Today, I’m featuring a guest post by Melbourne-based author AJ Collins, whose first book, a crossover YA/adult novel, Oleanders Are Poisonous, has just been released. A recipient of first prize and several commendations for the Monash WordFest awards, AJ has been published in various short story anthologies and magazines, and was awarded a place at Hardcopy 2018, a national professional development program for writers. Her work has also been read on Radio Queensland. AJ graduated from RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing Associate Degree in 2014 and has since established a successful editing and publishing business, AJC Publishing. Previous to this, AJ had an eclectic career from managing commercial mortgages, to working in a legal tribunal, to fronting her own function band for over twenty years. A one-time devotee of adrenaline sports, including bungee, skydiving, parasailing, sky-walking, sky-jumping, and volcano climbing, AJ is now happy to be settled at home with her hubby and two fur-kids, writing her adventures instead of living them. In her guest post, AJ muses about inspiration and process in the writing of her first book.
Red soil and music
by AJ Collins
Red soil runs through my veins. It happens when the South Australian outback is your childhood playground. It’s no surprise then, it sifted its way into my first book. And later in life, when I spent hours driving through the Mallee to visit my parents, again the red soil was there, hardened and cracked with drought in summer, tempered by the buttery glow of canola flowers in harvest season.
And the music, it also runs true in my family – my father a jazz muso, myself a soul singer. But like my protagonist, Lauren, I’ve always had to fight my self-doubt and lack of confidence. I don’t think that will ever change in my music or writing. Perhaps it’s what makes my work authentic.
It took me six years to reach the publishing stage of Oleanders are Poisonous, from first words to print. It would have been four years, but a hiccup with a brain tumour put me on the back foot. For the narrative, I’ve clearly drawn from my own experiences, but I’ve also leant heavily towards fiction to make the story more accessible, enjoyable, and remove my own self-consciousness.
When I’m asked who is my favourite character in the book, I always choose Snap. He’s the light that holds the darkness at bay. Irreverent, funny and fabulous, he’s the unwaveringly loyal best friend we all wish we had growing up, though he has his own dark side, as we all do.
The stories I’ve enjoyed most in my own readings have been ones that have moved me in some way, rekindled emotions, or taught me something about myself or the world around me. With Oleanders are Poisonous, and its sequel Magnolias don’t Die, I hope to show readers they’re not alone, that others have suffered similarly, and it’s always okay to talk about your fears, no matter how dark they may be. It takes bravery to open up to family and friends, especially when we project our own thoughts of rejection in their heads, but you must do it in order to heal. I wish you resilience and joy.
Connect with AJ:
Buying links for Oleanders are Poisonous:
Direct: AJC Publishing
Amazon Australia: AmazonAU
Amazon US: AmazonUS
Ebook retailers: Apple, Nook, Kobo, Scribd etc.