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
BUY ON BOOK DEPOSITORY
BUY ON BOOKTOPIA
BUY ON BARNES & NOBLE

 

 

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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: Justine Ettler

Justine Ettler’s The River Ophelia, (Picador,
1995) was a best-seller in Australia and New
Zealand and has been taught at HSC and
university level. Her novel, Marilyn’s Almost
Terminal New York Adventure, (Picador) was published the following year to critical acclaim. In 1997 Justine was selected as one of six Australian authors to tour the UK as part of the New Images Writer’s Tour, and subsequently moved to London where she lived until 2007. She worked as
a book reviewer at The Observer, The Evening Standard, and The Times Literary Supplement, lectured in Creative Writing,
and worked as a reader for the London literary agency,
Cornerstones, as well as for The Literary Consultancy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because I love writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Difficult to imagine but I’d probably be a musician.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Learning how to keep writing through rejection and poverty.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Yes, I had input into designing the cover for Bohemia Beach; not so much with my first two books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The peace I feel when writing.

—the worst? Having my writing misrepresented in the media.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Take some time out from love relationships to concentrate on my writing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Choose a more nurturing publisher over a bigger chequebook.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep writing and don’t quit your day job.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Find an agent/publisher who understands what you’re trying to do and is in it for the long haul.

How important is social media to you as an author? It can lead to good contacts, I don’t use it for my personal life.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Accept it as part of the process and keep writing even if all I’m doing is journaling.

How do you deal with rejection? By trying not to take it personally.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? True, complex, original.

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? George Eliot, and I’d love to ask her tell how it felt to be married to a supportive, literary husband.

BOOK BYTE

Bohemia Beach

Justine Ettler

Catherine Bell, a famous concert pianist, is struggling to
hold on to her career in a competitive international arena
that spans the classical music capitals of the world. After a
disastrous show in Copenhagen, Cathy is about to attempt
her first concert performance without alcohol in Prague
when her marriage implodes, her terminally ill, Czech-born
mother goes missing from her London hospital, and
a much needed highly paid recording deal falls through.
Cathy finds herself coping in the only way she knows how:
grasping a glass of forbidden pre-performance champagne
and flirting with Tomas, a stranger in a Prague nightclub.
While her therapist Nelly advises her to abstain, Cathy’s
relationship with drink, and Tomas, draws her deep into a
whirlpool of events as mysterious, tense and seductive as
Prague itself. Justine Ettler’s discipline in the writing is as
controlled as Cathy is out of control– the novel brilliantly
references classics such as Wuthering Heights – and as with
Rachel in The Girl on a Train the reader is drawn into the
protagonist’s predicament with moving, palpable intensity.
Bohemia Beach is an edge of your seat ride, a compelling
story of addiction, passionate love and the power of art. It
heralds the return of one of Australia’s most distinctive authors.

Buy the book here: http://transitlounge.com.au/shop/bohemia-beach/

 

Meet the Author: Kate Simpson

It’s always an occasion for celebration when a new book is sent out into the world and today it’s my pleasure to introduce Kate Simpson, whose picture book Finding Granny is set to touch the hearts of young readers and their families. Kate’s doing a Blog Tour this week and full details follow our chat…

Kate  is a picture book author and co-host of the children’s book podcast One More Page. Kate’s debut picture book Finding Granny, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones, tells the story of a small girl whose world is turned on its head when her beloved grandmother suffers a stroke. As well as being an author, Kate is also one third of the children’s book podcast One More Page, which features guest interviews, book reviews and giveaways, as well as a kid-centric segment called Kids Capers. Find out more about Kate at www.katesimpsonbooks.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katesimpsonbooks/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ksimpsonbooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18072918.Kate_Simpson

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I love it. I didn’t discover writing until I was in my thirties, but now that I’ve found it, I wouldn’t be without it. I’m going to go a little bit Jerry Maguire and say that it completes me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Well, from a financial point of view, writing is definitely the smallest part of what I do. I trained as a chemical engineer and in my day job I supervise asset upgrade works at two water treatment plants and a water recycling plant south of Sydney.

I guess if I wasn’t a writer as well as an engineer, I’d watch a whole lot more TV, sleep more and perhaps find more time to catch up with friends. But it’s all worth it!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was quite fortunate in that my first manuscript got picked up relatively quickly. By that, I don’t mean overnight, and I don’t mean the first manuscript I ever wrote,  but within a few years of starting this writing gig, I was lucky enough to have Finding Granny selected for publication.

