I meet writers everywhere. I met Rebecca Freeman on Twitter, as you do! It’s amazing how the online community has morphed into real life. I have met so many writers online and then ‘bumped’ into them at bookish events. Who knew social media could be a way of finding your tribe? Rebecca is an author and freelance editor. She lives in Albany, a very beautiful part of Western Australia and her first book Alt-Ctrl was recently released by Thea Press. I hope you enjoy this interview.
NLK: You are an author, editor, and doctoral student. You “have an Adam”, four children, a dog, cats and some chooks, how on earth do you juggle everything? Also, do you have any time saving tricks to share with us?
RF: Haha, well, I admit it can get chaotic at times! But I guess in comparison to having very young children, at least now they’re all at full time school, and that makes things a lot easier. I find that getting up early in the mornings is a good way of getting a jump on the day, because the house is quiet and I have an hour or so before everyone wakes up. I do admin or write, while I drink a very welcome mug of tea. I also have a really good diary where I can write everything down and set myself goals for the day or the week.
NLK: Your first book Alt-Ctrl was recently released by Thea Press. Can you please share your journey to publication? And also a little bit about the book?
RF: Alt-Ctrl has been a long time in the works! I started it as a NaNoWriMo project when my third child was about nine months old, so I wrote with her strapped to me in a baby carrier, or sleeping in my lap as I sat on the floor. That was eight years ago! The story went through many changes in that time. I discarded at least 25 000 words and rewrote several sections. I had five beta readers at different stages and then when Kate at Thea Press accepted it for publication, she asked for even more edits. It’s true what they say about publication taking a long time! But with every edit I learnt more about the story and how I wanted to tell it.
Alt-Ctrl is set in Western Australia in the near future after the climate has collapsed. Humanity now survives inside domed cities run by a global corporation, PlanetRescue, and the main character, Finn works and lives in one of these cities. She’s grown up believing all the stories about the people in the Badlands outside, but when we meet her, she’s discovered that something doesn’t add up. A revolution is brewing in the Badlands, and Finn realises she has an important role to play in it.
NLK: Please tell us about your experience being an author of Alt-Ctrl and if it was strange being on the opposite side of the editing table?
RF: Well, I guess I’m lucky to have been edited before when writing articles for publication and also when writing copy for clients. Having worked with supervisors when doing post-grad is kind of similar, too. So it wasn’t an entirely new experience, and that probably helped. Plus Kate was a great editor, with lots of positive feedback about what she loved, and I was also really happy with the critiques because of course, I wanted the story to be as polished as it could be.
NLK: You’re currently drafting a steampunk novel set in the south west of Western Australia in the 1800s as part of your PhD. Can you tell us what steampunk is, and what is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered as part of your research?
RF: Steampunk is a retelling or ‘punking’ of historical fiction (it sometimes punks other genres too, but historical fiction is the most common), especially the Victorian era. Most steampunk has been set in Victorian Britain, and I guess it’s a case of asking ‘what if’? I know all spec fic does that, but steampunk is basically about sending humanity in a different direction – what if steam were the main power source rather than oil? How would that have changed inventions and innovation? Setting my story here in WA means I’ve done some digging into the history, and it’s been amazing learning how diverse the population was at that time. There were people coming and going with the whaling seasons, from places like India and the US, and of course, lots of people coming from China for the goldrush. And I’m learning some really devastating but important stuff about the impact of all the immigration on Indigenous Australians and on the environment.
NLK: Is there anything you can share about your writing process?
RF: I tend to work on more than one project at once. It’s one reason why I’m enjoying my PhD, because there’s a creative component (the novel) and also a thesis, and when I find I’m struggling with one, I can switch to the other. That change in pace really helps me focus. I also work on paper quite a bit, especially if I’m drafting an article or writing the first draft of a longer work. I love the freedom of being able to make notes in the margin and see the whole work on the page. Then when I type it up, I edit as I go, and the typed version becomes the second draft. I’ll work on that for a bit, and then when I’m almost finished, I often print it out again so I can ‘see’ everything better. I also pick up more typos or other errors that way.
NLK: As a freelance editor, what’s the most common mistake that you see writers make?
RF: I think it’s the fear that an editor is there to criticise or change everything to the point that it’s not your work anymore. That’s really not the case at all – an editor wants to make your work better! They’re critical readers who are trying to ensure that other readers will enjoy the story. So when you’re being edited, I think it’s important to always have an open mind. Of course you don’t have to accept everything the editor suggests! But trust that they know something about how stories work and that they want to make yours stand out from the rest.
NLK: What do you do to relax? Is there anywhere special you go in Albany?
RF: Both Adam and I work from home, so we try and get out to walk at least once a day. The best thing about living here is that we’re so close to the coast, but also there’s amazing bushland to hike through and lakes and even walking around town is incredible. All those old houses and the huge granite outcrops here and there. Walking gives me a chance to leave my desk and remember how beautiful it is outside. I try and get out for a run a couple of times a week, which is my alone time and I definitely cherish it!
And I also try and get at least a few minutes reading for pleasure in bed at the end of the day, sitting up with another mug of tea. It’s important to take time out to just breathe, you know?!
NLK: What advice would you give to newbie writers? Are there any writing books you can recommend?
RF: Stick with it! Practise a lot, get feedback from people you trust, join a writers’ group. Submit to journals or newspapers or publishers and expect rejections (sorry, but they happen – a lot)! I think when you first start out, there is the tendency to want to get lots of advice from various authors. I loved On Writing by Stephen King, and I also enjoy reading articles on Literary Hub. But honestly, you have to work out what is best for you. Sometimes that means you should write every day, sometimes it’s using a prompt to inspire you, sometimes it’s working only on one thing at a time. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember it’s a forever-journey. You’re always learning, and that’s what makes it so much fun.
Connect with Rebecca Freeman
Rebecca Freeman is a freelance editor and writer who lives on the south coast of Western Australia with her family. You can find her online here: