Guest: five questions for Jo Anderton, author of Debris

I’ve known Jo from way back when we were both members of SF-OWW, and we discovered that we both lived in Sydney. Since that time, we’ve met on a number of occasions, most recently at Conflux in Canberra. Jo has recently sold a novel, Debris, to Angry Robot. The novel is about to hit the shelves any minute.

A short blurb: When an accident leaves her powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting magical garbage – ‘debris’ – but starts to realise debris is more important than anyone could guess.

You recently sold your novel Debris to Angry Robot. When did you first hear of their interest and what did you do first when you heard that you made the sale? Tell us a bit about that incredible euphoria.

Actually, I was at work both times, so my response was necessarily subdued. I was in the middle of talking to a colleague who had just brought her very young baby in for a visit, when my agent called to tell me Angry Robot wanted to go ahead. I remember hanging up in a bit of a daze, turning around to all these people staring at me (including one very cute kid) and saying ‘they want to buy my book’. After a few minutes pretending I could still make calm, civilised conversation I excused myself, went outside, did a little dance and rang my husband. I think he bore the full force of ‘OMGANRGYROBOTWANTTOPUBLISHDEBRIS!!!!!’ Poor man.

In the process from writing the novel to publication, what did you find the hardest?

I’ve never been very good at knowing when to let something go out there, into the world. Getting over this was hard. If I just change one more thing… if I just reread it one more time… maybe I’ll print it out and use a red pen this time, then I’ll read it all out loud, and then I’ll leave it for a few months and go back to it… This way lies madness.

How do cats help the writing of fiction? Or—do they?

Of course they do. You see, the cats have a habit of lying on the floor right behind my office chair, so I can’t move backwards to get up from the desk. They use non-violent protest to force me to stay on my computer and write. Aren’t they helpful?

How do you reconcile a full-time job with being a novelist? Any tips for writers with a real life?

It’s all about discipline and routine. You’ve got to have the discipline to sit down and write, even after a busy, stress filled day. Even when everyone else is going home to veg out in front of crappy reality TV and all you want to do is sleep. To do this, I need to have a routine. Mine involves: leave work (on time!), listen to loud heavy metal during the drive home, take the dog out for a run, cook dinner, then write! I’m allowed a break for dessert. If I start to flake, I’m allowed peppermint tea. So my advice would be: get yourself a routine, stay with it until it sticks.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your newbie-writer self years ago?

Do more exercise! Yeah, all those words you’re writing are great and all, but get your arse out of the chair for once and go run around a bit, or swim, or join a gym. You have no idea how difficult it can be to write with a bad back. Maybe you should think about trying to prevent that?

You can find out more about Jo here:

Twitter @joanneanderton

And of course, order her book here. Also available from the regular international sellers.

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