Q&A with Pam Cook author of Blackwattle Lake


Pam Cook1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
For this particular novel it was the old “write what you know” advice. I spend a lot of time with horses so decided to write something set on a horse property. And then I had an image of a woman standing at the gate of the property unable to get in. She turned out to be Eve Nicholls, my protagonist.

2. When did you take up writing?
I’ve written on and off all my life – mainly poetry and journals when I was younger. In 2000, sick of marking high school English essays, I decided to try my hand at something more creative and enrolled in a Masters in Creative Writing at UNSW. I had my third daughter during that time and decided to teach part time and continue writing, which I’ve been doing ever since.

3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
I adore novels that have a strong sense of place, stories that transport me somewhere else. I try to do the same in my own writing. My first novel (as yet unpublished) is set in Nepal, a country I fell in love with and I really enjoyed evoking the atmosphere of the streets of Kathmandu and the awesomeness of the Himalayas. Blackwattle Lake is set in a fictional place somewhere around 5 hours south of Sydney. I spend a lot of time on the south coast of NSW and also at the ranch where we agist our horses. I’ve drawn on both places to create the setting of Yarabee and Mossy creek Farm. I hope readers get a sense of really being there and love it as much as I do.

4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Eve, the main character is definitely my favourite. She doesn’t let people push her around, says what she thinks, is independent and will have a go at anything. At the same time she has a vulnerability that stems from tragedy
in her past and she also loves animals and horses. Her best friend is a kelpie and she drives a kombi. What’s not to love? The thing I enjoyed about writing this novel is that all the characters became my friends. It was great hanging
out with them all and I miss them now!

5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
That’s a tough one. I’m addicted to books on writing so I’ve read a lot of good tips over the years. Two things that stand out though, one is to write first and foremost for the love of writing and not for any perceived audience. That comes later in the revision stages – if you’re looking for a wider audience or hoping to be published. The second piece of advice, from the wonderful writer Markus Zusak, was that rejection makes you a better writer. That’s hard to believe when the rejection happens but it does make you hone your skills and improve your writing.

6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I wish I did! But as hard as I try that doesn’t seem to happen. I go for weeks and months doing morning pages (which I highly recommend) and then a late night brings me to a halt. As far as my fiction writing goes I tend to write in bursts a few times a week, squeezing it around family life. I’ll continue to keep working at creating a daily schedule. Hopefully it will happen soon!

7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I definitely wing it which can mean I end up without any definite plot for quite a while. I like to write character based fiction so it’s easy to get sidetracked with backstory. I have learnt over the years that plot does matter so I’m trying harder to work more consciously on the story arc. Freewriting is still really important for a first draft. It’s part of my process and helps me learn who the characters are and what they want.

8. Can you name three or four of your current favourite books?
I recently read Secrets of The Tides by Hannah Richell. It’s about a family living with a tragedy and secrets. The way Richell weaves the narratives of the three main characters keeps you turning the page and her writing is very evocative. I’ve been reading The Hobbit out loud with my daughter and am loving sharing one of my all time favourites with her. Tolkien is the master of creating another world and making it one hundred percent believable. I just finished Jilted
by Rachael Johns which is a lovely rural romance with a very hot hero. And my current read is The Streetsweeper
by Elliot Pearlman which I was finding very hard to get in to at first but he is such a wonderful writer that I can’t wait to get back to it each day and see how he’s weaving the plot lines od the various characters together. As you can see,
I have very eclectic tastes!

9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m currently behind with my nano project which is proving to be a perfect example of writing a first draft with no definite plot in mind. It has elements of forbidden love, a shipwreck, prophetic dreams and is set once again on the south coast. Hopefully it will develop into something more solid.

10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Persistence and determination are the keys if you really want to be published. You will go through times where you can’t see the point and feel like giving up but if you keep at it you will achieve your dream in some form or another. Be careful who you show your writing to but do find a critique partner you trust and do listen to and act on feedback. And most importantly, write because you love to write.

Blackwattle Lake is available at bookstores and department stores across Australia.

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Blackwattle Lake - Cover






















Jenn J McLeod
11/29/2012 05:26:32 pm

Lovely interview. I like that you too have a ‘first novel’ you hold dear. Yours is Nepal. Mine is Positano, on the Amalfi Coast. One day, Pam!!!!

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