Aside from good luck, the main thing that I think takes the credit for this is my fantastic critique group, who not only helped me get my manuscripts into shape but also gave me great tips about how to work towards publication.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had a reasonable amount of involvement. This is my first published book and from talking to other writers, I had the impression that I would have virtually no input into the selection of illustrator and into the content of the illustrations, but in fact the publisher did consult me. I had an opportunity to provide my opinion on the choice of illustrator and to provide feedback on the roughs. I understand that illustrating is the illustrator’s  job, not mine, so I hope Gwynne would agree that I wasn’t completely diva-ish about what I wanted to see in the illustrations.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I suppose the creative satisfaction. I just love the feeling when you’re trying to achieve something on the page and it just sort of clicks. As the A-Team would say: I love it when a plan comes together!

—the worst? Fitting it in. I’m finding it harder and harder to find time to write around the other commitments in my life. I would love to have just a day a week to dedicate to my writing, but alas, it’s not to be (at least at the moment).

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d do anything differently. The single best decision I made when I was starting out was to join my wonderful critique group at the NSW Writers’ Centre, and they have made everything easier and taught me a packet, as well as becoming my tribe.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told when I was seven years old that this was even possible. I’ve always loved books but I thought that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have any ideas. The thing I’ve learned is that for many of us, ideas don’t just fall from the sky. We need to go searching for them, cultivate them and sometimes just get out a bit of butcher’s paper and some permanent markers and brainstorm them! If anyone is struggling with story ideas, I’d strongly suggest trying Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, a month-long brainstorming challenge held in January, with the goal of coming up with 30 story ideas in 31 days. When you stop trying to find the perfect idea and just focus on coming up with as many ideas as you can, it’s amazing how the creative juices start flowing and how many of the ideas you have turn out to be real gems. There’s a wonderful quote from Linus Pauling that really sums this up: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

What’s the best advice you were ever given? This is a long game. It’s unlikely to happen overnight and even if it does, it’s unlikely to make you a fortune or even allow you to quit your day job. You must be doing it because you love it. There is no other rational reason.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, I’ve probably made it clear already that my top tip is to join a critique group (preferably an awesome one, like the one I was fortunate enough to join). But since I’ve more or less covered that, I’ll add a second one: Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to other people. This is pretty basic life advice but it goes double for authors. Writing is not always a meritocracy. There is a lot of luck involved in whose work gets published and, once published, in whose work gets noticed. If news stories about overnight successes get you inspired, then by all means pay attention, but if you find yourself turning green with envy, it’s time to switch to another channel.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know. Everyone advises you to have a strong social media presence and I do have a Twitter profile as an author and an author Facebook page, as well as a podcast, but as to how all that helps you to progress your career, I really don’t know. The one thing I do love is the wonderful writing community I’ve found through social media. Groups like Just Write for Kids and Jen Storer’s The Duck Pond are fantastic for creating a virtual tribe who understand what you’re doing and are interested in hearing you yabber on about kids’ books non-stop. Twitter can feel like a pretty negative place sometimes, but post a good news story about winning a writing competition or finishing a manuscript or having a book coming out, and watch how happy people are to celebrate with you.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I absolutely experience writer’s block. More often than not when I sit down to write I really struggle to get the words flowing. One thing that I find often works for me to overcome this is to sit down with a pile of books that I love and that are in a similar vein to what I’m trying to write and I read a whole bunch of them in a row so that I am filled with the emotion that I’m trying to create on the page. Reading books I love also reminds me of why I love to write and gets me excited about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

How do you deal with rejection? With difficulty. Look, nobody likes rejection, right? But to be honest, I actually find the fear of rejection often to be worse than the rejection itself. The fear is what puts me off submitting my manuscripts, or even showing them to people whose opinion I respect.

One thing that I find helpful in dealing with rejections is to go on Amazon or Goodreads, find one of my favourite books and read the one-star reviews for that book. Even awesome books are not for everyone.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Varied, emotive, intimate.

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? It’s funny you should ask. I’m lucky enough to have this opportunity roughly once a month on my children’s book podcast One More Page. I started working on One More Page almost a year ago with friends and fellow kidlit lovers Nat Amoore and Liz Ledden and since then I’ve had the privilege of knocking on doors and asking people if they would be willing to be interviewed for the podcast. Mostly, this is just an excuse for me to sit down and chat to some really awesome people about their books, craft and all the side stuff that goes along with writing. We’ve been on air since February and in that time I’ve interviewed authors, illustrators, editors and publishers including Jess Walton, Leigh Hobbs, Sue Whiting, Nicky Johnston and Anna McFarlane. It’s a dream come true!

