Jane Harper

Posted on Posted in Crime fiction, Interview, Jane Harper, Popular fiction, Writer

Jane Harper published three international bestsellers - The Dry (2016), Force of Nature (2017), and The Lost Man (2018) - in three years.

The Dry was awarded the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year (among other awards). Film rights for The Dry are held by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Prior to her literary career, Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years in Australia and the United Kingdom.

TRANSCRIPT

Astrid: Jane Harper, welcome to The Garret.

Jane: Thank you for having me.

Astrid: I'd like to start at the beginning, with The Dry, which won, to be honest, too many awards for me to list here, and then talk about the Force of Nature and your most recent work, The Lost Man. But firstly, The Dry was your first ever novel. Tell me about how you got it to print.

Jane: So yeah, I loved writing The Dry. I'd wanted to write a book for years and years. Ever since I was a little kid I was always a big reader and I'd always had this underlying ambition that one day I'd love to write a book, but I never really did anything about it. I was working full time as a journalist on newspapers – which I think I went into because I wanted to write and that seemed like a way to do it professionally – and for a long time I was focused on my career and it was just this sort of, in the back of my head sort of thing, ‘One day I'll do it, one day I'll do it’.

And I made a mistake I think a lot of people make, which is thinking that one day I suddenly have this block of time open up and I'd be able to suddenly focus on this goal with no distractions. And of course, that never happened. It didn't happen for me either but I did realise that if I was going to do it, I was going to have to do around my day to day schedule. So I made the time, deliberately, to find time to work on it. And I wrote the book. That was late 2014, and then in early 2015 I entered it in the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award, and I won that prize and that just completely opened up one hundred doors for me, in terms of agents and publishers wanting to read it.

Astrid: So, what did you find first, an agent or a publisher?

Jane: I found an agent first, because I just did not know enough about the industry, I felt, to make any kind of informed decision. And I had a lot of publishers emailing me, asking if they could read it. And funnily enough I didn't honestly feel it was ready to send out, even though it did won the prize. I actually hadn't expected to win obviously, and I was still working on another draft of it. I really wanted to get that draft finished before... Yeah, I sent it out because I felt like this is my shot, this could actually maybe happen. I got a wonderful agent who got me a bit of time to sort of complete the draft I was working on and gave me a bit of feedback herself and got it to a point where I felt I was happy to kind of share it. It went to publishing auction in Australia in August 2015.

Astrid: That is so quick. Now tell me, when you decided to submit to the Unpublished Manuscript Award, how confident were you in that draft? Who had you shown it to? What was the impetus for submitting?

Jane: I showed it to nobody. Not one single person had read that draft except for me. And that was actually part of the motivation to submit it, because I was hoping that I might get some feedback because I thought I'd just like to get a sense of whether this is even worth pursuing or not. I mean, at that point I was writing it really because I was quite enjoying it. I was really actually quite proud of myself having finished a manuscript for the first time ever, after years of procrastinating, and I thought as a former journalist I do love a good deadline and I thought, this is a good deadline, I'll send it in, maybe I'll get some feedback and if it's positive that's great and if not that's good to know as well, because it saves me from sending it off to maybe agents or publishers before it's ready. And that was all I was hoping for with it.

Astrid: Once you had the agent, obviously the next step was a publisher. What was that process like?

Jane: My agents, when we ready sent it out to publishers in Australian industry, and I was really delighted. A lot of them were interested and I met with quite a few of them. So we had discussions about... We discussed like what, I guess their vision, for want of a better word, for the book, what they  thought they would do with it. And we had a bit of discussion about, again, also about what kind of work they may be felt it would need in the editorial process, so it was kind of quite a frank exchange really, to I guess get a sense of what would be the best match. And then they were all invited to submit their offers on a certain date, and then we went from there. I was really happy to end up choosing to go with Pam Macmillan who have been fantastic for the book.

Astrid: And you stayed with them for all three, yes?

Jane: I have, absolutely. And they've done a really wonderful job in terms of the enthusiasm and getting the word of mouth, and the enthusiasm of their sales reps and everything. So yeah, I'm really delighted with them.

Astrid: I want to go back to what you said at the beginning that you realised you had to find time around the rest of your life to write. For you – and it's different for every writer – but for you, when was that time and how did you do it?

