

Follow Dianne on Twitter

(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.)

Competition

Giveaway: Win this family movie pass

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Dianne Blacklock’s first manuscript was plucked off the publisher’s ‘slush pile’ in the year 2000, and since then, she has written ten novels of contemporary fiction. She regularly teaches seminars, courses and workshops and is a busy freelance editor. Dianne’s latest novel, Jack and Kate, is out now. Welcome to the program Dianne Blacklock.

Dianne

Thanks Allison. It’s great to be here.

Allison

All right. So we are going to go all the way back to the beginning in the aeons of time, and we are going to talk about the slush pile experience. Can you tell me about how your first book came to be published?

Dianne

Yes. Well, I had been writing as a hobby through having children. A friend approached me about why don’t we write a Mills and Boon, knock over a Mills and Boon was her expression. Because it would be easy, supposedly. And make some money on the side, because I was pregnant with my second child, and it would give me something to do at home.

Anyway, we compiled what you had to, sample chapter, sent off a synopsis and were roundly rejected. No reason, no nothing. It was just a standard rejection.

So then my friend said, well, why don’t we write what we want to write, instead of to a particular formula. And back then, perhaps things have changed a little bit, but it was following quite a close formula. These were the smaller Mills and Boons. I know Mills and Boon and Harlequin have branched into full length books and so on now. So there’s more variety. But those shorter 110 page books followed quite a strict formula.

Anyway, so we set to over New Years. It was a hobby. It was something to do in my spare time. My friend used to have rostered days off from her job, and come down once a month. And she’d take it off with her because she had a computer and we didn’t yet. That’s how long ago it was!

So this went on. And we never quite finished it, because I kept having babies. We were building a house as well. And then my friend also moved away. So it was going to be harder to do the little… It was just such a lovely thing, to develop a story together. I would do most of the writing, and then when she’d come down to my place on her rostered days off she would take that. And I’d leave things for her to research, I’d leave descriptions and stuff, because I couldn’t be bothered.

Allison

As you do.

Dianne

Have a bracket, blah, and she would fill in those bits. And I would love to have that now, actually.

Anyhow. It was a hobby and it was a great time, spending time with my friend as well, having this project together. But it got abandoned eventually.

But then it was the year 2000 that made these things, made deadlines have an extra edge to them. And she was moving yet again from where she was, she was going overseas, and she still had the floppy disks. If you remember the days of floppy disks. And she said, do you want these? And we had a computer by then and I could type and I said, oh yeah, that’d be fun.

And so I got them and started going through it. And of course, over the years, my experience, I was more experienced with writing then. And was able to edit them down from their original flowery prose and so on. And ended up finishing it because it wasn’t that long to finish. We obviously knew where the book was heading, so there was only one way to go.

And I got brave enough to tell some friends. I didn’t tell people previously that I was writing. Even 20 years ago, that was still a bit wanky. Am I allowed to say that?

Allison

I think that’s okay.

Dianne

I think there’s more writing groups. There’s more support around for writers. Just social media itself, I guess, makes a lot more space for writers to talk to each other and support each other and so on. But then it was a bit of a lonely old world. If you were to say to someone, you know, I’m a writer, they’d just, you know…

And even once I had interest from a publisher, that people wanted to know where the book was.

But anyway, that was the book that I ended up… It was the encouragement of those friends that I did end up passing it to, that decided me to send it to a couple of… Just two publishers declared that they would take unsolicited manuscripts back then. And that was Pan MacMillan and Allen and Unwin. So I sent it off to them and two weeks later got a call from Kate Patterson who is now director of publishing at Pan MacMillan, but at the time was a commissioning publisher.

Allison

Wow.

Dianne

So that’s how it happened. And the reason… Now, because I do a little bit of mentoring and editing of writers wanting to be published, and I do the teaching, you can do that but don’t count on that! The way, it was really unusual. And it was simply because my publisher had been looking, had published in England during the Bridget Jones phenomenon. And the women’s fiction that was coming out of the UK then was wonderful stuff. Because you had the legacy, longstanding, of people like… Her name’s just gone out of my head. The Circle… I can’t grasp… Irish writer?

