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INTERVIEW: Sherryl Jordan

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

 

Today I welcome Sherryl Jordan, author of many books including The Anger of Angels, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
If I daydream at all, it is about the characters in my present book, and their world. I see everything as a very vivid image, before I write. More than an image, actually… I simply enter their world, smell the smells there, see the landscape, enter the houses, feel the tensions and joys and dangers, and know my book characters as real people. I “live” a scene as I’m writing it. Often I’m not conscious of myself at all, and I work far too long without a break – but a prolapsed disc earlier this year is teaching me to write sensibly. I’m finding it very hard – painful at times – to enter that other world for only 30 or 40 minutes at a time, before the timer goes off and reminds me to stop. So I suppose I live in a daydream, while I write. Like being on almost-permanent holiday in Medieval England. Or, in the case of The Anger of Angels, in Renaissance Italy.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I made my first book when I was four years old. I couldn’t write then, but I was given a notebook of blue paper, so I created a story in pictures, about a mermaid in the sea. By the time I was 11 years old I had written 4 novels. None published, though! I wrote 12 novels before I had one accepted. That 13th was Rocco, the first to be published. Since then I’ve published … Ah, 19 novels, I think. With a few scattered in between that were not published.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Hawera, NZ, more years ago than I care to admit. I live in Tauranga now, in a gorgeous little house not far from the sea. I love reading, seeing friends, listening to music, seeing good movies, doing Tai Chi, painting and drawing, doing calligraphy, writing, writing, writing…

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
In 2011 a French satirical newspaper published some cartoons that were offensive to Muslims. They caused a lot of violence and strife, and I began thinking about freedom of speech, and whether or not it was a good thing, if it caused violent reactions. I discovered two quotes:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” - Voltaire

“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” - Mark Twain

The Anger of Angels came out of my dilemma as I considered those two quotes. The book is my questions, not my answers.

How extensively do you plan your novels?

I know roughly where I want the plot to go, but of course the characters always do their own thing, and surprise me. I often have to re-direct the plot, or make some other huge adjustment. When I planned The Anger of Angels, I always intended for Giovanna to act alone in going to the prince. I never intended her to have a male friend. Then, when she was on the balcony watching her father’s play, a young man arrived. I was a bit put out by him, but decided to let him stay for a paragraph or two. Then he said his name was Raffaele, and I protested loudly. Raffaele is my all-time favourite male name, and I most certainly wasn’t going to waste it on a minor character who was about to be deleted any moment. But he stayed, and kept his name, to my great surprise. I had no choice about it, really.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
No. Only the waking dreams, those images that rush across me when I least expect them, or the people who suddenly arrive on the edges of my imagination, and demand that I write their story.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

This question could come only from a writer! Such discoveries happen often, too many times for me to record here. These amazing “coincidences” didn’t happen so much with The Anger of Angels, but they have happened with other books. Many of these uncanny things happen over the names I choose for characters. I choose names very carefully, and of course they have to be perfect for the character I’ve already seen, and who already exists as a fully-formed person for me. Sometimes I invent a name, or choose one from some obscure place without knowing the meaning or origin of the name – and then discover, sometimes years after the book is published, that the name I “invented” for my person was indeed a real name, with a meaning that was astonishingly relevant for them. Things like this make me suspect that some of my book people were real people in the past, and I tuned into their memories, or somehow connected with them in the world’s timeless collective unconscious. Often I think that my stories exist long before I write them, and all I do is record what I see and hear. It’s one of the awesome things about writing, and what gives a story its truth. This explains some of those incredible serendipitous discoveries. All things – past and present and perhaps future – are connected.

One strange thing has happened since The Anger of Angels was published: an interviewer asked me if the book, with its theme of freedom of speech and a powerful ruler, was based at all on Trump. The interviewer also pointed out that I had a Saint Melania in the story, and wondered if there were any connections. I can only say that the first draft of the book was written in 2012, all characters well established and named six years ago.

Where do you write, and when?
I have a lovely studio where I work. I write at all times, day and night – though as I said earlier, a back injury means I now have to limit writing times to short periods, and only two or three of those a day, at this stage. I used to work up to fifteen hours at a time, utterly lost in that other world. It’s why my back is protesting now, and I have to be sensible. Very difficult! My favourite writing time is at night, when the world outside is quiet, and there are no interruptions or phones ringing or knocks on the door. And there’s a wondrous energy in the moon and stars. My dream is to live in a lighthouse, far from everywhere, and work all night and sleep all day. Well, my first choice really is to live in a thatched cottage someplace sometime, but I suspect the night would be interrupted by mice in the thatch and the wind blowing smoke and ash down the chimney. Also, I’d never have enough candles or bottles of ink, or parchment. And publishing might be a tad difficult…

What is your favourite part of writing?
All of it, from the first glimpse of the book people I’m going to spend the next few months or years with, to working with an editor for the final polishes.
What do you do when you get blocked?

Sometimes if a story isn’t working, I realise I need to delete a page or two, or the most recent scene, and go back to when I was last enthralled. Sometimes it means I’ve taken off in a wrong direction, or a character has something to do or say that I haven’t realised yet.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
Before The Anger of Angels was accepted by Walker Books, I had five years of having books rejected. Five manuscripts were dumped as no good, and The Anger of Angels was in danger of following them. A friend suggested Walker Books, so I sent the manuscript off, and it was accepted. But those five years of failure were hard for my soul, and I was very much in need of fresh inspiration. I longed to travel, and this year I was booked to go on a glorious trip to Italy, including a week in a monastery in Siena, and then to Spain. My prolapsed disc put an end to that, and the trip was cancelled. So I don’t know when I’ll travel. However, I am blessed in that the inspiration flows again, and I’m working on another book, Wynter’s Thief. It’s set in my beloved Medieval England.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

No. I just sit in front of the computer, and I’m there, in that other world. Sometimes, for days on end, I don’t really leave it.

