Chatting with Authors- Meet Norman Jorgensen.

Hi, Norman, It’s great to be chatting such a versatile children’s author

I must ask, with your surname, do you have Viking ancestry. Some. My great-great-grandfather arrived in Australia from Denmark during the 1850s gold rush in Ballarat, and my grandfather grew up in Coolgardie in the Western Australian goldfields early in the 20th century. I’ve always like Norse myths and legends, though, and think Vikings were a little misunderstood. J   They can’t really have been that bad. Can they?

Norman Jorgensen Edinburgh 2
Norman Jorgensen.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I read, of course, mostly historical fiction, and I love old black & white movies and Westerns, and I love travelling and photography. I am happiest tramping around the ruins of a medieval castle or exploring a smugglers’ village, with my camera running red hot.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  I can’t answer that – I never grew up!  No, I wanted to be Errol Flynn, swashbuckling star of Captain Blood, as well as a bunch of other pirate movies, and also Robin Hood and General Custer. I also wanted to be a Lieutenant in the US Cavalry, a Sergeant in the French Foreign Legion and a Spitfire Pilot in the RAF in 1940. Oh, and a Highwayman, a gunslinger, the Saint, and when I was about 14, I fancied myself as F Scott Fitzgerald, as played by Gregory Peck in the bio of his life called  Beloved Infidel. The idea of being a tortured literary genius appealed greatly at that age. Unfortunately, these days I am neither tortured nor a genius, nor even suave like Gregory Peck, or even Atticus Finch, more’s the pity.

 

black and white skull hanging decor
Pirates fired Norman’s imagination

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? It is Sunday night, so Jan and I are in for a perfect evening. A long hot bubble bath with the steaming water up to our eyes, until we get wrinkly toes, then pizza and red wine while watching a British crime drama on the TV.  What would I rather be eating? I’m happy with that, though a bowl of freshly-made pasta and Chianti while sitting on a terrace on a warm evening in Venice might be pretty good too.

Your hero? I have a lot of heroes, but especially my beloved Jan Nicholls. She is my biggest fan, but never reads anything I write until it is published, which is probably why we still get on okay. She is from Northumberland near the Scottish border where they breed them tough, but she is warm-hearted, kind, gorgeous, as sharp as a tack and incredibly funny.  The poor woman is addicted to books, though, and spends a great time of reading and promoting books in her role as President the Children’s Book Council here in WA.  Jan also likes travelling, so that fits in perfectly with me,  and I admire how she has navigated us across the world in search of exciting places for me to write about.

Another hero is my mother, Barbara, who is kind and gentle but has a backbone of steel. She lived in Broome in the 1950s when it was a derelict shanty town so far from everywhere, and brought up four boys often by herself for long periods while my father was away working. She moved to Perth and had a successful career at Channel 9 and is still a stylish, enthusiastic world traveller at 86 years old.

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Not all heroes wear a cape!

Next on my list is Winston. I am a big Winston Churchill fan, though I am well aware of his flaws and significant errors and subsequent disasters. US broadcaster, Edward Murrow, said of him, “He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.” I hugely admire that ability he had. He stared down Hitler, ran the government, helped win WWII, and then went on to write 30 books and win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? My father and my grandparents. You never really get to say goodbye properly, so one lovely last evening with them would be wonderful. I still have so much I would have liked to share with them and so much still to learn. They were all great storytellers too, and I would have felt warm and safe and loved being in the same room with them again entertaining me with their tales of our family from long ago.

Now to questions about writing. I  think readers and writers alike are fascinated by how writers write, and how they get their ideas.