Allison

I’m not sure, Di. You’re telling the story. Are you talking about Maeve Binchy?

Dianne

Oh, I’m sorry. Maeve Binchy. I am, sorry. It just went out of my head. So somebody like Maeve Binchy and some other longstanding writers there. And then of course the newer ones coming along like Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly and all of those.

So they had a massive women’s fiction element in the UK that was really popular all around the world. And my publisher, Kate came back to Australia really excited to publish Australian voices. And we will all reading the English ones. There wasn’t anything here. So she was really looking out for it. So the people that were reading the slush pile knew that that was something that she was really looking out for.

So as I tell students in my class and so on, luck is such an enormous part of the process. Right time, right place, that you’re going to fit into that person’s list, that they’re looking for that kind of thing, that they haven’t just published something just like yours, just like what you’ve presented. And even if yours is good, it doesn’t matter. They’ve got this on their list. There’s just so many reasons. So it was pure luck.

Allison

So how did your friend feel when the book came out?

Dianne

Well, they didn’t publish that book, so that was one thing.

Allison

Okay.

Dianne

That I should say. So that was picked up on the slush pile and we had meetings. And what my publisher said was the story was a bit 80s. It feels a little bit outdated. And I thought, yes, because that’s how long I’ve been writing it. So that’s when the story came into being.

So she called me in for a meeting and we talked. And I found it at the time really baffling that they could like me but didn’t want to publish the book. I understand it better now, but at the time it was just like, I don’t get it. You want to meet me, you’re telling me all this… You know, when we had the meeting, it was telling me how they’d package my books and all that. And I’m going, but you don’t want this one! Well, I can’t write another one. What are they talking about?

Allison

They wanted the voice, is that right? They liked your voice?

Dianne

Yes. And she said to me, even when she knew she didn’t want to publish that book, she couldn’t stop reading it. She couldn’t put it down, couldn’t stop turning the pages. So there was something that made her, in my style, I suppose.

So she was able to pick up that you can do this. This story is a bit outdated, we’ve got to move on. But she obviously liked a lot about it. It’s mostly that it was outdated. So I think that she would’ve thought that trying to edit it to bring it up to scratch would maybe be too big a job. That starting again would be the better thing.

And she said I could send her anything I wrote at any time. Really super encouraging. And I don’t know that publishers have enough time to do that nurturing anymore, either. So I feel, again, I feel like I was lucky. You know, I think that was a moment in time. And the publishing industry has changed.

Allison

So she didn’t contract you to write a book at that point?

Dianne

No, she didn’t. No.

Allison

But she asked you to send her anything else?

Dianne

Yes. It was all the support. You know, if you write something else… Sent me off with a whole bundle of books to read. She said, I’m not in the least suggesting this is what I want you to do. Because she actually gave me a variety, ones that were the pinnacle of the English… Probably some Maeve Binchys in there or something. And at that stage I’d never read Marian Keyes. I think she gave me a Marian Keyes. And there was a novel that I can’t remember the name of the woman, and I wouldn’t say it anyway. Because she said, this is a poor example.

Allison

Oh gosh.

Dianne

Of the genre. And it was kind of like, you know, she just said just go ahead and read them. But because I was still stuck in my… Not stuck in a bad way, but reading classics and things like that. Because I’d been to Uni and studied English. So I hadn’t actually picked up a lot on this newfangled thing of women’s fiction.

So it was really great. I think it felt… That was the one thing that she said about the 80s book, too. She said it feels like you’re writing what you think you’re supposed to write. And that I didn’t realise that every day women’s stories were okay. So it was more glamorous surroundings and glamorous locations. So I was still stuck in that idea and hadn’t experienced much of what was out there, the everyday story that women’s fiction is really known for.

