Meet the Author: Tanya Southey

Tanya’s top tip for aspiring authors: Just write.  Write if it’s crappy, write if you can’t find the right sentence, write.  Sometimes I trick myself when I am sitting waiting for the most perfect sentence to appear, I start typing “Blah, blah, perfect sentence and then this happened…” and I write whatever came next and then I come back and write the first sentence later.

Tanya Southey is a grown-up.  Well, most of the time.  She has lived in multiple worlds – business, charities and consulting. Ollie and the Starchaser is Tanya’s first published book.  The book is close to her heart as it explores family, the place she likes living in the most.

Tanya grew up in South Africa, has lived in the USA and now calls Australia home.  She has a husband, a daughter and three dogs. The dogs keep the family entertained and are lively characters in her book. Tanya has always worked to help people reach their potential, navigate life and all its challenges.  Her books whether for children, adults or poetry all touch on the beauty of an ordinary life and she hopes they resonate with her readers’ desire to lead their best lives.

Visit Tanya’s author Website to find out more: http://www.tanyasouthey.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? This question is a little like “Why do you breathe?”  I have always written, from when I was about six years old.  It’s a way for me to process the world with all its emotions.  I let it lie for some years, but I still scratched the occasional poem in a journal.

What inspires you creatively? Inspiration comes from two of my senses; the most dominant are visual prompts, beautiful photographs, scenery or art.  The other is music.  It could be a song with lyrics or an instrumental piece of music that evokes a feeling in me. I also find wide open spaces, trees, beaches, blue or rainy skies just open the valve and get the words flowing.

What was your path to publication? Please share a little of your writing journey. I am self-published at the moment.  I sent my manuscript to some traditional publishers, but the path to publishing seemed long and I had this distinct feeling that the timing for my current book was now.  I had already ruminated on the story for nine years and I had the time to get it into the world, so I decided to “just do it”. I wanted my mum to hold the book in her hands and she’s not getting any younger.

My path involved getting a first draft out and I ruminated on that for nine years while I did writing courses and learned about the publishing world.  I found an editor, worked closely with her and then self-published in six months.  I also had a long-standing girlfriend complete a final proofread. She is like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld, with grammar, and she made sure that commas, tenses and spelling were all correct.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? My current book Ollie and the Starchaser was a collaboration with my daughter, Jess Southey.  Jess is a professional artist and I wanted to work with her.  I handed her the manuscript and got out of her way.  I gave her very little artistic direction.  What was amazing for me, was seeing the imagery of the story through her eyes as an artist.  She has created a drawing for the beginning of each chapter and this has brought the story to life in addition to the words.

I am also working on a project called #52words52weeks.  On New Year’s Eve, I posted on Facebook, and asked my friends to give me 52 words and I am writing a poem a week for this year.  Three weeks in, my friend in London who is a street photographer (or as I call her ‘poetographer’) teamed up with me and we have been pairing her images with my poems every week.  This has been a joyous project and we plan to publish a coffee table book with her photos and my poems at the end of the year.  The cover will be one of her beautiful pictures.  You can follow this on project on my author page on Facebook (Tanya Southey – Author) or on Instagram @tanyasouthey.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best part of writing is creating worlds and characters that don’t exist anywhere except in your head.  Since being published, my new best feeling is everyone else’s reactions to what I have created.  My biggest surprise is how much Ollie and the Starchaser has resonated with adults.  I didn’t expect adults to feel so much in a children’s story. I have loved that.

—the worst? The obvious is writer’s block.  But I have so much different writing happening at any moment, that if I am stuck on one project, I just move to the next and come back to it.  My other ‘weird’ worst is that I often ‘download’ a whole poem, or perfect sentences for a book, while I am driving.  The problem is that if I don’t pull over and write it down straight away, it often disappears or loses the perfect wording.  I have been known to pull over (safely) and quickly write a poem on my iPhone.

What do you do when you aren’t writing? I read voraciously. I have done this since I was a kid.  I spend time with my family and my three dogs.  I also run a consulting business, a health product side-hustle and pretend that I have retired from the corporate world, but people keep finding me and giving me work to do.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I had found the space and confidence to publish sooner.  I also knew intellectually from talking to other authors, how much time marketing your book takes, but the reality is that has been very intense.  You really do end up becoming, a marketer, advertiser, event coordinator, administrator, public speaker, book packer, post office runner and social media guru.   With all of this, I think that I would have been more prepared and planned for when the book came out.  It’s been organic launch chaos!

You are tackling the issue of grief and loss in your new children’s book, which many can find confronting. What do you hope readers will take away from your story? In all my work in corporations and consulting I have had a theme of dealing with difficult emotions or situations.  The paradox in life is the more we try to protect ourselves and our children from difficult emotions, the less resilient we become.  This book is a gentle introduction to love, loss, family and grief.  The messages are hidden in an adventure story and it is an uplifting story that can be used as a scaffolding for difficult conversations.  Children who have not experienced grief and loss have enjoyed the story as an adventure story, with younger ones not even realising that the grandmother has passed away.  The secondary theme centres on Ollie’s grandmother Nanoo, who is a feisty, strong woman who has not only had a family but also succeeded in the male-dominated world of astronomy.  I have also loved coaching and developing women to do anything they want, so it seemed natural that Nanoo was going to be a quirky woman who can become a role model for girls and boys.

