Episode 63: From Journalist to Novelist in New Zealand with Kelley Tantau

Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!

In this episode I talk with New Zealand journalist and debut author, Kelley Tantau, about her new book The Runaway Man and her journey to publication.

Topics we discuss include:

  • How a dream led to what will be a three-book series.
  • How Kelley deals with feedback and critique, and why developing a thick skin is essential for writers.
  • Why hybrid and indie-publishing is as legitimate as traditional publishing.
  • How imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate.
  • The challenges of publishing in a small country.
  • Why writing a book requires vulnerability and courage!

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the writing and publishing journey of a first-time Kiwi author!

Visit Kelley’s website here: https://www.kelleytantau.com/

Follow Kelley on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/kelleytantau/ and https://www.instagram.com/therunawaybooks/

 Purchase your copy of The Runaway Man at https://www.kelleytantau.com/how-to-buy or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CDLVGL3M/

Get 10% of the following products and services for writing your blurb by using the coupon code “ALCHEMY”:

 Book Blurb Magic

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 Sign up for Carissa Andrews’ latest Author Revolution course, Four Books, Five Days: Mastering AI-Enhanced Series Planning, here.

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Find the full transcript of this episode below.

Episode 63: From Journalist to Novelist in New Zealand with Kelley Tantau

Jo: Hello, my friends. I am so happy to have you join me for Episode 63 of Alchemy for Authors. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ll know that I took part in my first local author’s book fair in my local city, Hamilton, in August, and one of the best things that has come out of the experience was meeting, surprise, surprise the local authors.

So my readership for my books is primarily in the US, Canada and the UK. My cover designers are based largely in the US and Italy. My editor is based in the US, and the audience for this podcast is also largely international. And you might’ve noticed, most of the guests on this show happen to be from the US, Europe or UK. Not intentionally, might I add. Well, my friends, for the next few weeks, you can expect to hear more of the Kiwi accent, and there are no apologies there, as I interview some of the very talented local authors that I met in August.

So what hits home time and time again for me is just how similar our experiences and challenges are when it comes to writing and publishing books, regardless of where in the world we come from, or where we now live. But it’s also nice to be reminded that despite the solitary nature of being a writer or an author, we aren’t alone in the challenges that we face.

So in this episode, you’ll get to hear the experience of a New Zealand journalist, Kelley Tantau, turned debut author, whose first book, The Runaway Man, hits the shelves, both physically and online, as this episode goes live.

So maybe you’re listening to this as someone who wants to, but maybe hasn’t yet, written or published a book. Then hopefully this episode will encourage you to take that next step. Or maybe you’re listening to this from a smaller country like New Zealand, wondering how to get your book out there in the world.

I know when I was first beginning to take the idea of being an author seriously, it really helped to listen to other authors and their experiences. And to be reminded that imposter syndrome and self-doubt hits us all. And to also hear from other authors and writers who were already a step ahead of me living their dream. Because what that did is it made me feel like my lofty goals at the time were actually achievable. Because why not? I mean, if others can do it, why couldn’t I? So regardless of where you’re at on your author journey, I hope that you really enjoy this episode and the insights as to what it’s like being a debut author in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

But quickly, before we dive into this episode though, I just want to remind you of two really cool promotions that are on my radar at the moment. There is still time to join Carissa Andrews from Author Revolution, her 4 Books, 5 Days course, which starts on October 2nd and ends October 6th. So, by signing up, Carissa is going to walk you through tips and tricks for using AI to help you with planning a series. You still have to do the actual writing of your books yourself, but hey, I mean, that’s why we’re writers anyway, right? But if you are a person who struggles with plotting and planning, or you’ve got a series in mind but don’t know where to start, then Carissa’s your girl. If you haven’t listened to it already, go back, listen to Episode 61 of Alchemy for Authors to learn more about what this course is and isn’t from Carissa herself. And then you can sign up using the link in the show notes if it appeals to you.

Also, if you’re like me and you struggle with writing book blurbs, go back and check out Episode 62 of Alchemy for Authors, where I talk to the wonderful Jessie Cunniffe from Book Blurb Magic for a conversation on do’s and don’ts with writing blurbs.

You can also use the special code “alchemy” A L C H E M Y to get a discount on a range of her products and services. So I am of course, a big fan of both Jessie’s and Carissa’s I’ve purchased their products. I’ve used them myself. And so it’s a no brainer for me to want to share these with you, my listeners. Because I’m a fan, you’ll find the links in the show notes are affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you I get a small commission, if you purchase using my links, which in turn helps to support the show. So win-win, yay! But as always you can trust I only recommend products and services I’ve used, enjoyed, or who come highly recommended from people I trust. So if either of those, the Book Blurb Magic or 4 Books, 5 Days course interest you, make sure to check out the details in the show notes and or go back to listen to the previous two episodes of Alchemy for Authors to find out more.

Alrighty then. Well, let’s get on with today’s episode. So when you’re ready, grab a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.