And so I think she saw some of that in the book, in the book that she read. And it’s, okay, strip away the other stuff.

Allison

So how long did it take you to come up with a manuscript?

Dianne

Um… Probably the next six months. But I was able to… I sent her something… Well, I came home that afternoon and just said, oh well, there goes that. I can’t write another book! So I won’t be doing this. And then the next day, when my husband came home from work I said, now I had this idea, and I sort of outlined it for him. And he said, well, that took you 24 hours, you should be fine.

So then off I went. And it was about three chapters in, I sent it to her, to say is this the kind of thing? And she loved it. And she said, yep, you don’t have to keep sending it to me, but you can if you want to, whatever. So they did wait until I had a complete manuscript. And then I was offered a two book deal.

But I guess that was possibly to see that I could do it. Because the other manuscript had taken many, many years. So it was probably something about six months. And then we had a long editing process. So I felt really well supported, particularly when I compare some people’s experiences these days and I think it’s changed.

Allison

So what was your first novel called, Di?

Dianne

Call Waiting. As in the phone. What you do on the phone. Call waiting.

Allison

I was working at Cleo when that book came out, and I remember getting it to review. So it was probably my second stint at Cleo and I remember receiving it and reading it. I had the proof. So you and I have been connected for a long time.

Dianne

There we go.

Allison

Let’s fast forward a few years. When we actually first met, in person, you were touring the country regularly, well particularly the state, with two other authors. One of those was Liane Moriarty and one of those was Ber Carroll. How did that come about? Did the publisher put the three of you together?

Dianne

No, no. In fact, publishers are fairly nervous about their authors getting together. It’s a funny thing. Yeah, they kind of like to corral you into separate groups because you don’t want, you know, comparisons and things like that are difficult for any authors. But again, social media has broken down so much of that, you know? Because you’re going to get to know people anyway.

But it was actually Ber, who was from Ireland, and had come out… She had published a couple of books in Ireland and then come out to Australia and was looking to get those books bought as well as a new book that she had written.

And she came from Ireland. And she was aware, not that she’d been friends with them, but she was aware that, for example, Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly were friends. That they mentored newer authors, they were very encouraging and supportive. That there was a real community of writers in Ireland.

And she was kind of shocked to come to Australia, and she didn’t know anyone, she didn’t know how you got to know them or meet them. So she told this to my publisher, that she’d really like to meet some other authors, particularly in the women’s fiction genre, to network a little, but just for the support and everything. And I had said similar things to Kate over the years. It is a very isolating job, as I say. I’m saying all this and I think social media has helped a lot. This is just prior to the take off of it.

And anyway, so Kate said, all right. And she put us in touch and we went and had lunch. And I was also friends with Tony Park, who writes adventure thrillers set in Africa. He’s a wonderful guy. And we became friends at a Pan MacMillan cocktail party some time. And we’ve been friends ever since. I’ve been to Africa and everything, now.

So he was writing a newsletter. And he said, Di, you’ve got to do this. This is great. And I said, you’re in Africa six months of the year. You get to put interesting things in your newsletter and photos. What am I going to say? You know, still have kids at home. The run up to the shops isn’t as interesting for me as a safari drive for you. I just thought, I would struggle to fill a newsletter on my own, and my life circumstances at the time.

Anyway, so I was telling Ber maybe if we did it together we could make it a bit more interesting. And then I said, oh look, I know Liane Moriarty. Now when you say that name, it’s just there’s like there’s a glow around it. But she was just Liane Moriarty back then.

And we had met similarly. Kate had introduced us at a Sydney Writers Festival party. And Liane’s first book hadn’t come out and my second book was about to come out and she said, here you go, talk to Di. She’s been through the experience. And so we’d been friends. A couple of other social occasions organised by the publisher, we’d met and got along, and I had met her sister, and things like this.

So I said, look, Liane might want to do that. So I got in touch with Liane and she said, yeah, okay. So then we had lunch, again, with all three of us and we started to plan the newsletter. So that’s how we started. And we started to plan, well, how much better it will be to do events together.

