An interview with ALLISON LLOYD

Today I welcome Allison Lloyd to How Writers Work!

How did you get your first book published? 

I wrote my first book, Year of the Tiger, in a year-long writing class with Rachel Flynn. I already speak Chinese, but I did a lot more research about life in Ancient China, particularly in the military. Along the way I had a couple of short pieces published in magazines. That helped to convince me that I was serious about writing, and publication wasn’t impossible. I sent the manuscript of my novel off to join the Penguin slush pile. There it hibernated for several months, while I started work on Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors, a non-fiction book that made use of all the earlier research (and more). Until one day, afraid the novel manuscript was lost, I called the editor at Penguin. I couldn’t believe it when she knew the name of my book. She would be in touch again soon, she said…

It’s just as well the first offer of publication gives you such a high. Because after that came the excision of 10,000 words, and the whole process of line by line revision and repeated proof-reading. I am very grateful to my gentle editor at Penguin for all the difficult questions she asked in that first structural edit especially.

What is your daily writing routine? And do you have a ritual to get into the writing zone?

I have an active family. Weekends and school holidays are usually out; Monday is emails and supermarket day.  I never seem to get started as early as I think I should. I like to pray first – keep my heart in the right place. I think what really gets me into the writing zone, though, is typing. Tapping the keys is like a physical warm-up for the brain. I usually find that if I have hit a snag with the plot or characters, it’s better to tackle another scene and work backwards than daydream. In the research phase, jotting down potential plot points, character ideas and dialogue is more productive for me than just note-taking.

Describe your writing space? Do you have anything around you that inspires you?  

I like to be by myself. My writing space is a bedroom full of light and books. (I make the bed before writing or it bugs me every time I look at it.) I have a big desk with a pile for family stuff, and a pile for writing stuff. I also write a lot in the car, while my kids are at soccer training. I do all my writing on a neat, portable netbook. When the words are really flowing, the screen is the only thing that matters.

What is your latest publication? 

Battle of the Jade Horse is my latest novel. It carries on from Year of the Tiger: the friendship of the two main characters is challenged by social division and a bandit insurrection.

What are you working on at the moment?

The book I’m working on at the moment is provisionally titled Do you dare? The Bushranger’s Boys, 1841. It will be part of a Penguin series of novels set in different periods in Australian history, like the Our Australian Girl books. I have had a lot of fun researching bushrangers and muskets. But more thought-provoking for me has been discovering the place of indigenous Australians in our colonial history, and working out how to respond to and include that in the story.

You can read more about Allison and her work at

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