What do you consider to be good writing?
Words that transport me to another place, lift my spirit to new heights, challenge me, leave me feeling satisfied. I believe that what we read shapes our minds, the way the food we eat shapes our bodies, and either enhances or harms them. For me, a book must have correct grammar, punctuation, etc. It’s surprising how many “popular” books fail on that count. I can’t stand it when I mentally edit a book while I’m reading. If a book doesn’t grip me in the first two pages, I give up on it. I love fine literature – work where every word counts, and is in its perfect place within its sentence.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Write. Write. Write. Always write with joy, about things that enthral you. And never give up.

You can read my review of The Anger of Angels here.

INTERVIEW: Pamela Hart

Friday, September 14, 2018

  

Today I welcome Pamela Hart, author of The Desert Nurse, among other books, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
Not so much since I became a mum! Mostly, I’m a night-dreamer… the time just before I fall asleep is when my imagination takes off. Which makes getting to sleep a bit tricky, some nights.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I guess I figured out when I was about 12 that being a writer was a far-off possibility, but I thought at the time that only people who’d lead ‘interesting’ lives could be writers, and my life seemed far too boring to allow me that privilege - so when I was 15 I decided to work in television. Apart from being fun in itself, that seemed to me to be ‘interesting’ enough to qualify me as a writer-in-potential. And, of course, that was what happened - I was working at ABC Kids when I began to write children’s stories (as Pamela Freeman).

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Sydney - in Parramatta, in the Western Suburbs. Now I live in the inner west, quite close to the city. As for what I like to do: well, read, mostly. And wander up to the café on the corner to have a nice bacon and egg roll for brunch. I also love theatre, live music, opera, jazz… we make a lot of music in our house, and I do spend some time practicing the drums and playing my guitar. Also cooking. I like to make things from scratch - today I made cumquat marmalade!

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
The inspiration for The Desert Nurse came quite a few years ago, when I was writing The Soldier’s Wife. That book was based in part on my grandfather’s experience of being wounded at Gallipoli and coming home having to cope with the consequences of the injury. The focus of the book was on the relationship between that soldier and his wife, and was based in Sydney. But I knew that my grandfather’s life had been saved by good nursing, since he developed a very dangerous fever after he was operated on in Cairo. Without anti-biotics, it was only dedicated nursing that saved him and thousands like him. So as I was writing The Soldier’s Wife, I knew one day I wanted to write a story honouring those extraordinary women.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
That varies enormously from book to book. In some, I know exactly what’s going to happen. In others, I have no idea at all! I’ve found it’s best not to get too attached to any one way of working. Each book has its own challenge.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
Only once - and it turned into a not-very-good story, so… but I am not much of a dreamer. I very rarely remember my dreams (I’m assured I have them by science, but sometimes I have my doubts!)

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
No… I think a lot of my discoveries were made during the research for The Soldier’s Wife, which I’ve written about here.


Where do you write, and when?
At the moment, since we’ve just renovated, I am setting up my office. In the meantime, I’m writing as I have done for some time, sitting crosslegged in an armchair in the living room! As for when - I write best in the afternoons.

What is your favourite part of writing?
The playing with ideas at the start. So many possibilities - it’s like trying on clothes in a fabulous store, where everything fits but some things just feel better than others. I try on lots of ideas about my characters and story before I begin to write, and it’s the best game ever!

What do you do when you get blocked?
I write something else. As Pamela Freeman, I write children’s books, and I usually have some work I need to do on one of those, so I switch across - and vice versa. It’s a great way of getting some perspective on the current problem. During the writing of The Desert Nurse, my kids’ book was Amazing Australian Women, and that gave me lots of impetus to write about wonderful women.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?

Research! Writing historical fiction is fantastic because, every time I do the research for one book, I find half a dozen stories I might like to tell. There are so many great, true stories out there, I doubt I’ll ever run out.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

Nope. I began to write seriously while I was a consultant in organisational communication, and I ran the writing parallel to the consulting work. I had very little time to devote to writing, and I learnt to ‘flip th switch’ in my head whenever I had the time to spare. ‘Flipping the switch’ for me means changing the way my mind works, from the very logical and presciptive way it had to for my consulting work, to the imaginative way I needed for fiction. That’s my only ritual, I guess. It took some time to develop, but it became quite reliable. Of course, it doesn’t work if you haven’t been thinking about the story in your downtime moments, getting ready for the moment when you have time at the keyboard.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?

Well, you, Katie, of course! (And you know that’s true!)

I have very wide tastes. I started as a Shakespeare girl, and he’s still right up there. I also read a lot of poetry. For fiction, though, Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart - and, recently, George Saunders, Ben Aaronovitch, Sue Whiting, Anita Heiss.

What do you consider to be good writing?

I guess I look for three things. Any one of these will keep me reading, but a great book has all three:

A story to keep me interested,
Characters I can and do care about
A style which reinforces the theme and feeling of the book.

So that might be Austen at one end of the literary spectrum, and Matthew Reilly at the other. They are both very good at what they do, and in the right mood, I can like either one. John Banville’s detective fiction, for example, is basically a series of tone poems. I love it - but I’m just as keen on Val McDermid’s darker and grittier style, because it fits her stories. I try not to be a snob about writing - in the end, if a story keeps the reader’s interest and engages her emotions, that’s what counts.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?

Just do it.

Seriously. Just start. It doesn’t matter what you start with - the main thing is that you need practice in creating characters and stories, so start practicing! I teach writing, and it’s so satisfying to take absolute beginners, who’ve never written anything before, all the way through to publication. It’s possible. It’s very possible - but it won’t happen if you don’t write, and rewrite, and write again.

