Top 10 Authors – Lois Duncan

Until the age of 14 I wanted to make movies when I grew up. At 14 I read my first Lois Duncan novel and after that I wanted to be a writer. It seems crazy to say this now, but I didn’t realise that there were people writing books out there that were as good as, or even better than movies.

My school library was pretty limited, and I didn’t have many people making recommendations besides my English teacher, so the books I had read were pretty boring or ‘safe’. I didn’t really see much point to reading.

Lois Duncan’s books made me sneak a torch to bed so I could read at night, I couldn’t wait to get back to them when I wasn’t reading. She explored ESP, telekinesis, astral travel and a heap of other topics that my English teacher would probably have preferred I stayed away from. I was hooked.

As an adult, I’ve gone back and read her work, and it is the strangest thing, I could feel the memory of the excitement of 14-year-old-me reading them. She made me love books and for that I will always be grateful to her, who knows what might have happened if I hadn’t picked up one of her books back then?

Interestingly enough, perhaps the best book of hers I read was the non-fiction story Who Killed My Daughter about her search for the people responsible for her daughter’s murder. If you are not into young adult fiction but you would like to read Lois, I’d highly recommend this book. There is paranormal stuff in the book, but it’s real and it is amazing.

What makes me write?

This time last year I had started my novel. The one I wrote in 4 months. This year I’m doing nothing, barely dragging myself to the computer to write a blog post. So I guess that answers the question about if my writing is seasonal.

There is no doubting that it is uncomfortable to sit down at a heat-generating computer in the middle of summer, but summer finished over a month ago now and I’m currently wearing a jumper. There must be another reason why I’m not writing.

I think the thing that gets me writing is faith. Faith that someone will want to read it once I’ve finished. I’m sorely lacking in faith at the moment. I floated one of my story ideas past a work colleague the other day. He clearly thought it was silly. I know he was a test market of just one, but I can’t help but thinking maybe I am the only person interested in my novel ideas?

I know the world is a big place, so there is a good chance I could find others who enjoy what I enjoy, but I think the market is small. That’s killing my faith. And it is so easy to lose myself in my imagination, uncovering stories while sitting on the lounge, or staring out the window on the bus, or in particularly boring meetings at work, so I’ll never have to go without them.

If I thought the world might miss out by not getting to share my stories I might be more motivated to write them down. I think that explains why I did exactly zero words this week.

Surprises from the box

It always amazes me how differently I can feel about a piece of my own writing depending on when I read it. I was looking for a document which wasn’t where it should be, so I had to dive into ‘the box’ to look for it. The box is filled with miscellaneous writing stuff; story bits, observations, markets, rejection letters etc.

I pulled out something called ‘story idea’ (I’ve started a lot of those over the years) which had three chapters. I thought I had remembered all the novels I had started over the years, and there have been many, but this one didn’t ring any bells. I only recognised it as my romance novel near the end of chapter one. By then I was hooked. What happened next?!?

Why did I stop working on this? The story moved along at a good pace, the character was likable and I hadn’t yet got to the romance bit, but I don’t remember there being a problem with it. My memory of it was that my attempt to write it came out so badly that I put it in ‘the box’. What a silly mistake.

Who knows, maybe I’ll pick this up again in three or six month’s time and read it again and find it wooden and crap, but right now there is a big part of me that wants to finish it. I’ve never finished a romance story before, and the Australian Romance Writers Conference is being held in Adelaide this year, maybe it is a sign? Now I’m questioning all the stories I’ve stopped. Maybe I need to visit the box more regularly?




Last weekend edition #63 of ASIM was released at Contact in Brisbane. This edition includes my story Glow, which was a runner-up in the Australian Horror Writers Association short story competition in 2014. The story was accepted for publication shortly after the competition results were announced, so that tells you how long this publication has been in the works.

I’ve been trying to get into ASIM for years now, probably over 10 years if I’m honest, so it is strange to finally have achieved this goal. The irony is also not lost on me that it was with a story that was written with no thoughts of sending it to ASIM, and even now I don’t know why I did send this story to ASIM first, but I’m glad I did.

Many times I’ve read advice which says purchase a few copies of the magazine you want to get into to get a feel for what they have published, then write something for them. I did this with ASIM and got numerous humours science fiction stories out of the process, but none of them found homes at ASIM. My not-funny-at-all horror story did.

So yet again this seems to show that advice is not always going to be correct. Sometimes doing the ‘wrong’ thing can be exactly the right thing to do. If I’ve learned anything on this writing journey, it’s that all rules are made to be broken.