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Asking for an Interview

How to ask an author for an interview
If you are a student and would like to ask Rosanne for an interview, here are some tips.
Elements of a good email to solicit support in high school projects
will include the following:

1  Evidence of research into the person targeted, i.e. read one of the                 Rosanne's books. And read the FAQs below so you                                     don't ask the same questions as other people.

2  Evidence of discovering if the person may wish to take part.

3  Information about the subject, the project, the school and teacher                provided.

4  Politeness and respect shown in all of the above as well as in not                  presuming the person will want to answer the questions or                      must do it right now.

5  Include a reasonable time frame. Please don't leave it to the last                    minute. Ask less than ten questions.

Please click on the button below to see an excellent example of a student asking me for an interview for her project. This is probably the best email I've received from a high school student seeking me as an interviewee.  I wish all emails were informative like this rather than me having to write back and ask for important details to help me answer the questions. When there is no evidence of research or details of the project and school given, the email can look like a scam. But not this one.

For more information about Rosanne, see the Austlit interview with seven authors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is your question answered below? 

How did you write your books and get published?


Interview Questions with Rosanne Hawke

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 etc)

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.

What is your writing and publishing process?


1 How did you first get published?

I always wanted to be a writer but didn't get an impetus until my daughter wanted me to write down a story I had told her. Storytelling was my way in so to speak. I might still be fiddling around if my daughter hadn't made me type it up for her and send to publisher etc. It was rejected of course; it was awful, just a draft. But I learned on the run. At that time one publisher liked the story (it was set in Afghanistan) but didn't think their readers would know where that was (pre Sept 11). So they said they'd look at something else set in Australia. I basically wrote one then that was set here, still with a theme I felt like doing writing, and they took that one. Basically in the beginning I got from MS to book by doing a lot of re-writing. I attended workshops, read every book I could find on writing. It wasn't until much later (after I was published) that I went back to Uni and did my PhD in creative writing.


2 How did you get an agent?

I got a fellowship at Varuna House and I was talking to Peter Bishop there one day 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? Knowing who to ask. So they suggested someone (Jenny Darling & Assoc) and they took me. What may have helped was that I had a book just accepted. 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.


3 Did you have work professionally assessed?

I did show that first MS to a journalist friend. He hadn't written a novel but he knew what a good one was, and mine wasn't. He introduced me to POV. You wouldn't believe it – I had it all up the creek. Once I got the POV thing right, my manuscripts were a lot better.

Now I will show my MS to someone in the field, a friend perhaps, (or these days, a student who wants the practice) to check it is okay before I send it off. But I don't do that professionally as the agent is like an assessor as well now.


4 How do you know when you have finished editing?

In the early days I hoped for the best but I have learnt so much through editors over the last ten years. I try to have a clean copy but I still miss stuff. I tend to know when it is ready to send off when I can't find too much to change and I start thinking about the next story that I've had on the back burner in my head while I've been writing this one. I like learning things off editors. I try not to make the same mistakes twice. And I get very nervous if I think I know more than the editor. I have had some great editors.


5 What is your writing process, ie how do you get your manuscript ready for publishing?

I do try to be persistent, and I read a lot too, to see how others do things. In the beginning I'd be reading a book and realise I didn't have enough character development in mine, or that I didn't have good dialogue beats, or images to lift the writing like some writers do. I think we learn so much from reading. Not to copy of course but to see how it's done, how come it works. I'd try to work out what it was I liked about a book. I remember once actually pulling the whole book apart in my notebook i.e. where in the plot did this happen or that, how many times did this character come back in etc. I thought structure was difficult. Sometimes I would miss out a character for too many chapters. I'm more careful about things like that now. I can remember asking my lecturer but how do you structure your novel, and he'd say very wisely, 'It's all concerned with the character. The character will structure the book.' That works in character driven stories of course but kids (and me) like something to happen as well. But I do start with character. I try to learn as much about my characters as I can – what they want, what they're scared of etc, and that means I will know what they need to know or do by the end. It helps me finish a book. It helps me to know what to structure into the plot.


I try to get that first draft down so I can play with it later. Not everyone works like that I know. I'm almost finished a first draft now but I can't get the last few chapters right so I'm going back to the beginning on Monday to start the re-write and I hope by the time I get through it again I'll know how to do the end. I'm waiting for some research info to help and it hasn't come yet. There is something wrong with my email.


Once the first draft is done, I do a structural edit and check characters, plot balance, etc. Are chapters in the right spot, do they follow on to the next? Are the chapter endings the best I can make them, have I left a character out in the cold?


When I'm happy with that, I start the edit for the best verbs, the best writing, putting in images, cutting unnecessary words. I always hope symbols and images will arise naturally from the text. If these things are forced, they usually look like it. Afterwards I do the proof reading. I go through it quite a few times before the proof reading though. And some of this all gets mixed together, i.e. if I see a comma in the wrong place when really I'm thinking about the writing and polishing it, I'll grab the comma at the same time.


Editors will still find other things to fix. My last book was too long I was told 'Get rid of a few thousand words'. And I did it when I was told to. Keeping it tight is always a good thing to do. It was a much better book for it.


A few good books to help prepare a manuscript for submission to a publisher are:

1 Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages (agents and publishers can     reject by the first five pages – this book by an agent shows how       not to give them that chance)

2 Browne & King's Self editing for writers

3 Elizabeth Lyons, Manuscript Makeover

4 Another great book on writing is John Defresne's The Lie that         tells the Truth. I learnt a lot more about dialogue from this one         as well as from the others.

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