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July 5, 2024

Member Spotlight: Annika Johansson

We’re thrilled to share our July Member Spotlight features Annika Johansson! Following a successful match at Virtual Literary Speed Dating, Annika signed a publishing contract with Echo Publishing, and her debut novel Downstream has now been published. 

Annika Johansson is a freelance writer living in the rainforests on Bundjalung land (the Northern Rivers of NSW). Born in Brisbane, she studied a Bachelor of Business Communications and has worked in Sydney, Asia and the Middle East as a copywriter and Creative Director. She also has a side degree in people-watching. Her short story, The Speed Dater, won first prize in the Romance Writers of Australia Sweet Treats 2023 anthology competition.

What inspired you to begin a writing career?

People! We’re all such fascinating creatures, what we say and what we do; our individual perceptions of the world and of each other. Human behaviour has always intrigued me, and with a love of words early on I went into advertising and became a copywriter. Then on the eve of my 40th birthday, I read an article in Good Weekend on Liane Moriarty’s pathway to becoming an author and something clicked inside – I knew I was ready to tackle long-form storytelling and made it my goal to become a published author. Although I had no idea how. Copywriting is all about brevity of words and little room for flourishment – now I could study characters more deeply, embellish my sentences… oh what joy! I took on novel writing courses at The Writers’ Studio and smaller courses with the ASA and Writing NSW and slowly my manuscripts took shape.

What does it mean for you to to have your debut novel published after a successful match at Literary Speed Dating?

It’s incredibly affirming to have your work recognised and fast-tracked to get published. I think life is a sweet mix of hard work, timing and magic… and my speed pitch with Juliet at Echo Publishing was one of those moments when it all came together. With a little extra weight on timing – where else can you get a publisher’s undivided attention to pitch your story? It’s a chance to put yourself out there and get noticed. It’s these opportunities that can change your life and help build your career as an author faster. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Your first manuscript may not be the one that becomes your published debut. I view my first manuscript as kind of like my apprenticeship to the craft. It took a few years, and I learnt so much. Downstream is my second manuscript and the writing process flowed a lot easier. By your second manuscript, you’re trusting your voice and what makes your writing unique, you’re not throwing everything into the one story – and everything clicks more smoothly into place.

Which Australian authors/illustrators have been influential for you?

Nikki Gemmell for her honesty. Tim Winton for his pared-back thematic narratives. Craig Silvey’s tender and deeply empathetic Australian characters. Meg Mason, in the way she intertwines layers of complexity (and I so admire her sharp, dry humour). Jessica Dettmann and Toni Jordan for their sparkling, loveable character portrayals. And if I may include one overseas writer, it’s Joyce Carol Oates, for her intensity, her experimentation of the internal workings of the mind and her ability to hold back just enough to keep the reader enthralled. 

Why do you think it’s important to be a member of the ASA?

The ASA is an endless and valuable resource that I draw on regularly. The educational webinars and articles are great – I love learning about the behind the scenes of publishing. The pitching opportunities (of course). And their advocacy efforts for author rights, including the recent change to lending rights. As the market and technology evolves, it’s great to have a body that can keep you up to date and be a source of advice and support.