Tess Woods is a physiotherapist who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Her debut novel, Love at First Flight, first released as an eBook in April 2015, received worldwide critical acclaim, hit the best-seller charts in Australia and was voted Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Awards 2015. Tess was also top ten nominated as Best New Author. Love at First Flight was the first HarperCollins Australia digital book acquisition to be given a print release in July 2016. Tess’s short story, Destiny in a Day was released in the anthology Hot Stuff: Surfing Love and she is currently putting the finishing touches her second full-length novel, Beautiful Messy Love. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.
You are published through HarperCollins, one of the largest publishers in the world. What would you say is the single most important thing new authors should do when submitting their manuscript to publishers and agents?
Well I never submitted to publishers myself but I did send twenty-three different submissions to every literary agent in Australia who at that time accepted contemporary commercial fiction. So I won’t give advice about publishers, but I know a lot about how to successfully submit to agents because when I submitted I had only a few rejection letters off the bat – most asked for my manuscript or at least some sample chapters to read.
My biggest piece of advice is make sure you read every agent’s submission guidelines on each website and follow them to the letter! There is nothing more off-putting for an agent (and I imagine a publisher) who opens your email to find an eighteen page submission when their guidelines were for a one page letter.
I wrote a piece about how to submit to agents so if you want to check out how I did it just click this link –
Your debut novel for HarperCollins ‘Love at First Flight’ (voted Reader’s Choice Book of the Year for 2015) has just been released in paperback. Can you share a little of your journey to publication with us?
I wrote the bare bones of the novel in three days after being inspired by the tragic Romeo and Juliet scenario of Bella and Edward in Twilight after I read all four books in the Twilight Series in a week. The day after I finished reading the last book, I went and saw the Twilight movie. And then the day after that the pivotal scene of Love at First Flight gate crashed my brain and I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t even name my main characters, they came to me already named Mel and Adam.
Working as a physio and with two young kids, writing a book was the furthest thing from my mind until this happened then Boom – I was possessed! The entire story exploded out of me. But it wasn’t an inspired burst of creative energy that led to publication – it was the years of hard work afterward of editing and re-editing until I finally had a story worthy to pitch.
I decided to pitch to literary agents and was rejected by every last one of them who accepted submissions of commercial contemporary fiction.
But fate struck and two years after I had submitted to her and she had rejected the manuscript, literary agent Jacinta di Mase emailed me out of the blue and she signed me!
Jacinta then landed me the deal with HarperCollins digital imprint Impulse and the rest as they say is history J.
Love at First Flight
‘Looking back on it now, I can see it was instant. The second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that. The me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don’t regret it.’
Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, her picture-perfect life unravels. Seated on the plane she meets Matt, and for the first time ever she falls in love.
What begins as a flirty conversation quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with consequences that neither Mel nor Matt seems capable of avoiding. As the repercussions hit friends and family, Mel’s dream romance turns into nightmare. She learns that there are some wounds that never heal and some scars that you wouldn’t do without.
Love At First Flight will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.
Would you say that it’s important for authors to embrace social media when it comes to promoting themselves and their work? If so, which platforms would you advise writers to use?
YES! YES! YES! Caps lock was not by accident there!
I know it’s viewed as a big time waster away from their work in progress for many authors, but for me it’s an essential part of my marketing of myself and has worked an absolute treat. Done wisely, social media will help you cultivate special friendships with other authors, bloggers and readers who will all shout about you to all of their friends and you just can’t buy that kind of widespread promotion that’s free!
I’ve made Facebook my social media platform of choice because I’m comfortable with it. I don’t mind Twitter but Facebook is king for me.
I’ll show you why Facebook is great! With my book release this week, I wrote two posts all week – only two. The first was announcing the release and the second was thanking the booksellers who supported when I visited their stores for signings. That’s all I did and yet, I know Nene you can testify to this, Facebook for the last nine days has been flooded with posts about my book with people all over Australia taking ‘shelfies’ with it! I did a radio interview and the presenter said ‘You broke the internet with your book release and you didn’t even have to get naked like Kim Kardashian did!’ How did I break the internet with two posts in a week? By playing by the rules on Facebook. Here’s an article about how I have made Facebook work for me.
What transforms a book from an ordinary read to an irresistible page-turner?
Two words – narrative traction! If you can build reader investment in your characters so that they have to know what happens next, they’ll keep turning those pages for sure. I attended a fantastic lecture on narrative traction by author CS Pasat using the Hunger Games to illustrate her point. This is a link to the notes I took down in that lecture and underneath that link is my take on what creates a perfect scene.
When you’re thinking about ideas for a new book, what comes first – the story, the characters or the location?
The story, always the story. I start each book with a scene that appears to me out of nowhere and is never at the start of the book! With Beautiful Messy Love it’s the epilogue that came to me first so then I had to figure out the whole story leading up that point!
I’ve written a second book now, which is a loose sequel to Love at First Flight, called Beautiful Messy Love. It’s about Mel in Love at First Flight’s two children as adults whose own lives are just starting to take shape. That manuscript is now in the hands of my lovely editor Mary at HarperCollins.
I’m also very excited to be involved in a collaborative effort with twenty- three other Aussie writers where we all share our road to publication and tips for aspiring writers. The anthology is called ‘Writing the Dream’ and is being published by the most wonderful WA publishing house, Serenity Press. The book will be released in November – can’t wait!
And in other exciting news my kids, Tom and Lara, collaborated on a project. Lara wrote a children’s book called Lizzie Reaches the Rainbow and Tom illustrated it. I submitted the story to publisher Karen McDermott at Serenity Press and it was accepted! That book will be published in late October this year.
So the rest of the year is looking rather busy!
If you’d like to buy Love at First Flight, it’s available at all good bookshops and department stores in Australia and can also be delivered to your door if you order from Booktopia – here’s the link –