Vanessa is an accomplished Melbourne writer and freelance journalist who divides her time between home and Tuscany where she hosts writers' retreats. Her debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, has just been published by Harlequin MIRA.
We asked Vanessa about the process of getting her first novel into print and to share her tips for budding writers ...
In my early twenties I lived in Tuscany and had kept notes about life in Italy-the culture, the landscape, and all the quirky nuances. I started with the setting of The Florentine Bridge, (one which I adore and know intimately) and then created a set of characters from there. I wrote the book to see where things might lead as we followed the journey of a young Australian woman and aspiring artist by the name of Mia who was in remission from cancer but had lost her motivation to paint as a result of the challenges she had been facing. The Florentine Bridge is also a love story, although I never quite intended for it to be one. Luca's character appeared early on in the book and made it known he was going to stick around!
I largely trust most of the story to work itself out on the page. With my second novel, I had an outline but wasn't quite sure how the book would end. I also have a little ritual where I'll make a tea or coffee, come to the desk, light a candle, put some music on, and then get going!
I worked with a few critique partners and early readers who read the novel and provided me with feedback. Once I got to the point that the comments were mostly positive and I felt like I'd taken the manuscript as far as I could on my own, I decided to start querying agents. From there, I was lucky enough to sign with an agent, who took me through edits and then, finally the book was deemed ready to go on submission to publishers!
The most challenging part about writing for me is trusting myself, my characters and the story. There are many rewarding parts about writing a book - the first would be the pleasure involved in seeing a story come to life on the page. I was very lucky to have been offered a contract for two books, and in addition to that, translation rights have been sold to Slovenia, with another rights sale to be announced shortly, I hope! Ultimately, seeing the book get into readers hands and hearing from people who have enjoyed it really is a wonderful and special thing as well.
Read as much as you can and as widely as you can, taking note of what you are reading. Find one or two people you trust to give you feedback on your work and vice versa. And lastly, never give up!
a) I'm currently reading The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway, which is a great read!
b) The Enchanted Wood (or anything else) by Enid Blyton
c) I was a voracious reader all through school. It was, and still is, one of the greatest pleasures in life for me.