What are you working on now?
My current book is Dancing with the Prince of Wales. It takes two minor characters from The War Bride, Jane and Jonesy, and follows them to London where they go on to be stars on the English stage in the 1920s. It’s inspired by two Australian actors who did just that - Cyril Ritchard and Marge Eliot. I’m having to do a HUGE amount of research for this, because so many real people are characters - Noel Coward and Fred Astaire, Gertie Lawrence and Ivor Novello - and of course the Prince of Wales (the one who later abdicated). It’s a lot of fun, but rather nerve-wracking. The only one I feel really comfortable writing is Fred Astaire, because I’ve been an Astaire tragic my whole life! It will be out in 2020.

You can read my review of Pamela Hart's latest book, The Desert Nurse, here.



INTERVEW: Kayte Nunn

Saturday, September 01, 2018

 

This week we welcome Kayte Nunn, author of The Botanist's Daughter and Rose's Vintage, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
Card-carrying. I feel like I’ve always lived in my own head. Being sent to boarding school at the age of eleven meant that I spent a lot of time in a world of my own, pretending I was anywhere else but there. In the dorm at night we used to tell each other stories, often a continuing saga that was told night by night for weeks on end. I still daydream, but these days it is more about my characters and who they might be, what they might be doing and saying to me.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved words and books and reading, and had a secret dream to be a novelist, but thought that it was something other, far cleverer people than me did. As a child I wrote stories, and even made and illustrated a couple of children’s books, one of which I still have.

I studied English and publishing at uni and worked as an editor and writer of non-fiction before finally summoning the courage to write fiction, and I’m so pleased I did – writing fiction fills me up like nothing else can.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Singapore, as my father was in the British RAF and stationed there and then grew up mostly in England. I moved to Australia – for love – in my mid-20s and never left. My family and I recently moved from Sydney to the NSW Northern Rivers where we are about to build an eco-home on a few acres in the countryside. When I’m not writing, I love to bake – cakes, cookies, pies and tarts. I also try and run and hike to work off the effects of the baking! Oh, and I’ve always got a pile of books to read.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
A little over three years ago, I took my youngest daughter on a picnic in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. It was to be one final mother-daughter day out before she started school. It was a hot, sultry day and we were looking for fairies – as you do with a four-and-a-half-year-old – when we found ourselves at the herb garden. At the centre is a beautiful cast bronze sundial with a relief of herbs around it. I put my hand on the warm metal and immediately saw an image of a young girl in an English walled garden, where there was a similar sundial. I walked around the rest of the day in a daze as I began to wonder what her story was.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
I do plan them, but bit by bit as they unravel. By the time I’m about 25% in, I have a clearer idea of where I’m headed. I have a white board, divided into segments (like acts of a play) where I work out what is happening and when in the story, to ensure that the underlying structure works, and that rising and falling action occurs when it should. I worked really hard on the structure of The Botanist’s Daughter, and it helped enormously when it came to the editing process.

Also, Kate, you very kindly gave me some extremely helpful advice when I first started this novel, about tackling a dual timeline, and I wrote one narrative first before starting the other. I wanted each story to be able to stand on its own, and I think this approach really helped.

For my next book, I actually had to write a blurb about it (which I love doing, as it’s something I used to do often for other books when I worked in publishing) as my publisher asked what else I was working on, and having that succinct synopsis really helped my focus.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
Not so much dreams, but I love your practice of liminal thinking, the daydreamy state you have just before going to sleep or just after you’ve woken up – I find that time incredibly helpful when I’m imagining a story into life.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
When I was in the middle of writing the book I visited Kew Gardens and came upon the wonderful Marianne North Gallery. She was a 19th-century botanical artist and adventurer and I knew that that someone like Elizabeth in my book really had lived then.

I also happened to be talking about the idea for the book to my neighbour, who mentioned that Cornwall is known for its remarkable gardens. I had spent many childhood holidays there, so knew the area, and as I researched more about plant hunters in the 19th century, realised that it was the perfect place to set part of the story.

When I was researching 19th-century Chile, I came across a diary of a widowed sea captain’s wife who spent several months in Valparaiso in the 1850s. Her descriptions of the flora and fauna of the area, and everyday life there, were absolutely invaluable in helping me imagine the city and landscape at that time. Her fortitude in the face of losing her husband and being in a foreign country was also inspiring and I realised as I was finishing the book, that The Botanist’s Daughter is about courage – both large, obvious acts of courage as well as smaller, but no less remarkable ones.

Where do you write, and when?

I write in my living room, in cafés occasionally, in the car at soccer practice, by the side of swimming pools … anywhere I have a spare few hours. A large part of The Botanist’s Daughter was written in the prosaic surrounds of a shopping centre food court near where my daughter was doing gymnastics several times a week! Having worked in busy magazine offices, I can fairly effectively tune out the noise around me.

When I first started writing, I did it in addition to a busy freelance writing and editing load, but I’m lucky enough that now I write pretty much full time in school hours, with only the occasional freelance job when it arises. It’s meant a few changes for our family, and sacrifices, but it is starting to come good.

I set myself a daily word count and don’t quit until I reach it. I don’t write particularly fast – I fight for every word – but I’ve found that it results in a fairly tight first draft that doesn’t need too much jettisoned.

I’m still trying to work out how to combine writing with school holidays!

What is your favourite part of writing?

The feeling of having written!

Also, when my characters come alive and start to talk to me – I hear lines of their dialogue at random times of the day and have to scramble to get them down before they float away.
Writing the final lines of a first draft.

What do you do when you get blocked?

