NLK: Tell us a little about yourself.
SB: I was born in England and after the death of my parents I migrated to Australia as a young adult with my new husband.
When I was very young we lived in Cornwall and my imagination was fired by folktales and stories of smugglers. I played among the beauty of the rugged cliff tops and coastline.
Once I leant to read my lifelong love affair with books and reading began. My first ‘fan girl’ moment began early on: I sent an illustrated story to Enid Blyton. Imagine my thrill when I got a postcard from Green Hedges suggesting that ‘one day you might write a book’ and finishing with ‘Love Enid Blyton’. I’ve been writing ever since and have published short stories, articles, and book reviews but I haven’t managed to get a book published yet.
I am a contributing author to Writing the Dream – an anthology in which twenty five writers describe their path to publication. It was a thrill to be selected for such a group. I’ve three unpublished manuscripts hidden away in my office (those practise ones) and I’m currently working on a contemporary women’s novel, the idea for which was sparked by a single phrase.
My latest writing endeavour is my blog at https://soniabellhouse.blog
NLK: How did your writing journey begin?
SB: Ever since I first learnt to form letters I have written stories. When very young I wrote and illustrated a story about a rabbit. As a teenager I wrote and illustrated a satirical take on school. I won essay prizes at school which encouraged me to keep writing.
NLK: What’s your involvement with the Armadale Writers’ Group and how long have you been involved with them?
SB: I am actively involved with the group, booking our quarterly guest speakers and running the group’s Facebook page. I’m the group’s longest serving member having been with them since 2000. Through my participation with the group I gained the confidence to apply to university and completed my degree part-time in six years. I loved every minute of it. Yes, I am a bit of a ‘girlie swot.’
NLK: What are the benefits of being part of a writers’ group?
SB: You need to find a group that feels right (write!) for you; find one that is not static. Our group has stayed fresh by attracting new members. We have roughly a 40% male 60% female membership.
Groups have their own personalities so it’s wise to enquire the ages of members, what genres they concentrate on. Do they aim for publication? Have any of their members been published? Expect a welcome and feel free to depart after a couple of weeks if the group isn’t what you had in mind. Given the choice between better refreshments or better writing, forgo the good food or coffee and go with the writing.
We invite writers to speak about various aspects of the craft on a quarterly basis. We have hosted Rosanne Dingli, Teena Raffa -Mulligan, Shona Husk, Rebecca Laffar -Smith, John Harmon, Lee Battersby, Maureen Eppen, Karen Weaver (aka Karen Mc Dermot) and Monique Mulligan. We are looking forward to hosting yourself on October 11th.
NLK: You’ve written books reviews professionally, what are the secrets to writing great book reviews?
SB: In my opinion a book review should give a sense of what a book is about and possibly compare it to others in similar genres but not give away significant plot points. A reviewer’s personal preferences should not come into their review.
NLK: You’ve recently started writing romance, what drew you to the genre?
SB: Finally realising that romance was mostly what I read and I had been indulging in intellectual snobbery (although I love stories like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre which are essentially romances). I have also enjoyed more contemporary titles like The Bridges of Madison County, and The Time Travellers Wife as well as TV’s ‘Outlander series.
NLK: Does writing energise or exhaust you?
SB: When it’s going well it energises me. Sometimes when you sit back and re-read you may think ‘wow I wrote that!’ Often though the concept that sounds so great doesn’t realise its potential and it’s easy to feel discouraged. I’ve learnt to simply keep writing, as eventually something with possibilities will spark again.
NLK: What has been your biggest writing success?
SB: Having a story accepted by The Peoples’ Friend magazine was pretty special. It encouraged me to keep writing and submitting which led to what I regards as my biggest success. I was placed first in Western Australia — second nationally, in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest which attracted over 190 entries. Placing so highly in that was a wonderful boost to my belief in my abilities as a writer.
NLK: What advice would you give to a newbie writer?
SB: Be determined but realistic. J.K. Rowling is a breathtaking example of writing success, but she is an exception. Most writers have other jobs even while they are writing and publishing.
If it’s your dream you’ll write anyway. Be brave enough to submit it somewhere–a magazine, a writing contest, a publisher.
Writing is only half of the equation—as writers we need readers, someone to make our words come alive. Think about what inspires you as a reader, and try to inspire your readers with your writing. Take a class or join a critique croup to learn more about the craft. Don’t write one draft and think it’s finished. Writing is about re-writing. Go back after a week or more and look at it again. Ask another writer–one that you admire to review your work. Be prepared to listen. Don’t ask your mum, or your family. Of course your family will say it’s brilliant.
NLK: What’s your favourite writing quote?
SB: It comes from Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer:
‘You imagine yourself into being a writer.’
It inspires me and speaks to me of the power of our imagination and of the power of words.