My last writer in the attic for 2016 is Lily Malone. Lily was a guest here in 2014, but she’s been rather busy since then …
Lily has worked as a journalist and editor of wine industry magazines, but discovered after years of writing facts for a living, writing romance was much more fun. She’s now written four full-length novels, the last of which was released in print in September this year.
Recently, she also launched the first book in her Butterfly House series.
When she isn’t writing, Lily likes gardening, walking, wine, and walking in gardens (sometimes with wine). Oh, and sport. AFL Football in particular (she is a fan of the West Coast Eagles). And cricket. That makes her a cricket and wine kind of girl.
Please read Lily’s story of her early steps in writing and publishing, including a few things she’d do differently if she knew then what she knows now (don’t we all have those?!). Keep reading until the end for her important announcement …
My writing life
Writing was always going to be the way I made my living, because my mathematical brain is such that I was never cut out to be an accountant. Numbers don’t crunch when I think about them, they explode right back at me and whack me upside the head.
Words on the other hand are something I do well. I was an English brain at school, and it made sense for me to head straight out of school into journalism, via a job at our local newspaper.
When I talk about my writing now, as a published author of contemporary romance, I tell anyone who will listen that My Writing Life started when my youngest child was a year old. He just turned 7. (Even I can work out that math – it means I’ve been writing for six years, dummy!)
But my mother-in-law tells me she remembers me sitting with a computer in their house in the Barossa Valley in 1999, and me telling her I was writing a book. I don’t have any of that draft now, and I don’t remember what I was writing about. I guess the point being, it proves the ‘intention’ was there.
Fast forward many years later, after my youngest son was born I went through a year of pursuing different creative pursuits. This included baking countless trays of muffins that my hubby described as “like hockey pucks”; and trying to paint a canvas. (The day my son put a golf club through that canvas was a happy day for the rest of the world, I tell you!)
That’s when I decided to write a book. Not just any book. A romance. #swoon
No one ever told me how bloody hard it would be. Me, who had always excelled at English and in my journalism and editing career thought writing romantic fiction would be a walk in the park. All of a sudden, I was getting rejections from agents and publishers. Rejections! What did they know? The nerve!
Like others have said here, that’s the point where you either give up or take the criticism on the chin. I realised journalism hadn’t prepared me for writing creatively, and I had so much to learn about writing craft.
After writing, revising, rewriting, and eventually starting a second book from scratch, after about 18 months I entered a scene from that book in a writing contest with Romance Writers of Australia and it finalled; and perhaps after another six months of revisions I got an acceptance email from Escape Publishing, the digital arm of Harlequin Australia. That book was called His Brand Of Beautiful.
I remember telling my critique partner at the time about the offer for His Brand Of Beautiful and she said: ‘I don’t think the book is ready.’ Well, there was no way I was going to say to Escape Publishing, “Sorry, but even though you say you want that book, I’m not ready to publish it with you because my critique partner says it isn’t good enough…” So I signed on the dotted line. The book was edited, got a lovely cover, and it came out in the cyberstores in March 2013.
I’ve learned so much since then! I think the beauty of My Writing Life is that it evolves. As writers we learn our craft and we never stop learning. If I was to read His Brand Of Beautiful now, I think I’d agree with that long-ago critique and I’d want to smack my head into my desk, but there’s another valuable lesson I’ve learned: You have to let the book go! Even Jennifer Crusie (one of my writing idols) says that she looks back on her earliest drafts now and cringes.
So I let it go.
I’ve been lucky enough to have three further books published since March 2013, with the last of these, The Vineyard In The Hills being chosen for a single title paperback with Harlequin MIRA. I got to do a real live book launch in September, with wine and friends, and I rattled on for about half an hour and then through a Q&A and they couldn’t shut me up.
