Tuesday 28 February 2017

Tuesday Spotlight - Jeanette O'Hagan

Each Monday and Thursday, Christian Writers Downunder's faithful and talented blog team contribute blogposts to inspire and inform aspiring and established writers. In 2017 we will be adding Tuesday Spotlights - posts that spotlight both writers and organisations that contribute to the writing scene Downunder. Our first on December 27 was on Nola Passmore, writer, editor, academic and the previous coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder. The Second on 14 February was of Anusha Atukorala, encourager, prayer warrior, and inspirational writer and an invaluable member of the Admin team. Today's and the next one will continue highlight the CWD Administration team: Anusha Atukorala, Paula Vince and Jeanette O’Hagan.

Today's spotlight is on Jeanette O'Hagan with questions from Nola Passmore.

Nola Passmore and Jeanette O'Hagan

Nola: You’ve had a number of interesting jobs, including doctor and Bible college lecturer.  What inspired you to become a writer?

Jeanette: I’ve had a passion for creating stories since I was eight or nine and wrote a novel in my late teens, early twenties. It didn’t occur to me that I could be a writer, so I studied medicine, practiced as a General Practitioner, studied a Bachelor of Theology and began post-graduate studies in theology and was thrilled to lecture in ethics, world religions in a bible college. I loved it and had no time for creative writing. It was only when family commitments meant the door slammed shut on my lecturing that God reminded me of my passion for writing.

Nola: You’ve done a lot of courses and workshops on writing (e.g., a Masters degree in creative writing, a Margie Lawson immersion class, Year of the Edit with the Queensland Writers’ Centre, and more).  How have these classes/workshops helped you in your writing journey?

Jeanette: The different courses as well as networking through writers’ groups, conferences and workshops, have been invaluable in learning writing craft, and in understanding the writing journey and markets, and also, in learning how to research, learn and solve creative challenges. 

On a purely technical level, writing has been a hard craft to perfect. It’s been important to understand current stylistic trends and story requirements. It has been just as important to realize the ‘why’ behind the rules, to know when to bend them, and to know, not only the don’ts (don’t use adverbs, don’t use creative dialogue tags etc), but also to know what to do (how to show, how to add emotion and subtext) – which is what I appreciated about the Margie Lawson Immersion experience.

Nola: Your novella Heart of the Mountain was published last year and it’s been getting great reviews.  How did the idea for the story come about?

Jeanette: Well, Nola – remember when we had the brilliant idea to create and edit an anthology for the International Year of LightGlimpses of Light? I thought about the theme - not just of light, but a glimpse. Which got me thinking about an underground realm where the lights were failing. I wanted to place it in my imaginary world – Nardva – which gave me a few other ideas about plot and characters. Trouble was, as hard as tried, I couldn’t keep the story to the 7000 word limit. So, I wrote another piece for the anthology – Ruhanna’s Flight – and then, revised and expanded Heart of the Mountain story into a short novella.

Nola: You’re the Queen of Multitasking.  As well as your novella, you’ve had a number of short stories and poems published in various anthologies.  You were the driving force behind the Glimpses of Light anthology, you organised the Omega Writers Book Fair in Brisbane, you coordinate Christian Writers Downunder, you’re working on a series of novels and a poetry anthology, you blog, you paint … Phew!  How do you keep all of those balls in the air and maintain a healthy work-life balance?  I’d love to know your secret.

Jeanette: Oh wow, now I’m blushing.  I’m not sure I do keep all the balls in the air – or maybe I catch them just before they hit the ground. I work well to deadlines. I like to-do lists. I’ve got bull-dog Curtis genes – once I commit to a task, I don’t like not finishing it (my sister-in-law suggests it’s ‘sticking to the rut’ genes). I pray a lot. I prioritise. I focus on my writing. I don’t watch T.V. Writing (and reading) is my hobby as well as my passion. I keep my family clean, clothed, fed and where they need to be (school, interviews) but I am not the best housekeeper. I probably should exercise more (though grocery shopping and gardening are exercise, right?). I pray a lot. I said that, but really, God’s grace and underpinning is everything.

Nola: Tell us about your current work in progress.

Jeanette: I’m currently working on another YA fantasy novella, Blood Crystal, a sequel to Heart of the Mountain – which continues the story of Retza, Delvina and Zadeki about twenty days after HOM finishes with new challenges for the people under the mountain.  I finished a first draft last year but am now revising it and adding some scenes with view of publishing it in a few months’ time. 

