1. What is your writing process like? Do you write consistently or only when inspired? Do you write many drafts quickly, or have an early draft that’s almost perfect?
I admire splurgers like mad. My writing process is more ‘snail like’. Sometimes it seems that I have to squeeze out every word. Then it needs lots of re-editing. Mark Twain once said that he spent a whole afternoon putting in a comma, and another afternoon taking it out. No early draft has ever been perfect.
3. Can you tell me a bit about your inspirations and what drew you to writing in the first place?
In one word: reading. I learnt to read when I was three and I have never stopped. Books take me far away from my present reality to other worlds.
As for what inspires me: what I read, what I see, what I hear. I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys listening to people talking on their mobiles. In a word, the world around me is my inspiration.
4. Is each novel you write easier than the last? Or is every one challenging? Where there any specific points at which you struggled with this novel?
Each novel is as difficult as the last. Because I write in so many genres (otherwise I get bored) I am always challenging myself. For example, in the last two years I have had two middle grade novels written and published: ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’, and ‘Cybertricks’, and completed the first drafts of two YA novels: ‘Ferdie & Miranda’ and ‘Gap Year Nanny’,
5. Is having a book published exclusively as an ebook a different experience to having a book in print? Do you prefer reading either format? Do you think the print book is on the way out?
I adore my Kindle. I adore being able to download within minutes. But ultimately what format a book appears in, isn’t all that relevant. What matters are the words, the characters and the narrative drive. I think hardcopy might gradually disappear. What will remain are story picture books for little readers, and maybe elegant coffee table books. Of course this is a time of transition and who can predict the future? The monks who illustrated all those wonderful bibles must have felt the same way when they first caught sight of a printing press. ‘Never catch on,’ they must have told each other. Same as when Penguin decided to produce soft covers.
6. What tips do you have for other writers?
I have a blog where I post lots of tips, both for very beginning writers, and those that are trying to promote their work. Social networking is important, so I recommend using facebook, tweeting, and logging into other blogs. Promoting on You Tube is useful though I have to confess I’m technologically too stupid to do this. My major piece of advice is to never give up. A book may be rejected many times before it takes off. Sometimes it can take many years, and of course this has happened to me many, many times. After I lick my wounds at yet another rejection, I remind myself that it might be the wrong time, the wrong publisher, and probably needs another draft. Now the book revolution is on us, perhaps it’s useful to think of self publishing. But be warned: too many self-published books are badly edited or frankly, need more work.
7. Imagining you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenaged self about writing and life, what would you tell her? And would she listen.
I would tell her to start writing very much earlier and not leave it all so late. For some years I lived next door to Elizabeth Jolly. While she was writing I was swanning about. If I had been writing alongside her, maybe I would now be as good and famous as she was?
8. What tips can you give for writing fantasy?
All fantasy must have certain common elements. They take place in a consistent, if imaginary world, and have exciting and convincing protagonists. Their major theme, much like the fairy story, is good versus evil, with good eventually winning out against what seems like insurmountable odds. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief with a completeness that is not required in more traditional genres. If the best fantasy is written with flair and imagination, it can also be used as metaphor – coping with climate warming, protecting the environment, ensuring endangered animals survive, and overcoming totalitarian rule. They all offer the hope that everything can and will turn out for the best.
9. What is the most important thing to remember when starting a new work?
In my opinion, a character must become a living breathing person easily recognisable. I always recommend writers create a character profile to start with. Once your character is living at a specific time and you know his/her likes dislikes/conflicts/ family etc. you already have half your plot. I can’t emphasise this enough. In ‘Cybertricks’ set so many years in the future, my characters might look odd, but they behave like normal youngsters with disparate personalities.
10. What other advice can you give beginner writers?
Perseverance is what counts. It’s said that inspiration is only 10% and hard work 90% . I am often approached by people who tell me they ‘have a book in them’ as if I can give a magic tip. Wish I could.