Allison

Was the newsletter called Book Chat then? Because it’s called Book Chat now. Or has it always been Book Chat?

Dianne

Yes. It’s always been Book Chat.

Allison

So the newsletter came first?

Dianne

Ah, yes. I think, well at the same time. It might have taken us, I can’t remember exactly now, it probably took us months to put it together. But that’s what we decided to do. We can do a newsletter together and we can do events together.

Allison

Fantastic.

Dianne

And that that would be good.

Allison

Do you think that being the threesome like that was a benefit? As far as when it came to promoting your books? Obviously, doing events together has got to be easier than having to manage it by yourself. And also, as you said, having some input in your newsletter. Do you think that, was that bringing each other’s audiences to those events? Is it something that you would recommend as a good thing for other authors to do?

Dianne

Oh, totally. And I think you have to have a genuine friendship. We’re not doing, for example, we’re not doing as many now because Liane is totally booked out. Ber and I are doing an event soon together. But people bid for Liane now and she can’t do as much with us. But we’re still doing the newsletter.

But we’re going out to lunch next week. We have a friendship now. So get people you get on with. Because the supportive part of it is so strong. You wouldn’t want to start having catty feelings about each other. There’s never been that. It’s all been 100% supportive.

And the events, especially, and that was… We saw the newsletter as an adjunct, as a way to advertise the events. And we’d heard it was a good thing to do, to build up an audience, but very much for the events. Because you would go on your own to events, and you just didn’t… These were ones organised by your publisher and everything, and you could have three people and their dog there and just go, oh, this is excruciating.

And you could just never tell. And actually we were having these fantastic, we were starting to really draw people. Because I think, yeah, once there’s the three of you, there’s every chance that somebody has heard of one or two of you. Or is a big fan of one or two of you and then they go, oh, I’d like to…

So Liane wasn’t the drawcard at the beginning at all. It was very much, it sort of depended on the audience. And I remember, in fact, I don’t know which book it was for, it might have been for The Hypnotist’s Love Story, she was, it was one of the first times Pan MacMillan flew her, I think that was on the success of What Alice Forgot, so it was the next book, and they flew her down to Melbourne for one event and up to Brisbane for one event.

And then we had an event already booked at Penrith. And so her Brisbane one was only a few days before she flew back and met us and she said, “oh, thank god I’m with you guys.”

We had 60 plus people at this event at Penrith that we’d organised, and she’d had some measly, like seven or eight people at the one at Brisbane and it was excruciating. And there were funny stories out of it and everything and she said, “oh, I don’t want to do any on my own.” Of course, that’s not an issue for Liane anymore!

Ber is under a publisher now, and her book comes out, well, next month, from tomorrow. Her new book. And they’ve organised events. And she’s asked them can I come along. Now, I’m coming to one. But they were a bit prim about me coming to too many, because they’ve organised them.

Allison

But the communal approach, I’ve always loved that about you three. Like, you have always had that communal approach to promotion, which I feel… Because there is strength in numbers. As you say, if you turn up, if you each bring three people and a dog each, well you’ve got nine people and three dogs, haven’t you? Whereas if you’re there by yourself, you’ve got your three people and your puppy. I’ve always liked that about you.

And I’ve always felt that from an author newsletter perspective, because obviously I do my own author newsletter, as you say, sometimes you’re sitting there going… You know, I am so thankful I have my own dog, because what else would I put in my newsletter? Sometimes there’s lots of stuff to talk about and sometimes there’s the trip to the shops.

So I think it is a great tip for new authors, or aspiring authors, that if you can team up you do have that, you get to cross-promote into each other’s audiences in a really, really natural way, which I really love.

Now, let’s get a blurb in here. Where can people sign up for your Book Chat newsletter, which will give them the benefit of you, Liana and Ber all at once?

