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What a busy year we’ve had already - Sally and Rachael have been madly editing books and Lisa is off travelling Europe gathering inspiration no doubt.

We loved the response from our last newsletter in which we shared how our ideas begin and we hope you enjoy this next instalment about “pre-writing”, which is the step we do before we start writing our first drafts.
As usual, all of us are very different in our approaches.

We’re also excited to let you know that we’re taking The Secret Life of Authors on the road this year - starting in Western Australia this June. Details of our WA events are below and we can’t wait to meet some of you. 

Lisa, Sally and Rachael xxx

The Secret Life of Authors road tour!

Come and join us on a Secret Life of Authors road tour! We can't wait to meet you in person and we're kicking off in Perth! Dates are below, additional events will be published on social media. Tickets are not yet available for the below events, but we'll let you know when they are available via social media. 
Perth Tour Dates
Wednesday 12 June - The Prince Of Wales Hotel, Stephen St, Bunbury 6 pm for a 6:30 pm start. Tickets $15 via Eventbrite

Thursday 13 June - Mandurah Library 1 pm

Thursday 13th June - Joondalup library 6 pm

Friday 14th June - Boya Library 1 pm 

Competition Winner!

Congratulations to Joanne Seaton who was the winner of our last newsletter competition. Joanne has won herself a ticket to the Australian Romance Readers Association Romantic Rendezvous book signings, happening in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

If you'd like to attend, click here for more event info.

Rachael Johns

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to 

I’ve had a super busy start to 2019. My middle son started high school and that’s
taken a bit of emotional energy as he adjusts to everything new, but I think he’s
finally settling in. As well as all the mum duties, I’ve been writing lots (am halfway through my next rural romance) and also making time to kick some
personal goals. I’m ecstatic that I finished the Couch to 5K program at the
beginning of this month and have now moved on to Couch to 10k AND signed up to do a 12k fun run in May! For someone who couldn’t run for a minute at the beginning of the year, the fact I can now run for fifty (and getting longer every day) astounds me and I’ve never felt fitter. I’ve also been doing The Artist’s Way program, part of which is writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness as soon as you wake up in the morning. My hand still finds this hard work but my mental health is better for it and hopefully it’s helping me reconnect with my creativity as well. Right now I’m in the middle of editing the book that will be coming out end of October and I’m super excited to share this story with you all.
Fave read of late: Cheating a bit cos I’m not quite finished yet but I’m listening to the audio version of DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid and it’s inspiring me to strive to be a better writer!


Rachael Johns

In the writing world… there are what we call ‘plotters’ and ‘panters.’ Plotters are
those authors who outline their books – writing some sort of plot summary
before they start and pantsers are those who sit down at the computer with no
idea what they are going to write about and start. I don’t believe any author is
completely a plotter or completely a pantser but that we all fall somewhere along
the plotting spectrum. I’d say I sit about three quarters along, closer to the
pantsing end.
I love the idea of plotting out a book before I start (it just FEELS like it will make
the writing process so much easier) and knowing what is going to happen but
after over twenty books, I have come to accept that this is simply not how my
brain works. I usually know how my book is going to start, who my characters
are and what their issues will be but as for what will actually happen… that’s a
mystery to me till I actually start typing. So now I’ve embraced my inner pantser,
but do make sure I do a lot of thinking about character before I start as for me it
is the characters that create the plot.
For each character, I choose an archetype (I use “The Complete Writers Guide to
Heroes and Heroines” archetypes but there are many different ones you can find
online). For JUST ONE WISH, I have three generation of women characters.
For Alice I chose The Boss archetype, for Sappho The Nurturer and for Ged The
Spunky Kid – each archetype comes with a spiel about the kind of person they
are, their virtues, their flaws, their possible backgrounds and their styles. I use
this for the basis of their character and then I flesh them out according to how
they are in my head. I will also go on Pinterest and choose images and quotes
that help me work out what the characters look like and set the tone/mood of
the story. You can see the Pinterest board for JUST ONE WISH here:
In this pre-writing stage I will also do reading around any topics that are
important for the book – in the case of this one I ordered a whole load of books
on feminism, picked the brain of my journalist friend about certain aspects of
working in an newspaper (as that is Ged’s job) and read what felt like fifty-billion
articles about Mars One (the organization that wanted to take humans to Mars
and establish a colony there. As I write there’ll be lots of little things I need to
stop and research, but I try to have a bit of a handle on the main issues before I
For me the pre-writing stage is mostly thinking about characters so they become
fully formed in my head and then when I sit down to write (in theory) they will
lead me where I need to go. That’s the magic of writing!

Sally Hepworth

Rachel Johns

What I've been up to

I just posted a video of a man falling down a mountain as an indication of how
my year has been so far. In a word: nuts.

