Inspiration for a book

 by Victor Kline

The role of the artist is not often talked about these days. But I fear there is a subliminal idea of what it is, which has slowly permeated our western culture since the turn of the twentieth century. The original ‘permeators’, as far as I can tell, were that morbid trio of northern European playwrights Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg. These happy campers shared the view that life was pointless and hopeless and that it was their job to draw this cheery fact to the attention of lesser minds, who may have suffered from the delusion that life had a point, or who were foolish enough to imagine there was some hope.

In theatre at least, that viewpoint persisted up to the ‘Angry Young Men’ of the British stage of the 1950s. Only now there was a subtle change. The idea had become not exactly that things were totally hopeless, but rather that they were pretty damn bad, and it was the author’s duty to draw this to the attention of an apathetic world, so that those who held the reins of power would say: “Aha, thank you angry young playwright for alerting us to the fact that there is social inequality. We’ll now rush off and legislate that away.”

Of course the holders of the reins of power, in reality, remained unmoved. But the playwright didn’t care. He had done his duty, and now could go down the pub for a beer with his mates and tell them all what an activist he was.

In the world of novel writing there was a greater variety. People wrote romances and bodice rippers and science fiction and all manner of escapism. But if ‘serious fiction’ be their intention, then of course they had to embrace the hopelessness of the snowbound trio, or the preachy ‘fix this’ of the angry young men.

It never occurred to anyone to think it may just be the real duty of an author to go beyond the winging and offer a solution. Well I guess I have always thought that if you can’t offer a solution, don’t bother. In the modern world we all know very well, from the 24 hour news cycle, just how bad things can get. So just re-affirming, in literary form, how bad things can get, adds little of value to the mix. Give the politicians and social workers and medicos a bit of a blueprint to work from. Use your contemplative time to offer ideas to those too busy to contemplate.

That was the attitude I brought to the writing of The Story of the Good American. I wanted to show how things just might get fixed. But I didn’t want to lock myself away in the British Museum, there to invent theories that took no account of human nature. I wanted to write about something I knew could happen, that I knew was happening.

I chose the amazing work being done by people like Bill and Melinda Gates, whose aim is nothing short of the total abolition of world poverty and disease. But they are no theorists. They are getting out there and making it happen. Their method has its genesis in a simple mind shift. Instead of making the business of business the centre of their world, they have the business of philanthropy at the centre, and their ‘normal’ business becomes a feeder for that. Their shareholders support them because any temporary loss of income will be more than compensated for by the huge extra market they are creating. The destruction of poverty and disease means the creation of a whole new world of consumers for their products.

Then they are also in the business of enlisting other billionaires to their way of thinking. At this stage they have commitments from one-third of the world’s 200 richest individuals. Even that is enough cash to get the job done, and it will get done.

My characters are not Bill and Melinda Gates. They are fictional, exciting characters who find themselves caught up in all sorts of adventure and romance. It is a novel after all. I wanted to write something that was fun to read, that put the emphasis back on old-fashioned storytelling and empathetic characters. But the Gatesian thread is there for anyone who wants to pick it up.

Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to give the average person like myself a bit of a blueprint too, for how we can fit into this new era which is dawning. How we can shrug off the despair that all the angry young men have been laying on our shoulders for a century, and joyfully do our bit. But if you want to know how that all works, you’ll have to read the book.

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 is The Story of the Good American. 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. www.victorkline.com

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 book is available in various formats from http://www.amazon.com/Story-Good-American-Victor-Kline/dp/0947245065/ref=sr_1_6_

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Meet the Author: Meg McKinlay

MEG’S TOP WRITING TIP: Focus on the writing rather than on being a writer. In that sense, don’t be an ‘aspiring author’; be someone who’s creative and curious and committed to their craft.

MegMckheadshotMeg McKinlay is a children’s writer and poet who lives near the ocean in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has published 10 books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her work has been shortlisted for awards such as the WA Premier’s Prize, the Environment Award for Children’s Literature, and the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award, and her novel Surface Tension won the Children’s/Young adult category of the 2012 Davitt Award for Crimewriting.

2015 will see the publication of two new titles – A Single Stone (Walker Books, May) for ages 9-14, and Bella and the Wandering House (Fremantle Press, September), for ages 7-10. To find out more about Meg and her books, visit www.megmckinlay.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always loved playing around with language, finding the right words in the right order, seeing if I can nudge the world a bit, to paraphrase Tom Stoppard. I’ve always been a scribbler of fragments, snatches of poetry, the odd line here and there. That’s just something I find satisfying, a particular way of connecting with the world.

I’ve come to narrative itself, to story, much later. And I guess fundamentally I write that because it’s a way of honouring those fragments, of turning them into something that has a broader resonance and reach, a readership, and in the process turning my love of scribbled jottings into a craft and a career. I’m not one of those writers who sees herself as a storyteller. I struggle with structure and plot; for me, those evolve out of a desire to work with a particular image or idea, and are in a certain sense just a kind of necessary scaffolding.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think I’d probably be an academic, which is what I was doing before. I taught in the English and Asian Studies Departments at UWA for many years, lecturing and tutoring in subjects as diverse as Japanese Language and Australian Literature. I’d actually just secured a tenurable position at a tertiary institution when the writing started to take over and I made a sudden left turn.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My general ambivalence towards plot. I tend to favour image and interiority and forget that a story needs things to actually happen.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That I get to spend so much time in my head, with my own thoughts.

