Today I have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Tess Woods, author of Love at First Flight, which has the captivating tagline – “What if you met the love of your life and he wasn’t your husband?” To read my review of Love at First Flight click here.
A warm welcome Tess, thank you for being here 🙂
Thank you so much for having me on your blog lovely Alicia! This is my last interview before I go underground and write book three for the next five months so it’s lovely that it’s with you!
I just finished reading Love at First Flight and adored it. Please tell our readers about your wonderful novel.
I’m always nervous when other writers read my work so it’s a real thrill that you enjoyed it. Thank you! Here’s the premise of the story in a nutshell with the back cover blurb –
Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, her picture-perfect life unravels. Seated on the plane she meets Matt, and for the first time ever she falls in love.
What begins as a flirty conversation quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with consequences that neither Mel nor Matt seems capable of facing. As the fallout touches friends and family, Mel’s dream romance turns into a nightmare. She learns that there are some wounds that never heal and some scars that you wouldn’t do without.
I really should memorise that back cover blurb because when people ask me what the book’s about I usually just ramble and say things like “well, it’s about this woman who has an affair but then it all turns to shit.” I think I need to work on my pitch to be honest…
Whose perspective did you find more challenging to write from – Mel or Matt’s?
Oh without a doubt Matt, that pesky bugger was a nightmare to write. Mel was in her thirties, like I was, a married mother, just like me and a health professional from Perth – also just like me! (Side note –the story is actually fiction. Fiction people, don’t forget that!) But writing Matt was a whole different story – writing from a male perspective and making it convincing was such a challenge. I had to draft and redraft Matt’s dialogue and narrative over and over until he finally sounded like a young bloke, not a middle aged woman who said things like, “oh my”. I learned that guys in their twenties do not say “oh my”!
Was it difficult to write from a male perspective?
Yes, very. Refer to question 2! Getting into Matt’s head space was a killer. I kept trying to imagine how a man would react to different scenarios and often, when I checked with my husband, I was wrong. For example, I would describe Matt looking at Mel and the things I wrote about, my husband would laugh at and say, “Ah she was wearing a top that showed her cleavage, babe – ain’t no man gonna notice what kind of earrings she has on.”
Are you a “plotter” or “pantser” writer? What do you find are the pros and cons of each method?
I’m a pantser through and through. I often don’t know what will happen in the scene I’m about to write let alone the rest of the book. When writing LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT, I would go into a daze while getting the words out and then I would read over what I had written to actually find out myself what had just happened because after I write intensely I literally have no memory of what I just wrote. It’s like I blackout or something when I write. Yeah. I’m weird. I know.
With my follow up novel BEAUTIFUL MESSY LOVE and with my third novel LOVE AND OTHER BATTLES (that I’m just about to start), I had to pitch them to my publisher Mary over the phone. When I handed in BEAUTIFUL MESSY LOVE it was nothing like the pitch, it had just taken on a whole new life of its own. The characters were the same but that was about it! With LOVE AND OTHER BATTLES, I asked Mary if she wanted a written synopsis after I pitched over the phone. She said, ‘No, just go and write it.’ I think she’s figured out that my synopsis would just be a big fat heap of false promises!
As for pros and cons – I’m jealous of plotters. I imagine them as people with very neat houses and matching bras and knickers….
Does the saying “re-writing is the essence of good writing” ring true to you?
Hell yes! Eleven full re-writes it took from draft one to the book you just read. That’s eleven FULL rewrites, not just light changes here and there. To be honest, whenever I flip open a page of LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT even now, I think oh gawd, I wish I could rewrite that.
I also think the essence of good writing is getting other people to throw in their two cents worth. My novel improved beyond measure with the input of others. As the author it’s hard to step away from your own work and see what others see. Having work critiqued is a must for me. It took a village to write LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT, luckily I get all the glory though – heehee haha hoho!
What was your journey to publication like?
Loooooong. It took seven and a half years from when I thought, “I know! I’ll write a book!” to when I actually held that book in my hands. In that time it was rejected over twenty times, was rewritten eleven times and I had roughly six hundred meltdowns and consumed 1.7k blocks of Dairy Milk. There were times I thought it would never see a shelf but funnily enough, the day it made it, those seven and a half years of trials were instantly forgotten. No amount of trauma leading up to publication felt anywhere near as strong as the elation of walking past a bookshop and seeing it in the window. Not even close!
Who would you cast in a film or miniseries adaptation of Love at First Flight?
I love this question! I don’t get authors who don’t love this question. I mean, don’t we all dream of our books as movies? Who would be upset for God’s sake if Angelina called you up and said “I want to produce the film version of your incredible novel.” Stop being so up yourselves and tell us who would be in the damn movie versions – you know who you are up-yourselves authors. Sorry, slight rant detour there!
Rightio, back to the movie stars…So Mel would be Rose Byrne – she kind of has that face that looks confused all the time, literally in every movie she looks so confused, like she can’t remember where she left her keys. That face is perfect for this role!
