7 Tips to Ace Your School Author Visit

April has seen Aussie Owned and Read talk about all things marketing. So far, the focus has been on online marketing strategies, but today I’d like to take a look at a face-to-face strategy particularly useful for YA authors – school visits.

IMG_3261 by Kian McKellar via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qzBhBH

Image by Kian McKellar Flickr CC

“Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is”

In my role as a high-school teacher librarian I have been lucky enough to attend numerous school author visits. Authors LOVE to talk about their books, BUT there’s no quicker way to send a class of teens into a coma than to wax lyrical about every detail of your publication journey and current book baby. There’s a good chance most of your audience haven’t even read your book, so your mission is to make your story sparkle brighter than Edward Cullen on a cloudless midsummer scorcher and give them good reason to give up six to nine hours of watching funny cat videos on YouTube to want to read it.

So, how do you grab their attention, you ask?

Make connections. Establishing a relevant context for students by drawing connections between your experience and the students’ can leave them with a more rewarding experience. Try these ideas:

1. Tie into the syllabus content covered in class. Speak to the group’s teachers / teacher librarian before the visit and ask about the units the class is currently studying in different subjects. You’d be surprised where you can find crossover content to help make your novel’s subject matter relevant. English, yes, but also, History, Science, PDHPE.

2. Talk about your research. High school students are familiar with different research strategies for school assignments. Ask about their surprising / funny / unexpected research experiences then tell them about yours:

  • How did you go about your research?
  • Did you go anywhere special?
  • Did you meet / interview anyone in particular?

A visiting author I once saw had a hall of ninth graders in the palm of her hand when she told them about the time she was set on fire (under controlled conditions!) in the name of research.

3. Unpack the revision process. Talking about the evolution of your manuscript and all the challenges along the way can be effective if discussed in the context of the students’ creative writing.

  • Bring visuals of marked up pages – scrawls and scribbles of red by you and suggestions by your editor.
  • Show students the different stages of editing, allowing them to see all the work that goes into the finished product. If nothing else, the English staff will love you, because you’ve vindicated them in their constant mantra of ‘writing is re-writing’.

Image by Laura Ritchie via Flickr CC

Now, all this talking is fine and good, but to make your author visit a success you’ll need to balance your gabbing with something else, namely …

Less words, more action. One repeated negative piece of feedback I hear from students and teachers is that the author spent most of the session talking at them. To mitigate your audience tuning out, try the following:

4. Break up your presentation into segments. Five to ten minute segments are best, each with a different focus but with clear transitions linking one to the next.

5. ‘Activity’ is king. Involve your audience as much as possible!

  • Got a YA fantasy involving martial arts? Have students learn some basic martial arts moves.
  • Got a YA contemporary featuring dance? Get the kids grooving with a ten second dance routine.
  • No martial arts or dancing in your novel? No problem. Pick a bunch of students to act out a short scene from your book while you read out the excerpt.

Anything that involves the audience will make for a better experience. Even something as simple as …

Props and visuals. Everyone has a dominant learning style, be it visual, kinesthetic or auditory, so it’s good to include visual and hands-on material in your author talk, such as:

6. Slide-shows.

  • If you’re reading out a passage from your novel, have a slide-show ready to help set the mood or introduce the physical setting.
  • You could show pictures (hello Pinterest!) of your ‘cast’ of characters using actors.
  • Share images or video related to your research – people, places, activities.

7. Relevant props.

  • So your novel features martial arts, but your attempt at a roundhouse kick is likely to land you in emergency? Bring in a mannequin dressed in a dobok instead and show some video footage you came across during your research.
  • Is your novel a YA historical? Try to source some replica artefacts linked to your story that students can touch and examine.

The idea is to bring alive aspects of your story world to spark your audience’s interest.

Black Beauty by Carol VanHook

Image by Carol VanHook Flickr CC

If you include props and visual media, make sure your audience has plenty of opportunity to be involved, and you draw connections between your writing and their experience, you’re set for a successful author visit.

