Updated: Feb 20
Author interviews with "The NZDream" blog
Tell me a bit about yourself….
I’m Tabatha Wood, a British-born immigrant to Aotearoa, New Zealand, and I am an Australian Shadows award-winning author of dark speculative fiction and uplifting poetry. I’m a former English teacher and library manager, and my first books were guides for professional educators. I now tutor from home while also working as a freelance writer and editor, usually under the influence of strong coffee.
What genre/s do you write in?
I mostly write speculative fiction and quiet horror, but I also dabble in narrative poetry, creative nonfiction, essays, and book reviews.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, and I’ve always had a very excitable imagination, but I was first properly published in 2005 when I wrote three nonfiction books about teaching and education for Bloomsbury Press. After my children were born, I took an almost ten-year hiatus and didn’t return to writing “properly” until 2017.
Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.
I have been published quite extensively, with stories and articles in a number of anthologies and on a range of platforms. My short story collections and novelette are all self-published with my own indie press, Wild Wood Books. I’ve written articles for The Spinoff, Ladies of Horror Fiction, The Horror Tree, and more, and I won an Australian Shadows Award this year for a horror-focused essay.
Did you use an editor? If so who?
I don’t have one specific editor, but I do have a team of people with who I skill-swap and work to improve each other’s manuscripts. I’ve found basic editing software such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid very useful for the first pass, with human eyes needed for final drafts.
I can highly recommend Elle Turpitt (https://www.elleturpittediting.com) Dion Winton-Polak (https://thefinetoothed.com) Jessey Mills (https://jesseymills.com) and Nicky Winchester (https://nz.linkedin.com/in/nikkywinchester). They are all exceptional editors with who I’ve had the privilege to work.
As a writer, I realize now just how important it is to find like-minded people who know how it feels when you immerse yourself in your craft. People who really “get” you, and who will support you, criticize you (hopefully, objectively!) and encourage you. It’s not just about networking or trying to get your stuff out there, it’s about building a team and learning from one another.
Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?
No, I learned all the skills I needed myself. I wrote my debut collection, DARK WINDS OVER WELLINGTON, to tick off an entry on a bucket list. Writing it was a cathartic way of processing my feelings about emigrating. I didn’t really expect anyone else to be interested in it, and I did almost all of it myself. It did very nicely, in terms of sales and popularity, and was shortlisted for a Sir Julius Vogel award, so self-publishing seemed the way to continue.
Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?
I’ve been published in both ways and both have their benefits and their drawbacks. I have a philosophy of “no word wasted” and I believe that everything I publish is a stepping stone to other things. In terms of financial returns, traditionally published nonfiction has been a better market for me, but I enjoy the process of self-publishing my fiction a great deal.
How do you market your work and promote your brand?(Include links)
I don’t have a brand. Or not anything obvious anyway. I operate in a state of organized chaos most of the time, but everything always seems to work out okay in the end. I maintain a consistent newsletter with regular blog updates, and I’m fairly active on social media. I gained a lot of regular readers through a platform called Curious Fictions (which sadly does not operate anymore) which also saw me get regular monthly payments, rather like Patreon, and those readers have followed me to my website. I have found the best way of being marketable is to write diversely and to do things that promote others as much as yourself.
Do you have a blog or website?
I do, and you can find it at tabathawood.com.
What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?
I don’t always feel like social media is very useful to me as I tend to be friends with other writers who aren’t necessarily my target audience. I think a strong website and regular newsletter are better options and making sure you have a good reader magnet to entice people to your site.
Do you use an agent?
Not for fiction, no. But I have a lot of friends and contacts who help throw nonfiction work my way.
What inspires you most to write?
I’m going to steal from the introduction of my upcoming new collection SEEDS here:
I carry my thoughts with me for a long time before I commit them to paper. At anyone time, I might be thinking about (and working on) one, two, or even seventeen different creative pieces. Mostly these ideas are snippets of inspiration that have come to me, a single line, or an interesting image. They can be a reflection of something I have felt or seen that day, a reaction to a situation, or an emotional stimulus. Sometimes they come from moments of active observation: people, nature, or current affairs. Other times they come to me randomly, like when you wake up with a song in your head.
What do you do to help with writers block?
I go to the ocean; I go for long walks and I like indoor rock climbing. Whenever I feel blocked creatively, I always find it helps to move my body.
I love being outside in nature, and I have a passion for sea swimming. I’m a water baby, but I stopped swimming for many years. I have nerve deafness in both ears, and for a long time, I felt really uncomfortable about taking my hearing aids out to swim. I was too scared. Too self-conscious. I’m glad I’ve got over that now. Ocean swimming is both humbling and grounding — you can enjoy the feeling of being free in the water, while also being acutely aware that you can never get too comfortable just in case the sea decides it’s had enough of you. I like that. I like the excitement and adrenaline it brings.
How do you plan your writing and start?
I actually have a blog post that answers this question, which also covers the shapes of stories and how to structure your work: Story Planning—How I Move from Inspiration to the Page
Is writing your full time job? If not what else do you do?
Yes, and no. I am a freelance writer for a translation company, which means writing a lot of officials documentation. I also tutor from home and fit any other writing I do around all that. The bills must come first, unfortunately.
Who is your target audience?
I suppose that depends on who I’m writing for, and what. Predominantly, it is people who like speculative fiction and horror, and definitely adults, not kids.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a poetry collection coming out in December called ‘To Wish on Impossible Things’ (the title is very much inspired by one of my favorite bands, The Cure) which is about moving to Aotearoa, my experiences as an immigrant, finding myself and making a new home.
I run a project on my website called Memento Vitae which is an exploration through pictures and prose of how we attach memories to physical items. There are fourteen stories online so far and I’m always keen to accept more. I pay $20NZD for each piece.
I am also planning a novel and a collection of horror-themed essays, but they won’t be out until 2022/3.
What do you think makes a good story?
A great story has to make me feel something. That might seem obvious, but I have to be invested in the characters in some way, even if that means I hate them. When a story is good, I get lost in it and I don’t want it to end. I know when something is good when I get lost in it.
For me, anything that taps into the human element fascinates me. Explorations of our fragility and mortality, the choices we make to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive. I’m not so interested in the good versus evil, man versus monsters stuff unless the monster is the man. So I guess I’m drawn to the darker genres for those reasons.
When I write, I want to forge a connection with my readers, so they’re satisfied with the tale I’ve given them, but are still hungry for more. I’ve adopted quite a few mantras in the past couple of years and the two I get the most from are: “shovel the sand to build sandcastles” and “progress not perfection.” I believe a good writer needs a good growth mindset if they want to evolve and improve.