AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET TESS WOODS

Tess Woods is a physiotherapist who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Her first novel, Love at First Flight, released by HarperCollins in April 2015, received worldwide critical acclaim, hit the best-seller charts in Australia and was voted Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Awards 2015 where Tess was also top ten nominated as Best New Author. Love at First Flight is the first HarperCollins Australia digital book to be given a print release in August 2016. Find out more here.

I will be interviewing Tess at the Perth launch of the print edition of Love at First Flight on August 5, but for those who can’t be there, here’s a sneak peek (click the link above for my review).

Monique: Your first book, Love at First Flight, was published digitally in 2015. Can you tell readers a bit about the book?

Tess: Love at First Flight is the story of a woman who from the outside seems to have it all – great career, wonderful husband, beautiful kids, a comfortable lifestyle. The story focuses on what happens when she lets it all unravel for an obsessive love affair. Mel meets Matt when he’s seated next to her on a flight and that instant attraction starts something that very quickly spirals out of control. Love at First Flight is a look at marriage and relationships and one woman’s journey in figuring it all out.

Monique: What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

Tess: I’ve been blown away by the warm response I’ve received from readers all over the world. Mel’s story has resonated with thousands of readers which was exactly what I’d hoped for. Of course not everyone who read it loved it but the overwhelming response has been heart-warming.

Monique: What was your reaction when HarperCollins said they would print the book? Is it much different to the digital version?

Tess: There was some serious screaming! It was actually my agent Jacinta di Mase who broke the news to me and she’s probably still recovering from my delirious reaction that may well have sent her deaf! It’s a more finely tuned version of the original eBook as it went through another round of structural and copy edits.

Monique: I’m looking forward to interviewing you at the launch in August. Can you tell readers what sort of fun you’re planning for the party?

Tess: Well, you being there is fun number one! We have a full cabin crew who look absolutely gorgeous in their HarperCollins Airways outfits to make guests welcome and serve dinner, there’s an amazing all girl band Velvet Amps who will get the dance floor pumping and we’ll have Dymocks there as well selling books that I’ll sign. It should be a wonderful night! The entire evening is Flight themed for extra fun xx

Monique: I understand you’re well on the way with another novel. Can you tell readers a bit about this one?

Tess: I’ve now sent off Beautiful Messy Love, my second novel, to my beautiful publisher Mary at HarperCollins . Here’s the blurb:

The sequel to Love at First Flight, set four years later when Mel’s teenage children, Nick and Lily, are now in their early twenties. The story is set in Perth and covers three weeks that are spread out over a seven month football season, starting with the first game of the year and ending with the Grand Final.

Lily, a student doctor who’s struggling with a lack of direction, falls in love with Toby, the husband of one of her dying cancer patients. Meanwhile Nick faces a career crisis as Australia’s highest paid footballer when he suffers a serious injury just as he meets Anna Hayati, a Muslim refugee who changes his life.

Told through the eyes of Lily, Nick, Toby and Anna, Beautiful Messy Love explores the Australian asylum seeker crisis, the ongoing bigotry towards Muslims, the reality of terrorism in the Middle East as well as what goes on behind-the-scenes in an AFL team, what happens when having family loyalty and chasing your dreams don’t go together, and the aftermath of death both through illness and suicide on loved ones. And of course, as the title suggests, it explores how messy love can also be the most beautiful.

 Monique: You’re a physiotherapist in your day job. What made you turn to writing?

Tess: Madness is what my husband will tell you! I was compelled to write after a strong vision of Mel in Love at First Flight came to me out of nowhere. There was no forethought or planning to become an author, it just happened.

Monique: What other writing projects are you involved with at the moment?

Tess: I’m thrilled to be a part of Writing the Dream with Serenity Press alongside twenty-three other fabulous authors. Our anthology comes out later this year where we’ll all share our journey to publication and give advice to aspiring authors.

Monique: How much time do you put into marketing? What does this involve for you? How did you know what to do?

Tess: I put in several hours a week into marketing. It’s almost a job in itself! I schedule two to three posts a week on my Facebook page and I write a monthly newsletter as well as reviewing books and writing tips for writers every month. I also manage my own website which requires attention. I actually had no idea what to do when I started but my girlfriends who were already in the business – Natasha Lester and Steph Pegler pointed me in the right direction.

Monique: Describe yourself as a writer in three words. 

Tess: Determined, passionate, emotional.

Monique: Can you take us through a “typical” writing day?

Tess: I totally can’t! I have typical writing days when I’m in editing mode which is usually to fit in at least two or three and up to six or seven hours a day of editing but when I’m writing to create, my life becomes a shambles! I can write for upwards of ten hours a day and barely sleep to try and fit it in around work and being a mum.

Monique: How do you start a novel?

Tess: With one scene, one idea. With both of my novels, these weren’t at the start of the book. With LAFF it was a scene somewhere in the middle of the book and peculiarly with Beautiful Messy Love, the epilogue is the first thing that came to me so then I had to figure out the entire book to lead up to it.

Monique: What do you do when you’re having doubts about your writing? What happens when you get stuck?

Tess: My process is the same whenever that happens:

  1. Cry to myself
  2. Cry to my mum, hubby and best friend
  3. Get over it!

Monique: What has writing taught you about resilience?

Tess: So, so much! My first book was rejected twenty-three times. I have been on the end of scathing reviews. This business is tough; you either sink or swim when it comes to knock-backs and negative feedback.

Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?

Tess: Getting distracted by the kids, phone calls, texts, Facebook – I’m always looking for distractions! I’ll even pretend that the dog needs to be let out when he’s completely settled to give myself a distraction.

Monique: What’s the biggest myth about being a writer?

Tess: That it’s fun. It’s not. I never have fun when I write.  Mostly it’s anxiety or boredom or self-loathing or the trifecta of all three at once. Fun is when people read your book and love it, when you see your name on a cover, when you sign a publishing deal – that’s all great fun for sure. But actually sitting there and writing? So not fun!

Monique: Which book are you reading now?

Tess: I haven’t read for about two weeks as I’ve been scrambling to finish Beautiful Messy Love but I’m just about to go away and have packed a heap of books with me including Missing You by Kylie Kaden and The One Who Got Away by Caroline Overington. Can’t wait to get stuck in!

Monique: Which authors/books do you admire the most?

Tess: I admire authors who make me feel like I’ve known the people in their books all my life, I think that’s a true gift  – and  I don’t think anybody does this better than the late great Maeve Binchy who is my all-time favourite author.

Monique: Which “must-read” book have you not read?

Tess: I actually had to Google this because I was cocky enough to think I’ve read them all! So I Googled ‘must read books’ and found that I haven’t read Frankenstein. Thanks but no thanks for me on that one! I had read forty-six out of the fifty books on that list though so now I’m back to feeling cocky again!