I self-published two romance books after His Brand Of Beautiful—Fairway To Heaven and The Goodbye Ride. I made the decision to self-publish because I felt at the time the whole process of traditional publishing took way too long, even with an electronic publisher. I felt that the books were ready to go and I didn’t want the manuscript to sit on the editor’s slush pile while I waited, and waited, and waited, for other people (and their decisions) to control my career.
When I look back now, self-publishing wasn’t the best route at that stage of my writing journey. Both those books (Fairway & Goodbye Ride) are now also with Escape Publishing, giving me four titles with Harlequin.
So you’d think four books should be earning some sort of income, wouldn’t you? I mean, for me, making an income was the major goal and that’s a little different to some of the other people who have guested in this lovely Attic. I’ve been reading here about people who wrote for their health or sanity, and can’t see their life without writing in it—whether that is via blog, books, a diary, jotting in a notebook, fiction, poetry, or memoir.
Me? I want to write for my living.
I want to earn enough from my books to give up my day job and write ‘author’ in the space alongside ‘employment’ on my tax return.
So at this stage of My Writing Life, it’s time for some big decisions.
My life is busy! I’m writing less and less because my kids are older now and expect to be taken to stuff like basketball, or swimming lessons, and my hubby wants to go on family camping trips while the kids are young, and the whole lot of them expect to have cereal in the pantry and milk in the fridge and dinner on the table at night. I work a day job 5 days a week, 5 hours a day.
Sound familiar, working mothers or fathers?
There is never enough time in a day!
Sometime in the last year or so I remember seeing an article about ‘successful authors’ and it said, as a general rule the authors who make money are those who write ‘full time.’
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
So in the business of My Writing Life, I’ve been making big plans to set myself up for positive change in 2017.
Just this month I self-published a new series set in my hometown of Cowaramup, down south near Margaret River. Do you know Cowaramup? It’s the place with the herd of fibreglass cows on the main street. The series is called Butterfly House and the first book is Who Killed The Bride?
I’ve partnered with a Cowaramup retailer (Mukau Giftware and Gallery) for sales of the print book from their shop, plus I’m selling my Butterfly book off my website and Facebook page.
I’m going down the self-publishing route again because I think this book is a fit for a niche print market – for locals and tourists who want a souvenir of their visit to Cowaramup.
I’m doing it because it worries me how little e-books cost on Amazon, even as I’m a buyer of those cheap books on my Kindle. It worries me how little books (including my own Vineyard In The Hills) sell for at discount stores, such as Big W, because it feels like a race to the bottom where authors/artists are paid less and less. And I’m worried about the monopoly discount stores Big W, Kmart, Target have on retail sales of books. (I’m all for independent publishers and my two favourite local stores are Barefoot Books in Busselton and the Margaret River Bookshop! Support your independent booksellers people!) 😉
One thing My Writing Life has proven to me is that there are many ways to write a book and have a writing career, and they can change. I don’t remember ever thinking all those years ago on my mother-in-law’s kitchen table that I wanted to write romance, but when my son put the golf club through my painting and I decided to write a book—it was a romance plot that sprang into my head. And romance ideas keep coming, although I’ve also written a contemporary novel and finding a home for this book is one of my 2017 writing goals.
So the business of My Writing Life rolls on and this week I’ve achieved something important in the goal of My Writing Life: I gave notice at my day job that 2017 would be the year I dedicate more time to my writing. Next year I hope to be much more prolific in my writing room and if you see me giving the excuse that ‘I don’t have time to write’, please kick me because procrastination or writers’ block is not good for my business!
Thanks for having me (back) in your Attic, Louise.
So that’s it for Writers in the Attic for 2016. It’s been a delight to host each guest and their story, and I’m proud to have been able to feature such remarkable writers in all sorts of genres.
I’ll take a break over Christmas and the New Year, and be back in January. If you’d like to work on an essay over the break, let me know via the Contact page. The topic is ‘What writing means to you’, but that’s rather loose, and the ideal length is 600-1000 words.
See you in 2017!