Dianne

Well, on all of our websites we have an easy click on and the subscription will come up. So Dianeblacklock.com, Lianemoriarty, Bercarroll. So Google that, go to our websites.

Allison

But go and sign up through Di’s website, Dianeblacklock.com, because that way we’ll know that you’re a podcast listener and she’ll be able to go yay. Okay?

Dianne

That’s right. I will. That would be great.

Allison

Sometimes the cross promotion stops with you.

Dianne

See. I’m such a team player!

Allison

I know. You are. But sometimes the team promotion stops with you. All right? Okay.

Dianne

Okay. Only go to mine, folks.

Allison

Now moving on. Let’s talk about the writing process for you. You’ve written ten novels, which is a lot of novels. Do you find the process easier these days? Do you still work on a novel the same way that you did when you started out? Or is it different ow?

Dianne

No, I think it’s harder. I think the… Well, the first book I ever wrote, which didn’t have an audience, that went on the slush pile, was kind of completely free and unfettered and you wrote what you felt like and you weren’t even thinking of audiences and publishers then.

And then when I wrote the first one, I was very aware that I was now writing it for a reason, for a publisher and for other eyes. So that changed it. But there was still a lot of joy in that because I was writing whatever came to my head. Ideas that had been probably bouncing around in my head for years. And character types. I knew I wasn’t repeating myself, because I hadn’t written it before for an audience.

And the first three books were very much like that. They were just bubbling to come out of me. I’ve got this idea, I’ve got this story, I’ve got this character type. And I felt, as I say, quite comfortable that I was never repeating myself. So they came a little bit easier. Though, I was on a bit learning curve in terms of writing a narrative and understanding the issues involved with that from another perspective.

So once I had an editor, what an amazing privilege it is to have an editor assigned to you to learn so much about structure and then even line issues. I felt like I was pretty good at spelling and grammar and so on. You learn a whole other level when you come to write a book.

And so then, the next three books got a little bit trickier in that I was thinking, oh, I have to start coming up with stories. These just aren’t… When I’ve said that to other people, they go, but weren’t they all made up? Of course they were all made up. But the first ones were bursting out and there didn’t have to be any censoring, didn’t have to be, oh, I’ve been there before. This is just stuff that I wanted to write about without even having to think about it.

And then I had to start to ponder a bit more on something that I wanted to write about. And work a little bit more at ideas coming out. And then the next three after that, it was another step.

And I just think it depends on how you write. I know people that can get out three books a year and they’re great and they’re fun and they have a fantastic audience waiting for them. And I’ve just learned that I’m not like that. I take a little bit longer to gestate over an idea. And to develop it and to write it. And I’m anxious about repeating myself or writing the same story over with different characters.

Allison

All right. So your latest book is called Jack and Kate. What can you tell us about that? Tell us all about it.

Dianne

I will tell you all about it, because this brings us full circle. That book that was written in the 80s…

Allison

No way. Is now back?

Dianne

That got me the attention. Yes. Pardon? It is back. Except it has been so thoroughly, like, I don’t even know… It’s kind of like that philosophical question that they put to you, that once you replace this many parts of something, is it still the same? I have edited and edited…

So what happened was, once I was established, but it was around… I think it was the time when I was going to step back. I’d already told my publisher I didn’t want to sign, I didn’t want another, I didn’t want the expectation of another book out the next year.

And I got it out and had a look. It was summer, I remember quite vividly. And my younger son, who still lived at home, went to Mexico for the summer, so I had the place to myself. And that had never happened to me before. To be on my own for an extended length of time. And I had a ball, I have to say.

Allison

I’m sure you did.

Dianne

And I sat out on my, I’ve got a quite deep balcony at my apartment, and it’s really nice. It looks out to gardens. And sat out on these summer nights just reading through it and got quite absorbed in it. Because what I was thinking was, I might just put it as a free or a very cheap giveaway on my website or something. Just because I’m not going to have a book out, so this would be something that fans might like.

