6 June 2013 - LORRAINE COBCROFT - Guest Author




LORRAINE COBCROFT

- Guest Author -


G'day guys,

Today I feature another interesting Australian author - Lorraine Cobcroft. Welcome, Lorraine ...

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
Born in rural Australia, I lost my father at the age of six weeks and was raised jointly by my widowed mother, an adored grandmother, and three much loved aunts. I think loneliness - having no siblings and no father - might have influenced me to begin creating imaginary characters and to start writing.



Early in life, I travelled and lived in several countries, but after the birth of my second child, life became very challenging for our family. I was compelled to work at whatever paid enough to keep food on the table, and I stopped writing.



Starting a software business in the early days of personal computing was a rather crazy thing to do and I still sometimes wonder how it actually came about, but it led me into instructional and technical writing.  After years of struggle, I found myself earning a healthy income doing something I loved. After the software business closed, I contracted my services as a business and ghost writer under the name Rainbowriter.



Joining a writers' group led me to experiment with fiction and creative non-fiction writing. I wrote a children's book, Melanie's Easter Gift, for my grandchildren. Then my husband approached me and asked me to write the story recently published under the name The Pencil Case.



A fifth generation white Australian, Paul Wilson (not his real name) was a stolen child. Taken from his home, at age 7, by a heartless bureaucrat, he was stolen twice.. He was subjected to wrongful incarceration, abuse, deprivation, denial of contact with family, and denial of his identity and self-respect. The character on whom Paul was based was one of thousands of white Australian victims of a misguided child welfare policy that delivered financial benefit for removing children for little or no cause and keeping them institutionalized, regardless of their parents’ capacity and desire to care for them. Sadly, the plight of these people – many of whom are now aging in poverty and in severe ill-health due to abuse and deprivation and the psychological impact of their childhood – has been completely ignored.



The Pencil Case highlights an issue of social injustice that is rarely acknowledged in today’s world because politicians, the media and historians have conveyed an incorrect impression that child removal in Australia was a race-based issue and only Aboriginals were affected. The Pencil Case seeks to expose the ugly truth, but also to highlight the remarkable strength of the human spirit and the enormous power of family love.





WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?


I think I've been a writer since I was very young, but I didn't really understand what it was to be a writer. Relatives insisted only ''connected'' people could become writers, and I was nurturing an unrealistic ambition and needed to ''come down to earth'' and be practical. They succeeded in discouraging me for a time, but when I got involved in a software business, I was compelled to write instructional material and I found I had a flair for it. My writing career continued from there, and has diversified over the years to include business writing, technical writing, writing for children, and, most recently, short story writing and creative non-fiction.  





WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?


I love that I have the power to "nudge the world a little''.  The pen is a powerful tool. It can be used for good or evil. For me, it's a tool for pursuing social justice.





WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?


I think I'd have to say dealing with the reaction of loved ones. Friends (and my husband, thankfully) are supportive, but some relatives are ultra-sensitive about me potentially revealing the family ''skeletons in the closet'', or basing characters on them. 



Also, I think writers are forced to strip naked in public. Regardless of what they write, they reveal their innermost thoughts and beliefs in their writing. They can keep no secrets.





WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?


A bookkeeper, a receptionist, a legal secretary, a takeaway food store proprietor, and a wife and mother. (I continued to be a wife and mother after becoming a writer, and now I'm also a proud grandmother!)







WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
From a financial perspective, the software course I wrote (The Layout Course) was by far my greatest achievement. But I regard The Pencil Case as my most significant writing achievement because of what it achieved for my husband, for whom I wrote it, and because I believe it has the potential to help achieve a measure of social justice for victims of a serious wrong. 





WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

A novel titled Mortgaged Goods, about the struggle of a successful professional woman faced with the dilemma of whether to institutionalize her disabled child and return to her career, or sacrifice everything she has worked for to care for her son.





WHAT INSPIRES YOU?


Stories of survival against the odds and triumph over hardship and injustice, and memories of my parents-in-law, who endured unimaginable pain and suffering, yet always managed to be positive and cheerful.





WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?


I try not to limit myself to a particular genre, but I avoid fantasy, sci-fi, mystery and crime. I don't see myself as a writer of the traditional romance. I like writing historical fiction and creative non-fiction, and stories about characters' struggling with psychological problems and growing through a personal crisis. But ultimately I guess I'd have to say informational and instructional non-fiction is still my primary genre.





DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Read and write. Don’t let anyone discourage you. But write from the heart and let your passion show through. Never be afraid to expose the real you. Readers appreciate depth and sincerity.







DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?


Often, particularly when there are lots of distractions in my life.





DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?


No. I should have, but I find the demands of family etc. get in the way. I generally write in the wee small hours of the morning, before sun up. It's usually quiet then and there is little likelihood of phone calls or door knocks.





DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?


I love to write on the beach or on a riverbank, or anywhere I can enjoy nature. I bought a NEO several years ago and I love it because I can take it everywhere.  I now write while travelling. My husband and I love caravanning to explore the Australian outback, and I love to tap away on my Neo as he's driving along quiet back roads, or when I'm sitting by a campfire in the evenings.





WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?

I think most writers experience that euphoric feeling that comes when you write something that you just know works - something you know will really resonate with your reader. It might be a magical description that jumps off the page; a clever fragment of dialog; or something brilliantly philosophical. Especially if they are commented on by readers, those ''moments of literary genius'' give me cause to dance and shout with joy.



WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?


I don't have a favourite author. There are dozens of writers I admire, but I try not to restrict my reading based on author preferences. There are so many different views of the world and I want to understand as many of them as possible. I want to experience the richest possible variety of writing styles.  



WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?