But how exactly is one successful author visit a marketing tool, you ask? Teachers and teacher librarians have wide reaching professional networks and word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is. One successful author visit will likely result in invites from other schools.

Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you when visiting schools. Leave your comments below.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Marketing 101 with Sara Hood

Hey – if it’s what you celebrate – ‘Happy Easter’! I do, and as always we had a lovely time easter bunnywith family. Happy times and happy memories.

Today I will also be announcing the winner of my giveaway! But first, something way more exciting! Read on! 

So, we keep saying but in case you missed it: over here at Aussie Owned & Read, we’re talking about MARKETING this month. Now, I’ve been around publishing for a l-o-n-g time and when I was first pubbed, marketing wasn’t such a big deal.  Your publisher took care of most of it.  But now? Oh wow – where would I begin to elaborate…

Actually I didn’t. Begin, that is.   It took me three seconds to realise I needed help. So, I went to the woman I believe is the bomb for marketing. When prepping for an extensive workshop at RWA a couple of years ago, she  worked with Harlequin author Sarah Mayberry in an experiment to demonstrate how her methods would work.   In one month they grew Sarah’s email list by 900. Not just 900 names – but 900 invested followers/readers.  900 invested readers/followers = 900 extra sales. Plus back sales.

Sara Hood

Sara Hood

Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Sara, I know you’re amazing and inspirational 😉 , but maybe not all our readers would know that. Can you tell us what you do?  

Thanks for that wonderful rap!  My background is in marketing communications. I’m originally a Brit who was offered the chance to work in Australia for three years by my then-employer but within two weeks I knew I was born to live here and wasn’t going back!  That was almost 30 years ago and now I’ve married a local, become a citizen and consider myself a true Melburnian.  I’ve worked with and for companies like DuPont, Yamaha Music, Sony and Ericsson, but like many these days I now wear several hats. I run a business that manages associations in the creative industries, mainly the music industry. We look after membership, admin, social media, member communications, conference management and website development on behalf of the association. Then I trained as a life coach, as you do, but don’t practice because it’s far too scary!  And I have this business called Marketing4Writers, which is to support and coach writers of popular fiction so they can sell more books. Oh!  And I’m attempting to write a romance novel. ‘Attempting’ being the key word.

The thought of having to market ourselves and our products is like kryptonite to the author. We’re terrified of it; the very thought sends us into a sobbing heap. So, how important is marketing to today’s author?

So can I put my life coach hat on for a moment? This is what brought me to set up marketing4writers. It was seeing writers spend hours tearing themselves to bits over ‘this marketing monster’. Getting themselves so upset about needing ‘to do it’ or spending time on it and seeing no results.  Or just deriding it or deriding the publisher for not doing it for them. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be scary. And it most certainly shouldn’t terrify anyone or make them sob in heaps. It’s like anything, when you know how it just becomes second nature. A bit like driving a car. My first lessons were horrible! You have no idea how many times my instructor took over the controls. But now I jump into the car and don’t think twice about how to make it go where I need it to because I know how and it’s second nature. The problem with marketing is that bad marketing is very visible and annoying, so people think that’s what they need to do. It’s not.  Good marketing is almost invisible, not because it’s sneaky or manipulative but because you’re talking to the people who want to hear from you, so they don’t think of it as ‘marketing’. And it’s certainly not posting interminably on social media to say ‘buy my book’.

So back to the question: how important is marketing to today’s author? Totally critical.  But you knew that already, right? I’m not sure there ever was a time when you could just write a book and it would magically be discovered and you’d become a millionaire overnight, but that time certainly isn’t now. As we all know, the issue now is discoverability in a way it never has been to the same extent before. There are now almost no barriers to loading a book to Kindle and the problem is that a lot of people who ought not (yet) do. The issue, though, is two fold:

  • Discoverabilty: the right people hearing about and finding you book
  • Quality: convincing people that once they’ve found your book it’s worth buying

Everyone focuses on the first point but the second is also important. You may think what’s the fuss when the book cost less than a cup of coffee but that’s not the point.  What was the buyer doing when they bought your book?  They were buying the anticipation of entertainment.  They sat down to read, investing their precious time, to be entertained.  And then the book let them down.  Now they feel robbed and that’s why then they complain it can be out of all proportion to the actual cost.  Even when the book is free. Readers, though, are now getting smarter.  Having been burned a few times, they are now looking for clues about whether this book is going to be worth investing their time and their hope in. That’s another reason why your brand (author) platform and marketing are so important.

marketing-strategy

Is it possible to do too much marketing? (Asks she who will never be accused of too much. Too little? Sigh. All day every day.)  

