Amanda: Congratulations, Joanne! I am truly happy for you.
Joanne: Thank you very much.
Amanda: How does it feel to win?
Joanne: Surreal. Exciting.
Amanda: What made you enter?
Joanne: When I was on the Writers Write course, I was taught by Mia Botha who won the Mills & Boon Voice of Africa Competition. She encouraged us to enter writing competitions, and she planted a seed.
Amanda: I have to ask this. Have the writing courses helped?
Joanne: Absolutely. I knew I wanted to write a book. I made up my mind at the beginning of 2011 that I was going to write but I didn’t know where to begin. Writers Write really helped me. I had so many preconceived ideas for writing a book that were wrong.
Amanda: It is amazing how we think we should just be able to do it…
Joanne: It really is. What the course did for me was give me practical guidelines. It gave me the tools to structure a novel properly. I hadn’t really thought about it before then. For example, the inciting moment hadn’t occurred to me before I signed up for the course. The course, and Mia, inspired me. It gave me the confidence to carry on.
Amanda: It’s good to know we’re doing something that works. Where did you get the idea for the story? It’s a psychological thriller, isn’t it?
Joanne: Yes. After battling somewhere between the chick lit and thriller genres, I took some advice and decided on the thriller.
Amanda: I’m glad. What is it called?
Joanne: I think I’ve settled on Layers. The idea has been brewing for a while. Emma Paige, my protagonist, has to deal with date rape, which is a huge problem today. And rape and sexual abuse is so bad in South Africa. I wanted a vehicle to show how this changes a woman’s life.
Amanda: all the layers of her life, I suppose.
Joanne: And a novel seemed an ideal way to do it. I wanted to write something meaningful without ‘preaching’.
Amanda: Show, not tell…
Joanne: As I learnt on Writers Write. In fact I decided to enrol for Writers Write 2 after finishing the course to finish plotting the book.
Amanda: Which you’ve completed after winning the prize?
Joanne: Yes, it was an amazing experience. Ulrike was our facilitator and the course forced me to hone the idea into a proper plot. I used the second course to incorporate the feedback from the judges. I was able to use their advice as I refined it into a new novel.
Amanda: You made the long list of the competition on the strength of a synopsis and three chapters?
Joanne: Yes, I decided to enter the competition after I came across it accidentally. I had three weeks and I sat down and wrote until the deadline. I finished at midnight the day before I had to send the entry off.
Amanda: I remember you missed one of our writing dinners because you had to finish. You missed a date to meet that deadline. You’re living proof that you can write if you really want to.
Joanne: And if you have the tools. When I was told I made the shortlist, I wrote another six chapters in a week. I never thought I would make it so I had this wait and see attitude.
Amanda: I’m impressed!
Joanne: If I make up my mind to do something, I do it. I want to write. I have been in PR, marketing and events, but I really want to write novels.
Amanda: I think, with your determination, and your lovely writing style, you have a brilliant chance of making that dream come true.
Amanda Patterson is the CEO of Writers Write and the author of The Plain Language Programme.