As a child, New Zealand-based author Rowena May O'Sullivan dreamt of becoming a writer. It wasn’t until years later that she began to publish her work. Writing competitions became her encouragement and she honed her craft, creating the Greenwood Witches Trilogy. She tells WildMind Creative about the value of connecting with writers’ groups and believing in yourself.
Please give us a brief overview of your work.
I write both paranormal romance and romantic comedy. At present, I have my Greenwood Witches trilogy available to on all ebook sites and my stand alone romantic paranormal comedy Footloose & Faerie Free on Amazon. I’m writing a romantic comedy and it’s nearly ready to publish, although I’m toying with the idea of seeing if I could find a publisher for it at the moment. It’s nearly ready to send off into the big wide world!
Years ago, before I started down the self-publishing track, I entered a competition in New Zealand called The Clendon Award for an unpublished manuscript and I placed third overall for my first self-published book Footloose & Faerie Free. I wrote this book without putting limitations on myself and it ended up being quirky, funny and light, which is how I tend to and prefer to write. Placing in The Clendon Award competition gave me the confidence to keep going. I entered again a couple of years later with The Silver Rose in my Greenwood Witches series and placed second. So it wasn’t a fluke. People actually liked my work! And as an aside, the amazing Nalini Singh placed third that year in the same competition, so I was in fantastic company.
What made you want to be a writer?
I discovered reading at a very early age and subscribed to a weekly magazine, the then June and School Friend. I lived for and inhaled that magazine each and every week for a number of years. And then I received Heidi for Christmas and discovered a love of books. From there came the Famous Five and the Nancy Drew books. Ballet and Theatre stories came next – Noel Streatfield and Pamela May. It was during those formative years that I began to think that one day I might become a writer. But it wasn’t until years later, after having my son and, working full time in various office roles for a number of years that I started down that road.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve read books that have spoken to my heart and when I’ve finished them I’ve hugged them close to my chest and thought, “that’s what I want to do. I want to write like that. I love stories. All shapes and sizes. I love them in books, on television, in movies. When I read, I disappear into a world of vivid technicolor. It’s as real to me as breathing. I can’t imagine not being able to read or write.
Tell us more about your writing journey.
I entered a magazine short story competition once a long time ago and won a bottle of perfume. The next year, I repeated it, winning another bottle of perfume. It wasn’t first prize but it was enough to spur me on. And then, of course, placing twice in the Clendon Award was an added bonus.
I started investigating on whether there were any support groups for romance authors in New Zealand. I was very lucky to find Romance Writers of New Zealand and joined and began attending their monthly meetings. I remember going to that first meeting and just knowing that I had found what I was looking for – people who were likeminded in what I wanted to write. I am in writing for the long-haul.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read, read and then read some more. Trust your instincts. Learn your craft by connecting with other writers. Learn to take criticism and advice on the chin. Learn what you’re good at and get help for the areas in which you don’t excel. Take courses. Read how to books. Connect with likeminded authors and make friends. Go to writers conferences. And of course. Write. Write and then write some more.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
It can be a scary thing approaching a publisher or an editor. It’s much easier to get read if you attend a writers conference and book an agent / editor appointment. You have 5 minutes to sell your book to them, so be prepared. Practice that pitch and then practice it some more. If you’re like me, it all turns to drivel on the day, so you need to have rehearsed what you want to say so it doesn’t all come out scrambled! The same goes if writing to a publisher or emailing them a pitch. Be clear. Don’t have any errors in your work. Research what type of work they publish and which editor would be best suited to the type of work you write. Address them by their name and not Dear Agent or Dear Publisher. Be prepared to wait in what seems like forever to hear back from them.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I’m in the process of learning how to market via the AMS (Amazon) website. It is effective, if a little time consuming. I haven’t got my head around Facebook advertising as yet. Join group giveaways. Put a book up free on Instafreebie to get signups to your author newsletter. There are numerous ways. You just need to work out what is best for you and how much time you’re prepared to put into the marketing side of things. Always remember to continue writing.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
The first time I received a rejection from a publisher I burst into tears and declared rather dramatically, “they don’t want me.” I’d say, don’t take rejection personally. Enter competitions and learn from the comments of the judges – you learn more from the negative comments than from the positive. It’s nice to read the good stuff, but you learn from the negative in how to improve as a writer. When I receive a rejection letter / email these days, I don’t even bat an eyelid. When I get a bad review, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
I’m not as isolated as I’d like to be. I work full time and write part-time. I have grandchildren I love spending time with. I would love more time to write, during the day, when I’m fresh, but that isn’t possible right now.
If you’re lucky enough to have time to sit and write during the day, that’s wonderful. Use that time wisely. If you’re feeling isolated, connecting with other writers at local writer chapter meetings become invaluable. I sometimes meet the friends I’ve made from these regular meetings for coffee and we talk for hours about writing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. If it’s something you really want, just keep plugging away. Learn your craft. Ring a friend and have a moan or a cry if you receive a rejection. Sit down and write something else. Believe in yourself. I say this, as it took me years to complete my first book. The niggling thought that I could never write a full book was ever-present in my mind, but once I typed The End, I was empowered. I could write a book. It might be terrible. It might never see the light of day, but I could write a book. So I did it again, and that time, it took less time and I had stopped that little niggle from annoying me right throughout the process.