What time of the day do you usually write? I am scatty and erratic, hugely disorganised, and away-with-the-fairies half the time, so there is no pattern to my writing day. My latest manuscript, The Smuggler 3: Dragon’s Blood, was written under a palm tree by a pool in Phuket using an old leather-bound notebook and a fountain pen. It was only the first draft, but I got so much written with no electronic distractions and no reason to stop other than the need for a quick swim occasionally.

book and pen on notebook
Sometimes  pen and paper works better than the keyboard

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Revising and polishing.  I find researching the life and times of my characters and settings and then writing the plot reasonably enjoyable, but the constant need to turn out half-decent sentences while making sure the meaning is crystal clear and exciting at the same time is a real challenge for me.  I need to keep reminding myself not to include every single detail I have uncovered during the research, but to concentrate more on the hero’s journey and their interaction with the other characters.  Historical books often overload the minor details of the past, so the reader gets bogged down, and then fed up, and loses sympathy with the hero, and that can be fatal.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? My schedule is pure chaos. Sometime I’ll spend all day procrastinating, while others I’ll be on a roll and write like a demon all day, ignoring everything and everyone in the real world around me. Other days, it will be four hours before I get bored with myself.  Ideas come at all times of the day and in odd places, so I have a box full of napkins, slips of newspaper, notebooks and movie tickets with random words and sentences hastily scribbled on them.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I tend to over-reference old movies, TV shows, books I read in the past, and even jokes, sometimes completely inappropriately for the dire situations in which I have placed my characters.  I am also on the lookout for humour in every case, which can be very annoying when Red, for instance, is seconds away from being eaten by a monster Tiger shark or being fired on by blood-thirsty pirates.

 

person standing on rock formation near body of water during night time

 

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say? Not too much. I do get great feedback from kids when I am giving school talks, and teachers often tell me how much their students enjoy my books. I did once get the best letter, though. It read, “Dear Mr Jorgensen, I know you don’t make much money from your writing, but rest assured, you are bringing great joy to millions of children all around the world.” Poor deluded fool they must have mistaken me for J.K Rowling.

I am guessing your readership is predominantly boys, am I right? I had imagined that was the case, but I am continually being proven wrong. Jack’s Island is studied and enjoyed in many girls’ schools, and I keep hearing that girls seem to like my character, Red Read, the teenage hero of The Smuggler’s Curse and The Wreckers’ Revenge. Several girls have asked for more romance in the sequels.

We both laugh and I suggest a comprise. Maybe you can write a choose your own adventure book to satisfy both boys and girls? Quick as a flash he comes back with ‘Choice one -Kiss the girl. Choice two -Jump overboard.’

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.   Red Read, son of Mrs Read who owns The Smuggler’s Curse Hotel in Broome, is my favourite. His mother sells him as a cabin boy to Captain Black Bowen, a notorious smuggler. Red is just like 12-year-old me, except he is brave, fearless, athletic and resourceful, unlike me at 12 who was a snivelling coward and none of those things. He handles everything I was too scared to do like he is a full-on junior swashbuckler. And after all his hair-raising adventures, he ends up very rich, also unlike me.

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Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? I don’t imagine so. You’d have to be pretty good at faking it. There is a saying in writing circles, “No tears from the writer, then there will be none from the reader.”

You’ve written children’s picture books and middle-grade fiction genre. Do you have a preference? I prefer mid-grade by far. Picture books are sooo difficult to write. The industry standard for them is 600 – 800 words over 32 pages, and trying to get the story that fills your head into so few words is nigh on impossible. Picture book stories are also told using a mixture of words or pictures, but not both, so your words are often cut as the illustrator takes over.  If your text reads, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and the illustrator paints a dark and stormy night, then your carefully chosen words become redundant and get cut.

With middle-grade, you can create more elaborate plots and landscapes and explore inside your characters’ heads. You are also leaving a lot more to the reader’s imagination.

How do you decide whether it will be a longer book or a picture book?  I see my stories in pictures in my head, just like watching a movie with a soundtrack and all, but some adventures will be far too long for 32 pages, so have to be turned into 60 to70,000 words instead. Interestingly, the three illustrators I have worked with, Allan Langoulant, Brian Harrison-Lever and my good friend, James Foley, have all had better pictures in their heads that I did, so, occasionally, I feel okay about my words getting the knife or the Viking sword.

closeup photo of black hilt and brown sword

 

You mentioned a trip to the Shetland Isles – did that inspire The Last Viking?

The Last Viking was inspired by my nephew Ben Jorgensen adding horns to his bike helmet years before, and then by me overlooking James Foley’s portfolio where he had an illustration of a boy dressed as a medieval knight. Why not a Viking, I thought? When I approached James with the Viking boy idea, I suddenly had to come up with the story on the spot.

