Goldie’s top tip for aspiring authors: One word: PERSEVERANCE. And try and write every day, if only a sentence. Practice makes perfect.
Goldie Alexander’s 90 books and prize-winning short stories appear both in Australia and internationally. Her ability to bring both the past and other worlds to light touches the hearts of adults and children. She writes in almost every genre and has won many awards for her novels and short stories. Her My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove is used in almost every primary school as well as being published in New Zealand and re-titled in the UK as Transported.
Recent books for older children include The Youngest Cameleer – how Muslim Cameleers helped find Uluru, My Holocaust Story: Hanna, now published in Canada, and the sci fi Cybertricks, which won a 2016 Notable. Other recent novels for young adults include That Stranger Next Door, and In Hades: a verse novel, short-listed in 2015 for an Aurealis Award.
Just published is the SHAKESPEARE NOW! TRILOGY, three novels that use contemporary plots and young protagonists based on well-known plays.
Goldie speaks in schools, tertiary and community centres, festivals and also runs classes in creative and memoir writing for adults as ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’. Her website is www.goldiealexander.com
Why do you write? Can’t think of anything I’d rather do. In fact, if I ever contemplate the idea, I’m totally horrified and rush back to my keyboard.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I wouldn’t mind being a film critic, as I am also passionate about good cinema. I would happily take over from Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton now they have retired. Any offers?
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Finding publishers who liked what I wrote. I was lucky in that my first four YA novels were commissioned, but after that life became tougher and I had to take all those knockbacks with gritted teeth. My saddest story is that I had something like 30 middle grade novels that I had to cannibalise into 30 longish short stories. These were finally published as three short story collections. Another example … Cybertricks was fifteen years old before it was finally published and declared a Notable in 2016. Then I was accused of plagiarising Hunger Games’ for my ideas.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Far more than I have ever been. I used the illustrator Aaron Pockock for the Cybertricks cover. Coming in October is my trilogy SHAKESPEARE NOW! re-tellings of well-known plays using young protagonists and contemporary settings, with covers illustrated by the extraordinarily gifted Paul Taplin. When a friend hinted that these covers were ‘too different from the usual YA covers’, I replied, ‘Exactly!’
These longish novels include The Trytth Chronicles (as a sci fi version of The Tempest) Gap Year Nanny (as Macbeth set in present-day Melbourne) and Changing History? (as a time-warp Romeo and Juliet set in Berlin in 1928, and Melbourne now)
Otherwise I am dependent on my publishers for editing, layout and design. I wouldn’t be much good at those, anyway.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The process of creation and finally ending up with something that might work after a million re-edits. Though the process can be unbelievably frustrating, I wouldn’t spend my life any other way (except as a film critic?).
—the worst? That blank screen. And rejection letters. Even the most experienced writers get those, though they usually remain very quiet about receiving them. But I always mention this to ‘newbies’ as I think it motivates them to keep writing. I also run Writing Memoir workshops for seniors. Watching their delight at something they have written is enormously pleasurable.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would be more aware of the upcoming importance of social media and possibly spend more time circulating amongst other writers and publishers. But I am rather shy and at the time I started off as a writer, I wasn’t well enough to do all that running around.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I was told this at the time but didn’t really believe it. That writing can be heartbreaking and I soon found that it certainly can. I discovered that I needed an alligator’s skin to take the knocks and rebounds and a soft heart to empathise with other people and characters enough to write about them.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Edit, edit, edit and re-edit. LIVE a little and READ! I read about 100 books a year and still that’s not enough. Lots of young writers write thinly disguised semi-autobiography, and then get stuck. It’s never the first book that counts, rather the second!
SHAKESPEARE NOW! Three novels that take on the challenge of rewriting some of our best loved plays using young protagonists in contemporary settings:
Sales sites: www.fivesenseseducation.com.au
and all good book stores.