Karina May was working in digital marketing when she started dabbling in creative writing just for the fun of it – but she soon found herself hooked on the craft of storytelling. She voraciously attended courses at the Australian Writers' Centre, including two rounds of Write Your Novel with Pamela Freeman, which gave her the structure to complete her first manuscript. After signing a two-book deal with Pan MacMillan, Karina has now released two novels, Duck à l'Orange for Breakfast and Never Ever Forever.
“When I found out that my book had made it through the acquisitions process and was going to be published, I burst into tears, then rang my mum!” Karina told us.
An entree into writing
Karina had just transitioned careers from magazines into marketing, but found that she missed writing longer form content.
“I started writing fun, little vignette stories in the evening or on the weekend, then had the grand idea that I could maybe string them all together and turn them into a book … I quickly learnt that's not how you write a book and thought that I would seek out professional help!” Karina says.
She signed up for a weekend creative writing course at the Australian Writers' Centre, and then went on to complete Novel Writing Essentials, Write Your Novel (twice!), Cut, Shape, Polish and Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers.
“I think once I realised how much I had to learn about creative writing – and how different it was from the comms I wrote in my professional life – I wanted to learn it all! From point-of-view, to how to structure a book, to the publishing process, I could instantly see the value in learning from experienced working writers who had been there and done that.”
The right ingredients
One of those experienced writers was Pamela Freeman.
“I completed the Write Your Novel program with Pamela Freeman, twice! Pamela is such an amazing teacher, and I learnt so much from her! I honestly don't think I would have ever completed my first manuscript without these courses – or Pamela's guidance,” Karina says. “Having the accountability of writing a certain number of words per week was crucial to building my writing process. I also think meeting like-minded writers was so invaluable (and fun!) Learning how to critique the work of others and provide kind, constructive feedback is also a skill that I'm now so grateful for.”
As well as helping her hone her storytelling skills, the AWC courses allowed Karina to carve out the time she needed to devote to writing.
“I think it was also a way of signalling to myself that creative writing was more than just a hobby, that it was something serious that was worth investing in,” Karina says.
That investment paid off when Karina submitted the manuscript for Duck à l'Orange for Breakfast to Pan Macmillian's monthly manuscript Monday open submissions.
“I knew that open submissions (or slush piles as they're known in the industry) had a really low strike rate so I was shocked when a couple of months after submitting I received an email from a publisher interested in reading more. I was in so much disbelief, I even got an author friend to check the publisher was a real person!” Karina recalls. “I think it was the email after that telling me ‘how much they enjoyed my work’ and ‘would I be interested in meeting for a coffee’ that really threw me though (in a good way!). I couldn't even focus on reading it – all the words swam across the screen – so I had to call a friend to read it out loud to me.”
Karina’s novel Duck à l'Orange for Breakfast follows Maxine ‘Max' Mayberry, an ad executive with writing ambitions, whose life changes after she discovers her boyfriend’s infidelity and is then diagnosed with a brain tumour. She develops a penpal relationship on Tinder with the cheeky yet charming Johnny, and together they start to cook their way through The Laurent Family Cookbook without ever meeting in person.
Set between Sydney and Paris, Australian author Jessica Dettmann has called it a “wholly satisfying, perfectly seasoned love story.”
Karina's second novel, Never Ever Forever, follows Rosie Royce as she moves to the idyllic country town of Mudgee for a fresh start. Her new job in local radio comes with a handsome but infuriating co-host, Dr Markus Abrahams, while a school reunion brings her old school sweetheart back into her orbit. When Rosie's work whisks her to vibrant, chaotic India – well and truly out of her comfort zone – a world of possibility opens up.
Working as a freelance digital marketer means that Karina’s work is flexible, but she’s scaled back her hours to allow more time for writing and book promotion.
“Getting published is not the reason I initially started writing a book. I firstly just wanted to see if I could do it, and have some fun with it … but somewhere along the way I changed those goal posts and desperately wanted to not only publish one book, but to do this for the rest of my life!” Karina says. “I would browse the shelves in bookshops and dream that one day my book would be there too. I hoped that it would eventually become a reality (and obviously put in the work) but it definitely feels surreal that it's actually happening!
“AWC courses have by far had the biggest impact on my writing and author career. I still love furthering my learning by reading craft books (or just books in general!), listening to podcasts, and attending talks and festivals, but I find myself frequently returning to the foundational lessons from those early AWC courses (and often pull out my old notes, too). Also, I made one of my very best writing-turned-soul-friend, JoJo Swords at AWC and this friendship has been a huge driver of me not giving up!
“I have quite a few aspiring author friends and when they ask for my advice, I always point them in the direction of AWC first. There truly is an offering for everyone and you will make lifelong friends who just ‘get’ this sometimes crazy and chaotic life we all can't not pursue!”
Courses completed at AWC