My guest today is a fellow Antipodean from across ‘The Ditch’ (ie the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.) It’s wonderful to see how Soraya M. Lane has succeeded in reaching an international audience as the author of historical and contemporary women’s fiction. Her novel Wives of War was an Amazon #1 bestseller.
Soraya graduated with a law degree before realising that law wasn’t the career for her and that her future was in writing. She lives on a small farm in her native New Zealand with her husband, their two young sons and a collection of four-legged friends. When she’s not writing, she loves to be outside playing make-believe with her children or snuggled up inside reading.
What or who inspired you to first write? Which authors have influenced you?
I have always loved reading and I think it was a natural progression for me to start writing. I still have notebooks full of half-written stories from my childhood that I love to glance through sometimes – I was the kid always scribbling down ideas and reading books long after the lights were supposed to be out at night! When I was in my early twenties, my husband asked me what my dream job would be, and answering that question made me determined to actually write a novel from start to finish. Seven long manuscripts later and I sold my first book.
What is the inspiration for your current book? Is there a particular theme you wished to explore?
I write mainly historical women’s fiction now, and I love to explore the WWII period and write about women who were feminists before their time. My latest book, Hearts of Resistance, features some very brave women who are so incredibly inspirational, and I love writing about strong female characters.
What period of history particularly inspires or interests you? Why?
To be honest, I’m inspired by many periods of history – I find so many things about the past fascinating. But my readers are currently enjoying my WWII fiction, and there are still many interesting places and events from the 1940s that I’d like to explore before moving on to a different time period, so I’ll be sticking with WWII for the near future.
What resources do you use to research your book? How long did it take to finish the novel?
For two of my historical projects I’ve had a research assistant, however for this novel I completed all the research myself. I usually take a month to research the story and write the outline of the story to send to my editor, then I’m about four months of solid writing to complete my first full draft. I would then spend roughly a month on editing the novel, based on revision notes from my editor, so for a 100,000 word novel, it would be a 6 month project.
What do you do if stuck for a word or a phrase?
I’m a fast writer and nothing annoys me more than being stuck for a word or description. So I’ll just type XXX and highlight the section, and come back later when I have time to re-read my writing and/or do some more research to find the right word or terminology. I often tell aspiring writers not to get stuck on words or names, just mark it clearly and come back to it later when you’re in editing mode. I’m a big fan of just getting as many words on the page as I can when I’m writing.
Do you use a program like Scrivener to create your novel? Do you ever write in long hand?
I don’t use a program, I just type straight into Word. Many years ago I used to do a lot of writing by hand, but I developed trigger fingers and tendonitis in my lower arm, which made handwriting very painful – my fingers would actually seize up. I found that typing isn’t so bad for me, although I do still have a larger lower arm on my right arm from the tendonitis. If I was more adventurous, I’d probably try dictation software!
Is there a particular photo or piece of art that strikes a chord with you? Why?
I always have a Pinterest board to “show” me what my characters and my setting looks like, however I’m not a huge art fan necessarily so I can’t think of a particular piece. I love admiring works of art, but it’s not something that I’m naturally drawn to or have much of in my home. My father cluttered all of our walls with art in our family home, he was obsessed with art and I found most of the paintings he loved very dreary, so now in my own home it’s all crisp white walls and very minimal art! I do love black & white prints, such as the Vogue collection though.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Just write! Seriously, if you’re already writing a story, you are so much closer to achieving publication than all those people who say they want to write a book, but aren’t actually writing. Try to write every day, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes, and don’t second-guess yourself – just write. The more you write, the better you will become, and try to think of your pre-publication years as your apprenticeship.
I am a big fan of setting a timer for 15 minutes and just writing as much as you can with no distractions during that time. I do this on a daily basis, many many times a day, and I have another author friend who I “work” with – we set our timers and text message each other our word count for each 15 minute session, so we get a lot done in short bursts of time. We can become quite competitive, and it’s a great motivation tool – even though we live in different parts of the country we can still write together.
Read your favourite books and think about why you loved the story – was it the conflict or the characters? What was the setting like? Once I understood how to develop conflict properly, it really helped me to create better, more three-dimensional flawed characters, and that’s when I sold my first book. Also, make sure you join a great writer’s organisation such as Romance Writers of Australia – the support and advice you can get from their conference is second to none.
Tell us about your next book.
I’m currently waiting on revisions for my next book, which is tentatively titled Spitfire Girls. It’s about the amazing female ferry pilots who worked in the UK for the ATA and in the US as the WASP, during WWII. These women were so brave and talented, but they were treated terribly in the beginning for doing what was seen as a “man’s job”. I can’t wait to share this story with my readers!
At the height of World War II, three women must come together to fight for freedom, for the men they love—and for each other.
When Hazel is given the chance to parachute into Nazi-occupied France, she seizes the opportunity to do more for the British war effort than file paperwork. Alongside her childhood friend, French-born Rose, she quickly rises up the ranks of the freedom fighters. For Rose, the Resistance is a link to her late husband, and a way to move forward without him. What starts out as helping downed airmen becomes a bigger cause when they meet Sophia, a German escapee and fierce critic of Hitler who is wanted by the Gestapo. Together the three women form a bond that will last a lifetime.
But amid the turmoil and tragedy of warfare, all three risk losing everything—and everyone—they hold dear. Will their united front be strong enough to see them through?
Thanks so much for sharing your sources of inspiration, Soraya. Lovely to have a ‘Kiwi’ visit my Triclinium.
You can buy Hearts of Resistance here.
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