Meet the Author: Gypsy Wulff

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Your background is in teaching and music and you’ve only turned your focus to writing in the past few years. What inspired you to swap the piano keyboard for the computer?

In actual fact, I do both.  There are different ways of making music and bringing harmony to life. The piano keyboard is one, the computer keyboard another! Writing has been an interest of mine on and off over the years but I’ve never had the time to put into it. My recent work however, was very much purpose driven.  And yes, it was the result of a turning point in my own life.

In an unexpected way, I came face to face with the deep and painful reality of animal suffering.  An unnecessary suffering that was simply the result of our eating choices. Knowing that people are basically caring, I became troubled by the fact that so many good people were unwittingly contributing to a suffering that would otherwise be unconscionable to them. The  truth is that we are making unconscious choices based on habits we have inherited from prior generations without questioning. The repercussions those choices are having on the lives of animals, the environment and our health are wide-ranging.

With vested interests having a strong hand in sustaining those habits, such issues are difficult to raise awareness about, but I felt I had to do something. I wanted others to know what their choices meant for innocent beings and just as importantly, I wanted them to know they could turn the situation around by making different choices. Education is the most powerful tool we have so I decided to reach out to people through personal stories.

What was your ‘turning point in compassion’?

Many years ago, a beautiful bird flew into my life.  She had been neglected and was malnourished.  I cared for her and before long, we developed a very deep bond and she taught me how beautiful, intelligent and deeply feeling she was.  She was the equivalent of a soul mate and when she passed away prematurely I was devastated.  Her legacy though was an awakening in me. It became apparent that we needed to see animals differently, to learn how both we and they can be enriched by our connection with each other, and to also become aware of the deep travesty being  perpetrated on them. I began studying as much as I could and came across the World Peace Diet, which unearthed one revelation after another.  My eyes were opened and my only wish is that I had understood all this much earlier in my life.

We humans have adopted a position of superiority that allows us to use and abuse animals as though it is an inherent right, rather than seeing them as co-inhabitants on this earth of ours to live with in harmony.  Having been subject to the same unconsciousness as many others and unaware of the vast cruelty perpetrated by the animal industry, it was quite a revelation to learn what I did.  I also realised I had been complicit in contributing to that industry every time I bought an animal product.  Every time such a product is bought, we are paying someone else to kill an innocent animal.  All this opened up my awareness and consciousness and I could no longer participate in any part of it.

This book would be an ambitious project, even for a seasoned writer with a strong background in journalism. Did you realise what was involved in collecting this number of interviews from people across the globe and presenting them in a readable format?

No…and for that reason, ignorance is bliss!  Fortunately, between Fran (my co-editor) and myself, the project unfolded very naturally.  It took four years and an enormous amount of thought and work…but amazingly it worked.  I had no idea it would take the format it did in the end but we are both happy with how it evolved.

Did you devote a lot of time to preliminary planning for the book or was it a more organic process that took shape along the way? It was definitely an organic process that took shape along the way, no question.

How did the final time frame compare with your original estimate of how long it would take? I’m almost embarrassed to say!  I thought I would have it done and dusted in six months.  Four years later…

What was the most challenging aspect of creating the book? When a lot of material comes in for a project based on the same topic, much of it can be repetitive and boring to the reader.  Fran and I set ourselves the task of extracting the unique element, the “gold” in every story and then crafted the book in a way that would present a different angle on the subject matter in each chapter. This was definitely the most challenging aspect but also the most creative and rewarding.

What was the most gratifying aspect of being involved in sharing this message of compassion? Seeing people respond to the message and being touched and inspired by the stories. The book is an inspiring read but also challenging.  I love seeing the courage of people who can stop and change the way they do things when they see it impacts another being so deleteriously.  We’ve had some beautiful feedback.  Many people already sense that our treatment of animals for food is wrong and all they need to have is the information and how to live healthily on a diet free of animal products. Each time a person makes that change they are not only blessing the animals but their own body and the environment.

What would you do differently if you were starting over? Initially I sent out a standard questionnaire to guide the authors in their writing.  This resulted in some fairly repetitious feedback.  Now I would send a general guide but the standard questionnaire is a pitfall I would avoid in future.

