Finding My Voice: Heather Garside
I started writing my first novel many years ago, when I was only a teenager. I had never heard of such a thing as ‘voice’. Other novels became my how-to manuals and I studied my favourites to assist me with issues such as dialogue and speech tags. Being a voracious reader obviously helped me to write a readable, if obviously flawed, novel. I lived in an isolated area on my family’s cattle property and had no interaction with other writers. I read a lot of older books from my Mum’s bookcase and was devoted to Georgette Heyer, all of which no doubt contributed to the old-fashioned tone of my writing at the time.
After a break for a number of years while my children were small, I started working on my second novel, attended my first writing workshop and joined the writers’ group which resulted. At one stage this group was quite dynamic with up to twenty attending each meeting. I learnt so much from the critiquing of each other’s work and from the workshops we ran. Then I joined RWA and attended my first conference. It was an exciting time, during which I was privileged to be mentored through the RWA Isolated Writers’ Scheme, completed that second novel and started searching for a publisher.
All the time I was learning about such things as point of view, show don’t tell, pacing and not to use a long word when a simple one will do. I remember cutting 14,000 words from my manuscript to make it eligible for a competition, yet when I revisited it recently with the aim of republishing it, I was able to cut a couple of thousand more.
With each subsequent novel I’ve written, I’ve shed more of that old-fashioned wording, although I still write historical settings in a slightly different voice to the one I use in contemporary stories. This is deliberate and gives authenticity to a story set in Victorian times. Obviously my wording reflects the manners and speech patterns of the times and I try to employ terms that were in use in those days. This involves considerable research. My latest published novel, Breakaway Creek, is a dual-timeline story and the novel I’m working on at present is also written in that format. I’ve always been inspired by local history, and I believe that interest is due in part to hearing about my ancestors, who were pioneers in Central Queensland.
Another tool which did much to improve my writing was an online critique group, Clayton’s Critique. I learnt much from the other members of this group. And when Breakaway Creek was edited for publication, I was surprised to see how many excess and unnecessary words my editor was able to cut from the manuscript. The learning process never ends!
For many years Australian rural stories weren’t sought after so it is gratifying to see the current interest in the genre. By writing dual timelines I’m able to tap into that market and still indulge my love of history.
About the Author:
I grew up on a cattle property of 47,000 acres in Central Queensland, Australia. As a child I loved horses, books and the bush. Not a lot has changed although I have also grown to appreciate the finer things in life, especially eating out. My husband and I have a smaller cattle and grain farm close to where I grew up. We have adult two children. My married daughter lives in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, with her husband. After spending seven months overseas, our son has established a metal engineering business in our shed.
Tracks of the Heart
Three short stories will take you on journeys of terror, heartbreak and a woman’s tentative struggles to reclaim her identity.
Playing with Fire: Lisa is forced to revisit a tortured love affair when she recognises her companions on an outback train journey – an ill-fated family from her past.
Bushwhacked: Brittany’s quest for adventure on an isolated cattle station goes horribly wrong when she and Scott, the head stockman, are abducted on a lonely county road.
Coming Home: Kirsty leaves a destructive marriage to return to her parent’s cattle station, but has to contend with her father’s new manager – the boyfriend she deserted years before in favour of the city.