I would like to welcome to my blog, my good friend and fellow writer's group member, Verity Guiton.
Writing is sometimes like jumping into a cold pool of water. Often you can sit on the sidelines and watch people make leaps and bounds; creating a splash when they enter into it. However, some of us hesitate, as we make predictions about how cold the water will be. No matter our passion, or our love of the craft, we insist on returning to the scene by cautiously dipping our toes in first. But as our wonderful writers group recently discovered, while gesturing excitedly on the edge of our seats, there comes a time where you look fear in the eye and say, “Enough is enough!”
This excitement was recently sparked and enlightened by an interview. The interviewee is a teacher, a book critic for the Age and a self-published author. She is my Aunt; Juliette Hughes.
We sat around a coffee table in Ester’s living room. The Skype line had fizzed and the battery to my iPad was about to die. However, this was an interview we were determined to have! So, we put Juliette on speaker phone and got down to business.
I started by asking Juliette a question, which I felt (as a toe dipper myself) I had to know in order to take the first plunge. “What do you feel is the most effective way to make lasting connections?” I asked.
Beginning with a quote from Winston Churchill, Juliette simply stated “Never give up”. Looking round at the rest of the group, it was apparent that this was what we all wanted to hear.
Juliette also said we needed “…a bottom like a Rhinoceros!”; in other words, a tough hide and thick skin. She followed up saying “…believe in your right to write” and with a virtual hand, passed us the website www.litrejections.com. This is an affirming page for writers that details the publishing journey of ‘literacy royals’, so to speak; such as Dr. Seuss, JR Tolkien and Jane Austin. It illustrates the number of rejections they each received by publishes. J.K Rowling, for instance, was rejected twelve times before being scooped up and handed to the masses.
Feeling a sense of hope in Juliette’s answer, I handed the phone over to Jacqui. Her thirsty question, as a full-time teacher, wife, mother and writer, was “How do you meet your writing quotas?”
We heard a rustle and a murmur in the background, which I recognised immediately. It was my Uncle Rick, who (as a teacher and artist/musician himself) provided the useful and practical advice of having a nap after work. Juliette explained that every author writes differently.
The late Terry Pratchett, who Juliette interviewed many times over, said he didn’t believe in office hours. He just “…let (the story) take him”. Austin was a similar case and didn’t even require privacy to write. Whenever words came, she stuck them to paper with her pen. Anthony Trollope on the other hand would get up at 4am every day and write for a specified time. All in all, as Juliette stated “Whatever you prioritise, you will do”.
Ester’s turn next and, dealing with the struggles of character development, she asked “How do you keep characters consistent when you also need them to grow from what they’ve learned and experienced in the story?”
A somewhat more conceptual answer was given to Ester, as Juliette explained that sometimes you need to look within yourself. According to Juliette, “Even when you’re writing about other people, you’re viewing them through a lens that is your own (so, it’s still an aspect of you!)”. She told us that characters often write themselves and, if your characters are changing, let them change. She said to coin your own words, like Shakespeare and to let yourselves in as much possible.
Juliette allowed us a sneak peek at her own novel, which she believes will be ready by September. It has layers of the spiritual realm all through it and puts a harsh light on the shocking realities of the world – ones we normally turn our faces from. However, an apparent sense of hope, and a desire to do what’s right what bleeds through. Her main character is based on her late and much beloved dog Peppy. She described his character in the novel as a kind of ‘Mary-Sue’. The difference being that this ‘Mary-Sue’ was born from cold and cruel origins. Juliette said her other works have been fun, interesting and (above all) exciting. But this novel, she informed us, “…this is my heart”.
Last, but certainly not least, was Megan’s question. She wanted to know about Juliette’s writing journey.
Juliette explained that sometimes you find inspiration where you least expect it. Listening to Dianna Ross, for instance, helped her realise she could teach ‘white’ girls how to combine their chest voice and head voice. Juliette directed us to the ‘artist pages’ website, and recommended the Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés book ‘Women who run with Wolves’. She also said writing pages of absolute rubbish helps you get into the creative zone. This lead her to Stephen King’s repetitions of a mad man in ‘The Shining’, where Jack Torrance famously scribbles down “All work and no play…”. She said this is actually a very useful exercise.
Juliette explained writers need ‘know-hows’ and encouragement. “…like pregnancy” she said “…sometimes you need help getting the baby out” (to which Ester replied “…a literacy laxative”). Juliette concluded her answer by advising “…if you want to write, don’t wait for permission”.
Megan shared her own writing journey and expressed that, “One day I decided, this is what I am. This is what I want to be known as. I am a writer and I’m going to be discovered”. Juliette (clearly impressed) answered by saying “Well, God bless you!”
In the last moments of our conversation, we shared advice, personal philosophies and spiritual awakenings. The water was looking a little less chilly and we were feeling better about diving into the publisher’s pool. Juliette left us with one last piece of important advice. “Publishers want to pitch you as a genre, so know who you are as a writer and pick your genre”.
Drawing on everything we discussed one thing stood out to us all; believe in yourself as a writer and make sure to write the novel of your heart.
Juliette’s foremost passion (above anything else) is her family. A very close second is music and she leads the choir at St. Carthages Church, Parkville, Melbourne.
For years, Juliette was the Assistant Co-editor for Champagnat Magazine, and through Garratt Publishing, she wrote a series of poems and short stories for primary school and high school students.
Juliette’s self-published book was “… just for fun”, as she put it, and with a hint of cheekiness to her voice added it’s her answer to ’50 Shades of Grey’. In fact, it was only rejected by ‘Mills and Boons’ after she explained to them she wished to stick to her own formula.
It’s called ‘The Music Within’ (under the pen name Fae Clifton) and you can find it on Amazon.
Thanks Verity for setting up this interview and for writing this blog post. And thank you Juliette for making yourself available to answer questions of our writer's group. It was a fun, and inspiring afternoon.
If you, dear reader, have been inspired even just a bit, please feel free to share.
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