Tess Woods: I want aspiring writers to know that my manuscript was rejected by every single literary agent in Australia.

by |September 6, 2016

love at first flight

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Tess Woods

author of Love at First Flight

Ten Terrifying Questions

  1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born into a very big, very loud, very close extended family in Egypt. When I was five most of our huge family migrated to Australia so I went to kindergarten in Chatby, Alexandria and started primary school in Altona North, Melbourne. We migrated at the end of January, and I began school the following week. Mum taught me three words to get me through the first day of school – ‘toilet’ and ‘no milk’.

I picked up my new language very quickly, as most kids do, and developed a life-long love of English. Throughout primary school (Altona North Primary) and high-school (Mount Saint Joseph Girls’ College, also in Altona), I was writing –  everything from poems, short stories, diary entries, journals – as long as I had a pen in my hand I was happy. And when I wasn’t writing, I was reading. Enid Blyton, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume were my idols growing up. And then I discovered the Sweet Valley High series and my book obsession hit a whole new level!

I graduated high-school and attended La Trobe University (at the now defunct Lincoln campus in Carlton) and studied physiotherapy. I never considered a career in writing when I was in high-school, despite my English teachers’ encouragement, because coming from a traditional Egyptian family, writing was deemed a hobby and not a suitable career. I had to get a ‘real’ job. Luckily, I loved physiotherapy and still do twenty years later!

  1. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, I wanted to be a world famous actress – I was star-struck by Molly Ringwald, Sarah Jessica Parker and Demi Moore and desperately wanted to be like them.

When I was eighteen, I was studying physiotherapy and was totally in love with it. I was very much looking forward to my career in health care.

When I was thirty, I was four years into my eight years of being a stay-at-home mum to my children, Tom and Lara. To be quite honest, the biggest ambition I had at that stage in my life, with a three-year-old and a six-month-old, was to get through each day managing to have brushed my teeth and eaten!

  1. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At eighteen I thought I could plan how my life would go. I thought I had control over the future and had it all mapped out. I didn’t account for real life getting in the way of my planned life! I’ve since learned that every New Year’s Eve, I have absolutely no idea how much my life will take twists and turns I never saw coming before the New Year is out. So I spend a lot more of my energy living in the moment these days rather than trying to control the future.

  1. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

The first ‘grown-up’ book I read, The Thorn Birds, had a profound and lasting effect on me. I was completely swept up in it and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. It’s interesting that over twenty years after I read it, I was inspired to write about a doomed illicit love affair, just like Colleen Mc Cullough did. When I visited the HarpersCollins office and my editor told me that she’d be displaying my book on the same shelf where I saw the new edition of The Thorn Birds displayed, it was a surreal moment.

The Police were my greatest influence music wise. My favourite song was ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ – again a song about obsession and heartbreak for a love that just couldn’t be. I must have listened to that Police album, Zenyatta Mondatta at least a thousand times. My poor parents!

Later on, the book (and movie) Twilight triggered my writing. The Romeo and Juliet love between Bella and Edward and the fascinating premise that although Edward was Bella’s soulmate, he was the one who would destroy her, gave me the inspiration I needed to write my own novel. Books like The Bridges of Madison County, Tully and The Horse Whisperer which also featured Romeo and Juliet tragic love affairs had played on my mind, but it was the day after I saw the movie Twilight that I put pen to paper and wrote Love at First Flight.

  1. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I can honestly I didn’t choose it, it chose me! I was minding my own business, raising my kids, working as a physiotherapist and out of nowhere, I found myself writing a novel, over twenty years after I had last done any creative writing in high-school. I think my deep seated love of literature finally burst out of me and this book had to be written. At the time it didn’t feel like a choice, it was something I had to do.

  1. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Love at First Flight is a story about marriage – it’s about trust, lies, heartbreak and ultimately, it’s about what true love really is.

Mel has been married to her wonderful husband Adam for fourteen years. Their life in a swanky Perth suburb is comfortable, their children are adorable, their careers are thriving and all is seemingly perfect.

But then Mel boards a plane to Melbourne to spend a girly weekend with her best friend, and on that plane she meets Matt. He’s way too young for her, he’s only months away from getting married, and he lives on the other side of the country. Mel falls into obsessive love with him. And her world crumbles fast.

The consequences of their affair are shattering, not just for Mel and Matt, but for their families and friends as well.

What becomes of the beautiful marriage that Mel has destroyed with her infidelity? Was it ever really beautiful to begin with, or were Adam and Mel lying to themselves? What becomes of Matt, who gives up everything important in his life for Mel? Was it worth it? What becomes of a family torn apart by lust? Is there a point of no return?

Love at First Flight puts marriage and the commonly held beliefs we have about it under a microscope. It’s confronting and it isn’t pretty, but I hope you enjoy being part of the journey of self-discovery that Mel goes on.

  1. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Most of all, my hope as a writer is that my readers will be taken away from the real world and into the fantasy world of Love at First Flight. I want them to forget their to-do list, forget their everyday anxieties and be transported into a book world where nothing else matters apart from finding out what happens next.

I wrote this story for women – especially for women who might feel that they live their life for everyone around them including their partners, kids, parents, friends. For those women who perhaps feel that they put themselves last and have neglected their own desires while they’re so caught up looking after everyone else. I hope this story gives them food for thought.

  1. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I love brave authors, those who take a leap of faith and try something new and untested. These authors gain my admiration the most.

I love Jennifer Ammoscato, whose hilarious novel Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery pushed all kinds of ‘can she really write that’ boundaries. I love Deborah Disney whose laugh-out-loud satire, Up and In, about ‘mum politics’ at the school gates was published while both her daughters were still at school and she had to keep standing at the school gates after everyone had read it. I love Maria Lewis, who wrote the first ever urban fantasy book with a protagonist female werewolf in Who’s Afraid, which shook the world of male dominated werewolf fiction, challenging the concept of a female werewolf being too masculine to be popular.

Any author who is passionate enough about their work to take a huge risk, well, that’s an author I admire.

  1. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’m no different to those many artists. My goal is world domination! Until my books are translated into over thirty languages, until I have screen-writers begging for movie rights, until Tess Woods is a name known around the globe, my work here isn’t done.

  1. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I want aspiring writers to know that my manuscript was rejected by every single literary agent in Australia who represented commercial fiction writers. Every last one of them! Two years later, one of the agents who rejected me, offered me a contract.

The same manuscript was then rejected by every major publishing house in Australia when my agent pitched it. HarperCollins ended up coming through with a digital only contract (eBook), after a contract for a print book was rejected.

It was unheard of for any HarperCollins digital book in Australia to go to print as it had never been done. I was told categorically on several occasions by the powers that be that my book would not be printed. It has been printed.

Never, ever, ever lose hope – no is not a permanent word.

Thank you for playing, Tess!

Love at First Flightby Tess Woods

Love at First Flight

by Tess Woods

Mel is living the dream. She's a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, her picture-perfect life unravels. Seated on the plane she meets Matt, and for the first time ever she falls in love.

What begins as a flirty conversation quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with consequences that neither Mel nor Matt seems capable of avoiding. As the repercussions hit friends and family, Mel's dream romance turns into nightmare. She learns that there are some wounds that never heal and some scars that you wouldn't do without...

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About the Contributor

Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.


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