A Conversation with Margot McGovern

Margot McGovern, Lectito, writer, writer's journey, writing, creativity, conversation, interview, Australian, author, YA, fantasy, Neverland,

Today’s Conversation features a fellow Australian writer!

I first came across Margot McGovern via her blog, Lectito. This site is a gem for readers, writers and anyone who loves books in general. Here, you can find book reviews, author interviews and writing how-tos, and even a little feature I love called Meet the Bookstagrammers. Bookstagrammers are some of the warmest, loveliest community of readers/writers out there and I love finding more accounts to follow from Margot’s blog!

And as if being a book reviewer and owner of a successful blog wasn’t enough, Margot has just recently signed with Penguin Random House to publish her debut book, a YA novel titled Neverland! How cool is that? I’m so excited and can’t wait to check out the book when it’s out.

In the meantime, Margot has been kind enough to take some time out to have a conversation with The Salonniere’s Apartments about reading, writing and blogging. Find out more below….

Hi Margot! Welcome to The Salonniere’s Apartments! I thought we’d begin by getting you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Why, hello there! Thank you so much for having me. 🙂

I’m a reader, author and blogger from Adelaide, Australia! I read anything and everything, though I have a weak spot for lit. fic., thrillers and contemporary YA.

I’ve travelled around a bit over the years and recently moved back home to Adelaide with my mister, two cats (Scout and Hurricane) and one very sooky staffy named Stumpy (Ed: love those names!). I’m addicted to Instagram (say hi: @project_lectito), would never wear anything but pyjamas if I could get away with it and have totally irrational fear of crabs.

I am such a huge fan of your website. How did Lectito first come about?

I started Lectito in June 2015 after my mister and I moved to Perth for his work. I really missed the book clubs I’d been part of in other cities and chatting about reading with my friends. I figured a book blog would be a good way to keep those conversations going and also help me find other readers to connect with.

In my previous job at Ride On magazine, I’d also done a bit of work in the digital comms side of things, which I loved, and blogging felt like a fun way to keep that up!

What are your top tips for folks looking to start a blog?

I’m so glad you asked! It just so happens that I published a four-part series of Book Blogging Basics on Lectito (*cough* shameless plug *cough, cough*). I wrote it because I made a bunch of rookie errors when I first started, and I wanted to save other newbies from falling into the same traps.

I reckon my top tips would have to be:

Have a clear purpose. Think about what you want to achieve through your blog before you get cracking, and check in regularly to see if those goals are still what you’re aiming for.

Go with quality over quantity, always. A lot of bloggers, particularly new bloggers, feel the pressure to always be posting, posting, posting. But no one wants (or frankly has the time) to read slap-dash content you’ve published in a quick bid for more clicks. Most readers would rather see fewer posts that have been clearly thought out, carefully edited and have something to say.

Think about who your readers are and what’s in it for them. Your posts need to offer something of value: information, entertainment—readers need a reason to keep coming back.

Finally, speak with your own voice. My biggest blogging misstep when I first started was that I tried to be all slick and profesh, but it just came across as really impersonal. Now I let a little more ‘me’ into my reviews and, as well as helping me connect with my readers, it’s made blogging much more fun.

What do you look for when you’re writing a review for a book? Does knowing you’re going to review the book change the way you tackle reading it?

I generally approach my reviews by trying to figure out what the author set out to achieve with their story, then consider how successful they’ve been and why.

My reviews are pretty informal, but I do read differently when I’m planning to write a review. I usually take notes as I go along and consciously look for what narrative techniques the author uses to make me feel whatever I’m feeling about the story.

You’re also a writer! Are you working on anything currently, writing-wise?

I am indeed! Young Adult fiction is my game. My manuscript, Neverland, which is about a troubled girl coming to terms with her past, was shortlisted for the 2015 Text Prize and will be published by Penguin Random House Australia in April 2018. You can read more about it on my blog and (if you like what you see) add it to your Goodreads ‘Want to Read’ shelf.

In the meantime, I’m working on a YA fantasy which I’m madly trying to finish before the mister and I welcome our first baby in September.

 From one fellow Australian to another, what are your thoughts of the Australian literary scene?

That’s a huge question! I think we’re lucky to have a large number of incredible authors who call Australia home and, as a nation, we punch well above our weight in terms of the quality of stories we produce—it’s always really exciting to see Aussie authors winning awards and getting attention overseas as well as at home!

Perhaps because we are a bit smaller than some overseas markets, it seems to be a really supportive space. For example, it’s been wonderful to see readers, writers, publishers, booksellers, libraries and schools embrace Australian YA stories through the #LoveOzYA movement.

That said, I think there’s a perception that the Aus. literary scene can be a bit cliquish, and in some instances that’s definitely true. Networking is important (and terrifying), and it can be tough to get your foot in the door. However, as an emerging writer, I’ve found a lot of experienced industry professionals to be extremely generous with their time and feedback and the community as a whole is very supportive.

You were previously an associate editor at Ride On magazine, and now work as a freelance editor and writer. How did you get started in this business?

I’ve always loved writing! I wrote (and read) a lot in my spare time as a kid. When I finished school, I did a Creative Arts degree, majoring in creative writing, at Flinders University and followed that up with a creative writing PhD. I tutored in literature and creative writing topics at Flinders for a few years while I was completing my postgrad studies, then moved to Melbourne and started looking for work. I was lucky to land a job as the publications assistant with Ride On, which is a cycling magazine. I was a keen rider, so it felt like a perfect fit, and after a few months I was promoted to associate editor.

I was at Ride On for about three-and-a-half years all up and did a fair bit of freelancing on the side before eventually going part-time to focus more on the freelance side of things and begin work on a novel. When my partner got offered a new job in Perth, I decided to give freelancing a go full-time. And here I am!

What’s a regular day like for you?

Ooh, gosh, it varies a bit depending on what I’m working on and what deadlines I have, but it always starts with coffee!

I’m not at all a morning person, so I try and ease into the day when I can. I usually read over breakfast, then take care of emails and admin. early on. Once I’ve checked all the urgent items off my to-do list, I’ll write or edit until five (I’m pretty strict about keeping business hours). At the moment, I’m in the very lovely position of mostly having the freedom to focus on my new manuscript.

After that, I like to clear my head by taking the dog for a walk and find it’s a good way to work through any problems that I haven’t been able to solve at my desk. I usually try to squeeze in a bit more writing time after dinner, too. I find I work best at night and I often get almost as much done in a couple hours during the evening as I do throughout the day.

Do you have any particular writing habits and/or a certain writing routine?

I’m big on planning. I never start anything until I’ve got a fairly clear understanding of where it’s going. The plan always changes along the way, and I still end up doing a zillion drafts, but I like being able to get a bird’s eye view of what I’m working on as I go along. When I’m writing fiction, I use spreadsheets to map out my plots, keep a notebook and make a mood board for each manuscript I work on.

Finally, who are some of your favourite authors?

Gah! There are SO MANY. Donna Tartt, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, T. S. Eliot and Scarlett Thomas are my faves in the adult world. In YA, I love Cath Crowley, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Margo Lanagan, Philip Pullman, John Marsden, Simmone Howell, Elizabeth Wein, E. Lockhart, John Green, Jay Asher, Michelle Cooper, Rainbow Rowell, Dianne Touchell, Kirsty Eagar… and about a million others I know I’m forgetting right now!

Thanks so much, Margot, for coming onto The Salonniere’s Apartments and sharing your writing journey with us! For those who want to find out more, you can connect with Margot at her official website. You can also visit her on Instagram and Twitter. Neverland is out in 2018 and you can add it to your TBR wait list via Goodreads.

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