Meet the Author: Janeen Brian

 

Janeen’s top tip for aspiring authors: Get your heart involved in your writing. That is, write honestly with genuine emotional sincerity. Even if it’s a commissioned work, a piece of work you haven’t personally chosen, I still think you can find something in the research or the writing of it you can relate to. Something that sparks your interest, so your writing isn’t wooden.

Photo: Bob Gloyn Photography

Janeen Brian is an award-winning children’s author and poet with over 100 books published in both trade and educational publishing. She enjoys writing picture books, junior fiction, poetry, novels and non-fiction.

Many of her books have been translated and distributed worldwide while more than 200 stories, poems, plays and articles have been published in children’s magazines or anthologies.

Janeen was the recipient of the 2012 Adelaide Festival of Literature Carclew Fellowship and in 2009 also received a May Gibbs’ Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship. Janeen is an Ambassador for Raising Literacy Australia (The Little Big Book Club.)

She loves reading, creating mosaics, aqua-aerobics, Yoga, walking, gardening, travelling, craft work, singing, watching theatre and films and spending time with her family and friends.

She lives in the seaside city of Glenelg, in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. She has two daughters and four grandchildren.

To find out more, visit her website and Facebook page.

www.janeenbrian.com

www.facebook.com/JaneenBrian

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I think of words as seeds. Each holds power and beauty and can be arranged in a million different ways to bring about a million different outcomes. I love taking disparate words and making connections. I love using my life’s experiences for something other than memories. For me, writing equates to creativity. And creativity is my soul driver.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I was a primary teacher for many years. And a not-so-good actor in a children’s theatre company for a few years! I loved my teaching years but left in 1990 to write full-time and now, I’m not sure I’d return to that career. Perhaps I’d work part-time in Early Childhood centres. And I’d spend the rest of my time creating saleable mosaics from recycled materials – something I’ve been doing for over twenty years.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I’m disciplined and have a reasonably strong work ethic, I love being able to work from home.

What’s the worst aspect of your writing life? When I think I’ve conquered a particular structural humbug, only to see it rear its annoying head again in another piece of work.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To clarify, I never had an ambition to become a writer. I still sometimes find it a surprise that I am one. One writing colleague described it as being an accidental author. However, from age eight, I was set on becoming a teacher. But when, in my thirties, I began to write and later, to become published, I wished I’d been told you had to make TROUBLE in your writing. That CONFLICT was the cannon you fired to action the story.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Ignorance of story. Ignorance of books. I felt this perhaps because my childhood and school life was almost bare of reading material.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I was pretty much a self-taught author. Being a self-starter, I sought out books on how to write, from the library. Much later, there were writing prompts available online, which I ploughed through, and a ‘distant education course’ which I took, sending off work in envelopes. But today, I’d start out by studying the wonderful writing courses that are available both online, in universities and other institutions.

You’ve seen many changes during your writing life. How important is it to be adaptable as an author? What are the key attributes a writer needs for a long-term career in this unpredictable career? I delve deeply and often into my particular ethos of If it’s to be, it’s up to me.  Ultimately, it’s you who has to overcome hurdles and do the work. But sometimes, when even that’s not enough, having like-minded friends and colleagues to buoy you up through those tough times, is invaluable. Also, reaching out into other areas of the arts is helpful and enjoyable.  If you don’t want to sink, you learn to be adaptable in your own way. But, to stay afloat, you need persistence by the truckload. And an understanding that whatever you write can ALWAYS be improved, by revision, learning and practice.

You write picture books, junior fiction, poetry, novels and no-fiction. Do you have a preference? I love the crispness of picture books and poetry. I love to create words that sound perfect and hopefully, also provoke images in a reader’s or an illustrator’s mind. I so enjoy writing junior fiction and since I’ve now written three novels, I really like the expansion they offer as well. But I guess picture books and poetry nudge to the top of the line-up.

Are there any recurring themes to your writing? Succeeding by tapping into your own strength, intuition and creative problem solving would be one theme. So, in a word, resilience. Concern for the environment, another. Bringing history to life and also injecting humour into my writing whenever I can, would be others.

