UQP Writer's Room: Rhiannon Wilde
Why did you start writing?
I think I’ve just always done it, and probably started as a child because I loved books so very much. I used to memorise every word of my favourite stories and dissect them; then at some point I started also making up ones of my own!
How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
I don’t think I’d say any one genre is my fixed genre, because ideas sometimes surprise you and I do see myself trying different things over the course of my (touch wood) next few years as a writer. In terms of form, I’ve found it interesting that some of my characters demanded a first-person voice (e.g. the very expressive Henry Hamlet, and also if I were ever to write from the perspective of Lennon Cane) and others need the scope of third-person (like the two sisters who are the protagonists of my next project). I like to not fence myself in, because I want to always stay open and flexible with that kind of stuff in the early shaky stages of a project.
Where was your inspiration for your latest work?
A few things! An old grave in the Victorian section of a cemetery that just read ‘HENRY HAMLET’; a local band I love with a great origin story; my own complex younger years friendships-turned-more, and those of the people close to me; emo songs, etc. etc. I’m a spongey type of person who very much draws from everything around me. (Apologies to anyone I’ve stared intently at on a train).
How do you get started with a new project?
I find it easiest to start by writing out the first scene/s that come into my head and then going from there. For my last two projects, that’s been the very final scene or close to it – so it might be apt to say I begin by knowing the end!
Do you have a routine? What tools do you use?
To an extent, yes! I try to write in the morning or mid-afternoon if I can, because I find it’s when my brain is at its most awake/creative, and a good cup of coffee is always a necessity. My top three places to write are in a café surrounded by white noise, my desk at home, or sometimes by the beach if I really need to trick my brain into thinking we’re not actually doing the hard thing.
How do you handle writer’s block?
By going outside. It’s sounds cliché, but I try to leave the house straight away if I feel blocked like that. Changing up your environment really does generally shift your perspective, and I often find that the answers to whatever creative struggles I’m having will (eventually) fall down into my head if I can get myself to chill in nature somewhere for a while.
How important is research in the writing you do?
I think research is always important and find myself doing a lot of it even if I’m writing from my own experience. The internet can be a scary place, but there’s also masses of information available on there about almost anything! Perhaps it’s the history teacher in me, but I like to trawl through as much good primary evidence as I can and let it inform whatever I’m writing.
How much planning is required when it comes to structuring one of your books?
Regrettably, not a lot! I’m not a planner by nature and didn’t plot out my first novel at all, which made for a fun structural edit in which I literally threw out my back at one point. My second book idea was a little different as I knew a bit more about how manuscripts work, and also that I needed to be able to actually pitch it to publishers as a product (with a plot!) they’d want to buy – so I did do up a rough outline. Even then though, the broad strokes were mapped out, but I still had to let the characters decide on specific scenes/ how things happen.
What’s the editing process like?
I’ve found it to be a really creative and collaborative process. My editor, Felicity Dunning, is a really dedicated, thoughtful and thorough editor and also a wonderful person; I feel very lucky to have her in my life. I love the skill editors have of hunting for the chunks of gold in a manuscript and then knowing exactly how to make them shine even brighter.
I also think sensitivity reads in LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised texts are a whole other layer of necessary, invaluable feedback and insight when developing characters and stories.
Ditto input by publishers and external proof-readers in those final stages just before a book goes to print!
How did you come to be published?
I won an unpublished manuscript award for Henry Hamlet’s Heart at the Qld Literary Awards in 2019! Still feels like it’s maybe not real, but it’s made me a huge proponent for these kinds of literary prizes and I encourage anyone to enter them, because you really do never know what might happen.
Social media – like it or loathe it?
Depends. Love it for memes and connecting people; loathe the way some of those people use it to spread hate or unnecessarily tear others down.
How do you handle the reviews?
I’m quite self-critical naturally anyway, so it would be rare a reviewer voiced a thought I haven’t anxiously had already! It’s never ‘easy’ per se if someone doesn’t connect with something the way you hoped – but I think the only time it can be properly hurtful is if the focus is more on me rather than my work. Broadly though, I handle constructive critique by trying to let it fuel and inform the writing of the next thing.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Teaching still, probably! I loved being around young people all day and hearing their unique takes on things and miss that part of the job the most.
What is your number one tip for aspiring writers?
Keep going. Write write write. If a book doesn’t work, there’ll be another one – promise. If it does work, someone someday will see that, and it’ll find its home.
Plotter or pantser? Pantser. Massively.
Tea or coffee? Coffee, always.
When I’m not writing I’m… Spending time with my lovely partner, seeing friends, drinking coffee, thinking about writing, or trying to verbally reason with my cat to stop scratching the carpet.
My favourite place to read is… In bed really late at night with a lamp on.
Ebook or physical book? I dabble in both, but physical books will always have my heart.