And I got really absorbed into it. Hadn’t looked at it in such a long time and everything. And so friends, writer friends, and editor friends said to me, if you are drawn into it, your readers will be.

Allison

Yes. Which is so true.

Dianne

This is a full size novel, you should… And they were also saying, with the 80s setting. So suddenly the 80s setting was not outdated, it was actually retro. So I didn’t have to worry about changing the significant… Like there are some settings that rely on it. So I thought, because I had sort of vaguely when I first got it out, oh maybe I’ll just update the whole thing or something like that. Or do something with it.

But I could tell, I’ve definitely grown in experience. And was able to, I hope, improve the writing on the line. And also just understanding story beats a bit better and to pick up the pace. And change some things that I definitely changed, definitely changed scenes and things that didn’t work anymore in our…

Although I’m maintaining the 80s flavour, I still felt there was a different way to approach some parts of the story and so on.

Allison

Okay. So give me the elevator pitch. What’s it about?

Dianne

Oh sorry, yes. The elevator pitch. Oh, my books are really hard to describe as elevator pitches.

Allison

Come on, Di. This is very important.

Dianne

I know! I know. I’m so hopeless at it, I tell you. And it’s one of the things as an independent publisher, is a little bit tricky too. Well, Liane said it was about first love that doesn’t, I think I quoted her on the cover, first love that doesn’t always succeed into the happily ever after. So my friend and I…

Allison

See, she’s good at it.

Dianne

My friend and I, way back when we were writing about it… I beg your pardon?

 

Allison

She’s good at the elevator pitch!

Dianne

Yeah, I know. She can do it. She can totally do it. That’s right. And plus, New York Times bestseller. Good at a lot more than that.

When we were writing the original story way back, and had been rejected by Mills and Boon and said we want to write what we want to write, my friend said, you know, it’s interesting to explore what after the happy ever after? What happens to couples.

Allison

What happens next.

Dianne

So it’s a bit of that. It’s a love story at the beginning. It falls into quite an involved, a romance that’s sort of happy. It has its obstacles, but it’s just them getting together. But then it’s what happens after that too. And that she’s a bit younger, so she has to grow up, go through some experiences to know what she wants.

But we open the novel, and it’s not a spoiler, because we open the novel and they’re not together. They’ve been estranged. So when you then… Estranged for years. And there’s a child. And so then you go back and see them fall in love and everything happens. So as people have told me reading it, they’re going, what happens? How do they… I know, we’re reading all this, but I know that things go wrong! But what’s going to happen?

So that’s the structure of it. So not much of an elevator pitch there, sorry.

Allison

No. You need to go away, your mission is to go away and work on that. Because it sounds like a great story. You just need to sum that up a little bit better.

Dianne

I know. I’ve never been able to do it.

Allison

So you’ve recently switched from traditional publishing to indie publishing, as we just discussed. So you’ve also re-issued your entire backlist with new covers, which is a big thing. So can you tell us a bit about why you did that? And what you’ve learned along the way?

Dianne

Okay. So there’s a number of reasons that I did it. I did feel like sometimes here in Australia, we’re such a long way away from the rest of the world. Once your book is out and it’s done, I’ve had a couple of books go into the US market, but really difficult to get traction over there when you’re not there. And then when your books, yes, it’s all very good now we’re online, everything’s online, but if the book is published in Australia, it was too expensive. It could not compete. Even for the eBooks. Which is 50% of the market in the US.

So if you can tap into even just a bit of that. So here you are, working, slogging away to get a book out that’s only in our small market. And thousands of copies is a good result here. And to be able to find a way to tap in…

And clearly having the connection to Liane is a good opportunity to take advantage of. Which she is completely, you know, she mentioned Ber and I in an article in the New York Times for goodness sakes. We’ve been mentioned in the New York Times. She is so supportive and encouraging. iBooks asked her for recommendations the other day, and she put mine and Ber’s books in. So she really is very supportive. We’re still doing the newsletter together and promoting.

