Thanks, Olivia, for hosting me on your blog today. It’s always lovely to be able to reach out to new story enthusiasts. 😊
My path to publishing seems like a good story to share with your readers. I was always a creative person and worked in the theatre restaurant and cabaret industry from when I left school through my twenties. I went on to own and run a theatre restaurant in Melbourne and wrote scripts, acted, directed, musically directed and tour managed shows during these years. It was a fun, creative and fulfilling experience, but when my hubby and I came to want to have children, we ran into issues and I pretty much had to give up all the stresses of running my own business to have children and go through IVF. I shut down my business, went through IVF, got a Dip.Ed and had my first son. The pregnancy was problematic and I ended up having him quite premature and was very sick myself.
It took a long time to get over all of this and during that time, I suffered from post-natal depression which really came to a head when my son had to have an operation at six months to fix a birth defect. The psychologist I went to see said that I needed to do something for me, not just for my son, and suggested that I try to brush off my creativity. I had begun to write a novel in the last few years of running my theatre restaurant but had put it aside to look after my son and had never got back to it. I realised that the psychologist was 100% right and that if I didn’t follow my creativity in some way, I wasn’t going to be happy, so I stopped making excuses and saying ‘if only I had time’ and made what I could of the time I had and began to write.
Within the first four months I’d finished a novel and after spending time polishing it up in the best way I knew and after doing research on how to write query letters and synopsis and polishing those skills, decided – at the urging of my hubby and parents – to send it off to Harlequin US and see what happened. I received a very lovely email from them asking to see the entire novel, which I sent off. It was very exciting. Then after months and months – and months – of waiting, I received the rejection letter. It was a very lovely full-page letter explaining the reasons why my novel wasn’t right for them at that time and wishing me luck in the future and that they hoped to see more from me again. I put the letter and that novel aside and returned to the novel I was writing at the time.
I went through this process a number of other times, writing a new novel, polishing it, sending it off, to receive a full request then finally a rejection and probably would have continued doing that, flying in the dark, if I hadn’t met Anne Gracie at a library talk. Someone asked about rejection letters and she mentioned there were different kinds and asked for a show of hands as to how many of us had received them. As she went through the different kinds, my hand stayed up until I was the only one who had received multiple full page rejection letters. Anne asked me how many I had received, and I told her. Her brows raised and she asked if they were for the same novel or different ones. I said different ones. There was a pause and then she told me she needed to speak to me at the end.
I girded my loins – I mean, this was Anne Gracie, one of my favourite historical romance novelists – and went up to speak to her. She asked me to send her my rejection letters, because to have received so many full requests then rejections with full page letters meant I was missing something and needed some help. She also encouraged me to join RWA – which she was president of at that time – and to go to the conference and pitch there, to enter the contests and sign up to volunteer and do workshops etc to help me network and polish my writing skills and encouraged me to join a writing group if I could. ‘Writers need writing friends,’ she said.
She was heading overseas to do some research for her next book, but said to shoot me the letters in an email and she’d look at them and interpret them for me so I knew what I needed to work on – I had seen nothing but rejection, but apparently editors didn’t send full page letters unless they were asking you to work on things and submit, although never said in such open language. I did what she asked, joined RWA, joined a writing group, went to my first conference, entered comps, signed up to join the contest team as a volunteer, taking over the Emerald (which I managed for 4 years) and got her interpretation of my letters. She said I was so close and that they were asking for a resubmit. In my mind though, I’d moved on from these novels – I now consider them my learning novels – and was working on something else. Her encouragement pushed me on. It still took a number of years after that, a bunch more rejections, competition wins and placings here and in the US and pitching at every conference before I got my first contract, but I truly believe that if I had not taken Anne’s advice, I would still be floundering.