I go for a walk and think about my characters and what should happen next. Usually by the time I’ve been out for half an hour or so I can come back and sit down and write again. Also, when I’m feeling really inspired, I write outlines of where the story needs to go so that I know what to write next when I’m struggling.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
I’ve been lucky so far that a new idea for a novel has come to me as I’ve needed it. But in the background I am reading, reading, reading, as well as watching documentaries, news stories and making notes of my ideas and thoughts.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
I find I need a calm mind, so I try to get any niggling chores and admin out of the way (though I make sure really time-consuming chores are done away from writing time), and I always hide my phone as it’s too tempting to check it when I get stuck. Other than that, it’s just me and a laptop and somewhere comfortable to sit.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?

Elizabeth Goudge, Daphne du Maurier, Jilly Cooper, Laurie Lee, Maria Semple, Celeste Ng, Isabelle Allende, Geraldine Brooks, Cormac McCarthy, Tim Winton… but there are so many more.

What do you consider to be good writing?
Language and stories that transport you to another world, that seem more real than the world around you and that you don’t want to leave when the book ends. I do like a book that affects me so much that it makes me cry.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
If you’re writing for publication: Do the work – learn the craft. Do short courses, read books on craft, read fiction critically – read books that you love and work out what it is about them that achieves that.

Go to writers’ festivals and listen to other writers talk about their work.

Be aware of what is currently selling well, but write what you love – the book you’d most like to read.

Be brave. Start with a few short stories if the thought of a whole novel is overwhelming.

Don’t give up, even when you doubt yourself. When I started writing, I had a small yellow post-it on my laptop that said ‘play big’. Not ‘dream big’, which felt too wishy-washy, but ‘play big’.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of edits for my next novel, which is about a bundle of unsent love letters discovered in an old suitcase on a remote British island, and then I am at the start of a story set in an English boarding school that is about to admit girls for the first time.

You can read my review of The Botanist's Daughter here.

INTERVIEW: Gabbie Stroud

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

 

This week I welcome Gabbie Stroud, author of Teacher, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?

Yes!! I am forever imagining. I am particularly curious about people. I could watch people all day and I find myself trying to imagine where they’ve just come from, or where they’re hurrying off to. I wonder what secrets they’re keeping, when they last laughed and how their face might look when they cry. Sometimes I find I’m so busy imagining I forget that I am present in the world myself!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yup! Ever since I could reach the pen and notepad on the telephone table in our family home. My mum, who keeps everything, still finds notepads I filled with my pre-writing scribbles.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Cooma hospital on the 4th of July in 1977. I came along ten years after my closest sister and twenty years after my eldest. Skip forward forty one years and I live 90 minutes drive from Cooma in a beautiful coastal town on the far south of New South Wales. I am a mother to two beautiful young girls named Olivia and Sophie. Together we love to read and write and dance and sing. It’s a very vocal household with lots of laughter and theatrics!

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
I struggled to understand how I was going to write a book about my life without making it sound dull and linear. Beautiful Kate Forsyth listened patiently as I lamented over this problem with her and then suggested that I might try exploring the opening of the story from an unexpected place! She drew my life as a narrative arc and then touched her pen to the graph, right before the climax. “If you imagined your life at this point of the story, what would be happening here?” I thought for a moment and said – that’s probably when I had been teaching for ten years and this little boy named Grayson threw his shoe at me and I felt something snap inside me and I threw the shoe out the door. Kate smiled at me and said, “That sounds like an interesting story to begin with. Why don’t you try starting there and then take us back to your childhood?” And so I did… and it worked.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
I have discovered that I cannot plan my novels too much. The characters and the plot seem to find a life of their own. I sit at the key board panicking most of time and wishing I could control things, but I am beginning to resign myself to the fact that – for me – writing is as much about making discoveries as it is about making choices.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?

I tend to use my subconscious more so than dreams. If I am struggling with something creatively I will journal the problem before sleeping and actively ask my ‘back brain’ to work on it while I am sleeping. Then, either just as I’m falling asleep or on waking, the answer or solution will come to me… often like a blinding flash of the obvious. It can be exhilarating because occasionally the response is surprising. I marvel at the ability of our brains to work for us, even while we sleep!

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
Yes – every day! ‘Teacher’ is the creative non-fiction memoir of my life, so you would think it would be fairly familiar material to me. But what I discovered was that I had great power in making choices as to how I would tell my story. I was able to choose where I would shine light and what things I would keep in shadow. I was also able to thread different episodes together and make connections between different points in my life. I discovered things about myself as a person, a teacher and a writer. But jeepers – it was a grueling process!

Where do you write, and when?
I wrote much of ‘Teacher’ at the local Library. I would arrive and set up my work space (always aiming to be there at 9:30 but never managing anything earlier than 10). I would plug in my headphones and click into my “white noise” website. Some kind of pavlovian response would kick in and the words would usually tumble onto the page.

What is your favourite part of writing?
Reading back the words I’ve put on the page at the end of the day. I am amazed that I can stir feelings within myself; I can delight myself, amuse myself and entertain myself. I am often surprised by the quality of my writing.

What do you do when you get blocked?
Wait.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
I read.
I observe people and the world around me.
I exercise.
I eat well.
I talk with my children – and really listen to them!
I think a lot.
I ask questions and remain curious.
I seek beauty.
I listen to music and take note of the lyrics.
I attend galleries, museums, festivals, concerts, shows, workshops, markets… whatever I can whenever I can.
I talk to other writers and nurture my friendships with them.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
I use a white noise website to help me block out the world when I’m writing in a Library or café. I use sticky notes relentlessly once I start editing!

Who are ten of your favourite writers?

Sue Townsend – who introduced me to Adrian Mole, a character who made me laugh and laugh and laugh!
Mem Fox – who has helped me keep many a Kindergarten class entertained.
Kate Forsyth – who has taught me so much through my reading of her writing.
Liane Moriarty – who examines the human condition every time she writes.
John Marsden – who wrote the books I devoured during high school and beyond.
Helen Garner – who is gritty and unflinching and yet so easy for me to relate to.
Sofie Laguna – who gently takes your hand and says ‘come look at this ugly thing I have found’.
Jesse Blackadder – who creates beauty with her words and scenes I cannot forget.
Judy Blume - who I read and read and read and now my daughter reads and reads and reads.
Marcus Zusack – who gave us all The Book Thief.

