Geraldine Brooks, Jenna Blum, Kim Edwards, Jodi Picoult, Dan Brown, Mitch Albom
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have another life as mother and school teacher. Of course, I'm really just a writer in disguise then, because while I'm going through the motions of living out that other life, I'm secretly collecting characters and incubating stories from the antics of the world and the people in it!
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Some are recommended to me by friends. Some authors I simply collect - can't wait for their next book to come out. I also love that ebook stores to which I subscribe know what I like to read, and show me wonderful stories by talented writers I know I'm just going to love.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember the first story I ever wrote that one of my early high school teachers loved - she wanted another instalment, to know what happened next. I think such constructive critiques are defining moments for anyone. Unfortunately so are the destructive ones. Fortunately I was on the receiving end of a great deal of encouragement, from my teachers and my parents. I've been writing one thing or another or simply incubating characters and stories in my head most of my life. It's a bit crowded in there!
What is your writing process?
Simple. I write about what's going on in my head. I don't feel like I'm creating stories at all. On the contrary, the stories are unfolding in my mind, like I'm watching a big movie screen in there - my role in this creative process is to simply record what those characters are doing. I can see them, feel their feelings, be absorbed in their surroundings. I don't know what they're going to do next - I just like to watch. Then I write down what I see. It feels lovely.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I've read all my life, so I don't remember the first thing I ever read. But I do remember the first story I read that had a huge impact on me. That was Sheila Burnford's "The Incredible Journey", about a labrador, a bull terrier and a Siamese cat, and their epic journey together across Ontario in Canada to be reunited with their human family. I've always had a love of animals and fascination for nature. This book struck one of those deep, abiding chords in the core of my being.
How do you approach cover design?
Hmmmm…. I often have an image in my head before I even speak to a photographer or cover designer. I think that's because I'm a very visual thinker and learner, and the stories in my head seem to evolve some key elements of their own cover design that's linked to these themes while I'm writing. But I'm also keenly aware that I'm not the expert in this area - so I'm very open to the interpretations of graphic artists - I feel confident that they are often likely to come up with better ideas and concept development than I can. Well, of course - they are the experts in this field!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
My all time favourite book is Geraldine Brooks "Year of Wonders" - a truly beautiful and sensitive interpretation of the people and times of seventeenth century Britain, and the selfless sacrifice of the people of Eyam as they faced their darkest fears during plague-ravaged 1666… (based on actual events). The universal themes of loss and grief and sorrow resonate so strongly; so too do their resilience and integrity. Other favourites include: Those who save us - Jenna Blum The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
Describe your desk
My desk is an extension of the inside of my head - it's old world, with rustic nic-nacs and photos. My desk is inside a dormer window, looking over the garden. The walls are also glass to maximise the light. I feel like I'm floating up there, almost in the treetops. There are very old photos, newspaper clippings and vintage post-cards wallpapering every inch of plaster around me. Everything is old. I like it that way. I feel like I'm in another world, another time. It's very comforting. Just what I need to get me into the writing zone.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in country Victoria in Australia, in a small town called Wangaratta. It was a different time. Life was simple and good. There were no computers or cell phones. We had a black and white television, but we weren't allowed to watch it during the day and only for a short time in the evenings. Besides, we were too busy - we were outside, playing with friends. We made our own games, our own fun. We socialised with the kids on the street. I had wonderful friends who I've retained my entire life. There were four kids in my family and we were all very close. I have no doubt that all of this profoundly influenced my writing. It was a time when creativity was a survival necessity - it is the life that formed me into the writer that I am.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is my drug of choice. I'm addicted. At the end of a writing session I feel I could run a marathon. I guess I'm making those 'feel-good' hormones that keep us coming back for more. For some it's running, for some it's flying or mountain-climbing… for me it's writing. Bottom line - writing makes me feel good!
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