Jane: Yeah, so I mean, you're absolutely right in that will time management will look different for everybody because everybody has a different schedule. So for me personally, what I used to do was I used to set my alarm one hour earlier, and I'd write for one solid hour and then go to work. And I used to play kind of mental tricks to myself in that I used to come home, stay in my work clothes and write for again one hour, and when the hour is up I was allowed to get changed out of my work clothes and go and have dinner and whatever, enjoy the evening and as long as I kind of did at least one of those or ideally both, then I felt I was making progress.

And I think the key thing is that, the time management will be different for everybody, but what I would really urge aspiring writers to enforce is consistency, because you see if you work on it a little and often you see your project developing, which really helps with the motivation. But also, I think it's really important to stay in that head space where you're thinking about the characters and the plot and it’s ticking over as you go about your day, and it's in that kind of head space where you get those creative leaps, I think.

Astrid: Talking about head space, you were a journalist, are a journalist. What was it like moving from fiction and this world that you've created from finance journalism, if I've done my research, correctly?

Jane: Yeah. I actually I did a fair bit of different types of journalism over the course of it. So I did do sort of a lot of crime, I did court, I did health, bridal magazine for short time. [Laughter] All kinds of things and my last job was on the business desk of the Herald Sun. And it was interesting because I think I'd thought of fiction was so different from that, and one of the most interesting things for me was actually how many of the skills I could actually transfer directly. So having that discipline and that consistency I was just mentioning, I think expressing herself clearly using sort of minimum number of words… Fiction does not need as many adjectives as I thought it did when I started out.

And I think also just that sense of drawing the readers in. So in news articles you're always trying to give them a hook at the start and then keep their attention throughout the article so you keep them reading as long as possible. And that's something I was always taught us a cadet and that's where I really focused on a lot when I was writing the books as well.

Astrid: How long did your first draft take?

Jane: For The Dry it took... My first draft of The Dry probably took me about twelve weeks. I was actually writing it as part of an online course, which I signed up for mainly as the motivation to focus my attention, because I knew I wanted to try this book and I wasn't quite sure if I could do it on my own. So I just needed a bit of external pressure. And the good thing about that was it just helped me focus really, and it made me feel like there was this deadline, even if it was just an artificial one. And so I set myself a goal finishing the first draft within that. So I wrote the first draft within twelve weeks, but then straightaway started on the second one and I continued working on that on my own and I did a third draft, which was the one I finished in time to enter the Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript Prize, which was in, I believe, in April 2015. So it was about six months from start to finish from when I started writing the book to when I entered the Unpublished Manuscript Prize.

Astrid: I have to say that is brilliantly quick, well done.

Jane: Well, I am quite a quick writer, because I had worked for a long time on the newspapers. So if nothing else, that teaches you to get words done by a deadline. And so when I sit down and write, I can actually get the words on a page I suppose relatively fast. But I think also it's worth pointing out that when I won that prize, that version of The Dry was not the version that you read in shops. So the version of one was 60,000 words and the finished book is 90,000 words. It was… I think entirely recognisable. The characters were there and the plot was there, in order as you would read it. However, it lacks a lot of depth, a lot of characters were quite two dimensional in a lot of ways. Some of the connections that I think are in a finished book and not apparent in that draft. So by the time we went out to publishers it was 75,000 words and by the time we went through the full professional editorial process it was 90,000.

Astrid: That actually relates to the question I wanted to ask you. So the personal details in your writing repeatedly over and over kept striking me as just this wonderful little addition to the work. And the example I can think of in The Dry is where, on page 87 of the paperback, where you have Aaron Falk, the school principal talking about the sadness in the school children's drawings. And I was wondering, as a writer, is that something that comes in the first draft? Is that something that you go back and you add these things in throughout each draft? Because you do it so well.

Jane: Oh, thank you. And I think absolutely it comes later. The first drafts, I think a lot about just getting a structure down really. And it's interesting that a lot of those things they're sort of smaller details that don't often come to me until later when actually I've got that security of a first draft down or even a second draft or even more really. And you can sort of take a breath really and start to think, ‘Okay, in this scene that is now established, what are these people actually thinking? What are they seeing when they look around and when they look at each other. And when they think about their backgrounds and how it has brought them to this moment?’ And it's then you can kind of drop in those little details that I think hopefully give that sense of authenticity.

Astrid: They do. It makes the characters feel alive. Now, speaking of characters, a review of The Dry from America said, and I quote, ‘Jane Harper makes Australia a fully-fledged character in The Dry’. What do you think of that?

