Our creative writing courses have once more been featured in influential book-industry blog BookMachine – this time in the form of an interview with our former student and bestselling author of The Dry Jane Harper (above). Here, she speaks to Norah Myers about her reasons for joining CBC, her advice for those thinking of applying to the courses and what the future holds for her.
What motivated you to sign up for an online writing course with Curtis Brown Creative?
I wanted to take a writing course because I felt I needed some external motivation to focus seriously on writing a novel. I was attracted to Curtis Brown Creative’s online writing courses because they offered good opportunity for feedback and discussion, and a Q&A day with the agents. I was also able to take part in the online course while continuing to work full-time.
You wrote your first full draft of your novel in just three months. How did the course help that happen?
I’ve always worked best to deadlines, and being on the course encouraged me to concentrate on writing and made me realise that I actually could finish the first draft of a novel if I focused. I found the group feedback very useful, and the discussions with course tutor Lisa O’Donnell and the other students motivated me to continue writing and to try to improve.
What advice would you give anyone who wishes to take a Curtis Brown Creative online course?
Come prepared to take your writing seriously and be willing to take the feedback on board. I learned so much from the group and one-on-one discussions, but it is only valuable if you are willing to act on it and make changes and do rewrites as necessary. It takes work to improve but it is worth it if you end up with a novel you are proud of. The online course is also a lot of fun and I really enjoyed getting to know other writers from around the world and seeing the work they produced.
How did you land your agent?
My debut novel The Dry won the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in May 2015 before I had submitted it to any agents. I very quickly had discussions with Curtis Brown as the Australian company approached me upon winning the prize, and I’d had that contact with the agency during the course.
I am now lucky enough to be represented by lead agent Clare Forster from Curtis Brown Australia, Alice Lutyens from Curtis Brown in London, along with Kate Cooper managing foreign rights. With feedback from my agent, I worked up another, longer draft of the manuscript, and this was the one we submitted to publishers worldwide, selling first in Australia, then around the world.
What are your plans for your second book?
My next book is another mystery set in isolated regional Australia. It will be out in October 2017 in Australia and early in 2018 in the UK and US. It’s not a direct sequel to The Dry, but the main character, Aaron Falk, returns — a little bruised but a little wiser. The novel is similar to The Dry in tone and feel, with a few twists and turns along the way!
Jane Harper studied the Curtis Brown Creative three-month online novel writing course in October 2014. During the course she wrote her first novel, The Dry, an atmospheric thriller set in a drought-stricken Australian community.
The Dry won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015. Rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories and been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard. Jane lives in Melbourne and worked as a print journalist for 13 years on newspapers in the UK and Australia.
For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:
Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Sunday 21 January).
Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Sunday 28 January).
For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:
Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sunday 4 February).
We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:
Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).
Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).
Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).