Did you always want to be a writer or did you kind of fall into it? Tell us the story of how you came to identify yourself as a writer.
I have always been good at English and I probably always thought I “had a book in me”, but being a writer was never an articulated ambition. As a lifelong student of languages and linguistics, with an Honours Degree in Russian, I worked briefly as a freelance interpreter and translator in the industrial and academic sectors before embarking upon a public service career. It was meant to tide me over until I found something else, but it turned out that there were many more opportunities and challenges than I expected, so 32 years went by before I decided to make a change! I certainly wrote a lot as a public servant, albeit in a very pared back, utilitarian format. If you ever want to have all the adjectives, metaphors and similes trained out of you, I recommend writing Cabinet Submissions and Ministerial briefings year in, year out! I wrote outside of work too, in the form of a newsletter for my powerlifting club and a monthly column in the top horse magazine at the time, as well as freelance articles, mainly for other equestrian magazines and yearbooks. In spite of all that, I didn’t begin to think of myself as a writer until my book was published. My book launch and publicity helped to make it real. I obviously needed to see and hear other people referring to me as an author in order to believe it myself!
As a writer, are you a reader? What genres do you read and do you read more frequently in the genre you write in, or avoid it completely?
Reading is one of my great loves. If I have a good book at hand, I’m a happy woman. In fact, I usually have several books on the go at once, in different rooms. My reading range is very broad, from great literature to true crime to thrillers and Nordic noir on the fiction side. With regard to non-fiction, a large part of my library is devoted to horse books – my genre to date. There are also sections on management, self help, business, history (I’m attracted to war, for some reason), art and craft, other animals, gardening, farming etc. etc.
Tell us about your first writing experience. How does that compare to where you are now?
My first writing experience of any significance was also nearly my last! The short version is that I had one of those “download from heaven” writing experiences when I was about eight years old. The result was a pretty good little composition for a kid, and I was quite proud of it. My bubble burst, however, when my teacher thought it was too good to be original and accused me of plagiarising it. Subconsciously but effectively, that ended my attempts at creative writing for more than 45 years. It took a lot of soul searching and a bit of help from some special people to exorcise the self-doubt. You can find the long version here:
We all know the ‘just write’ memes if you are following any writers page, so apart from that, what’s the best advice you can give to someone new?
Three things. Firstly, for me, writing is not a linear process, so feel free to start in the middle, the end or nowhere in particular if that suits you. I save chunks of text as “thought headings” as I go and splice them in later. Secondly, the best piece of advice I received was to write for just five minutes a day. Anyone can commit to that. It’s not intimidating but it gets you going and sometimes it keeps you going. There were days when I called it quits at five minutes, but there were other times when the first five minutes turned into hours and hours of productive work. Thirdly, you don’t have to be a grammar and spelling guru to be an author. You can tell your story and let a combination of software, editors and proof readers polish it for you. I’m a pedant from way back, but I was very grateful to those who ran their constructively critical eyes over my manuscript.
What’s your biggest obstacle to writing and how do you overcome it? Most of us know that it is time, so try and let us know when you are best at your writing, and why that doesn’t work, and what you do to counter or overcome that problem.
For me the biggest obstacle isn’t so much time as simple discipline. Once I’ve achieved the bum-to-seat and fingers-to-keyboard interface and started my five-minute trick, the rest is easy. The challenge is to make it happen. Every. Single. Day. The answer – for me anyway – is to have a deadline and be accountable for meeting it.
Self-published or traditionally published? Tell us why that works for you?
My book “Winning Horsemanship. A Judge’s Secrets And Tips For Your Success” was published by Global Publishing Group. It was great for me as a first time author because they had a system and a schedule and a great team to keep me on track, meeting deadlines, approving cover designs, all that sort of thing. They also secured a distribution deal, which was another plus. Unfortunately the distributor went into receivership a couple of years later, and my and many other people’s books went down with them, both off shelves and offline. While my publisher was also great at helping to retrieve that situation, the experience has made me very receptive to the idea of self-publishing in future.
Here is your chance to plug a book. Tell us about it and why we need to read it?
“Winning Horsemanship” is part memoir, part self help and part education with lots of horse stories, horse sense and humour woven through it. I wrote it for horse lovers – particularly for people who came to horse ownership as adults. It has been very well received by equestrians of all skill levels, it won an international award (Sport – Non-Fiction category) in the 2017 Annual Readers Favourite Book Contest and it rated 5-star reviews. I have also been surprised and delighted by the very positive response from a wide spectrum of readers, including self-confessed non-horse fans.
Next project? Where are you in your writing journey and where to next for you?
I have been collecting material for another book under the Winning Horsemanship brand and I’m flirting with the idea of writing a novel. In this way, I can tell myself that all my reading for pleasure is actually research! I’m also excited about a recent business partnership related to creating content for TV and cinema.
Joanne Verikios was born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia and grew up with a passion for horses. Her earliest ambition was to be a bareback rider in a circus. Having received her first pony at the age of nine, Joanne went on to compete in a range of equestrian events as well as running her own stud farm, all while working at a senior level in the Australian Public Service. She is an award winning author, experienced horse breeder and trainer, Australian representative athlete (powerlifting), holistic wellness mentor and successful property investor. Joanne is inspired by nature and enjoys travel and good movies.
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Bonus Questions (If you wrote both, feel free to answer both!)
Non fiction writers
What is the hardest thing you had to learn about putting together a factual book? Talk about how you verify facts, or try to display the information, especially if there are a lot of photos or diagrams. Offer some advice for the audience who might want to try non-fiction.
There is a lot of information about world building, character driven plots, and showing not telling. Discuss briefly how each of the elements of your book came together and which part do you love the most – the world you’ve built, your characters, or the story itself? I know, it’s like picking a favourite child, but give it a try.
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