Ep 260 How to afford editors. And meet B.M. Carroll, author of ‘The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy’.

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In Episode 260 of So you want to be a writer: Tips on how to find and afford good editors. Meet B.M. Carroll, author of The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy. Discover your chance to win a copy of the inaugural Australian Literary Diary and more.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Links Mentioned

Allison Tait – Books

Allison Tait – The Mapmaker Chronicles Book 4

Writer in Residence

B.M. Carroll

Ber Carroll was born in Blarney, a small but famous village in Ireland. The middle child of six, she often retreated from the chaos of family life by immersing herself in books. She has fond memories of the mobile library bus that used to pull up outside their house in Blarney and the dozen or so books she would borrow at a time, some quite inappropriate for her age.

Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 with her boyfriend (now husband) Rob. She got a job as a finance manager in the IT industry and began to climb the corporate ladder. The exciting and dynamic work environment captured her imagination and inspired her first novel. When Executive Affair was published, Ber flatly denied it was in any way auto-biographical. She now admits that the novel did have a lot of her in it, and suspects that half the people who purchased the book were her ex colleagues, to see if they were in it too. Ber gave up her finance career when she realised that she couldn’t hold down a demanding job, be mum to two small children and write books to contractual deadline. She now writes fulltime, but says that she misses getting dressed up for work and being around people who listen to what she has to say, unlike her kids!

Ber is the author of eight novels, including Just Business, High Potential, The Better Woman, Less Than Perfect, Worlds Apart and Once Lost. The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy is her first book published under B.M. Carroll.

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Interview transcript

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us today, Ber.

Ber

Thank you, Valerie. It’s so nice to talk to you again.

Valerie

Yes. Now, your latest book, The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy, for those people who haven’t got it yet, who haven’t read it yet, can you tell us what it’s about?

Ber

This is really hard, to say what it’s about. Because I’ve had to craft this whole story around it, because there’s a lot of things in it that the reader doesn’t know. But it’s probably easier for me to talk about what inspired it.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

And that was somebody that I know that was badly injured due to the carelessness of someone else. And her whole life was impacted. Her health, her career, her relationships. And the person responsible for what happened got to walk away scot free.

And that got me thinking about just how unfair that was. And with a certain type of individual, how that sense of unfairness might fester and turn into something more sinister.

So that’s what inspired it. I’ve developed this whole technique of talking around in circles about this book. It’s really hard to talk about.

Valerie

Yes. Because it slowly unfolds, doesn’t it?

Ber

Yes, it does.

Valerie

It must be hard to explain. All right, so this happened to this person that you know in real life, and that inspired a story. So when was that? When did you first think, oh, there might be a story here? And how long after that did you actually start writing in earnest? And how long then did it take you?

Ber

So at the time, when I heard, I wasn’t thinking, oh there might be a story. But afterwards, when it didn’t go to court or anything like that, that’s when I thought, hm, there’s one person here who’s been really badly impacted and one person who hasn’t, and that seems really unfair.

So that was quite a few years later. But interestingly, when I went back to this person and said, look, I want to write a story about this. But it’s just this notion. And it’s not about you and reality, it’s just using this idea of one person being able to walk away from something like this and the other not. And they were so deeply impacted by what happened they said, yeah, that’s fine, but I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about what happened, I don’t want to talk about the impact on me.

Valerie

Sure.

Ber

So all my research and everything I had to find in order to write the novel was all done without their assistance.

Valerie

And so then how long did it take you to write that first draft?

Ber

Not long.

Valerie

Oh.

Ber

Well, for me. For me, when I say not long. I think it might have been, in all, maybe a year. Which for me is really good going. But then, then, then, this doesn’t have a happy ending. Then came the editing of it. And that was the most excruciating thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

Valerie

Why?

Ber

Probably because of the way I wrote it. So it’s written from seven different perspectives, all in the first person. And really any self-respecting author would tell you that’s complete madness. And the editor would tell you it’s madness. And in actual fact, when I submitted it, I thought I would be promptly sent it back. Have it sent back to me and being told, what are you thinking? This is completely crazy.

But they didn’t. They really liked it. But trying to edit afterwards… It was fine writing the story like that, and that’s how the story came out. It was fine writing it. But going back to edit it and trying to figure out what had happened where, because it’s very intricate, it was so, so difficult.

