Meet the Author: Kate Simpson

It’s always an occasion for celebration when a new book is sent out into the world and today it’s my pleasure to introduce Kate Simpson, whose picture book Finding Granny is set to touch the hearts of young readers and their families. Kate’s doing a Blog Tour this week and full details follow our chat…

Kate  is a picture book author and co-host of the children’s book podcast One More Page. Kate’s debut picture book Finding Granny, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones, tells the story of a small girl whose world is turned on its head when her beloved grandmother suffers a stroke. As well as being an author, Kate is also one third of the children’s book podcast One More Page, which features guest interviews, book reviews and giveaways, as well as a kid-centric segment called Kids Capers. Find out more about Kate at www.katesimpsonbooks.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katesimpsonbooks/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ksimpsonbooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18072918.Kate_Simpson

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I love it. I didn’t discover writing until I was in my thirties, but now that I’ve found it, I wouldn’t be without it. I’m going to go a little bit Jerry Maguire and say that it completes me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Well, from a financial point of view, writing is definitely the smallest part of what I do. I trained as a chemical engineer and in my day job I supervise asset upgrade works at two water treatment plants and a water recycling plant south of Sydney.

I guess if I wasn’t a writer as well as an engineer, I’d watch a whole lot more TV, sleep more and perhaps find more time to catch up with friends. But it’s all worth it!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was quite fortunate in that my first manuscript got picked up relatively quickly. By that, I don’t mean overnight, and I don’t mean the first manuscript I ever wrote,  but within a few years of starting this writing gig, I was lucky enough to have Finding Granny selected for publication.

Aside from good luck, the main thing that I think takes the credit for this is my fantastic critique group, who not only helped me get my manuscripts into shape but also gave me great tips about how to work towards publication.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had a reasonable amount of involvement. This is my first published book and from talking to other writers, I had the impression that I would have virtually no input into the selection of illustrator and into the content of the illustrations, but in fact the publisher did consult me. I had an opportunity to provide my opinion on the choice of illustrator and to provide feedback on the roughs. I understand that illustrating is the illustrator’s  job, not mine, so I hope Gwynne would agree that I wasn’t completely diva-ish about what I wanted to see in the illustrations.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I suppose the creative satisfaction. I just love the feeling when you’re trying to achieve something on the page and it just sort of clicks. As the A-Team would say: I love it when a plan comes together!

—the worst? Fitting it in. I’m finding it harder and harder to find time to write around the other commitments in my life. I would love to have just a day a week to dedicate to my writing, but alas, it’s not to be (at least at the moment).

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d do anything differently. The single best decision I made when I was starting out was to join my wonderful critique group at the NSW Writers’ Centre, and they have made everything easier and taught me a packet, as well as becoming my tribe.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told when I was seven years old that this was even possible. I’ve always loved books but I thought that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have any ideas. The thing I’ve learned is that for many of us, ideas don’t just fall from the sky. We need to go searching for them, cultivate them and sometimes just get out a bit of butcher’s paper and some permanent markers and brainstorm them! If anyone is struggling with story ideas, I’d strongly suggest trying Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, a month-long brainstorming challenge held in January, with the goal of coming up with 30 story ideas in 31 days. When you stop trying to find the perfect idea and just focus on coming up with as many ideas as you can, it’s amazing how the creative juices start flowing and how many of the ideas you have turn out to be real gems. There’s a wonderful quote from Linus Pauling that really sums this up: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

