All posts by Mary-Lou Stephens

About Mary-Lou Stephens

Mary-Lou Stephens was born in Tasmania, studied acting at the Victorian College of the Arts and played in bands in Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney before she got a proper job – in radio. She has worked and played all over Australia and now lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband, their dog and a hive of killer native bees. Her meditation memoir, Sex, Drugs and Meditation has recently been released by Pan Macmillan.

The Sound of Music

As a child I used to sing myself to sleep. I can’t remember what I sang, I just made it up as I went along. My parents had a rule at the dinner table, “No singing” because most of us would rather sing than eat. Recorder lessons, piano lessons, I even made my mum buy me a banjo when I was 11, which I must confess I never learnt to play. The church choir, school choirs, and gathering around the piano for a good old sing along. The love of music is one of the greatest gifts we can instil in kids as they’re growing up, there’s something about it that opens the heart and sparks the imagination.

Mary-Lou Stephens 1984
Me, being a rock star in 1984.

It’s no wonder my mother was horrified when, at 18, I returned home after a year living in Kings Cross wearing black vinyl pants and having found a new vocation, playing bass guitar. I’d seen the Stranglers play live and had an epiphany. The volume from the PA was so loud it pushed my clothes against my skin and rumbled through my chest. In the mix was the most glorious sound, low and powerful, melodic and mysterious. I yelled into someone’s ear, “What is that?” When I heard the answer I knew what I wanted to do.

My mum wasn’t concerned about the whole post-punk, new wave ethos, she wasn’t even worried about me not settling down and getting a proper job, what really frightened her was that I’d lose one of my most precious possessions, my hearing. And she was right. The first band I played in nearly deafened me.

I don’t know who invented the belief that louder is better, it was probably the same guitar player who decided that faster is better and diddly-diddylied us all into an ear-numbing stupor.  I do know that the lead guitarist in my first band was already deaf and wanted to take the rest of us down with him. Back then you knew you’d had a good night out when your ears were still ringing the next day. But what happens when your ears don’t stop ringing?

My mum was a lot happier when some years later I had another epiphany. I discovered Patsy Cline. Out went the black vinyl pants and scowling attitude, in came skirts and a Dolly Parton love of children and small animals. I got an acoustic guitar and a band that even my mother could come and listen to without sticking toilet paper in her ears, except perhaps when I’d yodel!

The Best-Selling Author Who Changed My Life

A couple of years ago I wrote a book. My publisher said they wanted it and then they changed their mind. My agent at the time told me if my publisher didn’t want it then no one else would, she couldn’t sell it.

‘Write me something I can sell,’ she said.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘Women’s fiction.’

‘Oh.’

Up until that time I’d written a novel about a sixty-something woman who was actually an energy being from another galaxy and two memoirs. I knew nothing about writing women’s fiction.

Shortly afterwards I interviewed a best-selling author. I’d interviewed her before, more than once. She’s a prolific writer. After the interview she asked me how my writing was going.

‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘My agent wants me to write women’s fiction and I’m not sure that I can.’

‘Of course you can,’ she said. ‘Come to my masterclass and I will teach you how.’

‘Masterclass?’

That’s how I found out about Fiona McIntosh’s commercial fiction masterclass, the masterclass that changed my writing life. I paid the money (it’s not cheap but it’s worth it), flew to Adelaide  and spent five days having my world turned upside down. Imagine this; you’ve spent a lot of money to be at a masterclass, you arrive on the first day and are surrounded by other keen writers, you await the pearls of wisdom that are going to drop from your teacher’s mouth and the first thing she says is this:

‘Nobody cares. Nobody cares about your writing. Nobody cares about your book. The world does not need your book.’

I felt as though I’d been slapped. I was a writer. I was special. I was a published writer. I was even more special. Of course the world cared. Of course the world needed my books.

I cried, I fought, I struggled and eventually I got over myself and remembered the rest of Fiona’s opening speech. She said, ‘The less I care the better I write.’

At the time I thought, Well that’s certainly not true, she researches her books impeccably, she’s written thirty best-sellers, she cares .