So I thought, well look… And all this backlist. It’s a little bit sad. You write children’s books, which is wonderful, because that has a perpetual audience. The next lot of children that come along. There’s no reason that they won’t read them. But you sort of think, oh yeah, once your book’s done, it’s done. It has a shelf life of a magazine these days. Like, a month. It’s really sad. And it’s a lot of work that people put in. And you’ve got to make the splash when it’s out. That’s when you get your sales. And after that, forget it, it’s gone.

So I had the benefit, as you know, Allison, that my son, my eldest son runs Crit Mass, which is a publishing consultancy. Critical Mass, I should say.

Allison

This is Joel, everybody. And we have actually interviewed Joel on the podcast. I can’t remember what episode, but it was a few episodes ago. And it was an excellent discussion about indie publishing, if you’re interested. And Joel is Di’s son. Continue.

Dianne

Yes. Sorry. He was formally the publisher for the Momentum imprint at Pan MacMillan, which was the first digital standalone imprint in Australia. So he learned from the ground up.

So I guess I had a bit of insight of the way the whole place works. His partner is a publisher, traditional publisher for Harper Collins. So I’ve seen all sides of it. And I felt like it was worth taking the chance also because I already have a readership and some discoverability, don’t they call it.

I knew it wasn’t as big a risk for me as someone coming to it as a debut author, perhaps. But I just felt getting my rights back of my books, and repackaging them and everything, and having a bit of a push behind them globally. Because we had that reach with the newsletter. We have a big half of our subscribers are from the US, thanks to Liane. That’s only one small way. But social media.

I also was speaking to someone at an industry function, only just around the time, and I actually was in discussion with a couple of different publishers about going in a different direction. And was getting really a lot of interest and support from them for looking at my next couple of books.

And one had read Jack and Kate and loved it. But I actually stepped back. I just thought, if I’m ever going to do it… Now, I’ll go into the treadmill with another publisher. And just for me, having had the experience, I wasn’t sure that it was going to… There’s so much hope.

I might be sounding really depressing to prospective authors out there. I don’t mean that at all. But I do think that it has changed over the years and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to… I mean, I’ve had the experience. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it over again.

And I was feeling that thing of, I’m not sure that I can do a book a year. I’m not sure that I can in the future. I don’t know that that is the way that I write. Or that that is even the way that I want to write. And that’s just for me. And I am envious of the people that can do that, and can do several books a year. That is a skill I don’t have.

Allison

So you do need to know and understand your own writing rhythm, don’t you? You need to understand what you can and can’t do.

Dianne

Yeah. And I think that that’s the thing. I mean, if that’s the way the industry is now, then I don’t know that I can fit into it. So therefore, taking control myself, having my books under my own name and putting out books when I can or when I want to, that aren’t going to necessarily shake the world, but will make a few bob. I’m quite happy with that.

Sorry, I was talking to that person from the industry who had just spent a couple of years in the US. Sorry, in the UK, as Amazon had arrived in the UK. And she said to me, so this is when I was mulling over it and had been meeting with these other publishers, and she said to me, she said this is the time to do it. Because Amazon is coming to Australia. And she did not feel that publishers were prepared for the seismic change that would happen.

So to me it just felt like the right time to own all my books myself. Because I didn’t. We don’t know where the industry is heading. And to take control in that way. So I’m lucky that…

Allison

And I guess you also had the benefit, didn’t you, of having that skill set with Joel. You had good solid help there to help you to do that. Which would make a big difference.

Dianne

Absolutely. That’s what I was going to say. That’s my son. My third son is a graphic designer and he redesigned all the covers.

Allison

Right.

Dianne

So I realise I have… And my fourth son is a social media manager. So he has helped me with a whole lot of social media.

Allison

So you’ve pretty much just got a publishing house at home.

Dianne

Basically I’ve got my own… This is correct.

 

Allison

Excellent. Great. We should all have one of those.

Dianne

I realise that makes a really big difference!

Allison

I’m going to go and train my children immediately.

