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Q&A  •  7 July 2023

 

How Amy Doak’s varied writing career enabled her to fulfil her dream of writing fiction

‘I did any job that enabled me to be paid to write.’

How did you come up with the idea for Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer

As strange as it sounds, the character of Eleanor came to me fully formed and ready, with a story to tell. I was working on another novel at the time (you know, that rejected first bottom-drawer novel writers often talk about) and she patiently waited until I was prepared to try again. 

I always knew I wanted to write a Young Adult Mystery – it was the genre that got me passionate about reading when I was younger, and the thought of doing that for someone else has been a lifelong dream.

What was your writing process like for the book? Did you have a regular writing routine or any rituals?

I have worked for many years as a freelance writer and ‘writing in the cracks’ is something that I had to get good at (especially with young kids at home during the Covid years). 

I don’t have a routine at all, although I’ve certainly tried to create one more times than I can count. I make sure I open the manuscript I’m working on every day . . . sometimes that results in many words, sometimes it does not. 

For me, sitting down and typing is only a small part of the overall writing process. I’m always immersed in the story during the drafting period, and because of that, I write while walking the dog, waiting for my kids at footy training, or while in the shower. Thinking time and typing time are equally important to me, and knowing that the muse rarely strikes when I sit down to type means that I need to pay attention throughout the day. Perhaps my only writing ‘must’ is plenty of tea, ideally in my favourite wonky pottery mug.

How long have you been working on this book?

I started Eleanor Jones in early November 2021 and finished the first draft in early July 2022. 

I then spent a month working on the draft and getting feedback from beta readers, a generous writer friend and another good friend who is (conveniently) an editor. I took all of their suggestions into later drafts and was ready for pitching in late August 2022.

You submitted your book to an open submission at Penguin. Did you have faith that it would get published that way?

Not at all! 

There’s so much talk about the ‘slush pile’ and the reality that you may never hear back when you submit that way. However, you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? 

I’d pitched to a few agents in late August and was waiting to hear back from them when a friend mentioned that Penguin Young Readers was open for submissions during September. The manuscript, synopsis and overall pitch were pretty polished due to the previous submissions, so I figured I had nothing to lose. Penguin Random House was my absolute dream publisher and when I received an email from them in late October wanting to chat more, I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Do you have a favourite book or author?

I’m not sure I could ever answer that question . . . perhaps I have a top ten . . . or twenty? 

I love mysteries and thrillers and my must-read Aussie authors include Candice Fox and Michael Robotham – I will always race to get anything they’ve released. Some of my favourite recent reads have been Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister and The Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman. I also love Holly Jackson, Karen M. McManusJennifer Lynn Barnes, and Ellie Marney’s books in the YA mystery-thriller realm.

What inspired you to become a writer?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and it’s the thing I most enjoy doing. Books have been a constant companion for me, and the right book at the right time can make your life better in so many ways. The thought of being able to be part of that magical world is something special.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why? 

Aside from that very brief period when I wanted to be Ginger from Gilligan’s Island – a tropical island, good friends, fabulous wardrobe – all I ever wanted to be was a writer.

However, I didn’t know anyone who had a career as a creative and the consensus was that it was a thing you did on the side – just a hobby when you’ve got downtime from a ‘real’ job. As a result, a lot of my work over the years has been writing-adjacent: copywriting, TV and radio ad writing, ghostwriting, writing marketing strategies and materials, website writing, writing newspaper and magazine articles, non-fiction writing . . . you name it. 

I did any job that enabled me to be paid to write, all while dreaming of someday writing fiction. I think there was a fear that if I tried to do the thing I loved most, I’d either fail at it or I’d hate it, and then I wouldn’t have a dream left. 

It’s a scary thing to try to do what you want to do the most, but so far, I’m loving every part of it. All I can hope now that I’m this far in is that I get to keep going.  

 

Start reading Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer here

Feature Title

Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer
Karen McManus and Holly Jackson meets Fleur Ferris in this fast-paced YA murder mystery.
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