Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find:

  • FAQs on the writing process
  • FAQs on writing The Beekeeper’s Secret
  • FAQs on writing The Chocolate Promise (The Chocolate Apothecary in the UK/Ireland)
  • FAQs on writing The Tea Chest.



FAQs On Writing

1. Where does your inspiration come from?

Life, essentially. Anything I’m passionate about. Dreams. Snippets of conversations. Visuals. Photos! And questions… lots and lots of questions. I am eternally inquisitive and want to know everything about everything (some people might unkindly call that obsessive), and from those questions I want to find answers.

I start to do research (books, magazine, internet, television) and gather lots of facts (which I just love to do) and small fragments will really jump out at me and hook me. Then I follow that hook down a trail of discovery.

2. What was your pathway to publication?

In summary: twelve years, ten manuscripts, countless rejections, a lot of tears, some good friends, many workshops and courses, some notable shortlistings and competition wins, and adventures into self-publishing.

Then, a very lucky break—Monica McInerney passed my manuscript for the The Tea Chest to her agent, Fiona Inglis of Curtis Brown Australia, who then became my agent and it was a pretty swift move to a contract from there.

3. What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

  • Read, read, read, write, write, write.
  • Be curious. People often say to write what you know. But I think you need to write about what you want to know.
  • You’ll be working on a book for years, so make sure you’re absolutely passionate about the subject and in love with your characters or you won’t make it to the end.
  • Write the book you want to read.
  • Let it rest. Leave a manuscript alone for three months (longer, even), and read it again. Then you’ll know if you love it, if it’s got potential, and if you want to keep going to the next draft, or whether you should let it go and move on to a new manuscript.
  • Learn how to draft and edit and know what to focus on at each stage (structural edits, copy edits, proofreading).
  • Be nice to people–the publishing world is very small. Everyone knows everyone.
  • I’m a big believer in Oprah’s definition of luck: preparation meeting opportunity. Do the work, put in the time, keep going and one day opportunity will strike.
  • Find good writing buddies to share the journey and make sure if you’re in a critique group that the people’s words leave you feeling hopeful and seeing opportunity, not feeling despondent and bludgeoned. Good criticism should make you think, ‘Oh yes! I can see where I can go from here!’
  • Understanding what you want from your writing is a really big thing.If you want to bang out a novel during NaNoWriMo and pass it around to your friends, that’s great. You could even publish it online and have a copy on your shelf and be proud that you did it. There’s a lot of joy in seeing that manuscript take physical form on a shelf and that’s something to celebrate. Maybe you want to write a history for your family to have on record. That’s great too and it’s a wonderful time in technology right now for you to be able to do that really easily.If you want to be a career writer (a professional author), then you’ll need to accept that you’re unlikely to crack a publishing deal on the first manuscript. And that’s normal. Rejection is normal. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It just means you’re still finding your voice and the right book for the marketplace. But once you’ve written a manuscript, be prepared to let it go. By all means, re-draft it, edit it, submit it to your writing group for critique, and sit with it till you feel you’ve come to the end of your journey with that story. That will teach you how to be a professional writer. Then say goodbye and write another one. Don’t get stuck re-writing the same book over and over for ten years. Write another one. And another one. And another one. And one day, you’ll have the ‘right’ book for you at the right time and you’ll look back and think, ‘Oh! I get it now.’ 
  • Do something every day. See https://josephinemoon.com/2012/12/19/top-12-sludgy-brain-activities-for-writers/

4. Are you a plotter or a panster?

Both! I have a vague idea, then I start (pants-ing), then when I think I know who my characters are and maybe where the story is going, I pull back and spend a bit of time plotting. And that cycle tends to repeat the whole way through. If I’m ever truly blocked it’s likely that I’ve lost the plot (literally) and I have to go back to the plotting stage to bounce off back into pants-ing.

5. What books on writing would you recommend?

For the art and practice of being a writer, I cannot strongly enough recommend The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. This book changed my life. Also, her other books Walking in this World, and The Right to Write.

For learning how to structure a plot for a commercial market, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder.

6. Why do you write?

See https://josephinemoon.com/2014/03/25/snoopy-dancing-why-i-write/

7. You call yourself an author of “Foodie Fiction”. Can you tell us about what this means?

Good question! Do you like it? I’m hoping that tag will take off 🙂 To me it’s another way of breaking down the enormous genre of ‘women’s fiction’, which covers basically anything (rural romance, historical pieces, murder, mystery and everything in between) to cut through to the heart of what’s at the core of my stories — a love and passion for food, and specifically the artisan nature of food, a passion for the origins of food, and the wider ramifications of cultural and ethical food production, as well as the notion of ‘food as medicine’.

8. How do you manage to write with a young child?

See this page https://josephinemoon.com/2015/01/19/juggling-motherhood-with-being-a-writer-you-can-do-it/

FAQs on The Beekeeper’s Secret

1. Where did this book come from? / What was the inspiration for this book?

I was trying to write a family saga set on a coffee farm, that’s where it started. I did lots of research about coffee, really intellectually interested, but I had no passion for it. So I had to ask myself, what was I passionate about? And the answer was bees!