What’s the best advice you were ever given? This is a long game. It’s unlikely to happen overnight and even if it does, it’s unlikely to make you a fortune or even allow you to quit your day job. You must be doing it because you love it. There is no other rational reason.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, I’ve probably made it clear already that my top tip is to join a critique group (preferably an awesome one, like the one I was fortunate enough to join). But since I’ve more or less covered that, I’ll add a second one: Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to other people. This is pretty basic life advice but it goes double for authors. Writing is not always a meritocracy. There is a lot of luck involved in whose work gets published and, once published, in whose work gets noticed. If news stories about overnight successes get you inspired, then by all means pay attention, but if you find yourself turning green with envy, it’s time to switch to another channel.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know. Everyone advises you to have a strong social media presence and I do have a Twitter profile as an author and an author Facebook page, as well as a podcast, but as to how all that helps you to progress your career, I really don’t know. The one thing I do love is the wonderful writing community I’ve found through social media. Groups like Just Write for Kids and Jen Storer’s The Duck Pond are fantastic for creating a virtual tribe who understand what you’re doing and are interested in hearing you yabber on about kids’ books non-stop. Twitter can feel like a pretty negative place sometimes, but post a good news story about winning a writing competition or finishing a manuscript or having a book coming out, and watch how happy people are to celebrate with you.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I absolutely experience writer’s block. More often than not when I sit down to write I really struggle to get the words flowing. One thing that I find often works for me to overcome this is to sit down with a pile of books that I love and that are in a similar vein to what I’m trying to write and I read a whole bunch of them in a row so that I am filled with the emotion that I’m trying to create on the page. Reading books I love also reminds me of why I love to write and gets me excited about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

How do you deal with rejection? With difficulty. Look, nobody likes rejection, right? But to be honest, I actually find the fear of rejection often to be worse than the rejection itself. The fear is what puts me off submitting my manuscripts, or even showing them to people whose opinion I respect.

One thing that I find helpful in dealing with rejections is to go on Amazon or Goodreads, find one of my favourite books and read the one-star reviews for that book. Even awesome books are not for everyone.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Varied, emotive, intimate.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? It’s funny you should ask. I’m lucky enough to have this opportunity roughly once a month on my children’s book podcast One More Page. I started working on One More Page almost a year ago with friends and fellow kidlit lovers Nat Amoore and Liz Ledden and since then I’ve had the privilege of knocking on doors and asking people if they would be willing to be interviewed for the podcast. Mostly, this is just an excuse for me to sit down and chat to some really awesome people about their books, craft and all the side stuff that goes along with writing. We’ve been on air since February and in that time I’ve interviewed authors, illustrators, editors and publishers including Jess Walton, Leigh Hobbs, Sue Whiting, Nicky Johnston and Anna McFarlane. It’s a dream come true!

BOOK BYTE

When Edie’s beloved Granny suffers a stroke, Edie feels as if she’s lost her – but the Granny she loves is still there. Finding Granny is a heart-warming story of changing relationships and the bond between children and grandparents. It’s also a sensitive exploration of coping with illness and disability that will offer children much-needed comfort.

You can purchase Finding Granny at https://www.booktopia.com.au/finding-granny-kate-simpson/prod9781925335699.html

Check out the rest of the links for the Finding Granny book tour:

Sunday July 1 – Saturday July 7 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday July 2 sharingyourstory.com.au

Tuesday July 3 intheirownwrite.wordpress.com

Wednesday July 4 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Thursday July 5 readingtime.com.au

Friday July 6 brydiewright.com

Saturday July 7 whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au

 For all enquiries to Books On Tour @ www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour

 

 

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Meet the Author: Joanne Anderton

Joanne Anderton is a Sydney-sider who writes speculative fiction for adults, young adults…and pretty much anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a touch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. Joanne is addicted to anime and manga, and says these are strong influences in her writing.

Her adult science fiction/fantasy novels have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Debris was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel, and the Ditmar award for best novel. Its sequel Suited was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel, and the Ditmar award for best novel. Book three, Guardian, was published in 2014.

Joanne’s short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for multiple awards, and reprinted in several Year’s Best. Joanne’s novels and short story collection have received international review coverage in The New York Journal of BooksThe GuardianLibrary Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Find out more about Joanne here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because I love writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Difficult to imagine but I’d probably be a musician.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Learning how to keep writing through rejection and poverty.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Yes, I had input into designing the cover for Bohemia Beach; not so much with my first two books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The peace I feel when writing.

—the worst? Having my writing misrepresented in the media.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Take some time out from love relationships to concentrate on my writing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Choose a more nurturing publisher over a bigger cheque book.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep writing and don’t quit your day job.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Find an agent/publisher who understands what you’re trying to do and is in it for the long haul.

How important is social media to you as an author? It can lead to good contacts, I don’t use it for my personal life.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Accept it as part of the process and keep writing even if all I’m doing is journaling.

