I would like to welcome Author Prue Batten to Layered Pages today to take part in my writer’s series. Today I have asked her three important questions about her writing. I would also like to mention that that Prue is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Why do you write?
I write because I have to. Don’t get me wrong. No one forces me to. But like an artist must paint, a sculptor must sculpt or a gardener must garden, then so must I write. It’s a kind of compulsion that has been with me since I was in primary school.
I had a wonderful teacher in Grade 3 who would place pictures on the board and ask us to write a ‘composition’. The images were often illustrations from children’s’ books but I didn’t know that at the time. I only knew that as I wrote my little composition I wandered into a world and characters of my own creation and I felt immensely happy.
In high school, I loved creative writing and in fact wrote a short story about an English woman who fell in love with a German officer during WWII. It wasn’t a love story but an examination of a difficult relationship in worse times. I often wonder where that story is now…
In matriculation, creative writing got me into trouble during term English exams when I would get lost in the story-writing part of an examination paper. Time would drift by and I would look up at the clock to find I had an hour to answer the rest of the paper in a three-hour exam! But during that time, my writing won an award, a State story-writing prize. I do still have that story and hope that it will be the foundation for a new historical fiction in one or two books’ time.
I only dabbled in writing from university days till my children left home – time was chock-full of family activities. But once the children had left the nest, I really hit the keyboard. I wrote day and night like the Devil Possessed and loved every minute of it. Still do … it’s like a chocolate high and I would be lost without it.
How has writing impacted your life?
I took an enormous leap of faith when I wrote the first book in The Chronicles of Eirie (The Stumpwork Robe) and had it published in the UK.
Like most independent writers I had been submitting to the mainstream system for some time. The final straw was a close call with an agent in the UK, an agent who loved my work and wanted to take me on … but after a week of ‘umm-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’, decided my home of Tasmania was just too far away from the nuts and bolts of the publishing trade (wonder what she thinks of Richard Flanagan, a Tasmanian, winning this year’s Man-Booker Prize?). The fact she admitted to me that she would regret her decision was like an electric goad. In that same week, I received an email from a UK peer review site to which I belonged. They were funded by the UK Arts Council and were entering the POD publishing field and was I interested in publishing with them?
I thought about it for only one hour.
The leap of faith was done and I was on my way.
Since then, I have written a further six books and am writing my latest – that makes a total of eight novels to date. I have a bespoke publisher, Darlington Press. And I’ve met the most wonderful people you can imagine … readers! People who have taken the time to review me, to email me privately, even to send me things they think I would like. Generous to a fault.
The journey has led me to combine with others, in my endeavours. A book doesn’t reach the public without a team and mine is a strong one – an award winning Australian graphic designer for my covers and print formatting (Salt Studio), a published writer in Scotland who is my e-formatter (Danny Gillan), and two beta readers who give me the benefit of their objective wisdom. Most importantly, the most intuitive editor (and published writer – John Hudspith) that one could wish for. He is a man who knows exactly what i’s to dot and t’s to cross in order to maximize dramatic tension but he never interferes with the authorial voice. In addition, he has a wit that drags me right to the end of a book successfully. These five people, along with my publisher and business manager, have helped the books achieve recognition, winning me awards and notoriety. For example, every one of those books – all seven – have ranked in Amazon.co.uk’s e-book Top 100’s in various categories for over 15 months continuously!
And of course, I must mention the unique partnership with a miniature book press, Bopressminiaturebooks.com in the USA. I think we might have the most original pairing in the world. The press commissions me to write short stories and then illustrates, binds and publishes the result in miniature limited editions which are snapped up by voracious collectors. An international star of stage and screen even has one of our books!
So you see, a huge effect. In addition, I have become worldly – learning the trade, so to speak. I have had to refine my computer literacy and become unafraid of the online world. This has led to a plethora of friends that I will have forever. The most wonderful time of my life!
What advice would you give to beginner writers?
There is the old cliché – read, read, read and read some more. Soak it up like a sponge. See how writers achieve, see how what they write affects you, find out why you might like a book. Or not like it.
And then write. Write a lot. Hone it, de-bone it, re-build it. It really comes down to those very basic points. And NEVER publish the first story you write. There always has to be a first one that begins the journey and it must stay in your writing files on your computer forever. I have a trilogy that sits in a box and gathers dust, and there it will stay. Forever.
If you want your characters to be believable, experience what you want them to experience. Eat stale bread, ride a horse, draw a bow and loose an arrow, wear long gowns and cloaks in a fierce wind, use a sword, climb a mountain, dive into freezing water fully-clothed. Whatever it takes. And feel. Feel it through to your very marrow.
And then soon, if you write enough, you will have the story that deserves to be read widely. When you get to that point, send it to beta-readers, have it edited professionally, re-write it, have it read and edited again. And research the industry, both indie and mainstream because knowledge is power.
Eventually you will be ready and like me, you can take that leap of faith. One other thing I would say is never have expectations of the novel and the industry. Go into it with eyes wide open and be joyful about what might come your way.
Have fun and goodluck!
A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, I’m now a cross genre writer who is also a farmer, dog owner, gardener and embroiderer.
I didn’t plan to be a writer in those early days, I was far more a reader. But like most writers, I’ve always written – seeing the world through the medium of the word. It was inevitable that I become an independent writer simply because I love being at the cutting edge of something and together with many other ‘indies’, being at the forefront of the New Age of Writing and Publishing is like being a sea captain in the Age of Exploration. And I’ve been fortunate – winning silver medals and honourable mentions for my work and to have them ranking unbroken in the UK for the last year.
I try to make time for other things in life. I love wine, chocolate and cooking delectable cakes and biscuits. I mess about in my gardens, dirt under the fingernails and a plant catalogue alongside a cup of tea. I stitch (I love needle and silks) – to wind down. I walk (a lot) with the Jack Russells, but more than anything I like being on beaches, boats or the water – being by the sea is implicit for my writing to sing.
Thank you inviting me, Stephanie, and may I say to all your readers and to fellow writers, have a safe and happy Christmas holiday.
What a nice interview – and I bet that UK agent does go “shucks!”