BOOK BYTE

When Edie’s beloved Granny suffers a stroke, Edie feels as if she’s lost her – but the Granny she loves is still there. Finding Granny is a heart-warming story of changing relationships and the bond between children and grandparents. It’s also a sensitive exploration of coping with illness and disability that will offer children much-needed comfort.

You can purchase Finding Granny at https://www.booktopia.com.au/finding-granny-kate-simpson/prod9781925335699.html

Check out the rest of the links for the Finding Granny book tour:

Sunday July 1 – Saturday July 7 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday July 2 sharingyourstory.com.au

Tuesday July 3 intheirownwrite.wordpress.com

Wednesday July 4 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Thursday July 5 readingtime.com.au

Friday July 6 brydiewright.com

Saturday July 7 whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au

 For all enquiries to Books On Tour @ www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour

 

 

Meet the Author: Joanne Anderton

Joanne Anderton is a Sydney-sider who writes speculative fiction for adults, young adults…and pretty much anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a touch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. Joanne is addicted to anime and manga, and says these are strong influences in her writing.

Her adult science fiction/fantasy novels have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Debris was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel, and the Ditmar award for best novel. Its sequel Suited was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel, and the Ditmar award for best novel. Book three, Guardian, was published in 2014.

Joanne’s short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for multiple awards, and reprinted in several Year’s Best. Joanne’s novels and short story collection have received international review coverage in The New York Journal of BooksThe GuardianLibrary Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Find out more about Joanne here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because I love writing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Difficult to imagine but I’d probably be a musician.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Learning how to keep writing through rejection and poverty.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Yes, I had input into designing the cover for Bohemia Beach; not so much with my first two books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The peace I feel when writing.

—the worst? Having my writing misrepresented in the media.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Take some time out from love relationships to concentrate on my writing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Choose a more nurturing publisher over a bigger cheque book.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep writing and don’t quit your day job.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Find an agent/publisher who understands what you’re trying to do and is in it for the long haul.

How important is social media to you as an author? It can lead to good contacts, I don’t use it for my personal life.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Accept it as part of the process and keep writing even if all I’m doing is journaling.

How do you deal with rejection? By trying not to take it personally.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? True, complex, original.

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? George Eliot, and I’d love to ask her tell how it felt to be married to a supportive, literary husband.

BOOK BYTE

The Flying Optometrist

Written by Joanne Anderton, illustrated by Karen Erasmus

The Flying Optometrist travels in his little red aeroplane from his practice in the city to a remote outback town. Lots of people are waiting for him! Aunty can’t see well enough to carve her emu eggs and Bill the plumber has a splinter in his eye. Young Stephanie can’t wait for him to arrive as she has broken her glasses and can’t join in games of cricket and have fun with her friends – she can’t see the ball! Hurry up Flying Optometrist! Where is he? Is he lost?

The townsfolk wait with bated breath until finally the Flying Optmetrist’s little red plane appears, having only just missed a bad storm. A big meal waits for him in the local hotel. Then starts work checking eyesight. The Flying Optometrist doesn’t have long, but he helps as many people as he can. He returns to the city but Stephanie has to wait a little longer for an exciting package to come – her new glasses!

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Tracy Ryan

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Don’t aspire; just write. Don’t think of yourself as “aspiring”; think of yourself as writing. And read widely, and/or deeply, because that goes with writing. Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan was born and grew up in Western Australia, where she now lives in the wheatbelt, but has also lived overseas in the UK, USA and Ireland. She has worked in libraries, bookselling, editing, community journalism and teaching. As well as five novels, she has published nine collections of poetry.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  I have always written, since I could first read, so it’s a habit of thinking, a way of processing experience.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I can’t imagine that. I’ve also taught a lot, so I’d probably be teaching, but I don’t see it as either/or. Writing would be as well as, no matter what else was involved. This is true for many other writers too. Sometimes people put writing on hold while they do other things, but even then they’ve often been jotting things down in their spare time. What we see that gets published is usually only a small portion of what people have been writing across their lifetimes.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I don’t think in terms of obstacles. I was brought up with love, I was well-fed and looked-after in my family of origin, and I have a supportive family now. For some people life is much harder, so I’m not saying obstacles are nonsense, just that I don’t focus on them for myself. If you focus too much on them it’s discouraging. There’s always someone who has it worse, and someone who has it apparently easier. You just keep trying. If opportunities seem to elude you, you try to create them.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? My publishers have been great about this, in that we always end up discussing the choices for covers. I’m not a designer, though, nor a particularly visual person, so I defer to those who are. Nonetheless, it’s good to have that discussion, to clarify where writer, publisher, designer and marketing people are coming from. With regard to the content, I’ve always had terrific editors too, from whom I’ve learned heaps.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When a book is finished.

