It feels like local writer JT Lawrence is everywhere on the local book scene at the moment. Everywhere I turn I see someone recommending one of her novels, or her collection of short stories. Her stories range from domestic thrillers, dystopian imaginings and a raw, hilarious memoir of her own struggle with infertility. Best of all, she is one of the many writers forging a new path in indie publishing, reaching readers and creating a career as a professional writer in the process. In between publishing books at the speed of light, she gave me a few moments to discuss her career to date.
1. Tell us about your journey as a writer - when did you first decide you wanted to start writing fiction, and how has your writing career progressed since then?
Writing has always come naturally to me. In primary school there were handwritten comics and stories, and typed-out novellas — printed on our shiny dot matrix printer — and I went through a phase of writing ‘newsletters’ in primary school documenting my eccentric childhood habits, like bathing with socks on, and baking chocolate cake in the microwave. I still know the words to the first poem I ever wrote (at seven) because my cruel family would recite it back to me at every single opportunity until I blushed. It was a four-liner called ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Dragon’.
2. How has your career as a book dealer and playwright intersected with that of being a writer?
They all inform each other: as a book dealer I see what sells, and as a playwright I get to practice action and dialogue. On a more practical level, my book dealing business pays for my writing time, although last year, for the first time, the income from my writing superseded that of Pulp. Now I see them both as businesses, whereas I used to see writing as more of a hobby.
3. What has your experience of self-publishing been? Do you prefer it to the traditional publishing model?
Absolutely. It is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I don’t even submit my work to traditional publishers anymore. I’ve never been this excited to be a writer.
4. What is your tip to standing out as a writer?
I’ll let you know once I start standing out!
5. What do you think about the current literary landscape?
I find it in turn depressing and exciting. I thinks loads of fantastic manuscripts are being rejected by trads because they’re too edgy, not the ‘right’ genre, or are just seen as having little commercial value. Indie publishing turns this on its head, and that’s the exciting part.
6. You're a prolific writer, but also have a young family and a book dealing business. How do you maintain a regular discipline of writing?
Writing is my happy place, so I don’t need any discipline to keep it up. If I have a couple of hours free my first instinct is to grab my laptop and head to a coffee shop. It’s probably why I haven’t been to the hairdresser in 6 months. But who has time to get a haircut when there are so many books out there, nagging to be written?
7. What is your advice to new moms that are frustrated about not getting to their writing?
Give up TV, cooking and housework. Outsource your kids. If writing makes you happy, you must make time for it.
8. What do you wish you had known when you had first started writing?
I wish I had discovered indie publishing earlier. Making money and gaining readers is all about momentum and how big your backlist is. I wasted years waiting around, grubby manuscript in hand, hoping someone would pick me for their team. Now I run my own team.
9. What are your favourite reads at the moment?
I’m enjoying local authors at the moment. I’ve just finished Pamela Power’s Ms Conception. I love how funny and locally relevant it is. Some of her comments made me do a double-take they were so spot-on. Internationally, I’ve got a giant lit-crush on Michel Faber and would read his shopping list if it was offered to me.
Read more of Janita's writing and buy her books here.