It wasn’t until I was deep into my next novel and struggling with a worrisome chapter that her words made sense. This chapter had to be in the book but I didn’t know how to approach it or how to make it work. Hell, I didn’t even know where to start. Then I remembered, ‘Nobody cares.’

It was if a weight lifted from my shoulders. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. This book doesn’t matter. This chapter certainly doesn’t matter. The world doesn’t need this book. Nobody cares. All the stress and worry of the tricky chapter disappeared. I began to write. The words flowed. The chapter sang. And all because nobody cares, not even me. Hooray!

Fiona McIntosh’s latest book, The Chocolate Tin, has just been released and she’s touring the country to talk about it. (You might have seen her in the latest edition of the Women’s Weekly.) She and I will be having a chat at a literary lunch in Noosa on the 25th of November. You can find the details here. And yes, there will be chocolate.

If you can’t make it to Noosa details of her other events are here.

And if you want to change your writing life then you can find out about Fiona’s masterclasses here.

But no matter what you do, whether you’re a writer or not, that simple lesson of ‘nobody cares’ may change your life.

Do The Mashed Potato

dee-dee-sharp-mashed-potato-time-columbia-2My friend Fiona was a career woman. Like a lot of my friends at the time she had a great job, plenty of money, all the perks she could possibly demand… and a part-time man.  There was an era of my life when the latest accessory for the woman who had everything was the no-commitment relationship.  Fiona called one such relationship  “Three Days”. Once a month he’d fly up from Sydney and they’d do the long weekend thing, an arrangement she was perfectly content with.  Many of my female friends longed for the perfect relationship – not true love, commitment and roses, but a man who’d leave them alone to get on with their busy lives and only be around when it was convenient.

Fiona asked me around for dinner one night, at that stage she was going out with a sailor, a Rear Admiral no less, whose home port was San Francisco. How marvellous we all thought, she has a boyfriend she only sees every 6 months, very clever.  She asked me what I’d like to eat; Thai, African, perhaps Japanese.  She was a rather put out by my reply. At the time I was working on average 14 hours a day (a relationship with a hermit living in a cave in Estonia would have been too much for me) and I wanted bangers and mash for dinner. I think the trend for good old-fashioned home cooking, like mashed potatoes, was spawned by exhausted careerists who needed to feel looked after, just for a while, before chaining themselves to the corporate juggernaut once more.

Fiona did her best with what should have been a simple task; boil potatoes until they’re falling apart, drain, add milk, lashings of butter, salt to taste, and then go to it with the potato masher. Worked for my mum every time. Unfortunately a glossy coffee table book detailing these instructions hadn’t been released and Fiona was way out of her depth.  What should have been the pinnacle of comfort food arrived on our plates as grey, lumpy soup.

Fast food, disposable music and no-commitment relationships left me feeling empty and homesick. But I didn’t have time to dwell, there was too much work to do. I was dishing out instant gratification on commercial radio, highly researched and tightly formatted for maximum monetary gain. My head was full of call-out figures, familiarity scores and burn factors, that was what music had become to me.  Slow cooked food, slow music that cooks and a slowly cooking relationship were way too inconvenient. But the day after that dinner I found time to buy a potato masher.

These days my life is a lot slower and I love it. Everything has changed. Who would have thought that the career-frazzled woman I used to be would become a happily married writer? Not me. Now I have time to think and cook  and write a book that’s coming along way too slowly. And that’s okay. Other things have changed too. The Hubby and I no longer eat mashed potatoes but have discovered the delights of mashed cauliflower and it’s just as delicious and comforting. Fast food no longer enters the building and I’m feeling well and truly committed after 12 years of marriage. But one thing hasn’t changed. I still have that potato masher.

The Truth About Tim Winton

I was asked to interview the famous Australian writer Tim Winton for a literary event. With the release of his latest book, a memoir called The Boy Behind the Curtain, he was hitting the road on a book tour. The request came through months before the event and I jumped at the chance, after all it was Tim Winton.

I was given a pre-release copy of the book (an uncorrected proof) to read and loved it – it’s poetic, heartbreaking, funny, informative and gives a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse of his writing life and his writing disasters. Yes, even Tim Winton has writing disasters.