Hello, my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. Today, I am chatting with the lovely Kelley Tantau. Kelley spends each day telling the stories of others. As an award-winning Kiwi journalist and writer, she has enjoyed the last seven years constructing life histories, factual articles, and entertainment reviews, and has now authored her debut novel, The Runaway Man.

After spending her formative years writing short stories, plays, and poems, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Waikato, majoring in writing studies in 2016. Five months before graduating, Kelly started her career as a community print journalist, writing articles of local and national significance for one of New Zealand’s leading news agencies.

In 2023, she was named Best Senior News Journalist at the Community Newspaper Association Awards and Joint Runner Up for Best Community Journalist at the New Zealand Voyager Media Awards. She now resides in Paeroa, New Zealand with her husband, dog and blind rabbit and continues working as a community reporter for the award-winning local rag, The Valley Profile.

So welcome to the show, Kelley. It is so wonderful to have you here.

Kelley: Thanks for having me, Jo.

Jo: I would love if we could start with you just talking a little bit about your transition from being a journalist to how you came to write your very first novel.

Kelley: Yeah, well, I have been asked that question about how I was able to switch off my journalism mind and turn on a more of a creative mind when it comes to writing the novel. And to be honest, it was really easy for me. I didn’t really have to think too much about it. I just kind of… when I’m at home and I’m working on the laptop for a personal reason, you know, like to write creatively, it just became easy. My focus was purely for myself. I didn’t have any pressure about having to write something that I knew people were going to read each week. And so, yeah, I found that it was actually quite easy, to be honest, to write something for myself, and that has now only really just turned into something that is going to be released worldwide.

Jo: Which is so exciting. Have you always wanted to write a novel or was this something that just kind of hit you one day?

Kelley: I’ve always wanted to write. I think that is the one thing I am so sure of about myself. I mean, I was the kid who used to take books to restaurants, and I wrote stories for my friends in primary school and in high school. I would write, you know, just, uh, looking into the future for my friends. Or I would write limericks or scripts for school and stuff. And so I’ve always been writing. And so I think in a way it’s not really a surprise that now I’ve written a novel. But the question was how I was going to get there. And I think all of the things that I’ve done have led me to this point, if that makes sense?

I mean, I went to study at the Waikato University because they had an amazing Writing Studies course. Everyone was like, what is writing studies going to get you? It’s very hard to become an author in New Zealand. But you just take the opportunities. I just did that Writing Studies course. I asked for a work placement. And in my final year, I got one with a community newspaper owned by Stuff. And from there, so I did, uh, community reporting, I’ve still done that. It’s my eighth year this year, which I find really hard to believe. And in the time I could, I was just writing creatively as well. So I never stopped writing creatively and for myself in that period while I was working professionally.

So, so yeah, I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I just, I’m so chuffed that I’ve been able to, you know, kind of complete that lifelong dream.

Jo: It is so exciting. I’m really interested then… you did writing studies at Waikato University. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I was at, um, I was finishing a degree at Waikato University and English was one of my BAs with a specialization in creative writing. But what was the Writing Studies? Was that creative or was that more journalism or is it a mixture of both?

Kelley: Yeah, it was actually quite a small class. I think there was only about 10 of us actually taking Writing Studies as the major. And it was a mix of things. So it was your English papers. So I was writing, um, I remember I got kind of teased because we did a big in depth kind of review of one of the Batman films as part of my English courses. But, you know, it was looking into the whole creative aspect of that. It was obviously writing. So I had professors such as Tracy Slaughter, and Catherine Chidgey. Yeah, so they were just so inspirational.

And so we did the classes like grammar. So I did a whole class on grammar. I did the creative writing papers, so for poetry and prose. But then as well as part of that writing studies, we did public relations writing, professional writing. So we had to do advertisements and slogans and that kind of thing too. So it didn’t really cover journalism at all. And when I got the job, I, uh, my editor at the time, his name was Steve Edwards, and he told me later on that it was very, very rare for the Waikato Times and Stuff to accept somebody into a journalism position who didn’t have a journalism degree. But I think it’s all about showing your ability to write, right? Like, I mean, I’d always loved all forms of writing. So I love the creative aspect. I love the public relations aspect and the formal writing as well. So I think that that degree at the university just perfectly encompassed all forms of writing. And that’s why I loved it so much.

Jo: That is amazing. And that’s just so, so interesting. So I started a couple of different degrees. I started a degree when I was in my twenties at Auckland University, and then went overseas and did a few classes in Canada and then came back to New Zealand. And that’s when I finished off my BA and got a teaching degree. But, I think I must’ve been at the Uni maybe a couple of years before you. So I think it was maybe 2013 or 2014 or something, but yeah, I had Tracy Slaughter and Catherine Chidgey as well, for the specialization in Creative Writing, and they’re amazing. And it was Catherine who actually gave me the confidence that my writing was of, I don’t know, was okay. You know? It was like, um, I’d written a piece and she’d sent me a personal email just to say, Oh, I think this is really good. You just need to try tweaking it this way. And I was so touched by that, that it, yeah, it gave, it kind of set me on this path of actually having the confidence to write. So yeah, they’re amazing.

