Posts by laurenswrittenword

By day, I'm a magazine Editor with a zillion responsibilities... But by night, I'm out to write the best novel I can, one red wine fuelled word at a time...

Interview: Katie Hamstead

This month, we have two new members of our blog (squee! So exciting!). To celebrate, we’ve decided to interview all Aussie Owned & Read-ers, so you can learn a bit more about us.
Today, I had the pleasure of hitting up the lovely Katie Hamstead, author of many successful books including the 
Kiya trilogy. Welcome, Katie.

AO&R: When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Katie: I feel like this is something that gradually happened for me, something that I naturally fell into. Through my teen years I enjoyed storytelling, so I would write things down as my preferred outlet … after sports that is! It wasn’t until I migrated to the U.S. and couldn’t work while I waited for my green card, then fell pregnant, that I found time to write.
I started by finishing stuff I’d began as a teen and typing it all out because the handwritten paper was deteriorating, then the Kiya trilogy happened. I felt so good about the trilogy that I decided I wanted to publish it. The rest is history.

AO&R: When it comes to your characters, who is your favourite and why?

Katie: It’s a toss between Naomi/Kiya and Cadence from the Cadence Duology. Both feel like they live in my heart and soul and opened my eyes to their stories rather than me telling their stories.

AO&R: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Katie: Stay true to you and write from the heart.

AO&R: Which path do you enjoy more – indie or trad and why?
Katie: I’ve tried self-publishing but I prefer working with my publishers. My books sell better when they have that extra support and outreach.

AO&R: Being an Aussie, what about our culture/country do you bring to your writing?
Katie: I have several books set in Australia: Cadence Duology, Branded, Dancing in the Athenian Rain, and Brownlow Baby. People have commented that the alternate setting to the U.S. is fun, while still having a parallel culture they can empathise with. Even my space opera/fairy tale series has a strong Aussie influence in the characters and settings.

AO&R: What’s coming up for you this year? Katie Teller
Katie: So far, I have released one book, Brownlow Baby, but I also have the second book in my fairytale galaxy series releasing 28th March, Myths of Mish. Then later this year I have an Aussie historical romance releasing. All this while I’m trying to work at an elementary school, but luckily, I get summer off. I also have editing projects and rewrites for my FTG series. So, busy as always!

FAST FIVE with KATIE HAMSTEAD

Pantser or plotter? Pantser
Coffee or tea? Hot chocolate
Contemporary or historical? Historical
Novella or full-length? Full-length
Series or standalone? Series

Keep up-to-date with Katie’s releases via her Facebook page, her publisher’s page, or find her on Goodreads.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can get in touch with her sleep-deprived, newborn-raising self via her Facebook page or website. P.S. Send wine!

Three romance-writing lessons

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking all things love here at Aussie Owned and Read. So I thought I’d look at three lessons in writing romance we can all take from a relatively unknown playwright I grew up with, one Mr Walt Disney.

