Interview with YA author Stacy Nottle

Like many authors, Stacy Nottle’s has a rich and varied work history having worked as a shearer’s cook, a waitress, a scientific research assistant, a high school science teacher; and as a careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

Stacy’s career has evolved over time, yet her love of stories—other people’s and those she makes up for herself—has remained a personal passion.

Growing up on a sheep station at the far reaches of Australia, Stacy spent her early years adrift inside her make-believe world of mystery and imagination.

At age six, she went away to boarding school ‘in town’, and later ‘in the city’, where she discovered another world. She studied science at university and has worked as a shearers’ cook, waitress, scientific research assistant, high school science teacher; and careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

She has a liking for adventure and her body bears the scars of a big life well-lived.

Stacy is an active member in the Queensland writing community attending workshops, writers’ groups and festivals which have connected her with mentors and allies that have helped her along the way.

Stacy’s debut novel, After the Flood, will be released on June 30 by Black Phoenix Publishing Collective. After the Flood is a meditation on loyalty, human relationship and the lengths we would go to for those we love. Combining Stacy’s love of the bush and her personal interest in human dynamics and storytelling, After the Flood, is a gripping portrayal of how we cope in the face of trauma.

To celebrate the release of After the Flood, I decided to interview Stacy about the release of her debut novel and the writing life. Enjoy.


 

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Q1 / Can you share with us the story behind the story? What was the initial inspiration for writing After the Flood? 

Many years ago, I participated in a Season’s Grief Program for Young People where I was deeply moved and fascinated to hear the stories the young people told of their loss and grief and how they dealt with it. More than a decade later, at a boarding school where I was then teaching, I found my attention constantly being drawn to this one, sandy-haired young boy of about twelve. He was from outback QLD and seemed in many ways to be a regular kid who was busy with the task of making new friends and settling into boarding school…but something about him was different. Then I found out that he had lost his sister to leukaemia and I realised that what I was observing was grief. The kind of grief that leaves a hole in your life that is too big to ever fill. I began to think about the boy’s grief, and then about his family who must have also been devastated by their loss. Farmer’s have enough challenges without having to deal with something as unspeakable as the loss of a child, I thought. It made me very, very sad. So I wrote about it. I created a little boy called Jamie McKenzie and tried to articulate how this brave, stoic little fellow coped when all around, his life was crumbling. It was only meant to be a short story, but then I met Wilhelmina Johnson, an eighteen-year-old girl from Sydney whose life had also been marred by loss. Then I brought Jamie and Wilhelmina together to see what would happen.

Q2 / How has the work changed from your initial idea to now, the finished publication? 

It evolved slowly from that first impression of a young boy’s grief. The idea of a dual timeline (when Jamie was a boy and when Jamie is a man) came to me quite early. I remember talking to a counsellor once who told me that a child who suffers loss and trauma can take more than twenty years to recover and I wanted to see how Jamie was doing as an adult. So I created Jamie’s daughter, Cass, a young girl with a striking resemblance to his long-dead sister and thought – that’s interesting! Characters came and went, but those that matter are still there in the story, pulling their weight.

Q3 / Can you tell us a little about your writing routine? 

When I first wrote about Jamie McKenzie, I was working full-time and was busy most weekends with sport, and I was desperate for my own quiet little space in which to write. So I set up a tiny desk in a tiny junk room in a corner of my drafty old house. But the floor was crooked and my office chair kept rolling away from the desk, and I had to hold my body in this rigid, lop-sided pose if I wanted to remain seated at the desk. Such constant contortion gave me a sore back. Also, it was cold in that little junk room. So I got a giant-sized desk and placed it in the corner of the lounge room, then found myself constantly grumpy when my husband, Richard, wanted to watch Landline or have a chat. Then I got cancer and took a year off work. During this time, I was too ill to write and my creativity seemed to have gone on holiday; but I did reread Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and began writing morning pages. Now I work three days a week and write in the lounge room on my days off and on weekends when the sun is shining and Richard is outside doing ‘what Richard does’ in the garden. I don’t write at night because then my brain won’t want to go to sleep and I like to get up early to walk my dogs. I love to pants. It is so much fun letting my characters do whatever they like. But I’ve discovered that if I don’t plot, I end up writing millions of words that will never see the light of day.

Q4 / What tools, books, workshops or resources did you find most supportive during the writing of After the Flood? 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron got me back to writing. Cancer helped me rearrange my priorities.

At the urging of a friend, I took a weekend workshop on self-publishing with Dallas Baker. Dallas told me about using Beta Readers (shock! horror! let someone read my scribbling?), gave me some very excellent advice and got me on the path to publishing. I sent After the Flood to seven beta readers including a few people who had some expertise in issues raised in the story such as a police officer. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but also really useful. Jessica Stewart did a structural edit and it was fabulous to have her brilliant advice and also her warm enthusiasm for Jamie McKenzie and Wilhelmina Johnson. The list of people who have helped is a long one.

Q5 / What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were first drafting your novel? 

While pantsing is fun, I really do need a plot.

Q6 / What are you most excited about right now? 

That’s an easy one! I’m sitting at Brisbane International about to board a flight to the states to visit my daughter. I’m also very excited about the release of After the Flood. And I’m looking forward to getting back to the writing process and doing another story. I have two I’m working on. One is speculative fiction, set in a futuristic Brisbane, with a working title of Salience. The other is a memoir with the working title Breastless…or maybe Giantess with Angel Wings.


