Dinner at Rose’s is the debut novel of Danielle Hawkins, published in May by Allen & Unwin, and everything I have seen about the book points to an enjoyable read. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask some questions of Danielle about her journey to publication. An inspiring story for one such as I.
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed writing things, but I started trying to write something book-length a few years ago, when I was home on maternity leave with a small baby and wanted a project. The first one taught me a lot about how not to write a book (e.g. the writer, if not the reader, really should have some idea of what’s going to happen), but I enjoyed it so much I kept trying.
Dinner At Rose’s is your debut novel, can you share a little with us about your journey to publication?
After spending a year or so trying to write things, I decided to try and find out if I was any good at it. So I did an Internet search on having a book published, and discovered vast numbers of self-publishing sites. It all gave me the impression that every second person has written a novel, and that it’s insanely difficult to get a real publishing house even to look at your work.
Slightly discouraged, I went through our bookcase and Googled the publishers of my favourites. And I discovered that Allen and Unwin invite email submissions of a 300-word synopsis and your first chapter to a thing called Friday Pitch. They send a bounce-back email to say they’ve received it, that if they like it they’ll request the rest and if they don’t please don’t pester them.
They asked for the rest! They didn’t accept that manuscript, in the end, but they did send me a very kind rejection email saying the writing was good but not the plot, and that by the way chick lit in a rural setting sells well so why not try that. So I did.
Having the manuscript accepted was wildly exciting, and very gratifying, and pretty crushing at times (‘It’s wonderful, we love it… although of course you’ll need to change the hero’s name, and the ending…’) and has left me feeling very grateful for, and very humbled by, the input of a professional publisher and editor.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote the sort of book I like to read, with a nice happy ending and empathetic characters (I’m much more of a Georgette Heyer girl than a sweeping, epic tragedy girl), set in rural New Zealand because it’s where I’ve always lived and I love it.
Do you know a Rose Thornton?
No, although bits of her belong to several people. I wish I did!
How do you think you would react to ‘the incident’ mentioned in the blurb if you were in Jo’s shoes?
I expect I’d do something really feeble like bursting into tears and running away. I’m never brave and confrontational when the situation is happening; only later, when I’m thinking of all the clever things I might have said but didn’t.
What do you do to relax when you’re not writing?
Gardening with the kids, going out on the farm, watching the rugby in the weekends (we got Sky Sport to celebrate selling my manuscript).
How do you juggle work, family and writing?
Writing is my hobby, so it’s what I do after work when the kids are in bed.
Have you got any advice for writers trying to get published?
If you’re anything like me, it will take you a lot of practice to get any good at it. It’s amazing how, a year later, you look back on some masterpiece you wrote and decide it’s actually fairly average.
Is there something new you are working on that you can tell us a little about?
I’m rewriting something I thought was wonderful two years ago, and have since realised was fairly average!
What does being a woman mean to you?
I like being a woman – I get to do all the things men do, and girl’s clothes are much more interesting than boys’. So I guess I’m lucky to have grown up in an age and culture where girls can do anything.
Thank you so much for talking to us Danielle, I love hearing how it CAN be done – gives me hope.