11. On research

What does it take to recreate past worlds? How does a writer uncover the reality she needs to blend with imagination? Where do research and writing intersect?

We talk to two writers who’ve spent years researching and writing novels about the lives of real women from the past: Hannah Kent and Kate Mildenhall.

Listen here

About our guests

Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, was an international bestseller and Photo of Hannah Kenthas been translated into 28 languages. It won the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year and the Victorian Premier’s People’s Choice Award, and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Bailey’s Prize.

Her second novel, The Good People, is just out in Australia and New Zealand will be published in 2017 in the UK, Ireland and North America.
Hannah is also the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary journal, Kill Your Darlings.

 

Photo of Kate MildenhallKate Mildenhall is a teacher and writer – she has taught in schools and universities, and worked at the State Library of Victoria, creating web content for students and teachers.
Kate is studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT University.

Her first novel, Skylarking, has just been published.

 

 

Burial Rites and The Good People are published by Picador (Macmillan) in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, and Little, Brown in the US. Skylarking is published by Black Inc in Australia and New Zealand, and will be published by Legend Press in the UK in 2017.

Book cover of The Good People

Book cover of Skylarking

How to interview a writer

In case you missed it, here’s our guest post on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio on how to interview writers – or how to be interviewed, if you are a writer. It explains what we do, or try to do, when we interview writers for Unladylike, or at literary events.

First: prepare. Read as many of the other writers’ books, stories, scripts, poems as you can. Read them like a writer – look for themes not evident at first glance, technique, structure, characterisation, world-building, language. Read or watch interviews with them, and check their blog posts and social media to see what interests them, how they respond, which questions they’ve answered a million times.

Read the full post here.

7. On process

What do writers actually do?

We talk to two acclaimed writers of fiction about their process: where do they start, what do they think about, how does it feel, what on earth do they do all day?

Between them, Charlotte Wood and Paddy O’Reilly have published more than a dozen books and countless short stories, essays and articles, and have survived to laugh about it. They both think deeply about the work of writing, teach or mentor emerging writers, and share their experiences with us on Unladylike.

Listen here:

(If you’re on a mobile device, use iTunes, Audioboom, Stitcher or your favourite podcast app.)

About our guests

Photo of Charlotte Wood

Charlotte Wood
Photo credit: Wendy McDougall

 

Charlotte Wood is the author of five novels and two books of non-fiction, as well as essays and features – often about food, nature, or writing.

Her latest novel is The Natural Way of Things, a parable of hard-won friendship in a nightmarish prison farm for women. It won the 2016 Stella Prize, the Indie Book of the Year and Novel of the Year, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

Her next book is The Writer’s Room, a selection of interviews with Australian authors.

 

 

Photo of Paddy O'Reilly

Paddy O’Reilly

 

Paddy O’Reilly is the author of three novels, a novella, screenplays, and two award-winning collections of short stories, including her recent collection, Peripheral Vision.  She is the editor of a series of memoir collections, beginning with It Happened in a Holden.

Her latest novel, The Wonders, is the story of three people whose bodies have been artificially altered, and who become global superstars. It won the Norma K Hemming award and was nominated for the Kirkus Prize.

 

Here are some of the writers’ tools Paddy and Charlotte mentioned:

Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is published by Allen & Unwin in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and Europa Editions in the US. The Writer’s Room will be published by Allen & Unwin in August 2016.

Paddy O’Reilly’s Peripheral Vision is published by University of Queensland Press, and The Wonders by Affirm Press in Australia and New Zealand. Her comic novel The Fine Colour of Rust was published by HarperCollins in the UK and Australia. Both were published in the US by Simon & Schuster.

Cover of The WondersCover of The Natural Way of Things

How to start a writing podcast

We’ve learned so much over the months since we’ve set up Unladylike, we want to share it in case anyone else is thinking of starting a podcast.

 

So here’s what we did.

 

Planning

First, we workshopped a wishlist of topics and writers who could match the topics. It includes JK Rowling and Ursula Le Guin on magic. We don’t think small. And besides, you never know.

 

The way we work is to bring a couple of women together in conversation. It’s like programming a world-wide writer’s festival, combining people who could have something to say on a topic, or might spark each other. They might be very different and have never met or be old mates, or even fans. If we can’t get people into conversations for practical reasons, we will do solo interviews, but then we try to have some other kind of dialogue, such as vox pops with readers or other writers on a related topic.

 

At last count we had a list of 67 possible themes with one or two potential names against them. That’s five years of monthly recordings, without any new ideas which, of course, keep popping up.

 

We have a spreadsheet for that.

 

Then we have to figure out who is actually willing and able to talk to us in the near future. Given various world time zones this isn’t always simple. Many writers like to go into deep cover when focused on a project and only pop up for a few months or weeks at a time. So we have to figure out who’s where for upcoming festivals and events, who’s got new books/plays/films coming out on what themes or in what forms, and talk to publishers, agents or event organisers, or to writers directly.

 

We have a spreadsheet for that, too.

 

Once we’ve agreed on schedules, we get reading. If we haven’t read a certain writer’s latest work, we need to get up to date. We read articles by and about them, and other interviews so we don’t ask the same questions as everyone else.

 

Then we figure out what we’d like to know from them, and create questions to help guide the interview.

 

We keep all our spreadsheets and scripts and artwork in Google Drive, so we can collaborate easily and from anywhere.

 

Of course your podcast might be on something altogether different, or not have any guests, but it’s still useful to plan topics ahead and script or semi-script rather than just blurting (especially if you’re new to broadcasting).

 

Lead-up

A year ago, we went to a podcasting workshop at the Emerging Writers Festival, led by the Re-Readers. They suggested, among other useful things, that you launch with six episodes ready to go, so people can get a sense of what the podcast is about from the first day.

