Books

Writing Her Own Destiny & Dancing Through Life

10:00 am 0 Comments A+ a-

Hey Everyone!

Back in October last year, in the lead-up to publishing Don't Mean a Thing, I emailed the two Australian military magazines I knew of and pitched them the idea of writing an article about me. 

The Top Ender magazine jumped on the idea and asked me to write the article. I dropped off a couple of paperbacks for them to give away to local readers just days before we moved interstate. The Top Ender is a tri-services (Army, Navy and Airforce) magazine that is delivered to all military members in the Darwin region. 


The Top Ender - December 2016 / January 2017
Writing her own destiny

Writing a book wasn’t one of those burning desires I’d had since childhood. I’m not a writer, I’m a reader. I love to read just about anything, but especially contemporary Australian fiction – the types of stories I can relate to.

I met my husband at a swing dancing class. I started swing dancing back in 2000 and I’ve been on the lookout for books about swing dancing ever since. When my husband joined the military, I kept an eye out for stories about military people – but most of the ones I found were alpha male romance novels set in the USA. When I found out we were posting to Darwin, I searched for stories about the Northern Territory – but most of those were historical or outback stories. Meanwhile, I read hundreds of other books instead.

I decided to do something with all these books I was reading and started a book review blog, HeySaidRenee. Through writing reviews, I met lots of authors online. I discovered that authors are people. Real people, who often write after their kids have gone to bed. People like me. Maybe I could write a book? Maybe I could write the book I wanted to read?

So I did.

I sat down at my computer one day, three years after I’d moved to Darwin. Hubby was away and our two kids were asleep. The house was quiet but my mind was busy. I didn’t start at the beginning; I started with the scene that was in my head. The next day, I wrote the scene that followed. The day after, I wrote the scene that came before. Then I wrote a whole bunch of stuff that has been since cut out of the book (it’s not always smooth sailing) but I might share it in a prequel one day. I wrote about Macie, a woman who joined the military later in life. I wrote about her moving to Darwin. I wrote about her taking up swing dancing to make friends. I wrote about her falling in love (but that’s not all smooth sailing either).

I wrote the first third of the book within a month, but with all my work and family commitments, I couldn’t sustain that pace so took another six months to finish my first draft. I shared my story with my critique partner, whom I met through the Romance Writer’s of Australia. I spent the next six months tweaking and polishing (and filling the huge plot hole my mum found). I’ve discovered that I’m a reader and a writer.

I chose to publish with Kindred Ink Press, a small publisher, so I could have the benefits of no upfront costs, lots of input into the publishing decisions and could work within my timeframe of publishing my Darwin story before I left Darwin. My romantic comedy, It Don’t Mean a Thing, was published in November, the week before we posted out, and is available in ebook format wherever you can buy ebooks. Some signed paperbacks are available at Viva la Body in Cavanaugh Street. Unsigned copies are available via Amazon.

I also have a collection of flash fiction called #militarylife that I’m giving to my newsletter subscribers. You can find links to purchase my novel and to subscribe to my newsletter on my blog. 

***

The other magazine, Defence Family Matters, also took me up on my offer and asked Graham Oram to interview me. We emailed back and forth a few times and I got my Dad to take some photos for the article. Dad, a retired professional photographer, was rapt to see his byline. Our favourite photo was the one at the top of this post, which happened to be the first one we took of 21. The magazine went with number 10. Defence Family Matters is an Australia wide tri-services magazine given to all military families.

Dancing Through Life

Renee Conoulty had no idea that her husband’s change of career would take her in a whole new direction too.
Renee and Luke were already married and had two children when Luke enquired into joining the RAAF.
It was an adventure the couple spoke about in great detail before embarking on.
“(We agreed Luke could join) so long as I didn’t have to pass the physical fitness test every year, iron any uniforms or get yelled at,” Renee said.

The family’s first posting was to Darwin—not Renee’s first choice of locations.
“I didn’t like hot weather, but Darwin it was,” she said.

“I researched the area as much as I could; joined military partner groups on Facebook; looked up the touristy things to do; and found out where I could continue my hobbies.”

Renee’s hobbies were swing dancing—which was how she met her husband—and reading.
She quickly found “a fabulous group” of swing dancers in Darwin who warmly welcomed her into their group.

Renee also looked into joining a book club there but with Luke away frequently, and two small children to look after, found it difficult to get to meetings.

The solution was to join an online book club—that’s when things took off.

“After connecting with several Australian authors online . . . I decided to have a go at writing my own book,” she said.

“I’d looked for contemporary stories set in Darwin and novels about the Australian military but hadn’t found many.

“For years, I’d searched for stories about swing dancing but they were scarce too—so there was my idea!”

The end result was Don’t Mean a Thing—a fictional story about 30-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, who joined the military, posted to Darwin and took up swing dancing to make friends.

“I decided she would have to meet a man, fall in love and live happily ever after—but not that easily of course,” Renee said.

“The characters aren’t based on particular people, but I do see a lot of myself in the main character.

“My hopes for my novel is that it gives Australian military women a story they can relate to; introduces some of the struggles of military life to non-military people; and inspires everyone to take up swing dancing so that I have more people to dance with.”