The Shetlands Islands did, however, inspire The Smuggler’s Curse.  R.L Stevenson’s father had been a lighthouse builder, and Robert had stayed in the same room as me as the Sumburgh Lighthouse. Learning this, I tried writing a pirate story just like R.L.S while there. It soon developed into a smuggler story set in Cornwall in 1810 and then, eventually, into an Australian sea story relocated to Broome in 1898, at the suggestion of my publisher, Cate Sutherland at Fremantle Press.

lighthouse on near body of water between rock formation

 

How much input do you have with your illustrators? Normally, none. Editors like to keep writers and illustrators apart, and often they are in different states. Brian Harrison-Lever lived in Tasmania, and I didn’t meet him until he had finished all the artwork for In Flanders Fields, though we did exchange emails.  I met Allan Langoulant once a week for dinner where he showed me his previous week’s work, but I had no say in it as it was already finished.  With James Foley, we did spend time working together on The Last Viking,  sharing jokes and me suggesting scenes and film references, and that seemed to work well as we had a shared love of movies.  The Viking books are heavily movie influenced.  James was able to add in a lot of his own humour, making my original plot and jokes much funnier.

Best writing advice? Don’t get carried away with the traditional, stereotyped idea of being a writer

Waiting for inspiration is for amateurs. Instead, just begin.

Starving in a Paris garret, suffering from TB, drinking yourself to oblivion on Absinthe like many, shooting wild animals like Hemingway, or going on the road like Jack Kerouac will only distract you. Just sit, turn down the lights, and actually type in one word after another until you fill a page, polish it, then do it again the next day until you fill another page. After a year, you will have 365 pages which should be enough for a book. That is advice from John Steinbeck, not me.

Worst writing advice you ever received? A teacher who read the manuscript told me to change the name of the title of In Flanders Fields as kids won’t know what it means, she said.  Luckily, I ignored her as the book is still in print 17 years later.  

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer

black and gold pen

My Lamy fountain pen from Germany and my Chinese fountain pen called The Black Dragon, the same name as the schooner in my latest books. I just had to buy it with a name like that.  Mostly, though, every dollar I ever spent on airfares has not been wasted.  I have visited every place my books are set as I believe it is important to be able to describe the settings in detail,  down to the smell of the drains, the feel of the sand between your toes and the sound of the monkeys screeching in the jungle trees.

How many unpublished/ half-finished books do you have?

Dragon’s Blood: Red 3 (Upper Primary Novel)

Sons of the Desert: The Journal of Harry White (YA Novel)

This Pen for Hire (Adult Comedy Novel)

The Illuminator’s Apprentice (Picture Book)

The Goldminer’s Son (Picture Book)

The Gr8 Escape (Picture Book)

Castaways on a Dessert Island (Picture Book)

Advance Australia Unfair (Picture Book)

The Final Mission of a Flying Tiger (Picture Book)

Mary Christmas   (Lower Primary Novel)

Who is your favourite author, and why?

blur book stack books bookshelves

My favourite authors are Leslie Thomas who wrote The Virgin Soldiers and Dangerous Davies and Tom Sharpe, author of Wilt and Blott on the Landscape, both British writers who generally wrote satirical comedy novels about ordinary people living suburban lives while mayhem surrounds them. When Leslie died in 2014 and Tom in 2013, I was shocked at how saddened I was each time as if I had suddenly lost a part of me and a whole chunk of my early reading years. I didn’t know either of them, though I met Leslie Thomas briefly at a book signing after a talk he gave here in Perth. He answered ALL my questions then afterwards signed my book, “To my greatest fan, Norman”, and he wasn’t the least bit wrong.

I also love the work of Bill Bryson and have read every word of his. We are much the same age, and his gentle sense of humour matches mine exactly. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, about him looking for the small-town America of the old movies, is funny but also so sad as he slowly comes to realise that it has been lost and the towns have been devastated by enormous Walmart’s, huge car parks, endless fast-food joints, closed factories, empty shops and despair. His most successful book, Notes From a Small Island, about him revisiting the places he went when backpacking around Britain in the 1970s, is a joy to read. He gave his humour free rein, and I loved it, as I did with all his other books. He has since written 20 more.

