*What is your favourite thing about writing?
I love making up new characters and sending them off on adventures. Writing, like reading, allows you to live more than one life. I love seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Getting inside my characters skins means I can deeply experience all sorts of things without having to time-travel, suffer incredible physical pain or spend a lot of money.
*What was your first job?
My first job, other than doing a paper round, was working in a bookshop in Toronto, Canada when I was still in secondary college. Every writer should try at least one stint of working in a bookshop. If nothing else, it’s a great way to start building your own library of books. I loved working at The Book Barrel. I had a great boss and I took half my wages in books.
*Did you always want to be a writer as your profession?
I always loved to write and fantasised about being able to make a living out of it one day. It took me a long time and several false starts to finally get established. I raised my kids and worked in other industries before I got the hang of full-time writing.
*When is your next book coming out?
I’m working on several things at the moment but I think the next book to be released will be a non-fiction book called Topsy Turvy World. The children’s publisher at the National Library of Australia approached me last year and asked if I’d write a book, based on a similar book that they’d published for adults, about early European impressions of Australian wildlife. It should be out later this year or early next year.
*Did you use an agent to get your first book published?
No, I was lucky. I started out writing non-fiction for children, which is treated differently to fiction. First you submit a proposal outlining an idea for a book along with a sample chapter and then you sign a contract based on the strength of the writing and the idea. I wrote three books of non-fiction before my publisher at Allen & Unwin suggested I should try turning one of my non fiction ideas – a book about Australian circus – into a novel. It became my first work of published fiction - ‘Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish’ - and it won the WA Premier’s Literary Award for children in 2000. It’s still in print. Like I said, lucky.
*What most recently inspired you?
I’m never short on inspiration. I find the hardest thing about writing is focussing on a single thing, a single source of inspiration, and following it through until you have a finished work.
*Can you give any pointers to aspiring writers?
Read every day. Read widely and develop an appetite for poetry. Next, write every day. Even if it’s just a journal entry or a postcard, the written word works differently to the spoken word so you have to keep crafting the way words work on paper. Somewhere inside our brains there is a writing muscle and if we don’t use it, it never grows strong.
*Why did you start writing?
Because I loved books and wanted to be part of the tradition of making books for other people to enjoy.
*In a film version of India Dark, who would you have play Poesy and Tilly?
India Dark has been optioned for a film already but I have no idea who the producer is thinking of casting in the lead roles. It may not every make it to the screen because it’s the sort of film that will require a huge amount of funding to get it off the ground. Keep your fingers crossed. As to who I would choose? I have no idea. I can see both Poesy and Tilly so clearly in my head but I don’t actually know anyone who looks exactly like either one of them
*What are your favourite books?
I have way too many favourite books to list them and a couple of hundred favourite authors. This week’s favourite author is the English novelist Jane Gardam, as I’ve read two of her novels in the past three days - “Crusoe’s Daughter” and “Queen of the Tambourine”. I’ve read about seven of her other books as well but I think probably “Bilgewater” and “Old Filth” are my favourite Jane Gardam novels. Then again – I loved “Crusoe’s Daughter” too. I can neve answer the favourite books question. It’s just too hard and really depends on my mood!
*Did becoming a published author open up a whole new world to you?
These questions are getting harder, Romi. A whole new world? It has certainly given me a lot of opportunities to travel, meet new people and read more books. I’ve always been a big fan of being in the world and making the most of every moment but writing requires a lot of discipline and authors need to spend a lot of time sitting at their desks, inside their own heads and then actually getting the words down on paper. It probably sounds corny but I guess the biggest thing becoming a published author did for me was to make me take my writing seriously, to consider it both a profession and a vocation and knuckle down to make sure I would continue to have more work published.
Thank you thank you thank you Kirsty for doing this Q&A for me, it was a lot of fun and your answers are all fantabulous!