Summer reads & J.P Pomare on pragmatism, self doubt & tattoos.

After what seemed like an ENDLESS summer apart, Katherine and Kate catch up on what they read and listened to. Without planning, both read Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner as their first of the year, and both were stupendously impressed. Among Kate’s highlights were Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist, Kristina Olssen’s Shell and the audiobook of Jessica Townsend’s Wundersmith which made the 7 hour road trip to the beach pass in a flash. Katherine joined the masses (including Kate) who adored Sally Rooney’s Normal People, and finally caught up on Stephen King’s On Writing which is now her new fave writing book. Katherine also LOVED Carly Findlay’s brand new memoir, Say Hello, and is thrilled to speak with her in Episode 2 of this season!

In our ears? So You Want to be a Writer by the Australian Writers Centre and Keeping a Notebook by Nina LaCour. We also shout out to some very specific This American Life episodes, namely The Feather Heist, The Room of Requirement & The Super.

Then, in homage to Katherine’s fave self-help book, The Secret (I refuse to link to it!), we set some goals for the upcoming year.

We’d LOVE to hear your writing related goals for the year, let us know on twitter or insta!

Then Kate asks all the hard questions of debut novelist and seasoned podcaster J.P Pomare.

J.P Pomare grew up in New Zealand and is now based in Melbourne and Clunes. A writer and podcaster with a marketing background, his work has been widely published in journals including Meanjin and Kill Your Darlings. His debut novel, CALL ME EVIE is released in Australia and the UK in January 2019 and the US and other territories later in the year. JP Pomare hosts the On Writing podcast.

JP speaks about the benefits of years pitching to publications. ‘If you knock at the door long enough,’ he says, ‘someone’s gonna let you in.’ He reckons people do pay attention, and after publication in Meanjin and success with the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award, ‘everything seemed to happen all at once’ (including a honeymoon).

Kate asks JP what he has learnt from his interviews on the On Writing podcast over three years. He says it’s ‘impossible to isolate a penny drop moment’, however he thinks the best advice was always from debut novelists. While he gained enormous wisdom from literary superstars such as Joyce Carol Oates, he thinks they probably can’t remember the struggle.

It will be heartening for many writers to hear JP talk about being on the judging panel for the Unpublished Manuscript award for the Victorian Premiers Literary Awards. He says often writers will never know how close they are to a big break. You can now check out the winners of the VPLAS.

Some advice from JP: stick at it, just keep making progress, do everything you can to develop as a writer, start getting feedback and immerse yourself in the community.

JP speaks about the writing process for the novel that became Call Me Evie. He began doing ‘practice manuscripts’ taking stories and aping voices from authors he admired such as Murakami. He wrote 50k-70k words, practised the mechanics. Then his laptop blew up and he lost everything. PSA writers: Back up your work!

So how much did the podcast help get his foot in the door? JP reckons he was a ‘bit savvy’ about the industry, and he knew that with publishers ‘you only get one bite of the cherry!’

On marketing, JP says it ‘depends on what your ambition is.’ He talks about writing ‘for the market’ and says he wanted Call Me Evie to appeal to a broader audience. He says he ‘approached it in a way that the commercial viability [was] covered first.’

‘It’s really hard to sell really good books,’ JP says. ‘You’re not competing with other books, you’re competing with iPhones, twitter, everything else.’ When he gets his first readers to read the manuscript he asks:

  • Where is the reader putting the book down and picking the phone up?
  • What can I do to stop this?

How will he measure success? JP says ‘The measure for me is…people don’t hate it, and it sells well.’

And how does he feel about the upcoming release of the book? Like most writers we’ve spoken to, he has mixed feelings: ‘I oscillate between crippling self-doubt…and overwhelming excitement.’

No longer useful advice for Katherine and Kate, but for everyone still mid Book 1, JP says as soon as you’ve got a break, start writing book two.

His final advice? When it’s working, when you’ve got that spark – DON’T THINK. Just get the words down. Do Not Pick Up Your Phone.

JP recommends Flames by Robbie Arnott as his favourite debut.

Find out more about JP Pomare on his website and follow his literary adventures on twitter and instagram.

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