So I did research on bees and was really getting into that. I’d abandoned my family saga and was now trying to write a book about beekeeping and corporate sabotage, but there were these nuns in the background who were very strong and very insistent. I kept writing this book on corporate sabotage and I kept trying to write the nuns into the story until it became clear that they didn’t belong there at all.

So I had to ask them, what do you want?

And they wanted a whole book. Specifically, Maria, one of our main characters, wanted a whole book. And when something turns up that strongly and persistently, as a writer, I believe it’s my duty to write it down.

2. This book is weightier than your first two books. How did you handle that?

See this post: The Darkness in the Centre

3. How long did it take you to write?

This was the fastest of my books so far, with the first draft done in about four months. The story had such a huge energy behind it that wanted to be written.


FAQs On The Chocolate Promise (The Chocolate Apothecary in the UK/Ireland)

1. Where did your inspiration for ‘The Chocolate Promise’ come from?

Writing The Chocolate Promise came about in a messy, unconscious way at first. I fell in love with Tasmania around 2008 on my first trip down there, and especially with the town of Evandale and all its Georgian buildings. I declared that one day I would write a book set in that town, and repeated that statement on many subsequent trips down there. After writing The Tea Chest, and it being picked up by my publisher quite quickly, I realised that I was drawn to writing what I call ‘foodie fiction’, and I love chocolate, of course, so it seemed a natural union for the premise of the next book to be around a theme of chocolate and set it in a little apothecary in Evandale.

The story itself began when, one day while on holiday (again, in Tasmania), I said that I wanted to make it my life’s mission to do all my business from the day spa! So I began to play with this idea of a character who loved life’s luxuries and had a benevolent business as a commercially paid ‘fairy godmother’. The final story morphed considerably from there, but that’s where it began.

2. How long did it take you to write it?

Two years, much of it with a newborn baby at hand! I needed a lot of support (and caffeine) and I’m really glad I don’t have to write a book that way again 🙂

3. Where does the name ‘Christmas Livingstone’ come from?

In the early stages of writing the book, my protagonist didn’t have a name, so I just called her ‘X’. I was writing practice scenes and saying “X went here” and “X did this” and then I tossed my pen down on the page and asked out loud, “What is your name?” Instantly, the name popped into my head, clear as day: Christmas Livingstone.

And my reaction?… “Seriously? That is your name?!”

Odd, I know. But that’s where it came from!

4. Did you do much research in chocolate?

OMG, so much! I put on so much weight writing this book. There were days when I’d spend a whole day researching and then writing a big chocolate scene and I would literally be salivating. I would have to shut the laptop, grab my car keys and drive as fast as possible to the nearest store for chocolate.

I now own a cross-trainer.

5. Why did you choose to write about chocolate?

Um, hello, why wouldn’t you?! Think of the research!!! Tax deductible chocolate. Oh yeah.


FAQS On ‘The Tea Chest’

1. What inspired ‘The Tea Chest’?

I am a mad tea woman. I just love tea, teapots, tea rituals, high teas, doilies, silver spoons and teeny tiny cakes. One day, I was wandering through a tea shop (around 2007), inhaling aromas and shaking bowls of tea, and I thought, ‘What an awesome job! Who gets to design all these teas?’ And with that, the character of Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, arrived.

2. How long did it take you to write it?

Not easy to say because I wrote about 15,000 words and then put it aside for a few years. When I picked it up again, I read it and thought it sounded much better than I remembered it being–like it was a real book! So I decided to finish it. I probably spent another six or seven months intensively working on it to finish a first draft, then another four months intensively rushing through a second draft (because by this time my agent was involved and wanted to read it). Then another six weeks to do a third draft and then it was sold. Then I did a quick fourth draft and then it went into official editing and production. From the time I started work on it the second time around, through to publication day, it was a bit over three years.

3. Does The Tea Chest have any association with any tea business by the same name.

No! Absolutely not. My work is a work of fiction. I googled the name when I first began writing it in 2007 and all that came up was a store in Hawaii. Since then, a business of the same name has started in Australia but it’s complete coincidence.

2 thoughts on “FAQs

  1. Shell Parsons

    I have that feeling of serendipity reading all of the above Josephine. I am an aspiring writer of Contemporary Women’s Fiction (I detest the term Chick Lit!) and so much of what you said really resonated with me. I too am an avid tea lover, Oprah fan (love that quote!), I definitely ‘read, read, read’ but struggle to make the time to ‘write, write, write’. I have had the Artist’s Way recommended to me before; it sits on my kindle waiting to be read (will start that tonight). Like you, I use photos for writing inspiration (I have a bit of an obsession with old, abandoned homes….great fodder for a story) and am hoping to do a course with the Australian Writer’s Centre in Sydney later this year. But the real ‘light bulb moment’ was when you said “write the book you want to read”. So many times I have been told to ‘write what you know’ but then I get stuck thinking “is what I know really that interesting and can I write about it” but when I thought of the book I would like to read, all of these ideas came flooding into my mind. So thank you. x P.S. I couldn’t believe when I read you had been swimming with whales in Tonga. A writer friend I met at a workshop did exactly the same thing! She is a brilliant photographer and has printed up a photo book of her experiences both with the whales and the wonderful Tongan people.

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