Dr Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific horror and literary novelist who understands the difficulties of the writerly life all too well.
I first met Isobel via social media, and quickly learnt how dedicated and honest an author she is; we share the novelist's frustration of struggling to promote a current release while writing the next one.
So I've thoroughly enjoyed following the emergence of Isobel's recent dark comedy thriller, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks, and was chuffed to interview her about her experiences as a writer.
1) You've published quite an array of work in a short period of time. How do you manage to be so productive?
I think if there was one word to describe me it’s 'driven'. I'm 56 and I've waited a long time to pursue my passion. I was lucky early on to be mentored by award-winning author Robert Hillman, who showed me the tricks of the trade and set me on my way. I downloaded a bunch of how-to advice and studied the works of writers I respected as though they were text books, not stories.
I embrace every aspect of the creative process, from the original idea, through the various stages of composition to polishing ready for submission. I’m lucky to have been picked up by two publishers, Odyssey Books here in Australia and HellBound Books, US. That would thrill a lot of writers out there. Fiction is so so hard to place if, like me, your books sit outside of neat marketable boxes.
2) You're rather open with your readers about the journey of creating each of your works, which I thoroughly enjoy. For you, what's the most emotionally challenging aspect of the writing process?
For me, the most emotionally challenging side of having a book published is self-promotion. I’m very active on social media but I feel I am never doing enough. The relentless pressure to self-promote changes you. There’s a danger of becoming too single-minded. The joy is stripped away and all you are is an engine with an incredible thirst for likes, comments, reviews—always reviews! It’s manic and extremely draining.
Almost all authors risk burning out. The pressures are tremendous. Even those who are at the top of their game and give the opening address at this and that and win the Miles Franklin feel that edge, so I’ve been told; the sense that their next work could be rejected, by publishers, reviewers, readers. There are no guarantees. Which is why I am so grateful to all my author friends for their tremendous support, and to my loyal readers, who are amazing.
3) Of all your novels, which most reflects the quintessential you?
This is difficult because I have a lighter and a darker side. They represent two distinct career paths and I have no idea if they will ever marry. Considering where I am heading as I writer, with the serious works ahead of me, I think The Drago Tree is very me. The story is literary and it is set where I used to live, on a volcanic desert island in the Atlantic Ocean. Yet A Perfect Square is a good segue to my work in progress, which leads neatly to your nextquestion!
4) Looking to the future, what prospect fills you with tingles of anticipation?
There is a work in progress sitting on my desk that fills me up that way. This is not a story I chose to write, but rather one I feel I have to write. It’s a fictionalised biography of the woman whose works were the subject of my PhD. I see it as the PhD I should have written and didn’t.
I have unearthed such a juicy and compelling story that will straighten the historical record in several ways. That said, it is entertaining. I am applying all my writing skills honed composing thrillers and the like, to make sure the facts do not drag the work down. Set in the 1930s, it’s a very human story about a woman and her three daughters...
I can't wait to read it!
Isobel Blackthorn lives on Victoria’s southern coast. She writes across a range of genres including literary/contemporary, dark fiction and thrillers. Her latest work, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks, is a dark comedy thriller set in Cann River, East Gippsland. Her forthcoming novel, Twerk, due out with HellBound Books in December, is a crime thriller set in a strip club in Las Vegas.