Kelley: That’s so cool. It is. I mean, I have such fond memories of that time as well, and they were so good at not being critical. Do you know what I mean? Because everyone’s writing style is so different. And I remember at one of my other classes, it was one of the tutor things. So you’re broken off into smaller groups. And we all had to read out what we had written that week. And I was so nervous, but I read my piece out. And my feedback was that I write very formally. And I admit that now, like, I mean, even with my novel, there is probably, you know, more formal language, because I just love words. So that was one of the feedback things that I got from the class. And I went back in, I think the next week for the next piece and I took that feedback on board and I just wrote this really kind of gritty piece and everyone was just like, oh my gosh, so you, you know, you take one part of your feedback and you just weave it to still be the same writer that you want to be, but also try new things as well. And I remember I was so terrified, presenting because presenting your work is never easy, right? But when you have such a supportive group, like we had at the Uni, it just made it a bit easier.

Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I found that, absolutely. Yeah. Always nerve-wracking as well, because I always wanted to impress people some way and sometimes it worked and then sometimes it just completely flopped, but, um, yeah, having to share your work and having to be receptive to any critique, yeah, really, really tough.

Kelley: Yeah. I find it’s funny with journalism, I am so much better at taking critique. But I think it’s because it’s been an eight-year journey. So when I first started, of course, I hated any critique. You know, I would be so down on myself, you know, if a reader said they didn’t like a piece that I’d written. But now it’s, it’s so… It’s so self-assuring, I guess, to be able to take feedback and to be able to go, Oh, well, that article wasn’t for you. It wasn’t, you know, it might not be for everybody, and just accepting that and moving on with that. And I think that is one thing that I guess the timing wise, you know, I’ve had this kind of eight years of learning how to get a thicker skin. And now with the novel out into the world, I have maybe not the thickest skin, but it’s definitely, it’s getting there. It’s much better than it was, you know, um, eight years ago. I can say that for sure.

Jo: That is so good. And that’s so useful because that is something that I think all writers and authors need is to be able to take feedback and criticism. We don’t always have to agree with it, because you know, our writing’s not going to be for everybody. That’s just the way it is. But there are so many people out there who have a little bit of negative feedback or criticism and it stops them from writing. And I’ve had guests on the show too, where they’ve gone like 20 years without writing because a high school teacher said something horrible to them about their writing or, you know, that they’ve held themselves back. And so I think it is so important that we do find a way to be okay, and be able to get through having feedback and criticism come our way for sure.

Kelley: Yeah, I think it is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You know, being creative or wanting to work creatively, it’s so much harder, I guess, then… You know, sometimes I always joke and I say, Oh, why did I have to want to be a writer? Why did I not just choose a job or a career or an industry where I didn’t have to face the kind of public feedback, you know?, but I think at the end of the day, we do it because we do love it. And I think we just have to remind ourselves that. I can totally relate, you know, to getting that one piece of feedback that just sticks with you forever. But it is how you just look past it and think, okay, well, maybe that person is not my target audience. It’s other people that I’m aiming for.

Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I think that awareness is so, so important. So what inspired your novel then? So The Runaway Man, which is coming out, I think, I think it releases pretty much when this goes live, which is really cool. Is it the 25th, 26th of September, something like that?

Kelley: Yes, that’s right. 26th of September.

Jo: Woohoo. Okay, cool. So what inspired that? What got you putting pen to paper and writing this novel?

Kelley: Well, I don’t want to sound like a cliche, because I have read interviews where other authors have said this, but it was actually a dream. Okay. Don’t laugh.

Jo: No, no, no, no. I’m laughing, but I’m not like laughing at you. You know, like this is the world that we live in is that there are so many similarities between so many of our stories of what drove us to write. So…

Kelley: It’s amazing, isn’t it? Like, I think that the Twilight books started with a dream. It’s really funny to me because it was such a simple dream. It was a man, so a young man and then a police officer. I knew that much. And the young man was saying, I didn’t mean to do it. I, you know, I didn’t mean to do it. And I woke up and didn’t think anything about it until it just hit me later on in the day where I thought I really wanted to know what it was that he didn’t do. And, I just literally thought, maybe, maybe, like, the planets aligned, where I had this one thing I could go on and then was in the mood to write. So the two came together and I just sat at the laptop and I started writing from the start, really. So I didn’t jump into a, you know, a middle portion of this novel. I just started from the beginning and that’s pretty much how it all went on, you know, from start to finish.

