Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway || Striking Out by Scarlet Bennett
Sparkling with distinctive Australian humour, this action-packed novel follows one small-town girl’s fight to reach the top.
Sharon Jackson is a small-town girl with big-city dreams. Forced out of her home in regional Western Australia with her singing career in ruins, she hits the big smoke in search of stardom. After signing with a sleazy agent who wants more than a ten percent cut of her earnings, she struggles to earn a place in the macho world of rock-‘n-roll, encountering a series of colourful characters along the way – like Todd, the sexy, brooding muso with a dragon tattoo and Kevin, the whip-smart fighter with some hidden demons of his own.But when her troubled past follows her to the city, Shazza’s dreams begin to unravel. With no home to go back to and a past that won’t stay buried, everything she has worked for is on the line. Shazza must make a decision that will define the course of her future, and time is running out.
I got a chance to have a Q&A with Scarlet Bennett and I love it! I'm so excited for this so without further ado, let's get on with this!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I write because it makes me feel better and I’ve just always done it. I like playing with stories and I get the same kind of escapist pleasure from writing a story as I do from reading one. More, in fact. When the story is your own, you can live with it for longer and explore its dimensions and variations in more detail. The world is a hard place to live in sometimes, and writing makes it easier. I can’t say that I ever actually decided to become a writer – I certainly never set out to achieve anything in particular. I’ve always felt a need to express myself creatively, and words are my medium.
Can you describe your writing process?
I work best with a blank page in front of me. I know a lot of people prefer to map things out in advance, but my best writing is always unplanned and spontaneous. When I write to a plan, it always falls flat somehow. When I sit in front of a blank page, hoping something will show up, I quite often get a happy surprise. I have difficult days, of course, and I do tend to have ideas about how the next few scenes could develop (if the mood strikes me that way on the day), but I like to let the stories emerge in their own way. The plot developments I like the most in Striking Out grew, without exception, out of that intangible ether of uncertainty and in-the-moment imagination.
My usual process is to start the day by re-reading (and editing) what I wrote the previous day – this helps to get me back in the story – then I find the new content flows quite naturally.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me a year to write a draft of a book, but I can work on more than one book during that period. This year, for instance, I’ll draft two and a half books in the year (and I’m working hard – this is definitely my upper limit). I need a certain amount of writing time, but it’s the thinking time that sets the timeframe for me. I need to live with a story for a while, play with it and ponder my plot options, and I’ve found that takes me a year. I wouldn’t like to rush that process.
What do you do when you're not writing?
My day job is in occupational psychology, so I work with people to help them achieve their career goals. There’s huge diversity in my day-to-day work, and I facilitate workshops on a range of different topics, working with organisations and teams in addition to coaching individuals. I’ve recently launched a range on online courses for writers and performers to extend my reach beyond my local area. I still run lots of live workshops, of course, but technology makes it possible for me to work with people from all around the globe, and I love that. I’ve got a Psychology for Writers program that’s proving to be popular, and there’s high demand for my Goodbye Stage Fright program too. You can find out more here if you’re interested http://www.scarletbennett.com.au/online-courses/
In my personal life, I design and make jewelry using sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones in my spare time, and I have a photo gallery on my website.
I read a lot, too, and I’m a particular fan of crime fiction so long as it’s not too violent.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learn so many things from writing that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll go with this one because it might help other people who are struggling their way through the writing process.
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is how easy it is to craft good writing from a first draft. The first draft stage is hard. Some days, I’m happy with my first pass at an idea. Other days, I look back on what I’ve done and feel quite dejected – I haven’t hit the mark and I know it.
I think this is one of the things that blocks people’s progress when they’re writing. It’s easy to feel stuck at this point, and to doubt whether your work has any merit.
But the re-drafting process is a whole new phase, and there’s real value in having something on the page to work with, even if the first draft of an idea isn’t very good. I find that once I have the ideas on the page, I can craft them into something I like much more easily than I expect. So I’m a great believer in the value of getting your ideas out. You can always come back and refine them later. Writing is an organic process – it never really ends – and I’ve learned to trust that my story will evolve over time into something I like.