And I ended up with this coloured spreadsheet and trying to figure out who was speaking when, who knew what when. It was really one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

So the writing of it was easy, and the story really just flew out. I had a very strong sense of Sophie and who Sophie was and what she would do and what she would not do.

And I remember having quite a lot of discussions with the editors saying quite seriously, “no, I can’t do that, because Sophie wouldn’t do that.” Which was hilarious. As if she was a real person.

So I had a very strong sense of her and I had a very strong sense of the people around her, these other voices. And I think that’s why the story came so easily to me.

But I think, and what I’ve realised, I’ve not written novels before with that much intrigue or suspense. I’ve always had some level of intrigue but not this level. And I think that any type of editing, with novels like that, is really tricky. Because you forget what you know and how you know it. And so do your editors. They forget how they know it too, once they’ve read it a couple of times.

Valerie

Yes. And so you say that it came out fairly easily. And is that because… So if readers aren’t clear, this is a beautifully written novel, and it is written from many different points of view. And as you’ve said, it’s in first person. So as I was reading it, I’d sort of put it down and go have lunch and think, wow, how did she keep track? Exactly that.

So does that mean that when you did do that first draft, you didn’t give any thought to timelines and when things happened and stuff like that, and then you overlaid that later and then had to think, okay, I really need to map out when all of these things happen so that it’s not inconsistent. So it’s consistent.

Ber

It was when I changed it that I ran into trouble.

Valerie

Oh.

Ber

Yeah. So as I changed it… Like one thing I did that was really hard, so there was originally nine perspectives and I was asked to drop, to get rid of two of them. Actually, I was asked to get rid of three of them, but one of them I refused to get rid of, which is Jasmine, the child in the novel. And we can talk about that later and whether that was the right thing to do or not the right thing to do.

So getting rid of two first person perspectives and dropping that information into other first person perspectives is not an easy thing to do. And I remember the editor highlighting one particular line and saying, “oh, can you find a way to keep this?” And I was like, “no. I can’t find a way to keep that. That’s inside somebody’s head! I can’t find a way to keep that.”

But there were also those perspectives carried plot with them and trying to find other places to put that in was so hard. And first person makes things like that really hard, anyway.

So it was really more to do with the change than how… Because I think when the story came out, I’m quite mathematical anyway. And I kind of was able to keep track of, okay, it’s this person’s turn to talk. What’s happened with them? Okay, it’s a while since we’ve heard from that person, we need to hear from them now. So I’m quite logical. So I think that helped me through the first draft. But yeah, it was the later drafts that caused the problem.

Valerie

Why did you want to write from so many different perspectives?

Ber

I have no idea, really. There were times when I was like, why on earth did I do this? I have no idea. I don’t know. It’s how the story came out. I wrote the first chapter with Sophie. And for some reason, I went straight to her father for the next chapter. And don’t ask me why I did. And then I went to Chloe who is her partner’s ex-wife, and again I was going…

And I fully expected that to cause a big issue when I sent it to the publishers. And was nicely surprised when they accepted it.

But it’s just how the story came out. I mean, if as I said, if I’d been thinking about it logically I would have said, no, don’t ever do that. It’s crazy.

Valerie

And if you had to, well, you had to kill your darlings. You had to kill two of your darlings.

Ber

Yes.

Valerie

Was that really… Did you hate that? Or did you almost expect that that was going to be the case?

Ber

I expected it. I expected it. I found it really difficult. I mean, the characters still existed. They were Jane, Sophie’s colleague, who had quite an important role in the novel. And then there was Jacob, her brother. And her brother gave a lot of information about Sophie, and I found that really…

Both of them. Jane was a bit easier to kill off than Jacob. And so both of them, it was hard, but I expected it. The one we disagreed about was Jasmine, the child in the novel. And I’m really glad that I persevered with that, because I couldn’t see the novel resolve without her in it. And I can see a lot of reviews now…

I think the editor’s concern was that adult readers would be jarred when they heard a child’s voice.

Valerie

Not if it’s written well.

Ber

And hopefully it is. And to be honest, they may in the first sentence. But I think by the time they get to the end of the novel, Jasmine is extremely important. And I think that the reason that she’s there is validated.

Valerie

So when you have so many characters that you get inside their heads and the readers get inside their heads, did you really shape and develop those characters before you even started writing them? Did you have a really clear sense of their back story and everything about it? Or did you kind of let them develop as you were writing?

