Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Allison Rushby is a Brisbane-based author of a whole lot of books. Her first novel, allmenarebastards.com (contemporary women’s fiction) was published in 2000 by Random House. Since then she has written Middle Grade fiction (the Living Blond trilogy) and Young Adult fiction (Shooting Stars and Being Hartley) right up to New Adult fiction (The Heiresses). Her publishers include St Martin’s Press, Walker Books, HarperCollins, Kensington Books, Allen & Unwin and Harlequin Mills & Boon. Now a hybrid author, her latest New Adult work, Beneath Beautiful, was self-published in late 2014.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER?
I always enjoyed writing. English was my favourite subject at school and I studied Journalism at uni. I began writing novels, however, a year or two after finishing uni. I have no idea why, but I tried not to write a novel for some time. I had some pretty amazing whiny excuses, including, “Writing dialogue is just too hard”. I’m not entirely sure how I knew that to be true, because I can’t remember writing dialogue before that. I suppose I knew writing a novel would be hard and something in me railed against even starting!
When I began writing my first novel, chick-lit was on the rise. Publishers were actively acquiring it and I was of the right age group to be writing it. I wrote a synopsis and three chapters of a chick-lit novel and sent it to a few publishers. Penguin were very interested and I wrote the rest of the novel reasonably quickly (within a few months, as far as I can remember). It stank. Penguin were kind enough not to tell me this. If you want an idea of how much it stank, the working title was Possums in the Sunshine (yes, WTF…). Anyway, it was enough to get me started on a second novel. Random House ended up taking this one on and it had a much better working and final title of allmenarebastards.com and was published in several territories.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I’ve recently turned into a hybrid author and am now both self-published and traditionally published. It’s been an interesting experience and both worlds have their benefits. I discuss this with Allison Tait in an Australian Writers’ Centre podcast here.
I self-published my New Adult novel, Beneath Beautiful, in late 2014 for several reasons. To start with, New Adult books really found their feet in the self-published realm and most of these self-published books are extremely reasonably priced, as compared to traditionally published work (Beneath Beautiful, for example, is priced at $2.99). I’m so glad I took this route. The reviews have been amazing and I’ve loved the process of being able to control the cover, the layout, discounting and so on.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I usually work in my study, which is below ground level, so no awe-inspiring views for me! Actually, I kind of like it this way, as I find it makes me more focused. I sit in front of a glass backboard where I can write notes, or quotes etc.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I’m definitely not one of those perfect writers who does 3K per day, or who writes consistently from 10am to 2pm. Not at all. I tend to be writing a lot, or not very much at all (*flogs self*). I pretty much squeeze work in where I can around dropping off and picking up my kids as my husband has a pretty unforgiving job, so anything kid is left to me. When I am writing, I often write over 10,000 words per week, so my all-or-nothing method seems to get work done in the long run! NaNoWriMo really worked for me at the end of last year—I wrote most of a novel during November.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I usually start by writing a lot of notes, then work my notes up into a two-page synopsis. From there I usually write about 15,000 words of the manuscript to get a feel for the characters and the story. After this I pause and write some more notes and make sure I have a solid outline for where I’m going (I’m completely anal, love to plot and can’t do anything without my three acts worked out). Because I often have limited time to write, or want to get some words down fast, I’m a big fan of jumping on #1k1hr on Twitter and writing like mad for an hour.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
It’s probably in my blood. My mother, Pamela Rushby, is also an author. I blame her! I suppose, like many writers, writing is something I can’t not do. There have been many times when I wish this wasn’t the case, but I know I’ll be doing it until I die!
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
From all kinds of crazy places. From eavesdropping, to reading snippets in the newspaper and so on. The Heiresses, a New Adult e-series and omnibus that I wrote for St Martin’s Press, might have been set in 1920s London, but it was inspired by something I saw on Dr Phil (oh, the shame of it). Dr Phil had twins on his show who had different fathers (yes, ahem, it’s possible, two eggs, fertilized by two different men within a short period of time…) and I started wondering how that would have worked before genetic testing, when nothing could be proved. Instant plot! Thanks, Dr Phil!
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Probably the rejection. It might sound like a dream-run, having had over fourteen novels published by traditional publishers in under fifteen years, but there has been a lot of rejection along the way. A lot! You get used to the rejection, but there are always certain things that sting more than others! There’s also a lot of waiting in traditional publishing, which moves very slowly. That’s one of the fun things about self-publishing—it’s extremely immediate.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
To keep on being published. This is trickier than it sounds. It’s often difficult to balance writing the stories that speak to you that are still manuscripts publishers will want to buy. Publishing is very cyclical and trend-based and you find you need to re-invent yourself quite a bit.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Nancy Mitford, Stella Gibbons and Frances Hodgson Burnett are three of my favourites. As for more modern authors, I’m loving a lot of the YA authors at the moment—Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and Rainbow Rowell are all fantastic writers.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHOR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Allison Rushby!
— Nicole Melanson
Like this author interview? Follow WordMothers or Subscribe to meet more great female authors!