As the weeks rolled by and the date of the event grew closer I became increasingly nervous. Tim is known to be a very private person. It’s also a fact that he’s not all that fond of the spruiking that needs to be done when a new book is released. I’d heard reports of him being taciturn during interviews and a rumour that he once said to a journalist, ‘I’m so sick of talking about this book.’  What would I do if he gave me one-word answers or even worse, didn’t answer my questions at all?

I was also nervous because it was Tim Winton. The Tim Winton. Four-time winner of the Miles Franklin, 28 books and 3 plays to his name, Australia’s best loved literary novelist.  And then there was the note from his publicist, the first of many, saying that Tim preferred an interlocutor to an interviewer. An interlocutor? Quick, find me a dictionary. Turns out an interlocutor is someone who takes part in dialogue or conversation. Okay. So I wouldn’t be asking him questions, we’d be having a chat instead. My nervousness grew.

When I was in radio I’d get asked all the time what the secret was to a great interview. I’d always say, ‘Do your research and then listen.’ As my apprehension increased my research began in earnest. I read the book again, I read reviews and interviews, I read and reread many of his novels and his coastal and landscape memoirs. I wrote pages of questions, re-wrote them and then re-wrote them again. And then, because he doesn’t like being interviewed and prefers to have a chat, I condensed them to dot points.

The chain of emails from his publicist grew longer. The list of do’s and don’t’s. What Tim liked and what he didn’t. It was like dealing with a major rock star. For someone who was already nervous, it was a tad intimidating. And I’ll mention here that I used to interview people for a living. Eighteen years in radio, fifteen of those with the ABC. I’ve interviewed a lot of people, politicians, pundits and yes, authors. Sometimes I’d be nervous but not often, in fact hardly ever. It was my job. I did my research, I asked questions and most importantly I listened. But the momentum around Tim’s book tour was growing. He was on the front page of The Australian, The Review and the Australian Magazine. He is a major star, there’s no escaping it. And I was going to interlocutor with him, in front of a sold out audience. (The event sold out in three days.)

The big day arrived. At that point I probably knew more about Tim Winton than his own mother. I decided I wasn’t nervous. No, not at all. I was excited. I was about to have a chat with an Australian literary legend. I was greeted at the venue by people I knew and liked; the team from Noosa Libraries, Annie and Rachel from Annie’s Books, a member of my book club and a fellow writer from my writing group. I began to relax. And then I met Tim.

I was given the opportunity to sit and talk with him away from everyone else before the event. I gave him a rundown of what we’d be interlocutoring about. (By the way, interlocutoring is not in the dictionary.) I was amazed when he told me I could ask him anything and he’d be okay with it. As we talked I discovered he was down to earth, friendly and funny as all get out. I mentioned how hectic his tour schedule was and he told me he’d rather be busy than melancholy, and he would be melancholy if left to his own devices. I added ‘honest’ to his list of heart-warming attributes.

The actual event was brilliant. He was witty and wise, erudite and earthy. He had the audience laughing uproariously one minute and nodding their heads solemnly the next. And as for me?  I had done my research and now my job was to listen. So I listened. And we chatted. I didn’t even need to refer to my notes. I was an interlocutor extraordinaire. The crowd loved it, Tim enjoyed himself and I think even the publicist was happy.

So, here’s the truth about Tim Winton. He may be a private person and he may be Australia’s most acclaimed literary author but this I know for certain – Tim Winton, the boy behind the curtain, is a lovely, lovely bloke.

Tim Winton & Mary-Lou Stephens

The Famous Author Who Dressed Like a Duck

Recently a friend of mine was talking to me about a writing project she was keen to pursue. Trouble was she wasn’t sure whether to write it as a novel or a screenplay.
‘You could always do a Graeme Simsion,’ I said.
‘What did he do?’
‘He originally wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay but couldn’t get any interest. So he wrote it as a novel and what do you know, he got a movie deal.’

Graeme Simsion is famous for the massive advance he received for The Rosie Project and fair enough too because the book sold all over the world to the tune of over a million copies. He’s also very well known thanks to Bill Gates who read the book and told the world how much he loved it. But the other thing Graeme is famous for is dressing like a duck. He only did it the once for a conference presentation (to brighten up a very dry topic) but it’s become a thing of legend.