 

That is great advice, and it also meant an awful lot of work in the weeks and months before our chosen launch day, but we made it. Just.

 

Three months before launch, we prepared our website and social media profiles and released them and the podcast name, so people knew it was coming. We emailed publishers, writing organisations and festivals to tell them about Unladylike. We’ve had so much support on social media since that day – it really has been incredible.

 

We have resisted the temptation to try to cover every platform, and at this stage just use Twitter, a Facebook page, and Instagram for fun. So far, Twitter is the platform on which we’ve had most direct feedback from listeners, but we’ve had more people share and link to episodes on Facebook. It might be different for podcasts on other topics.

 

We probably should have done lots more promoting and networking like other people but (and this may seem contrary) we’re both a bit shy. But you should totally do all that.

 

Recording

If possible, we invite writers into the studio to sit together and talk. We have questions printed out, but because it’s a conversation, it might go in all sorts of directions, and that’s all part of the fun. So it’s a semi-scripted podcast: we write our introductions including the biographies of each writer, we plan a whole series of questions, and sometimes we ask them all and sometimes we don’t, but we certainly never ask them in the order we imagined. We like to leave plenty of room for tangents and discussion.
kathleen syme recording studio

Kathleen Syme recording studio (Photo: City of Melbourne)

 

We usually record in the studio at the magnificent Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre. It’s a fully equipped studio, but because there are only two of us and we are both participating in the conversation, we take our own gear rather than using the mixing desk (so nobody has to sit behind the glass and feel left out). It’s not as cool, and the sound’s not as crystal clear, but it’s cosier. (Also, frankly, the desk is a little scary, with everything else we have going on. But one day we’ll come over all Linda Perry and start mixing. And wearing interesting hats.)

 

We’re not sound engineers. And we don’t make money from the podcast – in fact, it costs money (of which more later). So we don’t have fancy software or equipment. But we do our best with basic kit and lots of patience.

 

We have:
  • A Blue Yeti multi-directional microphone
  • Laptops (we are the living embodiment of the Mac/PC argument)
  • Audacity software for capture and editing
  • Pamela software for recording Skype calls (though we can never quite get it to work properly)
  • Sennheiser headphones we always forget to use in the excitement of the moment.

 

When we’re on the road or at literary events, we use portable digital recorders (we both have a Zoom H1, with tripod and windscreen). We also use that as back-up in the studio in case for some reason the laptop fails to capture the interview properly.
Usually one of us keeps an eye on the sound levels and the other keeps an eye on the questions.

 

Mysterious technical things

Here is what we use to create and present the episodes. There are other options and lots of resources online about podcasting to help you find solutions that suit you.

 

  • Our website is built in WordPress.com and the theme/template is Motif
  • Our audio files are hosted in AudioBoom, and fed from there through to iTunes and Stitcher
  • Most other podcasting apps draw a feed from iTunes, so we can relax about them
  • We edit in Audacity, a free but very powerful audio editing tool.

 

These are the things, besides the gear mentioned above, that we had to include in our budget:
  • We pay for premium licenses to WordPress and AudioBoom, because we believe in supporting the platforms on which we rely – and also we get more functionality
  • We also bought our domain name
  • We asked a designer friend to produce artwork, which needed to be in all sorts of specific shapes and sizes for different platforms, and paid her to do it – again, because it’s important to invest in things that matter and we don’t mind working for free but don’t see why anyone else should.

 

If we had funding or any income at all, we could pay for a sound engineer to edit the recordings and they would sound heaps better. But we don’t. Mind you, we’ve discovered we quite like doing it, so we’ll keep practicing and keep studying and hopefully we’ll get better and faster at it.
 Recording

 

And then…

So now it’s launched, and we continue to program, record, edit, publish and promote. It takes us both a few hours a week, but it took a lot more than that in the lead-up and there are times, such as writers festivals, when it’s intense.

 

But it’s a labour of love, we think it’s important to talk about writing with women, and we have a lot of fun.

 

We hope you do, too.

 

Adele and Kelly

3. On editing

Historian Clare Wright and editor Mandy Brett talk us through the collaborative process of creating a book – in this case, the award-winning The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

Listen here:

(If you’re on a mobile device, use iTunes, Audioboom or your favourite podcast app.)

About our guestsBook cover, Forgotten Rebels

Dr Clare Wright is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her first book was a best-seller, Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s Female Publicans

In 2013, Clare released her second book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, following years of research into women’s roles in one of the key moments in colonial Australian politics, the Eureka Stockade. It won the 2014 Stella Prize and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and just about every other award going. We Are the Rebels, a young adult version of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, was published in 2015.

Clare’s essays have have appeared in The Age, Crikey, The Guardian, The Conversation, and Meanjin as well as leading international scholarly journals. She researched, co-wrote and presented the acclaimed television documentaries, Utopia Girls: How Women Won the Vote and The War That Changed Us.

Clare is a Principal Research Fellow in History at La Trobe University.

 

Mandy Brett’s distinguished editing career began as an editor and publisher at IAD Books, an Book cover We are the Rebels
Aboriginal publishing house in Alice Springs, producing a wide range of titles in fiction, education, reference and dictionaries. She has worked as a freelance editor, as a production editor on a small magazine and, for a number of years, as a computer programmer at Penguin Books.

Mandy is now a senior editor with Text Publishing, where she has been since 2002, working on both fiction and non-fiction titles, including any number of bestselling books such as Toni Jordan’s novels and more recently Magda Szubanski’s memoir Reckoning. Her essays and speeches have appeared in Meanjin, Bookseller & Publisher, and Crikey.

She is a guest lecturer in fiction editing at RMIT.

 

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka and We are the Rebels are published by Text.