Adam would be Hugh Jackman – everyone loves him. He’s the perfect male specimen, right? How could anyone cheat on Hugh Jackman? But then Mel does…oooh….
Now Matt is a hard one because when I was first asked this question a couple of years ago, and I was writing the book I kept thinking how good would Orlando Bloom be as Matt? He’s all moody and three day growthy and frowns a lot and he has good abs. But Matt is rather young, and these last two years, poor old Orlando is starting to look a bit long in the tooth. Maybe Zac Efron now? But not pretty boy High School Musical Zac, I mean the Zac who got busted for drugs and was totally messed up. That kind of unpolished Zac would make a good Matt.
There are some hot sex scenes in this book. I’ve heard a few authors describe the difficulties of writing good sex scenes. Was it tough to balance these scenes so that they were raunchy and passionate without falling into the trap of using bad euphemisms?
I wrote sex scenes that were the type of scenes I would want to read. The sex scenes I remember most are from THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and THE HORSE WHISPERER. They are always the first two that come to mind when I think of sex scenes I’ve read. Lately I’ve loved Jennie Jones’ sex scenes as well. All of those scenes aren’t glossy and pretty, they’re real and raw and hot and the best thing, is that they are really, really realistic. So that’s what I was going for in my writing. When Mel was having sex with Matt, I wanted my readers to imagine themselves having sex with Matt. I wanted it to be hot enough that they wanted it to be them having sex with Matt. So I wrote scenes where my readers could easily picture what was going on and I used no flowery language. It was brutally realistic.
I initially wrote the book without such strong sex scenes, in fact there was one sex scene in the whole book not four, but my manuscript assessor prised them out of me and I’m so glad she did. In BEAUTIFUL MESSY LOVE, the challenge was to write new fresh sex scenes. I think it will get harder to be original with each book without straying too far from what I would want to read myself.
What are the hardest lessons you’ve had to learn as a writer?
I have hundreds of hard lessons!
Here are my top 10:
- Your first draft will suck. Your second draft will also suck. And that’s okay.
- Rejection letters make great stories at author talks once you’ve had success. Cherish them when they come. Keep them somewhere safe where you can easily find them to quote from them when you’re paid to go and give talks. Best. Revenge. Ever.
- Everything in the publishing industry, especially waiting to hear back about submissions, is done on Fiji time. Go to Fiji and you’ll know what I mean. Except when you get an edit to hand in, all of sudden you’re then on New York minutes!
- Writing makes your bum get bigger. Get off the couch and walk.
- When you’re an unknown author, remember that nobody is waiting for your debut to come out except for you and your mum. Don’t think that anybody will be excited about your release unless you take matters into your own hands and make people excited.
- Ignore people who one star review your work. They know not what they do. (Also if you go around one star reviewing people’s books you need to go to yoga or get one of those mindfulness colouring books or something!)
- Just because friends or family don’t buy your book it doesn’t mean they don’t love you or aren’t proud of you.
- There are lunatics on Facebook. Like serious lunatics. Meet as many people as you can in the flesh before you become too close online.
- Writing is one of the hardest ways to earn a living. Don’t ever do it for the money. For every Tim Winton there are fifty-thousand other starving writers.
- Take social media off your phone if you want to meet writing deadlines.
If you won a ticket to fly anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Straight to New York where I’d hotfoot it to my girlfriend Engy’s house – the distance between us kills me.
Many authors travel to the locations they write about. Will you be setting any future novels in exotic locations?
Funnily enough I’ve travelled a lot, but base my stories in Australia. This December I’m travelling to the North Pole. As in THE North Pole. How exotic is that for a location? Knowing me, I’ll come home from there and write about Broken Hill….
On your website you say you have a paralysing fear of monkeys. Is there a story behind this?
No, no story needed. Have you seen monkeys? Have you seen them laugh? How can anyone NOT be scared? Animals are NOT supposed to laugh. Humans laugh. Monkeys have no business laughing. Also, thank you for taking care of tonight’s nightmares for me because you know now I’m going to imagine a story, right?
At the end of this year you are running your first writer’s retreat in Wales. Sounds fabulous! How can our readers find out more information about future writing retreats?
I hope it will be fabulous or there will some very angry retreat goers chasing me around the Wales mountainside with pitchforks! I’m considering a local retreat in WA mid-2018 and maybe a retreat in the US in December 2018. I’d love to be able to combine work with my family’s insatiable wanderlust.
So because my retreat booked out in a day (I know right?) I had people ask me if they could be told about future retreats before I made a public announcement. I guess my public announcement would be kind of annoying then wouldn’t it? “Hey here’s my next retreat but you’re too late!” Anyway, despite the real chance of pissing people off with a pointless public announcement, that is what I’ve started doing so if anyone wants to know of future retreats before I make them known to everyone else, just email me at email@example.com and you’ll go on the first-to-know list. I also have a waiting list for the Wales retreat in case anybody cancels. But I hope they don’t because I have somehow landed the six absolute loveliest writers to go on retreat in the history of ever and would be devastated if any of them pulled out.
