When Kaneana May, a stay-at-home mother living in regional NSW, took a trip to Sydney to do Popular Women's Fiction with the Australian Writers' Centre she came away inspired, motivated with new ideas and a new direction. Today she is a published author of two novels, including All We Have is Now, which hit bookshelves in 2021, and her debut novel The One, both published by Harlequin.
It was a stint doing work experience during her third year at university in the script department of Home and Away that cemented Kaneana’s love for writing.
“My mind was blown away; I got to sit around a table and talk characters, plot points and story arcs. I knew at that point that I wanted to earn an income writing. What a life!” says Kaneana.
“In saying that, it’s definitely easier said than done. I was able to break into the television industry straight after university but once I started a family, I felt like my career took a huge backwards step. I had been working on my own book manuscripts for years, and it was while my babies were young that I became serious about it.
“I knew the story I was working on was within the genre of ‘commercial women’s fiction’. I also knew that a course was likely to give me inspiration and direction for when I got back home and had to fit writing into my life with small children.”
Graduate of Australian Writers' Centre, author of “The One”
Kaneana’s insight from Popular Women's Fiction
“During the course, we looked at examples of how successful women’s fiction novels started their stories, something that took me a long time to decide on when writing The One. I was regularly unsure about ‘where to start my story’ and two scenes that were originally in the opening chapter ended up much later in the book. This activity was great in analysing why they started with that scene and what information the author offered to hook the reader in.
“We were also prompted to experiment writing in first and third person, which was particularly worthwhile as I had three female characters within my story. It was easy to see how another style/approach could change the whole feel of the story.
“The course also offered me a space where I was supported and encouraged to keep going. Self-doubt can easily come in when writing, and finding a home within a writing community is priceless.”
The road to getting published
Kaneana first pitched her novel The One at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in 2018.
“It had been finished for over six months at this stage, but I had purposely held on to it, as I knew I wanted to pitch it rather than send it into the slush pile.
“I had three or four publishers ask me to send it in to them. And then five and a half weeks later, I was playing Barbies with my three-year-old when I got the first phone call from Rachael Donovan from Harlequin saying that she loved my book and wanted to take it to an acquisition meeting. This was one of the most thrilling phone calls I’ve ever received. I was over the moon, but at the same time, I had to remind myself that it was not yet a deal … the rest of the team could still say no!
“I was working as a teacher at my old high school when I checked a voice message from Rachel saying that the rest of the team loved it too and they were publishing it! At the time, I was on sports supervision playing handball with the students and was definitely floating on top of the world!”
Writing with babies
“I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my days being a stay-at-home mum. Writing with children has been tough, but I made sure it was a priority. I have spent hours writing when my babies slept (sometimes in my arms), when they were watching a movie, or after they were all in bed at night.
“In 2018 I gained one writing day a week – a total of six hours while kids are at school. Now I’m lucky enough to have two days a week to write. I try to protect this writing time as best I can. Otherwise, I write at night.”
Kaneana says she first felt like she was getting ‘serious’ about becoming a writer after some festivals she’d attended emphasised the need to ‘create an author platform’.
“So I decided to take the plunge and do AWC’s online Build Your Author Platform course and I’m so glad I did! It was hugely beneficial in making me realise that it wasn’t just about the writing. That if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to create a successful writer platform. Building a platform takes time and I had been posting for two years about anything that was related to my love for reading, writing and TV/film watching. And I was able to build some great online relationships by doing this.
“The course guided me in knowing the types of things I should be posting about. It has been a great tool in networking with authors and other writers.
“A girlfriend gave me Natasha Lester’s 2 Hours to Scrivener Power course as a present, and I sped through the two-hour course. I am loving it and currently working on manuscript number two!”
Kaneana also did AWC’s Self-publish Your Novel on Kindle which gave her great insight into the world of publishing.
Kaneana’s advice to budding authors considering taking an AWC course:
“Go for it! In fact, I still want to do courses because there is always more to learn. Classes like the ones the AWC offers not only allow you to develop skills, but they give the motivation to keep going with what you’re doing. I always feel like I walk away from courses feeling inspired and often making connections with other like-minded people.
“If it wasn’t for the Australian Writers' Centre, I don’t think I would be published today. They really pushed me in the right direction.”
Congratulations Kaneana. We are looking forward to your next book.