You’ve opted to self-publish Turning Points in Compassion. What was behind this decision? We were offered a contract by a publisher but I had several concerns about it.  The standard template they used would not present the book in the way I wanted. We used a lot of photos that I felt needed to be in colour but the publisher would only do black and white.  I had a very clear idea of how the book should look and self publishing allowed me that freedom. I’m so glad to have gone the way of self-publishing  through Pickawoowoo Publishers.  We have a high quality product presented exactly as I wanted it.  It’s harder work from the marketing angle but Fran and I are on a learning curve and having a lot of fun getting the word out there.

What do you hope readers will take from the book? The message that compassion towards animals, our environment and our own health means we have to stop contributing to the suffering by changing what we buy and put in  our mouths. I also want people to realise there is no difference in the sentience of a calf or a lamb or a chicken to a dog, or a cat or a bird.  These are just false dividing lines assigned by people.  Pigs are capable of as much intelligence as dogs.  And yet, we love one and kill and eat another.  If we did to “pets” what we do to farm animals we would be charged with cruelty.  And yet, as a society, we accept such illusory divisions because that’s how we’ve been taught.  We have to become conscious about the alternatives and there are many. We have to also see through the euphemisms that we use to disguise the fact we are killing living beings, not things.

Euphemisms are used constantly used to keep us disconnected from the truth of “who” we are eating.  “Lamb” is the slaughtered body of a baby animal taken from its mother.  “Veal” is a baby calf removed from its bereft mother and kept restrained for a few days before being slaughtered.  “Chicken”  is an animal confined in shocking conditions until it is spent from egg laying and then slaughtered.  Bacon, pork and ham are body parts of animals who wished to live, and like all the others mentioned had to face the fear and anguish of being killed. Would any of us survive five minutes in a slaughterhouse?  How much work has gone into sanitising the truth of our treatment of animals?

Deep down, we know there is something inherently wrong with this practice and yet we have been conditioned into accepting it.  I want people to know they are empowered to make new choices and to be healthier for doing so. We don’t have to be part of this. The book helps them to do that.  It is not a book about making people guilty; it is a book that inspires people to show that in this world of seemingly endless problems we can do nothing about,  we are empowered to make changes that significantly impact the life of another in some important areas.

Do you have more books in mind? Not immediately but I would like to continue with the children’s book series, I Love Animals once the busyness of releasing Turning Points in Compassion settles down.

What advice would you offer anyone else contemplating a project of this scope? It’s very important that you have enough commitment and passion to stay the distance. There is no question that it’s hard work and requires a great deal of time, energy and in my case, finance.  The project has to matter to you and you have to be deeply motivated to go the full yard on it.  Having a good co-editor as I’ve done in Fran is enormously helpful;  we’ve kept each other going.

BOOK BYTE

TPIC covernew Turning Points in Compassion – Personal Journeys of Animal Advocates

This inspirational collection of personal stories challenges our widespread perceptions about our relationship with animals. With a powerful blend of compassion and honesty, the writers in Turning Points in Compassion share pivotal moments that awakened them to a life-changing awareness. Each one’s life has been enriched beyond measure as a result of their journey. With open eyes, hearts and minds, they describe their entry to a new world of compassionate living where they no longer see animals as their food or their property. Their description of a life lived with awareness of animals as equally feeling beings who have conscious awareness and lives that matter to them will touch the hearts of people everywhere. No readers will be left unchallenged by this book.

All profits from sales are donated to animal sanctuaries and rescue groups. Turning Points in Compassion is available from http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Points-Compassion-Personal-Advocates/dp/0987192965/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 and other online retail stores.

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Kez learns from experience

It’s been nearly a year since I interviewed Kez Wickham St George about her writing journey so I decided to catch up with her and find out what she’s been doing. I also asked if there were any important lessons she had to share from her experience.

kez02a

Kez, what sort of year was 2014 for you? It was very busy with local interviews and an interview for the MS Radio Station in the US. The program editor was kind, cutting out the gales of laughter because the interviewer and I could not understand each other’s accent.