—the worst? The feeling of being stuck – grinding to a halt – which is actually a normal part of the process. It’s a stop-start thing, and sometimes there are many stops and starts!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? The internet did not exist when I was starting out; people didn’t even have home computers. So it’s crazy for me to try to picture how it would be to start out now. I think, though, that the basic principles of commitment to your work (to the value of imaginative writing in general too) and of persistence, self-belief, have not changed.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That it was an OK choice. My parents thought so, but I can remember a guidance counsellor at school who said basically, “That’s not a job.” Fortunately, to counterbalance that, I had some teachers who were great encouragers. I ignored the guidance counsellor. (Most writers probably do.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “Everything comes at a cost, so if you can’t see the cost of something, look harder.”

It was said at school, in a then-Social Studies class, but has applied to so many things in life I can’t count how often I’ve recalled and quoted it. It applies to the writing and publishing life: if anything looks suspiciously easy, or suspiciously obvious, reconsider. It makes me sound paranoid, or sceptical, I suppose. But it’s a helpful principle when making decisions.

There’s logic at work there, whether it’s in new technologies that appear to make life better but come at too great an ecological price – or some sort of deal you are offered that seems too good to be true. Or that someone somewhere is paying for a benefit you enjoy. It stretches to so many examples…

 

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not on social media, other than a blog I share with the writer John Kinsella, who is my life-partner (but I don’t post frequently). Our shared blog is at: http://poetsvegananarchistpacifist.blogspot.com.au/

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, lots – that’s the “being stuck” I mentioned above. I overcome it by recognising that it’s part of the writing process (not opposed to it) and eventually it goes into abeyance. Also I mess around with translations or other ways of working with language – journal entries, whatever – so as to keep connected while letting go of the problem. So far, it hasn’t been fatal. I think it’s quite common.

How do you deal with rejection? Get over it. Like writer’s block, it’s part of the deal. A certain degree of stubbornness is necessary to do this work. It can sting, as for anyone else, but if you let it stop you, you might as well try some other kind of work. People see the big successes that writers have, and don’t understand that they had lots of rejections too. Persistence is a key writerly trait, even if sometimes a piece of writing really is no good, and does deserve rejection. You go back and say to yourself, “How could I do it better?” or “Where else could I send it?”

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Questions, ruminations, excavations.

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? Probably the French author Stendhal (real name Marie-Henri Beyle), 1783-1842. He was known to be very witty and his books are breathtaking. His writing is quirky, lively, intelligent, full of passion and compassion, and he felt he was writing for readers well into the future. Especially women! I’d love to hear his take on being a writer now, and as his biggest fame came posthumously, I’m sure he’d have something pithy and facetious to say about that. He’s a serious novelist who also makes you laugh; a great combination.

BOOK BYTE

We are not most people

Tracy Ryan

 

 

Kurt Stocker’s Swiss childhood is dominated by strict and God-fearing parents. He enters a seminary with the intent of becoming a priest and making his parents proud of him, but struggles to adapt. Leaving this vocation behind, he marries Liesl and they eventually emigrate to Australia.

Decades later in small town Australia, Terry Riley feels drawn to convent life, despite her parents’ objections. At the convent she is haunted by a strange sickness and knows in time that she must return to a more conventional life. It is then she begins a relationship with the now divorced Kurt, who was once her high school teacher.This is the story of an odd couple, of an older man and a younger woman in love with one another, but so damaged by their past lives that even a regular sexual relationship seems impossible. Beautiful in its frankness but disturbing in its examination of faith and human existence, this is a novel that is affectionate, haunting and ultimately unforgettable.

The book is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/we-are-not-most-people/

 

 

Meet the Author: Roger Averill

‘Lucid…beautiful…tender’ are three words that have been used to describe the writing of today’s guest author. Roger Averill joins me to talk about the why of his writing and how he channels his great-grandfather, a bricklayer, to do the work.

