Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
In September 2020, Australia went into a Covid lockdown. I finally had the time I wanted to write. So I did. Less than six weeks later, I had finished a 150k novel. I'm coming up to my two-year anniversary, and after 1.6+million words, I am now on my 14th book.
What makes writing your passion?
Oh, that's easy! Our amazing Australian History. Between us, my husband and I have seven colonial convicts. Years ago, that was considered bad, now it's almost Australian Royalty.
How long have you been writing?
Less than two years. I started, because I wished to finish my mother's last manuscript ( Sheila Hunter) "Dancing to her Own Tune. I shot to #1 in its genre within weeks of release.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I was so darned excited that I stupidly rushed it. I had to pull it, get it re-edited, and then re-release it.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Many of them were inspired by personal family stories from days of yore and ages past. Some are straight off the family tree, others are pure inventions modelled on people I know.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Having to do all the marketing. I'm not a technology person and this really throws me.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
What's that? I have too many ideas to stop writing, so If I need a break, I go and edit another story. I often dream about my stories, so each new morning is a fresh inspiration. I have to write down the scene before I forget my dream.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
So many more good stories. My books are Historical Fiction.
I'm mildly Dyslexic, I've battled with words all my life and was told often I was both lazy and dumb. Thankfully, I never listened. If you have a passion for something, JUST DO IT.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Start writing earlier, particularly while my mum was alive, as we write the same sort of stories. The book of Mum's I finished is called 'Dancing to her Own Tune', however, she wrote three others, "Mattie", "Ricky" and "The Heather to The Hawkesbury." All are similar genres. When I gave the co-authored book to the editor, I asked her to dig deep and see if she could find the chapter break between authors. After two re-reads she gave up. She couldn't pick it. That thrilled me to bits. The book shot to #1 in its genre and stayed there for over a week.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes, I try to take them constructively. One was the need for 'Xray' on kindle, so I added that. (There are lots of characters). They are often about the grammar and spelling used in the stories. I use Australian/English as that's how my books are set. I won't change that... sorry!
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I love it. Sadly these days, it's far too easy just to leave a star review. It's what most people do now rather than leave a proper review.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes, into most of my stories, but I'm not saying what...
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Not that I thought of myself as such, but many who know me say that Jenna, my first heroine ( the blacksmith's wife), is me. If it is, I didn't plan it. But I like her, she is a lovely person, so I'm happy about the comparison.
Every female character has a bit of me in her.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Yes, I do them myself, and they always reflect the story or a scene in it. I often use old paintings by a colonial Artist named Joseph Lycett. He, too came as a convict.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love this too. I was greeted only once with, "Oh, you're Sara Powter, the author." Yes, I was embarrassed about that, but after a few author talks and markets, I'm beginning to discover that I love connecting with people through their own family histories. Sometimes I even offer to assist with their family history research ( another of my passions)
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I love that through my books they will have learned a bit more about our Australian History. Thankfully with Covid masks, being recognised is not an issue. Plus, my profile photo is me when I was only 18.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Marcus Clarke. (For the Term Of his Natural Life) and Catherine Gaskin ( Sara Dane). Both these authors made me wish I could step back in time. Others too, but these were the first. EV Timms, Eleanor Dark and the like inspired me to write a series.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
A mini-series using all my stories as interconnected episodes. Each book had many layers.
Marcus Clarke. To have my books known as "Classics" would be great.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I should probably shorten the first four books in my series/saga. The shortest is 150k words, but there is not much I would WANT to remove from it.
A good historical novel should make you feel as though you were there. I try to take the reader back the 200+ years to that era. It was a slower pace back then.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Tough question. Probably my mum, but if not EV Timms, Eleanor Dark, or someone like that who also wrote fabulous colonial series.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I would politely ask them if they would like some free etiquette lessons. Thankfully I have a good editor who corrects many of my errors. But I still tend to "tell not show". I'm still working on getting that sorted. Every day is a new learning curve.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you for your interest in my books and Australian Colonial history. We will lose so much knowledge if it's not refreshed often. My stories are an easy way to learn.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
We live on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. I am married to my wonderful, patient husband (who is my first draft proofreader). He have two grown children.
What is your day job if you have one?
When? I have done so many things throughout my life, from Kitchen Hand/Assistant chef at Taronga Zoo restaurant; Hospital cleaner; Taxonomy Assistant in Entomology for the Department of Agriculture; to my favourite, Minister's wife for over thirty years. . Every day was different, and you never knew who would need help next. I am now retired, as is my husband, so now I write.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Shell collecting as a child with my family, we had a full scientific museum called Pacific Wanderland. Also cooking, craft, sewing, pearl reknotting, and now writing. But so many interests and not enough time for them all. one day I'd love to have a go at wheel pottery, one day... when I run out of ideas...
Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes, a very happy one, but oh so different to a normal childhood. My father was 55 when I was born, so he retired when I was 4. We travelled everywhere as a family, once taking nearly a year to drive right around Australia in 1966. We collected everything from shells, fossils, snakes, rocks, and most importantly, friends. Mum also wrote a book about that, and I'll get that published one day as well.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
Finding a part finished manuscript mum never got to finish (she died in 2002)
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Yes, but they are queued up at the editor... #7 comes out in Sept, #8 in Nov and #9 in Jan/Feb 23. No dates post that, but there are more finished (13 so far). They are all similar, Australian Colonial novels.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Our history. Unadulterated but true. Both sides of a story should be taught, and it should be non-political. We lack physical access to hands-on learning of our history.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1 Enough money to pay a marketing guru that would not rip me off!
2 An up-front payment for the production of a mini-series or movie, so we could buy our kids a house each.
3 The power to heal people.
What is your favorite music?
At the moment, a musical group called "Bandari." I can turn them on and sit writing while they play. I also adore the Seekers. The next book out is actually inspired by 20 of their songs, "Once a Jolly Swagman."
Share a secret with us 🙂
I love spellcheck, because my spelling is appalling.