The Writing Life

Information, inspiration and insights into the writing life

When I clicked ‘publish’, I had no idea what I’d got myself into.

‘Parting words’ is the much-awaited second novel from writer Cass Moriarty, that asks: how well do we really know our parents? As part of our Subscriberthon series, we talked to Cass about her writing process.

For this column, I’ve been asked to write on the theme of ‘Do It Yourself’ in relation to self-publishing, which I have to admit is a tricky one for me as a literary agent. As an agent, my role entails finding publishers for our clients and managing the relationship between author and publisher once we do, in addition to contract negotiations, handling foreign publication rights and film and TV rights, and being our clients’ best advocate.

Photo of Shastro Deo

Shastra Deo's debut poetry collection 'The Agonist' won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize last year and has been described as ‘full of the beautiful music of fracture and repair’. As part of our Subscriber-thon series, we talked to Shastro about her writing process.

Earlier this year, one of my sisters dragged me along to a game show audition. After filling out a four-page questionnaire that asked such insightful questions as ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?’, ‘Have you ever been caught out in a lie?’ and ‘Do you have an unusual bucket list item?’ (presumably so that they could be discussed and laughed at on national television) as well as what we did for a living, we were then grilled by a producer.

'Soon' is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. You spent six years driving around Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, writing letters home about the people you met along the way. Did any of these people inspire characters in your debut novel ‘Soon’?

A good editor is a writer’s best friend. Naturally, the sight of red ink gives you palpitations at first, but once you contemplate the recommendations, inspiration strikes. You can’t wait to hit the keyboard. Your editor has shown you the way. Now your work can shine. That is, unless they happen to be a bad editor. Then you’re in trouble.

Your much-loved and award-winning novel 'The Bone Sparrow' was about a child in a refugee camp. 'The Ones That Disappeared' is about three trafficked children searching for freedom and hope. When you get an idea for a book, what come first – the issue or the characters?

He’s rough when he steps into the kitchen, tie loose, bags under his eyes, hair shower-clean but skewiff. He sits at the little wooden table and she hands him a cup of coffee. He grunts thanks and takes a sip; it’s too hot, immediately burns him, but he doesn’t give any sign. She watches him across the table, takes a seat. He doesn’t look up. He keeps his eyes down on the catalogue in front of him, tedious stuff: milk is down, a special, two dollars for two litres. 

'Her' begins in 1909 and spans ten years. The book explores a dark side of history, especially women and girls battling poverty and violence. What drew you to write this tale?