E68: Alana Woods On How To Write Your Next Great Novel or Fiction Book

 Alana Woods

Author, Editor and The Intrigue Queen Of  Thriller Fiction


Video Interview


Coming Soon



Alana Woods is The intrigue queen of thriller fiction, Alana is an award winning author and she’s also a Professional editor for over 30 years. Her novel Automaton, won the Australian Fast Books Prize for Best Fiction in 2003. It was also nominated by Sisters In Crime for the 2004 Davitt Award, which is for the best Australian female crime fiction for the year.


I was a 10 pound Pom, emigrating from the UK to Australia with my parents and two older brothers in 1951. It was over 40°C when we landed and my mother later said she had wanted to get on the first boat back home. The photo shows us on The Asturiasen route via Russia in November 1951. I’m the one with the doll.I was a month short of four when the boat docked and six when my sister was born. My parents bought land in the coastal wilds of Seaview Downs, South Australia, about an hour out from Adelaide and for the next 15 years I explored my way through school and books, the beach and books, roaming as far as my feet and bike would take me in a day, and books. As you can see, Seaview Downs was pretty desolate in those days. We lived in the caravan until dad built something a little more permanent. There were two adults, a teenager, two youngsters and a new baby in that caravan!In 1966 I met John, the Gawler boy to top all boys, married him the next year, and the year after that had twins, Simone and Simon. We get ribbed about that all the time, mostly from the twins themselves. You can see from the wedding photo that I was a Mod. Mine and my bridesmaids outfits were considered very radical.Three years later Nicole joined the team. For a moment the doctor thought she was twins too, and we joke with her now that it would have been Nicole and Nicholas. You can imagine the derision the kids aim our way!In 1980 we packed our bags and moved to Canberra to further mine and John’s careers.Until I left full-time work in February 2004 I was a professional editor and eventually became Director of Publishing at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The photo to the right shows me at Parliament House with the Chairman, Prof Allen Fels, the day the ACCC came into being.In 2004 John and I moved to the Sunshine Coast, spending five years there before moving back to Canberra because we (read into that I) missed the family.

We now spend part of our time in the UK with Simone, who lives in West Sussex with her husband and three young children. That’s me with my oldest UK grandson at Worthing, a beachside town just along the coast from Brighton. We had fish and chips for lunch.My fiction work includes two published novels, both literary suspense, and a collection of short stories.My non-fiction work includes two works. One is a guide to writing good fiction: 25 essential writing tips: guide to writing good fiction. The second is a family medical history diary in which you can keep a record of everything of a medical nature that happens in your family.My first novel, Automaton, won the Australian Fast Books Prize for Best Fiction in 2003. It was also nominated by Sisters In Crime for the 2004 Davitt Award, which is for the best Australian female crime fiction for the year. The story was inspired by my five years working with the Commonwealth Court Reporting Service in Canberra during which I spent many a day in the Supreme Court recording the agonies of those unfortunate enough to be in the dock and their families, who would watch and usually suffer in silence. The photo shows me at the award presentation with the ABC’s Peter Ross, who was the judge.Automaton, with a new cover, was re-released in October 2011.My second novel, Imbroglio, is literary espionage suspense. It was released in October 2011.In mid-2011 Simone mentioned that she was preparing to publish two journals for the home (click here to see them). It prompted John to say that ever since the children were small he had thought that a journal in which you could record all of your family’s medical history would be really useful. After recovering from my surprise that it had taken him so many years to mention it I decided to publish Family medical history. It’s a departure from my novels, but one I hope will be enthusiastically received.I’ve been working on a third novel, Dragline; literary suspense with a corporate law theme this time. I finished the first draft ages ago but not being happy with it I put it aside to think about. However, I think it’s time to get back into it.

Interview Questions

  • How and why you decided to became an author?
  • What’s your background?
  • Why your family decided to move from the UK to Australia?
  • Why did you leave your full-time job as a professional editor?
  • Which one of your fiction books and non-fiction books you like the most?
  • What inspired you to write your novel Automaton?
  • What’s the secret to a compelling hook when writing a fiction book?
  • How do you write characters that live and breathe?
  • When do you show and when do you tell when writing a fiction book?
  • Why sometimes do your descriptions fall flat when writing a fiction book?
  • Who should tell the story? First, second or third person point of view when writing a fiction book?
  • Why did you decide to write Family Medical History?
  • Which is more difficult in terms of writing for you and in general fiction or non-fiction?
  • What’s your writing routine? and what do you do to write efficiently?
  • Publishing or self-publishing and why? Which one would you choose if you have both options?
  • What’s the definition of indie authors?
  • How an author can choose the right editor for his or her book efficiently?
  • Do you still do editing work, if yes how much do you charge for copy editing and developmental editing per word?
  • What’s your advice to new authors?
  • Tell us more about your other projects that you are currently working on or planning for the future?
  • Share with us some of the tools or software that make you more efficient?
  • What’s your daily life and work routine looks like?
  • What are your other hobbies?
  • Who are your top 3 mentors?
  • What’s the biggest failure moment in your life and what did you learn from it?
  • What do you do to change your mood when you are depressed?
  • What’s the best advice that you ever received?
  • What’s your favorite quote?
  • If you have the chance, what would you say to advice your younger self?
  • What are your top 3 favorite books?
  • What are the top 3 people that you are inspired by?
  • Do you listen to any music when you work?
  • What makes you really happy?
  • How people can contact you?