How do you deal with rejection? By trying not to take it personally.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? True, complex, original.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? George Eliot, and I’d love to ask her tell how it felt to be married to a supportive, literary husband.

BOOK BYTE

The Flying Optometrist

Written by Joanne Anderton, illustrated by Karen Erasmus

The Flying Optometrist travels in his little red aeroplane from his practice in the city to a remote outback town. Lots of people are waiting for him! Aunty can’t see well enough to carve her emu eggs and Bill the plumber has a splinter in his eye. Young Stephanie can’t wait for him to arrive as she has broken her glasses and can’t join in games of cricket and have fun with her friends – she can’t see the ball! Hurry up Flying Optometrist! Where is he? Is he lost?

The townsfolk wait with bated breath until finally the Flying Optmetrist’s little red plane appears, having only just missed a bad storm. A big meal waits for him in the local hotel. Then starts work checking eyesight. The Flying Optometrist doesn’t have long, but he helps as many people as he can. He returns to the city but Stephanie has to wait a little longer for an exciting package to come – her new glasses!

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Tracy Ryan

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Don’t aspire; just write. Don’t think of yourself as “aspiring”; think of yourself as writing. And read widely, and/or deeply, because that goes with writing. Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan was born and grew up in Western Australia, where she now lives in the wheatbelt, but has also lived overseas in the UK, USA and Ireland. She has worked in libraries, bookselling, editing, community journalism and teaching. As well as five novels, she has published nine collections of poetry.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  I have always written, since I could first read, so it’s a habit of thinking, a way of processing experience.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I can’t imagine that. I’ve also taught a lot, so I’d probably be teaching, but I don’t see it as either/or. Writing would be as well as, no matter what else was involved. This is true for many other writers too. Sometimes people put writing on hold while they do other things, but even then they’ve often been jotting things down in their spare time. What we see that gets published is usually only a small portion of what people have been writing across their lifetimes.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I don’t think in terms of obstacles. I was brought up with love, I was well-fed and looked-after in my family of origin, and I have a supportive family now. For some people life is much harder, so I’m not saying obstacles are nonsense, just that I don’t focus on them for myself. If you focus too much on them it’s discouraging. There’s always someone who has it worse, and someone who has it apparently easier. You just keep trying. If opportunities seem to elude you, you try to create them.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? My publishers have been great about this, in that we always end up discussing the choices for covers. I’m not a designer, though, nor a particularly visual person, so I defer to those who are. Nonetheless, it’s good to have that discussion, to clarify where writer, publisher, designer and marketing people are coming from. With regard to the content, I’ve always had terrific editors too, from whom I’ve learned heaps.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When a book is finished.

—the worst? The feeling of being stuck – grinding to a halt – which is actually a normal part of the process. It’s a stop-start thing, and sometimes there are many stops and starts!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? The internet did not exist when I was starting out; people didn’t even have home computers. So it’s crazy for me to try to picture how it would be to start out now. I think, though, that the basic principles of commitment to your work (to the value of imaginative writing in general too) and of persistence, self-belief, have not changed.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it was an OK choice. My parents thought so, but I can remember a guidance counsellor at school who said basically, “That’s not a job.” Fortunately, to counterbalance that, I had some teachers who were great encouragers. I ignored the guidance counsellor. (Most writers probably do.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “Everything comes at a cost, so if you can’t see the cost of something, look harder.”

It was said at school, in a then-Social Studies class, but has applied to so many things in life I can’t count how often I’ve recalled and quoted it. It applies to the writing and publishing life: if anything looks suspiciously easy, or suspiciously obvious, reconsider. It makes me sound paranoid, or sceptical, I suppose. But it’s a helpful principle when making decisions.

There’s logic at work there, whether it’s in new technologies that appear to make life better but come at too great an ecological price – or some sort of deal you are offered that seems too good to be true. Or that someone somewhere is paying for a benefit you enjoy. It stretches to so many examples…

 

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not on social media, other than a blog I share with the writer John Kinsella, who is my life-partner (but I don’t post frequently). Our shared blog is at: http://poetsvegananarchistpacifist.blogspot.com.au/

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, lots – that’s the “being stuck” I mentioned above. I overcome it by recognising that it’s part of the writing process (not opposed to it) and eventually it goes into abeyance. Also I mess around with translations or other ways of working with language – journal entries, whatever – so as to keep connected while letting go of the problem. So far, it hasn’t been fatal. I think it’s quite common.