Jane: I'm really pleased to hear that. I mean I hope in all the books that the Australian setting plays a really crucial role, because I think it's really important for me personally, I think it's important that the setting is not just a backdrop, it actually is interwoven throughout. And by that I mean the characters are reacting authentically to their surroundings and not just in an immediate sense in terms of who they've become and the pressures that they're under, their relationships with each other and their community. And I think it's really important that you sort of try and take that 360 degree view of it. I also like it when the setting drives the plot to some extent, so actually it's part of the action and it's pushing that storyline along. And I think also we're just really spoiled out here. I mean Australia has amazing landscapes, these incredible unique settings that we really don't find anywhere else in the world, and they're so diverse, and you've got that kind of amazing combination of beauty and brutality… Especially for books with an element of mystery and suspense, I think plays out so well.

Astrid: It really does. Now I suppose that every interview that you do, Jane, someone mentions Reese Witherspoon optioning The Dry, but I'd like to ask you, how did that affect your writing process for your second book, Force of Nature, which of course has a sequel, and the third book, The Lost Man? I mean pressure, intensity. Did you imagine Force of Nature also being optioned? Can you see it on the screen?

Jane: It's funny. I don't think it really affected the writing process at all, other than being obviously delighted that this interest in making The Dry into a movie. I mean, I'm really excited to see what they'll do with it and as well as my hope really is that they capture the Australianness, and capture the essence and the spirit of the characters and the plot that the readers have responded to. But beyond that, I do see it very much as a separate project. It's sort of their area of expertise and my area is the books and that's got to be my priority and my focus. And I think also have this understanding that a movie is like such a long process and you've kind of just got to give people the time and space to do what they need to do. Meanwhile, I can focus on the books and I can really control that whole area. So it's interesting though in terms of, did it affect anything, any decisions I made plot wise or character wise? And I honestly don't think it did, because I don't really have any expectation that Force of Nature or The Lost Man would necessarily be put on screen because my priority is to write good books and books that people enjoy, and I want them to be the best they possibly can be in book form without having to think about how that could translate into any other medium.

Astrid: In your second book Force of Nature Aaron Falk remains the hero, but it's in a sense a much less personal story. And instead of following everything about Aaron and his family, we follow a mystery that happened and he's the guy who comes in. I loved it. Are you setting that series up for like a Lee Child, Jack Reacher style, ongoing hero?

Jane: I don't think so. No, I mean like Jack Reacher who I love, it is 20 plus years now in the making, isn't it? So, hats off to Lee Child for absolutely maintaining that series and the character, as beautifully as he has done. I think I would intend to return to Falk. I think he has more to come, but I also think it's important I suppose for me, for the character to see progress being made with him, so I wouldn't want to see him really sort of stuck in an eternal loop I suppose, where he doesn't really make much forward progress with his own personal issues. I'd like to see him have some resolution, and I think that would involve just doing a finite number of books. I haven't quite decided exactly what that's going to look like. I'd like to have that actual planned out quite well, really, before I started,  so that I know what was going to happen rather than just let it play out. But yeah, I'd love to have return to him at some point for sure.

Astrid: In Force of Nature that you describe Aaron Falk's bookshelf. Now you are a reader and a writer and a journalist, and I personally find it fascinating when a writer mentions books in a work. And you describe his bookshelf as, and I quote, ‘He read widely, mostly fiction spanning from the a wide set of literary to the shamelessly commercial’. First question, is that how you read? And second question, where do you place The Dry? Because The Dry is clearly a commercial success, but it is also hugely acclaimed and awarded.

Jane: I think to answer the first part. I think with Falk I think it's really important to read widely across all genres. I think it's a real shame when you hear people who've cut themselves off from one specific genre because they feel like, ‘Oh I don't like that or I don't like this’. And there's actually such a range within them. I feel Falk is man enough to know that and appreciate that. I think he would read very widely. So that sort of reflected on his bookshelves. And in terms of the genre. I mean, I'm lucky enough in that I rarely have to actually place my books anywhere. Like I'm not a bookseller, and I am not sort of tasked with actually putting on the shelves. I am happy with wherever people feel it fits. Following on from that, I do hope the people will give it a try rather than being put off by maybe if it's pigeonholed in one part of the bookshop versus the other. I mean I hope people would pick it up and just read the first couple of chapters and see if it's for them really.