What was the inspiration behind your newest release, Eloise and the Bucket of Stars? It was the combination of two random images; one being memories of visiting old English orphanages. The other was reading the narrative behind medieval tapestries depicting the capture of a unicorn. The next step was to create a character who lived in an orphanage, who may or may not have been an orphan and to uncover her connection with a unicorn. And in so doing, create a story for mid-grade readers that entailed both mystery and magical realism. Talk about a challenge.

Is there any aspect of the writing craft that you still find challenging? Probably structure, particularly in longer pieces.

 

 

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is good if you stick to those two words. Social, meaning you can visit and enjoy and share or gain information or knowledge from time to time. Media, meaning its very accessible. But beyond that, I’m wary, because it can drag you into passivity – when perhaps you should be writing.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t ever label those sticky times as such, because that tends to set the whole idea in concrete. Yes, I have times when ideas lay low, or the work is sluggish or dull, but now I have a better understanding of dealing with those occasions. Often, I’ll leave the work for a while. Or I might do a brainstorm or mind-map to see if that generates a breakthrough. But it’s usually a stepping away from the work, with or without a certain amount of grace, depending on my mood!

How do you deal with rejection? I still feel sad when it happens. And disappointed. And frustrated. And I’m not the most garrulous person to be around for a little while afterwards.

But it is a case of whether you still believe in the work or not. One case in point, was that my agent couldn’t get any publisher interested in a particular picture book of mine. In the end she returned it to me. I gave it time, rewrote it and sent it to a publisher whom I knew. It was not only published but won a Notable Award at the CBCA Awards.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Image-provoking, heart-felt, language-orientated.

If you had a 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? It would be Kate DiCamillo because she evokes such richness or emotion in her powerful stories. I’d like to know whether her beautiful, pared-down style of writing evolved through her own intuition, or whether it was partly intuitive and partly learning the craft.

BOOK BYTE

Eloise & the Bucket of Stars

Janeen Brian

Orphaned as a baby, Eloise Pail yearns for a family. Instead, she lives a lonely life trapped in an orphanage and made miserable by the cruel Sister Hortense. Befriended by the village blacksmith, Eloise soon uncovers some strange secrets of yesteryear and learns that something terrible may be about to happen to the village. As troubles and dangers mount, she must learn who to trust and choose between saving the villages or belonging to a family of her own. Unless something truly magical happens . . .

The book is available from:

https://www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/Eloise-and-the-Bucket-of-Stars-9781760651879

https://www.sequelbooks.com/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars-by-janeen-brian-9781760651879?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgMi-lreM6QIVF38rCh3XlA5jEAYYASABEgJEqPD_BwE

https://www.qbd.com.au/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars/janeen-brian/9781760651879/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgMi-lreM6QIVF38rCh3XlA5jEAYYAiABEgIhk_D_BwE

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars?utm_campaign=shopping_feed_gb_en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Philip Salom

 

Philip’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

Philip Salom‘s new novel The Returns is his fourth novel. He has also published 14 collections of poetry. His recent novel Waiting attracted wide-ranging acclaim in reviews and in 2017 was shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin Literature Award, as well as the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Award. His two earlier novels are Playback, which won the WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction, and Toccata and Rain which was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the WA Premier’s Prize.

His poetry awards include winning the 1987 Commonwealth Poetry Book Prize in London for Overall Best Book of Poetry, after having won Best First Book Prize for Poetry in 1981; the Western Australian Premier’s Prize (twice for Poetry) and the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize. Plus numerous shortlistings in the major national book awards.

Philip was recognised with the 2003 Christopher Brennan Prize which is Australia’s most prestigious lifetime award for poets for “poetry of sustained quality and distinction”. Visit Philip’s website at www.psalom@philipsalom.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always been interested in making. As a child I did very little of it but those adults who did caught in my imagination as doing something thrilling, something I desired. Any kind of making, buildings, bridges, paintings, sculptures, but essentially visual forms. Though I read books non-stop it was only in my 20s that I realised I might actually make them. Not external visualisations, but internal ones. ‘Buildings’ you could say, that work in the mind.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Very hard to say. I have forgotten what it is not to write. And during the last 10 years I’ve had long works-in-progress happening all the time. I have already finished the novel which will follow The Returns. However, I love the idea of being a trouble-shooter, a Fix-it, a problem-solver. The challenge, the creative and imaginative thinking required, the suspense. The resolution. Especially if it has a hands-on physicality, thus the pleasure of working mentally but in three dimensions. Unlike writing, which for all its imaginative recreation of life, is actually a very inward encounter.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was lucky. The first manuscript was picked up immediately because I was plucked: a publisher knew what I was working on and asked to see it. But some manuscripts have been harder to place and made me sit down and look very hard – to see if there were problems, then face up to them. First is the feeling of having gone wrong with it, having worked superficially, made errors of judgement. You must be rigorous, and get over it. Re-writing, even re-imagining, can be very confronting personally and tough in terms of sheer concentration, then in the new writing, and new re-writing. Endless re-writing sometimes!