Is there any area of writing that you find especially challenging? Grammar and tenses.  Tenses make me tense!  I sometimes get carried away in the adventurous parts and end up in the present tense when the book is written in the past tense.  Thankfully, the editors are angels who can see this if you don’t spot it first!

What’s the best advice – writing or otherwise – you were ever given? I have been working closely with Joanne Fedler who runs a mentoring program for writers. I love how Joanne teaches to take the personal and strip it back so that it becomes universal.  I am so looking forward to spending the next 12 months with Joanne and a group of aspiring authors as we write our next first drafts together.  I also think being able to recognise when you are writing from a clichéd perspective.  You need to try to stay fresh and original and true to your own voice.

How important is social media to you as an author? I know it’s important for building a platform and for awareness.  I am not obsessing about getting 10s of thousands of followers.  I love my loyal friends and followers and they make me feel accountable to write.  For me it’s a way to stay connected with fans that I love and meet new ones.  The rest is incidental.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? If I am suffering from writer’s block, then there is likely to be too much going on in my head or in my life.  One technique to become unstuck is to do the “morning pages” that Julia Cameron describes in her brilliant book for creatives – The Artist’s Way.  She also suggests a two-hour artist’s date, where you go out alone and do something that you love.  I find I come back refreshed and with new perspectives.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Diverse, quirky, wisdom-seeking

What is your ultimate writing dream? I would love one of my books to become a movie.  I would be so happy if I could reach non-readers through the medium of film.

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? Only one? I would love to hear from Maya Angelou and how she managed to convey so much emotion and wisdom in her work.  A living person would be Brenè Brown. I would love to ask her how she takes such difficult topics like shame and vulnerability and makes them funny, accessible and engaging.

BOOK BYTE

Ollie and the Starchaser

by Tanya Southey, illustrated by Jessica Southey

Nanoo is Ollie’s beloved grandmother and an astronomer who discovered the planet Terenza, in a gentle galaxy east of the moon. When Nanoo disappears on a trip to the Outback, Ollie cannot accept that she is gone. He is worried, sad and refuses to believe that Nanoo would leave him. He feels helpless sitting around on his farm with only his faithful Labrador, Chloe, to listen to his feelings. However, his luck changes when the Starchaser and his Star-fordshire Terrier, Buddy, plot a way to get to Earth from Terenza. The boys and their dogs begin an epic adventure to find Nanoo. Their journey takes them across the Outback, up the Steps to the Moon and into space. But will Ollie find her, and will he bring her home?

 

The book is available from the following sites:

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001156396 – direct from the publisher

https://jesssouthey.bigcartel.com/product/ollie-and-the-starchaser – for a signed copy

BUY ON AMAZON
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Meet the Author: James Cristina

My guest author this week is James Cristina whose debut novel, Antidote to a Curse, has been described as ‘an astute exploration of the nature of identity’ by the acclaimed author Janette Turner Hospital.

James Cristina was born in Malta. His parents migrated to
Australia in the late sixties and he grew up in Melbourne.
He has taught English in Australia, Malta, England, the
US, Jordan, Bahrain, Switzerland, Belgium, South Korea
and Oman. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the
University of East Anglia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because characters, scenes, plotlines and phrases materialise, take shape and evolve. It seems natural to want to write these down.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m first and foremost a teacher. I’ve enjoyed my years of teaching at home and abroad.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were many obstacles. Developing a book-length piece of fiction to a level that I was satisfied with was possibly the biggest obstacle.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Working with Transit Lounge has been great. I am involved. The creative and professional direction has been inspiring and productive. I certainly appreciate the sincerity of the dialogue. Yes, I’ve been given a lot of freedom and opportunity to express viewpoints.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing the characters and plotline take shape and eventually become independent of you. You essentially feel like you are making something.

—the worst? Feeling like you don’t have time to jot down ideas.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? While I think my teaching, my travels and experiences have been important, I wish I had given myself more time to write.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I think I was fortunate. From the very beginning, I met wonderful writers and academics who were sincere and generous.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? How far you go with any given piece is up to you and your internal critic.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? It’s an individual journey, but if I had to give advice it would be to keep at it.

How important is social media to you as an author? The freedom to be able to use any social network is important, though till now I tend to work directly with people I have met in person over the years.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. I don’t think I’ve had the time or freedom to pursue the number of ideas that have come to me. I’ve certainly reached an impasse or two with the novel Antidote to A Curse over the years, but there have always been other pieces, mainly poems, to pursue.

How do you deal with rejection? Try again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Subjective, ambitious and exploratory.

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? I’ve been making slow progress with Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. I wonder if and what he would offer about writing this extraordinary epistolary novel. I certainly would love to know how this piece evolved. Would he meet up with me for a coffee?

