From Hook to Book

Archive for the category “Writing”

Writing Through the Ages (of my children)

When I first started writing, my kids were six, nine and eleven, and I found coming up with ideas on what kids were into doing, liked, disliked, got up to, came very easily, especially when inspired by my live-in research/demographic sample. It took a long time for me to realise that as my children grew up, the ages of my protagonists had increased too.

Gorgeous babyNow my babies are all adults and I find it interesting that I’ve written an adult novel. I think there might be a connection there. (I am, of course, still writing YA and kids’ books too. Mind you, they are novel-length of late and the output slower than shorter-length works.)

So I’m really excited that I’m going to become a grandmother shortly. I could gush here all day about the multiple, personal ways, I’m excited, but this a writing blog. With that in mind, I’ll just say how excited I am that I will get to tell lots of spontaneous, made-up stories and see the world again through the eyes of this special little person. Also I know that I won’t only go exploring through his or her experiences, because I remember the wonderful world of make-believe my own children reopened the door to – in my imagination.

Being busy writing some tough and reality-based stories over recent years, I’ve missed the world of whimsy and fantastical imagination. I’ve missed cuddling the soft, downy cheeks of newborns and giving horsey rides around the house too. I can’t promise the knees are up to any horsey rides, nor wait to welcome this new member of our family and, dare I say selfishly, lots of new story ideas too.

So a question for fellow writers: Do you find that the ages/stages of children in your world have influenced the age group or genre you write for?

The Next Big Thing

I have been tagged, in the writers’ blog chain The Next Big Thingby the lovely and talented Corinne Fenton. The idea is that one one writer tags five more writers to talk about their Next Big Thing (project) and then those writers pass the baton on so that we can read about what lots of writers are writing about. So here we go with my Next Big Thing.

R1)  What is the working title of your next book?

The Swing Tree

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Scotland research Bothwellhaugh miners row IMG_1029The Swing Tree began as a passion project after a visit to the State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, exploring my family history back in 2008. My Irish great-grandparents journey to Australia from a tiny pit village in Scotland cried out as a backdrop in need of a story and so began a four-year love affair that has taken me to my ancestors’ birthplace, down a Lanarkshire coal mine and onto the battlefields of France.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Jayd JohnsonJames McAvoyHmm, a tough question, especially since my main character, Maire, is Scottish and I’m not so familiar with Scottish actors. During the writing of The Swing Tree,  I kept a photograph of the gorgeous Olive Thomas, star of the twenties silent movies, attached to my monitor as inspiration for Maire’s character.  I think today, young Scottish actress Jayd Johnson would make a fabulous Maire. I can see James McAvoy playing the role of Liam. He’s cute and cheeky, but he would also bring the hard edge to Liam’s character when necessary.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young Scots immigrant follows the lad she loves to the far side of the world only to find him much changed and herself no part of his plans.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Fingers crossed – an agency.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Eighteen-months for the first draft. The completed manuscript is now 120,000-words, but I would have written over 170,000-words during three years of writing, researching, rewriting and multiple drafts.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

foals-breadYear of WondersI think my story compares with the struggles of the characters in Gillian Mears Foal’s Bread and Geraldine Brooks Year of Wonders, showing ordinary people trying to carry on living ordinary lives in the face of extraordinary circumstances, adversity and changing times. Though my book is more a crossover to mainstream fiction than literary.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Beyond the visit to Wonthaggi (discussed in question two) and my love of history and the Great War era, my great-grandparents’ journey to Australia inspired me. That challenge and their courage in uprooting their family and lives, for a new start in a country so far away, ignited a passion in me for the immigrant journey, particularly one that occurred during a time of enormous change, especially for women. Beyond the parallel migration journey, the story of The Swing Tree is entirely fictional.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I believe readers will be interested in the female viewpoint shown of life on the home-front during World War One as opposed to the more frequently portrayed male viewpoint and life in the trenches. Life in Australia during WW1 was quite different for women compared to wartime life for women in United Kingdom, where women were encouraged to take over the jobs of men, drive ambulances, work in factories. Here, women’s war effort was confined to knitting and sewing for the troops, unless they were involved in the Red Cross. This proved frustrating and ground-breaking times for women here attempting to expand their roles, yet, many women had to take on the role of breadwinner when the men returned “changed” and often unfit to hold down fulltime jobs. Shellshock was yet to be recognised.

Not All Writers are Born, Some are Made in Writing Courses

I find the current TAFE arts funding cuts and fee increases so sad and disappointing.

Fifteen years ago, I drove past a sign down on the Mornington Penninsula with a screaming headline, DO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?

Yes, yes, yes, I had always wanted, dreamed, aspired to be a writer, but I’d always believed that writers were somehow born – not made, taught, trained. The poster provided a website to a TAFE Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing course and to my absolute excitement told of a program that was hands-on, learning to write for publication and at an accessible fee rate. (At the time I was working one day a week to help supplement the family income and busy with three young children and what seemed then a hefty mortgage.) Uni was out of the question for me financially. Besides I wanted to write and be published. Theory was a luxury I could not afford to pursue. Not then.

I feel a deep sadness for all those with a writing dream and unfostered talent that may now not get to explore their creativity or potential to produce publishable work. (Many writers need such a supportive, encouraging environment to get started and gain confidence not to mention learn crafting techniques.) The destruction of TAFE is short-sighted on so many  levels and destroys so many employment pathways that I won’t attempt to go into here.

I thank God that I saw my future on that billboard and raced to chase the call. It screamed to me and I feel so sad for all those who will not hear the cry, because without it some will never have the confidence, craft or encouragement to answer.

So many of my writer friends and colleagues graduated through the TAFE Professional Writing & Editing Diploma. Many like me believe it was a fantastic grounding and beginning to our lifelong writing apprenticeships. I’d love anyone reading this to leave a comment and let me know how they and their writing careers benefitted from TAFE or any formal writing courses.

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