What do you consider to be good writing?
Good writing stays with me. It moves something within me. I know I’ve read a good book when I turn the final page and realise I am not the same person that I was when I started the book.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Writers write.

What are you working on now?
I am developing a contemporary fiction for adults. It’s still without a title, but it is set in a primary school. I’m hoping it will be a book about the real work that teachers do and the impact that teachers have on their students. The book explores the lives of six teachers and their shared journey through the academic year. When a tragedy befalls the school community, each of the teachers are called to question the work they do, their failings and their truth.

You can read my review of Teacher here.

INTERVIEW: Jaclyn Moriarty

Friday, August 17, 2018

 

Today I welcome Jaclyn Moriarty, author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and A Corner of White, among others. 

Are you a daydreamer too?
Yes. Lately my daydream has been about getting struck by lightning and being perfectly all right except that now, suddenly, I can sing beautifully. Like, an astonishing voice, the voice of an angel! In addition, I find that I can now speak the language of musical instruments, so that all I need to do is pick up an instrument, study it a moment, tilt my head towards it, smile softly, and then I can play it beautifully. Like, the Berlin Philharmonic are begging me to join! So, anyway, in the daydream, I go on Australian Idol and I’m on the stage being very open about how this was all just a lightning strike-- previously, I couldn’t sing a note! I was practically tone deaf! And rhythm? Forget about it! -- and they’re all laughing along. And then I become thoughtful and I query aloud whether it’s fair, that the other competitors have worked so hard, for so many years, to reach this point, whereas for me, it was just, you know, a lightning strike? ‘Quite literally,’ one of the judges murmurs. Shots of audience members nodding, seeing my point. But then I strum my guitar (or raise the bow to my violin, or blow a single, haunting note into my lur (a Viking wind instrument which was used to sound war calls in the Middle Ages) -- it depends which instrument I’ve chosen for tonight’s performance) and begin to sing...

So, if you see me walking around my neighbourhood, with a little frown creasing my forehead, it’s because I’m wondering whether it is fair, that I’m so good, when others have worked hard all their lives to achieve a level that doesn’t even approach my skill; or else I’m fretting about which of the many, many available instruments I should play for my audition---or how many I could reasonably incorporate into the audition? Could I run from one to the other or would that just become ridiculous?; or I’m really at a loss about what exactly Simon will have to say about it all. So many questions.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, for as long as I can remember. Well, actually, I remember being in a high chair and throwing a plate of food onto the floor, and I don’t think I wanted to be a writer at that point.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Perth, Western Australia. There was a serious earthquake in the area a few days later. This was to welcome me to the world, and I’m very sorry about the $ 2.2 million worth of damage, and the 20 to 28 people who were injured.

I live in Sydney, on the north side of the harbour, and I like to sleep in, read, eat chocolate, bake, hang out with my 11-year-old, Charlie, chat with friends, see movies, snow ski, ice-skate, meet up with my parents, sisters, in-laws, nephews and nieces, in sunny parks, and watch the children kick balls around or listen to them compliment my chocolate brownies (not Charlie - he kicks the ball around but is very dismissive of my baking).

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?

A reader sent me an email about my books, and mentioned she was drinking a cup of cloudberry tea. I had never heard of cloudberry tea before, and I replied that I was going to put it in a book one day.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
For my first book, Feeling Sorry for Celia, I had a two page outline. With each book since, my plan has grown longer and longer. So, for the Colours of Madeleine trilogy, the plan took a year to write and was over 200 pages. However, with the Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, I decided I would not plan it at all. I wrote each chapter in a different cafe in my neighbourhood and I imagined that I was following Bronte around, from cafe to cafe, waiting to see what she would do.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
Sometimes, but more the mood of the dream than the plot. I am also inspired by ideas that come to me when I am in a half-awake trance in the mornings. That’s a big part of why I like to sleep in, or anyway that’s the excuse I give for it.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

Well, even though I was trying to write each chapter of this book in a different cafe I did return to Coco Chocolate, the tiny chocolate cafe in Kirribilli, over and over. I kept finding myself drawn back to it. While I was writing the book, I didn’t have a title, so I kept referring to it as ‘my pirate book’ (because it opens with Bronte’s parents being killed by pirates). ‘I’m just going back to the chocolate cafe to write my pirate book,’ I kept saying to people, and to myself. I wrote the final words of the book in Coco Chocolate, and looked up and said to the owner, ‘I’ve just finished my pirate book!’ She reached across me and picked up a package of gold chocolate coins and handed them to me. And I realised that there’d been a treasure chest of gold coins sitting right in front of me the entire time I was writing my pirate book.

Where do you write, and when?
I used to always plan in a cafe each morning, and then write in my study at home each afternoon. However, with Bronte, I actually started bringing my laptop along to the cafes and writing there, and I loved it. I still write at home every afternoon but lately I’ve been writing at the dining room table, instead of my study, because my study is ice-cold and the dining room table is bathed in winter sunshine.

Everything changes.

What is your favourite part of writing?

The hot chocolate at Coco Chocolate.

What do you do when you get blocked?
Run around the block or up and down a flight of stairs; eat fruit and chocolate; draw colourful pictures. If that doesn’t work, I stop writing altogether for half a day and sit on the edge of the harbour staring at the water. In a serious case, stop writing altogether for a week or more and do household administration, wash the skirting boards and read novels and poetry instead.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?

