The advantages of being an international writer

This blog post first appeared on on March 11, 2018]

Last time I was on NovelRocket, blogged about the challenges of being an international writer. And those challenges are large, albeit surmountable.

There are also advantages to being an international writer. Advantages that can help set you apart in the drive to be discovered by an agent, by a publisher or by a potential reader on a bookshelf. They balance the challenges you face, and provide opportunities when you are outside the marketplace you are writing for.

The novelty factor of being from somewhere else

I admit it. I cash in my Aussie-ness as much as I can. I come from the land of Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman, so why wouldn’t I? As an author, we are looking for an advantage. In fact, we’re looking for every advantage we can get.

I was in Nashville for the ACFW Conference in 2016 – a sea of 600 people; a roaring ocean of eager voices. It was apparent very early in the piece that every time I opened my mouth I stood out. My accent was the one thing that gave me an instant advantage. My Conference name tag carried a toy koala, and that was the first thing people looked at. It also drew their attention to my Finalist ribbon.

I also answered a hundred questions about kangaroos, and was asked to say “G’day” about a thousand times. Which I did, gladly. I was standing out.

Now I could have gone to Nashville and tried to avoid the cultural cringe of my novelty. But instead I embraced it, and I saw the benefits in social media in the weeks after the Conference. Whenever I connected with someone, I would inevitably get a comment: “You’re that Aussie guy. G’day mate.” That was fine. I’d stood out.

And when I diligently followed up my leads with agents and publishers, they all remembered that I’d come from Australia. That was also fine. I’d stood out.

I do the same when I talk to New Zealanders or South Africans. I remember them because their accent, or their stories evoke another world outside of mine.

Having a different voice

Publishers are constantly talking about wanting something fresh.

When you are speaking into another culture, you instantly bring something different. A fresh voice.

Now that does bring it’s own challenges to speak the language of your reader, which is a lesson I’ve had to learn. Over time, I tend to think of it as American English, but with a brand new regional accent.

I get a lot of feedback about my turns of phrase, with people liking the way I frame words because it’s “different”. This is mainly because many people haven’t tired of them because they haven’t heard them before.

A fresh take on things

The other fresh thing that an outsider brings is a different take on issues that you are writing about.

(Please note: I am advocating – and highly recommending – sensitivity when you contribute to issues in another country’s fabric. We can all have a different take on anything from society/politics/education/economy/environment, but no-one is allowed to criticize your own country except you).

I write contemporary fiction, so when I write about relationships, the media, workplaces, church or whatever, I try to bring another angle to the page, which is driven by being outside the issue rather than immersed in it, and particularly media coverage of it. Or I bring a character into the mix with an Australian quirk.

To me, it’s kind of like when a tourist comes to Australia and points out that the way koalas eat is fascinating. That’s fresh to me because I no longer see it as fascinating; I see koalas almost every day (they live in the trees across the road from our house).

So they are some of the advantages of being an international writer. Perhaps you have others. I’d like to hear them, and how you’ve taken advantage of the things that make you, you and the outcomes you’ve managed to achieve.





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