Ber

I let them develop as I was writing.

Valerie

Really?

Ber

And then during, when I was going back over and editing it, I finessed them. I then went and said, okay, these are the things that I’ve said about this character, these are…

Initially, probably in that first draft one or two of the female characters sounded a little bit too similar, because they were of similar age. And it was very easy to get Sophie right, because she was really clear in my head. I could hear her speak, I knew everything she would do.

It was the other characters that were a bit difficult because they were of similar age, similar… Lots of things. So it was hard to distinguish them. And so I had to go back and finesse them and spend some time finessing them. And I remember two characters, Chloe and Hannah, I just said, okay, my job for the next two days is to distinguish their voices. And make sure that they sound different.

Valerie

Now did you use any writing tools like Scrivener or anything like that?

Ber

No.

Valerie

Or you just put it in a Word document?

Ber

I put it in a Word document. And then when I was editing it I created an Excel spreadsheet so I could keep track of the chapters. And I colour coded it so I could see who was speaking. And then if there was a major revelation, I noted that.

So I kind of find if I try to do too much in advance, I can’t plan. As soon as I even put down and start planning, I lose all creativity. And I really wish that I could do it, because with a novel like this it would make life so much easier. But I just can’t. I can’t do it.

Valerie

Now you’ve written so many novels now. But I want to just touch, if you could just tell listeners a little bit about those Excel spreadsheet skills came from somewhere, right? Because you used to have a career in finance. So maybe you could just talk briefly about the corporate career you had and how you then started writing?

Ber

Well, look, I started my working life as an accountant. And I actually really liked my job. When I say that, people assume that I hated my job and I was really unhappy. I actually really liked my job. But I had always the secret desire to write a novel. I told nobody that I wanted to write a novel. But I did always want to write a novel.

And when I came to Australia, I was working in a particularly dynamic environment. It was the IT industry in the 1990s. And there wasn’t a day when something didn’t happen in the office. There was a lot of innovation happening in that industry at the time. There was a lot of money. And just something about the work environment inspired me and I thought, “I could write my first novel about this type of environment.”

And I enrolled in a creative writing class, and I wrote my first novel. And I was really, really lucky, looking back. I got picked up for publication quite quickly. And I got offered a three book deal.

And being offered that three book deal, you know, I had to make a decision. Because at that point I had a newborn baby. I didn’t have a newborn baby at the time of writing the first novel. I had all the time in the world. Other than having a job where I would start at 7 in the morning and finish at 7 at night, at least when I finished at 7 at night, I would finish at 7 at night.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

Sometimes we’d work through the night, but there were other things, other stories. But when you have children you rely, so having a job with long hours is actually a piece of cake.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

So at that point, by the time I got offered that deal, I had a newborn baby. And I was struggling with the job and the baby, anyway, trying to juggle the two. And it felt, I had this deal, and I thought, well, the only way I can do this is to give up work.

And so I did. I gave up work. And I concentrated on fulfilling that contract and being a mum at the same time.

As I said, I was fortunate. I look back and I think, gosh, that was really a dream start to my writing career. But since then, that baby is now 16 going on 17.

Valerie

Oh my.

Ber

And I’m on my eighth novel. Well, Sophie is my eighth novel.

Valerie

And so do you ever miss the corporate world? Or anything? Because you said you really enjoyed your job.

Ber

I did enjoy my job. And I do miss some elements of it. I miss getting dressed up for work and going out to work. And just having that contact. Writing can be very lonely. And I miss the… Not that my job was simpler, but sometimes it was simpler in comparison to writing.

I mean, I know you would know this from where you work and what you do, there are many a day when you sit down to write or to work and you’ve no idea if you’re going to pull it off or not pull it off. Whereas when you’re working in the corporate world, you will pull it off. You’ll pull off something.

So you have that certainty that you’re good at what you do. Whereas with writing, you spend most of the time telling yourself you’re terrible at what you do.

Valerie

So this is your eighth novel, though. So you’re doing something right. So with this one, The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy, did you pitch the idea first?

Ber

No.

Valerie

So you wrote it?

Ber

I wrote it first.

Valerie

Wow.

Ber

I wrote it first. And I just knew it was going to be different. I knew it was going to be different from the first page. And I wanted to try and write something different. It felt I needed a change.