I also travelled around the southern wheat belt in Western Australia doing author interviews and creative writing workshops, winding’ up a week-long journey at a children’s festival in Balingup as a guest author for three days.

Then came a request to go to Cairns in Queensland to meet our new baby granddaughter and at the same time I received a booking to talk about my novels at the Cairns library. Fifteen people attended this workshop for an hour, then it was an open debate on the merits of using the Internet as a promotional tool compared with face to face networking. I must say it was lively and we went way over the original two-hour booking.

All fun aside, once home it was time to write once more, knitting my travels and my experiences into my next novel. This is when I really get to use my imagination.

Is there anything different about this particular novel? I began to write a prologue for the first time and found I enjoyed every moment of it.  It set the tone for my latest novel, The Talking Stick.

What prompted you to do this? My publisher Autharium.com had seen something in my novels I had not, the world of the supernatural. He encouraged me to write a chapter or two on the paranormal. I was a bit flummoxed at this, as I write romantic thrillers and this is where I learnt a valuable lesson. As I rummaged through my old notes, I came across a film script I had written two years ago. I reread it and ideas formed on how I could use this, with some tweaking, to be my prologue. My lesson— and my advice to any writer—is listen to what your peers have to say. When the experts advise to never throw any of your writing or notes away, listen to them. I’m so glad I did.

I now have a third of my new novel written and the rest of it is rustling at the edges of my mind, bursting to get out there in print.

How is 2015 shaping up for you, Kez? This year is proving to be quite busy, using once again any social media available. I have been invited to either open or be part of exhibitions, plus guest speaker at two social events. This is an opportunity for me to physically network, getting my books known to the public. I know from past experience that personal contact or showing you are a ‘real’ person is vital to sell your work.

I used my holiday time at Christmas to have a web designer look at how we could improve my site and I am so glad I listened to her advice and went with it. I now have an updated web site www.kezauthor.com  which has already proved a valuable asset in promotion. I also revamped my Facebook page and book covers.

How important are book covers? The cover is the eye-catcher for sales. It is the first contact with the potential buyer and has to relay what the author is writing about. This is where I work closely with my book cover designer. I sent him the prologue to read and get a feel for the title, however this time was a little different as I had a photo I wanted included. We were both excited about my involvement and between us we came up with a book cover to delight all involved. My publisher now calls my book covers ‘Kez covers’  because they depict my story of adventure, the thrills and spills, to all the armchair nomads, whatever the circumstances.

How have you changed as a writer? Advice from the experts is much appreciated. It has made me a more informed writer. A little more adventurous with my trusty laptop and I’m still learning every day, still adding a chapter every day to my next novel, and still loving what I love to do: write.

BOOK BYTE

The Talking stick, to be published October 2015

kez_bookcover4Two ghosts…shipwrecked…lost on a small island.

Between us and the paranormal lies a thin curtain. Lift that and things happen that cannot be explained. Journey into the territory of the paranormal in this novel that is not about bumps in the night but a cry for help from the world of shades to be heard, to tell their story.

Meet the Writer: Maureen Eppen

Many years go when my first picture book – a stranger danger tale called You Don’t Know Me? – was published, a young reporter from the local paper called round to interview me. Today it’s my pleasure to reverse the roles and chat with journalist, book reviewer and aspiring novelist Maureen Eppen about her writing life.

 

FramedWhy did you go into journalism? I always knew I wanted a job that would take advantage of my love of English, writing and reading. I did work experience at a local library when I was in Year 10 and realised that wasn’t for me. When I was in Year 12, there was an advert in my local paper, The Sound Advertiser (as it was called then), for a cadet journalist at their sister paper in Mandurah. Long story short: I applied and was lucky enough to get the job, but didn’t start full-time until I’d finished my Year 12 exams – in case I, or my employers, had a change of heart. I’ll be notching up 33 years in the industry later this year…

What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist? If I had my “dream career” these days, I would be a novelist, and if I needed to supplement income from royalties [g], I’d love to own and work in an independent bookshop, and/or teach writing courses.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career? Maintaining motivation in the face of temptation and distraction. As a freelancer working from home, you have to have a degree of self-discipline, so that you don’t get caught up in all the other jobs you could (should?) be doing around the house. Basically, you have to knuckle down at the start of the day, and get the work done.