  1. Sometimes, you need a knight-level romantic gesture. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m very pro women saving themselves. I’m not exactly at bra-burning level of feminism, but I sure as hell don’t believe in waiting around for a knight in shining armour to ride in on his horse to save me or my fictional princesses (although give me a few glasses of wine and I’ll karaoke to the contrary if I Need A Hero comes on).
    However, what I do think works well in fiction is a grand gesture from a leading man toward the leading lady, or vice versa, or a leading lady to another leading lady, or a leading man to another leading man (just not a leading man to a leading dog. Because bestiality and no).
    But I digress! Romantic gestures. They rock. Sure, in Sleeping Beauty it might mean fighting through a thorny garden and slaying a dragon to deliver true love’s first kiss–but in a modern-day romance, it could be Heath Ledger singing “I Love You Baby” on the grandstand at the high school in Ten Things I Hate About You. It’s all relative to the story’s scale. Either way, a romantic gesture, whether from the hero to the heroine or vice versa, is a great fictional tool.sleeping-beauty
  2. Love can come in unlikely packages. Whether you’re talking Beauty & the Beast or even to a certain extent Cinderella,  delivering love in a place we wouldn’t traditionally expect it is a great tool that can be used in writing romance today. The reason this works is because not only can it surprise the reader, it also follows something we all know to be true–to a certain extent, opposites attract. At the very least, they make for strong conflict, which creates great scope for some tension-filled scenes (and the potential for a follow-on best-selling movie. Fifty Shades, anyone?).
  3. True love is 4 reals. In Disney movies, the hero and the heroine always end up kicking arse. True love conquers all, baby–there’s nothing it can’t do!
    beauty-and-the-beastI think, when writing fiction today, that’s something we can take on board, too. Sure, there are some HFN endings in which perhaps the hero or the heroine passes away, which obviously implies that it doesn’t quite conquer all (or certainly not death)–but in those novels, invariably we have true love existing or the impact of a hero/heroine dying wouldn’t hurt us as much as it does. If the person passing away was just some guy or gal the leading man or woman was a little close to but didn’t really love, would we care so much when they left us for a walk on the fictional rainbow bridge? No.
    In real life, many people either have found their true love, or are searching for him or her–while we don’t mind reading about the kind-of-almost-maybe loves, what gets readers truly invested, particularly romance readers, is knowing that the love they’re watching unfold is true love. The Big Love. The all-consuming, everlasting love.
    That’s why I think having “true love”, Disney-style, is a great fictional tool we writers can all employ.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads to make you feel. Her latest new adult contemporary romance, with lots of true love and a truck-load of love in unlikely places, is on sale now for $0.99. Get your buy links for Seeking Faith now via her website here or find out more info over on her Facebook page.

Spring cleaning my mind

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking the benefits of spring cleaning, whether through edits or literally. Today, I want to talk about something I believe benefits my writing greatly–spring cleaning my mind.

Sounds a little strange? Sure, it does. But when I think of cleaning, I think of freeing a space from the clutter. Stepping back from something after being involved at a level of extreme and minute detail and looking at things anew.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been working on a manuscript for two months. I then moved house, became heavily pregnant, and had an increased workload, meaning that even though all I really wanted was to work on the manuscript again, to refine and edit the work both on a small and large scale, I wasn’t able to.

At first,  it saddened me. It made me so frustrated to know there were so many changes I wanted to make but that I simply didn’t have the time for. Life had gotten in the way.

Now, however, I feel as if my perspective on the book ahas changed. I feel as if I could make greater, bolder edits that I wouldn’t have been able to before. I can instigate greater change within the work, all because I’ve stepped away for so long and in doing so, spring cleaned my mind and my perspective of the manuscript. I have space. Mental room to breathe that I didn’t have when the emotion and hype of the manuscript were fresh.

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Give yourself some mental space.

I think giving your book an ample amount of space and breathing time to clear it from your mind and get a new perspective is one of the most valuable things you can do. It’s something that can be hard, especially given we live in such a world of instant gratification, but it’s rarely not worth it.

So for all of you fabulous NaNo participants out there, I challenge you to spring clean your mind and step back when the month is over. Not just for a day, or a week, or a fortnight. Let’s go big. Give yourself one month. Two. Take extra time until there are details about  your novel you’re not even sure about anymore. Give your manuscript time to rest, as you would a steak after it’s sizzled away on the barbecue. Hopefully, you get as much out of it as I did.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel.  You can find her on Facebook or learn more about her at her website.

Three Pitch Tips

This month here on Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking pitching. Make sure you stay tuned for ur best pitch info and advice coming all throughout the month.

When it comes to pitching, I’m a bit of a novice. I’ve done an elevator-style video pitch (that’s actually how fellow Aussie Owneder Stacey Nash and I met) and a few Twitter pitches, both with varying degrees of success.

More than that, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few pitches in different competitions and for a small publishing house I used to work for. Here are my top tips for an effective manuscript pitch:

  1. Write your book. Sounds pretty obvious, right? But the amount of times I’ve seen pitches where a full or partial has been requested, only to be met with words similar to ‘I just have to … uh … well … you see the dog ate it, and so now I need to …’
    Most pitching opportunities are for finished manuscripts, not for ideas (unless it is a concept pitch, in which case, fire away).

    The Dog Ate My Homework!!!

