Omega Writers

An interview with author and editor Nola Passmore (aka Nola Lorraine)

Tamika: Hi Nola, I am excited to ask you a few questions on behalf of Omega Writers today! To begin with, can you tell us a bit about yourself.

Nola: Hi Tamika and thanks for the opportunity. I live in Toowoomba, the Garden City of Australia, with my husband Tim and our gorgeous cavoodle Holly. I worked as a psychology lecturer at the local university for 25 years, but Tim and I are now semi-retired with a home-based writing and editing business. In my spare time you’ll often find me writing or dabbling in art or creative projects. I love getting out in nature and swimming and walking when I can. My guilty pleasure is comic books from the 1930s to 1970s, so you’ll often find me on a retro comics forum or scouring Amazon and comic bookstores for compilation volumes and reprints.

Tamika: What first drew you away from Psychology and into working with your husband as a freelance writer and editor at ‘The Write Flourish’?

Nola: When I was little, I wanted to be a butcher or a fireman. My main motivation was that the butcher on the corner of our street used to give me white butcher’s paper to draw on, and the local fire station had my kindergarten class round for a visit and I thought it would be fun to slide down the pole. Once I realised that those two jobs involved more than drawing and sliding, I decided to be a teacher. It seems funny that I went through 10 years of Uni to get a PhD in psychology, but then spent 25 years teaching psychology at a university. However, I can see God’s hand in all of it. He gave me a love of teaching, only I ended up teaching big kids rather than little ones.

Although I enjoyed teaching and had lots of wonderful experiences, the job changed over the years with more and more online work rather than face-to-face teaching, more admin, constant changes, and dare I say politics. By the end, I felt that my creativity was being sucked dry. Meanwhile, I was doing a Grad Dip in creative writing at Tabor College, and found I was enjoying the creative side more than my job at that time. I voluntarily took a reduction in hours so that I could spend more time writing, and then God opened the door for me to get a voluntary redundancy package so I could leave altogether. My husband had already left the university after 20 years of teaching, and God literally dropped the idea of an editing business into our hearts and minds.

Tamika: You mentioned you have a PhD in Psychology. Have you found that helpful when it comes to character development in your fiction writing?

Nola: My specialty was social psychology, which looks at the interaction of the person and the social environment and how we are influenced by the real or imagined presence of others. It can cover everything from one-on-one interactions and interpersonal relationships to large-scale phenomena like conformity and aggression. As social psychology ties in well with social issues, communication, and interpersonal relationships, I’m sure that has helped with writing characters and thinking through their motivations. It’s also helped in the editing work I do for clients. It’s amazing how many projects I get that tie in with something I know about through psychology. Nothing is ever wasted.

Tamika: You have written in different formats and in multiple genres including Poetry, True Stories, Devotions, Short Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Do you have a favourite genre to write in?

Nola: Although I’m writing historical fiction at the moment, I’m a bit of a genre butterfly. My published short stories have been set in the past, present, or future. No matter the time period, I do like to include elements of suspense or mystery. I’m partial to a bit of romance, but enjoy it more if they’re running away from a crazed killer while falling in love.  I also love writing poetry and devotions. I’m working on a poetry collection at the moment, and would love to publish a devotional at some stage.

Tamika: What have been a few career highlights? Has your work taken you to any places you didn’t expect to go?

Nola: The highlight so far was receiving a publishing contract for my debut novel Scattered, and then seeing it shortlisted for the CALEB awards. I also love seeing former clients achieve their goals. Many have now had their books published, and it’s gratifying to know that I played a small part in their journey.

Tamika: I know that you have supported Omega Writers for many years now! We have been so grateful for your support, especially in working personally with our members, taking workshops, presentations, offering your services, bringing your larger-than-life personality to encourage many of us and being willing to sponsor our CALEB awards. What keeps you coming back to work with Omega Members?

Nola: I’ve been involved in Omega Writers for 15 years or so, and I love the CALEB acronym of ‘Christian authors lifting each other’s books’. The Christian writing community in Australia is relatively small, so the more we can help and encourage each other the better. I’ve also loved seeing how people have grown, from tentative steps at their very first writers’ conference, to eventually being a published author. That could be a book or their first blog post. Nothing done for the Lord is in vain (1 Cor 15:58).

Tamika: Can you share a time when you sensed God’s prompting in your writing journey.

Nola: My first publication, other than academic work, came from a God-prompting. Back in about 2000, I got a call at work from a fellow called John Ashton who was writing a book called ’The God Factor: 50 Scientists and Academics Explain Why they Believe in God’. His publisher had suggested that he needed more women in the book and someone had suggested my name. I agreed to write something because I had been teaching some material on the integration of psychology within a Christian worldview and I thought I could write on that. However, when I prayed about it, I felt God saying that he wanted me to give a personal testimony of my experiences as an adoptee. Now that was really ‘out there’ for me at the time, because the last thing I wanted to do was share something that personal. However, I couldn’t get away from the fact that God wanted me to write about that, so I did. I had a few adoptees contact me after that, including the daughter of a former Australian Prime Minister who had found the book in her local library. But if I told you more about that conversation, I’d have to kill you! It reinforced to me that you never know who will read your work and who might be touched by it.

In my fiction writing too, I’m amazed at how many times there has been a gentle prompting that will help with a particular problem. I’d like to have the whole book mapped out, but it doesn’t work out that way for me. I’ll be scratching my head wondering what to do, and will hear that still small voice saying something quite ordinary like ‘she has a conversation with so-and-so next’ or ‘have him see the headline in the newspaper’. That little nudge will keep me moving forward and will often solve things in a way I hadn’t expected but makes the story better.

Tamika: What is exciting you about your current work in progress?

Nola: I’m currently working on Book 2 in my Canadian Maritimes series. It includes some of the characters from Scattered but is set 13 years later on Prince Edward Island and can be read as a stand-alone. The main character will be grappling with some social justice issues from the time, while also trying to overcome her own fears. Although the novel is set in 1896, the issues are still relevant today, so I’ll be interested to see how it turns out. And of course, there will be some romance and suspense along the way.

Tamika: If our Omega Writers community would like to work with you personally, how can you help them move forward in their writing journey?

Nola: We offer a range of services, including mentoring, manuscript assessments, structural editing, copyediting, and proofreading. My husband Tim has completed editing and proofreading courses in addition to his academic degrees; and he focuses more on academic and theological work, and general nonfiction such as memoirs. I focus more on fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and devotional material. I especially enjoy looking at the big picture of a manuscript, such as manuscript appraisals. Some people write a whole book first before they get any advice, but it can be helpful to connect with an editor sooner. That way, you can address any concerns before getting too far. Even if you only have a few ideas and a couple of chapters, it’s not too early to get feedback that could help you to move forward.

Tamika: If we would like to contact you, work with you, find out more about you or keep up to date with your writing, where can we go?

Nola: If someone is interested in potentially working with me, it’s best to contact me via the contact page on our website for The Write Flourish. I also have a writing tips blog on that website. I haven’t added to it for a while, but there’s a good archive of 80 or so articles on creative writing.

I also have an author website under my pen name Nola Lorraine. If you go there, you’ll find my current blog, my newsletter sign-up, devotions, fun book quizzes and links to Facebook and Twitter.