Thursday, June 21, 2018

Meet Our Members: Jeanette O'Hagan

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today's interview – Jeanette O’Hagan

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I was born in Mt Isa and spent my childhood in Mt Isa, Sydney, Kitwe (Africa), Melbourne and Hamilton (Victoria) – but mainly in Mt Isa and Kitwe, before coming to Brisbane to start Uni.

With my dad (1928-2018) and two brothers

My forbears were adventurers and immigrants; my grandparents came from three continents (Europe, Africa, Australia) and four countries (Ireland, South Africa, England, Australia). Nevertheless, after moving round so often, I am now firmly planted in Brisbane with my husband and two children.

My brother used to joke that I’m getting better by degrees (medicine, arts, theology, TESOL and now MA writing). I love to learn facts, knowledge, all sorts of titbits across the arts and sciences, but I’m abysmal at trivia about music and sports.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing.  What do you write and why?

I mostly write fantasy (with a dash of sci-fi), poetry and blog posts. I fell in love with books early on and was a voracious reader as a child. About fourth or fifth grade I began telling myself stories, and these extended daydreams grew into a world (Nardva), with characters I loved having thrilling adventures. I write to bring that world and the characters and adventures to life.  It’s exhilarating, fun, a wild ride. I also hope God’s love and grace shines through my world and words.

With the poetry, it’s more an expression of life as I experience it — moments, strong emotions, reflections, cameos, events. While blogging is a way of musing about stuff and passing on the things I’ve learned along the way.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

Who has read my work — my family, other writers and reviewers, and some keen readers – in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK, maybe even France and Germany — still a fairly small and select circle at this stage, but I’m hopeful it will continue to expand.  I was thrilled at Gold Coast Supernova earlier this year when a couple of times, strangers stopped by to enthuse about reading my books and wanting more stories.  But even more special was when my mum asked me to read to Dad a couple of poems I’d written from experiences growing up – Thunderstorm & Floating (in Inner Child, Poetica Christi).

As to who would I like to read my books – I write for the general market, in the hope my books might seed the imagination with divine possibilities, to inspire faith, hope and love in my readers.  

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Each story is different. My first novel started from a lucid dream and was completely pantsed (Finding Elene – yet to be published). Some I’ve daydreamed for months and years, allowing the characters a lot of freedom, before I’ve set out to write their stories (Akrad’s Children).  Other stories have I written from a theme, with the characters and plot emerging out of the setting or concept (eg Heart of the Mountain). I usually have some idea where I’m going – with major incidents or turning points or the ending in mind, but not always.

Challenges are getting time to write (not getting distracted) and sorting out the structure, especially with books that are part of a series.

What helps me most is writing consistently. I’m much more creative and in the flow if I write every day (or every other day). And second, getting feedback from critique partners, beta-readers and editors.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

It’s hard to keep it to one. I think two of the most helpful and freeing has been Stephen James’ Story Trumps Structure and Stephen King’s On Writing.  I do appreciate the more prescriptive books and the insights they give, but I find it hard to be creative with strict formulas, I am suspicious of ‘one size fits all’ approaches (especially when touted as revolutionary) and I like to understand the why behind the rules so I know when I can bend them 😊 .

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Without a doubt Nola Passmore (our illustrious former CWD coordinator) who has been a huge encouragement and who has wrangled me along to courses like Year of the Novel and Margie Lawson immersion, as well as been a great beta reader and editor. Plus, she is an amazing writer and I love her work. Though of course there are so many others, Paula Vince, Anusha Atukorala, Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones, Adam Collings, and many, many others. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

My goals for 2018 is to finish writing the last two novellas in the Under the Mountain series, edit the first draft of Rasel’s Song (sequel of Akrad’s Children), and start on a dragon novel (Dragonspite) and/or my cyborg trilogy (The Chameleon Protocols). I’ll achieve this by making time to write, keeping focus, and a big dose of God’s grace.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My faith is the bedrock and source of my writing. I believe God has given me the desire, the passion, the abilities, and this time, this moment, to write. I trust that He will continue to provide those opportunities, though He is sovereign, and I commit my plans and the outcomes to Him. Because I write for the general market and because I write fantasy, my stories aren’t usually ‘in your face’ Christian. But I believe they are consciously written from a Christian worldview, informed by Christian values, and threaded through with Christian themes and references, though perhaps subtly at times as in many of the parables. I’m grateful to my Maker in whose steps I attempt to follow.

Jeanette O’Hagan first spun tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fantasy, science fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories include a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance, and/or shapeshifters.

Recent publications include Akrad's Children—a Young Adult kingdom fantasy; Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal— the first two novellas from the Under the Mountain series; plus Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories. She has stories and poems in seventeen other anthologies, including The Quantum Soul, Tales From the Underground, Like a Woman and Futurevision.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.


Sign up to my Newsletter and receive a copy of Ruhanna’s Flight: a short story.


  1. Great interview Jenny. You sure have a gift of writing. Amazed as to all the diverse studies you have achieved too. Well done my friend. Loved the picture of you with your Dad - how very cute and easily recognisable! :) Thank you for all you do for us at CWD despite all else you have to keep up with. All the best with your writing. Your Dad must have been very proud of you and of course your Mum too.

    1. Thanks Anusha :) Yeah, thinking about Dad a bit atm. I think he was and Mum too and I owe so much to both of them, including my love for books.

  2. Oh thanks for the shoutout, Jenny. I wasn't expecting that. I was happily reading down and then came across my face. You;re an inspiration, the way you've tackled so many projects and done them so well. Looking forward to the next books in the Under the Mountain series and Rasel's Song. And I must read Story Trumps Structure. I agree that some books can be a bit prescriptive and tout a particular formula. It's good to break the mould every now and then.

    1. Thanks Nola - I appreciate so much of what you do to encourage and inspire others to write. Thrilled you are looking forward to the sequels (yay), I better get cracking writing them. And I think you would appreciate Story Trumps Structure.

  3. Hi Jenny, what a great way of putting daydreams (and nocturnal) to a wonderful use that benefits many! I've long been awed by your string of degrees too, which surely adds fuel to your daydreams. And yes, I agree with Anusha, that haven't changed from the childhood picture enough that we can't pick you. Thanks for all the good work you do.

    1. Thanks, Paula, I've entertained myself in many a dull situation with storytelling. And yes, those curls are always a giveaway, something I inherited from my Dad and Irish Grandad.

  4. So exciting to see your writing journey gaining increasing momentum, Jeanette. You truly are super human in all you achieve with the limited hours of each day! Given how much is happening in your head, story wise, I can imagine a great deal of daydreaming would be required to keep things in order and explore new adventures. (Love that this was such a part of your childhood.) Can't wait to read more of your stories. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. LOL, yes, quite a bit of daydreaming :) I look forward to getting more stories out there for you to read. Thanks Adele.

  5. Hi Jenny,
    What a fabulous interview. You are such a talented writer, and a beautiful person to boot. Our dreams, nocturnal or day, do provide much inspiration. I like to think that God has a Hand in this. I'm looking forward to having more time to read your stories and poems. I admire your patience and tenacity to see these journeys through to the end. Thank you for sharing your exciting journey.

    1. Thanks Jo-Anne. I like to think that God has a hand in our dreaming (eyes shut or open). Hoping to have more of the adventure available shortly.