    Photo: Big Stock Photo

    Think of a pitch a shortcut to the top of the slush pile, a pile that can consist of thousands of potential novels. If a publisher hears your pitch, loves it and requests to see the manuscript, but the manuscript takes weeks, maybe a month to arrive–how likely are they to remember it as the one they got excited about all that time (read: maybe a few hundred pitched manuscripts) ago? For this reason, I recommend only pitching finished works.

  2. Target appropriately. Before you pitch your manuscript, make sure you do your research. Is the agent or publisher you’re pitching to interested in your genre? Do they have a book that’s too similar to  your own? Should you be pitching to him or her, or an Australian/UK/American correspondent instead?
    Knowledge is power, and the more info you have on your pitchee, the better!
  3. Practise, practise, practise. Sounds obvious, right? But if you’re giving an in-person pitch, you cannot practise it enough. You want to know that sucker so well that the words float from your tongue, just in case those nerves kick in.
    Personally, I like recording myself giving my pitch, then playing it back to see how I come across. After all, it’s often not until you see yourself in the (sometimes unforgiving) light of video that you’ll learn if you speak clearly, if you make good eye contact, or if you look like you’re begging.

For anyone pitching this month, whether in an online competition or at Australia’s RWA, I wish you all the best.

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Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. She loves reading, writing romance, cute boys and puppies. You can visit her at her website or on Facebook, or laugh at her first ever video pitch here.

Losing my (diverse) virginity

In honour of NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week coming up this month, we’ve dedicated all our posts to the issue of diversity in fiction. For more information on NAIDOC Week, visit their website here.

I remember losing my (diverse) virginity, the first book I ever read that opened my eyes to diversity in reading. I was a teenager, possibly thirteen or fourteen, whenI got my  hands on My Place by Sally Morgan. This was biography sees our Aboriginal heroine, Sally, finally finding her place in the world. It’s a mystery about finding your identity, and working out where you truly belong in the world.

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Next, I went on to read Looking For Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetti. Again, this book dealt with someone who had a different heritage to my own. Josie is an Aussie teenager with Italian heritage, and finds it hard to fit in within her school society. This book became one of my absolute favourites as a young teenager, and took pride of place upon my shelf with My Place.

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Now, when people ask me about some of my favourite diverse books, these two instantly come to mind–but it’s a little surprising. What I remember loving most about these books doesn’t have a whole lot to do with colour or race or religion. What I LOVED about these books were the amazing heroines. Sally, a real woman who was so strong in her life’s journey. Josie, a fictional character who fought for what she believed in. Yes, both stories came with the added bonus of diversity, allowing me as a reader to have a glimpse into a life unfamiliar to my own, but at the core they were good, solid books with good, solid characters.

I think it’s absolutely important to  have diversity in what we read and what we write. Diversity is such a part of life–we see it every day, and I love that despite being a teenager and having my options for diverse books seeming limited, now, as an adult, diverse books are easier to find. However, what I love most about that is that reading a really good diverse book doesn’t feel like you’re reading a “diverse book”–just immersing yourself in another amazing story.

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Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor of both fact and fiction. You can learn more about her at her website or over on her Facebook page.

Why I write more in winter + COMPETITION TIME!

Winter. I love it.

No, scrap that. I FREAKING love it.

At heart, I’m a summer girl. I swim, I spend time outdoors, and I bask in the summer. But without fail, every winter I manage to achieve one thing that always seems to slip out of my grasp in summer:

Writing. More. Words.

I can put this down to three main reasons:

  1. Cold weather = less time out socialising (read: walking the dogs) and therefore more time spent inside. As well as less time spent dog-walking, a serious social activity for me, I also spend less time going out and visiting friends this season because secretly, I was a hedgehog in another life and I totally hibernate. Yes. I’m one of those weird creatures who just gets super tired in winter. However, it does mean less time spent out and about, and more time spent at home results in more time writing.