What are you reading now? As usual, I have several books on my bedside table. This week it is Grant, a massive doorstop of a biography of General Ulysses S Grant, the US Civil War leader and President, by Ron Chernow. There is also The Last Dickens by Mathew Pearl an exciting books about copyright piracy in the 1870s, Mrs Kelly by Grantlee Kieza, about Ned Kelly’s mother, and to my absolute delight, an advance copy of Goldfields’ Girl by my great friend Elaine Forrestal just arrived this morning. I am really looking forward to reading this one.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Robert Louis Stevenson.  The Smuggler’s Curse has Treasure Island and Kidnapped all over it. I even called a character Bosun Stevenson in his honour.

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Norman loves to sail

I belong to the Society of Writers and Illustrators here in Western Australia, and I am always amazed at the quality of the books that our members produce. I admire so many of them as we really do have some remarkable talent in Perth.

In my genre, closest to my style of recent stories in John Flanagan, who wrote the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series. His historically-based, overly-brave teenagers sometimes seem a lot like my young characters

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

“If you are going through hell, then it is probably best to keep on going.”

Or maybe…  “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Both quotes are by Winston Churchill.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult

Dissolution by CJ Sansom. It is a historical novel (of course) about a lawyer called Mathew Sheldrake in the times of King Henry VIII when he set up the Church of England and destroyed the monasteries and abbeys across England. Samson captures the life and times of pots medieval Britain so well that you feel positively grimy after reading his work. He has since written a series about Sheldrake, all equally as good and just as grubby.

Favourite book when you were a kid Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, although Enid Blyton and Biggles were favourites when I was younger. 

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor? John Steinbeck, who wrote The Grapes of Wrath. He was the first writer to keep me awake all night reading. He wrote with such compassion for his characters who were based on real people suffering in the Great Depression, as well as perfectly capturing a sense of place of an American landscape destroyed by drought, greed and economics.  His writing is so flawless and seemingly effortless that you do not even notice the writing style as he has so successfully carried you away with the fates of his characters.  

What are you working on now? I am researching for a book called In Search of Constable Jack Kelly, Brother of the Outlaw Ned Kelly. Ned’s youngest brother, Jack, was a world-famous circus star performing stockwhip tricks and stunt riding for Wirth’s Circus in the early years of the 20th century. For a few years, he was, almost unbelievably, even a member of the Police Force in WA where he worked taming wild horses. After that, he left for the USA where he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and then went onto a glittering career in England and then South America.

horse near trees

Do you enjoy school visits? I do about 120 school visits a year and usually enjoy them very much, especially with kids in upper primary classes. They typically are so enthusiastic and not yet self-conscious like their older school mates, and so pepper me with questions. My book, Jack’s Island, about my father’s experiences as a kid during WWII is studied in depth by many schools and, for some reason, the kids want every episode in it to be true. It mostly is true though sometimes exaggerated, and  I find it fascinating seeing what sections appeal or capture the imaginations of the readers. School visits are also essential for trying out chapters on the potential audiences to see their reactions.  Frequently, some instant editing takes place as I read aloud, and pages are mentally slashed and burnt.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me- I have really enjoyed talking with you and I am sure you have gained new readers eager to share in an adventure or two.

 

Here is a list of all Norman’s published books and awards

.NJ Publications and Awards. February 2020

Buy Books https://normanjorgensen.com.au/shop/

Email njbooks@bigfoot.com.au

Website http://normanjorgensen.com.au

Facebook http://facebook.com/norman.jorgensen

Instagram http://instagram.com/normanjorgensen

Twitter http://twitter.com,/normanjorgensen

Phone +61 408 932 196

 

 

 

Chatting with Authors- Meet Diana Smith

Hi Diana,

Thanks for joining us- can you tell us a little about yourself please? What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I am not writing I like to run my gratitude workshops where I read my book and we do some activities on the benefits of Gratitude and resilience.

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Diana Smith.

