Hi Fleur and thanks so much for inviting me to your website. I’m becoming such a fan of rural fiction. I’ve usually got my nose stuck in some crime novel or other but last year had a couple of rural writing friends get published, and now I find I’m drawn to that genre more and more. Congratulations on YOUR great successes, by the way! (Thanks Kathryn!)
I feel like the luckiest duck on the planet (luckiest penguin!). Did you feel that way, Fleur, when you were first published? (Well, I jumped up and down on my bed and screamed for a while after the phone call from my publisher, so I guess you could say yes!) It’s a dream of so many writers, to see their names on a book cover. “A dream come true” is an understatement! In the early days of writing Rough Diamond, I would stand in a book store and gaze in wonder at all the titles, imagining mine there among them. I was never sure what genre mine would fit (still not really sure!), but I’d stand where I thought it would go and work out where my name would sit on the shelves.
You know, I should have been intimidated not only by the amount of authors out there who were published, but also by the amount who weren’t. But I think I always knew Rough Diamond would make it. It certainly wasn’t arrogance on my part – quite the opposite in fact. I didn’t necessarily believe in my ability (as is the problem of so many writers) but I believed in my character, Erica Jewell. It was like she had her own agenda and was so determined to have a life, I knew somehow she’d succeed. I just had to hope that I did her justice. Well, I didn’t do her justice, not at all! And I discovered this when I received my structural report from my editor. But more on that in a minute.
Something very powerful happens to a person when they’re given a chance to prove themselves. In 1987 I walked into the Hayman Island sales office in Melbourne and asked for a job. I’d just ended a marriage, I’d been in the same job for six years, I’d never lived alone or travelled or done anything that was remotely adventurous, I was still so young and I wanted to live. To the manager of the sales office I said, “I’ll do anything – cleaning, waitressing, whatever.” She looked at my CV, looked me up and down and offered me a job with the island’s public relations department, initially as their secretary but with a view to taking on more of a PR role if I proved myself capable. Well, this opportunity changed my life. After two years on the island (and having the best time) I was offered the role of PR manager, which I accepted and then promptly left to pursue more adventures!
The second time I was given such a chance was in 2011 when I met Belinda Byrne, Commissioning Editor at Penguin Australia. She read my manuscript, loved the voice of
Erica, but it was a structural mess. For a start, there was no plot! Well, a vague one. I really thought I could get away with it; that the reader would be so besotted with the romance, as I was, they wouldn’t notice the weaknesses. How wrong could I be! I know this now, especially since reviews have been emerging. Readers are incredibly discerning and wise and smart. Of course they’d have noticed!
Anyway, Belinda gave me that chance. I had no history to prove I was up for the task of reworking my novel, but she offered me a contract and eventually the editing process began. Belinda and I met, she ‘warned’ me about the structural report that was to come so when I received those (not telling how many) pages, I was ready for it. I locked myself away for six weeks and worked and worked until today’s Rough Diamond started to emerge. It was a fascinating process and full of epiphanies. Belinda seemed to know exactly how to extract the best from me. She could see what Rough Diamond could be, even though at first I was blind to it. It didn’t hurt either that I’d since met and befriended Sydney Smith (author, mentor, plotting and structural genius) who was whispering in my ear.
And now, in writing Emerald Island, I’m approaching it with much more respect for the structure. I’ve learned so much from Belinda and Sydney (who’s still whispering, thankfully), and I now have more confidence in my ability. That said, there’s been a great deal of circling and poking at it from a distance, but I know there’ll be a lot less structural editing needed, and Belinda will no doubt be happy about that!
Well, having competently deprecated my ability in structuring my novels, I feel I should add that I ADORE editing and yes, I am in fact an editor, but a line editor (a really good one J) and this is a very different beast altogether. (Don’t start me about the misuse of commas!) (Well, you better not read too much of my blog, Kathryn because there is always mistakes in here!)
About Rough Diamond
Funny, romantic, and action-packed, Rough Diamond introduces Australia’s own Stephanie Plum – the unforgettable Erica Jewell.
The shock ending to Erica Jewell’s marriage left a huge hole in her bank balance and a bigger one in her heart. And now her life goals make a very short list: no surprises, no debt and, definitely, no men. That is, until she finds one bleeding to death in her Melbourne garden one stormy Friday night.
Jack Jones is a man whose emotional wounds are more life-threatening than the bullet in his shoulder. Under orders, he recruits Erica to his secret team of vigilantes, and Erica suspects her safe, predictable world is about to be turned upside down.
And she’s absolutely right.
About Kathryn Ledson:
Melbourne-based Kathryn Ledson has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor, but her passion is writing popular fiction.