Reading across all genres, especially science, history and poetry; having a lot of conversations with my bright and funny friends; eavesdropping on strangers.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

I always have a cup of peppermint tea and a blue bowl of fruit and chocolate beside me, plus a jug of water and a glass. I usually go for a walk that takes me near water before I start writing. I change into my most comfortable tracksuit pants first.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Diana Wynne Jones, Carol Shields, Joan Aiken, Jane Austen, Rachel Cohn, Garth Nix, Elizabeth McCracken, Geraldine McCaughrean, Laura Bloom, Kate Clanchy, Louis Sachar, E. Nesbit, Tom Stoppard, P.G. Wodehouse, Liane Moriarty, Nicola Moriarty, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf.

What do you consider to be good writing?
Writing that takes you sideways out of life and that is fearless and true.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?

Read widely across all genres; set rules for writing times and stick to them, but don’t be hard on yourself if you break them. Be kind to yourself, be delighted by what you’re writing, but then step away for a week or more, come back, and be a bit ruthless. Continue to be kind to yourself even when you’re being ruthless.

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing up with copy-editing and proofs of two books -- one is a follow-up to Bronte. It’s called The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars, (it will just be called The Whispering Wars in the US and Canada) and takes place in a different part of the Kingdoms and Empires, before Bronte was born. In the town of Spindrift, Honey Bee lives in the exclusive boarding school, Finlay lives in the orphanage, and the Whispering Wars are about to begin.

The other book is an adult novel called Gravity is the Thing which is about a woman who signs up for a series of seminars that promise to teach her the secret to human flight.

You can read my review of Jaclyn's latest book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, here.


INTERVIEW: Sarah Krasnostein

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

This week I'm very excited to welcome Sarah Krasnostein, author of The Trauma Cleaner, to the blog.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Pretty much! I've schlepped a notebook around with me since I was seven years old - recording dialogue, descriptions, ideas, observations, books I've read, books I want to read. The only real difference between now and then is that now I use the notes app on my phone. And my spelling has moderately improved.

How extensively do you plan your novels?

Well, I only have one book at the moment, but the process of writing that had much in common with writing my doctoral dissertation, and the long form pieces I'm writing currently. My impulse, coming from an academic background, is to ' do all my homework' - i.e., the research - and then write everything up neatly. But that type of perfectionism will stunt you because, with long works, the writing is the thinking. So I do plan where I want a piece to go, but I try to remain sufficiently open to what the material is telling me that I am able to restructure as I go.

Where do you write, and when?

For the past decade, I've written on a crappy Ikea particle board that rests on a crappy filing cabinet at either end. But I sit under a glorious and very long Anne Lamott quote which I printed out long ago and stuck above my computer. I'll set the first part out here in case it's of use to anyone else:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is you will die anyway and that a whole lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it..."
- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (1994)

As to when I write, I have a very young child. So whenever I get time to write, that's when I'll be writing!

What is your favourite part of writing?

Reading. I think we get trapped into thinking about writing as 'content' or 'output'. I certainly do. And when that happens I remind myself of Stephen King's advice - which I'll probably butcher here - but the essence was that if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.

What do you do when you get blocked?
See above. I read. Being inspired by the work I love reminds me why I write in the first place. I'm a lawyer and an academic by training, so I have the type of personality that wants to drill down harder into the task when I find Im not getting anywhere. But that's not how a creative process works, unfortunately, so I've had to learn to be looser. I'll get up from the desk and go read or walk, spend time with my family, do chores from the never-ending 'to do' list. When I take the pressure off and engage with the world, I find that connections in the material Im working with are easier to make, and that'll allow me to get back into it.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
I love and fear this question. Ideally it would be, "Who are ten thousand of your favourite writers". In no particular order: Gay Talese, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Shirley Jackson, James Baldwin, WG Sebald, Susan Sheehan, Elizabeth Strout, Nicole Krauss, Mary Oliver, John Jeremiah Sullivan...

What do you consider to be good writing?

Control and the confidence and originality that comes from depth in feeling or scholarship. I'm always drawn to the ways those qualities are conveyed at the sentence level.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?

At some point, you will want to stop. In fact, you'll find very good reasons to stop. That voice is a liar. Keep going.

You can read my review of The Trauma Cleaner here.


INTERVIEW: Heather Rose

Friday, August 10, 2018

 

Today I welcome Heather Rose, author of The Museum of Modern Love, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
Absolutely.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes!

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Tasmania and I live by the sea just two kilometres from my old family home. Mind you, I went around the world to arrive back here. I love beach walks, painting, meditating, reading, swimming, making cakes, time with my children and teaching writing. I also love solitude, kindness, sunshine and friendship.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
At the National Gallery of Victoria staring at a photograph.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
Not at all.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
Yes. It’s curious how they show up with helpful metaphors at times.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
There are always astonishing serendipitous discoveries and that’s how I know I’m on the right path with a novel. I think of writing as psychic orienteering. I have to trust my instincts and the path appears. The Museum of Modern Love took eleven years – and the discoveries kept unfolding.

Where do you write, and when?
I write at home in a room overlooking the sea. I like to get to my desk at 9am and not finish until at least 3pm. But sometimes, if the day got away, I’ll start around 7pm and work til 1am. I try to write every day – even weekends. I don’t always succeed, but novels are long and even a little every day really helps.

What is your favourite part of writing?
The writing. Finding myself immersed in the characters and the plot for hours on end. Bliss. When I emerge it’s as if I have spent the day visiting friends in other places. It’s the ultimate time travel.

What do you do when you get blocked?
Make tea. Go for a walk. Meet a friend. Go to a movie. Read a great book. Have a nap. Take a break for a few days, or even a week. Work on something else. The next bit always comes. It’s just a matter of being patient and listening.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?