Oh yes, it is possible to do too much marketing. It’s also possible to spend too much money or time on marketing. And it’s also all too possible to be doing quite the wrong marketing.

I loved your RWA workshop with Sarah Mayberry. I would so it all again in a flash – only next time take a day to do it so I can retain it! In that workshop you spoke a lot about Taking Control. Can you elaborate?  

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a blast working with Sarah.  One of life’s good people.

Taking control means nothing more complicated than making a thoughtful, purposeful plan. Too many writers don’t make a plan.  That means they have no idea where they’re going, they have no idea if they’re achieving anything useful, and they have no idea if they’re getting anywhere.  Imagine if your job was to build a bridge across a lake.  Would you do that by throwing in pebbles, one at a time?  The ripples each pebble makes are going to be really pretty, but throwing pebbles into a lake ain’t never gonna make a bridge. Yet that’s what many are doing.

So what sort of plan do you make?  The model I use is called a sales funnel and Kaz asked that question next so I won’t outline it here.  

You also make mention of the Sales funnel. Can you explain?

The sales funnel is a simple model that helps writers think about, plan, implement and review their marketing.  (Review!  So many people don’t review!) It’s about what I outlined above: taking control!

A sales funnel is about recruiting likely strangers (not just any old person) and building a relationship with them of ‘know, like and trust’.  As they get to know you, hopefully they move along the funnel to become acquaintances, friends, fans and then super fans.  People, of course, though aren’t predictable, so some will come in as fans and some will exit as friends.  Some may stick at friends, but progress no further. That’s life. What is also normal is that the numbers you recruit will dwindle as they progress towards super fans, which is why it’s important to be always recruiting. You need to be always bringing in new likely strangers to your funnel.

With a sales funnel you look at every activity you do and assign it a purpose. You add more activities or remove activities accordingly so you have the plan you need. That means it also fits your available time and budget. You optimise those activities, which simply means making them the best they can be.  You then connect everything up so it’s funnelling readers along a path and not just one of those pebbles going into the lake.  The heart of the plan is your website and your email list, but as writers you also have the great benefit of e-retailers, and your marketing plan needs to include optimising your product (the books) and presence in those e-tailers.  That’s part of your sales funnel.

With a sales funnel you work with an end in mind and don’t confusing activity with outcomes.

You set time frames, milestones, budgets and a date for a review. So many people don’t review. Or panic after a few weeks because ‘nothing is happening’ so they dump their plan and switch to another one.  Erk.  
marketing 4 writers You can find a copy of the presentation (on Sara’s site) used at RWA here:

http://www.marketing4writers.net/rwa-conference-workshop-with-sarah-mayberry.html

Which social media platforms should the author be focussing on?

Number one is Facebook.  It’s tougher to get results now from Facebook, but that’s because it’s become so popular because it works. So I’d say for social media your number one choice should always be Facebook.  A business page and not a profile.  Yes Facebook has the infamous algorithm, but don’t listen to anyone who say that Facebook is using that algorithm to limit who sees your posts to make your advertise.  That’s not true.  Or that they’re limiting you to 6% of your fans. Nope. Those myths have appeared largely because, as I said, it’s harder to make Facebook work for you now plus there are a lot people out there who want to sell you courses about how to use Facebook. It suits them to blame Facebook.  Yes, you do need to know something about how the algorithm works (and Facebook isn’t going to share all the details with the world because that’s their proprietary property) but a lot of it comes down to you. That’s not comfortable to know, sometimes. But if your posts aren’t getting any reach it means there were better ones out there and those got ‘served’ to your fans instead.  The deck is not stacked against you.  The hard truth is that you just have to get better at this Facebook thing.

