Do you ever put people you know in your stories?
How do you choose the names for your books / characters?
How do you come up with ideas?
How do you decide where to begin?
How long does it take to write a book?
If you get stuck for an idea what do you do?
What advice can you offer aspiring authors?
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
What is your best book so far?
What is your favourite character and why?
What was your first book / writing?
Where do you get your ideas from?
Where do you write?
Sometimes I certainly do. Most of my fiction characters are based on people I know – not just one person but bits and pieces from a few people.
I have a book of names that I sometimes use but as I create a character in my head I also create their name based often on what that character is doing … so that is an Ashley character or she acts like a Sarah …
Sometimes I am given the idea by the publisher. Sometimes a publisher asks me to write for a series and I might discuss the concept with my wife and she helps me with ideas. Sometimes an object stimulates a writing idea. Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night and seem to know what to write next. And then I have a few books full of my observations and recollections that ‘could’ become ideas for stories.
For me it is usually getting the story plotted out and then starting where I feel most comfortable. Usually that is the beginning, but sometimes I have written the end of the book first (because I was afraid of forgetting the end after thinking about the book for sooooo long) and then I went back to the start.
How long is a piece of string? It really depends on the book but for all books it is not simply sitting down to write the story. There is the research and the blending and cooking time before the actual writing begins. Of course once the draft is completed I start at the beginning again and edit story. Often it takes a few more complete rewrites, maybe six or seven, before the book is cooked! One of my picture books has taken years to write!
I probably jump to another piece of writing I am working on – it could be a another book or it might even be research. But I do spend heaps of time researching and plotting and planning so often when I am physically writing it flows out … that is because I have planned the book out before I begin.
Write every day, be observant, plan your stories, enjoy what you do.
That would definitely have to be the editing … but that is part of the craft. I can write a lot of material for a story and then I have to go through the editing process. Sometimes this may take 5 or more rewrites before I am ready to send it to the editor … who then tells me that the story is wonderful BUT it requires a little more finessing.
The next book.
At the moment, it would have to be Edward from The Melting Pot … he is a bit like me. But all my characters are special. I created them.
My first published book was Eyespy Book of Night Creatures but I also wrote a Teacher’s Resource book with Libby Hathorn. I wrote lots and lots of teaching material at the zoo as well as a few units of work for teachers. When I was teaching in Bourke I even contributed to a newspaper column in the local newspaper about the school happenings. Oh and I love writing letters to my family and friends … email is such a wonderful thing!
Anywhere and everywhere and I-don’t-know-where. I have a book that I carry around with me most places that I use to scribble down ideas from things that I might hear or see. When I wake up in the middle of the night with a story idea or the next part of a story I scribble it down on the pad next to our bed. I might even sneak out of the room and sit on the steps and write the story so I don’t disturb my wife.
In my office surrounded by books at my computer. I have a wardrobe mirror that is my planning wall (at the moment it has a map of George Street, Sydney 1910). My desk is a huge old desk that came from a stationmaster’s office. There is a telephone close by (although I often don’t answer it) and often a CD playing music – classical or jazz.
Are you rich?
Do you have any pets?
Do you like going to school?
Do you remember your teachers?
How old are you?
How would you spend your last ten dollars?
What else do you do besides writing?
What rituals are part of your writing program?
What are the most memorable things that have happened to you as an author?
What were you like growing up?
Where and when were you born?
Will you ever change your job?
I have the best job, a fantastic wife, wonderful family and friends. I think that I am very, very, very rich.
The only animals that I have here are the lorikeets that are chirping in the bottlebrush tree outside my window, the cockatoos that squawk from neighbours’ trees, and the flying foxes that feast on the figs in the park nearby. Oh, and there are the wandering cats which I encourage not to stay long!
I really enjoy school visits and seeing what work kids create with me or based on my work.
Absolutely. I have a few that are still good friends; teachers from my primary school years, my lecturer from university days, and then teachers who I have taught with. One of my primary school teachers was a fantastic storyteller and would reward his class with stories that he made up of his adventures with Dr Waddington. And another primary school teacher chose me to take the lead role in the end of year school play. she then saw me a few times as I moved through the teaching system.
Old enough … still!
Very wisely and I would spend it with my wife. I might even spend it on her!
Lots of things. When my wife is home we do stacks of things together, go to movies, read books, long walks, we totally enjoy being together.
I am the domestic help at home so I love to spend time cooking in the kitchen trying out new recipes that I might have seen in a magazine or a new cookbook. I do the washing and the vacuuming too. If my house is dirty I can’t concentrate on my writing.
Before I start the writing day I must have all domestic duties done. Turning on the computer, having all my reference books close at hand (I hate having to search for something that I know I have somewhere in the house) taking a break from the computer screen and keyboard every 20 minutes (I sometimes set my computer alarm to chime for breaks), having jazz or classical music wafting in the background … but no other distractions.
There are a few … turning up to a school and seeing the class all wearing masks from my books; having kids surprise me acting out one of my stories; having a boy tell me that I must have written the story just for him.
I was the most kind, generous, loving, considerate, conscientious, studious, courteous, considerate, brave, … person … hey I write fiction and non-fiction so at least some of this is true!
In Sydney, in the 20th Century
Not likely! Why change when I already have the best job in the world and I enjoy it sooooo much.
Will you ever cut your hair?
What’s the oldest animal that has ever lived?
Only if it gets too unmanageable – or I lose too much of it!