Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Rosanne Dingli

Name of the book:

According to Luke is my newest novel. A romantic thriller with a religious twist, it is published by BeWrite Books.

Kindle Price: = US $5.95. = £4.27 = €4.77

Available from:
All Amazon stores worldwide in eBook and paperback; B&N nook, Sony Bookstore, Book Depository worldwide, WH Smith, and wherever good books are sold.

Authors Website: and


Rosanne Dingli – originally from Malta – has lived in Australia since 1982. Her writing has appeared in journals, magazines and other periodicals since 1985. Literary Mouse Press (now defunct) published her collection of awarded and published poems in 1991. Her first novel, Death in Malta, appeared under the BeWrite Books imprint in 2005, and is still her bestseller. In 2011, Dingli independently published her body of short works, which went out of print in 2003, in seven small volumes she made available on Kindle and in paperback. Her new thriller According to Luke was released in March 2011 to critical acclaim.

Rosanne Dingli has been connected to the publishing industry in some role or other since 1985. She has worked as editor, author, journalist, EIC, literary editor, manuscript assessor, slush pile reader, proofer, columnist and reviewer for various state and local periodicals, university journals and presses, and online. She has served on the WA State Literature Board for two terms, and on the management of the KSP Foundation in Western Australia, among a host of other roles and responsibilities. She has lectured in English, Creative Writing and Journalism at ECU, and has taught at TAFE. As a languages teacher, she has also taught Italian and French.

Tell me about your book.

I would like to talk about According to Luke, which BeWrite Books released in March and which I launched in Perth with an unusual exhibition launch in May 2011. I worked with a local award-winning artist who painted and sculpted images and icons from the narrative.

It is a time-and-place significant novel that many people say is engaging, although controversial. I wrote it around a premise that started as a joke and ended up as a very feasible concept. I also used important European locations – places I have visited in person and which became inextricable from the main thrust of the story – and finished up the narrative in Australia, which is after all, a location of personal significance for me and many of my readers.

According to Luke contains an alternative biblical explanation that will astound some and to which others will react with quiet understanding. I treated it with the respect it deserves, and I have been told that readers with differing viewpoints have found something with which they could agree.

What will readers like about your book?

So far, I have had praise for the pacey writing, the weaving of plot and story, and most of all the lifelike characters, who all have some sort of engaging fallible side, yet display some strength. I made them inconsistent and very human, and readers say they can relate to them immediately. Writing character-driven fiction is something I feel I have learned to do with some facility, although I am still learning about real people, and how to make characters in a book act, feel and seem like real people.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have a deep distrust of ‘inspiration’ and ‘ideas’ – I do not like idea-driven things because they are generally short-lived and rely on aspects that need a surprise or novel element. I like to write about old notions to which I give a new angle or perspective. In the end, when people read, they like to find bits of themselves in a book, even if it is fiction. I like to present the human condition, how people perceive it affects them, and float that in a story whose plot is somehow possible. According to Luke came to us at a breakfast time discussion, almost as a joke, but eventually built into a story I could work with. When I visited the locations in 2008, I did not suspect they would move me as deeply as they did – I changed the entire plot and turned the narrative upside-down, inside-out and back-to-front. Locations do that to me… perhaps you can say that’s inspiration.

When did you start writing?

During the Winter, in a New South Wales country town, in 1985. I read the introduction to a book that described me – and what I wanted to do – in such an eloquent and personal way that there was nothing I could do but what it told me to do. It was the Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. I took my Olivetti manual typewriter and turned it into an author’s tool rather than just an instrument to write letters to my mother in Malta. It was the beginning of something very fundamental – I was always good with words and people would say I should be a lawyer. But what I should have been was an author, so I started then, and the trickle of success spurred me onward, to when I met my husband, who promptly gave me a computer and steered me towards fiction in a very definite way. He recognized something in my writing I could not really see myself, and I shall never forget that.

When did you realize that you were a serious writer?

When I could joke about it. Not taking oneself too seriously is vital – I have always called myself a dabbler and of course my fans protest that it’s just not true. What makes an author realize what they do is for real is good research, drastic rewriting and careful planning, whether it takes place on paper, on a spreadsheet or in their head. Planning and “cooking” a novel slowly over a number of months is a serious business. But to consider yourself a serious author does not always work – it needs to be tempered with humor, with real life, the responsibility of family, work, pets… it is a complicated mix not unlike the development of a very good novel. Life and work must contain a complex mix of things, and a good novel must present the reader with enough of the human condition and all that is compelling in life, if it is to work in any ‘serious’ way.

How did your family and friends respond the day that you told them you would give this “writing thing” a try?

Oh – friends only take you seriously when you make a physical point of it. A real book to place in their hands, a mention in a paper they read… it’s a well-known fact that the hardest people to ‘sell’ your success or books to are your friends, because they know you well and know you could not possibly be that name on the cover of that book. And I never tried to be a writer – I just became one, one lonely Winter. There were no ifs or maybes. There I was. And I made no announcements.

