South West NSW boasts many talented artists, but did you know it also contains a best-selling author?
Fleur Ferris is a young adult author from Bunnaloo. She spent the first seventeen years of her life growing up on a farm in Patchewollock, northwest Victoria. She then moved twenty times in twenty years. During this time, Fleur sometimes saw the darker side to life while working for a number of years as a police officer and a paramedic. She now lives a more settled lifestyle on a rice farm with her husband and three young children.
Fleur's first novel for young adults, Risk, was published by Penguin Random House Australia. It became a best-seller and was longlisted in the Indie Book Awards 2016.
Fleur’s writing has been described as ‘gripping, devastating and terrifying.’ Her second novel, Black, was so dark that she wrote it during the day at the Campaspe Library – it helped to be in public when writing about a creepy small-town mystery.
To find out more about Fleur, visit www.fleurferris.com
Interview with Fleur Ferris
Hi Fleur, thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat with us. Have you always wanted to be an author; how did your writing career begin? I always liked writing, but I didn’t always want to be an author. I didn’t actually think of it as a career option until I was well into my adult years. After one of my short stories was published in Woman’s Day I started writing longer works, teaching myself to write novels. While I worked and studied in various fields, I wrote a number of full-length novel manuscripts before seeking publication. I didn’t really focus on getting published and making writing my career until after I had children.
Are you an avid reader yourself? Yes. More so now than when I was a child. I certainly wasn’t one of those kids sneaking off to read or hiding under the covers reading by torchlight. My mum passed books on to me when I was a teenager, so I guess that is when my love for reading really started.
Can you tell us a bit about the actual process of writing a novel? Most of my research and character development is done before I start writing. This happens over a year or two, while I’m working on other projects. I plan and plot the main elements of certain scenes, but the rest happens on the keys. Once I start writing a novel I like to stay in the story and keep my momentum going by writing every day until it is finished. I understand why writers seek out cabins in the woods!
Is writing a novel any different than writing other types of works (such as screenplays etc.)? There are technical differences in the craft of writing in different mediums, but whether a story is told through a picture book, short story, novella, comic book, screenplay or novel, the writer’s ultimate goal is to tell the story in the absolute best way it can be told.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? It is a difficult question as there is no set pathway to publication. Every “getting published” story is different. But after attending many festivals and listening to publishers, editors and authors, doing workshops, and reading everything I could about the industry, I formulated the idea that if I wanted to be published by a traditional publisher three things must happen (this is my opinion only):
The right manuscript
Must land on the right desk
At the right time.
So I guess my advice is to do what is necessary to make these things happen. Such things could include (but not be limited to):
Finish and polish your manuscript until it is as good as you can make it.
Research which agents or publishers publish work like yours.
Read, read, read. Know what is getting published.
I had no contacts in the industry and therefore didn’t know how I was going to line up these three magical components. To give me the best chance I felt I needed a good agent.
I can’t remember who said it now, but at a festival a publisher gave some great advice. She said, “Research who you want to send your work to and shoot like an arrow to that person.” This is what I did and it worked for me.
How does getting published actually work? I edited my manuscript with my agent before it was sent out to publishers. While publishers were considering my work I began writing my next book, Risk. The book that was on submission was rejected, but one publisher liked my work enough to read and consider Risk. This publisher was at Penguin Random House and they offered me a contract. I immediately began the editorial process with my editor. This consisted of Structural edits, copy edits and proofreading. Risk was released July 2015. The whole process took about eighteen months.
Have you written many unpublished works? Yes. I have six unpublished novels and maybe twenty unpublished picture book stories (no illustrations).
Do you have any upcoming books? Yes. My second book, Black, will be out July 1 this year.
Do you think being an author has had an effect on your children in terms of their aspirations? I think all children are influenced by what their parents do, simply because that is what they see and know to be normal. Writing books or movies is definitely something my kids talk about doing when they’re not talking about being a zoo keeper, a pet groomer, an astronomer or in the circus. My children hold the belief that they can do anything they choose, and so far no one has ever told them any different.
Why do you think books are so important? Reading books (any books) gives you information, increases your vocabulary and improves your spelling and writing skills. But reading fiction does a whole lot more than that! Fiction provides escapism, and entertainment and allows the reader to experience foreign locations and situations. Reading fiction is also important for the development of empathy. Research has shown that someone who reads fiction has huge gains in their ability to understand the emotions of others. You can learn more about how reading fiction makes our brains better by watching this three-minute clip: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RYpofvqVxzc