How do you deal with rejection? Get over it. Like writer’s block, it’s part of the deal. A certain degree of stubbornness is necessary to do this work. It can sting, as for anyone else, but if you let it stop you, you might as well try some other kind of work. People see the big successes that writers have, and don’t understand that they had lots of rejections too. Persistence is a key writerly trait, even if sometimes a piece of writing really is no good, and does deserve rejection. You go back and say to yourself, “How could I do it better?” or “Where else could I send it?”

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Questions, ruminations, excavations.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Probably the French author Stendhal (real name Marie-Henri Beyle), 1783-1842. He was known to be very witty and his books are breathtaking. His writing is quirky, lively, intelligent, full of passion and compassion, and he felt he was writing for readers well into the future. Especially women! I’d love to hear his take on being a writer now, and as his biggest fame came posthumously, I’m sure he’d have something pithy and facetious to say about that. He’s a serious novelist who also makes you laugh; a great combination.

BOOK BYTE

We are not most people

Tracy Ryan

 

 

Kurt Stocker’s Swiss childhood is dominated by strict and God-fearing parents. He enters a seminary with the intent of becoming a priest and making his parents proud of him, but struggles to adapt. Leaving this vocation behind, he marries Liesl and they eventually emigrate to Australia.

Decades later in small town Australia, Terry Riley feels drawn to convent life, despite her parents’ objections. At the convent she is haunted by a strange sickness and knows in time that she must return to a more conventional life. It is then she begins a relationship with the now divorced Kurt, who was once her high school teacher.This is the story of an odd couple, of an older man and a younger woman in love with one another, but so damaged by their past lives that even a regular sexual relationship seems impossible. Beautiful in its frankness but disturbing in its examination of faith and human existence, this is a novel that is affectionate, haunting and ultimately unforgettable.

The book is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/we-are-not-most-people/

 

 

Meet the Author-Illustrator: Adrienne Body

Author Illustrator Adrienne Body

Adrienne Body is an author and illustrator of children’s fiction and non-fiction picture books. Growing up in New Zealand with stories and illustrations by great local children’s authors like Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy inspired her to put her love of art together with her love of words to bring to life her own cute and colourful characters.

Website: Adriennebody.com

Facebook

Twitter

CREATOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life?

I like having an outlet for all the crazy random sparks of ideas that come from great experiences and interactions. I love that (hopefully) my books help kids to learn, to feel positive about books and reading, and encourage their own creativity. If a book or character of mine makes someone smile or laugh, I’m happy.

—the worst?

I often wish I had more time to devote to it, but it doesn’t pay the bills right now.

How do you approach an illustration project?

Usually I am illustrating my own text. Sometimes the text comes first, sometimes the idea forms with the text and images forming together. Mostly I just let things stew in my head until something clicks. Then I get the words down, map out a page by page layout, then start work on the individual illustrations.

I find it helps to give myself a deadline, even if it’s fairly arbitrary, otherwise I procrastinate too much. Other than that, I find there is no point in trying to work on any project of mine if I am not in the right mood for it. Things just get frustrating.

When doing illustrations or cover art for others I try to get to know the story, talk to the author about it, and again let it all stew for a while. I’ll then rough out some concepts and go from there.

What are you working on at the moment?

I always have a few different projects floating about in my head. I can never tell which one is going to elbow its way to the front next. At some stage I plan on revisiting my very first character, Breakfast the sheep. In her next story she is trying to help her friend (a currently nameless cow) figure out a way to jump over the moon. I’m having a lot of fun with the rhymes and the not-so-successful moon jumping ideas. Accurate use of the laws of physics is not something that is going to be playing a role in this story.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

Confidence, time, and expense. It can be a big and scary investment; particularly if you decide to self-publish. Print-on-demand wasn’t really a thing when I put out my first book, so deciding to front up the cash to print a batch after being (very politely and positively) rejected by a couple of publishers was nerve-racking. Although one publisher was very encouraging about my illustrations, so that helped a little with the self-confidence.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging?

