Meet the Author: Cameron Macintosh

My guest this week is celebrating the release of a new adventure in his popular future detective series for young readers.

Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has been trying very hard to grow up there ever since. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor in the educational publishing sector. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves playing the guitar, reading music biographies and drawing angry-looking owls.

To find out more, visit Cameron’s website: cameronemacintosh.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? It’s just something I feel compelled to do. I think a lot of it comes from being quite introverted – I’m generally a person of few words, outwardly, so writing is how I make my noise.

What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t become involved in the world of books and writing? I think I probably would’ve done an art or music therapy course, and gotten into that line of work. I still like the idea of doing something like that in the future, using creative writing as the medium.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my own rush to get published actually hindered the journey. I sent a lot of things off before they were ready, and then took it pretty hard when they were rejected. I’m taking things more slowly these days, and it’s definitely proving less painful!

I love the idea of a future detective and his robo- dog. What sparked your idea for the Max series? The first spark of the idea came about a few years back on a visit to Pompeii, and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I was especially fascinated by domestic items from the Pompeii excavations, particularly the most mundane things like hair combs and cutlery. I found myself wondering if future people will find our domestic items so interesting and mysterious. From that question came the idea to invent a character in the distant future who actually does find our present era fascinating, and who makes a living from investigating long-forgotten everyday items that would be familiar to a present-day reader. Max Booth soon popped into my head to apply for the job!

How involved have you been in the development of the series? Do you suggest the ideas for new titles to your publisher or is a brainstorming session? How closely do you work with your illustrator? So far it’s been quite simple – I conceptualise and write up the stories, and hope the publishers like them (so far so good!). I’d envisioned Max being a series from the get-go, so I was very excited that Big Sky were open to the idea of further adventures.

As far as the illustrations go, I write the illustration briefs as I write the manuscripts, and our illustrator, Dave Atze, interprets them beautifully. I get to see Dave’s rough sketches and comment on them, but he really understands the characters and the feel of the stories, so it’s been an incredibly smooth process with the three books we’ve released so far.

Do you have any detective buddies who give you clues about how they solve crimes? Sadly not, but if you know anyone, feel free to give me their email!

How does your experience as an editor influence your own writing? Although I never trust my editorial eye when it comes to my own writing, I do think my editorial background has helped me write more concisely, and to be aware of my own convolutions. Having worked in-house, it’s also given me an appreciation of how incredibly busy publishing people are, and how passionate they are about what they do. I implore everyone out there to be very nice to them!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work strange hours is something I’ll never take for granted. Being a total night owl, this suits me extremely well.

—the worst? Constantly facing your own demons and insecurities as part of your job is arguably a strange way to make a living… but then again I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not much. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, and experienced so many knockbacks, but they’ve all paved the pathway to the opportunities I enjoy now, and hopefully more in the future. As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d probably take the journey a bit slower, and pay more attention to who’s publishing what in the genres I’m interested in.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You might possibly require a secondary source of income! (That aside, go for it – it really is the best job on earth.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My teachers at RMIT constantly encouraged us to keep actively seeking out constructive criticism, particularly by joining a writing group. They were so right about this. I’d be in all sorts of bother without my trusty writing posse.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t take rejection personally – if you’re struggling to find a publisher for your book, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. There are so many factors at play in publishing decisions – if you really believe in your work, keep polishing it and sending it out. You never know when it will land on the right desk at the right time.

How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t needed to use it to market my educational writing, but now that Max has taken flight I’m working to build up that side of things. It’s a very useful promotional adjunct, and I’ve already found it a great way to connect with kindred spirits in the writing community.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, but there are definitely times when ideas just aren’t there when I need them. I usually find physical exercise helps clear the mental fog. If that fails, I often make a spiderweb-style mind map, writing the main problem I’m facing in the middle, and branching out with any possible solutions, however ridiculous they seem. It’s amazing how often seemingly disparate ideas link up to get me back on track.

How do you deal with rejection? I’ve experienced enough that it should be water off a duck’s back by now, but it’s never enjoyable. I do allow myself a few days of sulking! I think it’s reasonable enough to feel deflated for a while, especially if you’ve put a lot of heart and sweat into a story and other people aren’t seeing its potential. But I try to get back on the bike pretty quickly.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Clear, fun, unpretentious (I hope!)

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? He isn’t a children’s author by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to be Dante. I was lucky enough to study his work at uni, with the guidance of some incredible lecturers who were able to draw out its astonishing levels of meaning and symbolism. It was extremely humbling, to say the least, and I’d love to know how he structured his work days (200 years before coffee made its way to Italy!).

BOOK BYTE

Max Booth Future Sleuth

Stamp Safari

Written by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze

 

A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.

Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…

Sales site: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/books/max-booth-future-sleuth-book-3/

Check out Cameron’s blog tour at the following sites:

Monday Nov 12 – Wednesday Nov 21 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday Nov 12 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/

Wednesday Nov 14 www.readforfun.com.au

Thursday Nov 15 www.meganhigginson.com/blog

Monday Nov 19 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Tuesday Nov 20 www.kelliebyrnes.com

Wednesday Nov 21 www.whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au

For details about Books on Tour visit www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour

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Meet the Author: Rachel Nightingale

What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.

Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.

She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.

For more information about Rachel, go to https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.

How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.

Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.

—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.

How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/2018/the-introvert-paradox/ My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.

How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.

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? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.

BOOK BYTE

Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.

For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.

 Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.

Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4 www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday Oct 22 www.maureeneppen.com

Tuesday Oct 23 www.karentyrrell.com

Thursday Oct 25 www.readforfun.com.au

Friday Oct 26 www.littlebigreads.com

Monday Oct 29 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/

Tuesday Oct 30 www.carolyndenman.com

Wednesday Oct 31 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Thursday Nov 1 nikkireads.blog

For enquiries about Books on Tour visit

www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour.

 

 

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

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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.

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Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="http://www.designmom.com/">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="http://www.designmom.com/category/childrens-lit/">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="http://www.rpcontent.com/">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

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Just Write For Kids is an online group of writers and illustrators, with a distinct focus on advocating Australian children's literature.

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Sheryl Gwyther ... author/artist

This is my 'other' blog - the one where I share the things that fascinate an author and artist, and hopefully, you too.