AWC graduate Natalie Murray’s path from journalist to successful romance author

The moment journalist Natalie Murray started writing short romance stories, she fell in love! Having discovered her new passion for writing fiction, Natalie decided to write a novel – but first she needed to learn the basics.

“As a journalist, I already knew how to put a sentence together and the importance of telling a good story and telling it quickly. But there was so much I needed to learn to put my mess of random story ideas and characters into a coherent, publishable piece of fiction. The Creative Writing Stage 1 course helped me with everything from creating believable characters to nailing story arcs to understanding scene construction to identifying voice – it was all hugely beneficial for me, and I remember carrying my course notes with me whenever I snuck out of the house to do some writing!”

Natalie went on to complete Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers and Fiction Essentials: Grammar and Punctuation. She wasted no time in putting her new skills to work, writing and self-publishing her YA Hearts & Crowns trilogy and two romance novels cowritten with American author Jenny Fyfe.

Natalie’s latest novel, Love, Just In, has been traditionally published by Allen & Unwin. “The courses gave me the confidence to keep writing when I received early feedback from the instructor and my peers that they couldn’t wait to read what happened next in my story!” Natalie told us. “I genuinely feel I owe much of my storytelling knowledge, motivation, and belief in myself to AWC.”

Discovering the world of fiction

Natalie was living in Hong Kong, running a freelance corporate editing business, with a toddler at home, when she decided to start writing fiction. Once she was bitten by the writing bug, she knew she wanted to learn all she could.

“I fell in love with the process overnight and decided to try writing a full-length novel. I had been a writer of sorts for many years as a journalist, but I knew nothing about writing books. Having lived in Sydney, I already knew about the Australian Writers’ Centre, and I decided to coordinate a visit back to Australia with one of AWC’s creative writing courses, which I’d heard fantastic things about. However, I was thrilled to discover that I could take the course I wanted to do online. I immediately enrolled for the next session and, at the same time, set out to write my first book, Emmie and the Tudor King.

Natalie found the AWC courses packed full of useful information, and they were also easy to slot into her busy life running a business with small children.

“I also listened to the So You Want to Be a Writer podcast from the first episode while doing my morning workout to motivate myself for the daunting writing day ahead,” Natalie says.

Love, Just In

Natalie’s latest novel, Love, Just In, is an Australian contemporary romance about Josie, a budding TV reporter, and her best friend Zac, a paramedic. Josie and Zac grew up together in Sydney but drifted apart following a tragic event that caused Zac to flee Sydney and move to Newcastle. Two years later, they are thrown back into each other’s lives when Josie is posted to Newcastle for work, and they are forced to navigate their neglected friendship and secret attraction to each other while struggling with their careers and mental health. The novel is a heart-warming, emotional, and spicy romance with a slow burn that builds to an epic pay-off.

“Once I decided to write a friends-to-lovers romance (my favourite trope) set in my new, much-loved home of Newcastle, I spent a couple of weeks creating the characters and plotting the story,” Natalie says. “I then took around five months to write the first draft because I found the friends-to-lovers trope thorny to navigate with its inherent complications.”

With the help of a freelance editor, Natalie got the manuscript into shape and then sent it off to Allen & Unwin. Next came an acquisition offer from the publisher – but it almost never happened.

“I screamed and felt like I might pass out,” Natalie says, about receiving the email offering her a book deal. “The funny part is, the initial enquiry from the publisher, asking if the book was available for acquisition, went into my spam folder! I hardly ever checked my spam folder back then (I can assure you now that I check it daily!), and it’s a miracle that I even clicked on it that day. I think spam emails tend to auto-delete after a certain number of days, and the thought of having missed that email and never knowing it existed gives me goosebumps – and not the good, romance-novel kind!”

After another structural edit with the publisher, her novel was ready to hit the shelves.

“I always believed getting published was a distant possibility because I knew how hard I was prepared to work at my craft, but that’s where the fantasy ended. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my book taking over the entire front window of Dymocks Sydney, on the front table at airports across Australia, on bookstore bestseller lists, or inspiring readers to contact me and share how much the story resonated with them.

“The reality of it all has felt surreal, and I am hugely appreciative and also proud of myself because there were many occasions where I felt like giving up, but I pushed through the self-doubt. The publishing process can be a rollercoaster of emotions, but what keeps me going is the enjoyment of writing. Every time I write a scene in which the chemistry between the characters begins to zing and catch fire on the page, making my heart beat faster, I become hooked all over again.”

Congratulations, Natalie. We look forward to hearing more about your continued successes!

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