I had the good fortune of meeting Maggie on a bushwalk as she’s another writer who happens to be a nature lover. Her latest book “The Fur and Feathers Party” is available through her website maggielawrence.com/books.
Here’s Maggie in her own words.
Tell us a little about what inspires you as a writer?
Nothing gets my creative writing juices flowing more forcefully than making people laugh. And if I can also help the planet in some way by teaching something through writing, I feel I am truly in my dharma. Hence my author site slogan of ‘Writing for the Planet.’
To this end I have written (and co-written) situation comedy series pilots, satirical sketch series and seven feature film screenplays. More often than not they’ve had an environmental slant.
I’ve been told I am an oddball in that I actually thrive on writing comedy. Maybe it has something to do with my odd sense of the ridiculous. Or perhaps I was gifted with a sense of humour as compensation for some of the emotional challenges I have faced in my life. It didn’t work God okay?
What made you want to write “The Fur and Feathers Party”?
I wanted to write a story that through quirky comedy and an imaginative and original tale would educate people about some environmental issues I cared about. And I wanted the animals to be the ones telling the story.
This novel began its life as a screenplay called ‘Pup’. It had won some awards in the U.S. and one day an Australian film director who seemed to like my screenplay suggested I also think about writing it as a novel. This could not have been further from my thoughts.
I loved to write film scripts and I never considered myself to be a novelist. I had no idea how to write a novel. But I’ve always enjoyed a writing challenge and this was a big one for me. So I began to slowly flesh the screen story out to become something resembling a novel.
What was your writing and publishing journey like? How long did it take? Did you struggle to find the right publisher, editor, or self-publishing option?
I’m not really new to writing. I started out as a journalist on the Age TV and Radio Guide when I was nineteen. Then later I enjoyed a lucrative twelve-year career as an advertising copywriter selling my soul as I encouraged readers, viewers, and listeners to drink unhealthy beverages, go on vacations they couldn’t afford, and to annihilate annoying insects with toxic chemicals. My sense of ethics eventually took over coinciding with my becoming way too old for the youthful world of advertising, as I had turned the ancient age of 37. So I gave up my well-paid career to become a poor, but happy creative writer of film and TV scripts.
Writing the novel was certainly a challenge. Screenwriting is all about show and tell and writing tightly to tell the story in the fastest possible way. So I had to learn to expand and expand and flesh out my characters in great detail with a lot of backstory. Then there was the different novel structure and point of view to get my head around. Instead of being able to complete a first draft screenplay in about six weeks, I spent years working on this novel. I had periods when I stopped then I would come back to it, in some cases several years later. It probably took about twelve years to finish but without the breaks in between, I would say about two years all up. The major part of the novel was completed during lockdown last year.
A friend of mine, who has an editing qualification, did a structural edit for me for a very reasonable fee. Then I found someone through Air Tasker to do my final copy edit and proofread.
My decision to self-publish was not a difficult one. I had tried to find a real publisher at first but stupidly did this before my manuscript had been properly edited. Needless to say, I got nowhere with securing either an agent or a traditional publisher. I was given some encouragement to keep going with the novel, but it seemed that my main problem was that it didn’t sit clearly in any given genre. ‘It’s not even a cross-genre novel’ as one publisher not very encouragingly told me.
I heard about Ingram Spark from another self-published author and I decided to check them out. I liked the fact that they didn’t charge a fortune, but the downside was that the author had to do all the work. So I set about doing their free online publishing courses that were very thorough and eventually I was able to get my head around what was required in order to get my novel in a fit state to be published.
I found an illustration company online that did a great job on my front and back cover. The only problem I found with Ingram Spark was that they used a program for the e-book that I didn’t have and that cost a lot to buy and was hard to use. It would have cost a lot of money for them to create my e-book as they charge by the page and I had 337 pages. So I chose to go with KDP for the e-book as they do everything for free. The downside is that they only put your book on Amazon whereas Ingram Spark has a very wide distribution that includes Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Target Books, Booktopia, Angus and Robertson, and others.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I love J.P. Donleavy, Tom Sharpe, David Lodge, Tina Fey, Dawn French, Liane Moriarty, Daphne Du Maurier, Christopher Buckley, and Saki to mention a few.
Any other books in the works?
I am still recovering from the last one and my focus now is on the marketing of ‘The Fur and Feathers Party’. If it’s to be, it’s up to me has to be my motto for the next little while until (in the hopeful event) that I get offered a traditional publishing deal, and someone else will be assisting me with the marketing.
Thank you Maggie, keep writing!