So that’s my Facebook rant.  What other platform should you consider? Depends on how much time you have.  It’s much better to do Facebook well than to skimp it because you’re also managing another two or three of even four platforms as well. I’d usually suggest Twitter as your second string, if you have time for it.  I am just discovering the joys of Instagram and that’s fantastic but you need to be sure it’s for you because it is very specific in how it works.  You need to have great images, you can’t add live links and you can’t schedule your posts (easily).  Pinterest is great for creating private boards where you can keep the pics you used for your research or inspiration, and then you can make them public as part of your book launch.

I hope that doesn’t sound too boring or arduous. I’ve tried to summarise what is a day’s worth of workshop and that’s never that easy to do! Those who are organic writers and like to just jump in are usually going cross-eyed at this point. The reality is that you can do that when marketing, but it makes it so much harder and more frustrating. Sometimes a bit of planning is a good idea. Can you trust me on this?

marketing 2

I read that the most valuable tool in the authors marketing tool box is an email list. And that a survey showed that an email subscriber is 24 time more likely to buy a book than through FB.  Do you share this opinion?

Rule number one in marketing (there are a lot of number one rules, by the way) is to remember that figures like this are averages often being used by someone to sell a course or a way of thinking or their ‘insider expertise’. And, anyway, we all know where averages come from, don’t we?  There are so many other variables here that my brain spins trying to work out if this figure has any meaning at all!  Do I think email is important? Yes.  But I also don’t think Facebook is a great medium for selling books, so that anything is 24 times better than Facebook is more a reflection on Facebook than on what it’s being compared with.  For a writer, Facebook is much better used as a place to recruit those likely strangers and build relationships with them.  Facebook, itself, is about entertainment and connection.  Who sits down of an evening and thinks “I’ll just have a look at Facebook to see what people want to sell me?”  By all means advertise to your fans when there’s a new book out, or post about it, but email is usually a much better option for converting to sales.  Those people have trusted you with their email address.  That means they’re much more engaged than your average Facebook fan.  There seems to be a riff at the moment that ‘email is over’ and ‘readers don’t want to get emails any more’.  Hmmmm…. no.  Like Facebook, email is really good at what it does so every writer and her dog has jumped in and now you have to be better, sharper and deliver more value to get people to stay on your list and open the emails you send them.

What are the top three things an author should be doing right now?  

    1. Creating a thoughtful, purposeful plan (a sales funnel)
    2. Implementing that plan
    3. Reviewing that plan

What’s the worst thing we as authors can do?

Have no plan.  That’s it.  No plan is the worst thing you can do. No plan is worse than a mediocre plan. It’s probably worse than the wrong plan.  Probably.

marketing-management 4

Finally, if it’s not a repetition of Q#7, what is one thing we could do today to make a difference?   

So that’s the converse of the previous question.  The one thing you could do is to have a plan. Is this getting repetitive?  It’s easy to say that you should have a plan, but researching and creating that plan is the important part.  You can dream up a plan in 10 seconds, but unless you’re some marketing Einstein then it’s probably useless because it hasn’t been created thoughtfully and purposefully. It takes a while to build a sales funnel, but it’s not arduous and I use coloured textas which helps make it a bit more fun.  A bit.

Do you think blog tours are worthwhile?

Hmmm.  Depends why you’re doing them.  If it’s about sales, then maybe not.  If it’s about brand awareness then why not?  In marketing jargon you need to be looking at ‘multiple touch points’ with your readers.  And a bit more techno-speak, you need to think about which of your activities are about brand awareness and which are about sales. That’s where inexperienced marketers can go wrong.  They try to make everything about sales.  As I mentioned before, these days most people buy from people they know, like and trust.  From time to time we will buy from strangers, but not often.  If you do a blog tour to build that know, like and trust that’s fine.  If you want to sell, sell, sell, then there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.  One final point with blog tours is to make sure that you are matching your readers with that blog’s readers.  There’s no point getting promotion on a blog that doesn’t reach people who will likely read your books.  
How can our readers contact you?