Roger Averill is the author of Exile: the lives and hopes of Werner Pelz, the novel Keeping Faith, and a travel memoir Boy He Cry: an island odyssey. Exile won the Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Non-fiction in 2012 and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards.  Roger lives in Melbourne, Australia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I have to. Because I feel compelled to. Not constantly, but regularly. Beyond that, I write because it gives me pleasure and because it provides me with a vehicle to explore the world and my responses to it. It gives me a chance to create some glint of beauty, which, if published, might also bring pleasure or meaning to someone who reads it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d probably be doing what I’m currently doing to support myself being a writer, that is, teaching at a university. I might’ve been doing that at a higher level, perhaps. Or I might have fulfilled my teenage ambition to become a tram driver.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? After publishing a few poems in journals in my early 20s, it took me another 20 years to have a book published. The main obstacle was having the right publisher read my manuscripts. In terms of craft, I knew I’d written a publishable novel by the time I was 30, but the mid-1990s was the time of grunge fiction and no one was interested in my gentler offering. As it turned out, Transit Lounge published that manuscript as Keeping Faith 16 years later.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? The people at Transit Lounge have very kindly sought my opinion about the look of each of my books. I really like all of them as artefacts, though I’m not sure my input has been that helpful. All I have to offer is the view of someone who’s bought way too many books over the years. I prefer to let the professionals do their job. The covers of all four of my books have been designed by Peter Lo. I think he’s brilliant.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I actually love everything about writing. The idea of it has given my life direction, although for 20 years that sometimes felt like a misdirection, and the craft of it has allowed me to work at improving the one thing I already had some talent in. It’s great to always feel challenged, knowing that you might be progressing further along the road to mastery but that you’ll never arrive there. Each new sentence, let alone each new book, raises its own unique set of questions, and knowing the answers to the last set only helps so much.

—the worst? Well, it’s not really an aspect of writing so much as an aspect of trying to get your writing published – rejections. I have a bulging manila folder stuffed full of them. Unless you are one of the blessed, rejections are an unfortunate part of the writing experience. Only those compelled to write push beyond them.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I probably wouldn’t do anything differently, because then I wouldn’t be me. If, however, I were advising someone very like my younger self, I would tell him he should mix more in literary circles and enrol in the best creative writing course that will take him. If I were that almost young me, I’d politely listen to that advice and then do my own thing, thereby becoming me!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m extremely fortunate to have a friend and writing mentor, Chris Eipper, who, being 14 years older than me, generously passed on to me everything he’d learned about writing, surviving rejection, and being published. I think Chris told me everything I needed to know.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice Chris gave me, which he did by deed as much as by word, was to embrace the editing process. That’s where you learn the craft. If you don’t learn to love editing and re-drafting, you’ll end up not loving writing.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, apart from embracing the editing process, it would be to find at least one very skilled, highly critical, and deeply supportive trusted reader. In other words, someone like Chris. You don’t need to agree with that reader’s opinions on your work, you just need to respect them and to know they are given with your best interests (or the best interests of your work) at heart.

How important is social media to you as an author? Unfortunately (at least for my publisher), I’m a fossil formed by the print age and I’m yet to fully find my feet in the 21st century. I write lots of emails … Don’t suppose that counts?

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No, I’ve never experienced it. One of my great-grandfathers, William Richard Averill, was a bricklayer. I feel I channel him: each word, each sentence, another brick. Just lay the bricks.

How do you deal with rejection? Feel crappy. Suck it up. Move on. There’s no other option.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Lucid. Beautiful. Tender. (I cheated: these are words others have used to describe it. I’m too close to it to know.)

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? There are so many I would love to yarn with, and my choice would be different on a different day, but just because I’ve recently returned to his brilliant and profound sonnets I will nominate Jorge Luis Borges. I wouldn’t ask him anything. I’d just listen to whatever he chose to talk about. Of course, I’d have to learn Spanish to understand him. Then again, with a brain the size of the world, I’m guessing old Jorge had a passable knowledge of English.

BOOK BYTE

Relatively Famous

Roger Averill

Michael and Marjorie Madigan refuse to be interviewed by biographer Sinclair Hughes for his new book Inside the Lion’s Den: The Literary Life of Gilbert Madigan. This is not surprising as Gilbert is Marjorie’s ex-husband and Michael’s mostly absent father. He is also Australia’s first Booker Prize winner, a feted and much lauded author that the UK and US now like to call their own. Michael cannot escape his father’s life and work, and at times his own life seems swallowed by it. His father’s success is a source of undeniable pleasure but also of great turmoil. In a world that increasingly covets fame and celebrity, Relatively Famous subtly explores notions of success, masculinity, betrayal and loss, and ultimately what it might mean to live a good life.

The book is available here.

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