Tips from an award-winning Australian author

Karen Turner discovered a passion for historical fiction after writing for the Financial Services industry for over twenty years. After entering a short story competition that she stumbled upon by chance, she was amazed when she was told that she had won. Thinking it was a fluke, she entered other literary competitions, and kept on winning!

So, in 2009, she published her first collection of short stories called All That and Everything, with many of the stories also going on to win awards, including the Society of Women Writers Victoria and the Biennial Literary Award.

Since then, she has published three novels – Torn, Inviolate and Stormbird. Stormbird has been described by many as a poignant story of love, sacrifice and bravery, and it tells the story of an unexpected relationship that builds between a British war widow and a German fighter pilot, shot down and in hiding, despite their countries’ bitter differences.

Here, Karen talks to us about how she overcame self-doubt to pursue her dream of becoming a novelist, tips for the aspiring writer, and how she now makes money from her writing.

Do you still suffer from self-doubt when it comes to your writing?

I think I’ll always have that. It’s that imposter syndrome thing where you’re sure that sooner or later everyone will find out that you really can’t write and you’ll be exposed as a fraud!

How do you personally overcome periods of self-doubt?

I just keep writing. I think it helps that I write a lot of non-fiction; I write professionally for banks and large organisations who often engage me to write technical material. Even though there’s a huge difference between this and my fiction writing, it does bolster the confidence to know that someone thinks you can do it!

What advice would you have for mums who have a dream but are grappling with fear?

I’d say just take the first step and even do something small to move towards your dream. The fear can be overwhelming if you look at the big picture, so sometimes it’s easier if you break a goal down into small chunks and do something every day to move towards it.

For me, it’s about trusting myself, relying on myself to pull up my big-girl panties and get on with it. We’re not going to talk about my life before I learnt that lesson, but since learning it, I’ve never looked back. My successes are my own, my failures are my own and I don’t make excuses for not achieving my goals.

Are there ever times when you want to throw in the towel?

Oh yes! There are those times of self-doubt, or when a story isn’t coming together the way you envision it. Sometimes I wonder if I should simply say, well that was fun, now it’s time for a real job.

But in the end, I love to write; I love to express myself this way and when I receive emails from people telling me how much pleasure my books have brought them, I remind myself of why I’m a writer. And it is all about the pleasure of reading. Having experienced the unique pleasure a well-written book can bring, I want to give other people that pleasure.

What tips do you have for the aspiring writer?

I get asked this so often and there are two main things I always tell people.

1. Just start writing. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it is, just get it down. A book is never written in one draft anyway; writing something perfect straight off is not going to happen. Just start writing and worry about the detail later – that’s the easy part. Knowing when your book is finished is the hard part, but that’s a whole other subject!!

2. It doesn’t matter how well you write, everyone makes mistakes. If you’re serious about your writing, you must engage a professional editor. Nothing takes a reader out of a good story like a silly spelling or grammatical error. More than that, a good editor can help with structure, continuity and will work with you to polish your manuscript to the best it can be. If you value your work, it deserves this much!

My final piece of advice is to consider signing up to a writing course. Stick to better-known institutions like your local TAFE, or check out the Australian Writers’ Centre website,

How can people make money from their writing?

They say everyone has a story to tell – but the truth is, it’s very difficult to live exclusively on the royalties from book sales. Some people do, but for those whose names are not J.K. Rowling, it can be difficult.

For mums who are interested in earning a little money on the side, a great way to start is with blogging, where you can post articles about any topic you can shake a pencil at: travel, food, sport, even motherhood of course. As many of you might know, bloggers earn money by selling advertising space or reviewing products and services in exchange for a fee. Not only is it a great way of sharpening your writing skills, but it can make you some money on the side.

For more information on Karen and her books, visit, and follow Karen on Instagram at @karenturnerauthor