And my other novels all had that Irish Australian thing going. And I felt I had exhausted that. And I had, you know, I was happy with those novels. But I didn’t want to write another one of them. I wanted to write something different. And that’s why when I sat down, I put B. M. Carroll on the front of my manuscript.

Valerie

Yes. Because your other books were Ber Carroll and this one is B. M. Carroll.

Ber

Yeah. And I submitted it as B. M. Carroll. And then I had a wobble, just before it was published, and saying, “oh, can we go back to Ber Carroll?” And the publisher said, “no. B. M. is really good.”

Because Ber did cause a lot of confusion. Because people don’t know how to say it. They don’t know what it means. It causes so much confusion. It’s only three letters. But if I had my time back, I would have not had, I would not have published as Ber to start with.

And so but I actually now I quite like being B. M. Carroll. Because Sophie has been selected for a few men’s book clubs, and I really don’t think that would have happened otherwise.

Not that it means that much to me to have male readers. Because I think females are by far the greater reading group. But it’s just so nice to know that people are picking up the book that wouldn’t have picked up my other books. And so that, it’s just been nice. My first fan mail was from a male.

Valerie

Oh wow, that’s great. So this book, you wrote it, you wrote it without a contract. Did you give yourself a self-imposed deadline of any sort? Or did you just kind of let yourself let it roll out? Or did you have any kind of structure or goals or wordcount goals? Or anything?

Ber

I did. I did. And I do, as I say, I’m quite mathematical. I don’t plan. I actually don’t know a writer who doesn’t have a wordcount goal. I think we all have word count goals.

I always look at Allison Tait’s word count goals every day.

Valerie

Oh yes! I know.

Ber

And she seems to do so well.

Valerie

I know! She’s great.

Ber

She’s funny. And so my goal is a thousand words a day.

Valerie

Okay.

Ber

And sometimes I will get to one and a half thousand words, if it’s been, if I’m on a roll. And if it’s kind of coming towards the end of the novel and everything’s flying.

And most days I’ll sit there until I get to a thousand words, even if it’s a thousand bad words, I’ll sit there until I get there. Because I feel that a thousand words that need work are better than no words at all. And generally speaking, it’s progressed the story and you’ve got something that you can fix.

And I always say that to new writers. Just sit down and do it. Because you’re going to change it anyway. You’re going to change it over and over again. Just get started.

So I will usually make myself sit there until I’ve got it done. And if I haven’t managed to get it done during my working day, I’ll pick it up at night and just write 100 words of nothing. Just to, in my mind, so that I’ve achieved something.

Now, I probably do that maybe four days a week, though.

Valerie

Okay.

Ber

Yeah. I think it’s of huge benefit anyway to have thinking time. I need a lot of time to think. So if I give myself that thinking time over the weekend, and when I come back I know I’m going to pick it up.

Valerie

So I understand that, giving yourself the thinking time. Presumably, you also give yourself thinking time during the day. What kind of routine, when you’re writing, what kind of daily routine would you have? Do you start at a particular time? Do you have to have your particular cup of tea or music playing? Walk me through the kind of routine that you would have in order to achieve your thousand words.

Ber

Well, I go for a walk every morning. Which is really funny, because all my neighbours know me so well, because I walk these streets so much.

So I walk the dog. And before we had the dog, I would just be walking on my own. So now I spend a lot of the time talking to the dog while we’re walking, but even though I’m talking to him, I am thinking. So I find that that walk helps me think.

And then I come home and I make tea and I have food. Because the more food I eat, the more creative I am. It’s amazing.

Valerie

Are you serious?

Ber

I am so serious. Honestly. I can credit all my writing creativity to food. You can’t write if you’re either peckish or cold. You’ve got to be warm and you’ve got to be full.

Valerie

Do different types of food affect your creativity in different ways?

Ber

Oh look, chocolate is wonderful. Really.

Valerie

Yeah, okay.

Ber

It’s funny because I have a friend who’s just signed a publishing contract and she’s in the middle of editing her first edit. And she rang me this morning and said, “oh I’m eating like crazy. And I can’t stop myself.” And I said, “well, I know. It helps, doesn’t it?”

It really helps!

Valerie

Oh that’s funny.

Ber

So I eat and then I write probably for an hour. And then I’ll go downstairs and try to stop myself from eating again, but usually I find a little snack and then come back up and write again. And I’d usually do that, I would try and do four hours of solid writing.