And, so yeah, I guess my whole purpose behind this book was really, for myself, is figuring out who these characters were and what their story was and… Then it just amounted to be this kind of complete product. And it didn’t really have an intention to begin with. Like I said, I think why I was able to keep writing is because I didn’t have any pressure on myself. I wasn’t writing for anybody. I was not expecting anybody to ever read it. And so, well, my parents, of course, they’re my biggest fans and supporters, and my editors, and proofreaders, and advisors. So after, you know, I think I got maybe about halfway through and then that’s when I sent it to them and I said, I’m really excited about this one and it’s making me want to write.

And so the story, I guess the gist of it is as a 23 year old man, he decides to voluntarily disappear. So he hides out in his town’s forest park, but of course, all good things come to an end, I guess, and decisions have consequences. And his missing persons case turns into a manhunt. And he’s got a kind of a fatigued detective from his hometown on his tail. So it’s not heavy on crime is how I’d like to put it, but it does have crime elements, but it is more about people and the consequences of their decisions.

Jo: That’s cool. That’s great. And I like actually how you said that it came as a dream and then it’s just like, it was just the right time and you could just sit down and write it. So you had that small hint of an idea. Did you do any plotting or anything, or did you literally just kind of, write, like discover where things were going as you were writing.

Kelley: Yeah, I am not much of a planner when it comes to writing. I try, I actually do try to plan it all out, but it kind of gets overwhelming sometimes, doesn’t it? When you’re trying to dictate where things might go. But there were certain points. So I always would write things out in a hard copy. So, actually have pieces of paper lying around and, you know, the flow charts and the arrows and if this person’s doing this, what is the after effect of it and, or their motivation. So that kind of stuff, I would definitely try to make it cohesive. And so I would have to plan that. But in terms of where the story was heading, it was pretty organic. It was just, um, starting here. This is where it’s leading. And, oh, maybe if this happens, then this will happen after that. Um, so yeah, what do I call them? Planners and Pantsers.

Jo: Yeah. And then there’s discovery writers. Which I tend to think of myself as a discovery writer, because I’m a little bit like you in that I might have a glimpse of a scene or a moment or something. And then I sit down and I write and try and work out where that fits in and who these people are. And yeah, and when I’ve tried to plot, cause I also try, I try so I know what I’m writing the next day and that, often my best laid plans don’t work out. Like my last book, I thought I knew the murderer. I thought I knew who was the victim and neither of them came to be. So yeah.

Kelley: Interesting, isn’t it? It’s so funny, like just how you do think I’ll write a certain way. And then your brain’s like, no, this is how it’s going to happen. And it’s going to be so unpredictable.

Jo: Yeah. That’s cool. So how long does it take you to write The Runaway Man?

Kelley: It took, I would say a good 18 months to write this first one. It started during COVID lockdown, so good old COVID, right? I mean it was so perfect when you just wanted to do these things that you’d pushed aside for so long, and that’s a common thread I think we’ve all been hearing in light of COVID. So yeah, I would say it started in March 2020, and it definitely took all that year, and I think I wasn’t happy with it until the end of 2021. So, yeah. So by that stage, I think I had finished the rough draft. But it wasn’t obviously complete until my editors, you know, we went through the editing process. And I actually added a chapter and changed point of views. And then it’s finally finished.

Jo: Cool. So let’s talk about that then. So from writing the first draft, then did you use family as your first editors or what was the process from there? What did that look like?

Kelley: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. It was family. So it was Mum and Dad. My husband, Matt, he is so supportive when it comes to this, but he is not a reader or a writer at all. I would be sitting on the couch, just this, you know, puzzled look on my face, trying to think of the word that meant this. And I would just kind of throw things at him and he would throw them back and actually give quite good feedback. But when it comes to actually reading the whole novel as a complete picture I had to go to Mum and Dad for that. They were very willing participants because we always read books together growing up. And they would always read my short stories and things that I wrote for fun.

And so, yeah, so it went through to them first and they liked it. They actually made me send it on to other family friends and other family members. So actually, while I’m sitting here, you know, with the book about to be released, I have a big portion of my family who have already read the first edition. But it has gone through some changes.

I sent away the manuscript, must have been at the end of 2021, right? Where, I’m sorry, we’re 2023 now. Yeah, it was the end of 2022. So I guess I had sat with the book for quite a wee while. And then I sent it away to a UK agency called Cranthorpe Millner Publishers. And I got an amazing publisher there called Kirsty and she went through the process with me. And just, she was actually great because she wasn’t changing the story. So the storyline remained the same. It was just getting feedback about those point of view changes and, you know, style suggestions, uh, similes, metaphors, all that kind of stuff. And yeah, and then it’s come together now as a complete novel and I’m very happy with it.

Jo: Yeah, that’s really cool. I had a little bit of a look into Cranthorpe Millner because I was quite impressed by the speed that they were able to get it out. Quite often, from what I’ve heard in like traditional publishing and that, you could be waiting a year or more to see your book actually on the shelves or out in public. So they moved quite fast, but I am interested— here’s a tricky question for you— but I am interested, you did mention something in one of our emails backwards and forwards about feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome with the way that you’re gone about publishing. Can you talk a little bit about that? Cause I know that is something that I think we all feel at some point.