Diana, what did you want to be when you grew up? As I grew up, I wanted to be a flight assistant and travel the world, or a train driver and I always loved my writing.  I wrote my grateful book when I was around 15 but only illustrated it and published it a couple of years ago. An editor friend of mine introduced me to Sarah and she had the same picture ideas as what I did, and it just grew from there and became a reality it was so amazing to watch.

What was your dream job when you were younger? My dream job when I was younger was to write books.

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? Dinner tonight is chicken wings.  I wouldn’t rather be eating anything they are my Favourite!  The hotter the better!

Do you have a hero? My hero here in Australia is Maggie Dent

Imagine that you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Maggie Dent  Michelle Obama and Oprah.

photo of people doing cheers
A toast to strong women.

Why? Because they are amazingly strong women who have made amazing changes to many lives young and old and I would love to listen to how they got where they are today.

              QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING

 What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Just start to write don’t be scared there are editors and other people who can help you make it great just start!  Don’t be like me and put it off for years because you don’t think you’re good enough.

Which comes first, the plot or characters?  The plot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  Panster,  ( I had to Google what that meant)

How do you come up with the titles to your books? The titles are usually the theme of the book.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Um most probably the rhyming

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?  I do hear from my readers.  The teachers say they love reading my books to the classroom.

On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?  I try to write for a couple of hours at least a day,  I am writing a book about my daughters’ journey at the moment so a completely different Genre.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

I am on social media;  my Facebook page is Bookstoinspire. My Instagram is bookstoinspirebydiana and my website is dianasmithbookstoinspire.com.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I think my favourite is the first one My grateful book.  I have written four that are being published and writing the other one about my daughter and one about my puppy.

Grateful-Book-Web-Product

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?   The most surprising thing I learnt was these are lesson’s I needed to learn later in life that I want children to learn earlier on.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? The favourite character would be the one I am writing about my red cloud puppy Bruiser he’s just so cute.

 

animal dog puppy pug
Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?   My key messages are all about gratitude, kindness it’s ok to be anxious it will soon pass

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?#

I am working on the puppy book at the moment and a book about my daughter and me and I have also just finished one about a clamshell being washed up on the beach.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I feel there may be a few more in the gratitude series.

Do you have any new series planned? I think the puppy book may have a few books in there we had adopted a parrot so he can be in some as well

We’ve just started a new year and I’ve seen lots of posts about new years’ resolutions. Do you have anything special that you’ll be focusing on this year?    I haven’t made any resolutions this year, but I will be focusing more on my writing and my gratitude workshops

Grateful-Book-Web-Product

QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER WRITERs AND BOOKS.

What are you reading now?   I am reading happier than God by Neil  Donald Walsh

What book is currently on your bedside table? There is a pile of about 4 books on my bedside table

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? Authors who have influenced me  Dr Seuss,  Roald Dahl,  Winnie the Pooh

Who is the author you most admire in your genre?  Roald Dahl

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source) You are good enough

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?  Me before you by Jojo Moy

Favourite book when you were a kid? Winnie the Pooh

Diana-Conscious-Living
Diana presents workshops

Which famous author do you wish would be your mentor? :  Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl

 

person holding whiteboard
Photo by KML on Pexels.com

Can you tell us any fun facts about yourself? I was in New Zealand and I did the gap year in the army.  I was 16.  While I was in there, I buckled a wheel track on an APC which is a small army tank.

I love camping around Australia with my husband and our dogs in our camping trailer.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?   Writing lol

Favourite Movies:  Labyrinth and Me Before You.

Last Great book I read:  Blue Moon by Lee Child

Favourite Book as a teenager:  Nancy Drew!  Now that is showing my age !!

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Diana. s

Is it A Love story Or A Romance?

 

Heartbreak ahead in a love story! Photo by Kerry Sikkema.

The classic definer of a love story is the film Love Story starring Ali Mc Graw and Ryan O’ Neal. It is based on the popular book by Erich Segal. It is a real tearjerker, with the beautiful young couple parted by death. It is a tragedy and almost all of the love stories considered great have sad or tragic endings.

