The pathway to publication for Australian authors is far from straightforward, as Flinders University senior lecturer in creative writing Dr Amy Matthews knows all too well. She divides her time between teaching literature and creative writing and getting her own works published – using her own byline, and under a pseudonym for a highly successful romantic fiction series in the US.
Writing as Tess LeSue, Dr Matthews is the author of sexy adventure stories with strong, sassy heroines and gallant, smouldering heroes, framing love stories against vast and dramatic backdrops that reach back in time.
The new release of Tess LeSue’s Bound For Glory marks the fourth instalment of her Frontiers of the Heart series, which has been published by Penguin Random House in the US. This historical Western romance series also includes Bound for Eden, Bound For Sin and Bound for Temptation, with each featuring mismatched couples willing to cross the country for a new life, risking life and love in the process.
In Bound For Glory, Nathaniel, the ice-eyed killer of the western plains, has been the subject of a dozen of author Ava Archer’s dime novels – even though she’s never met him. However, when Nathaniel decides to confront A. A. Archer, he’s overwhelmed to find a sexy redheaded woman with sloe-dark eyes who could slay a man at fifty paces. And she’s not looking to play fair.
“Romance novels are not just about escapism. They also fulfil a deeper more serious role,” says Dr Matthews. “They actually meet a deep-seated need among women to validate and challenge their place in society.”
Dr Matthews, who also writes serious literary fiction and non-fiction books (her Holocaust account, End of the Night Girl, won the Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award), believes that writers need to explore many opportunities to find a commercial home for their work.
With this in mind, Dr Matthews helped to stage a romance writers’ conference at Flinders University in August 2016 – recognising the $1 billion global market for romance novels. This event, the Romance Writers Australia ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ annual conference, brought leading international writers and academic authorities to Adelaide and helped place the work of local writers into the publishing spotlight.
Dr Matthews has also been instrumental in creating a First Nations Fellowship program that challenges existing editorial practices by nurturing an emerging First Nations writer into the lucrative domain of commercial fiction.
The winner of the inaugural First Nations Fellowship, Angie Martin, from Victoria, is currently receiving writing support from Dr Matthews at Flinders University, while also receiving a 12-month mentorship with Jo Mackay, Publisher at Harlequin, and a writing residency at Writers SA.
The Fellowship idea was brought to life after a conversation at Adelaide Writers’ Week had a publisher saying to Dr Matthews they have trouble finding authors in the commercial fiction area. “This is where the readership is, so the fellowship is the first step to find out whether there is a community of Indigenous writers out there who are not able to get through the publishing maze,” says Dr Matthews. “This might be a model that can be used elsewhere, especially for Flinders University to offer other fellowships.”
It is among other ideas being fostered to create fresh opportunities for emerging local writers. Dr Matthews is keen to develop a Festival of Failure – involving a series of linked events that illustrate how failed steps through the creative process can lead to highly successful outcomes. She envisages such showcases as advertising companies presenting campaigns that never saw the light of day, but served as the first step in an ongoing creative process.
“It’s crucial to underline the need for creatives to not fear failure,” says Dr Matthews. “It must be highlighted that with the creative process, 90% of ideas fail, but working through this process leads to stronger ideas that eventually succeed.”