Kelley: Absolutely. And I think I was a bit nervous at first to actually talk about my publishing journey because my journey is different than a lot of other people’s. But I think it’s something that we should talk about because there are a lot of other people around the country who want to be published authors, and they just find it so difficult. And it is difficult. And it’s hard to get your name out there, and hard for your writing, I guess, to be seen by people. And since I’ve been on this journey, so many people have come to me with the same issues and challenges. And so I think it’s fair to say, you know, that if you do want to become published, it is going to be difficult.

 So my journey really begins, and I guess it ends at this stage, with Cranthorpe, because I did look around to see what publishers were accepting manuscripts within New Zealand. They had the big names and none of them were really accepting manuscripts at the time or they weren’t accepting crime fiction, which is my genre. And so I actually stumbled across Cranthorpe when another Kiwi author mentioned them on Facebook. And it was serendipitous. I don’t think I was following the group that this person was in. It just popped up. And I thought, oh, well, let’s have a look. And they were accepting manuscripts. I sent it away and they were very quick in that they came back like you mentioned. It’s great because they are a small indie publishing house so they only take on a few titles a year. And so they make sure to have about three or four published each month.

But I do get that imposter syndrome because people have been asking me, why haven’t you gone for a New Zealand publisher? Or, well, you know, why have you gone over to the UK? And I think it’s just, you just gotta go with the flow sometimes, right? If you come up against one closed door, you just find one that’s open. And I think that’s the best way I can describe my journey with Cranthorpe. And to be honest, it has been so great. They’ve been so helpful because you get a team of people that are, even though they’re over in the UK, they’re kind of rallying for you here in New Zealand. Yeah. So yeah, there is, I still have this syndrome, honestly, I’m still a sufferer of it, and I probably will be a sufferer for some time. Like does it ever go away? Do you think?

Jo: I, I don’t know because as soon as I think I’ve got it conquered, then it’ll come and hit me again because yeah, I’m the same. So I know that Cranthorpe Milner is like a hybrid, um, publishing house. I opted right from the very beginning to go indie publishing. So I’m like my own publishing house. I do all of that. I mean, I’ve got my professional cover designers and professional editors, but the formatting, the putting everything together, the marketing, everything is on me. But it was a deliberate choice and I’ve never regretted my choice. Like I wanted to do it more so because I’m a bit of a control freak. And we’re in a small country here in New Zealand, and to get into the big publishing houses and that when you’re a debut author is tricky. And even so, royalties, particularly here in New Zealand, are not great. And you give up a lot of your rights, or you can end up giving up a lot of your rights. Whereas, thinking long term, I wanted to retain as many of the rights, I wanted to be able to get out of my whole publishing experience and putting the book out there as much as I put it. So I wanted all of that control, so yes, it was completely my decision. But there are still times like the Local Author’s Book Fair that we attended and that, where I felt that imposter syndrome come up like, Oh, but you’re an indie author. Should you be embarrassed about that? Because, you know, like there is still, in small circles, there’s still that stigma that indie or hybrid publishing is, um, the books aren’t of quality or they’re just kind of thrown together, which is not the case. And most people in the author world know that, uh, readers can sometimes be a little slower to realize that, but, us who write books and in the author sphere and that, we know that. Because we know that it’s important to get proper editors and to do those things that we don’t have the capabilities of doing.

And quite often those book cover designers and those editors and that are ex-employees of the big houses or different publishing companies anyway, right? Doing their own thing. So the quality has increased out there, and dare I say, sometimes, sometimes when I’m reading traditionally published books, I’m like, ooh, I’ve seen better quality, I think, in a lot of indie publishing. But I totally understand that little flare of imposter syndrome. It does hit, I think all of us, because there’s still that outdated, in my opinion, very outdated idea that there’s only one way that you can be a real author, and yeah, I don’t subscribe to that at all. So, yeah.

Kelley: You’re so right. And I think we have another, like, I guess a bigger challenge here in New Zealand. You know, like you said, we’re a small country, and over in the UK, they are publishing books, you know, at a much greater output than we are in New Zealand. And they are taking on debut authors because they appreciate the work that they’re giving and the manuscripts they’re producing. And they just, to them, that’s just how they do it. I think that in New Zealand we’re still a little bit, maybe, sheltered in the respect of, you know, of whose work we produce. And where you find these authors. Because you’re right. I mean, that Local Author’s Fair as part of Hamilton Book Month, that was a great example of just the talent that we’ve got lying around and you just want people to be able to read those books. You want them to.

Jo: Absolutely. And, and it’s not easily accessible. Like, my books sell much better overseas. I don’t sell a lot in New Zealand at all. And part of that is I’ve totally put it in the too hard basket to get it into bookstores here in New Zealand. Like to get it into our local bookstores and that, there’s hoops you’re going to jump through and you’ve got to keep lots of stock on hand. And, yeah, I just can’t be bothered. Whereas, you know, people can go to different bookstores in the US and they can grab my books, and I don’t know, it’s just, It’s easier. So yeah.

