One of the highlights of the AWMonline Writing Races is the bi-monthly Special Guests. Racers, often aspiring or developing writers, love the chance to get some insight into the writing practice of accomplished authors.

Last week we had the pleasure of Daniel O’Malley’s company. Dan’s debut novel, supernatural thriller ‘The Rook’, came out at the beginning of this year. Featuring a kick-ass female protagonist, magical amnesia, supernatural spies, and supernatural conspiracies, it’s a humdinger.

The majority of discussion revolved around getting published for the first time; Dan talked us through the sometimes harrowing, mostly hilarious, and slightly bizarre adventure of getting published.

First off, naturally, you have to finish the book. I’ve had a few acquaintances who are really keen to become published authors, but they always seem taken aback that they have to write the book first. Unless there are some exceptional circumstances (like, you’re a movie star), having a good idea usually isn’t enough.

Dan’s primary tip for developing authors was getting a good agent. A past experience of trying to get an un-solicited work published had come to nothing, so he endeavored to get representation.

I was determined that this time I would have an agent. Now, I recommend that approach to everyone. It makes all the difference in the world, having someone in the industry who believes in you, and who is working on your behalf.

One of the most beneficial aspects of having an agent, Dan said, was the rigorous editing process his agent insisted on.

Mollie was very keen to have the work as tight as she could get it before she put it out to people. It took months and months … I had been braced for someone to stomp in and really shred my work to pieces. But most of it was adding stuff. So much of a story is inside your head, that you forget what you take for granted. Working with an editor made my book so much better.

But, when it finally went out, it was quite a quick process. Within a week or two, my agent was teeing up phone calls for me with various publishers. It was a little disconcerting, because it had to be in New York business hours, and I was in Canberra. So, at 3 or 6 in the morning, I would be in my PJs, in the hallway, in the darkness, trying to sound intelligent.

And then Little, Brown put in a pre-emptive bid, and I accepted! I was really excited because the editor who had signed me (Asya Muchnik) is extremely good. She was the editor for ‘The Lovely Bones’, and also, talking to her on the phone, I’d just thought she was glorious. If you have a good connection with someone, working with them is going to be good.

Dan is currently working on the sequel to ‘The Rook’.

I’m excited about it! I have a bunch of other ideas I’m looking forward to (and have made starts on), but I have a contract for the sequel, so that’s the one that gets priority.

It’s coming along pretty well, I think. My mum likes it, anyway.

Read the rest of the conversation at the AWMonline forums. There’s a lot; we Racers tend to be Chatty Cathys, and Dan was a (hilarious) wealth of knowledge.

And check out Daniel O’Malley’s website to learn more about the man himself, and his book.

Coming Up in the Writing Races: Anna Campbell as Guest Racer on October 31st. Don’t miss out.

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