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the covers? Sometimes my poetry has employed unorthodox layout so for a book I did with Penguin I was asked to do the entire layout myself. Fiction is much easier so I’m not involved. I always comment on my book covers, though, as part of my on-going interest in art and design. This new cover is the most unexpected so far and I have grown to really like it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being so mentally involved with the actual writing. Fiction is something I carry in my head: my characters, their dialogue, their possibilities, potential surprises in development. It suits the loner in me to spend my private time in a place and with an imagined cast no one knows exists. Until it does.

—the worst? Not knowing quite how much has been achieved in one’s work and, much worse, receiving occasional reviews that seem to exist as bloody-minded dismissals of the work. Some reviews are examples of condescension by the ignorant, some are vindictive, some are not very bright. Thank god for the rest.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have written more fiction from the beginning and as a poet made more of the networking that poetry (with its very much smaller base of readers) necessarily exists within. Especially in Australia, where the readership and public reception of poetry are less – and less generous – than in many other countries.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Same as the above, really, that there is the actual writing (which is private and which I value most) and there is the profession itself, where the public profile of any writer is established and promoted (or not). Most professions are like this but like many I had assumed the writing sold itself. It can, but mostly it doesn’t. There is a huge amount of unseen promotion behind very visible writers.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A writer I admired telling me that I was on the right track i.e. keep going.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

How important is social media to you as an author? It doesn’t appeal to me though its power and reach can be significant.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’m lucky not to have it. Something always comes if you let yourself be subsumed by the work itself, not your anxieties about it, which are you, and personal. Drop the ego-self but keep the ego-confidence. During a long work I worry about where it’s going and how to solve its problems or demands (such as, does this scene work? Is it right to end it this way? Etc). I solve the problems by writing.

How do you deal with rejection? It’s a hit to the stomach. Keep on. Again, turn back inwards to the writing and if there are lessons in the rejection, use them.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Its own self.

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 remember the old saying: never meet your heroes. As above, the work is the ‘self’ that matters. The desire to meet others is of course very great. I had met and become friendly with John Clarke and he was an exception. His life and work were very much the same. Human, droll, insightful, hilarious and welcoming. That voice. A beautiful person.

BOOK BYTE

The Returns

Philip Salom

Elizabeth posts a ‘room for rent’ notice in Trevor’s bookshop and is caught off-guard when Trevor answers the advertisement himself. She expected a young student not a middle-aged bookseller whose marriage has fallen apart. But Trevor is attracted to Elizabeth’s house because of the empty shed in her backyard, the perfect space for him to revive the artistic career he abandoned years earlier. The face-blind, EH Holden-driving Elizabeth is a solitary and feisty book editor, and she accepts him, on probation …

Miles Franklin finalist Philip Salom has a gift for depicting the inner states of his characters with empathy and insight. In this poignant yet upbeat novel the past keeps returning in the most unexpected ways. Elizabeth is at the beck and call of her ageing mother, and the associated memories of her childhood in a Rajneesh community. Trevor’s Polish father disappeared when Trevor was 15, and his mother died not knowing whether he was dead or alive. The authorities have declared him dead, but is he?

The Returns is a story about the eccentricities, failings and small triumphs that humans are capable of, a novel that pokes fun at literary and artistic pretensions, while celebrating the expansiveness of art, kindness and friendship.

Praise for Philip Salom’s writing

‘Philip Salom … dissects the vulnerabilities of the human condition (loneliness, fear of intimacy, powerlessness, guilt), the power of the past to haunt us, the fear of the future to mire us, and the redemptive effects of love and acceptance.’ -Miles Franklin Award Judges

The book is available here and from all good bookshops.