HELEN SCHEUERER: ‘I’m a big believer in getting the first drafts done and dusted’

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Helen Scheuerer is the founding editor of Writers Edit and the author of Heart of Mist, out in September 2017. Heart of Mist is the first book in The Oremere Chronicles, an epic fantasy series from new imprint, Talem Press. You can find Heart of Mist on Goodreads

Firstly, tell us a bit about Heart of Mist
Sure! Heart of Mist is my debut YA fantasy novel, the first in a planned trilogy called The Oremere Chronicles. The story follows 19-year-old Bleak, a powerful magic wielder who struggles to control her powers in a realm where magic is forbidden. The book explores themes of identity, belonging, loyalty and addiction, to name a few. You can read the complete synopsis and add it on Goodreads here.

You’re the founding editor of WRITER’S EDIT, an online literary magazine. When did you launch it and what was your aim with the project?
I started Writer’s Edit all the way back in 2013, which feels like a long time ago now! I had always had the dream of running a small press and publishing beautiful books, and the Writer’s Edit website was a way of testing the waters to see how committed I was to that dream.

Writer’s Edit became a small press not long after, publishing three creative writing anthologies (Kindling Volume I, Vol. II and Vol. III) in the space of three years. In just a short space of time, Writer’s Edit grew to become a massive online learning platform for writers all around Australia and the world.

We’re still going strong, and publish weekly advice for fiction writers, freelance writers and indie publishers. This audience and the success with our advice-driven content has led us to create more in-depth, advanced courses which will be launching on the site very soon.

You studied creative writing at university. How useful did you find the degree in shaping your writing?
That’s a tricky question for me, as I absolutely loved my degree – the readings, the assessments, the people (both peers and mentors)… I was incredibly fortunate to be able to experience it. However, in hindsight, I do think it was rather limiting in the genres it covered.

Essentially, we studied classics and literary fiction, which meant that other genres didn’t really get a look in and thus weren’t considered ‘serious literature’.

For a long time, I tried to write stories and books that fit the mould of what I had studied, rather than what I loved. But I think to a certain extent that must just be part and parcel of any writer’s journey – figuring out what exactly you love writing, and then having the confidence to go out and do it.

You’re a freelance writer as well. Tell us a bit about what your day to day life is like.
The life of a freelance writer is never dull, that’s for sure. I’ve written about the most random things – from tea packaging copy and high end fashion, to wallpaper and construction fencing… At the moment I mainly do blog posts about marketing, interior design and social media content.

More recently, I’ve tended to veer towards freelance editing rather than writing, as I find when I’m producing too much content for clients, getting my own writing done is really challenging.

Generally I have three days of the week set aside for freelance work. I work from a very vibrant and creative office in Redfern and do a fair bit of freelance in-house.

However, with the release of Heart of Mist so close on the horizon, I’ve taken a step back from freelance to focus on the launch.

As an author, what is something that worries you? Is there anything about the writing/publishing process that you wish were different?
In a perfect world, authors would be paid a hell of a lot more than the standard 8-10% royalties they’re usually offered… A book can take years to write, and most of the time, an author won’t make enough money to forgo their day job.

I also find it frustrating that there are still somewhat old fashioned ‘gatekeepers’ when it comes to things like getting coverage for a good title. There are so many wonderful books out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve because they don’t have a big publisher stamped on the spine. I won’t even start on the celebrity publishing fad or the gender bias in publishing!

You chose to set up your own publishing imprint (Talem Press) to publish Heart of Mist. How did that come about?
Well, I was lucky that through my work with Writer’s Edit, I’d gained a lot of experience in terms of book production and marketing… And due to my previous experiences in the industry, I really liked the idea of having control over my production and publication schedules.

I had always thought Writer’s Edit Press would move into specialising in a particular genre, and it just so happened that many of our writers were working on fantasy manuscripts at the time. It’s a genre that our whole team loves, and so it just made sense to start Talem.

Talem Press will publish all three books in The Oremere Chronicles, and we’ve also spoken with a number of new authors about other potential series as well.

How long did it take you to write Heart of Mist and what advice would you give to other writers wanting to venture into YA fantasy and/or adult fantasy?
I wrote the first draft of Heart of Mist in about 6 weeks during NaNoWriMo. I’m a big believer in getting the first drafts done and dusted, and then using as much time as you need to redraft and edit. I probably spent another year doing rewrites, working with beta readers and editing the manuscript.

In terms of advice, I’d suggest writing the first draft for yourself. Don’t worry about making it perfect during that first part of the process, that comes later. Enjoy it, write the book for you and what you love. Making it shine, pleasing readers and making it stand out from the other books in the genre, is what the following drafts and edits are for.

I’m a big believer in getting the first drafts done and dusted, and then using as much time as you need to redraft and edit.

What are you working on next?
I’m actually nearly finished the first draft of Book II in The Oremere Chronicles, which is super exciting. I’m really looking forward to starting the whole beta reader process again.

Book II is slated for release around this time next year, so there’s a lot of work to do between now and then.

I’ve also committed to publishing prequel stories between each book. The first three are already available for free here. If all goes to plan, there should be another three released before Book II, and another three before Book III.

Plus, of course, there’s all the behind-the-scenes work that readers don’t see – the outreach marketing, the social media campaigns and the collaborations… Those are all very much in full swing for me now.

Besides book-related work, myself and the team at Writer’s Edit have just launched a FREE Freelance Writers Foundation Course, with more to come, so it’ll be a busy second half to the year for us!

Helen Scheuerer is based in Sydney. You can visit her website HERE and you can follow her on TWITTER. You can read all about Writers Edit HERE.


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