I’m also want to get the first few books of my Akrad’s legacy series ready for publication this year. I have put a lot of work (several revisions) into Akrad’s Children and need to get the first drafts of Rasel’s Song and Mannok’s Betrayal into shape. The books follow the fortunes of four young people following a devastating civil war and an uneasy peace —the orphans Dinnis and Ista, the young Tamrin prince Mannok, and Rasel, a mysterious young woman of the forest folk.

I have a few other short story ideas and anthologies I wouldn’t mind working up. We’ll see.

Nola: You’ve done a fantastic job of coordinating CWD in the last year.  What are your hopes and dreams for CWD in 2017 and beyond?

Jeanette: Thank you. If I have, it’s because of the work of previous coordinators like yourself and Lee, and also the wonderful admin team, Anusha and Paula. I love how responsive and helpful the CWD members are to each other's questions and triumphs, and also the faithfulness and creativity of our blog team on the blogsite Christian Writers Downunder. 

Omega Writers 2016 Book Fair

My hopes and dreams are that we continue to be a supportive, accepting and interactive group that honours Christ in our words and deeds. I have ideas of revamping the look and some of the features of the blogsite – some of which I’ve done (adding an about page, some rearrangements in format) and of introducing Tuesday Spotlights.  I like idea of spontaneous interactions – like the Friday Fun  posts — on the CWD Facebook page. I’m glad we have an ongoing cooperation between other groups, as affiliate of Omega Writers (OW), and the Cross-Posts (on Genres in 2017) with our sister group Australasian Christian Writers (ACW) as well as connections with Faith Writers.  I have some ideas brewing on additional pages to the blogsite and maybe events in which we could support each other as writers.  

Thanks Nola for some challenging and interesting questions.  Next Tuesday Spotlight, we’ll be asking another member of the Admin teams, Paula Vince, some curly ... er interesting and intelligent questions.

 Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine.

She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardva stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and fantasy.

Recent publications include Heart of the Mountain: a short novella, The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Jeanette is also writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Her other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

 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 and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.
Jeanette O'Hagan Writes http://jeanetteohagan.com/
Email sign-up:  http://eepurl.com/bbLJKT/


  1. Thanks for this interview, Jenny and Nola. I've often wondered the secret to your productivity too, and love it that you say it's where you choose to centre your focus. Having had such a varied career in the past, I also love that you put writing up there among the most challenging and rewarding. That's a terrific encouragement for the rest of us. It's great to see your fantasy stories hitting the shelves, both long and short, and to have you at the helm of Christian Writers Downunder.

    1. Thanks Paula :) You've been an inspiration to me too. Love your novels and your book blog. I love the way everyone has something to contribute.

  2. Nice interview, Nola and Jeanette (aka Super Jenny :) ). Yes, those juggling balls. How on earth?!!! I think I'll just stand back and look on in amazement as all the years you've invested in your craft continue reaping a reward with the addition of further published titles by your hand. Well done and thank you for encouraging the journey of many other creative folk along the way.

    1. Thanks Adele. It's been an exciting ride - and an enjoyable one. Wonderful to do something I love and am passionate about :)

  3. Wow Jenny! Loved listening to you "speak" and Nola - some great questions there. What a versatile girl you are! I didn't realise you had practiced as a GP too. And you've been a lecturer. What a lot of hats - and very distinguished ones they are too. Well done on your prolific writing - love the colours you've used for your books - they are very attractive. It seems that inspiration flows constantly into that amazing brain of yours. :) Good on you Jenny. As Paula said, it's great to have you at the helm leading us so fabulously in CWD. Congratulations on all your achievements. May your writing go from strength to strength and thanks so much for all you do for us at CWD. It is greatly appreciated.

    1. Thanks Anusha - and thank you for being part of the CWD team :) It's wonderful helping other authors - their wins become our wins too :) It gives me a big smile when people love my covers - and a bigger one when they love my stories :) Thanks again.

  4. LOL Jenny - I'd forgotten what I'd asked. Even more amazed at your answers, which just convince me even more of your Wonder Woman multi-tasking status :) I really admire the way you can stick to a task you've started. I have a past littered with half-finished projects, but I'm trying to stick with more now, especially the novel. And I think I've worked out one of the reasons I don't get as much written as you, Adele and Annie. I watch TV. LOL But it's therapy for me and helps hone my critiquing skills. Really it does!

    Thanks for a great post, Jenny. I look forward to seeing what else you come up with this year.

    1. Thanks Nola. I think the ability to stick to things is a great one, though it's also important to know when to let something go (which is often the one I have difficulty with). Looking forward to celebrating the finish of your novel :) And I can see that totally - therapy and improving one's critiquing skills are totally necessary:)

  5. Great interview, Jenny and Nola. It's fun getting to know you and I've learnt some more things! :)