All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Local Author Event: Lisa Ireland & Sally Hepworth

on June 11, 2018

Last Thursday I went to one of the branches of my local library for an event with Australian authors Lisa Ireland and Sally Hepworth. I’ve seen Lisa before, she is a regular at my council library and launched her previous book, The Shape Of Us at another of the branches. I’ve read almost all of Sally’s books but this was the first time I’d had an opportunity to hear her speak.

Now I didn’t take any notes or anything, I did jot a few key things down on the Notes app on my phone but most of this is just going from memory so any mistakes are mine and I may miss things or recap their discussion slightly out of order. I will say however that Sally is a very organised person! After an event they did recently went over time by an hour, she had her phone set to a timer and cue cards and everything! Everything was going to be timed to the minute as the event started at 6.30 and the library shuts at 8 so definitely couldn’t risk running so far over!

The event was in support of both author’s most recent releases, The Art Of Friendship for Lisa and The Family Next Door for Sally. Both authors write around sort of similar themes, that exploration of relationships and friendships. They actually met only last year, which is surprising when you see how close they obviously are. They were both invited to do an event at a bookshop, by someone who thought their books would fit together well in terms of those themes. They talked a little about how that event had spawned their friendship which segued into how differently they write.

It seems that there is generally three types of writers: the plotter. The pantser. And the one in-between, the “plantser”.  Now Sally is most definitely a plotter. She’s organised, she knows the plot and often comes back and fills in the details about characters later. Lisa is a pantser – she generally knows about the characters but the plot might be something that comes together much later. Both of them use their opposite styles to bounce ideas off each other. Both said that their friendship has helped them perhaps refine and modify their writing style a bit so that they might be slowly meeting in the middle, a sort of “plantser”. Lisa shared some of the difficulties in being a writer when she mentioned that she’d recently trashed 45,000 words of a manuscript that she wasn’t getting along with. She shelved it for the time being, rather than continue with what she described as a “mediocre novel” and decided to work on something else. There was a noticeable gasp in the room when she said that – it’s about 40-50% of a standard paperback, so a huge amount of work! Made me wonder how many unfinished and partial manuscripts authors out there have floating around on hard drives or usb sticks!

In the book Lisa is working on now, she mentioned that she needs to take a road trip to decide where it might be set. She thought about Sydney, decided it was a bit far and changed her mind to maybe consider Canberra. That brought up a lot of research issues – what happens when someone commits a crime in Canberra (which she needs to know)? She had to investigate the policing and discovered it was the Australian Federal Police and all of a sudden that seemed like it might require a lot of research and plotting to get the details right so maybe she’ll set it somewhere else. I found that interesting too, in that it doesn’t have a setting yet and that is something that I guess can be dropped in later.

Sally comes from a Human Resources background and has no training in creative writing. She thought she’d write a book whilst she was on maternity leave and had nothing but her experience as a reader going into that process. As you do when you’re trying something new, she googled it and discovered some sort of method (I think she said the snowflake method but I’m not sure) which she’s never used again and has never seen since and can’t even remember now. She finished that novel but then wondered how she could get better/faster at the craft and became a little bit obsessed. She described her second finished novel as “dreadful” but her third was the first one that was actually published. Since then she’s written four more books and trusts the process a lot more now, and doesn’t need to refer back to craft books or style books quite so frequently. Some of her favourite authors are more “organic” writers (a term they used for a more pantser style, allowing the plot to develop as the writing process takes place), and she’s trying to incorporate that a little more into her writing.

The talk went for around 45m and then they opened up for a few questions. I can’t really remember the questions to be honest, although there was one about whether or not they’d ever write an idea that someone else had and came to them with and the answer to that was a no. Neither are interested in writing people’s memoirs or fictional ideas that other people have had, because they belong to someone else. This question actually ended up referencing Heather Morris’ The Tattooist Of Auschwitz which is the fictional embellishing of a real life story. One of the library employees interjected at this point to mention that Heather Morris would be doing an event at one of the branches in August, so I’m definitely going to see if I can get to that. I haven’t read The Tattooist Of Auschwitz yet but it’s been on my Wishlist for a while now.

Actually I do remember another question, which was about editing. So both Lisa and Sally talked through the process of structural and copy edits and how many times a book goes through the process before it’s published. They also mentioned how it comes to be that final copies can still contain typos and mistakes, despite being read through so many times. It’s something I’ve wondered before actually, so that was good to get a bit of insight into. Sally also mentioned that she has several different publishers, being quite popular overseas (fun fact: Sally’s first book was pitched to me by the American publisher, who offered it to me on NetGalley, long before I even knew she was Australian) and that she’s quite big in Texas, which is a very conservative state. Her American published baulked at a same sex kiss in The Family Next Door and it had to be taken out, which I found really interesting because it’s a really important moment in the book.

I think that is about it for my memory….there was time for signing directly after as well. I just want to say that this was one of the most fun events I’ve attended for a long time. It felt really laid back and casual and like two good friends chatting about their processes. They would finish each other’s stories or interject with remembered bits and pieces from past events they’ve done or interactions between them but not in a way that disrupted the flow of the event or meant that one person more dominated the conversation. It was a great mix of craft and life, sort of in keeping with the friendship theme of their books!

Kudos to my library for hosting! Seems they’re doing more and more events lately, which is great. Next week there’s another one, with Mark Brandi, author of Wimmera.

You can check out my review of Lisa’s The Art Of Friendship here and The Shape Of Us here.

And my review for Sally’s The Family Next Door is hereThe Things We Keep here and The Secrets Of Midwives here.

Once again, any mistakes or inconsistencies are due to my memory.


4 responses to “Local Author Event: Lisa Ireland & Sally Hepworth

  1. Sounds fabulous. Thanks for the wrap up on it. One of the downsides of living in a remote community…this never really happens out here.

  2. alexandrareads says:


  3. I’m jealous that you saw Sally. I am a huge fan of hers.

  4. Marg says:

    I’ll definitely go to the Heather Morris one.

    You can borrow Tattoist if you like

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