The last time I spent time with Graeme was at The Byron Bay Writers Festival in 2013. He was dressed casually without a feather to be seen. I remember being backstage with him while he was checking his phone for the latest rankings of The Rosie Project. He was very excited to discover that his book had made the best-seller list in Italy. Ah, the joys of being a mega-selling novelist.

Since The Rosie Project’s huge success Graeme has written two more novels, The Rosie Effect and now The Best of Adam Sharp which is being released next month. This latest novel is about love, music and coming to terms with the past. Hmmm, I think I can relate to that 🙂

Recently he got in touch to suggest we do something for The Best of Adam Sharpe. Naturally, I said yes and Noosa Libraries got on board. The result is a literary lunch in Noosa on Thursday 22nd September. You can find the details here. It’s a good excuse to visit Noosa but if you can’t make it Graeme is going to be a very busy man in September with multiple appearances. Perhaps he’s going to be in your town. Here’s his schedule.

I hope to see you in Noosa but if not I’m sure we’ll bump into each other in the virtual world somewhere.

GraemeSimsionLiteraryLunchNoosa2016

It’s All Perfect

I’ve never had a guest blogger on my site before but when spiritual memoirist Mollie Player  got in touch I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. She wrote, Just finished Sex, Drugs & Meditation  today and truly enjoyed it. I wish we lived in a world with more spirituality memoirs!

So here’s to a world with more spiritual memoirs and please welcome Mollie Player.

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Contributor: Mollie Player

Mollie Player writes spirituality memoirs and self-help books, as well as a blog called Suddenly Awesome, which is about how being spiritual makes her otherwise boring life suddenly awesome. Read and follow at mollieplayer.com.

Readers of Eckhart Tolle understand the importance of appreciating the present moment–paying attention as much as possible to the glorious Now and leaving the past behind us. For a long time, though, I was stumped by something: How am I supposed to live in the present and also allow myself to feel the desires that lead to conscious creation? 

What about visualization? What about mantras? What about figuring out what I don’t want so that I can decide what I do want to welcome into my life? 

Then the other day, my good friend (and angel channel) Leta Hamilton talked to me about the importance of acceptance.

“Life is perfect, just as it is,” she said. “You don’t have to want a single new thing to be happy.”

And I knew it was true, because she has four young children and is still the happiest person I know.

So, the following day, I took her advice. I started a new spiritual practice: that of accepting everything that came.

“Bring it on, Universe,” I said. “Do your worst. I’m going to learn to love what is if it kills me.”

And it was the greatest experience. That day I happened to spend most of the sunny afternoon at a park with my two wonderful children. Then that evening I was treated to a massage and a facial. I truly enjoyed these experiences in a way I have rarely done before, without fault-finding and overly critical thinking and too-high expectations.

It was wonderful.

I’m pretty sure the Universe wanted me to have an especially good first try at all this acceptance stuff, because over the following few days things got back to normal. Kids crying till my ears hurt, poopy diapers . . . you get the idea.

But I continued my new-found spiritual practice, and what I noticed right away was that none of the bad stuff seemed all that bad anymore. Because they weren’t that bad. They were the challenges of life.

There’s an amazing quote in The Power of Now (by Eckhart Tolle) about  whether or not we as conscious creators should accept that bad stuff happens.

“Is suffering really necessary? Yes and no. If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion. You would not be reading this now. Suffering cracks open the shell of ego, and then comes a point when it has served its purpose. Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.”

Beautiful, isn’t it? Sometimes we law of attraction believers get down on ourselves for not having everything we want, not outwardly appearing to be as successful as others we know. As much as I believe in and practice visualization, affirmations and meditating on what I desire, and pray to the angels and seek enlightenment and read books and discuss spiritual matters for hours on end . . . I’m remembering through it all that I am in a process. I am experiencing everything–“good” and “bad”–for a reason.

Truly, it is all perfect.

And here’s the really funny part (that you may have guessed already): Ever since my revelation on acceptance, things are flowing better for me, too. What I need and want comes to me in a natural way, at the right time–often before I consciously know I need it.

If you are a dissatisfied spiritual person, someone who wants to become a more positive thinker right now, I encourage you to embrace this paradox.