It’s hard to let my projects ‘into the wild’ sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with them, so I have to tell myself that they are finished enough, otherwise I’d never publish anything. It comes down to the confidence thing.

Also, marketing can be a challenge, particularly when you aren’t great at talking about yourself and your work.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve always been writing and drawing. If I don’t do something creative pretty regularly, then I struggle with life in general. It is my sanity, my therapy. It’s not my day job, not my main income, and I (try not to) think I’m a bit rubbish at it, but I think it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator?

I think I would do some courses on some different techniques and on using different digital illustration software. But it’s never too late to do that, so I probably soon will.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator?

I always had self-doubt, thinking that I would never be creative enough to come up with new ideas or produce something good enough for a client. It would have been nice to have a cheerleader then, someone whose opinion I trusted who could tell me that I would be good enough and to keep working toward it. I got there on my own.

What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators?

Find yourself someone who will genuinely (in a constructive and sensitive way) tell you if something you make is rubbish; and believe them when they tell you it’s not.

 

BOOK BYTE

Granddad’s Fish Tank

“This full-colour children’s picture book is full to the brim with adorable aquatic creatures who have oodles of personality. Granddad’s Fish Tank is a great tool to encourage literacy development skills. It’s rich in fun rhymes and rhythm, paired with bright and quirky water-colour illustrations.”

Available here: https://adriennebody.wixsite.com/kidsbooks/books-by-adrienne-body

 

Books by Adrienne Body

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Roger Averill

‘Lucid…beautiful…tender’ are three words that have been used to describe the writing of today’s guest author. Roger Averill joins me to talk about the why of his writing and how he channels his great-grandfather, a bricklayer, to do the work.

Roger Averill is the author of Exile: the lives and hopes of Werner Pelz, the novel Keeping Faith, and a travel memoir Boy He Cry: an island odyssey. Exile won the Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Non-fiction in 2012 and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards.  Roger lives in Melbourne, Australia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I have to. Because I feel compelled to. Not constantly, but regularly. Beyond that, I write because it gives me pleasure and because it provides me with a vehicle to explore the world and my responses to it. It gives me a chance to create some glint of beauty, which, if published, might also bring pleasure or meaning to someone who reads it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d probably be doing what I’m currently doing to support myself being a writer, that is, teaching at a university. I might’ve been doing that at a higher level, perhaps. Or I might have fulfilled my teenage ambition to become a tram driver.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? After publishing a few poems in journals in my early 20s, it took me another 20 years to have a book published. The main obstacle was having the right publisher read my manuscripts. In terms of craft, I knew I’d written a publishable novel by the time I was 30, but the mid-1990s was the time of grunge fiction and no one was interested in my gentler offering. As it turned out, Transit Lounge published that manuscript as Keeping Faith 16 years later.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? The people at Transit Lounge have very kindly sought my opinion about the look of each of my books. I really like all of them as artefacts, though I’m not sure my input has been that helpful. All I have to offer is the view of someone who’s bought way too many books over the years. I prefer to let the professionals do their job. The covers of all four of my books have been designed by Peter Lo. I think he’s brilliant.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I actually love everything about writing. The idea of it has given my life direction, although for 20 years that sometimes felt like a misdirection, and the craft of it has allowed me to work at improving the one thing I already had some talent in. It’s great to always feel challenged, knowing that you might be progressing further along the road to mastery but that you’ll never arrive there. Each new sentence, let alone each new book, raises its own unique set of questions, and knowing the answers to the last set only helps so much.

