Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Virginia King has lived most of her life in Sydney, but has traveled to many places. She’s been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, a producer of audio-books, a writer of over 50 children’s books, a writing workshop presenter, and an award-winning publisher. These days she lives with her husband in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney overlooking a valley full of birds, and writes psychological mysteries/thrillers for adults in the Selkie Moon series.
Virginia King’s website
Virginia on Goodreads
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I didn’t start writing until I landed a job with a children’s publisher after a year in the unemployment queues. Lunching at a friend’s workplace, I got introduced to a publishing manager at the sandwich bar and when she heard I’d been a teacher she said she was looking for an assistant. Wow. “You can type?” she asked. Oops. “Ask me again next week,” I said. After that crash course I still type with ten fingers. She gave me the job, but when she died suddenly (I know, I had to have counselling) I got her job, producing audio-books for children. It inspired me to start writing my own. What I didn’t know for ages was that deep down I wanted to write a novel.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
The first two books in my psychological mystery series are recently published. They follow 35-year-old seminar presenter Selkie Moon and a cast of quirky characters. They’re stories about secrets, about the shadows we don’t know are driving us, from our mythical pasts and our present reality, told with a touch of humor.
The First Lie has won a BRAG Medallion. Here’s the blurb: When Selkie Moon escapes her life in Sydney to start over in Hawaii, she triggers a series of events so bizarre she’s forced to delve into the past and face the shocking truth about herself.
In The Second Path, when Selkie Moon wakes on a Hawaiian beach, naked and confused, strange clues about what’s happened to her draw her inexorably to France.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Our house is tiny. First I shared an office with my husband (no idea why that didn’t work), then I used the kitchen table, getting crumbs in my keyboard. Every three months I threw a tantrum until we added on a room. Now I have my own space full of color and books and my own paintings. There’s even a bed, so if the writing’s not working I can “sleep a solution”.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I’m lucky to have a small income from my children’s books so I can write full time. In the mornings I do some yoga, watch the French news (understand a word or two), and do any urgent admin. Then at 10 am I sit down to write. My house is a mess, but writing is my sanity so I’ve learned to put it first.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I’m a pantser and I adore it. The First Lie started as one sentence and it took years to discover the mystery I was writing but what a joy the process was. The Second Path took two years so I’m getting faster. I don’t plan; I let the writing be my thinking and when something pops into my head it goes straight into the manuscript, no matter how crazy, where it niggles away until I know why it’s there. It means my mysteries are a mystery to me and the process makes them deep and unpredictable. I also keep a notebook by my bed because my sleeping mind makes connections between all those niggling elements. Every morning I’m scribbling ideas and every writing session is a surprise. I’m also a great believer in the magic of mistakes. I’ve written about how I lost Selkie’s dress in The Second Path and how the mistake created an unexpected outcome here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/the-magic-of-mistakes/
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
My characters are like friends who always surprise me. Spending time with them and discovering their secrets is endlessly fun and enlightening. Every day is a thrill.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
As with all my writing, things happen accidentally. After spending a day driving around Sydney to all the locations in The First Lie, I burst into tears because none of the places spoke to me. In desperation I dropped Selkie into a whole new place – Hawaii – and suddenly elements of the local mythology took me deeper into her mystery. I’ve written about this inspiration in a free guide, Messing with Mythology.
In The Second Path, Selkie goes to France, so I played with the symbolism of a French fairy tale to create a labyrinth of cryptic clues under the modern mystery. Book Three will take her to Ireland – plenty of folklore there – and I’m looking for readers to join the rollercoaster of ideas as I write it. To find out more, please email me through my website.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Deciding to self-publish was hard. I got a few rejections, then one publisher was interested but when I checked out their books I rejected them. Being an indie author of quality books, it’s hard to be seen in a crowded marketplace. And because my books are “genre-bending” – modern psychological mysteries with a touch of mythology – it’s a challenge to represent them to new readers. I’ve discovered that even with social media, you still find readers one at a time. Then there’s keeping the balance between writing energy and marketing energy – flipping between the two is hard. Quality self-publishing is also expensive – cover design, editing etc – but then so is any addiction! And when I see the book covers and prices and sales rankings of my friends with traditional publishers – and know they have no control over these elements – my decision to self-publish is confirmed.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I wish I’d been more internet savvy before the marketing hit me. For a while the learning curve was steep – and scary. Now I just run up and slide down each learning curve and find the fun in the ride.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I appreciate organizations like indieBRAG who award high-quality indie books and encourage all authors to aim high. My connection with other indie authors has been wonderful – small groups of authors should get together and support each other for fun and profit. Traditional publishers should take more risks with new authors and new genres now that ebooks are so inexpensive to publish.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Margaret Atwood, Drusilla Modjeska, Helen Garner, Kathleen Norris, Geneen Roth. Crime writers: Leigh Redhead, Tana French, Sara Paretsky, Kathy Reichs and EM Kaplan.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Virginia King!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, E. M. Kaplan, for recommending Virgina! Read E. M. Kaplan’s WordMothers interview here
* Author photo by Amanda Thorson
NB: This is the second of three features in our Indie Week 2. Check in again for our final interview with Nina Miller!
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