I meditate every day. I read a lot. I love movies. I walk and swim too. I love escaping into nature on a beach or in a forest. (It’s easy in Tasmania!) I also procrasti-bake. Cooking is a great way for me to nurture ideas.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

A pot of tea, a jug of water, toast and marmalade and I’m away. Lighting a candle is also helpful on the long nights.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Such a painful question. So many favourites. Here’s 12 with apologies to all the omissions: Virginia Woolf. Haruki Murakami. Kazuo Ishiguro. Elizabeth Gilbert. Helen Garner. Elizabeth Strout. Cormac McCarthy. Toni Morrison. Edith Wharton. George R.R. Martin. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. George Eliot.

What do you consider to be good writing?
Writing that touches my heart, transports me to other worlds and awakens me to new ideas.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Read excellent writing. Carry a notebook and pen. Write something every day. Repeat.

What are you working on now?
Novel #8. And a couple of non-fiction projects.

You can read my review of The Museum of Modern Love here.

INTERVIEW: Amy Bloom

Friday, August 03, 2018

 
Photo by Elena Seibert 2017

This week we welcome Amy Bloom, author of White Houses, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
I am not much of a daydreamer, except when writing. Most of writing is daydreaming the actions and words of your characters.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be a professional reader (not an editor, just a reader.) when it became clear, that wasn't a thing, I gave up. I found my way back to writing in my mid-30s.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?

I was born in New York City, NY and grew up in the suburbs--lovely and sometimes loathsome--right outside the city. Now, I live in what seems to be a transplanted, eccentric seaside English village, complete with people in pyjamas happily walking their corgis. I like to do pretty much what I get to do: garden, waste time, write, read, go out for pizza, see action films, chill with my family.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
I was researching the 30s and 40s in America and kept stumbling over the Roosevelts, who so dominate that period in our country. This lead to Blanch Weisen Cook's great bio of Eleanor Roosevelt, which led me to the 3,000 letters between Mrs. Roosevelt and her lover and dear friend, Lorena Hickok, who actually lived IN the White House for all of their love affair and some years after. I thought: what an extraordinary love story and how hard people worked to hide it.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
I hope for the best. Sometimes I have a map. Sometimes I follow it. My life is easier when I plan.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?

I love my dream life but it rarely features characters from my novels. My late parents and extended family show up in eveything from costume drama to Sondheim musicals.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

I felt deeply, that no love is wasted--which is a good way to find oneself feeling, in mid-life. But, no, no serendipity. Also, since coincidence doesn't matter much to me, I wasn't looking.

Where do you write, and when?
I write 5-6 days a week, at my desk, in my dinky office with a beautiful view of the harbor.

What is your favourite part of writing?
Like most other writers--after. I do appreciate, and cherish, the opportunity for revision.

What do you do when you get blocked?
Watch TV, read poetry, call my sister--but all while sitting near my desk. Cant give up entirely, even if it's going horribly.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
I wish I could. Sometimes, one stares at a blank, unyielding wall. I do some laundry, cook dinner and keep staring, studying the cracks, while fooling myself that I'm not.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

I take a nap almost every day that I write. Maybe it's helpful--it's certainly a fact.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?

Auden, Austen, Kenyon, Hirshfield, Roberston Davies, Carol Shields, Val McDermid, Colwin, Wilde, Percival Everett.

What do you consider to be good writing?

Please see the above exemplars.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?

Welcome the chance to re-write that first, awful draft. Get that first awful draft written. Rememebr that no one cares about your writing except you; if you dont protect it and support it, no one will.

What are you working on now?
ARGH! Getting the research done for a novel and doing some TV work as well, without letting my right hand bump into my left hand.

You can read my review of White Houses here.

INTERVIEW: Gail Tsukiyama

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

 

Today I welcome Gail Tsukiyama, author of Women of Silk, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
I don't believe you can be a writer without being a daydreamer...and a nightdreamer! When you're in the midst of writing a book, you're constantly between worlds, carrying the characters and their stories with you as you go through daily life.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, I've always wanted to tell stories, but I didn't follow a direct route to writing novels. While I always wrote short stories as a young girl, my first impulse was to tell them through film. I wanted to be a filmmaker. Once in college, I quickly learned that the technical aspects of making films took away from the creative process of putting words on a page to create a story. I've always loved writing narrative descriptions that pushed a story forward, all the significant details that create a sense of place, tone, character. While you can do it visually and through dialogue in film, words on a page allows for even more breath and depth. Once I transferred to the English Department, I fell madly in love with poetry, and spent my undergraduate and graduate years writing poetry and honing my love of language. It still amazes me how so few words can say so much. Poetry provided a great foundation in learning to use language sparingly. It led to my writing more short stories and then progressing to writing novels.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in San Francisco, California and continue to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. My mother was Chinese from Hong Kong, and my father was Japanese from Hawai'i. I like to travel, spend time with family and friends, read, walk, work in the garden, and have a good glass of wine at the end of the day. I also run a nonprofit called, WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water. We do water projects and library and book projects in developing countries. It's a wonderful addition to my writing life that allows me to give back.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
Women of the Silk was my first novel and all I knew was that I wanted to write about the Chinese side of my culture. I was primarily raised in the Chinese culture. I didn't want to write about my family so I began to research. The flash of inspiration took me six months to find, but I knew I would write about these silk working women as soon as I read two lines about them in an autobiography of writer, Han Suyin. I was immediately intrigued that these Chinese women were able to live independent of family and marriage for roughly 100 years in a society based on the traditional bonds of family and marriage. I loved the way they were able to remake their lives to continue those same bonds within their own society. They were early feminists without even knowing it.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
A great deal of research has gone into all the novels I've written. Women of the Silk was especially difficult because at the time it was written, there was very little published information about them as a sub-culture. I almost gave up until I was referred to an essay written specifically about the silk workers published in a book of essays by women anthropologists in the 1940's. I was so fortunate to find it at a library in Berkeley. I don't plan extensively, if a novel is set in a particular place that I want to highlight, I usually begin researching from there. I research throughout the writing of my novels, which have been mostly set in either China and Japan. One of the most wonderful gifts of being a writer is discovering things along the way, not only about your story and characters but about yourself. That's why I plan just enough to get me started, allowing the characters and their stories to lead me forward and tell the rest of their story.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

As a first novel, I was just delighted I could actually write a novel!