Astrid: I think they will. I mean it could go in crime fiction, could go in general fiction, could go in Australian fiction, could go anywhere really. Now I'm interested in how you played with the timeline in both The Dry and Force of Nature. You flash back to the past from multiple points of view in both. In The Dry it tends to be short sections in italics, whereas in Force of Nature, it's whole chapters and I wanted to know how you approach that when you were writing it, and why you changed the structure of the flashbacks.

Jane: I think my writing style just evolved a little bit between the first two books. So I wanted to...When I was writing The Dry it was my debut and I was mainly focused on trying to keep the story moving forward and keep it engaging. And I did actually have versions without the flashbacks and what I found, I remember at the time, was that there was a lot of scenes where people were sitting in the living room having a conversation about something that had happened in the past. And it just felt to me quite flat and it happened a lot. So I just, almost as an experiment because I think that's important whenever you're writing anything, try a few different ways, see what works, see what kind of comes naturally. And I just thought, ‘I'll just try and do this way where it plays out in front of the reader and they can make their own judgments and, sort of feel like there's a bit more immediate’. And I tried it and I personally just felt it worked better and I didn't really think too much more about it than that. It wasn't like a huge sort of writing decision. It was just that I felt that was the best way that I tried it that works. And then in Force of Nature because the action again, we've got Falk investigating this mystery around these women in a bushland, but at the same time so much with the action takes place in the bushland.

I just thought was such a shame not to show that to the reader and I thought it would be kind of a fun idea to have it playing out… As he's learning more, we're actually seeing it play out in kind of chronological real time.

Astrid: when you were writing, did you write the book chronologically? Did you write the flashbacks chronologically? Did you take it into... How did you... ?

Jane: Every time I've always written a book pretty much from start to finish, so yeah, I've been asked say with Force of Nature, particularly because the chapters are sort of a one-two structure, whether I wrote the Falk storyline and the bush storyline separately and then put them together, but I didn't. I wrote the book as a whole, and I think it was a question of just trying to think as a writer and as a reader what was a natural progression for this.

Having said that, I did learn along the way. The more I plan, the easier it is. And for The Lost Man, I planned that extensively before I wrote a word. And I think really, I learned that through the process of The Dry and Force of Nature that the more structure I have before I start, the absolute easier it is to get those words on the page when I actually come to do it.

Astrid: How else has your writing process changed now that you've now written three books? So you plot more. Are you faster, you speedier?

Jane: There's a few things that have changed. I mean it has evolved a bit but it sort of comes back a lot to some really key points. One is that I think it's important not to let yourself get overwhelmed by the whole task because… And that was something that really stopped me I think for a lot of years writing a book, because I felt like the goal I set myself was completely overwhelming, because I wasn't just focusing on writing a book, I was focusing on what's going to happen next? Will I get a publisher? Will anybody ever read this thing? Will people like it? And I hadn't even written it and it wasn't till I let myself just think, ‘You know what, I want to write a book enough that the time and effort that's going to take is worth it. Even if it never gets published, I just want to do it’. That was a huge mental leap for me.

So now it's a little bit different because, I've kind of got the publishing deal and I know that people will read it ideally. So the pressures are a little bit different in terms of it's easy to get overwhelmed by like that kind of expectation. So I make myself again come back to those things that I can control. So I can write one chapter or I do one piece of research or do one section of planning, and as long as I focus on those things that I can control, the book and the bigger picture will emerge.

Astrid: Tell me exactly how you structure. Is it with cards? Is it on Scrivener?

Jane: Yeah. So, it's changed a bit over the three, so I'll tell you with The Lost Man because that is the most effective way. So you get the benefit of writing it to my best practice as it stands, which I’m sure will probably evolve again. So for The Lost Man, this one is set in outback Queensland, very different from where I live here in Melbourne. So I knew I do a lot of research, so I did a lot of research in terms of I spoke to people, read books on the subjects, went out to Queensland for visits, got all kinds of information I needed. At the same time I was thinking about the plots and what it was going to go, what kind of gaps I needed to fill, and I started… Simultaneously I was working on the plan for the plot, and it started off really just as a skeleton draft, so a start and a couple of points in the middle and then I built it up to be more, so then I had a few more points in the middle and a few more and a few more until I had kind of maybe fifteen to twenty chapters, I suppose, for want of a better word, but just literally a couple of sentences. And it just grew from there. Every time I would add in bits within those chapters and I work out what I felt that chapter should start on and end on and what I wanted to achieve within it, and then from there and maybe have some ideas about dialogue. So I'd add in a slip if it's dialogue that I think of, and it got to the point where this plan was tens of thousands of words, it was huge.