Here are some examples taken from films and books. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, filmed and updated as West Side Story. Othello. More recently Iain Mc Ewan’s Atonement, John Green’s  The Fault in Our Stars.JoJo Moyes Me Before You, M.C Steadman’s The Light Between Oceans. And Cecelia Ahern’s  Ps. I Love you, and of course ,my all-time favourite Casablanca.

What can be more romantic than Paris?

Romances are different- they promise a reading experience or viewing experience that focuses primarily on the relationship between the couple or as Romance Writers of America says, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

Or in simpler terms you are pretty much promised a happy ending and if not a happy ever after, at least the reader gets the happy for now ending.So if we know the ending why do we read romance?

We read for the journey, for the twists and turns of the relationship. A happy ending may be promised but getting there is half the fun. Who doesn’t love a flawed hero or heroine? Or beautiful couple too blind to see that they are destined for each other? Real-life can be dull and bland, but romances are exciting, sexy and fun. It’s far safer to have a fictional lover than a real one. Romance writers are endlessly inventive and contrive new ways for couples to meet and fall in love.

Romance from Unsplash

Examples of romances are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and of course, it’s spin off’s Bridget Jones’ s Diary by Helen Fielding and the films Pride and Prejudice and Bride and Prejudice as well as the Bridget Jones trilogy of films. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a great read and has been filmed several times The fairy tales Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty.

Some romance movies are Romancing the Stone, Breakfast at Tiffany’s( but not the book which ends differently) Moonstruck, Brokeback Mountain( a guy to guy romance) Ella Enchanted and a real oldie but a goodie  It Happened One Night.Another of my favourite films Love Actually spans both genres as it has both love stories with sad ending and romances with happy ones.

Why do you read romance and who are your favourite authors? Let me know!

 

The Contradictions of Being a Writer.

Many of the writers I know are a mass of contradictions, it left me wondering if this was an important part of a writer’s personality.

Writing can be an isolating occupation

The majority admit to being Shy or even Not Very Social and then they go out a give a presentation or an author talk or if you meet them at a writers’ convention and can’t get them to shut up! The lonely Introvert turns into a Show Pony. I myself know I  am guilty of this.

Conventions bring a mix of people together.

A  majority of writers suffer from Self-doubt and Insecurity.  Along with other creative types, many will admit to suffering from Imposter Syndrome. At times this manifests as a bout of  Crippling Insecurity with the fear of not being good enough accomplished enough. talented enough.

In spite of that, most managed to overcome it and submit their work to a critique partner, or even a contest or publisher.  If the work is accepted, after the initial rush of pride or satisfaction, it’s likely that self-doubt will surface once again.  Yet some compulsion drives us on, to write more, to try again to try and fail, to try and succeed, to improve.

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Courage to follow your dream

So what my fellow writers also have is courage, the courage to express themselves. To let their work speak for them, to expose their ideas to the judgement of others. My fellow writers, I  salute you for your bravery!

 

 

 

Guest Post – Questions for P.L.Harris – a.ka. Polly Holmes.

Today it is my pleasure to welcome P.L. Harris and her alter-ego Polly Holmes to chat with us about her writing journey. We first met at a book launch and I asked her if at some point she would be a guest on my blog. She is a busy and versatile writer who writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense as well as cosy mysteries. She also holds down a fulltime job as a teacher so her time is pretty full.

Peta Flanigan - P.L Harris
Author.P.L.Harris

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is the first in my Burrum Ridge romantic suspense series, In His Protection. It follows Melody Maddison as she discovers an old photo of her mother with a newborn baby that is neither her, nor her siblings. While she’ll do anything to uncover the truth, someone is willing to go to whatever lengths to keep the truth the secret, even if it means silencing Melody for good.

What inspired it? This book, in fact, the series, is inspired by my niece Kara-Lee through a brainstorming session about two years ago while visiting the Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. She asked me, what if you found a photo of Grandma (my mother) with a baby you know nothing about, what would you do?It kind of went from there and it has turned into a series of six books, one for each of the siblings and I can’t wait to write them.

InHisProtection (1)

 

Who is the main character?