So far this year I have:
  • Released The Mother In Law in Australia / NZ,
  • Toured (with my publicist),
  • Toured (and got lost dozens of times) with Lisa,
  • Visited Dubai,
  • Completely rewritten my 2020 book,
  • Visited countless book clubs,
  • Became an ambassador for the Bayside Libraries,
  • Been part of the Libraries Change Lives campaign,
  • Prepared to release The Mother In Law to the rest of the world in April, and
  • In my spare time, become an alcoholic who enjoys rocking in the corner.
Now I’m looking forward to getting back to some regularly scheduled
programming (ie, working on the next book at the library AKA my happy

Sally xx

Fave read of late: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaeledis


Sally Hepworth

Once upon a time I was a plotter. I guess it just felt like an efficient way to
write. There are plenty of books and workshops on Plot and Structure, and I
found comfort from the idea that I had a roadmap of sorts to follow. (My
favourite plotting book is called The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.) And
so, I plotted my way through my first two books, then The Secrets of Midwives
and The Things We Keep.
After that, I sort of moved away from plotting. Ok, not totally (I can see Lisa
rolling her eyes here because she thinks I’m a plotter), but a little bit. Probably
I was just internalizing all that plotting stuff rather than writing it out. But here’s
the thing, I’m a Gemini and I bore easily. It was time to try something new.
So I became a little bit more of a pantser (I said little bit Lisa!). Now, I should
be clear, I still plan out the major turning points of a book – inciting incident,
midpoint, crisis and climax, but my days of meticulously plotting individual
scenes are behind me. (Although I listened to Jane Harper speak recently
about how she plots her books incredibly intricately, and it’s pretty hard to
argue with how Jane Harper does it, so who knows, maybe I will try
meticulous plotting again one day?). But for now, I am a high-level plotter,
who gets the main parts of the story plotted then opens my word document
and starts writing and sees where the story takes me.
For some books, the pre-writing stage has involved research. And I mean
RESEARCH. For The Things We Keep, I spent months researching
Alzheimer’s / speaking with families and carers and doctors about the
condition. For The Secrets of Midwives I researched extensively about birth.
For The Mother’s Promise I dove deep into the world of Social Anxiety
When I had the idea for The Mother In Law, I knew I was going to have to try
to understand the world of police procedures, so I spent a lot of time chatting
and emailing with police detectives. (This was super fun and interesting). I
also did some research into a few other aspects of the book (which I can’t tell
you about because it involves some spoilers.) But all in all, The Mother In Law
was not a book that required a significant amount of research upfront, it was
more of a research-as-you-go book. I did my high-level plotting and away I
went. It was a dream of a book to write, and all the elements came together
really well (a rarity for me). If only all my books could come together so easily.

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to: 

This is Sally writing, because Lisa is currently too busy being
FABULOUS in Siena to write this. She’s been posting pictures of
sunsets, gelato and glasses of champagne and Rachael and I
aren’t speaking to her anymore because we’re at home editing our books and crying into our coffee, right Rach? We’ll be much
happier when she’s back in the hole with us.

Fave read of late: Normal People by Sally Rooney and Not Bad People by Brandy Scott.


Lisa Ireland

Pre-writing is my absolute favourite part of the writing and publishing
process.  At this stage my idea is still fresh and shiny and full of promise!
After I’ve decided on my idea I start researching to make sure my premise will
The book I’m working on right now (tentatively called The Secret Life of
Shirley Sullivan) is about an elderly woman, Shirley, and her mission to set
her husband free from his nursing home. My initial research was centred
on nursing homes and dementia. I need to make sure it was possible for
Shirley to succeed in freeing Frank from his high security dementia unit.
Once I’d talked to a few people in aged care, I knew my plot would work
so I set about creating my characters. To help me with Frank’s character I
read two books. The first was Sally’s The Things We Keep. I’d read this
book about early-onset dementia when it was first published and I knew
Sally had done a great job of looking at the world through a dementia
patient’s eyes. Even though Frank was not a point of view character in my
novel, I wanted to portray him accurately and I knew rereading this book
would help. The second book,My Journey With Dementia by
Barbara Andrews, helped me to understand what it is like to live with
dementia patient.
As some of you might remember, my parents’ love letters formed part of the inspiration for this novel. In the pre-writing stage, I put all the letters in
 chronological order and reread them, this time taking notes on the
language my parents used and other significant historical details. Once that was done I dragged out the family albums and made an inspiration board from my parents’ old photos.

Finally, I spent a week or so in the Geelong Regional Library’s Heritage
Centre to research life in Geelong in the 1960s and 70s. I can’t go into
specifics here without giving away spoilers!
After all of this I had a strong sense of my characters and I was ready to
start my first draft. The fun part was over!
Copyright © 2019 Sally Hepworth, All rights reserved.