Accept first. Then work on your deliberate creation.

Accept.

Mollie Player

Stories From The Journey

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There’s been a lot of interest in this event. Noosa Library has had to move it to the Noosa Leisure Centre next door to the library to fit everyone in! If you can make it I’d love to see you there.  And my book How To Stay Married fits right in, it’s a travel memoir after all 🙂

How I Discovered One of Australia’s Best Selling Authors

flinders rangesA while ago I was staying with a friend at her house in the Flinders Ranges. I found it hard to understand why anyone would live there, in the driest place within the driest state on the driest continent. Unsurprisingly almost every name on the map was a ghost town. Years ago she and I shared a flat near the beach in Sydney, lots of water, lots of green. Since then I’d spent most of my time living in Queensland, lots more water, much greener. My friend’s choice of surroundings didn’t make a lot of sense to me, literally. My senses didn’t understand it. But she and her husband love the outback and within a few days the colours, the starkness and the flocks of emus began to win me over with their specific kind of beauty.

The bedroom I was staying in was upstairs in their converted church. It had a verandah that overlooked the rocks and saltbush. One of the windows was propped open by a book. I said to my friend, ‘If I find you another book to prop open the window, can I read this one?’ She laughed and said I could have it and she’d find something else to keep the window open in the hope of a breeze.

And that’s how I discovered one of Australia’s top selling authors. (That’s right I didn’t discover discover her, although I wish I had, imagine having a percentage of those royalties!)

The book was Three Wishes. The author? Liane Moriarty. Since then I’ve read just about every book she’s written. I’m saving a couple. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

Despite going straight to number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, a TV series based on one of her books being made in the US by famous people, movie options and more, she’s still referred to as ‘the most successful Australian author you’ve never heard of’ in this recent article. (Worth a look for the photographs alone.)

But in case you have heard of her and, like me, love her work, Liane has released a new book and is touring to chat with people like me in a town near you. Here’s her schedule and if you’re on the Sunshine Coast, or looking for an excuse to come to the Sunshine Coast, she and I will be having a chat at the Surfair in Marcoola on Wednesday 3rd August, thanks to Sunshine Coast Libraries. You’ll need to book and all the details are here. It would be great to see you there.

So, how about you? How did you discover your favourite authors? Were their books propping open a window in the desert?

The Song That Broke The Band

There are some songs that stay with you, not just for the week that they might be on high rotation on the radio, but for a lifetime. Songs are highly emotive creatures. They plug into us for all kinds of reasons.

I was very young when I first heard this song and yet it’s stayed with me through the years.

I was reminded of the song and of the writer, Greg Quill, when I read this article about a new tribute album recorded in his honour – Some Lonesome Picker.

If you know Gypsy Queen you’ll know why it’s such a special song. If not this quote from the article might help.

Gypsy Queen is a song of the road no less than the poem Walt Whitman wrote a century earlier. It was a song about going on an adventure where your horizons would be expanded, and you’d live a larger life because of it.

But for me it has extraordinary significance. Why? This is the song that caused the demise of my band.

If you’ve read Sex, Drugs & Meditation you’ll know how devastated I was when my band broke up. The story behind the story is that we’d been playing together for years, touring and releasing CDs but we’d never really cut through. I had the idea of recording a cover version of this song, it was perfect for us with our line up and stunning harmonies. We’d never released a song written by anyone else – all originals up until that point – but I thought this song was worth it. It was such a brilliant idea that one member of the band quit. Why? Because she knew it would work, that we’d get airplay with it and therefore success and she didn’t want us to succeed. She wanted out. She wanted to pursue a solo career. And thus our band became an ex-band.

Ironically a few years later Adam Harvey recorded a cover version of this song and had a hit with it but by that time I was well ensconced in the world of radio and being a music director I got to decide what got played on radio and what didn’t.

When it comes down to it I’m grateful. If the band hadn’t broken up I never would have got into radio, I might never have started writing books instead of songs and I definitely wouldn’t have the superannuation that enabled me to retire early and have the freedom I now have – to write more books and to pick up my guitar whenever I feel like it.

And all these years later, I still love this song.