A reader told me I opened her eyes about a racial issue and completely changed her perspective. She said my writing touched her emotionally.





WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?

A reader called me ''racist'', in response to a comment protesting against reverse racism. Supportive friends convinced me that he was a bigoted fool, and I should ignore him, but it distressed me to think that I might come across as racist, because I despise anyone who displays prejudice against a fellow man based on race, religion, physical features, etc.







WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?


I don't think any writer could honestly say they weren't influenced by the events in their own lives and the people they meet. And yes, I am definitely strongly influenced by people and events in my own life. There are direct correlations between my stories and things that I have personally experienced.



OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?


Reading, sewing, caravan trips to explore our beautiful country, listening to elderly people's stories of their early life, and spending time with my beautiful grandchildren.





DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?

Yes. Robb Grindstaff edited the book professionally, and did a great job.



I also benefited from feedback from Barbara Bamberger Scott of A Woman's Write, from members of Fairfield Writers Group (Brisbane), from friends on Authonomy, and from a wonderful female Australian author, Diana Hockley.  I met Diana through 10-Day Book Club and she actually printed my entire manuscript and went through it redlining and commenting on every page - gratis. I was blown away and will be eternally grateful.





DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.


I wake early and read for an hour before dawn, walk on the beach and listen to the birds worship the rising sun, maybe swim if in the surf if it's warm enough.  I breakfast with my husband on the terrace, potter in the garden for an hour, then spend several hours writing. After lunch, I visit a friend, talk to my children and grandchildren on Skype, walk on the beach with my husband at sundown, enjoy dinner on the terrace with my husband, then read or write for a few hours before I retire.



IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?


My husband, Peter.  He is my best friend, lover and strength. He throws his untiring support behind everything I do. And thanks to his unique intelligence, wonderful sense of humour, and diverse interests, he is great company. Lucky us… after forty-two years of marriage, we are still madly in love.





WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?


I think I'd be jailed if I disclosed what I'd like to say to the world leaders. But Chapter 41 of ''The Pencil Case'' might provide readers with a clue. I share the sentiments Paul expressed about terrorism. I also believe most leaders who claim virtue and concern for humanity and condemn terrorism engage in and/or support economic terrorism that is every bit as cruel and harmful as much of the violence those leaders deplore.





WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

To enjoy every minute left to me - living the fullest life possible in retirement and maximizing every opportunity to spread love and goodwill.






WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
It's impossible to choose five books from the massive library I've assembled over nearly 60 years of loving books. We moved recently and it occurred to me that it was time to discard some of the books I had read and deemed not really worthy of reading again. But in the end, I couldn't discard any. Books are sacred. Wherever I go, I want to take my entire library with me. That's why I bought a Kindle… so I could take my books on caravanning trips.


I guess taking my entire library of physical books to heaven is out of the question, but do you think perhaps St Peter would let me take my Kindle in?





DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
There's a little of me in all my characters.





DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes, but I understand the challenges those in the industry face. Authors today are fortunate that there are so many diverse options for exposing their work to readers.



DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I do, often. But the compulsion to write is powerful and a real writer can never quit. It's not something you decide to do… or not to do. You are compelled to write. In fact, I think if you are truly a writer, you are often compelled to write words you don't consciously want to write. The words come from somewhere deep in the subconscious, and they demand release.





WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?

Definitely The Pencil Case, because it was a story that had to be told, and telling it finally brought peace to a loved one who had suffered a lifetime haunted by demons he couldn't control. Putting the words on paper finally set him free.





 HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I measure a writer's success by the extent to which their words influence readers, change perspective, show people and events in a new light.  A writer succeeds when their writing touches readers… when readers say ''Reading that changed my view of the world.  I will never see things the same way again."



WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?


 They should feel enlightened, angry, but inspired. They should feel that a cloak has been lifted and the ugly side of society exposed, but they should also feel reassured and inspired by the strength of the human spirit and the power of love to enable even the most victimized to survive injustice.

I'd like to think readers would close my book wanting to do something constructive toward fixing the wrongs in their world… feeling greater understanding of and empathy towards those whose struggles they were previously blissfully unaware of, or whose motives they were unable to comprehend.



HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?


That's my husband's department. He's the artist. I think the cover design is critical to marketing, and it requires deep thought, but thankfully I can trust my husband's judgment and skills.



WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?


To win recognition as a writer whose works drove positive change to address social injustice.



WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?


I studied brand management with experts in the business, and I built brand management systems for businesses, so I'm very aware of the importance of a strong brand. Too many authors overlook the importance of brand management, thinking it's only for big business, but it's critical to the success of any business, and selling writing is a business.



There are great opportunities for authors today to market without a huge investment in advertising and promotion, but it takes time and effort and some basic understanding of the market and technology.



A smart author will focus strongly on image, ensuring that everything they say and do conveys the right impression to potential readers and supports their key marketing message. 





ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?


Some were ghost written and published by clients and some were published by the software companies they were written for.


Both Melanie's Easter Gift and The Pencil Case are self- published.



ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
The Pencil Case is available on both Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. Amazon also offer it as a paperback and it the paperback edition can be purchased from bookstores in UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Two of my short stories are in print in an Anthology by Fairfield Writers Group, Life's a Roller Coaster.  Another is to be included in an Anthology to be released in September this year, titled Changing Seasons.  I am seriously considering self-publishing a collection of my short stories sometime soon. 



I also co-authored a course titled ''eWriting for Profit', and I host a writers' community at www.rainbowriter.com where I offer; articles on writing, referrals to mentors and service providers, and reviews of selected books.


















·         https://twitter.com/LCobcroft

Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Lorraine. Thanks for your time. I agree with you about marketing. It's all about your brand. Also, your book is on my list to read.

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