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Lisa Ireland is an Australian author and writing mentor. She writes across several genres including modern historical fiction, contemporary fiction and rural romance. Her novels include The One and Only Dolly Jamieson, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan, The Shape of Us, and the Australian bestseller, Feels Like Home. Her eighth novel, The Studio Girls, will be released in April 2024.
Lisa lives in a tiny town in Gippsland, Victoria. When she’s not writing, she can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee at her local coffee shop, walking her boxer, Lulu, or on the couch binge watching her favourite character-driven TV shows.
To keep up to date on Lisa’s writing life, see photos of her (adorable) dog and to discover exactly what constitutes the perfect coffee cup, you can follow her here:
If you're a reader...
You’ll find behind-the-scenes extras on my books (including deleted scenes exclusive to newsletter subscribers).
If you're a writer...
You’ll find plenty of resources and writing tips here to support you on your journey.
my perfect weekend
I’ve always loved reading. When I was a child I devoured books and was always bugging my mum to take to the library to get more. She suggested I should start writing my own stories, so I did!
However, I never really believed I’d be published. I grew up in an outer-western suburb of Melbourne in the 1970s and 80s. Back then becoming a writer seemed impossible for a girl like me. I dreamed of being a full-time writer but that dream didn’t come true until I was in my forties.
I guess the reason I write is to make sense of the world! Even if I wasn’t published I would still write. I don’t know how not to!
When I was on parental leave after having my youngest son I started a diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. In a round about way this course led to me joining the Romance Writers of Australia. Between the course and RWA I learned lots about writing novels.
I started entering competitions and even won some! This gave me the confidence to start submitting to publishers. In 2013 I pitched a novel to an editor at the annual RWA conference and it got picked up! I’ve published a book almost every year since that first novel came out in 2014.
When it comes to starting reading a book or watching a movie, it’s always the characters that suck me in. And when it comes to my own work, it’s no different. I always find myself starting with a character and a situation and going from there. At first, those characters led me to write romance and then women’s fiction and most recently, they’ve led me to explore things like the women’s rights movement with modern history through dual-timeline novels.
But I think if I look at the books I’ve written, what they all have in common is that they’re about complex, strong women and the relationships that shape their lives.
Like every writer, this is such a hard question for me to answer, but I‘ll give it a shot!
Childhood favourites were Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and the Julie Gordon series by Estelle Grey.
My absolute favourite author is Jennifer Weiner. Not only do I love her books, but I love how she supports and advocates for women writers. I love anything written by Anne Tyler, and am a huge fan of Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout and Margaret Atwood. If I had to choose, my all time favourite book would be Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
I particularly love reading Australian writers and I can’t go past anything by Kelly Rimmer, Jane Cockram, Kylie Ladd, Kirsty Manning or Sally Hepworth. I’m a sucker for a great rural romance and my all time favourite in that genre is Man Drought by Rachael Johns.
Read widely! All writers should be reading in the genre they wish to be published in and also more widely. I know this sounds like very basic advice, but so many aspiring authors tell me they don’t have time to read. The good news is – reading is part of your job if you want to be a writer!
This leads to my second piece of advice – don’t be afraid to just write. Writing is one of those things like riding a bike – you can read about it, watch videos, listen to podcasts and so on, BUT you can only learn how to do it by actually giving it a go. It’s never too soon (or too late) to start!
I love sharing what I know with emerging authors and try to give back to the community as much as I can. I run a free weekly writing advice session called Mentor Mondays on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Of course, I also offer private and group mentorship sessions (you can learn more about them here).
I have written seven books so far (and half a dozen or so partial books!) and I’ve used a different process for each one. My first book was completely ‘pantsed’. (Written without planning, ‘by the seat of my pants!’) The second and third were quite tightly plotted. The next four were ‘plantsed’ – a combination of plotting and pantsing. I’m thinking the next one (whatever that may be!) might be plotted a bit more tightly. I do like to mix things up a bit!
I often talk about my ever-evolving process in my Mentor Monday videos. One of these days I’m going to get it down to a fine art – just you wait and see!
Firstly, congratulations on starting (or even finishing) a manuscript! These are big steps in the life of a writer and asking this question is a great sign you’re making progress.
While I’m not currently offering a full manuscript assessment or editing service, I do offer private and group mentorships which include feedback on submitted work.
However, if you are looking for feedback on a full-length novel, I’d suggest getting in touch with your local writer’s centre—they will be able to point you to some specialised editing professionals in your area.
Please feel free to take a look at the ‘For Writers’ section of my site for some writing resources. You might also find my Facebook and Instagram pages and my monthly newsletter to be helpful on your journey to publication.
Meticulously! I’ve been known to drive a couple of hours just to watch the sunset in a location and make sure I’ve gotten the details just right. Of course, as novelists we never get it exactly right (and it really annoys us when a mistake slips through). But the beauty (and the curse) of writing modern historical fiction is that there are so many primary sources available.
Generally, I use a combination of:
- Newspaper Articles
- Oral and written history (read about the letters that inspired The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan)
- Research papers
- Respected websites whose content I can verify
It’s a lot of work and takes up a decent chunk of my initial writing time but given I’m writing in the time of people’s mothers, grandparents and great-grandparents, it feels so important to make sure I get things right wherever I can.