I went to see author Fleur McDonald on Monday, as she was having a Q & A session at the Gossie Knowledge center. I really enjoyed meeting her with my mum. She is one of my favorite commercial rural romance authors. I thought I would share a few things she said about her writing experience as it has been mentioned in class.
For those who don’t know who Fleur is, she is a farmer living on an isolated farm with her husband and children near the SA border. She said, she had never thought of becoming a writer. She and her husband bought their first farm on their wedding day and it was a decapitated house with no running water in the toilet (and stayed like that the next 7 years). They went through many ups and downs on the land, with droughts mainly, but also with stock theft. Her youngest son has an autism spectrum disorder, and she used to read stories to him and also write short stories for him, but never considered becoming an author.
About 7 years (?) ago, she thought she would like to do something for herself and took a writing course. Her teacher suggested that she put all her short stories together and see if she could find a publisher. She decided not to, but the seed was sown and so she decided to write a novel. She had no idea what genre to write, and it wasn’t until she was inspired by another rural romance writers novel that she realised ‘hey I can write that, I live and work on a farm and I love this place.’
Next she made newbie mistake after newbie mistake:
1. She sent off three chapters and a synopsis to Allen & Unwin’s pitch Friday (they only want 1 chapter).
2. In her synopsis she told them she would pay them if they gave her writing advice.
3. She didn’t actually have a finished manuscript… only those three chapters.
She heard from Allen & Unwin. They said NO.
But, they told her she had a good commercial writing ability and that she should send it to a different publisher as it wasn’t the type of novel they were looking for at the time.
4. So, she resubmitted all 3 chapters to the same publishers again.
She heard back from an editor at Allen & Unwin, who told her they would publish her manuscript (what manuscript) IF she accepted the editing they wanted to do. She signed up.
To date she has written several novels set in rural Australia with an Agricultural setting and historical/ romance theme.
Her titles are:
Crimson Dawn, Blue Skies, Silver Clouds, Red Dust, Purple Roads
She always puts a colour in her title; that’s her ‘brand’.
That way if a reader goes into a bookshop saying they are looking for a book from an author they read and they cant remember her name, then they will remember the genre and hopefully that it had a colour in the title.
I asked her how she researched the historical aspects of her book. She does a lot of research but usually it is asking old timers, ie old shearers etc, the things they used to do on the land and how they did them back then. They generally have a lot of stories to share and she uses them as inspiration for minor characters in her books.
Anyway, that’s all I can remember for now. She was lovely and I had a photo taken (me – fleur- my mother) and bought her book and had it signed… roll on holidays so I get to read it 🙂