Come and join me on my Facebook page or website.  Hey, why not sign up for my email? Or I’m at sara@marketing4writers.net

https://www.facebook.com/MarketingforWriters/

http://www.marketing4writers.net/

Thank you sooo much Sara! I’m going to be (again) pouring over your past posts. You’re a busy lady and we here at Aussie Owned & Read are most grateful for your time, especially given the extensive answers you’ve provided. Mwah times plenty!  You’re a true star.

And now – the winner of my giveaway (in a blind draw) is:  Drumroll…..

Billiondollarprincess!  Please contact me at kazdelaney01@gmail.com with your deets! Thanks for commenting! 

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Marketing and the Potato

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As we’re talking about marketing this month, Rebecca and Heather are going to look at what different mediums have done to successfully gain viral attention. In doing so, we will break down what it was about these marketing ideas that we found so memorable, and look at how they would translate to literary world.

We’ve broken these marketing ploys down into four key areas.

curiosity

Curiosity

These were the ideas that piqued the interest of the target audience by withholding information. By only providing part of the picture, the consumers were left searching for more pieces of the puzzle which generated hype and global reach across social media.

Cards Against Humanity’s 30 second Super Bowl ad that was a single shot of a potato with the word ‘Advertisement’ etched into it. It sent Twitter into a frenzy as people tried to decipher what it was about.

wsj0kg7

Yes this is the real ad

The Matrix and u: hygiene products used a similar concept. The Matrix advertising posed a single question–‘What is the Matrix?’ and had a site set up devoted to the furthering the riddle.

 

Every question needs an answer.

deanmitchell-vip-logo-web-1

The VIP Experience

Making your consumer feel extra special is a great promotional tool and can create lifetime loyal followers. Everyone loves exclusivity, we all want to be a part of that little club. As a whole, people have the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, we all want more, and when given the opportunity to get something extra that no one else has, we more often than not jump at that chance. So using this main trait to your marketing advantage would be wise.

For example, Skyrim offered up free games for life, but the catch was you had to name your baby that happened to be born on the games release day the main protagonists name… Dovahkiin. You didn’t need to be one of the two people who actually went ahead and won this prize to be drawn to the weirdness of it.

You don’t have to offer up anything this dramatic, limited editions, and VIP tickets are also great draws, with youtube unboxing a few simple extras thrown in with your advanced copy can be the star of the show.

scavengerhunt2

Interactive

Get people involved. Get them out looking, talking, generating excitement. Your audience are the ones who can get word of mouth happening in a big way and usually drive awareness the most.

A great example of this was Bioshock 2s launch when they created ten promotional images and hid them in wine bottles. These bottle were placed on ten random beaches worldwide with clues for their fandom on where to find them. Kind of like what Willie Wonka did with his golden tickets.

You could do something as simple as a blog post scavenger hunt with a prize for the winner. Facebook launch parties get the word out there, and Instagram is a good tool to get people taking pictures with your book on launch day.

Resident Evil utilised a gruesome scavenger hunt where the winner would receive a trip to Africa. Which leads us into our next point.

shock

Shock Value (Trigger Warning for extreme gore)

Resident Evil rules shock value. Shocking your consumer either works for or against you, but either way it generates conversation.

With the scavenger hunt, body parts were scattered around Trafalgar Square in London. This gained media attention, and freaked out the onlookers who weren’t involved in the stunt.

Resident Evil 6 went a step further with a butcher’s shop in London’s famous meat-market Smithfield, selling ‘human meat’. The proceeds of these sales went to the Limbless Associate, a U.K. charity for amputees and other who have lost limbs.

rebutchers

Now, obviously you don’t need to go to these extremes, but pushing the envelope so your marketing ideas go against the grain of what society deems ‘acceptable’ or ‘expected’ is one way to get people talking.

The most important part of marketing is to be memorable.

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Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

 

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In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

King’s Cage is book three in the Red Queen series.