And usually the first hour is slow, slow, slow. Because a lot of the time I’m looking over what I wrote yesterday and editing it and fixing it and making it better. And then the middle, the latter part of the day is when it comes a lot faster.

So that’s why it’s always worth making myself sit there a little bit longer, because that’s when I start to lose track of time.

When the kids were little, I would always be the mum who was late for preschool, because I would just find my mojo at 2:30.

Valerie

Oh yep. And so what was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

Ber

The editing, without a doubt. The editing was… It was a joy to write it. I had a lot of fun writing it. And then when people read it and they were so positive, because I really did think it would be criticised very heavily because of how it’s structured. And because they were so positive about it, that was really, really nice.

But editing it… And I think it taught me a lesson. When you’re writing a novel like this, you do need to try and get it as close possible first time round. Because you do lose something when you’re editing. You can’t recapture the feeling of who knows what and how do they know it and when do they know it. And what’s a shock and what’s not a shock. And it’s really hard to recapture, to get that right later on. So the less you have to change with a novel like this, the better.

Valerie

So the book has some really strong… Strong’s not the word. Really clear and accurately depicted characters. And the little nuances and things they say or do or just little things that are idiosyncratic to them, make you think, oh I know that kind of person, you recognise them. Are you the sort of person who, you know, you sit at the Sunday barbeque and you observe the way a guy scratches his neck?

Ber

I do. I actually do.

Valerie

Do you note it down? What do you do?

Ber

I do note down silly things. And I always find… It’s really funny, some writers are just really good at characterisation. I feel I have to try harder. It doesn’t come naturally. I have to work hard at it.

But I always remember, in one of Lianne Moriarty’s books, and she was describing one of the male character’s toes. You know those men with really big toes? Especially their big toe? And I went, oh my god, I know so many men like that! I know exactly who that is! And then I thought, am I really identifying somebody through their toes?

But yes you do. You do watch people. And after eight novels, you’ve got to watch really, really hard. Because you know, you can’t rely on those piercing blue eyes anymore. It’s unfortunately, you’ve used up a lot.

And even names. Oh my goodness. Trying to find new names that are so not outlandish. Because they’ve got to be… It was very important to me with Sophie that it was believable. And I had a lot of discussions with the editor about this. I wanted the characters to be every day characters that people will know and recognise and believe and will believe what happens. And that was really important to me.

And some of that is tied up in names. You can maybe carry off one or two unusual names. You can’t really carry off 20 of them. And when you’re on your eighth novel and you’ve had big casts of characters in each novel, you’re scratching around even for names.

Valerie

But if we can just circle back to the observation of the guy scratching his neck at the Sunday barbecue. I have to ask, if you do feel that’s something you want to note down, what do you do? Do you surreptitiously take out your notebook or your phone and write down the way he scratches his nick? What do you actually do?

Ber

I would take out my phone, in that scenario. Because a notebook is a bit too obvious. If I’m afraid it’s something I’ll forget, I will write it down. And some things, sometimes it’s just… Often it’s not their action, it’s their dialogue, and how they say something. And that whole… And it’s often just something that they say.

And it’s very hard to say why it strikes a chord. It’s really funny. You know people come up to you and they say, “oh my god, have I got a story for you, or have I got a character for you.” And invariably, as soon as they say that, I’m thinking thanks, but no thanks.

And yet there I am looking at the man scratching his neck and thinking, oh my god, this is very important! I need to write it down! So who knows what strikes a chord and what doesn’t strike a chord. It’s very odd what resounds with writers.

Valerie

Yes. Now you say this flowed out very easily in your first draft. Did you know everything that was going to happen?

Ber

No, I did not know what was going to happen.

Valerie

Right.

Ber

I had no idea what was going to happen. And that’s the way I always write. And it does make me panic a lot. Because for a lot of the novel, I’m thinking, “oh my god, I’ve spent all this time writing this novel. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how it’s going to resolve itself.”

And really, with Sophie, I was testing how far would Sophie go. And we obviously can’t talk about how it’s resolved. And then it came to me, oh, actually… It just comes to me. It came to me when I was in the gym, what would happen.

Valerie

Wow.

Ber

And I remember letting out a little yelp of excitement. And the instructor thought I had hurt myself. So she was, “oh, are you okay? Are you okay?” And I was like, “no I just I figured something out.”

Valerie

Are you serious? That’s hilarious.

