Interview with WQ magazine

Interview with Lorraine Mace, WQ magazine, May 10, 2010
Phillipa Fioretti’s first novel, The Book of Love, was recently published as part of a two-book deal with Hachette Australia. She puts her good fortune down to having the right book, at the right time, in the right place.

Tell us about how you secured your publishing deal.

‘As I was finishing my third manuscript, I saw an ad for the Hachette Australia/Queensland Writers Centre Manuscript Development Program.Applications were open to all Australian commercial fiction writers.Eight were selected and we attended a five-day retreat with two publishers from Hachette, an agent, a published writer, a bookseller, and the head of QWC.It was a brilliant opportunity and a great five days.‘We were all told at the start that no-one would be offered a contract straight away, but to submit the improved manuscripts when ready.There were no guarantees because, of course, the manuscripts had to go to an acquisitions meeting and run the gauntlet of sales and marketing.
‘Two of the key words for this program were “commercial” and “development”.No matter what the merits of the manuscript, if it didn’t present a viable commercial proposition then it wouldn’t be taken on.’

What was the timeline of events leading up to your book deal?

‘I submitted a week after returning from the retreat in November 2008 and in early January I was offered a two-book contract.’

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same experience?

‘Nothing.I’ve been very fortunate and my experience perfectly illustrates the definition of luck – preparation meets opportunity.I worked very hard on the manuscript and had it polished and ready to go.It fell into the hands of a publisher who liked it from the start and was looking for quality women’s fiction.I think it was a situation where all the pieces came together at the right time.I could have submitted the same manuscript to other agents or publishers and nothing could have happened except the same old bounce back.’

What are your goals as a writer?

‘I don’t really have goals, other than to develop and grow in every aspect of writing – which actually encompasses dozens of mini goals, I know.But, put simply, I’d like to get better at it.I’m happy writing mystery/romance/comedy and I intend to stay in those genres.I think it can be done with intelligence and wit, and there is enormous scope for plot, atmosphere, humour, and, best of all, characters.So I’ll just take things as they come for now.’

How long did it take you to write your books?

‘I’ve been writing, full-time, since late 2006.I wrote three 85,000 word manuscripts in two years and I’m just about to complete my fourth.The Book of Love, after a false 20,000 word start, was written in two weeks – the first draft, that is.Then four or five months of editing and redrafting took place.This current book, the sequel, has taken almost a year to get the first draft down. I’ve had many other things to deal with, so it’s been a very unsatisfying stop/start affair, but it’s written now.’

What was the first thing you ever had published?

‘My background is in visual art so I’ve never had any writing published before. The Book of Love is it – the first.’

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

‘There is a lot of advice out there for aspiring writers – so much it’s overwhelming. If you sift through it all you see the same advice repeated over and again.And that’s because it is good advice, based on experience and insight.So get out there and start sifting.If you’ve come from another career or life and have started to write, it can become tiresome trying to hide your new fixation, trying to cover for all the things you haven’t done because you were writing, and answering people’s questions like “Do you have a publisher?” That last question has a burn to it, and it’s a question only non-writers would ask.
‘So, for me, one of the best aspects of getting published is not so much the book on the shelf (I know I could be stoned for saying that), but the fact that publication means validation.I’ve had my ticket stamped and I can keep doing this now and not have to fight for time, or have to fight to be taken seriously.I get to write every day and that’s a fantastic outcome.’

Lorraine Mace is a columnist for Writing Magazine (UK) and deputy editor of Words with JAM (e-zine). She is a writing competition judge, a tutor for Writers Bureau and co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer’s ABC Checklist.

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