Okay, so for some reason this series seems to be getting a lot of hate, and as soon as there’s hate, people get nit-picky and shred every aspect of the book.

For my reviews, I base them solely around whether the author kept me entertained. Did they do their job and help me escape the real world? Yes? Automatically at least three stars. The other two stars are made up by taking a deeper look at a combination of character, pacing, and plot.

I don’t believe this book deserves the one- and two-star ratings it has been getting but art is subjective and everyone has the right to an opinion. This is simply mine.

I loved King’s Cage. Mare is such as easy character to sympathise with because she is driven and has agency. She spends a lot of this book locked up as Maven’s—what? Toy, maybe?—and while that could have gotten old fast, Aveyard really amped up the tension between them in a way that keeps interest. She’s also grown a lot as a character. There is less brashness and more calculation and planning. I also loved when she realized what a dick she had been to people in the previous book.

As always, the secondary characters are on point. Evangeline is one of those characters I love to hate and she did not disappoint. There is a lot of character growth for her also, and it is easy to see her being the hero of her own story, despite how much her story opposes Mare’s.

Cal is still a hunk, and Maven is still a twisted lunatic who was absolutely addictive to read.

I with there had been more Kilorn, and I really could have done without Cameron’s chapters—I didn’t even remember who she was to begin with so by the time I figured it out, I really didn’t care.

And while they’re still knee-deep in rebellion, Aveyard has added even more depth to the struggle for Norta, which I won’t spoil here, but has the potential for her to take book four in literally any direction.

My favourite parts of all these books are the battle scenes, and the scenes with Mare and Cal. So it makes sense that when her and Cal finally reunite in the midst of a huge fight, I was cheering them on for days.

This book is on the long side for YA fiction and thankfully keeps the pace throughout. There are no areas that felt boring or stale and I loved how one scene propelled you on to the next. After Mare escapes Maven though, it kind of felt like the rest of the book was all epilogue, getting ready to set up the next book. I mean, there were some great scenes in there and I still loved reading it, but the highlight of the book was definitely Mare’s escape.

I totally recommend this book.

 

AOaR_5star (3)

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Interviewing Stacey Nash

This month here on the blog we’re celebrating having two fabulous new members with a series of interviews and today I’m super lucky to be chatting to Stacey Nash.

Stacey Nash

You’ve written both sci-fi (can I say I adored the Collective books!!) and contemporary – which is your favourite to write and why?

Aww, thanks! The Collective series in many ways was the story of my heart. But, I do love writing both genres and I can’t say that I prefer one over the other. I tend to switch back and forth between the two, depending on whichever takes my fancy.

 

Similarly, do you prefer YA like your sci-fi or NA like the Oxley College series?

There actually isn’t a lot of difference between my NA and my YA. That’s because I write to a sweet heat level (no shown sex scenes) and my young adult characters are in the upper age bracket and my new adult characters are in the lower age bracket. This makes the categories blur and become quite similar.

It’s great to find those sweet stories with characters a bit older and thinking about post-school type issues. 
You’re from the gorgeous Hunter Valley region – how important is where you come from to your writing?

I do love my local area, but I have actually never set a story here. Most of my stories are set or based loosely around other places I’ve lived. I would be lost without the beauty of my surrounds though. It inspires me daily.

I’d love to travel there one day. My only trip was a whirlwind science conference which didn’t give me much time to appreciate scenery.

I got to know you through RWA (Romance Writers of Australia) – how important is the balance of romance in your stories?

RWA has connected me with so many wonderful people. Thanks RWA! Umm, as far as balance goes it’s very important to get right. Too little it doesn’t have the power to pull the reader through the story. Too much and it becomes a yawn-fest of ‘are these characters going to doing anything else but make eyes at other?’ That’s purely my opinion though. As both a reader and as a writer I prefer the romance to be a strong subplot. I always need something a little more adventurous to keep me entertained, but I do need a little love thrown in to make me swoon.

I love a meaty plot too!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

The first draft is for telling yourself the story. Subsequent drafts are for perfecting it.

