How Miranda Luby achieved her dreams of becoming a YA fiction author

Young adult fiction author and ​​Australian Writers' Centre graduate Miranda Luby with a pile of books.

Miranda Luby was a confident copywriter in her professional career – but her dream of writing a novel remained elusive until she plunged into our writing courses. We were thrilled to hear that Miranda’s debut novel Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over has now been published by Text Publishing, so we chatted with the newly minted author of this wonderful young adult book to get all the juicy details about her writing life and success.

What career/job/stage of life were you at when you first decided to do one of our courses?
I was at a stage where I had wanted to write a book for years, but I was terrified of the ‘fiction blank page'. Even though I am a journalist and copywriter, and have written all my life, the dream of writing a novel loomed so large that I cowered before it. I'd psyched myself out, in a way.

I also didn't know how to approach it practically. I had all these ideas in my head, but no way to execute them. Was I meant to plot, pants, write character studies first? How much backstory is too much? It was pretty overwhelming.

Finally, it got to the point where I knew not trying would be a bigger regret for me than giving it a go and not being published. So I decided to look for help.

What in particular prompted you to take your courses?
I'd heard about how great the Australian Writers' Centre courses were from published authors, so I thought I'd give them a go. I needed something practical that could help me overcome the fear of the blank page – expert guidance and deadlines!

What things did you find the most useful in your courses?
The combination of learning about the practical elements of writing, working on my own project with deadlines, and getting feedback. Craft books only offer one element of this, and one-day courses don't give you the time or feedback you need to really get stuck into your writing project. It's the whole package that Australian Writers' Centre courses offer that makes them invaluable.

How have the courses had an impact on your life or your writing?
The Australian Writers' Centre courses gave me the practical skills I needed to improve my writing, and also more confidence in myself and my work. Investing in my writing helped me take myself more seriously, which in turn gave me permission to carve out the time in my life I needed to get my novel written.

Describe to us what you do now and how writing fits into your life.
My debut YA novel, Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over, is out with Text Publishing on August 2nd. I'm currently working on two more YA novels. My day job is copywriting, so fiction is such a wonderful outlet for my more creative side.

In terms of my process, I like to write fiction first thing in the morning so I can beat self-doubt to the desk. The half-dream state is when I'm at my most creative and least self-critical.

While I'd like to publish several novels, and I hope to make a name for myself in Aussie YA, I also try to make sure I don't invest too much of my identity and self-worth in my writing. I also try to write about things that matter to me on a personal level, so even if my work doesn't get published or gets negative reviews it will still have been worth writing.

Author Miranda Luby with a quote about how the Australian Writers' Centre courses improved her writing skills.

Did you ever imagine you would become a published author of a YA novel one day?
I think you have to imagine it's possible in order to keep going. Writing and editing a novel is such a monumental effort, you need to have faith in yourself to keep coming back to the page when everything seems a little hopeless (as it inevitably will at some point during the journey). So, I did believe it would happen if I just kept writing and rewriting.

Having said that, getting ‘that' phone call from Text Publishing still managed to be a shock!

Tell us more about entering the Text Prize – what compelled you to enter? How did you feel when you found out you were shortlisted?
I felt that entering the Text Prize was less pressure and less intimidating than submitting directly to a publisher (or an agent). I thought I'd probably be forgotten pretty quickly if my book wasn't what they were after, and at least I knew when I'd be getting good news or a rejection!

It's no exaggeration to say that being shortlisted was one of the best moments of my life. I had worked so hard on this book, and to get that kind of recognition for my ideas and words was so fulfilling. Also, it was kind of a relief to know this dream wasn't delusional. I cried. A lot.

Tell us about the process of writing and publishing Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over. How did you feel when you heard you were going to be published?
Writing Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over was a really life changing experience for me. I needed to overcome my perfectionism and self-doubt in order to finish the first draft, and then go back and edit what I'd created. I wrote from 5am in the morning for 4-5 days a week, as that seemed to be when I was at my most creative and least self-critical. When I'd finished and thought it was ready to send out, I felt like I'd grown as a person and not just as a writer.

Receiving ‘that' call from my editor at Text Publishing, Jane Pearson, was such a surreal moment. It's actually pretty blurry now due to the huge rush of emotions. I just remember my boyfriend's expression when he saw the look on my face and he knew what the phone call was about. After I hung up, I remember feeling a heart-swelling sense of pride. I really did it!

The editing process with Text was the most challenging and rewarding creative experience I've ever had. My editor Jane is incredible. She saw the heart of the novel, and together we found ways to make that heart shine even brighter (mostly by editing out my million unnecessary subplots). I'm so happy with the published book and I'll be forever grateful to Jane for having faith in my ideas and my writing.

Also, there is nothing like seeing the cover of your debut novel for the first time!

Cover artwork of Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over by author and Australian Writers' Centre graduate Miranda Luby.What is your novel about?
Sadie Starr's Guide to Starting Over is about the problematic ways black-and-white thinking can manifest, both personally and in our society – from disordered eating to cancel culture.

Sadie Starr is obsessed with starting over. A new year, a new diet, a new social media identity. Anything that gives her a chance to be a better version of herself. So when her dad's job moves the family interstate, Sadie's excited for a fresh start. It's also the perfect excuse to leave behind the mess she's made with her best friend and secret crush, Daniel, whose advances she rejected – for fear of screwing things up.

But at her new school, life gets complicated fast. She meets glamorous Alexa and her pink-badged girl gang, on a mission to ‘support women', and outcast Jack, who the girls say has been stalking fellow student Loz. But Loz has a different story, one that changes everything.

Sadie's torn. She wants to be popular. She wants to keep Loz's secret. She wants to fix everything. But she'll have to make choices. And the wrong ones could throw her perfect new life into complete chaos.

If you were to recommend a course at AWC to a friend, what would you say?
Stop thinking about that book you want to write one day but are doing nothing about it. The Australian Writers' Centre courses will give you the practical skills but also the confidence in your writing you need to finish the book you've always wanted to write. Invest in your passion and go for it!

Course/s taken at AWC:

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