Today, I’m talking to Andee Jones. Andee is a psychologist, author and former academic based in Melbourne. Andee’s first memoir, Kissing Frogs, is published by Finch Publishing.
Andee’s stories have been published and awarded, and her articles have been published in academic and professional journals in psychology, health, and education.
Andee, can you tell me how you first came to be published?
I was working in the publish-or-perish world of academia, so getting published was part of the corporate-university power game. Submit paper; wait 6-12 months to receive anonymous scathing criticisms including ‘hasn’t cited Smith’; rewrite (citing Smith); resubmit; wait 6-12 months, and so on, ad nauseum.
Fortunately, with the help of some terrific creative writing teachers, I trained myself out of the turgid academic style, started writing more accessible stuff for popular magazines, and then fell into writing memoir.
Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your writing career?
Not at the start. Fifty years of schooling and academic training told me I couldn’t write creatively. But the more I learnt about creative writing, the more I practiced it and the more I enjoyed it — so liberating compared to the academic straitjacket.
Once published, I started thinking about how to keep going. Unfortunately, it includes promoting and marketing, which isn’t as interesting as writing.
I write in my ordinary speaking voice … I want the writing to sound natural and conversational.
Do you ever encounter obstacles in terms of craft when writing for publication? If so, how do you address them?
I write for the story, and then think about whether anyone else would want to read it. Trouble is, the story usually doesn’t fit neatly into a publishing category. But I have no choice; I could never write for ‘the market.’
How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as stories and non-fiction? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I’m drawn to life writing, and most of my recent work is in this genre, even my fiction.
Your book Kissing Frogs is based on your internet-dating experiences. Do you have any anecdotes you could share about this?
I like to think I’m getting braver as I get older … though others might call it something else entirely. Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find. Not that I necessarily wanted to find ‘BigBoy’, ‘MrCharisma’, ‘Guyloveskissingwomen’ and a personal favourite, ‘Justwarm’.
My first date had received 80 responses and dated 30 women in 30 days.
One guy left a voice message apoplectic with rage: ‘Cor’, he said,‘You’re so far up yourself. I’ve never met anyone so far up herself! Cor!’
The next one said ‘I don’t care if your mind is open, are your legs open?’
Next came a guy I’d dated for two years a while back, but he didn’t recognise me.
Then came the blind-date sex party.
I mean, how much more fun could one have in a week?
Where did the idea for Kissing Frogs come from and how did you get it published?
Kissing Frogs is the story of my four-year experience of looking for love online. The idea for the book came out of a breakup toward the end of this stint. ‘Why don’t we write a book about this stuff?’ I said to my ex-date. ‘Sure,’ he said, and promptly got busy dating. So I got writing.
I sent the m/s to 23 publishers, waited 9-12 months, and received 23 versions of, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t fit our list’. My daughter thought the book was a goer and persuaded me to self-publish. Finch responded to an ad I placed in a trade magazine. I sent Finch a copy, and Bob’s your uncle.
How did you go about structuring and organising your material for Kissing Frogs?
With difficulty. An early false start was to construct the memoir in two distinct voices, one of which I then had to rewrite in order to achieve flow and unity.
Now, I write in my ordinary speaking voice. No matter how complex the ideas, I avoid jargon and long words. I want the writing to sound natural and conversational. This is no mean feat for an over-trained academic.
How did you research potential places to submit your manuscript?
The manual The Australian Writers’ Marketplace is invaluable — everything’s in one place.
Did you have to do much rewriting or reworking of material during the editorial process?
All the hard work was done for the self-published version, so when Finch took it on, little editing was needed.
Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find.
Did you do a book proposal? Was it helpful?
Yes I did, and yes, it was very useful for me to clarify what the book was on about. Sheila Hollingworth’s short course and book A decent proposal were very useful. Similarly, Euan Mitchell’s course and book Self-publishing made simple were invaluable for my self-publishing project.
Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have a paid agent, but I do have very good friends in the book trade who offer advice very generously.
How did you go about negotiating your contract with your publishers?
With I can’t tell you how much difficulty. From my very limited experience, it seems publishers have it all their way. Unless they’re fighting over a potentially lucrative author, publishers can get away with saying to a lesser known author, ‘Take it or leave it.’
I’ll put up part two of my interview with Andee on Saturday. In it, Andee explains what she does to promote her book.
In the meantime, you may like to checkout a memoir-writing prize being offered by Andee’s publisher, Finch Publishing. The closing date is the 15th of October, 2010.