Maureen's writing assignments are varied and interesting.
Maureen’s writing assignments are varied and interesting.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? There are so many positives… I’ve been able to work from home while my children were growing up, and often organise my working hours around their needs. I have also met many warm, friendly, fascinating and inspirational people, some of whom have remained firm friends. I’ve structured my schedule to allow for a great deal of flexibility, which means I’ve been able to put some work aside if somebody close to me is unwell, or there’s an event I want to attend. I can then catch up with the work outside of normal business hours (I couldn’t do that if I worked in a newspaper office). I also love the processes associated with interviewing and reporting – and I simply HAVE to write every single day; it’s non-negotiable.

—the worst? Foregoing paid holiday leave, sick leave and employer-funded superannuation so that I could work part-time from home while my children were growing up. Having said that, I wouldn’t do it differently if I had the choice again. My family might say the worst aspect of my writing life is the fact that some days I’m isolated from human contact, so when they come home at the end of the day I have a tendency to talk “at” them for a while…

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you in the course of writing a news story? The first that comes to mind occurred fairly early in my career, when I was taking photos at a bushfire near Mandurah, to go with a story I was writing. I called my editor, who lived in Kalamunda, and he arranged to “hold the front page” until the next morning, then drove down to my house in Calista to collect the 35mm black and white film for processing. When he picked up the camera he asked what I’d done with the film – at which point we both realised there hadn’t been a film in the camera! I’d been standing on the top of emergency service vehicles to get a good angle, was taken right out to the fire-front for some close-ups, and had told all the volunteer firefighters to check out the front page of the next edition of the paper. Oh dear!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a journalist? That is a tough question, because the working environment is changing so rapidly for journalists in these days of internet news feeds and blogging. I would probably try to develop some web design skills, create a (dynamic!) web page, specialise in an area that I love, and try to earn a living that way.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a journalist? That for the vast majority of journalists, it turns out to be a job you do more for love than for profit. Your hourly rate is not going to be brilliant, but you will never, ever be bored.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” This advice (from my wise mother) works as well in everyday life as it does in journalism. I would much rather get more information than I need for a story than find that I’ve missed out on some details that readers may have appreciated. With this in mind, I ask LOTS of questions.

You read and review fiction. Is there a novel waiting to be written, and if so what form would it take? I’ve got a few novels in the pipeline. I’m inspired by, but also hampered by, my appreciation for top-notch fiction. This means I enjoy few things more than becoming totally immersed in a well-written story, but I also fear that my own writing efforts will fall far short of my aspirations and ideals. One of my fledgling novels is a fictionalised account of some of my adventures while growing up in a blue-collar suburb south of Perth…

What’s your top tip for aspiring journalists? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Never be afraid to ask – for help, for information, for a chance.

 

Meet the Author: Victor Kline

VICTOR’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be true to yourself. Only write what you burn to write. If that is nothing for the time being then so be it. To write what you don’t really want to write because publishers or publicists or critics or friends and family tell you to, is a profanity. It defeats the purpose of becoming a writer in the first place and leads inevitably to bitterness. Get yourself a back-up job so you have what Humphrey Bogart called ‘fuck you money’. If you have less time to write, so be it. If you are writing what you want to write you’ll find the time.

