How did you write your books and get published?

Interview Questions with Rosanne Hawke, 5 April 2011

1-     How did you come up with the idea for your novels?

Usually it is something that has happened to me or my family or something I have heard, eg the idea for writing Marrying Ameera came when I met people who knew the guy from the British Embassy who rescues British Pakistani girls from forced marriages.


2-     How did you develop the plots and characters?

I use mind maps to get to know my characters. I find if I know my characters well they will help me get ideas for the plot as well as knowing how to write them into scenes. I will know how they will react to certain events. Sometimes I have to write chapters on cards and put them on the floor and move them about when I am restructuring a novel. I did this last week with my work in progress called Black Mountain.


3-     What was it like having your novels published?

A bit like having children of my own. Very exciting as I have always liked reading and thought it would be great to write something that lots of people will read and enjoy.

4-     How did you go about getting you novels published?

I sent the finished manuscript to a publishing house and hoped for the best. I had some rejections, but I learned to read between the lines in the rejection letters. One rejection letter said ' We really like your writing, can you write something else set in Australia that we can see?' So I started another novel and when I'd finished it, I sent it to that publisher and they accepted it.

5-     Who was involved? (as in editors ect)

There are many people involved in the production of a book. The preliminary reader who decides whether it's worth showing to the publisher (scary), then the editor (sometimes a senior one and a free lance one), then the typesetter who sets it up on the computer to look like the pages in a book, the designer who decides on fonts and any internal illustrations. The cover designer, the pR person who works on blurbs and launches, the proof readers, the printer (there's most probably a team there as well).

6-     Did you struggle coming up with any of the characters or scenes? If so, how did you over come them?

When I have problems I go back to my journal. I keep A4 visual journals in which I put research, my mind maps, thoughts about the story etc. when I get stuck I go back to writing by hand in the journal. It usually comes good again fairly quickly.  Or I go for a walk or have a shower. Music helps me to write and think of ideas.

7-     How long did it take you to complete the novels?

Usually about a year each. But my new book called Taj and the Great Camel Trek took 4 years to do (amongst other things). There was so much research as it is a historical novel about explorers.

8-     Do you have any advice about writing?

Yes, do read a lot, and try to read as a writer eg see how the writer does things how do they show characters or scenes. Think a lot about your characters; try to get to know them as well as you know yourself, or your best friend. A lot of problems in stories, even in trying to finish a story is in the characters. Even plot will grow out of the characters if you let it.


9-     When did you originally start writing?

I can remember trying to write stories when I was six.  But my kids got me writing stories for them when they were in school.


10-  What motivated you to continue writing?

My eldest daughter wanted to be able to buy a book in a bookshop that her mother had written for her. She asked me to write a story about an adventure in Afghanistan. She kept at me until I had done it for her and them she asked me to send it to a publisher. She made me become a writer.

11-  What inspired/motivated you to write this story?

Which one? Marrying Ameera? I was in Pakistan on a writing fellowship and got the idea form some people we met who told me about forced marriages in Azad Kashmir. It went from there. When she was in Year 11 she wrote a picture book for English. A few years ago we rewrote  it so a publisher would like it and now it is published. It is called The Wish giver'. You can see a picture of this on my website.


12-  Did you have to write a book proposal? How did you do this? Did you need a Literary Agent?

For my most recent work that I am writing now, I had to write a book proposal as the publisher wanted to know what it was about before I had written it yet. I wrote a synopsis (outline), a piece about the main character, the research I expected to do and an example of the writing style in the proposal. It was about 3 pages long.

Agents: I think agents are a good idea. They help you get onto a publisher's desk. I got a fellowship at Varuna House in NSW and I was talking to Peter Bishop there and he said I should have an agent and suggested one to ask. That made it easier to do. They were full (or didn't want me) and so I asked them to suggest someone else to ask. This is always the problem isn't it? Knowing who to ask. So they suggested someone (Jenny Darling & Assoc) and they accepted me. What may have helped was that I had 2 books just accepted: Zenna Dare & Sailmaker. I now have Jacinta di Mase because she is a children's book specialist and she was looking after me when I was with Jenny Darling. So when she branched out on her own to go part time, I joined her after a while.


13-  Do you have any other useful pieces of information I may benefit from?

I'm sure I do. One may be to be persistent and determined. There are many set backs in eth world of the arts but if you are sure of what you are meant to do you can keep at it. There are many talented people who could write a book and get it published but never do. You need passion in what you're doing to keep being persistent, and confidence in yourself.


14-  How did you think of the title for your novels?

Titles are difficult. I got the title for Sailmaker when I drove past a restaurant called 'The Sail Loft' and I thought that sounded catchy. I was reading many magazines about fishing before I found the title The Keeper, ie a fish worth keeping. The publisher helped me with Marrying Ameera. I had called the story Stolen Bride but they didn't like that and in the end they came up with Marrying Ameera. It has worked well.

Sometimes to find a title I re-read the manuscript and pour over the thesaurus trying the find the best title. I make lists and lists of title sometimes until I find the one that seems to fit and sounds catchy enough to capture readers' attention.