—the worst? Well, it’s not really an aspect of writing so much as an aspect of trying to get your writing published – rejections. I have a bulging manila folder stuffed full of them. Unless you are one of the blessed, rejections are an unfortunate part of the writing experience. Only those compelled to write push beyond them.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I probably wouldn’t do anything differently, because then I wouldn’t be me. If, however, I were advising someone very like my younger self, I would tell him he should mix more in literary circles and enrol in the best creative writing course that will take him. If I were that almost young me, I’d politely listen to that advice and then do my own thing, thereby becoming me!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m extremely fortunate to have a friend and writing mentor, Chris Eipper, who, being 14 years older than me, generously passed on to me everything he’d learned about writing, surviving rejection, and being published. I think Chris told me everything I needed to know.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice Chris gave me, which he did by deed as much as by word, was to embrace the editing process. That’s where you learn the craft. If you don’t learn to love editing and re-drafting, you’ll end up not loving writing.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, apart from embracing the editing process, it would be to find at least one very skilled, highly critical, and deeply supportive trusted reader. In other words, someone like Chris. You don’t need to agree with that reader’s opinions on your work, you just need to respect them and to know they are given with your best interests (or the best interests of your work) at heart.

How important is social media to you as an author? Unfortunately (at least for my publisher), I’m a fossil formed by the print age and I’m yet to fully find my feet in the 21st century. I write lots of emails … Don’t suppose that counts?

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No, I’ve never experienced it. One of my great-grandfathers, William Richard Averill, was a bricklayer. I feel I channel him: each word, each sentence, another brick. Just lay the bricks.

How do you deal with rejection? Feel crappy. Suck it up. Move on. There’s no other option.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Lucid. Beautiful. Tender. (I cheated: these are words others have used to describe it. I’m too close to it to know.)

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? There are so many I would love to yarn with, and my choice would be different on a different day, but just because I’ve recently returned to his brilliant and profound sonnets I will nominate Jorge Luis Borges. I wouldn’t ask him anything. I’d just listen to whatever he chose to talk about. Of course, I’d have to learn Spanish to understand him. Then again, with a brain the size of the world, I’m guessing old Jorge had a passable knowledge of English.

BOOK BYTE

Relatively Famous

Roger Averill

Michael and Marjorie Madigan refuse to be interviewed by biographer Sinclair Hughes for his new book Inside the Lion’s Den: The Literary Life of Gilbert Madigan. This is not surprising as Gilbert is Marjorie’s ex-husband and Michael’s mostly absent father. He is also Australia’s first Booker Prize winner, a feted and much lauded author that the UK and US now like to call their own. Michael cannot escape his father’s life and work, and at times his own life seems swallowed by it. His father’s success is a source of undeniable pleasure but also of great turmoil. In a world that increasingly covets fame and celebrity, Relatively Famous subtly explores notions of success, masculinity, betrayal and loss, and ultimately what it might mean to live a good life.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Eliza Henry-Jones

Which author past or present would celebrated Australian writer Eliza Henry-Jones choose to spend an hour with and what questions would she ask? Find out this week when I chat with Eliza about her writing life…

Eliza Henry-Jones is the author of In the Quiet and Ache. Her latest novel, P is for Pearl, is her first novel for young adults. Eliza has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Age, Daily Life and The Big Issue, among other places. She lives on a small farm in the Yarra Valley.

Find out more about Eliza at her website: www.elizahenryjones.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I love it – I get terribly despondent if I don’t have a story churning away. Writing fiction is A way for me to process and understand my world and even if I never had another book published, I’d never stop writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would be running equine therapy groups for children who’ve experienced significant trauma. That was my job before I decided to focus on my writing and it’s something I’d love to come back to.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Self doubt. In a way, it worked in my favour. I never really thought I was “good enough” to be a writer (whatever that means) and instead pursued a career in community services, working with high-risk children and families. The work changed me utterly and I doubt I’d be writing how I do without those years of experience.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations?  I’ve not had any input into my covers – but love them all. I know some authors are really involved in the design process and I’d love to be a bit more hands on down the track.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The community and the flexibility. The people I’ve met in the industry are some of my very favourite in the world. While I work longer hours than I ever did in my other jobs, I can set up my days to suit myself. For instance, I can do an extra long writing day when the weather’s bad and then work out on the farm and ride my horses when the weather’s pleasant. I also tend to work longer days during winter and shorter days in summer.

—the worst?  The pressure to sell well, get reviewed by the papers and be listed for awards.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Put less pressure on myself – I’ve pushed myself extremely hard over the last few years and I’m definitely starting to feel it. I’d take things more steadily, if I had my time again.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?That the anxiety and self-doubt doesn’t disappear when you sign a book contract – for me, it intensified (which I was not expecting!)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Read everything you can get your hands on.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Experiment – write short stories, poems and novels. Write plays and articles and essays. There’s so much value in the writing you do, regardless of whether it gets published.