—the worst? That I have to spend so much time in my head, with my own thoughts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. We all have to find our own path, and what might seem in hindsight to be stumbles or wrong turns can be an important part of that; it’s certainly felt that way to me. I think it’s generally worth resisting that urge to re-cast things with the benefit of hindsight.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That I’d never have a sense of arrival, that no matter what I published or achieved, I’d keep moving the goal posts. That the perfect sentence, or the story I really want to write, would always be just around the corner, unreachable.

To be honest, I was told this, in a roundabout way. I just didn’t listen.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I’m sure Leonard Cohen didn’t mean to give me this advice, but I took it anyway.

BOOK BYTE

ASingleStone_HiResA Single Stone

Every girl dreams of being part of the line – the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line – strong, respected, reliable. And – as all girls must be – she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question everything she has ever known? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

Sales Link: http://www.booktopia.com.au/a-single-stone-meg-mckinlay/prod9781925081701.html

Meet the Illustrator: Daniel Weatheritt

DANIEL’S TOP ILLUSTRATION TIP: Practise lots and get into a daily routine that works for you. Gain inspiration for your drawings away from the world of children’s books. Go for a walk in the woods or at the beach. Try drawing in these different environments and see how it affects your work.

 

DJW Twitter-20140821-154602684-20141007-182428734Daniel Weatheritt is an artist and designer based in Northumberland, UK. His love of drawing started in Year 3 as a member of Northburn First School Wildlife Club. Shortly afterwards, he began self-publishing comics including The Adventures of Mickey Molar and All Wrapped Up – Secrets of the Mummies Tomb. These formed an important precursor to a life-long fascination with image-making and all forms of design. He studied Graphic Design at Northumbria University and graduated in 2008 with first-class honours. Daniel uses many mixed-media techniques, often combining traditional media (pen and ink, pencil, watercolours and collage) with photography and digital colour production to create surreal characters, environments and narratives which are full of intricate detail and humour, inspired by the animal kingdom, scrap yards, circuitry, vintage cars, folklore and science fiction. Find out more about Daniel on his website – www.danielweatheritt.com

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Being able to work on such a broad range of projects. My artistic life covers quite a lot of ground, from illustrating books and guides for museums to working as a designer and also delivering art workshops in primary schools. I’ve always created things from a very young age and feel lucky that my skills have enabled me to grow my own job.

—the worst? The isolation. It’s a blessing and a curse. I spend much of my time working alone, which is great for developing my creative skills without interruption, but because of the commercial nature of my work I am constantly seeking to bounce ideas off other people and gather feedback, which can be tricky at times.

How do you approach an illustration project? If illustrating a book it starts with the story and lots of reading, making notes and sketching quick ideas for possible illustrations. I then create little storyboards, which are usually tiny, around 10% to 25% the size of the final printed book. These are drawn in ink with loose watercolour washes and are invaluable when it comes to producing finished artwork, acting as a guide for the composition, placement and pacing of images.

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve just finished designing and illustrating a booklet for Northumberland Wildlife Trust for the 2015 red squirrel appeal. All of the drawings were produced in watercolour and coloured inks and it has been really rewarding seeing my work going out to thousands of households in North East England. Also off to print is an art guide for Woodhorn Museum, a coal mining museum and art gallery in Northumberland.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? I’m rarely working on one project at a time, so juggling everything can be a real challenge. Creatively speaking, I think staying true to my initial sketchbook observations which I’m getting better at through practice. Also, to work across multiple mediums, be it pencil, paint, pen and ink, collage, and still produce something that feels unique to you and your creative language.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Making people aware of who you are and what you do. It’s a very competitive industry and you have to be quite clever with marketing and how you present yourself creatively. The best self promotion is to do great client work, simple as that.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I think it would still be something creative. A lot of my time is actually spent working as a designer, which doesn’t involve drawing in many cases. I love wildlife and archaeology so maybe something in these fields.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? Get a better handle on the business side of my creative practice and make sure my website was up and running sooner.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? That it really is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re reading this as a student or graduate starting out with nothing (like I did), no industry contacts or inside information, it really is up to you to get to where you want to be.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A) The harder you work, the luckier you get. B) It’s in the limitations of a medium that an artist finds his true strength.

 

BOOK BYTE

817ssALNV4L._SL1500_Daniel illustrated my children’s book Catnapped, a beginner chapter book about a couple of bungling teens whose plot to snatch a Lotto winner’s cat and hold him to ransom is foiled by a menagerie of pets. Catnapped is available from http://www.amazon.com/Catnapped-Teena-Raffa-Mulligan/dp/1623955882