Headshot 2Victor Kline started his working life as Sydney’s youngest barrister. He worked as a Federal prosecutor in Sydney and later as a defence counsel in the Northern Territory in its Wild West days. He has been a playwright, theatre director and actor Off-Broadway and in various parts of Australia. He is the author of the novel Rough Justice and the bestselling memoir The House at Anzac Parade, as well as several produced plays. His most recent novel The Story of the Good American has just published worldwide. As well as New York and Central Australia, Victor has lived and worked in London, Paris, the South of France and New Guinea. He currently lives back in Sydney with wife Katharine and a little grey cat called Spud. For more information about Victor and his books, visit his website. www.victorkline.com     AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I can do no better than quote Camus when he said “A writer is someone who has to write.” There is something inside every writer that won’t settle for not writing. What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I am also a barrister but no longer doing court work. Instead I work as Editor of the Federal Court Reports. This is work I can do from home and which liberates me to write when I want to. So I have the best of both worlds. I have left brain and right brain activity. And I have financial security. Not the big bucks of the practising barrister, but enough to get by and take the pressure off, so I am never tempted to write anything I don’t absolutely want to write. What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my obstacle is no different from anyone else’s obstacle, ie the book blindness of publishers. This is not a criticism of them. It’s just a fact of life that if you have to look at literally thousands of manuscripts, you lose the joy of reading which took you into the job in the first place, and you lose your ability to spot quality. It just become one big tasteless soup. In the end the only way you can choose one book over another is to go for hackneyed stuff that seems to be like stuff that has sold in the past. But of course the public don’t want that. They want something new and different. But the new and different never gets published until it has been rejected by dozens if not hundreds of publishers. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Diary of Adrian Mole, etc etc, were all rejected endless times before going on to sell millions, usually picked up by a small publishing house after all the majors had said no. Of course it’s not just publishing where this happens. It infests every industry, especially every creative industry. The Beatles were rejected by every record label in the UK. What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I want to tell stories, meaning I want to tell about things that are different and interesting. Just as the primitive bard did, in his loin cloth, around the fire. I also want to talk about fascinating people, bring them to life, be they ‘real’ or ‘fictional’, just as that same bard did. Writing gives me the chance to do all that. It’s what makes me feel alive. —the worst? Again, like everyone else, the critics. These are usually people who have fallen into the job on the newspaper because the editor wouldn’t trust them with anything else. They usually have no idea what they are reading, don’t want to be either reading or reviewing, miss the point of the book, talk nonsense, and drink a lot to dull the pain. Fortunately in the modern world where books can be bought on line and in e-book form, and the reader has the chance to review the book on the site from which it was bought, the potential reader has a lot of genuine ordinary people like themselves to listen to. They don’t need to be guided by a critic, who they never quite trusted anyway. So the critics have lost their bite and certainly their monopoly. Furthermore we now have a world of bloggers who are doing what they are doing because they love it, and from whom the reader can also get some real guidance about what to buy. I myself, for my last two books, have made the decision not to offer my book to newspaper critics. I trust bloggers and I trust the reading public. I can get all the publicity I need from them and from radio and television interviews. Unlike reviewers, who often feel they are not doing their job unless they find something to be snarly about, interviewers know that the best interview comes from a general positivity. So one’s book is presented to the public in a much better light. I have found that giving the critics the flick has not hurt my sales in the least. Quite the contrary. What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would marry my wife Katharine a lot sooner. If I had had her around when I was staring out I think I would have got where I wanted a lot sooner and with a great deal less pain. She is smart and is an enormous help at all stages of the writing and publishing process. What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A lot of authors, Graham Greene being the archetypal example, will tell you that the best way to write is to have the discipline to sit down every day and write a certain number of words, however you feel at the time. Now that might work for them, but I wish someone had told me it is not something that works for everyone. I have found for myself that I do much better if I listen to my instincts, and write only when they are telling me to do so. As a result I may not write for weeks, but when I do, I write prose or dialogue that usually needs very little revision and is what I really ‘need’ to say. Forcing myself to write a certain amount each day just ended up creating a lot of material needing massive revision, often to the point of having to just chuck it away and start again. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be true to yourself.

BOOK BYTE The Story of the Good American Front Cover“An adventure, a romance, a game changer.” A hobo, a billionaire and the woman they both love. An unusual prescription. Some remarkable cures. Joe Starling was Pete A. Vanderveer’s right hand man. But one day Joe just up and left the billionaire. He left New York City too. Turned up years later in his home town of Sydney, Australia, shining shoes in the Pitt Street Mall. What happened in between, to Joe and Pete and to the woman they both loved, was very likely to change the world? The Story of the Good American is available in paperback and e-book formats from http://www.amazon.com/Story-Good-American-Victor-Kline/dp/0947245065/ref=sr_1_6_