Q1. Hello, can you please introduce yourself? Readers would love to know more about you.
My name is Annabel Harz. I’m a career teacher, burgeoning editor and emerging writer. I am Australian and have lived (and worked) around Australia and overseas. I live in the country because I love the lifestyle.
Q2. What were the key challenges you faced while writing your ‘Journey’ books?
Definitely the biggest challenge in publishing both my books was facing my past: as I wrote in the Preface of Journey into the Shadow and the Sunshine, ‘Do I really want to peer into the most difficult times of my life again, to pry them open for public view?’
These works are autobiographical, therefore, publishing them puts my vulnerability openly in public view and this can be uncomfortable and confronting. Gradually, through the publishing process — especially during the editing — each poem transforms from ‘purely raw emotion’ to ‘ready for the public’, which makes it easier for me to release to the world.
I would like to reassure readers that my books have happy endings! In addition to the poems about being broken and lost, there are plenty of positive poems about strength, resilience and happiness (one reviewer described them as ‘beautiful love poems’).
Q3. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
It’s hard to name one author or book which has influenced my writing: I am always reading, and I read widely, across genres: I gain something from every title, so am influenced by every book and every author I read.
The authors which influence my own writing the most are those whose writing challenges my thinking and broadens my perspectives: I relish books which show me new ways of being, and (for fiction) have unexpected twists and turns which I can’t predict. Perennials are Kathy Lette, Ben Elton, Paulo Coelho; two new authors I have recently discovered are Claire Ishi Ayetoro and S.M. Stevens: stunning work!
Q4. What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?
Gosh, that’s a hard one! There are infinite beautiful places in Australia, which are highly varied: we have fragrant eucalypt forests, humid temperate and tropical rainforest, stunning coastlines, heavenly mountains, sandy desert and sparsely vegetated semi-desert … I guess my favourite spots to visit are where I feel at peace, and that includes anywhere in nature. I’m especially fond of places I have lived in, where I have seen the land in different seasons. Another favourite spot to visit is my family, which is strictly not one single place, although it acts as a landscape in my heart: my connection to family is strong and I am uplifted when I share time and place with them.
Q5. Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing a book?
Definitely! For me the planning process very much involves readying myself to put my work out on public view, especially as the content is very personal. I take time over the format and layout, which informs my decisions about what to include overall: this process of sifting the content continues into the editing process, where I have removed poems that niggle (alerting me to that they don’t quite fit) fairly late in the process, when much of the book feels complete.
Q6. How long did it take you to write your ‘Journey’ books?
Both my books contain poetry and pictures which illustrate my journey from depression to wellness as a teenager-young adult, so the content is largely from that era.
It therefore took me ‘decades’ and ‘a year’ to write each one. Once I had put the content together, the actual publishing process was inside a year.
Q7. On what platforms can readers find your books to buy?
My books are available in physical bookstores and online, from the following places:
INDEPENDENT BOOK STORES (Print)
The Book Wolf, Maldon, Vic
Torquay Books, Torquay, Vic
Lorne Books, Lorne, Vic
Collins Booksellers Ballarat on Lydiard, Ballarat, Vic
Everybody Knows Books, Ballarat, Vic
The Independent Bookstore, Ballarat, Vic
ONLINE (Print / eBook)
Balboa Press (USA)
Balboa Press (AUS)
bol.com (The Netherlands)
CHAIN STORES (Print / eBook)
Angus & Robertson (Australia)
Barnes and Noble (USA)
Smith&Son (aka WH Smith, Paris, France)
Libreria Gandhi (Mexico)
Q8. Tell us about the process of coming up with the cover and the title of your books?
I published Journey into the Dark and the Light in 2017. Given that Journey into the Shadow and the Sunshine focuses on the same topic, this book deserved a similar title. Both books take the reader on a journey, from the depths of depression to the positivity of wellness, so putting Journey into the title was an easy decision to make. To create the remainder of the titles I followed my heart, ensuring that both the sad and glad experiences of the content were reflected. The audience vicariously experiences both sides of the yin-yang symbol on the covers and I wanted to portray this duality in my titles.
The artwork for the cover took some consideration: for both books, I wanted to use an original piece, to allow the audience to easily predict what to expect from the inside content. It was a matter of deciding what would be attention-grabbing, interest-piquing and, above all, relevant to all sections of the book.
The torn-paper look was created by the design team at Balboa Press. I was enchanted when I received the first draft of Journey into the Dark and the Light. The cover showed my artwork while withholding some of it, it wasn’t a full reveal – mirroring the mystique of many of the poems and pictures within. It fitted so well, stylistically, that I requested the same look for Journey into the Shadow and the Sunshine. When something is perfect, why change it?
Q9. When writing a book how do you keep things fresh, for both your readers and also yourself?
I keep things fresh by judging each item on its own. Each and every poem must earn its place within its section (alongside nine other poems), and within the overall book. I apply the same scrutiny to my artwork: I strive to provide a variety of artwork styles for the audience.
During the editing phase I ‘read as a reader’: I approach each poem and picture as an outsider who has no prior knowledge of my story. This enables me to work out which text needs more clues to be understood, as well as sorting out what doesn’t contribute to the collection as a whole. I tweak individual poems at line-level, ensuring that every word value-adds; I evaluate the match of each picture to its poem; I rearrange the order until it works. Each item must therefore stand on its own as well as enhancing the whole, and if it’s not … it’s discarded.
Q10. Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
There aren’t really any secrets in my book: the strength of my poetry and artwork is that it is raw and honest, it displays my vulnerability openly. This aspect of my work can make it challenging to consume, as there is really no place for me as the author or the reader to hide from the unsettling brutality that a condition like depression engenders; yet as it is ultimately cathartic to see how far I have come, it is also inspiring (to quote multiple reviewers). I am glad to provide happy endings in my books, mirroring my life: I have overcome my depression and can now appreciate the multitude of joys that life has to offer.
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