BOOK BYTE

Antidote to a Curse

James Cristina

It’s the ’90s. Silvio Portelli returns to Melbourne after
time spent teaching in England and rents a room from
the charismatic octogenarian, Nancy Triganza. Nancy is
having an elaborate aviary constructed to indulge her
passion for birds. At a city sex shop, Silvio meets the
mysterious Zlatko, a Bosnian immigrant and, in a previous
life, a collector of rare birds. Silvio becomes obsessed with
Zlatko, and his own journal and dreams begin to mirror
Zlatko’s past, and in time the reality of what happened
in Bosnia. Such revelations are counterpointed by Silvio’s
own tense wait to learn the results of his tests for HIV.
Bold in design, Antidote to a Curse is a story in which
the hunter becomes the hunted, the writer the subject,
and vice versa. Cristina lovingly captures Stalactites cafe
where Zlatko and Silvio often meet, and a city enmeshed
with Europe, both physically and in spirit.
Rich with images and allusions yet grounded in the
everyday Antidote to a Curse is a startling debut. Cristina
subtly draws the reader deeper and deeper into a state of
psychological obsession where only the truth can provide
a way out.

Meet the Author/Illustrator: Anne Helen Donnelly

It’s always a celebration when a new picture book becomes available for young readers and today it’s my pleasure to welcome Anne Helen Donnelly as part of her online book tour for Ori’s Clean-up, latest in her Ori the Octopus series.

Anne lives in Sydney with her husband and her two young children. She has taught dance, been an entertainer at children’s parties, and she reads and teaches art and craft to children. She paints children’s canvasses and makes greeting cards.

Anne has been encouraged to share her story-telling, her illustrations and her creativity, resulting in her Ori the Octopus series. The first book Ori the Octopus was closely followed by Ori’s Christmas, both released in 2017. In 2018 Anne is combining another of her passions, care of the environment, in her third book Ori’s Clean-up, released this month.

I asked Anne about her creative life…

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Getting out doing readings and workshops with children.

—the worst? I have been trying to revamp my website for two months now, this would have to be top of my list right now.

Where do you draw the inspiration for your picture books? For my current picture book, the environment and its care has always been a passion for me. Otherwise, from everywhere/anywhere. I can think in pictures, so I may see something that sparks an idea.

How has your background in dance and being an entertainer at children’s parties influenced you as an author/illustrator? The dancing has helped me as I have had to capture the attention of children and motivate them. Teaching 20 four and five-year-old boys teamwork in a dance troupe is a tough gig. The entertaining is the same. You use anything that works; comedy, magic, games and mostly getting them involved. And you learn not to do one thing for very long and to mix it up.

How do you approach a new picture book project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? Like most writers, an idea usually has to sit and ‘cook’ until it’s ready to be told. Then I write the first draft, then many, many redrafts with usually more than one critique and assessment.

What are you working on at the moment? I am working on promoting my new book. I just completed four events up in Port Macquarie and have some 11+ events coming up this year.

Also, as mentioned earlier, I am revamping my website while ‘cooking’ another picture book manuscript or two.

How much time do you spend on creating each picture book? I assume this means after the manuscript has ‘baked’? It varies, starting at eight months.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? An enjoyable story, lovely pictures and a message. My current book has a clear message of taking care of our environment, regardless of how young you are.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? We are all always improving so I like to think that my manuscripts in two to three years’ time will be better than what I am writing now. Ditto for illustrating, but I do find drawing hands challenging.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I would say what is my toughest obstacle now as an independent publisher is competing with trade published books for promotion/sales and shelf space.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing and illustrating children’s books? I would still be involved with children in a voluntary manner in between a regular job like I used to be. My last university qualifications mean, prior to entering the Kid Lit world, I was a health manager. I used to manage a Cancer Care Centre across two hospitals. It was a generalist management role; budgets, doctors and other health workforce, patients, service delivery, accreditations, complaints, improvements etc – the whole works.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? Network earlier on.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a picture book creator? Some more facts about the size of the Australian market and the common obstacles. I probably would have still continued anyway, I like to try things. You only live once!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My first editor helped me with my writing by saying I had some $5 words in my manuscript. Meaning, some of my vocabulary was aimed too high for my intended readership.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Tough one. I really don’t know. My mum’s uncle was an amazing man. He was an interpreter in the British forces in Malta. He spoke five languages perfectly, down to the accents. I only got to meet him twice before he died, and I so enjoyed listening to him and talking with him. He felt like a kindred soul, and so down to earth. It would have been wonderful to have more time with him.

Of course, I also had to ask for Anne’s top tip for aspiring author/illustrators. It’s good advice:

Do a good picture book writing course and get to as many pitching sessions and manuscript assessments as you can.

BOOK BYTE

Ori the Octopus and his friends have left their rubbish everywhere. They tidy up, but it doesn’t work. To keep their home clean and healthy, they need to do something different, something better.

Buy the book at Booktopia general site and bookstores and on Anne’s website annehelendonnelly.com

Anne has been out and about chatting about her new book as part of the launch celebrations organised by Books on Tour. Here’s where to find her other book stops…

 

 

 

 

 

Monday July 30 – Friday August 3

www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday July 30

educateempower.com.au

Tuesday July 31

maureeneppen.com

Wednesday August 1

missielovesbooks.com