Kelley: It is hard, isn’t it? It is like I’m now in the lead up, I think I have about one week, one week and a few days now until the book comes out by the time, you know, as we are recording. And I’m at that point now where I have got that fatigue setting in. And I mean, I’m very lucky that I just kind of went great guns right at the beginning. We contacted all the bookstores. I have a marketing, well, the marketing manager or the person over in the UK who has contacted all the bookstores, she sent me a list and it’s just so, so comprehensive of the bookstores that she’s contacted in New Zealand. So that’s been a big help, but of course I’ve gone on the ground, tried to introduce myself. I’ve had amazing, amazing local support, I just want to say, from the Thames Valley, where I live. I’ve got a book signing at Waihi Paper Plus. I’ve got a book launch at the Paeroa Library and another kind of launch Meet the Author event at Carson’s Bookshop in Thames. They have been so, so supportive. But, I mean, you mentioned now if I had to go to Auckland and ask them to stock my book, I feel so tired or, you know, just that exhaustion is setting in now. Because it’s a lot of work to have to keep trying to promote yourself and to promote your work. So I can totally relate to that.

Jo: Absolutely. Absolutely. So that’s nice that the hybrid model, you’re sharing a little bit of that workload, which is nice, particularly in the sphere of marketing and things like that. So that’s cool.

Kelley: Hard work, marketing.

Jo: Yeah, it really is. It really is. It’s not my strong point. I just want to be writing the books. But yeah, but no, that’s cool. That’s really cool. So what do you think the most surprising aspect has been along the way of writing and publishing your first book?

Kelley: Hmm. Surprising aspect.

Jo: Or challenging.

Kelley: I think maybe my answer might not be like a usual answer because the publishing journey has been quite straightforward for me as in it’s, you just got to trust other people. And I am, I find it quite difficult most of the time is to send something away, send your ideas and see it all produced into the book. Right? Right. So, it all comes together. But I guess so the most surprising thing for me has been support from people. Ever since I told friends, family, colleagues, people I know, that I have, you know, taken it upon myself to get something I’ve written out into the world, the feedback has just been really heartwarming, and I wasn’t expecting that.

I think because it is creative, people do look at it through a different lens. You know? I think if I said I was going to do, you know, a great trek or climb Mount Everest, people see that and they go, yes, yeah, that’s something I can visualize. But when you’re saying that you’re doing this creative endeavor, people don’t know how it’s going to go. So the biggest feedback for me has been people telling me that I’m brave. I don’t know if you’ve got that. A lot of people said, Oh, that is so brave of you. That’s so brave of you.

Jo: No, I haven’t had that, but that’s so interesting. I love that. Okay, cool.

Kelley: Yeah. I didn’t know how to react to that initially. You know, as soon as somebody sees you’re brave, you think, Oh no, like, should I not be doing this? Should I just be going to Mount Everest or something like that? Like, it’s because it’s hard for people to quantify, I guess. You know, this experience and this journey that you’re on. And I think, yeah, I don’t know. I guess I am brave, right? I guess we are all brave to do it. And it’s just, oh, just trying to fake it till you make it, I guess, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been just telling people, yeah, it’s been going good, I’m brave, I’m doing it, just backing myself, whereas internally it can be quite a challenge to keep up on that.

Jo: Yeah. I totally understand that. I love that people have been saying that it’s brave because when you think about it, it absolutely is. A lot of people have the dream of writing a book, right? And not so many people follow through with it. And like any type of creativity, when you put it out there in the world, you are putting it out there for people to have their opinions and to critique and it makes you quite vulnerable, right? So, because there is always a little piece of us that goes into any creative work and it can be easy to take it personally as well. And I think people obviously in your sphere recognize that. And so they’re seeing that vulnerability in putting your work out there. And so, yeah, that bravery, that’s really cool. I like that.

Kelley: It’s a good way to describe it though, how you just said vulnerability. It’s actually the perfect word for authors out there.

Jo: It is. It’s so nerve wracking. Every time I release a new book, there’s always that, or even a podcast episode, to be honest, every time I release one, I’m like, Okay, what are people going to think? Like, there’s always a little bit of that trepidation and everything, but it’s fun too. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush as well, I guess.

Kelley: That’s a good point. I can relate when it comes to our paper coming out every week. You look at it and you write the stories, you’re so close to them for so long, you get the hard copy, you analyze everything. Even though you’ve read the story already, you know, 15 times, and you analyse it and you think, okay, it’s gone out there, but then immediately you’re onto the next one. Yeah. Yeah. It’s very funny. It’s just to think that you do all this for yourself, isn’t it? You’re writing for yourself. It’s because you love it. And it’s because you get such a kick out of it and such a rush and such a thrill.