And I did actually use Scrivener for the first time, which I thought was really good in terms of it's got a utility where you can put it on a cork board and you can move the chapters around a bit and see. So that worked for me, but I think you don't necessarily have to use that program. I think it was just a process. And so then it was only once I've done all that and I really had this really intensive plan in place, then I felt like it was time to start writing. I personally found it really useful because I could open up the computer and say, ‘Okay, today we're doing chapter four. This is what happens in chapter four’. And that's all I had to do that day, just write that chapter, it was laid out and then that was it. And as long as I did that thirty times the book will be finished.

Astrid: Tell me about the decision with The Lost Man to keep it in the same universe with a bit of crossover to your first two novels. Why?

Jane: So, I think for this one I always knew it was going to be essentially standalone really, because I think part of writing a book is finding the best characters to tell the story. And I had this very strong... I knew the setting was the Outback with his immediate family, and I knew really early that Falk – as much as I love him and I do – how on Earth could I get in there? Like would be getting to the realms of ridiculous, like on an Outback holiday or something. It was never going to happen. I didn't even really spend much time thinking about it. And the characters in The Lost Man, the family, was actually very clear to me quite early and I just loved them. I just wanted to sort of explore all their kind of their past and their relationships and the people they've become. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I think, when people read the book, I do actually feel quite confident they will agree that it was the right choice to make that as a standalone.

But having said that, I'm so grateful to the readers who have embraced The Dry and Force of Nature. I wanted to give them something as well that they would enjoy and recognise as a novel for me, I suppose. And it is a style I enjoy writing in and I want to sort of keep it within that area, but the same time, to have it as… tell it in the best way I could, I guess.

Astrid: So without giving away any spoilers, I think it's fair to say that there aren't really any happy relationships in your work. And I don't just mean kind of partner or spouse, I mean sibling relationships, father-son relationships, all of it. Is that a conscious choice?

Jane: I think when I'm trying to think about the characters, you do want it to feel authentic and like real people. And I think part of that is thinking about how these relationships are going to play out given the lives they lead and the pressures they're under, and I suppose the shared histories they have. And I think although the relationships they have are quite challenging and do have their own problems, I do think there are some quite nice elements in there as well. The person that I quite enjoyed writing about was Nathan, who has a teenage son who he really loves very much and although they're sort of struggling as often as many parents and teenage children do, I think that real closeness is still there in a lot of ways. And I think, particularly with Nathan, although he maybe doesn't execute it as well as you could a lot of the time, I think he does really wants to forge those connections with people around him. And I like trying to sort of tease that out throughout the novel really.

Astrid: Reading all three of your works together, I was surprised – particularly because some bookstores do put them in the crime section – at how much you prompted me to think about all sorts of other societal issues that I wasn't necessarily expecting. Intergenerational trauma and violence come to the forefront almost on every page.

Jane: So the themes always come… not immediately. And I think part of that is because when I'm writing a novel, I start off with the character and the setting come quite early. And then I do have this idea for plots and as I'm building it up it, it's more of a secondary step when I start to think about the characters and how they react to each other and also how their background is influencing the people they've become now. And I think a big part of that is really thinking very closely about the realistic issues that they're facing, and on what would actually be going on in their lives at this moment. And so it's those… I find more where the themes emerge, because you're actually thinking, ‘This is the situation they're in. What are the likely pressure points and the reactions that they're likely to have?’ And ideally, those themes ring true to us because we do see them in the news or we hear about them or there's awareness about those issues. So that's really where I think you get that three dimensional and believable aspects of the characters.

Astrid: Completely. There's so much depth and resonance with all of them. One thing I did notice as well is, particularly in the last two books, much of the violence is committed by women, and I was fascinated by your choice.

Jane: Well I think for all the characters in all their actions, sort of good and bad, I like to think about the motivations quite closely. So I rarely point at a character and say, ‘Right, you're going to do that now’. I really do try and think, ‘What position are you in now and what are the external factors that are influencing this? And given your personality and the background that I know you have, how are you honestly going to react in this situation?’ And it's more that, and that happens for every character, and sometimes that can be a positive thing as well that they reach out to someone or they try and sort of make a connection or... Yeah, it's really about that. I think that's different for every character as well. So there's no one size fits all. Even if people have had quite a similar experience, say Force of Nature when all the women are in the bushland and they're all having this terrible experience, but they're all very different women and they're all responding in slightly different ways. I think it's the question is running down each character one of the time and thinking, ‘How would you react? And how do you react? And what is the most natural progression for you?’

