Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I'm chatting with Adelaide-based debut author Rowena Holloway. Welcome Rowena!
Tell us a bit about yourself ...
I’m an Adelaide writer of short stories and novels. It took me a while to be able to claim the title of writer. When I left school I apprenticed as a hairdresser, then decided to move into a more corporate world and studied marketing and business. I gained a clutch of degrees, decided the corporate world was not for me (apparently, I’m ‘too nice’) and became a tenured lecturer. All of this convinced me that the fictional world is preferable. So after years of dreaming about it, I finally took the plunge and committed to becoming a published author. Of course, I did everything I later learned not to do (like quitting my day job), but I’m happiest when writing.
Tell us about your most recently published book?
Pieces of a Lie has just been released and I have to admit it’s exhilarating to see it out in the world. Pieces of a Lie explores my favourite themes of fractured families and a killer secret.
Mina Everton is the daughter of an embezzler. Though he disappeared with the cash years ago, that one fact still overshadows her life. Then she finds his prized fob watch in a local junk store. Lincoln Drummond is investigating a series of robberies. Simple. Until he meets Mina, who gets to him in ways he’s never faced before, and it soon becomes clear the truth behind the robberies is far from simple. Mina’s search for her father draws her into the sinister underbelly of the suburbs and a web of deceit twelve years in the making. Despite her feelings for Drummond, Mina can’t bring herself to trust him. And the closer she gets to her father, the more she looks, and acts, like a suspect. To expose the truth, she must choose—destroy herself or the only man who believes in her… Sometimes love isn't enough.
Tell us about the first time you were published?
This is my first published novel and I published many papers as an academic, but nothing compares to the very first time I had a short story published. I’d been sending short stories out and while most of them never got a mention, the odd prize would turn up at my door – usually a certificate and a letter of congratulations. But the first piece I had published was something I’d written for one of my writing groups (I was once a writing group groupie!). I submitted it to one of the small FAW competitions, not expecting anything, and it won first prize. I thought I had just been lucky due to a lack of competition (I’m full of confidence like that), but for the encouragement of a friend I submitted it for consideration for the Melbourne Books’ 2011 Anthology of Award Winning Australian Writing. And they picked it for inclusion! Cue walking on air—until the next rejection.
As a writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?
Well, I’d have to say the previous experience ranks pretty high, but my proudest moment to date was when I opened the first digital proof of my novel Pieces of a Lie. It downloads as a virtual book and as I flicked through the pages checking for formatting and other issues I remember thinking that if I never achieved anything else in my life, I’d be satisfied. Of course, that lasted for about a day and now, like an addict, I can’t wait for that feeling when I see the digital proof of my next book. And then there was that day I opened the box with my first print proofs and saw the printed cover—there might have been a bit of kitchen dancing involved.
What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?
I’m in the throes of finalising my next book, All That’s Left Unsaid ready to publish in March next year. Once more I explore the themes of fractured families and secrets that could get the heroine killed. This one is set in my favourite holiday destination—Italy. There’s also a sexy Italian love interest (I confess to a weakness for tall, dark and handsome). It is a little softer than Pieces of a Lie, but still a killer read. I’m also most of the way through my third novel, set in London, which explores ambition and friendship amidst death and family secrets.
Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?
Nothing compares to the smell of a freshly minted paper book. There is a reverence to opening the cover and not wanting to mark it in any way, but also a delicious need to get into the story. I don’t think I shall ever lose the joy of a paperback. Recently, I’ve been converted to the convenience of ebooks. Partly it’s because I’m now so busy writing during the day that I only get time to read at night—something my partner despairs of, so the backlit screen contributes to marital harmony! They also save space and allow me to buy as many books as I like without comment from said partner. So the e-reader solves a lot of problems.
Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?
Both. Indie publishing is wonderfully liberating, but also a great responsibility. I’m still building a dependable team and several times during the process would have happily handed it all over to a sympathetic publisher, though I have witnessed the constraints some authors experience with traditional publishing. Now that I’ve experienced how much is involved in going Indie, I have a new appreciation for the time and economic investment traditional publishers give their authors.
Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
One book? Umm … I’d say everybody should read their favourite novel by their most admired author as many times as they like and then study it. Mine is currently Maggie O’Farrrel’s The Hand That First Held Mine. The emotion she can elicit with a few words is incredible, and how she builds her novels is a real masterclass on structuring. My copy of THFHM is filled with colour-coded Post-it notes.
As a go-to book for support and inspiration I often turn to Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write (1938). It’s not a ‘how to’ as much as a ‘why you must’. She fills it with anecdotes of her students and how they overcame their various struggles to find their unique writing voice. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with rules for writing, I find this book immensely liberating, which is probably ironic when you consider the relative status of women in 1938. As an aside, what is most surprising is that the issues she covers are not so very different from today. For example, she has a chapter entitled ‘Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect it for Their Writing.’ Words to live by, I say!
Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?
Hello Adelaide! Except for that time when my parents whisked the family back to England for a year, I’ve lived here all my life and I love it. I’m always discovering new things, finding new friends and what I appreciate most about Adelaide is that once you start looking there are creative people everywhere.