For anyone wanting to suss out what my retreats involve and the cost etc, here’s where you can take a good long sticky beak without anyone knowing:
What are you working on now?
This month I’m finishing off edits for BEAUTIFUL MESSY LOVE, my second novel that will be released on August 1st this year (thank you for the shameless plug opportunity.) Here’s the blurb:
Nick Harding is Australia’s most popular footballer and a notorious bad boy, who is trying to hide a season-threatening injury. When he hobbles into the Black Salt Café the morning after the night before, he is served by a girl with haunted eyes and no interest in footballers famous or otherwise. Nick is instantly drawn to this quirky intelligent girl. But a relationship between them spells shame for Anna Hayati’s family and prejudice towards Nick that could ruin his career.
Meanwhile, his sister, Lily, is struggling to finish her medical degree. When she meets Toby, it seems for the first time she is following her heart instead of the expectations of others. But what starts out as a passionate affair with a man who has just buried his wife is quickly in jeopardy as Lily and Toby negotiate the social conventions around bereavement and grief and letting go.
Both these couples discover just how much scandal, prejudice and tragedy they must endure for the sake of beautiful messy love.
A West Side Story for the modern day.
At the moment when people ask me what the story is about I say “It’s about four people in their twenties whose lives turn to shit”. Time to work on that pitch too I think!
In another interview you said reading Twilight was the catalyst that inspired you to write Love at First Flight. What do you think it was about Twilight that lit the creative fuse for you and got you writing?
I was so obsessed with those Twilight books, I lost a week’s worth of sleep to find out what happened. My poor kids lived on fish fingers and two minute noodles! The only reason I read that series was because of all the hype on E!News about Twilight (if E!News gets excited about something, I get excited!) Anyway, the first Twilight movie was on at the cinema at the time when I read the books and I dragged my best friend to go see it with me. That night I dreamed about Mel and the next day I started writing. So even though my story is nothing like Twilight (not a sparkly vampire in sight), obviously something in that series inspired me and I think it was the fact that Bella and Edward just couldn’t keep away from each other no matter what the consequences were and who got hurt, it still wasn’t enough to stop them.
Can you tell our readers more about the charity organisations you’re involved with – Meals by Mums and Share the Dignity? Where can they go to find out more and help out?
Meals by Mums is my baby, I’m so passionate about it. I started this group in 2013 after my daughter said, “I wish he could have had your food instead,” when I bought a homeless man a Whopper burger from Hungry Jacks. I went home and spent the next six months fighting government departments about starting it up – they were royal pains but I finally got my way. So then I bullied my friends into helping me and Meals by Mums was born. We’re a group of mums who meet once a term in the school canteen and cook 120 yummy dinners good enough to feed our own children. Then we individually freeze and label those meals and they get delivered to a drop in centre where people who are sleeping rough on the streets can drop in at any time and microwave a nutritious big dinner. There are lots of organisations around that provide soup kitchen services for the homeless, but what we wanted was meals that were just sitting there ready so that people could eat whenever they were hungry and not be limited to certain soup kitchen times.
We don’t have anything formal like a website but if people want to run their own Meals by Mums, they just need a group of mums, a willing school who will loan out the canteen and a drop off centre willing to freeze their food. A refrigerated truck has to deliver the food but apart from that – just go for it!
I joined Share the Dignity as a writer for them for press releases, appeal letters, ambassador and sponsor letters or anything else they might need in the middle of last year after I saw a call out on Facebook that a writer was needed. Share the Dignity is the brain child of my amazing brilliant friend Rochelle Courtenay and our goal is to give some dignity back to homeless women living on the streets or in domestic violence shelters. There are so many campaigns that Share the Dignity run – the #itsinthebag campaign ran in the lead up to this Christmas where a whopping 102k Australian women filled a bag with essential and luxury items for a homeless woman. How AWESOME is that figure!!! I think we’re all still happy dancing over that one! A current campaign is the 50c challenge where we are asking Australians between now and the end of the financial year to save all their 50c pieces in a jar then send that money in to Share the Dignity and get a tax rebate. To find out more about all the incredible work that Share the Dignity do, visit www.sharethedignity.com.au
Do you think you will always write in the romance genre or would you like to try to write for different audiences/genres in the future?
I had an idea for a psychological thriller that I pitched to my publisher and she got super excited about it. But we both agreed now is not the time. I want to build my romance audience first and then totally screw them over! Kidding! I’m kidding! I want to build my romance audience first and then maybe after five or six books branch out and write under another name and get the thriller published. Who knows what the future holds!
Thanks again Alicia and Happy New Year xx
Thank you Tess, it’s been a pleasure having you on the blog. I’m very excited to read Beautiful Messy Love x
Love at First Flight is available at all good bookstores or can purchased online through vendors like booktopia.