Jo: Yeah. Yeah, it does. It fills us somehow. And that’s important. And so, yeah, I think it’s really important that we are our loudest, bravest cheerleader for ourselves. And I totally get that need to, or to feel like we’re faking it till we make it a little bit, you know, to, yeah, absolutely.

So after this, so I know what the process of writing a book and going through and the publication, and then you’ve got the looming launch and everything ahead of you, but also feeling a little bit tired and ready for it to wrap up because it’s been amping up for so long. So do you have plans or anything of how you’re going to celebrate after the launch or what you’re going to do, how you’re going to rejuvenate yourself a little bit?

Kelley: Yeah. It’s funny. That’s a great question because I do think I need to have that rest period, you know, just to celebrate the moments. And I have to admit, I have been forgetting to celebrate the moments. I have been just so focused on that kind of end result that I haven’t been clocking in those celebrations and those little milestones. So I think what I’m going to do after launch is really do that. It’s just kind of be with myself for a little bit and just think about what I’ve achieved because a lot of the times you don’t reflect on the work that you’ve done and the effort that you’ve put in, you just kind of go each day by day, until you get a moment for reflection.

So I think that’s going to be the big thing I’m going to do after my launch events. I’m just going to reflect. I’m just going to pat myself on the back and be really proud for a moment. And then, to be honest, I might just get straight back into it.

Jo: Oh, I love it.

Kelley: I think I’m just so excited now as well. You know, I’m ready for The Runaway Man to be out and I’m ready for the world to read it. I’m so excited for that. And I think that it has given me just, I’ve got a taste now. Right? I’ve got a taste of it. And I think after I have that moment of reprieve, where I just think about all that I’ve achieved this year, I am going to try do the same achievements and hit the same targets and make the same milestones next year. And, you know, get the second book in the series published.

Jo: That is awesome. I think a lot of people don’t realize this, but writing a book and having it out there in the world becomes addictive. Like it really does. Uh, yeah, it’s like once you’ve done it once, there’s a little bit of a high that comes with it. And then you’re like, okay, I need to do this again. This is so fun. That’s so cool. So Runaway Man is part of a planned series. Is that correct?

Kelley: Yeah. Yeah. It didn’t start that way. I had one and done it and I thought, this is great. This is the thing that I wanted to do. I finished a novel. But I sent it through to my parents, my editors, and they had asked the question, okay, well I think you should continue it. What happens next? You know, there’s more that you can do with this. There’s more with the characters and there’s stories that you could flesh out. And I had actually already started the bones of a second book, and I kind of stood back and I looked at it and I thought, hang on, this is perfectly lending itself to a sequel. And I have got it into my head that I think it might be a three-part series, because the theme of the novel, is about those who do trade their lives for new ones and the consequences that that has. And it doesn’t just have consequences on the person who has faked their disappearance. It has consequences, you know, like a ripple effect. And so I thought that the second and third books, to The Runaway Series could look at that. And look at other people that have been impacted and other stories.

And so I am very excited about that. The second book, actually, I’ve written it. I’ve written the complete first draft. I know that one, that one came to me so much easier, Jo, like it was insane. It was insane how, I think maybe because I had already known who the characters were. And it was, it was so much fun to write the second one. So while I’ve got my mind entirely focused on The Runaway Man, and I haven’t even looked really, at part two for quite a while. I think after I get a bit of relaxation, a bit of R & R, I will then pick my socks up and look at book two again and see as well if that’s something that people would be interested in and would be interested in reading.

Jo: That’s awesome. How exciting. And have you talked to Cranthorpe Millner about that? Are your publishers looking at taking on your next book as well, or is that something you haven’t talked to them about yet?

Kelley: I talked to them about it right at the start, actually. So when I knew that there were questions of me to maybe continue it as a series, I said, Oh, is that something that you would be interested in me doing? And I did. I got such a great response from them for that. So I think that is what has inspired me is that I do have an opportunity to keep this going. And, so yeah, once The Runaway Man is done and dusted and it’s out there, and I can give the second book, the, you know, the focus and the attention that it deserves, I’ll go back to Cranthorpe and say, Here you go. It’s with you now. Tell me what you think.

Jo: Amazing. Oh, so fun. So fun. I’m so excited for you. Like there is nothing like getting your first book out in the world. Like there’s just something so special about that. What would your advice be then for somebody else who’s maybe thinking about writing their first book or has the first draft and is thinking what to do next? Do you have any advice for them?

Kelley: I think, do it. For sure. I think people… it’s that imposter syndrome again, right? And you get it when you’re writing. And I had that too, so often. And sometimes it did stop me from writing the book. So, my biggest advice would be to actually keep writing. So if you’re still, if you’ve got a work in progress and you’ve sat on it for a few years, my advice would just be to write, even if it’s a little bit. Because I had days where I didn’t feel like writing, but I would sit down and then I would come up with the next tangent, you know, the next scene. And I just think to myself, wow, if I hadn’t sat down that day, then this character arc, this storyline wouldn’t even exist. And so if you think about that, it’s actually quite scary when you think how many hours you might be wasting or how many ideas might be, you know, falling out of your brain. So I think that for people who are continuing their writing journey, I think do it. Just trust yourself and get the book finished. I mean, because the high that you get once you finish that draft, I think I was dancing around the room, like I was singing. I was elated. I was just, I couldn’t even describe, I don’t think there’s a, you know, more, more exciting thrill that I got after finishing that first draft.