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    Photo courtesy of WikiCommons. Credit: Olaf1541

  2. Bribery is epic. In summer, I’m a pretty healthy gal. I love fruit, salads and all sorts of things that would make you sick. Kale? Yes, please. Quinoa? Only if it comes with another superfood.
    But in winter? I turn into a badarse. Chocolate. Hot chips. Wine (well, not at the moment, since I’m pregnant, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming about it). The point is, I often like to ‘motivate’ myself when writing. For example, I’ll say to myself, “Lauren, if you write another 5,000 words, I’ll let you eat a bowl of ice cream.” (Well, if I’m being completely honest, it usually then is followed by, “No, make that two bowls … Oh hell, give me 5,500 and you can have the whole tub!”).
    I bribe myself more in winter because the treats I crave are junkier, and therefore, I write more. See? I’m a simple creature with simple needs (feeeeed meeeeee).
  3. Since I’m home more, and eating more (see points one and two) I find I read more during winter. After all, chocolate tastes better when I add in some book-induced tears! I’ll often find myself too busy to have reading binge-fests in summer, but on a rainy winter’s day, what could be better than sitting down to a fresh book and just diving in, demolishing that sucker in as few sittings as possible?
    I’ll often stockpile books I want to read, saving them for a mammoth winter sesh. This month, I’m really looking forward to A Thousand Boy Kisses, which I hear AH-MAY-ZING things about, and can’t wait to devour.
    51yZQoybCsL
    And, with reading a lot, comes writing a lot. For me, the two go hand in hand. Reading something great makes me aspire to write something hopefully similarly okay/readable-ish.

So what about you? Do you write more during winter?

Tell me why you do or don’t for your chance to win an e-copy of Losing Faith and Seeking Faith, two contemporary New Adult novels in the Surfers Way series written by the lovely Jennifer Ryder and myself. Entries are open below and will be judged on creativity. Competition closes June 14, 2016, 5pm AEDT.

SHARED-EBOOK-AVAILABLE-NOW

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Lauren K. McKellar is an author, editor, and hedgehog. You can find her hanging on her Facebook page, rambling over at her website, or eating copious amounts of chocolate while obsessing over her growing baby belly.

Writing Mean Mums

We’re talking all things mothers this month in honour of Mother’s Day a few weeks ago, and today I wanted to write a little about the dreaded mother, the one we all shudder when we think of–the evil mum.

Yes, I have a confession to make–I am a notorious writer of bad mums. In my books, so far, my mothers have:

  • Had drug overdoses
  • Been self-harmers
  • Ignored their children
  • Tried to kill their children
  • Been alcoholics
  • Invited the ex-boyfriend to family Christmas

Okay, so that last one perhaps isn’t quite so bad, but you get my gist. When it comes to less-than-stellar matriarchs, I could compete in the Olympics–but so could a lot of authors. Have you noticed, particularly in YA and NA, how many mothers seem to not perform as well as the average?

I was thinking about this and came up with a few thoughts on why this may be the case:

  1. Because it’s behind closed doors. In YA and NA, the central story is often set at school or college. Having a mean mum is a great secret/extra layer for the protagonist to have to add intrigue.
  2. Because most of us have had problems with our parents at some point. Sure, we may not have mothers as mean as the ones in some books (e.g. mine), but growing up, a lot of teens feel disconnected with their parents. Our parents can be seen as the figures of authority, and when we’re younger, are often the gatekeepers of “fun”. Therefore, they’re an easy natural enemy to expand upon–readers may have their own minor problems with their parents, which makes it easier for them to then relate to evil parent figures by exaggerating those feelings.

These are just some of the reasons I think perhaps the bad mother is such a successful trope in YA and NA fiction.

One problem I specifically have as an author of many mean mothers is with my own mother. She has often asked me “Why are your mums so mean?”

Apparently, this started in grade two. We were asked to write a story, and the teacher was quite impressed with my lengthy work. He handed it over to Mum to have a look at with these words of warning: “You took a bit of a beating though.”

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Me and my beautiful mum

Yes, my bad mums have roots stemmed deep in my childhood, from well and truly before I was consciously aware that the bad mother could be a useful story trope. And that’s partly why I’ve written this post. Because even though I wrote bad mums, and even though I think they have their place in fiction, my mother is the best. And I have a few books where the mums are supportive, wonderful matriarchs who support their YA and NA children–like everything good in life, it’s a bout balance.

What about you? Who are some of your favourite bad mums?

 

 

Lauren K. McKellar is releasing a book this Thursday, SEEKING FAITH, which features no mistreatment of mothers whatsoever. To find out more, check out her website or Facebook page.