Astrid: You've now written I guess, to male heroes. I count, I read Nathan Bright as a hero. Do you think you'll write a female hero?

Jane: Yeah, I mean I would definitely like to write about a woman. It's not something I've consciously thought, ‘I'm going to write about men’. But for both books, for The Dry and Aaron Falk, I wanted someone who is connected with the Hadler family, one of whom is tragically found dead at the start of the book. I wanted someone who's connected with them but wasn't an immediate relative and wasn't an old girlfriend, and a male friend of the father who'd had a childhood friendship seemed like a very natural fit for that, someone who has that inside relationship but it's sort of drifted away. So that's how Aaron Falk kind of came out of the very sort of early, early sort of stage.

And then with Nathan Bright and his brothers in the book, again, you want to find the best characters to tell the story. And it felt with the setting and the work that jobs involved and the dynamics of that kind of region, I don't think I could have told this story with say three sisters. I think it had to have that that masculine dynamic. So that's how Nathan came to be. I do get asked about writing men, and the thing I sort of always did when I'm trying to write is that, I don't honestly think consciously I'm going to get into sort of a male head space because how can you really do that? But what I do, I personally believe that as humans we all experience emotions in the same way. So we all know what it's like to feel scared or afraid or heartbroken or alone, and it doesn't really matter what the trigger is, whether the stress is coming from my publishing deadline or my cattle numbers in the Outback, stress is still stress. And at that core that emotion is something universally we can all recognise. And what I kind of try and tap into.

Astrid: At the beginning of the interview we discussed that you did not show anyone the original manuscript for The Dry. Is that still your process? Who do you show your writing to now?

Jane: I don't really show it to anyone until I actually send it off to the publishers. I don't have beta readers or anybody, mainly because I sort of prefer to get it to the best stage that I feel I can get it before actually share it with anybody. And I also like to have as many fresh eyes as possible, because I do do like several drafts in the editing process is quite long and I like to have people who haven't read every draft so they can actually experience it for the first time and give me some fresh feedback. So I work on it solo pretty much until I'm required to hand it in by the deadline. And then I'll send it off to the publishers and my agents, and then to sort of have several key people who will read it simultaneously and come back with feedback for the structural edit. Then I'll get it back for several weeks, act on that feedback and then send it off. The same people will read it and I get a bit more feedback from some other fresh eyes and it just sort of goes through like that. And then at some points… I don't tend to share it with my family and friends there until honestly, until probably the proof copies come out, which by that point is pretty much set in stone.

Astrid: Yeah, it's done and dusted. You've given lots of advice to writers throughout this interview, but is there anything else that you would like to share or advise?

Jane: My best advice comes down to three points, which I've sort of talked about a little bits at a time. One is finding that motivation to get started and keep going and then involves not letting yourself get overwhelmed by this. Focus on writing that book. That's all you can control and you can only control the effort that you put in and the work that you put out.You can't control whether your publish is going to get picked up or what the reviews will say. Anything like that. So just don't let yourself get too overwhelmed. The second is, as I was mentioning, get that consistency in your time, whatever that looks like for you, even if it's half an hour every other day. Try to build that consistent habit. And it honestly does get easier the more you do it. And the third thing is with technical ability because I think people expect in a creative field, they feel like it should just come to them and they should have this idea fully formed and this writing issue come out and this sort of beautiful kind of passionate.

Astrid: The Muse.

Jane: Yeah, exactly. You wait for the Muse. And that's just not the case and it's absolutely acceptable to have to work at it and do multiple drafts, and you will not get it right first time or you just won't. So let yourself do multiple drafts and rewrites, and if you need to learn how to write dialogue or need some advice on how to structure a manuscript, there's plenty of advice from credible qualified people that you can tap into, because at the end of the day you want to give yourself the best chance that you can. And that involves focusing on those things you can control and making sure that by the time you share it, it's absolutely the best that you can make it.

Astrid: That is great advice. Now, Jane, one final question. Have you started work on your fourth book?

Jane: I'm going to soon, I haven't yet. I'm just touring around Australia at the moment for The Lost Man, which is really great. It's good to get a chance to meet readers and then talk to people about it and then yeah, as soon as that's done, I'll be back at the keyboard with my consistent writing habits getting stuck into book four.

Astrid: Looking forward to it. Thank you very much, Jane.

Jane: Oh, thank you so much.