Dianne

That’s right. This is what you do. Yeah. So in terms of cost and everything, obviously it was more viable for me. Because I would totally encourage people spending the money that needs to be spent to do a professional job. I can say that because I’ve got it for nothing, most of the time.

Allison

You got mum’s rates.

Dianne

Mum’s rates. But giving birth to people might be a bigger cost for people to pay in order to get cheap publishing deals later on. Okay. It’s an idea. But it might not work for everyone.

Allison

May not work long term. All right. So let’s finish up today with your, apart from giving birth to your own publishing house, what are your top three tips for writers?

Dianne

Can’t I make it that?

Allison

I do like it. That could possibly be one of the most interesting tips we’ve ever had. But we might need to go with something a little bit more doable.

Dianne

I think it should be one!

Okay. So I always say, and it’ll be like every other writer you’ve probably interviewed, but you have to read. Read, read, read, read. I still get quite taken aback by the people I meet who want to be writers and are aspiring writers and don’t read. And by some of the…

Because as you know I’m an editor now. And I’ll get private jobs through people that have put together a manuscript. And you can tell that their grasp of the way a story works is not… They just haven’t read enough. Or I don’t know how they could be reading extensively and miss the mark quite so strongly. So that’s, yeah…

It’s really surprising to see that people will be enthusiastic about writing, and reading is such a small part of it. It would be like trying to make something without ever having seen the finished product. I’m going to make this dress and I don’t know what a dress looks like. And the parts that make it up. So reading, I cannot recommend strongly enough.

As far as… These are tips for writers, aren’t they? For writers.

So get off the social media. You know, contain yourself, is what I mean.

Allison

Control yourself.

Dianne

Control yourself. Contain it to a certain amount of time. Procrastination is rife now. I have got very enthusiastic past students who post up wonderful things about writing, wonderful tips, and they don’t write very much.

We had a weekend away, last weekend, with some of these students and it was great. Everything went quiet and we just went into different corners and wrote. And this one person who’s been really struggling, and if she’s listening she knows who she is!, with getting anything down just surprised herself. When she had the focus, when she just sat there and wrote and didn’t… She put words on the page.

Allison

So you have to control it.

Dianne

So set the time aside. You have to control it. And there’s no other way the words are going to get there. It doesn’t matter how many courses you go to. How many great articles you read. There’s a lot, there’s so much around now. It’s fantastic. There’s so many resources for writers to draw on. But some of them, that’s all they’re doing. The words have got to go down on the page.

And linked to this would be my third tip. They’re a little bit nebulous, aren’t they?

Allison

No, no.

Dianne

Is just get those words down on the page. And don’t worry about editing always. Just write. That’s the other thing that I see writers do all the time. It’s like, oh, they’re frozen at the first chapter. They’re frozen at the first page. Or sometimes even the first line!

And they can’t get this right. You go, no, no, no, no! Just get it down. You can’t edit an empty page. You’ve got to get it down. Don’t worry too much. You can fix that up later. Keep going with the story.

There’s a great quote from Ezra Pound that I often refer to. Which is, it doesn’t matter which leg of the table you screw on first, as long as it’s got four legs at the end and it can stand up. Just don’t get hung up on those kinds of things. They’re just another way to procrastinate, I think.

Allison

Okay.

Dianne

Stop you from going forward.

Allison

Brilliant. Well thank you so much for your time today, Di.

Dianne

And also have babies!

Allison

Wait. There’s more.

Dianne

And the last one is have babies and bring them up to work in publishing.

Allison

I’m not 100% sure we can advocate for that.

 

Dianne

Okay. That’s something you can think of.

Allison

Okay. All right, Di. Thank you so much for your time today. Much appreciated. And best of luck with Jack and Kate.

Dianne

It was a pleasure.

Allison

And don’t forget everyone, you can go and sign up for the Book Chat newsletter at Dianneblacklock.com. All right, bye!

Dianne

Thanks, Al. Bye.


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