Q. Something about your own writing. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but often that first step is the hardest to take. How did you start out?
A. As a child I hid from a harsh world in books. I started my working life as an English and History teacher and didn’t get into full time writing until mid life. I was lucky in that I did my apprenticeship with 4 ‘Dolly Fiction’ novels under the pseudonym GERRI LAPIN. These books were issue driven and taught me a lot of about writing for a particular audience.
Q. What problems did you encounter and how did you deal with them?
A. A writer’s major stepping stone is learning more about the craft. What looks most artless is most difficult to achieve. I have had lots of knock-backs along the way. However, my motto is ‘perseverance’ and whenever a manuscript is rejected, I re-edit it and send it out again. Also, I find that teaching and mentoring keeps me up the mark. My students are a constant source of joy and inspiration.
Q. What personality traits are essential to becoming a successful author?
A. We need to be soft and sensitive on the inside to be able to write about feelings, be open to new ideas and have a reasonably tough skin to take the inevitable criticisms and rejections. Perhaps a little talent helps. And we need to be physically, emotionally and psychologically prepared to keep on writing and cope with the knock-backs every writer receives.
Q. Was discouragement ever an issue for you? What helped you persevere through the tough times?
A. The odds are very much against the average person. I suppose I’m very stubborn. In this business obstinacy helps. So does a bit of luck. When things seem extra tough, ‘I just pick myself up and start all over again.’
Q. Throughout your career you have covered a wide range of readerships, from primary-school readers to high-school students and adults. What are the different challenges and rewards faced when writing for each audience?
A. The challenge is being aware that what you write is directed at that specific reader. The major reward is that I rarely get bored.
Q. What are the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for authors when working with editors and publishers? What is the best way to insure that your creation will be the one they want to look at?
1. Read. Read a lot.
2. Listen carefully to what an editor has to say. Don’t dismiss anything out of hand. You never know. He or she may be right. Of course, sometimes an editor can come up with ideas and/or requests that simply don’t make sense. Ultimately, you have to rely on your intuition. Mostly I find that the most useful advice I can give is not to see your writing as ‘sacred and untouchable.’ Any piece can stand some improvement.
3. Research. My other piece of advice is to research your publishers very carefully and only send manuscripts to a firm that puts out similar work.
Q. Where do you see yourself heading?
A. I’ll just keep on working on whatever strikes me next. Hopefully, more historical fiction, which is my first love.
Q. Your success makes you a role model for every author who dreams of being published. What advice would you give those who long to follow in your footsteps?
A. Just one word: PERSEVERE!