I had two novels published with Penguin’s Destiny imprint in 2014 and 2015 which went nowhere, but out of that I got an agent – the fabulous Alex Adsett – and this year am having five novels published with Escape, with another series out and about that Alex is submitting to publishers and a few other projects on the go. It is pretty full on, but I love it. And it all truly started with four simple words of advice: ‘Writers need writing friends.’ Not just for the friendship, but because they keep us on track, question, support, push in the right way and make certain that we keep moving forward and improve. We go to meetings with these friends, critique with them, join comps with them, go to workshops with them, discuss the books we love and hate as well as dissect our own work and troubles – and successes - with them. Having writing friends is essential to the growth of a writer.
Most of all, they are there for you. This has been especially true over the years after my eldest son was diagnosed with ADHD and a SID (Sensory Integration Disorder), which required me to give up all career aspirations as a teacher and be there to help him through all his difficulties and make sure my other son doesn’t miss out on me and my time and love too. Without my writing and my writing friends, life would have been really tough. Having people who encourage on a level others just simply can’t, who understand and empathise with the ups and downs of writing life and simply life as a woman and mother, has been truly wonderful and inspiring and has kept me going at times when things looked pretty bleak. RWA and the writing friends I met through being part of this organisation was certainly at the heart of all this. I ended up giving back to RWA in the ultimate way by going on the committee for a year and then becoming president for 3 years. It was an amazing experience and broadened my horizons in unimaginable ways and allowed me to meet some truly remarkable people and count them as friends.
If I was to give advice, it would be to join a writing group or organisation, to go to workshops, to surround yourself with others who do what you do, and to share you and your process with them. For me it’s been essential and when I look around me, I see it’s true for all the other writers I know too.
My new Pack Bound paranormal series, is being released now. The first two novels in the series, Pack Bound and Moon Bound are out now, and Shifter Bound and Wolf Bound are up for pre-order and are due to be released in April and May.
Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch-kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as The Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand new world.
But the Darkness was not destroyed.
One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined...
Skye Collins, has been brought up to fear her magic and shy away from Witch and Were alike. But when Jason McVale, the Alpha of Pack McVale, comes in search of her, she is intrigued and tempted. Her mistrust of magic and wariness of the intensity of passion she shares with Jason threatens her control – and if she loses control, she just might turn into the weapon The Darkness intended her to become all along.
Buy Links: iBooks, Booktopia, Kobo, Google, Nook, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon US
Only her love can heal his broken soul...
Wiccan Healer-Witch, Bronwyn Kincaid, wants a quiet life. Her new powers have other ideas. Her increased healing magic and empathy mean she can’t ignore the plight of River Collins, a wolf brought up thinking the animal inside him is an evil he must forever suppress. If Bronwyn can’t control her powers and help River accept his wolf, the evil Darkness that hunts the Were will use them to destroy those they love.
Buy Links: Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo
A spy, a lone wolf, a desperate choice...
Shifter-Witch, Eloise O’Brien, has betrayed her Coven and almost killed her brother to save the Were Pack she’d infiltrated as a spy. Now living with the Were she once feared and hated, she learns the truth of who she really is - the prophesied Nexus. A witch of unspeakable power, she must make a choice between the light and the dark, between Iain McShane, the Lone Wolf she is coming to love, and her once beloved brother and Coven who are now working for The Darkness.
Buy Links: Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo
The ultimate sacrifice, a love that lasts forever…
Shelley Conners has good reason to hate and fear the powers that connect her to the spirit world and the insanity they foretell. But with the Pack's Trickster, Adam McVale, transformed into a Shade, a creature caught between life and death, Shelley holds the only key to saving him. Opening herself up to the world of the dead will only speed up her descent into madness, but Shelley never expects an even darker evil within–the Darkness, waiting patiently for her and the opportunity to destroy the world.
Buy Links: Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo
Leisl is a tall redhead with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).
After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl's stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.
Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dogs, Buffy and Skye, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She is addicted to the Syfy channel, and her shelves are full of fantasy and paranormal books and scifi DVDs. She sometimes sings in a choir, has worked as a swim teacher, loves to ski, can talk the hind leg off a donkey and has been President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017.
Groot the puppy, my faithful companion, sits by my side while I write my stories.