 

After the Flood FRONT FINAL
What would you do to save someone you loved? When the storm breaks and the creek at Moonbroch Station floods, more than one life is in danger.

After the Flood explores loyalty and the tensions and complexities of abiding relationships. A gripping portrayal of how we cope with trauma, After the Flood is as uplifting as it is thought-provoking.

‘Friends forever?’ she said. He cleared his own scratchy throat and nodded. ‘Yes.’  Then he reached down and gently tangled his little finger with hers. ‘Pinkie promise,’ he said.

 

Available from:

Amazon

 

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The Seven Elements of Book Cover Design

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(Check out the vlog version of this post)

Your book’s cover is the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal.

Whether we like it or not, we all judge books by their covers.

In traditional publishing, professional designers are responsible for creating a book’s cover. Sometimes the publisher will ask the author for input and sometimes the publisher will present the author with several mock-ups and ask for their opinion. Most of the time, however, these decisions are made in-house.

There are seven basic elements that inform a book cover’s design. They are:

  • The country it’s being published in
  • Design trends
  • The novel’s theme, plot and characters
  • Genre
  • Whether it is a stand-alone or part of a series
  • The target audience
  • The author’s brand

Different Covers for Different Countries

Have you noticed that many popular books have different covers in different countries?

The US, UK and Australian versions of any one book often have very different styles.

This happens because the publisher’s US, UK or Australian division have tasked a ‘local’ in-house designer with creating a cover that will appeal to that specific country’s readership. What appeals to an American horror reader differs from one based in the UK or Australia … apparently.

Self-published/indie authors tend to use the same cover for every country. Though it is easier than ever to get your self-published book into bricks and mortar stores, the truth is that the bulk of sales occur online through print by demand distributors. This system makes it nearly impossible to create country-specific book covers and most indie authors would struggle to find the funds for such adventures anyway. That being said, many indie authors experience plentiful sales across multiple countries using the same cover design.

Trends

Trends have a huge impact on a cover’s design. You have already noticed that bold colours, large or hand-drawn typography and illustrations are the current trend. This handcrafted style is a push against technology and digitisation while simultaneously acknowledging the cultural rise of artesian craftsmanship such as boutique wineries, cheesemakers and rocking-horse makers, etc.

Theme, Plot or Character

The most common factors that influence a book’s cover are its themes, plot and characters. Often, the significance of these elements isn’t clear until after the book has been read. However, the cover should be striking enough to intrigue potential readers. If the protagonist has long blonde hair, a woman with a similar appearance may appear on the cover. If the plot is driven by the protagonist’s duty to protect a mysterious ancient talisman, the protagonist may be depicted as holding the talisman while looking over her shoulder. Repeated imagery, metaphors or symbols may also work their way onto the cover depending on their significance to the overall plot and aesthetic appeal.

Genre

The book’s genre will also influence its design. As you’ve no doubt noticed, romance books have very different covers to horror and science fiction books, historical novels differ from crime novels and chick-lit differs from fantasy. Non-fiction books have very different covers to literary and genre novels, because the tropes, mood and purpose of these respective categories are very different.

Non-fiction books typically seek to entertain, inspire or inform their readers. Genre books are driven by story/plot and each specific genre has its own unique tropes. Literary novels are driven by ideas; the story isn’t about the story, it’s a metaphor for something else.

Stand-alone or Part of a Series

There is a continuity between book series’ covers so that fans of that series can easily identify which books belong to the series. This is particularly important if an author has multiple series under their name. Though each series may fall under the same genre, each series will have its own distinct look.

Target Audience

A book’s target audience has a huge influence over a book cover’s design. The reader’s age, gender, occupation and interests are just a few of the qualities a designer may consider when creating a cover. Some of the questions a designer will consider are: Who is this book for? A mother is her mid-forties? A teenage boy? An elderly gardening enthusiast? For example, a novel aimed at male video game players in their early twenties won’t have a pastel green cover dotted in pink flowers, but one aimed at an elderly gardening enthusiast might.

Author Brand

The last thing to consider is the author’s brand. Author branding is not a new concept, but the rise of the internet, social media and self-publishing have certainly increased our awareness of it. An author’s brand is essentially how they present themselves to their audience.

A brand is a promise an author makes to their audience so that readers know what to expect from them and their fiction.

Branding includes the visual images that appear on an author’s website and social media pages in the form of banners, layout, photography and even typography. If the author publishes non-fiction books, then their online aesthetic may influence their book cover’s design. This is rarely the case with indie and traditionally published fiction authors. Instead, a continuity may exist across all the author’s covers so that fans can easily identify works written by that particular author.

You may have noticed that some books and series are re-branded every five to ten years. As previously mentioned, a book’s cover is the most powerful marketing tool available to both authors and publishers. Book covers are often up-dated/re-branded in response to changing trends and reader feedback. A book’s target audience doesn’t change, but the members of that audience do. Readers grow older and their interests and reading preferences shift. Publishers and indie author’s update their book covers in order to appeal to current members of the target audience.

Covers contain a lot of embedded information and they are our first impression of a book. A great book cover should make a reader feel something, and if that reader does feel something, they are far more likely to pick the book off the shelf, turn it over and read the blurb. (Or, click on the image and read the description).

A book contains many thousands of words, but a picture, as the saying goes, contains only one thousand—and that is why you must make it count.


If you like this post, consider checking out this related article by David Coen: The 100 Most Creative Book Cover Ideas