From bookseller to author
An interview with Vanessa Garbin
In anticipation of the forthcoming release of Australian author Vanessa Garbin’s fifth thriller title, we find out more about the author’s background and influences.
TBF: Which books have influenced your writing most?
VG: I read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck when I was thirteen and it moved me so much that it has always stayed with me. Even thinking about it now makes me want to read it again. Such a sad and beautiful story. I remember being wowed by The Secret History by Donna Tartt when I read it, and I love anything written by Daphne du Maurier.
TBF: Where do you get your ideas from?
VG: My ideas always begin with characters. They’ll suddenly appear in my head and just hang around there for a while and then once they start speaking and doing things it all comes out in a rush and I write as much of the story down as I can on whatever is around me until I can get to my laptop and begin writing.
TBF: Many of your books have at their centre the relationships between parents and teenage children. Is this informed by your own experiences?
VG: My three kids are all in their teens at the moment – two of them newly adult teenagers, so I’d say that, yes, it has helped to write what I hope is an authentic portrayal of family life and the everchanging relationships between parents and their kids. I think this is probably why I cannot help but include one or two points of view from teenagers in my stories because I’m quite immersed in the world of teens in my daily life.
TBF: Do your own children read your books?
VG: My two daughters read most of my young adult books back when they came out, but my son was too young at the time. They haven’t read my domestic thrillers yet, but perhaps sometime in the future. But they are very supportive of my writing and will often help me out by reading passages I’ve written and commenting here and there what they think.
TBF: Often your books tell stories from multiple points of view. Why is this? Is it hard to keep abreast of this, and how do you handle the process?
VG: I’m not sure why this is, but it may be because I come from a large family and whenever we get together for birthdays or Christmas it’s a very noisy affair with conversations firing across the table in all directions.
I don’t find it too difficult to keep track of who is who story-wise, but I have since found that a list of character names helps with remembering who they are as I do tend to accidentally switch names for no good reason.
TBF: You worked as a bookseller. In what capacity? What did you learn about writing from this experience?
VG: Working at Collins Booksellers was such a great experience. I was writing my first young adult novel at the time and found it so helpful to be surrounded by books all day. You learn so much from the reader’s point of view, what they like, what they don’t like. All of us who worked there built strong relationships with our clients and we’d know exactly what they were looking for and which books to suggest based on their reading/purchase history.
I acquired a literary agent while working there, then signed my first writing contract, during which my colleagues fully supported me and celebrated along with me. When my book was released, I happened to be working that day and had the great satisfaction of opening my own box of books and putting up a window display. We launched my first and second releases at the bookstore, which was so much fun. The bookstore was part of a huge shopping complex, so I was fortunate enough to be visited by supportive staff from all the other stores and boutiques there, as well as my own friends and family. Lots of prosecco and fun was had by all 😊
Sadly, the bookstore has now closed doors, but it was an experience I am truly grateful for and will never forget.
TBF: You started writing Young Adult fiction. Why?
VG: I wrote my first novel when Young Adult was huge, so I was reading a lot of it at the time not only because there were so many great YA stories around, but also because as a bookseller I liked to keep up to date with what our customers were reading so that I could help recommend them new books. I’d say this influenced my writing at the time for sure.
TBF: Your earlier books were published by Harper Collins. How has the experience of working with a smaller publisher differed?
VG: I think both larger and smaller houses have wonderful things to offer in different ways. But I do like the fact that the publishing process moves much quicker with smaller publishers, and I think because they work with a smaller group of authors, there is the added benefit of greater communication between the two.
TBF: What are you reading at the moment?
VG: Being Elvis: A Lonely Life by Ray Connolly and The Lost Boy by Jane Renshaw.
TBF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
VG: Just to keep writing, even a little bit each day helps.
And read like a maniac. I find if I get stuck somewhere in my story, I stop and read a book by one of my favourite authors and by the end I’m usually so inspired I’m eager to get back to my work.
A full list of all of Vanessa’s books published by us, with links to purchase on Amazon is available here.