How important is social media to you as an author? Some days I adore social media. I live on a little farm that’s quite a long way out from the city – 6kms from the nearest shops and 20mins from the nearest train station. Mostly, social media helps me feel connected and engaged with the writing community. Other times, it feels overwhelming. I’m getting better at recognising when I need to step back from it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t entirely believe in writer’s block. I think on some days writing is much easier than on others, but you can push on, regardless. Sometimes I’ll be gentle and let myself step away from the project for a while, but other times I’ll push through. I may write 20,000 words that are all wrong, but I know I’ll eventually hit my stride again.

How do you deal with rejection? Oh, there’s so much rejection! I always have another project on the go that I can focus on.

In three words, how would you describe your writing?  Grief, love, joy.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Oh, goodness! There are so many. JK Rowling is definitely one – I grew up reading Harry Potter and find her utterly fascinating. I’d love to find out more about how she plots her books – they’re so intricate and carefully layered.

BOOK BYTE

P is for Pearl

Eliza Henry-Jones

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

Book sales site: https://www.booktopia.com.au/p-is-for-pearl-eliza-henry-jones/prod9781460754931.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Mirandi Riwoe

This week the spotlight is on a critically acclaimed author whose award-winning novella The Fish Girl is one of six titles included in the 2018 Stella Prize shortlist of extraordinary books by Australian women. The winner will be announced on April 12. In the meantime, meet Brisbane-based writer Mirandi Riwoe…

Mirandi’s debut crime novel, She be Damned, was released in 2017 and is followed this year with A Necessary Murder. She is the recipient of a Queensland Literary Awards fellowship and awarded an Asialink residency at the Shanghai Writers’ Association in 2018. Currently, she is Peril Magazine’s prose editor. She has won the historical category of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards and has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize, Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, Fish Short Story Prize, and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. She has also been longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella V. Mirandi’s work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Review of Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. Mirandi has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies (QUT).

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was young and reading Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton. I wanted to tell stories that other readers could enjoy. I still want to tell enjoyable stories, but I also want my stories to be worthwhile.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think maybe I’d be a school teacher.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think it takes time to polish both your work and your skill at writing. Maybe the obstacle lies in your work and your writing not being ready. It’s also a pretty tough, competitive market to break into too.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I’ve been lucky because my editors have each been wonderful, in that there is a lot of negotiation throughout the editing process. Not so much input into the covers. Usually you’re presented with what they think is appropriate, and you can maybe change things you think do not work.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Working in my own time and environment.

—the worst? I guess it’s not necessarily great pay for most of us  🙂

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Read like a writer.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d known more about the short story competitions etc., literary journals and sites like Aerogramme that notify writers of writerly things.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Covered a bit below.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? I like what a Varuna ‘Publisher Introduction Program’ judge wrote in her feedback one year – to treat your writing as a craft, like you’d treat any other artistic pursuit. For example, you don’t just decide you’re going to be a painter or opera singer – it takes years of honing, training or practice.

How important is social media to you as an author? I like it because it keeps me in touch with other authors, but I don’t know that it’s that helpful in garnering new readers.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Sometimes it takes me a while to ease into a scene or the day’s writing. I think it was Hemingway who said to always leave something for next time to go on with in your writing. I like that idea. So I’ll write what I can for the day but leave the next sentence, paragraph, idea for the next day, to get me going again.

How do you deal with rejection? Ugh rejection is so hard, I think at any time in your career. My biggest reaction to this, and what I say to fellow author-rejectionees, is to “keep on writing, keep on writing,” a bit like Dory.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Well, I have always wanted to have a chat and a whisky with Val McDermid. I guess maybe I’d ask her how she copes with distractions, and if she works to a daily writing schedule.

BOOK BYTE

The Fish Girl

Winner of the 2017 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize

Sparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, The Four Dutchmen, Mirandi Riwoe’s novella, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.

Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.

 The Fish Girl is available here.

 

 

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