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.

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Tash Macfarlane

It is my special pleasure today to introduce debut illustrator Tash Macfarlane, who is inspired by nature and metaphors and cannot imagine a life without art to express the joy of being alive.

Tash Macfarlane lives and works in Perth, Western Australia. Mainly working in watercolours, she uses Manga and comic-style art to bring her ideas to life. Inspired by the worlds from Nintendo’s Pokemon and Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering, Tash’s work has been shared across the world via social media. After a tough few years battling cancer, Tash, 23, uses bright and vibrant colours to express the joy and brightness her life has become since beating the disease. The middle grade novel Maximus by Steve Heron is the first book she has illustrated. Visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KizmettoArt/

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

Maximus is your debut illustration project. How did it come about?

Maximus was offered to me after I was informed by Serenity Press that author Steve Heron liked my art style. Feeling chuffed, I took on the challenge and accepted the opportunity to illustrate his book. I then met Steve for coffee and discussed his book and vision and got to know him a little better, making me feel better about the project!

Did you work closely with Steve to create the illustrations for his book?

I only saw him once throughout the process, after I made thumbnail sketches for most of the chapters. He gave me his input and I learned about little details he imagined his character having, such as freckles or the general feel for where he lived.

How specific was the brief you were given for each illustration? Was there room for your own creative interpretation of the text?

The brief was quite broad and allowed for my creative process to be shown. After reading the text, with some back and forth between myself and the editors, we settled on some designs which I then rendered into the final illustrations.

How did you go about the illustration process?

It was a fun and challenging process, forcing me to try drawing new things I hadn’t had much exposure to before, but I learnt a lot and am proud of the final product. Each image came with about four to six sketches before merging a few which resulted in the final sketch.

How long did it take to produce each illustration?

About three to five hours per piece generally speaking, which included research and practice before the final pieces.

What did you enjoy most about working on Maximus?

I enjoyed imagining and plucking the images from my head and putting them to paper. I hope the readers can match them up to the text!

What’s next for you? Do you have another illustration project lined up?

Right now, I am not working on any projects. I’m hoping to be working on another one very soon however.

Can you imagine your life without art?
Definitely not. Art is very important to me, it’s a form of relaxation, expression and emotion. Without art I wouldn’t know how to use this energy or ideas! And seeing people’s reaction and their reasoning and interpretation of my pieces makes it worthwhile.

What inspires you most creatively?

Nature itself and metaphors. I like the surreal and I love how beautiful nature is, but it is impossible to capture its beauty, so you can only try to manifest it into a metaphorical piece and then try and reason with it and others! It’s like a good debate.

Describe yourself as an artist in three words.

Fine-lined, colourful world-builder.

What is your favourite art media?

Watercolour is one of my favourites, but I have not mastered it at all, that will take many years of practice! But it is fun to use and play with. I also enjoy digital but there’s something about tactile mediums, the grain of the paper, the grasping of a brush, squeezing the paint out of its tube.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Draw what makes you happy, I want to see what goes on in your mind, let me see it.” – A nurse who was treating me at Chemotherapy.

Is there any advice you would give someone who dreams of becoming an artist?

The above advice is pretty good. If you enjoy what you’re drawing, it will be evident in your sketches and books and final pieces. People can really tell if you’re having fun or not. If you’re not, then you should take a break, and then come back to it with a fresh mindset. You’ll find something to like, maybe it’s the setting, the colour palette you get to use, the mediums. Find what you enjoy and really go for it.

On a lighter note – If you had the chance to spend an hour with any artist of your choice living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living an artistic life?

I think my choice would be Kristen Plescow. She does amazing and colourful pieces full of life and it really draws you into those pieces, definitely an influence on me. I would want to know how she renders such beautiful textures and how her sketch processes go.

BOOK BYTE

Maximus

Steve Heron

Illus. Tash Macfarlane

 

Mitch says stuff sucks. His life has been turned upside down since his dad started working FIFO at the mines.

From a messy bedroom to a close footy match; an annoying little sister to incredible Anzac projects; losing friends and losing face, Mitch deals with an explosion of feelings associated with bullying, fighting, suspension, family conflict and his first crush, all in the space of eight days.

Will an encounter with a surprising new feathered friend and the reliability of old ones help Mitch get his mojo back?

Maximus is available here from Serenity Press.

 

 

 

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