Favourite childhood story?

I’m going to complicate this because it depends on what age we’re talking about. During my early years it would have been the BFG, but by the time I was 10 it had changed to Anne of Green Gables (the entire series) and stayed at that until I was around 14 when I discovered Tomorrow When the War Began (again, the entire series).

We seem to have similar tastes. I think TWTWB was a huge influence for me too.
What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a few things at the moment. I’m rewriting a YA sci-fi that once again blurs the magic/tech boundaries and I’ve just finished editing another NA contemp with a rural setting.

I can’t wait to read them!
Fast five questions:

Pantser or plotter? Both

Vanilla or chocolate? Vanilla

Novella or full-length? Full length

Series or standalone? Series

Day writing or Night? Day

 

BIO:

Writing for the young and new adult market, Stacey’s books are all adventure filled stories with a lot of adventure, a good dose of danger, a smattering of romance, and plenty of KISSING! Hailing from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, she loves nothing more than immersing herself in the beauty and culture of the local area.

Her debut novel, FORGET ME NOT was released as a three book series (Collective Series) through HarperCollins Australia during 2014 / 2015. And her Oxley College Saga is out now.

Twitter / Facebook / Website

🙂

Beck

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I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

 

 

MKR SERVES UP ROMANCE

Dishing Up Romance.

I’m so excited to be delivering my first ever Aussie Owned & Read post. Thank you for having me. I’ll be working to fit the brief and keep all you lovely followers and visitors happy and well fed.

Speaking of well fed  – or not – I’m an MKR fan. (My Kitchen Rules) Don’t judge. It’s an inherent weakness. Apart from authoring and reading, my fave thing is to bake and cook, so despite the show’s many shortcomings I’m still drawn to those television kitchens and those sweating, suffering contestants. And yes, I know it’s all director-created storylines and false drama but obviously I’m a cheap date because I love it.

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This year though – and here’s where this post becomes relevant – there was an added ingredient, a  staged  romance between young rival contestants Bec and Kyle. It was flirt city. Bec was batting those eyelashes and serving up saucy over-the-shoulder entrees entreaties and Kyle was responding with prolonged glances that held more heat than a raw Bird’s Eye Chilli. It was good stuff. It was believable and whether real or clever editing, I was suckered in. bec-kyle

So, talking Romance – ‘cos that’s what we’re doin’ here at AO&R this month…

Interestingly, my fascination with Bec and Kyle’s relationship actually grew to equal my interest in what they were being served. Apart from seeming genuine, and the sense of fun and warmth both contestants oozed, what interested me was the answer both gave independently when asked about those first sparks. Both declared they were drawn to each other, initially, over a shared sense of humour.

‘We could just talk to each other as if we’d known each other forever.’

As an author this scenario spoke volumes to me: Likeable characters (who like each other) + a connection  Boom! There it was: a simplified time-honoured equation  – a key, if you like –  to the gateway to romance.  

Let’s look at that.

Many times in YA fiction we see heroines who fall for a ‘face’ (and whoa, we’re all guilty of that).  Disney is the biggest offender. But, hey we can be more than Disney. (Inserts discreet cough)

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We want to create a romance that draws the reader in – a romance that is believable and makes the reader wail at the thought of these two characters not being together. To do that? Find something that connects them. Something that intrigues enough for each to want to dig deeper. Something more than a cute face or hot bod. 

Completing the Jigsaw.

Imbue them with likeable/interesting traits and then imagine them as two random jigsaw pieces that have one side that fits them together neatly. That’s the start of a story. As authors we need to now find the bigger picture. The whole picture.  Connections. And it is from those connections that a relationship can begin to develop. Ergo, each new side of the jigsaw that fits is a new connection. Or not…

Delicious Firsts

YA love is raw and heart-pounding and exciting. It’s a series of delicious firsts that will never be experienced in the same way. It can feel dangerous and bold and yet, tender and syrupy warm. Hands shake. Stomachs perform backflips. But love, YA or not, is more than heaving tummies and shaking body parts. If it’s not, it’s not love. It’s not even lust. It’s a condition that needs medication. See a doctor. Fast.

