Today in the Writer's Corner we meet Sarah Begg.
Amanda: Hi, Sarah. Welcome to the Writer’s Corner, where we talk all things writing in our corner of the world!
Sarah: Thanks for having me, Amanda!
Amanda: So tell us, where abouts are you in this big wide world?
Sarah: I’m in Sydney, on the beautiful Northern Beaches.
Amanda: Let’s talk about Laura the Explorer. Tell us anything and everything.
Sarah: Laura the Explorer is the story of a twenty-seven year old girl living in Sydney, who is left by her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband after ten years together (when he also comes out as gay). Laura then moves into a shared apartment on Sydney’s northern beaches and accepts the challenge by her new flatmates - to get out there and start dating and sleeping with as many men as possible! It’s a humorous tale of recovering after heartbreak and having some adventures along the way, and is a bit like Sex and the City crossed with a Sophie Kinsella novel.
Amanda: You had quite an interesting journey to publication with Laura the Explorer. Can you tell us about it?
I’d been wanting to write a book like Laura the Explorer for a while, but it didn’t come properly into existence until November 2015, when I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. (NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month - where the aim is to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel during the month of November!) I managed to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo that first year and ended up with a rough first draft of Laura the Explorer. At the time, I was really drawn to the idea of self publishing and becoming an indie author, and I planned to self publish this book. But a month before it’s scheduled publication date (May 2016) I met with the amazing director of one of Australia’s small publishing houses at an event at the NSW Writers Centre (now called Writing NSW). She loved the concept and the few pages I’d submitted for feedback, and asked to see the entire manuscript. Thence followed a very long process of revision requests and updates, and some truly horrible waiting times on my end! After this went on for close to two years, the publisher finally took my (now very different) manuscript to an acquisitions meeting. A contract was offered, however I was not happy with some of the terms and the publisher did not want to negotiate. After two whole years of working and waiting with this publisher, it all just fell apart overnight! It took a number of months for me to get over this disappointment, but I eventually realised it was for the best. I went back to my original plan of self publishing Laura the Explorer - now with a better manuscript and some invaluable experience with editing and rewriting. I hired an amazing cover designer and a brilliant copy editor and in January 2019 I published Laura the Explorer, and haven’t looked back!
Amanda: What are you working on right now?
Sarah: I’m working on the sequel to Laura the Explorer, titled Eat Pray Shag, which I’ll be publishing in May 2020. I’m also doing a final edit on a YA Fantasy manuscript, and brainstorming ideas for Laura the Explorer book 3!
Amanda: Describe your writing space? What makes it uniquely you?
Sarah: There are a number of places I write, but I find my most productive times are at my local cafe, at a library or sitting out on my balcony. I do have a dedicated writing desk, but I find I tend to do more admin-type tasks when I’m there! Too many distractions on that desk, probably.
Amanda: Was there a defining moment in your life where you knew you had to be a writer?
Sarah: I still remember the exact moment when it clicked in my mind that the books I loved reading were written by real people, and that that was a career. I was about seven and out walking with my mum and our dogs - I know the exact spot on the footpath we were passing when the epiphany struck! Until that point, I’d always responded to the standard ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question with ‘a vet’. (Like many kids, I loved animals!) But after that moment, I had a new answer - I wanted to be an author!
Amanda: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Sarah: To be honest, I think everything is difficult! When I’m writing a first draft, I wish I was editing a third draft. When I’m editing a third draft, I really wish I was writing a first! Something I’ve heard many writers report is that they hate writing, but they love having written. I think this description perfectly sums up how I feel most days!
Amanda: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Sarah: I’m gradually becoming more of a plotter. While being a pantser can be very fun and exciting, there’s nothing worse than realising you’ve written your manuscript into a terrible hole, and now you’ll have to throw out all those awesome scenes you just did because they’ve taken you completely in the wrong direction. Being a plotter also makes things so much easier when you reach what many writers refer to as the ‘saggy middle’, aka when you’re writing Act 2 and everything seems to be unravelling. In those moments, having that chapter-by-chapter outline to refer back to is the best liferaft in the world.
Amanda: Any advice for writers?
Sarah: You can read all the writing advice there is and do all the writing courses that are available, but the best way to learn to write novels is to write them! Finish your manuscripts, redraft them, and then spend your money on professional feedback. Learning through experience is the best way to learn.
Amanda: Any advice for readers?
Sarah: A great way to support authors is to leave reviews online, as this helps our books to be seen by more potential readers. Start leaving ratings and reviews for books you’ve enjoyed - but please be kind! If you hated a book, or didn’t finish it, then please don’t post a review. Bear in mind the old saying - if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. This is perhaps even more pertinent in today’s online world!
Amanda: Book two of Laura the Explorer - when can we read it? And what can we expect?
Sarah: Eat Pray Shag will be released in May 2020, and features the same gang of wonderful characters, this time on an adventure up to Byron Bay!
Amanda: Thank you so much Sarah! It was a pleasure.
Sarah: Thanks for having me, Amanda!
Amanda: Can you please tell everyone how to find you!
Sarah: You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest all @sarahkbegg
You can also subscribe to my newsletter or read the first three chapters of Laura the Explorer on my website - http://sarahbegg.com/