Finding My Voice: Carla Caruso
When I say I wanted to be a novelist since I was four, I’m not kidding!
I used to annoy the kindergarten teachers by dictating long, detailed stories to them. And one of my most painful childhood memories is of my mum ripping up some hand-written stories from my drawer as punishment for purposely denting a kitchen stool. The cheek of her!
As a teen, I’d write one-hundred-page novels in the school holidays – for fun. Family drives, meanwhile, were futile. I’d always have my nose in a book or magazine rather than taking in the scenery.
But when I looked at the books on the shelves at the shops or the library, I couldn’t see how I could ever possibly get there; be among the names on the spines. Before ebooks and self-publishing, getting published seemed about as likely as winning the lottery. So, on the advice of my mum, I pursued print journalism instead seeing as I liked to write.
I did write a few crummy manuscripts now and then, while I was working in newspapers and magazines for a decade, but often the manuscripts were half-finished or no way near long enough. I never sent them anywhere. Writing The Novel always seemed like one of those burning dreams I’d achieve some day, but not right then.
Around 2009, I went full-time as a freelance journalist in Sydney (I’m originally from Adelaide). Working from home gave me a little more flexibility with my work schedule, though being journalism, it was still hectic. I went to a romance-writing workshop at the NSW Writers’ Centre (presented by Anne Gracie!) and got long-listed in the Hachette Australia/QWC Manuscript Development Program.
When I moved back to Adelaide a year later, I got even more serious, hunting for a writers’ group and found one in the Novelist’s Circle, run by Sandra O’Grady. I can honestly say if it weren’t for Sandra and her critique group, I would not be published today.
The writers were from various genres, and through their careful guidance, I was able to see where my manuscripts desperately needed polish – from the basics of using the right paragraph spacing and font size to the art of ‘showing not telling’. At the Novelist’s Circle, I also learned about the South Australian Romance Authors group. Going to its monthly meetings introduced me to the Romance Writers of Australia and its national conferences, the different publishing routes … and a great bunch of ladies!
Following a tonne of publisher rejections on my manuscripts, I finally got a ‘yes’ from Penguin, which was starting up a new digital-first imprint, Destiny Romance, back in 2012. All the blood, sweat and tears hadn’t been for nothing! Since then, I’ve had three books published with Destiny (Cityglitter, Second Chance, and Catch of the Day) – two in both paperback and ebook.
On the third book – Catch – I changed from writing in first-person/present tense (my more chick-lit days) to third-person/past tense, and including the hero’s point-of-view. This is because this romance style seemed to be preferred among readers. Having said that, now first-person, one-character narratives are ‘hot’, thanks to the New Adult trend, but I would find it hard to go back to my old ways since changing! Even so, it’s a good lesson for me (and other aspiring writers) to ignore trends and how other authors are writing, write in your own unique way, and you’ll find an audience eventually!
As for my most recent works? Well, I’m currently in the midst of a rom-com mystery series involving a neat-freak professional organiser – Celeste Pretty – who gets caught up in messy mysteries with a sexy builder. It kicks off with A Pretty Mess: An Astonvale Novel 1. And I’ve never had more fun!
About the Author:
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. A Pretty Mess is her fifth novel.
A Pretty Mess
Sometimes, to come clean, you’ve got to get your hands dirty…
Celeste Pretty, a self-confessed neat freak, has found the job she was born to do: a professional organiser, de-cluttering people’s homes and workplaces. Her new business gets off to a cracking start when she lands her first client, health and fitness guru Natalia Samphire, in the well-heeled suburb of Astonvale.
But things get messy at Natalia’s mansion when Celeste finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items. And then there’s Lenny Muscat, the sexy builder renovating the place, whose constant presence is muddling Celeste’s usually organised brain.
When things get decidedly suspicious at the mansion, she and Lenny have to team up to investigate. But will Celeste emerge with her heart and professional reputation unscathed? This is the first in the Astonvale series.