Kathryn O'Halloran is a travel blogger with a very unique way of paying for her travels. In addition to writing about her experiences on her blog kathrynohalloran.com, she is a fiction writer with a few novels under her belt. We caught up with Kathryn recently to talk about her writings and life on the road.
- Name: Kathryn O'Halloran
- Age: 51
- Blog: kathrynohalloran.com
You have a very unique way of making money for your travels. Can you tell us how you got into fiction writing?
I started writing as a hobby and for many years, while I worked in IT, published a few short stories a year in magazines and anthologies. I'd written a novel and had gotten some interest from publishers but not any actual offers. I put it away in a (virtual) drawer and didn't think about it for a few years. Then just randomly started looking into self-publishing - I think it was one of those bored at work situations.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided to self publish my novel as well as some of my short stories. It wasn't an instant success by any means but I made a bit of money and got some keen readers.
Then one day - you know when you wake up one morning with a crazy idea in your head? Mine was to write a romance series using a pen name. I'd heard a lot advice saying writing a series and making book 1 free was the way to go and figured I'd give it a try.
The first book in the series sold well. Book two in the series pushed it even further. I worked as an IT contractor and around that time my contract was up. I had plenty of savings and figured I'd take six months off to just write before looking for another contract. At the end of that six months though, I made more than enough money to live on from my writing so never went back to my "real" job.
Then I got my next big idea. If I could survive on my writing income in Australia, which has a high cost of living, I could do it anywhere in the world :)
What does your typical day look like? How do you split your time between writing novels and writing for your blog?
I rarely have a typical day. The biggest thing for me is trying to fit into a schedule, but I find it really difficult. I have erratic sleep and am trying to enforce an in bed by 3 am curfew on myself. On the plus side, it means I rarely get jetlag.
When I'm working on a novel, that's my day - from the time I get up until I go to bed. Well, it's either writing or procrastinating and feeling guilty about it. I get all the administration work done in the morning - booking promotions, answering emails, social media etc. I try to get out to work in a cafe in the afternoon, just to get out of my apartment. Sometimes I go to co-working spaces but the main reason for that is if I need an ergonomic set up for writing.
It takes me about four weeks to write the main draft of a novel, then I come out of my writing cave and realise I've not really spoken to anyone for weeks and that I need to be a bit social. Depending on where I am in the world, I'll get in touch with friends to meet up or will arrange sightseeing activities.
To be honest, my blog gets pushed down the priority list quite often. It's something I enjoy doing but I don't get the direct financial benefit from it that I do from writing fiction.
What sort of time commitment is your travel blog on a weekly basis?
I'd say about 10 hours. I try not to let it take over. Lately, I've started getting into Instagram. I'd joined up years ago and had posted about two photos but earlier this year I got a good phone (Samsung S7) and suddenly I've become an Instagram addict. That's something I try to fit into gaps in my day though - when I stop to have a coffee or am on the train.
What have you learned from marketing and promoting your novels that has helped you promote your travel blog?
That's a really good question and something I'd never thought about before. If anything, I'd say writing to the market. Knowing who your market is and what they're looking for. Also, where to find them.
The market for my blog is mid-budget travellers. The kind of people who want something a bit more comfortable than a backpackers' dorm but don't want to stay at generic chain hotels. I'm a total introvert and try to find ways to do things that avoid crowds. I also love attractions that are a bit wacky or macabre. So that's my readership. I think I'm still discovering how to reach those readers though.
You spend 1-3 months at a time living in different places. How do you decide where to go next?
It's so random. If you look at my travel maps, it's like a crazy chicken has wandered over a map of the world! I usually have a few things with fixed dates and places - last year I went to Geneva to cat sit for a friend while he went home to Australia, I also went to Hong Kong to spend time with my sister. I'm totally crazy about a Japanese band (Arashi) so I make sure I'm in Japan when they do concerts.
So I tend to take those fixed points and work my other travel around it, taking into account cheap flights/trains, weather (unlike most digital nomads, I hate hot weather), visa requirements etc. I don't really look at cheapness or low cost of living because I keep things pretty simple anyway but have travelled to cheaper SE Asian countries.
I'm not really impulsive and do like to plan about 6 months out.
What's on tap for the rest of 2016 and 2017?
I'm in Tokyo until December then back to Melbourne for a family Christmas for a month. After that, I've got a flight booked to London and a week there then I think a few months in Italy. I'm planning a book set in Italy so that has research and tax advantages :) I'd like to go to the States for a while and definitely Canada for a polar bear expedition.