Family is different – I would never be enjoying any sort of success without the belief and admiration of my husband, who perpetuated the idea and made me see there were stories and narratives in the short pieces I wrote that should really have been novels. We have two teenagers now, and although they do not really read what I write, they respond to my writing in a very normal way… it’s what their mum does. Mums do stuff. This is my stuff.

When did you decide that you wanted to write a book?

My first novel, Death in Malta, had to be written rather quickly before I had my son in 1995. I knew there would not be another quiet moment, so in 6-8 weeks I had a rough draft, which then took about two years to fix. There were lots of breaks, and subsequently Jacobyte Books published it in 2001. It was lack of time that spurred me on – it always works for me to have the devil treading on my tail. BeWrite took it up when Jacobyte called it a day in 2005. The ‘decision’ to write a book is always a practical expedient for me, decided by time and what else is happening in my life. Teaching was very distracting. When I stopped in 2009, According to Luke took real shape, and I could proceed. BeWrite Books sent it back for a re-write they wanted within a certain time, so I did it – it’s external forces that make me ‘decide’.

Why did you choose this particular genre to write your book in?

I did not know where to place what I had written really, when I conceived According to Luke, until BeWrite Books told me I had written a thriller, which was news to me. I always inject a mysterious element, but they showed me I had written a romantic thriller with a religious twist, which fitted in the genre that Daniel Silva, Dan Brown, Lev Grossman and Bill Napier, among others, had written in with great success. I was pleased it could be categorized in some way – still, I feel it belongs in the general fiction slot, because it has elements that can be enjoyed by those that read literary fiction, romance, and controversial novels, as well.

What is your writing process?

It is haphazard and takes places mostly in my head… while I am doing other things such as cooking, ironing, or cleaning a bathroom, shopping, tidying up or calculating something complicated. My head multi-tasks. Then I spend a lot of time procrastinating online, and eventually I squeeze a deadline out of something else and place my hands over the keyboard with a new Word doc, and it all comes out of my fingers. I have taught writing classes, and that is nothing like the processes and methods I advocated of course – but how one does write and how one should write are really two different things. The methods and processes I value all occur, but they most take place mentally. Having physical and actual writing discipline is a monumental phenomenon I have not mastered yet.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

Which – According to Luke? Ages. It was one of those books that did not really consolidate until I had seen my locations. Sitting at a restaurant in Venice, visiting Santa Maria della Salute, sitting at an outdoor café in Ravenna – the places got me going. We came back home to Australia and I tapped it all out. I have no idea now how long it took: perhaps a year. It took ages to rewrite and edit, polish, rewrite and edit again. BeWrite Books accepted the final finished draft in May 2010.

What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people that you’re an author?
I do not announce it publicly that much. There are so many authors these days that it’s not such a big deal. Some are slightly impressed and others raise an eyebrow. Some ask if they can get my books at the local Dymocks.

Why did you publish on Kindle and other eReaders?

My publishers, BeWrite Books, have been poised for the amazing explosion that happened last year ever since I signed my first contract with them in 2005. Ebooks were nothing new to Jacobyte Books in 2001 – Death in Malta was available as a PDF right away. BeWrite had all their titles on Kindle almost immediately – it made perfect sense for them and it actually works. When I took my out-of-print works and put them out independently, it made sense to follow suit. I did what BeWrite does so successfully, and used Kindle, Nook and Sony Bookstore.

What kind of advice would you like to share with an aspiring writer who’s looking to publish a book for the first time?

Don’t do it. Get as far away from publishing as you possibly can. Do something else that’s impossible, like travelling the canals of Europe in a barrel, or making a living as a Prince William impressionist. Publishing is a crazy industry that is only getting crazier, and there is little room available for newcomers simply because it IS full of newcomers who glimpse the unusual success of some celebrity, or the fluke of some new writer who strikes it lucky, and think it’s possible for everyone. It is not. It’s tough, unpredictable, changes very fast, and is so dependent on quirks and luck that it’s much more sensible to spend your time buying lottery tickets.

Having said that, I’ll say this – there are some people who have enough of a gift that hard work and true grit can turn into talent. It takes literally years, impossibly hard work, and many instances of giving up. If you keep coming back to it and have managed to garner some sort of attention, then by all means keep trying. But you are only as good as your last success, and that fades very, very fast.

It is an industry you can liken to show biz – it’s impossible to get noticed, you need to be famous for something else first, and there are too many others who want it too.

I must thank you, Glenn, for this opportunity to chat with you. Being asked about my writing just after a novel of mine has come out is excellent timing. I enjoyed it very much.


  1. Glenn - this looks really good. I've re-read my replies and find I cannot remember answering the questions! So they were as entertaining as reading someone else's. Funny that!

  2. Interesting questions and answers

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