Joanne Morrell is an author, podcast host, and writer. She self-publishes children’s and young adult novels in addition to women’s literature and short nonfiction pieces.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I was born in Perth Western Australia but grew up in a little fishing village off the east coast of Edinburgh in Scotland. My childhood was full of adventure, travel, family, and fond memories. I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up belonging to two countries and residing frequently between either one. That ability shaped my adult life, spending a year here in Australia and then a year there in Scotland throughout my teens and early 20s. I truly felt I had the best of both worlds growing up and I could escape as and when needed.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

That my mum is always right and there is life after high school.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

This is a tough one. I wouldn’t say bad recommendations but there is a lot of contradictory writing advice given to aspiring authors. I think writers share their process (I know I do) to help others, but in turn, what we must realise is that everyone is different, and no one’s adventure through storytelling is the same. Instead, writers must find what works best for them and create their own way of doing things to fit in with their existence.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

About a year and a half after the birth of my first child, I suffered a panic attack whilst alone in the house with her. On a sweltering Australian summer’s day, we emerged from the swimming pool and went to hide in the aircon. I plonked my daughter in front of the television inside the house and I consumed an energy drink. I remember feeling a bit off and my thoughts at the time when watching my daughter were that I felt strange, and remembered how my mum had been bitten by a spider once near our pool and her arm went numb, and thinking what would happen to my daughter if I dropped dead then and there. She’d be all alone. Then I detached from the world and the physical symptoms of panic set in from my thoughts and from the caffeine I’d consumed. The next ten years from that moment on were spent trying to make sense of extremely scary, uncomfortable, and confusing experiences of anxiety. It took therapy learning cognitive behavioural techniques and going on and off medications to learn and fully accept that I didn’t have an underlying illness, or that I was dying. Instead, what I was experiencing was my flight or fight response kicking in sending adrenaline pulsing through my body when I had a fearful thought. I’m grateful we have this response within us to keep us safe. I just have to tell mine that it’s not needed when I’m food shopping or washing the dishes or out with friends.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Be authentic. I can’t be anything other than myself. I’m like an open book about my experiences and sharing all I know. This I feel has cultivated me and my brand as a trustworthy resource for writers within the industry.

What is your morning routine?

I’m not one of these early morning, rigorous routine types. I much prefer to thrive on every day being different. But generally, I get up at 7 am, in enough time to make sure my children are watered, fed, and shepherded to school on time to meet their commitments before I begin to start mine.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Creating a writing habit. This does not comprise of sitting down at a desk every day at the same time and working until I reach a word count like a lot of writers I know. What it means is I know what needs to be done and by when, and I work to meet that in between my family and other life commitments. I change up where I work, whether it be on my laptop in different places around the house, both inside and out or at the library, or in my car waiting for a gym class to start. This writing habit has taught me the discipline to get the work done, even when I can’t be bothered. Creating a writing habit got me past that feeling because it provided me with the mechanics to just complete the work. It’s so ingrained in me now to just get on with it. I’ll do it until it’s done. It doesn’t feel like work. And my work gives me purpose.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Scheduling and organising my time digitally. Podcast recordings, book projects, meetings, events, and deadlines are all considered and scheduled into the calendar on my phone, and this has taken my productivity to a new level. I find if I know what’s coming in the week ahead, it sets my brain up as an extra reminder rather than floundering around unscheduled on a Monday considering what needs to be done and going off track with other tasks, unfocused, instead.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

As a writer, you feel you need to provide a very intelligent answer here and spout the masterful names of posthumous classics or some other piece of awarded literary genius, but the truth of it for me is I love unfanciful, small-town, character-driven, drama-filled fiction. As a child growing up in the nineties, I was an avid reader. I must have had and consumed the entire Sweet Valley High collection. I believe those books instilled a love of characters and stories within me. Anything written by Irish writer Maeve Binchy has inspired me to pick up a pen and write, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ to help soothe my writer’s soul.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

More sayings over quotes such as ‘you’re only as old as you feel’. Having known people die too young I believe growing old is a blessing. My parents are in their 70s, but you’d never guess with their attitude, outlook on life, or appearance. Another is ‘move it or lose it’. People who feel and act old, generally become old. Lastly, ‘mind over matter’. This one is very true in my profession as a writer and tackling a work.