“I’m singing for the dark and lonely highway, I’m singing for the rivers and the trees, I’m singing for the country roads and byways, And I wonder as I go, Is there anyone I know, Who’ll sing for me.”

The Six Peas of Me

Thank you to Nene Davies for inviting me to her Six Peas blog. I love the concept – six questions all starting with P which she tailors to her guest. My six P’s are Performing, Presenting, Passion, Personal, Publishing, and Plans. I thought they were Perfect 🙂
If you read to the end you’ll get a sneak peek at what I’m up to now.

Performing

Can you tell us a little about your time in the music industry and how you turned the disappointment of that ending into a highly successful career in radio?

As soon as I finished school I left my home town and headed to the big smoke, Sydney. I lived in Kings Cross and hung out with drug dealers, punks and low-lifes. The music scene there was thriving and edgy and I became fascinated by it. A gig by The Stranglers at the State Theatre (before it was renovated) changed my life. As soon as I heard that bass sound I knew what I wanted to be – a bass player.

After someone I knew was murdered over a drug deal, I left Sydney and went back home to Hobart. I bought my first bass guitar, had a few lessons and dived into the world of playing in bands. At my first gig I stuffed up every single song but they didn’t kick me out and eventually I became quite a good player, in a naive kind of way. I also started writing songs.

A few years later I moved to Melbourne to study acting at the Victorian College of the Arts, but much preferred playing in the bands I was in while I was there. Then I moved back to Hobart for a bit of acting and playing in more bands, and then to Sydney where I stayed for many years.

in-sydney-my-songwriting-really-blossomed

In Sydney my songwriting really blossomed. I formed a couple of bands based around those songs and we toured and recorded CDs. The last band I was in I loved with all my heart and soul. All my time, energy and money went into that band. (If you think writing doesn’t pay, you should try making music!) When the band broke up I was devastated, the lying on the floor in the foetal position sobbing kind of devastated.

I had no idea what to do next. The only qualification I had was in acting and the only jobs I’d ever worked in were of the dead-end variety. There I was, a thirty-something woman, exhausted, broke as well as broken-hearted, and with no prospects. It wasn’t pretty. That’s when radio rode in on a white horse and saved the day.

I had lunch with a radio presenter who’d interviewed me many times and even used one of my songs as the theme song for his show. When he asked me what I was going to do now my band had broken up I told him I had no idea. He said to me ‘You want to be in radio.’

The effect was electrifying. I literally felt as though a lightbulb had just been switched on. ‘That’s so true,’ I said. ‘But I didn’t know it until this instant. How did you know?’

‘Because I know radio, and I know you,’ he said. ‘It’s a perfect fit.’

From that moment on every door on my path to being a radio presenter swung open. It was uncanny. I studied at AFTRS, got my first job in commercial radio in Tamworth then moved to Townsville and then landed my dream job with the ABC on the Sunshine Coast. And yes, radio was the perfect fit. All my years performing on stage as a musician and an actor and my knowledge of music fed straight into my work as a presenter and Music Director. There’s a lot more to this story and you can read all the details in my memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation.

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Presenting

Having worked in commercial radio and for many years as a presenter with ABC Sunshine Coast, what made you decide to write a book?

Unlike most writers I never dreamt of being a writer when I was younger. I wanted to be a rock star, or at least a famous singer/songwriter. I went on a music lover’s tour of the USA many years ago and came back with 12 very fuzzy photos to show for my travels. A colleague at the ABC said, ‘Clearly photography’s not your thing, why don’t you write about it instead.’

So I did. He liked it and recommended my writing to a friend of his who worked at the local paper. As a result I wrote a weekly column for over four years. It was the perfect apprenticeship.

That led to writing short stories, going to writing workshops and eventually starting the book that would become Sex, Drugs and MeditationI decided to write the book because I’ve always loved the case studies in self help books. In fact I would hardly ever read the theory in those books, or do the exercises, but I would always read the case studies because they were such great stories. After I realised that my life read like a case study I wondered if other people might like to read my story. Like a lot of wanna be writers I was good at starting projects but not as good at finishing them. So I saved up my money and self-funded six months leave without pay to see if I could finish a book. The answer was yes. Even better, I discovered that I loved the process so much that I wanted to keep writing. I’ve completed four books now, two memoirs and two novels, and I’ve started writing the fifth.

