In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.
Today’s guest is the splendid Narelle M. Harris, who I met at my first Conitnuum–after which she was kind enough to take the time to give me some excellent writing advice. Not only an extremely talented author, Narelle is also someone who possesses the best qualities of being a passionate fan and I have loved being on panels with her–especially Doctor Who ones!
- describe your current situation (working full time/part time/stay at home etc)
I work as a freelance corporate writer, essentially part time, though I take on roles for a few weeks solid at a time if that’s the work that comes in.
I live with my husband, Tim Richards, and our cat Petra. We don’t have kids, and that’s given me a certain flexibility all my writing life.
- how does this situation impact your writing?
Generally, it’s all good. Because it’s part time I still have plenty of time for writing, but actually, for most of my working and writing life, I worked full time and wrote novels by putting aside two evenings a week (minimum) and also writing sometimes on weekends, other nights, at lunchtimes etc.
- are there other people whose support allow you to write (financially, or even emotionally)?
My husband, Tim Richards, has been the cornerstone of my writing career. He has supported my financially when I’ve been between jobs, but mostly we’ve shared expenses. The primary support I’ve had from him is emotional and also in terms of organising. He knows how important my writing is to me, so he makes sure I’ve had the time to write even when I had full time jobs. He works with me to set aside the time I need, he provides encouragement and positive feedback, he buys me icecream when I have to recover from a rejection letter and he makes sure he plugs my work on social media etc when it gets published.
Even more materially, he looks out for opportunities for me. Alongside writing, I do public speaking at libraries etc, about writing and reading. (I often make more money in a year from the talks and workshops than I have from my books and short stories.) My recent few days spent at five libraries in the Wimmera region came about because he was contacted abuot his own talks, he was going to be overseas for them, so he passed my details on to the library organiser. We spoke, they took me on board and off I went.
Tim also helped to arrange transport for me with Great Southern Rail, so that I could catch the Overland to Horsham and blogged about it for him – so he both helped me make money and to save money.
Tim is fucking awesome.
- What are some of the challenges your situation brings? (time/guilt/financial hardship)
Making sure I have enough freelance work to pay the bills while still having enough time to write my fiction and to do my talks/workshops which also bring money in for me. Luckily, we live fairly frugally and don’t have kids.
My biggest challenge is that I always want more time for fiction writing; it’s also quite stressful running my own freelance business now, looking for work and finding new clients, as not all clients provide regular periodic income.
- What sacrifices do you have to make to write?
We’ve made choices about living more frugally, and so we have to plan expenditure carefully. So far it’s worked very well. Sometimes, if I’m approaching a deadline (for my freelance work or for a novel/short story) we have to negotiate time sometimes.
- If there have been other scenarios in the past, were they easier/harder, how were they different?
As metnioned previously, when I had to work full time, it was much more difficult. Tim and I always worked together to make sure I had time to write, but it was frustrating for me, especially when I was doing jobs that made me unhappy, but we had a mortgage to pay off as well as bills, and those couldn’t be left to one income.
- What would you see as the ideal? Full time writing? A different job?
Now that the mortgage is paid off, we’re both much happier and the pressure is off. We both still need to work to pay bills, but we both have a lot more time. I feel like just now I’m in a perfect balance of freelance work and fiction. Obviously my ideal would be to make a living from my fiction (and the talks) but I’m much better off than many writers and have achieved a lot of success in both arenas, so I’m pretty content.
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer of crime, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and non-fiction. Her books include Fly By Night (nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Novel), fantasies Witch Honour and Witch Faith (both short-listed for the George Turner Prize) and vampire book, The Opposite of Life, set in Melbourne.
In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, was released by Clan Destine Press in June 2012, and was nominated for the Chronos Awards for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing.
In 2013, Narrelle also began writing erotic romance with Encounters (Clan Destine Press) and Escape Publishing. Six short stories have been published to date and her first full-length work, Ravenfall, has just been completed.
Currently, her fantasy novel Kitty and Cadaver is with an agent, and her pitch for a Holmes/Watson romance was accepted by Improbable Press, so she’s working on The Adventure of the Colonial Boy.
Find out more about Narrelle’s work at her her blog, www.mortalwords.com.au.