What's next for you?
My second novel will be published next year. It’s the first in a series, this time in the crime fiction genre, and it features a heroine who works as a forensic psychologist, using her professional skills to unveil the secrets that people will kill to keep hidden. It’s much darker than Striking Out, bleaker and more cynical, and I’m really enjoying the change of mood.
I’m working on the sequel to Striking Out as well, and I’m grateful to be able to switch between this lighter, humorous work, and the darker piece that takes more out of me, emotionally. It’s wonderful to be able to further develop my Striking Out characters – I’ve made Des’s life very difficult in the sequel. Des is a misogynistic, sleazy ego-maniac and making his life a misery gives me a lot of pleasure.
I have a non-fiction book close to completion, too, and I’m hoping to have that ready for submission in the next six months or so. It’s a book on psychological profiling for writers, to help writers create psychologically credible personality structures for their characters.
Des, Shazza and Todd
My instincts were right. When Des spotted me, he looked about as happy as a kid en route to the dentist for an anaesthetic-free extraction.
I smiled at him anyway. I was determined to put a positive foot forward. ‘Hi, Des.’
‘I have an appointment this morning, and it isn’t with you.’
It was tempting to compliment Des on his charm, but I knew exactly where that would lead. ‘I was just in the area, and I thought I’d drop in. I wanted to say thanks in person for the other night. It was great to get out amongst things.’
‘Fine.’ His voice was cold and his lips were thin and tight. ‘You’ve said thanks in person now, so I won’t keep you. I’m a busy man, Shazza, and I’m expecting someone.’
I felt my anger rising and I took a deep breath to calm myself. Whatever happened, I wasn’t going to give Des the satisfaction of making me lose my temper. ‘Well I won’t take up much of your time then, Des. I’m just sorting out my plans and I need to know how this weekend’s looking gig-wise.’
Des glanced briefly at his computer, too briefly to be genuinely exploring the options. ‘Nothing for you this week, love,’ he said.
A flush of heat swept through my body and I felt my pulse accelerate. ‘That’s interesting, Des.’ I struggled to maintain my composure. ‘And a bit disappointing too, because you know I need to work.’
He glared at me without a hint of a sympathy. ‘Perhaps that’s something you should have considered sooner.’
I nodded. ‘You may be right, but I’m thinking about it now.’
I saw a light go on in his eyes and realized he’d taken my remark the wrong way. As usual, all he could think about was the possibility of getting his leg over.
‘I’m rethinking my agency options,’ I said, to stop his trouser snake in its track before it went too far down that dead-end road. Des gave me a filthy look. ‘Are you quite sure you don’t have anything for me this week?’ I went on.
A resonant male voice interrupted from the doorway. ‘I’d be interested to hear your answer to that question, Des.’
I turned my head sharply and completely lost the little that was left of my composure. The dragon jumped out at me first – it was dancing and alive, just like the dragon in my dreams – then the tall, sinewy body, and then the dark chocolate eyes that made me feel weak. A trace of stubble against olive skin reminded me of painted droplets on an impressionist’s canvas. The man was a walking work of art.
Todd nodded at me, a hint of a smile on his lips. ‘Fancy seeing you here, Shazza.’
‘I’m surprised you remember my name,’ I said, keeping my tone cool. ‘As I recall, you weren’t very friendly on Saturday night.’
The hint of a smile grew, slowly making its way across the rest of his face, although I noticed it stopped short of his eyes. He shrugged. ‘A good poker player never reveals his hand.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
He just looked at me and I felt confused and a bit lost for words. I couldn’t read Todd at all and I felt like I was losing track of myself under his gaze.
About the authors:Scarlet Bennett spent her formative years in regional Western Australia, and it shows. Years of city living have softened her broad accent, but the slang she’s stuck with. After earning a Masters degree in Psychology, the colourful characters of her childhood – and that irrepressible Aussie spirit – found their way onto the page. She is a graduate of Allaboutwriting’s mentoring program, and lives in Canberra with her husband, kids, and far more animals than can reasonably fit on a suburban plot.
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