I’m as guilty as the next of those heaving body parts, but there has to be more. That’s just the beginning; a knee jerk reaction. There has to be depth. A relationship has to grow. Develop.  It shouldn’t arrive fully formed. No one will believe that. So, get them talking. Get them connecting.

Blatantly falsified Stats

Note they don’t have to agree on everything. That would be boring. Very few relationships, ever, (maybe I’m generalising) are completely compatible in every aspect of life. But most are at least 60%. (Yep, I’m completely generalising and worse I’m making up stats – but it seems sound(?)).   And that compatibility goes further than a like or dislike of Thai food and the colour purple. But it’s a start.

Love Must pass the Belief Test

My last thoughts are to remember that even though we’re writing about young people, our romances have to be real and they must pass the reader belief test. Yes, first or new love is a dizzying time. And to those who are in the throes, there is nothing deeper or more special and no one else has ever felt this depth of emotion. No one. Ever. It’s powerful.

The secret? Again?

Connections. Think of them as sticky fingers that glue them to each other.   Convince the reader that these two were created for each other.

My last, last thought? Vale the relationship of Bec (who was eliminated) and Kyle.  MKR has lost its allure for me now. However, in my imagination I’m retelling the tale and in my version they find a way to be together – loved up, blissfully experimenting with strange and exotic foods.

And they’ll email me the recipes. Or invite me to dinner.

Sounds like a perfect ending to me.

And to celebrate that perfect ending, and my imperfect beginning here at AO&R, any person who takes the time to comment or just wave to say ‘hi’ on the comment board (I don’t judge) will go into a random draw to receive a copy of The Reluctant Jillaroo, or an earlier title if you already have that book – plus a pack of author goodies. Thank you! See you in the comments!

Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages.  Her latest YA is The Reluctant Jillaroo, kaz-profiles-022Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

For the Love of Libraries

To celebrate V-Day, here at Aussie Owned, we’re dedicating the month to love. And how can we talk about things we love without giving libraries a mention?

Most book worms can track their love of reading (or writing!) back to these houses of art. Growing up, Heather used to BEG to go to the library, so her Mum caught on pretty quick and this became her good-behaviour treat.

Heather’s local library was a standard, small space, with mostly donated books and little government funding. The shelves were a definite safety hazard, the books were falling apart, and the whole place had that funky kind of smell that hangs around a constantly damp place.

And she loved it anyway.

Rebecca grew up with much the same in way of her local library, but she never had to beg to go there. Her mother was quite happy to take her and her two sisters at least once a week; she shared in Rebecca’s love of books, often borrowing on Rebecca’s card when her own had maxed the ten per person limit.

Libraries have forever been a place full of hope. Full of magic. A place where we could go and escape the horrible things in the world.

Below are some pics of our favorite libraries that not only house magic, but seem to generate it as well. A far cry from the ones many of us grew up with.

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Heather – Recognise this one? Okay, so it’s not real BUT we don’t know a book worm alive that didn’t grow up coveting this very room. When my hubby turned a room of our house into a study/library, complete with globe, I felt just like Belle. (Also, It looks nothing like this. But I pretend.)

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Heather – *sigh* Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a favourite of mine during those awkward teen years. Having always heard that loving books made you a nerd, this was the first time I was confronted with a beautiful, strong, fun woman, who liked to read. Audrey gave me the confidence I needed to shrug off the haters.

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Rebecca – This is the Library I coveted growing up. My school library was NOTHING like this. Do you recognise it? I will give you a clue; It ‘slays’ me how awesome libraries are, even if not a lot of school borrowing took place in this one.

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Rebecca – This is my dream home study/library. The wall to wall shelves, the fireplace, the second floor complete with intricate ballastrade and the wingback chairs all invite you in. Don’t you just want to grab a book and curl up and read by the fire?

Now we have shown you ours, what libraries do you love? Were you one of the lucky few who has ventured to their dream libarry, or have you created your own at home?