From a career in finance to children’s book author

Katie Jones was possessed by scenes of a story after visiting a haunted house at Disneyland. She felt that she needed help collecting the scenes into a coherent narrative, so she enrolled in Fiction Essentials: Structure at the Australian Writers' Centre. That manuscript went on to be published as Storybook House, along with the sequel Storybook House 2: A Spirit’s Revenge, both out now with New Holland Publishers.

“I was shocked and thrilled when I found out I was going to be published,” Katie told us.

A haunting idea

Katie had been working in finance for over a decade when she and her husband moved to Shanghai. Finding herself at a loose end, she decided to unleash her creative side.

“I had an idea of a story that had been percolating in my mind for a while, so I started to write but I hadn’t worked on my creative writing since university. A friend of mine suggested doing a course with the Australian Writers’ Centre. I first started listening to the podcast and then I attended a few of the online seminars which were incredibly helpful,” Katie says.

Following a visit to Disneyland, Katie had had the idea of a story set in a house where spirits were able to roam freely.

“I just started writing scenes from the book, but I needed to find a way to make the book flow and the AWC course on structure helped me do that,” Katie says. “Once I was locked in with New Holland, their wonderful editors worked their magic on the draft that I had sent but never changed the structure, which I think was a positive reflection on what I had learnt.”

The Storybook books tell the story of Sophie Weston, whose parents inherit a mansion in the Hamptons and move there from Brooklyn, New York. As part of the acquisition process, New Holland asked some teenagers to beta read the manuscript before taking it on.

“When I heard that they [the teenagers] enjoyed the book, it made me feel so happy – I think so many of us write, hoping that just one person will read it and enjoy the book so it felt like a real triumph hearing that they had liked it,” Katie recalls.

A world of learning opportunities

One thing that appealed to Katie was that the AWC’s courses are online and always available.

“Having two children, it makes it so easy that I could do the course when it suited me. I can also go back and re-do parts of the course as I need to while working on my book. Since that first course, I have written two more novels and have referred to my notes for help time and time again.”

As well as completing Fiction Essentials: Structure, Katie has also taken the opportunity to draw on as many of the AWC’s resources as possible.

“Aside from the courses, the podcasts have provided inspiration when I have needed it – Valerie always asks really insightful questions. I have found every podcast that I have listened to has provided interesting perspectives from other writers. The Zoom events have also provided valuable insights and motivation – Pamela Freeman is an inspiration – she is so incredibly generous with her time and advice and I am so grateful to her for all the time she dedicates to helping other writers.”

With two books now published, Katie continues to write every day, fitting her creative time around her family and part time work.

“I spend time writing almost every day because it fills my cup and provides the creative outlet I craved for so long,” Katie says. “If you are considering doing a course, I would say one hundred percent go for it. There is a course for every area that you could need help on – from short focused live sessions to longer, self-paced courses, there is something for everyone on there and so much to learn.”

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