Ber

I am serious. And it’s funny. It’s almost like every single novel I get to the point where I think, oh crap, how am I going to fix this? I’ve written myself into a corner and I’m panicked and I think, well, this one’s never going to be finished. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, how it’s going to be resolved comes.

Valerie

That’s amazing.

Ber

And it’s all very magic.

Valerie

So this book is different to your other books. How did the writing experience differ? Or didn’t it really?

Ber

I felt I learnt a lot with this novel. And that’s a nice thing to be able to say after eight novels.

And as I said, it’s not like I haven’t dabbled with intrigue before. I have. And even my earlier novels had a much higher level of intrigue than the middle novels. So I have dabbled with it before.

But keeping this much back from the reader was a lot of fun. And also a big learning. A big learning in terms of timing and how to time things.

So that made it very pleasurable, the idea that you’re still learning your craft after eight novels. And being excited about what’s going to happen. And surprising yourself. Because I didn’t know what was going to happen. And then when it came to me, it was so perfect. And that thrill of knowing that, well, I hadn’t thought of it, so hopefully the reader hasn’t thought of it either.

Valerie

And so obviously you’ve written and released this. Are you working on another one?

Ber

Yes.

Valerie

Already?

Ber

Yes.

Valerie

Can you tell us what it’s about? Or anything?

Ber

Well, this sounds very funny. But it’s about a school reunion that goes wrong.

Valerie

Oh wow, okay, cool.

Ber

Also written from lots of different perspectives and in a very difficult tense. And I feel like bashing myself over the head, because I can tell you the next novel I do will be written from that many different perspectives.

Valerie

Yeah, right.

Ber

But it suited the school reunion type scenario, having different voices.

Valerie

That’s fantastic. Well, I went to mine recently. And it’s intriguing. It’s absolutely intriguing.

Ber

Yes. I wish I could have gone. Was that the 20 year?

Valerie

No, I had my 30 year reunion!

Ber

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. So this is a 20 year reunion. And funnily enough I have never been, because I live here.

Valerie

Of course.

Ber

And I have never been to a school reunion.

Valerie

Of course.

Ber

And I’m absolutely obsessed with them. I always have been. I’ve always been obsessed about that whole idea of being a certain person at school and evolving into someone else. Because I am nothing remotely like who I was at school. But yet I know people who are exactly like how they were at school.

And I’m obsessed with it. I’m obsessed about who changes, who doesn’t change.

Valerie

Oh wow. Can’t wait to read the next one. All right, and so finally, what would be your top three tips for aspiring writers who want to be in a position like you are one day, having eight books under their belt and their ninth one on the way?

Ber

Oh, I hope I can think of three. Number one is always read. Read, read, read, read.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

Because, you know, when people say to you, how do you know how to write? I know how to write just through reading. And the more you read, the more you go, oh, that works, that doesn’t work. This is good, that isn’t good.

And I’m always astounded by people who present work and they’re not readers. And I think the difference between people who present work who are readers and people who present work who aren’t readers is just vast. So number one is read as much as you possibly can, and keep on reading.

Number two is just start it.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

And maybe I’m contradicting myself here, because I said with this novel, I wish that I’d got more right the first time around. But this is a particular type of novel. I think most novels, you have all the time in the world to change what you’ve written. And you will. If it’s your first novel, you will change it many, many, many times.

So really, there’s no excuse not to start it, not to sit down and just get writing.

And the third thing I would say is to… Don’t have too much at stake. And this is from somebody who did give up work to write. I think your writing is a lot better if your financial security isn’t dependent on it. You have a lot less to lose. And I always think when you don’t have a lot to lose, your writing takes off.

So there’s no reason why… Fair enough if you’ve got children and a very demanding job. Yes. I accept then that it’s really difficult to write. But I think most people can write as a pastime. They can… So don’t feel like you have to resign immediately. Because you might find that that might kill your creativity. That’s just…

I think Peter Carey tells that to his writing class as well. So it’s not just me saying that. I’m sure there’s many other writers who would say, “no, no, follow your dreams. Back yourself.” But I always feel that your best writing comes when you’re not threatened.

Valerie

Yes.

Ber

And if your financial security is okay, then your creativity is also okay. And it’s secure and it can flourish.

Valerie

Wonderful. And on that note, thank you so much for your time today, Ber.

Ber

Thank you, Valerie, it’s been a pleasure.


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