My heroine is Melody Maddison. Her mother past away when she was 26 and she has been travelling for 2 years trying to deal with the loss leaving her sister Riley to pick up the pieces. Now she’s 28 and returned home to help her sister sort their mother’s possessions.

My hero is Noah St. Reeve. Noah has been working in Perth and decided to start his own security and protection business, but unsure where to base it. Seeing Melody almost run down by a car cements in his mind his course. To protect her at all costs.

Why should we care about them?

Everyone has a secret, and for Melody finding out the secret behind the photo may lead her to a long lost sibling. If she can uncover the secret she’ll be able to share with them how wonderful her mother really was. We want to find out who the baby is, for Melody’s sake. We want to know if Noah will be able to save her in time and most of all if Melody has the willpower and strength to save her own life in the face of danger.

person having tea while working
Often a love of reading leads to writing.

Did you always want to write?

I loved reading and writing stories, but no I never thought I was good enough to write a story that could be published. I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.

 

Which books did you love as a child?

woman and a girl on bed holding a book
A love of reading begins in childhood

Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances were my all-time favourite books to read when I was growing up and I still have most of them today. I loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that is why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair.

You write in several genes Contemporary romance and Amateur Sleuths or cosy mysteries – was that deliberate choice or do you just have so many ideas? Which came first?

It wasn’t a conscious decision, I kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to write contemporary romance and I knew I wanted to have drama and suspense in them. So I started writing contemporary romance first. I also knew it was a way for me to deal with certain things going on in my personal life and I could express it through my characters. I suppose you could say it was a kind of therapy.

Then when I was looking for a cover for Callie’s Dilemma I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s website where I did indeed find the cover, but also stumbled across the cupcake capers cozy covers and that was it I was hooked. I ended up buying 13 covers but had no idea what a cozy was. Crazy I hear you say. Yep, totally.

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Can you see why Polly Holmes fell in love with this cover?

 

In His Protection went on hold and I had to research the genre. What it was, what you can and can’t do, it was a whole new world. Then I posted on Amazon the dates I was releasing them in 2018. Why I did that I have no idea because it put me under so much pressure to get them out on time and at the same time I was staging the musical Lion King Jr at school.

In the end, it was a huge learning curve, but it also helped me realise that I love writing cozies and also romantic suspense.

Research into each writing style is the key. Know what the readers want and deliver. I had an email from a lady who loved my book but wanted a recipe in the back like everyone else does.

I do have to try and turn off one genre when I am writing another and that’s where my planning comes it. I love to plan my novel out.

 

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Never give up no matter how much you feel like it.

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Asking for advice can bring positive results.

What is the worst? I’m not sure I have had any bad advice. It’s about knowing which bit of advice to take that will work for you and which bits to leave behind.

 

If you were starting now would you do anything differently?

I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.

You sound incredibly busy how do you manage to fit it all in?

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Polly Holmes.

Sometimes, I don’t fit it all in. Although I work full-time, I want to write and I can’t let my busy schedule stop me. It’s something that I can do for me, something that makes me happy (When it’s all going to plan) I do have to try and prioritise especially around the busy times at school like exams and reporting time. Sometimes I am guilty of putting things in the too hard basket and then I feel guilty so out they come and I persist until I achieve it.

Often I ask myself is it worth it? The answer always turns out to be yes. In the long run, I know that I will succeed if I persist. Take the good with the bad and there is always more good than bad.

How long have you been published and how are you so prolific?

I have been published 2 years now and self-published 18 months. I think the key is persistence and learning as you go. You can’t get everything right the first time, but learning from mistakes allows you to improve the next time. Knowing what you want and setting the intention to achieve it.

 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

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What makes you smile?

That is a hard one and I’m not sure if they are fun facts. I love old musicals and sometimes I wish I was born back when Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and the greats were around. Even though I can’t sing it doesn’t stop me from having a go when a great tune comes on.

If I hear music with a good beat, I have to dance no matter where I am. It’s in my blood.

I’m addicted to most reality TV especially House Rules, MKR, Masterchef. I know, it’s very bad.

It has been great learning more about your writing journey- thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

Book links:

https://www.amazon.com.au/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7

https://www.amazon.com/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7