Passion

I know that you’ve now left the world of presenting to write fiction about playing in bands. Full circle! What would you say is your creative passion? Music, writing…or both? 

It’s writing, hands down, no doubt about it. I feel blessed in that I loved being a musician and all that entailed and then I moved into radio which I loved even more, and it paid better! And now I’ve moved onto something else again that I love better than either of those. (Acting was in there somewhere as well but to tell you the truth I was never in love with acting.) So I’ve been able to give my full attention and passion to three things in my life that have been fulfilling and exciting. And the best thing of all is that they all feed into what I’m doing now and not only in the stories I’m telling. Writing is more than sitting at a computer for hours on end, it includes speaking in front of people, doing author talks, writers’ panels, interviews and publicity. All my time as a performer of one kind or another makes that part of the job second nature to me.

And there’s a bonus. I didn’t do this intentionally to start with but now it’s a signature of my work. Every book I write has a song or two in it that I’ve written. So when I do events I often whip out my guitar and play a song.

Personal

What is your number one tip for authors wanting to write a memoir? 

Get honest. It’s terrifying but it’s vital. I had some interest early on for Sex, Drugs and Meditation but the interest went cold when I sent them everything I’d written at the time. I was told that the book had promise but I had to get really honest and stop avoiding the truth. The idea of doing that scared me so much I ran away and wrote a novel instead. (I regard that novel as my practice book. I learnt a lot by writing it.) Years later I found my courage and wrote the book that needed to be written. The result was a publishing deal.

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Publishing

How did you go about publishing your books?

I submitted Sex, Drugs and Meditation through the open submission process most Australian publishing houses have these days. Pan Macmillan picked up the manuscript and, to my enormous gratitude and terror, published it. Sex, Drugs and Meditation is the true story of how I changed my life, saved my job and found myself a husband. The sequel, How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ever after. Pan Macmillan liked How To Stay Married and were keen to publish but, and here’s the truth about publishing, it didn’t get through sales and marketing. It doesn’t matter if a publisher likes your book, if the sales team says no then that’s the end of it. Because I had a completed manuscript I decided to publish it anyway. I jumped into the world of self publishing and released the book on the date of my tenth wedding anniversary.

My latest novel is under consideration by a major publisher. However even if they green light it I’m only expecting an ebook deal. With all the changes in publishing (and more to come if the changes to PIR go ahead) the majors are playing it safe these days. Often they’ll offer ebook only deals. If the book sells well in that format then they may offer a print deal.

Plans

What’s next?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been many things in my life including a musician, a songwriter, an actor, a radio presenter and an author. All of these come together in my latest passion, writing fiction about women who rock.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the first one, Rock Candy:

Georgia Hill’s star has crashed. Her band has broken up, her best friend has betrayed her and worst of all, at the age of 28, she’s living back home with her parents. When her song Sweetie is used in an advertising campaign against her will it gives her some much-needed cash…but robs her of any remaining credibility. Unable to return to the world she loves, Georgia travels to The Park, a mysterious community in Scotland where Jax, a rock star she admires, is in hiding. 

Rock Candy is the first in the Rock Chick series. Novels planned so far include:

Rock Slide. Suzie Smith is a major star but she wants out. Her plan to leave it all behind unravels in ways she could never imagine.

Rock Salt. Three sisters, one stellar career and the man who brings it all crashing down.

Rock Fall. On the eve of her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the skeletons come tumbling out of Lena Stanley’s capacious closet.

Rock Hard. The all girl rock band Bitumen have fought hard to be taken seriously and become successful. What will they have to sacrifice to reach their ultimate goal?

I’ve started writing Rock Slide and once again it’s a wonderful process. I love writing fiction and imbuing it with the knowledge of the life I used to live. Not that I’ve ever been a rock star but sometimes, when I was on stage with a guitar in my hands, I could almost believe that I was.

I’m excited about these books and also have plans to record the songs that are included in them.

I would love for people to keep in touch either through my Facebook page, my website, or by joining my email list.

Rock on!