Where do you write, and when?
I write at two different homes surrounded by books. One is closer to the city and the other in the country. I try to write during office hours, but find the most productive time for me is between 11:30 pm and 1:30 am when it's completely quiet and I'm not tempted to look at e-mails.

What is your favourite part of writing?
Seeing how the words come together on the page to become a world of its own. I'm always thrilled when I've written that right line that illuminates a character or moves the story forward in just the right way.

What do you do when you get blocked?
Instead of fighting it for too long, I usually move away from the writing. I clean house or watch a movie or work on another project or go for a walk. Getting away from the work for a bit always refreshes the thought process when I return to it.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
I read other writers who inspire. Movies work in the same way and the nonprofit work adds another kind of inspiration. I also have a group of writer friends who I get together with once a year for a writers' retreat. We write and talk about our work and all the challenges that come with it.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, Geraldine Brooks, John Steinbeck, Louise Erdrich, E.Annie Proulx, Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan and the list goes on...

What do you consider to be good writing?
When a writer intimately connects a reader emotionally to a character and story line.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?

To always tell the truth of the story. To never give up the passion.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a book set on the Big Island of Hawai'i in the 1930's.

You can read my review of Women of Silk here.

INTERVIEW: Heather Morris

Sunday, July 29, 2018




Today I welcome Heather Morris, Author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
My mother always called me a ‘loner’. The fact that I just wanted to get out of a house comprising 4 noisy brothers didn’t occur to her. But yes, I spent more time in what I perceived to be someone else’s head than my own. Living on a farm, when not in school (where I was definitely described by more than one teacher as being a daydreamer) I loved to walk around paddocks regardless of the weather and dream of far-away places where adventures could be had. My main source of reading was the Encyclopaedia Britannica which showed me a world of exotic amazing places and people so far removed from my existence.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, not really. When my husband I had our first baby we were so poor, we both loved reading and until his little eyes could focus would read him the newspaper or whatever was available. I have a delightful photo of hubby reading the financial review to a 4 week old. Of course we always changed voices and emphasis putting on our big bad wolf voice when talking about government of the day. I digress. When the financial review was no longer doing it for the little fella we cut back where we could to buy him books and he was still too young to take to a library. I purchased cheap school exercise books, the ones designed for science with one side of the page lined the other blank. I took to writing a series of children’s stories, age appropriate, and my hubby attempted illustrations. Life got in the way, along with 2 siblings for said first born and it wasn’t until they, and I, were much older that I decided I NEEDED to write. Bit of light-bulb moment really. I just woke up one morning and announced I wanted to learn how to write screenplays. This is the medium The Tattooist of Auschwitz existed in for ten years.


Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in a small rural town in the North Island of New Zealand (Te Awamutu – only claim to fame – the Finn boys of Crowded House also came from there). I now live in Sherbrooke, in the forest, about 50km from Melbourne. Having quit the day job 8 months ago I find myself a full-time traveller / speaker and promoter of my book. And do I like to do it? I love doing it. I also love spending time with four small grandchildren. Always loved travelling now I get to combine it with telling my story. Nothing beats being with my family and friends, good food and good wine.


How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
Can’t call it a flash of inspiration. I was having a pre-Christmas coffee catch up with a friend who casually said to me she had a friend whose mother had just died and his father asked him to find someone he could tell A story to. She asked me would I like to meet him. I said yes.


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
Many people have said my meeting Lale Sokolov was serendipitous. In terms of discoveries in getting his story – every element of his story was a discovery. I’m embarrassed to admit how little I really knew about the Holocaust. If I have to name one thing, then learning that local Polish villagers came into Auschwitz / Birkenau every day to work; 9 -5, five days a week, knowing what they were building there, going home to their families, was a huge shock to me. I don’t know in retrospect why it should have been, but it was. I can now tell myself they were just trying to put food on the table and survive. Still!!


Who are ten of your favourite writers?
In no particular order: Paullina Simmons; Derek Hansen; Michael Connelly; Anita Shreve; Tom Clancy; Sara Paretsky; Bill Bryson; Minette Walters; my very talented daughter-in-law BP Gregory; two newcomers to watch out for Kim Sherwood and Angela Meyer.


What do you consider to be good writing?
Simple writing. Though having said that I loved Bitter Greens so much, and there was nothing simple about the style or structure of that story. Short sentences work for me; I actually pause at every full-stop, and most importantly believable characters. Transport me to whatever place and time you’re writing about and make me connect to your characters, good or bad. I only seem to find time to read right now in bed, so keep me awake please.


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
It’s not original but – Research, research, research, throw away the research and now write. I do not adhere to X number of words per day / week, I’m not that organised. For me it was find my perfect writing time. I knew I was easily distracted, helped that I was a ‘night owl’ so writing in the evening and into the small hours where nothing and no-one could distract me was what worked. So I guess my advice would be to find what works for you, commit to it, start writing and don’t stop until you’ve knocked the bugger off.


What are you working on?
My next story is about a character from my book, 16 year old Cilka. Well I’ve signed the contract and taken the advance so I guess I can say I’m writing Cilka’s story. I think my publishers would like to see a bit more content to be convinced. The really good thing about this story is my research is going to take me to parts of the old Soviet Union, San Francisco and Slovakia.


You can read my review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz here.

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