And for people who have got that first draft and dunno what to do with it. I would actually meet other writers. I would, I think, me being on this process, one of the best things was me chatting to other writers. I was so in my own head and I didn’t talk to anybody about writing when I was doing The Runaway Man, and I kind of wish I had. If I had that advice and if I had people to encourage me and give little tips and tricks or read over a manuscript first, or give advice on publishers or who to contact, I think that just would have been so great to just have that support network. So, yeah, if you’ve got the manuscript there, look around, you know, you don’t, there’s not one size fits all. And I think we all know that now, like we were talking. Everyone’s got a different story and a different journey. So I think just make your journey work for you, that would be my biggest advice.

Jo: Love that. I love that so much. That’s so cool. So your book is out pretty much as this goes live, which is really exciting. But where can people, how can they connect with you? Where can they find your book?

Kelley: So it’s available via Amazon. So if you’re in New Zealand, I do point people actually first and foremost to my website, which is just kelleytantau.com because I can ship it direct. So that’s quite a quick and easy, fast way to get your hands on a copy.

If you’re wanting the eBook, it’s available on Kindle. So Amazon again. If you’re in Australia or international, Amazon is probably the way to go. If you are local in the Thames Valley, you can get it from Waihi Paper Plus or Carson’s Bookshop in Thames, and also in Browsers Bookstore in Hamilton, just on the main road there has kindly agreed to stock it as well. And like I, as you would know, Jo, I reckon the best thing that people can do if they’re really wanting to support Kiwi authors, is to just go into your local bookshop and ask them to order it in. Because that’s what bookstores can do, they have it there in their system, they can order it in for you and that’s just a great way to go and show your support by saying, hey, I want this author’s book. So, yeah, bring it in and stock it, and that will help just so many Kiwi writers out there.

Jo: Absolutely. Totally agree with that. And I don’t know if your books are set up for libraries, but also requesting at libraries is such a good idea too.

Kelley: Yes, you’re right. I actually, I have been contacted by Wheelers distributing. So it will be, I think, available through that system as well, because everyone finds the next good book at libraries.

Jo: So, so good. And you’re on social media as well. So people can connect with you there.

Kelley: Yes. Thank you. Yes. Just Kelley Tantau. It’s KELLEY TANTAU, and I’m on Instagram and Facebook and TikTok now, believe it or not, I’ve had to learn how to use TikTok and that’s just @KTantauWriter. So, if you want to help out and share some advice about TikTok as well, I’d be very grateful.

Jo: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today, Kelley, it’s been so good talking to you. And I’m wishing you all the best with your amazing book launch as well. I’ve already pre ordered my copy. So yay.

Kelley: Thank you so much. It’s been so nice to chat and talk about all these things that have been, you know, in my head for so long. It’s quite a challenge to get them out of your mouth sometimes, but it’s been really fun to chat and I appreciate your support as well. It warms my heart, it honestly does.

Jo: Takeaways from today’s episode.

1. Be discerning with feedback, but also be willing to try new things with your writing.

2. Developing a thick skin and remembering your writing isn’t for everyone is an invaluable and freeing gift you can give yourself as a writer.

 3. Pay attention to your dreams. There may be a story in them.

4. Becoming a published author takes perseverance. If you come up against one closed door, look for another door that is open.

5. There is no one way to be a published author. Hybrid or indie publishing is just as authentic as being traditionally published.

6. Writing and publishing a book requires courage and vulnerability and is a sign of bravery.

7. Ultimately, remember you’re writing for yourself. You’re writing because you love it.

So I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

If The Runaway Man sounds like a book that you’re interested in, make sure to go purchase your copy. The links of course are in the show notes. And as I mentioned in the intro, you’ll also find links to sign up to Carissa Andrew’s course 4 Books, 5 Days: Mastering AI-Enhanced Series Planning. Or if you’re struggling to write your books blurb, use the code “alchemy”, ALCHEMY to get a discount on some of Jessie Cunniffe’s products and services at Book Blurb Magic.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please remember to rate, review, or tell a friend. Or you can consider buying me a coffee at www.buymeacoffee.com/jobuer JOBUER. Your support helps keep this show alive and helps me to keep creating content.

So there we are, my lovelies. I’m heading into a very busy few weeks trying to hit writing deadlines. So I’m wishing all of us a super creative, prolific, joyful writing time ahead until the next episode.

Thanks for listening.

Debut Author, Hybrid Publishing, imposter syndrome, Journalist, New Zealand Author