Sunday, 22 January 2017

About Me

Either you are reading this because you have read some of my books (excellent idea) or you've met me on a school visit or at a writers' festival (big wave from me), or you stumbled onto this by accident (nice to meet you). Whatever the reason, here are some of the questions I've been asked over the 25 years I've been a published writer.

What interesting things have you done because you are a writer?
 I’ve met fascinating people of all ages, travelled to different countries, asked silly questions and sometimes smart ones. I’ve judged writing competitions; researched, written and performed a one person play 'Maggots and Mayhem', about early Adelaide;  written a column on writing for a magazine, given talks at writers' festivals, conferences and for groups interested in books in countries like Australia, Canada, Thailand and Singapore.   

How did you get started as a writer?
I entered every competition that I could, sent articles and short stories to magazines and newspapers, then approached book publishers with my short stories. Lots of hard work and occasional panics. 

What inspires you?
My readers. When someone has a reaction to my story, I love it. 

Which is your favourite out of all the books you have written?
I don’t have a favourite. Truly. All the fifty books that I’ve written are stories that I  felt enthusiastic about. And favourite books depend on a person’s mood. Sometimes you might select a funny book but other times you want to read something mysterious. I have characters that I am especially fond of, though, and Audrey from the  'Outback' series is one of those.

Did you like games when you were little?
Me, at four.
Pretend games, for sure. I had an imaginary friend, Jennifer Hobarr. 
And my Nanna Mavis joined in my made-up stories. She made me plaits from darning wool when I pretended to be a princess and ‘adopted’ me when I imagined being an orphan. Nan had a garden full of trees and bushes to play in and climb on (and write books in).

Where do you get your ideas?
Stories children tell, things I see or hear, articles from newspapers, movies, other books, pictures, songs and childhood memories. Every story is like a jigsaw. Pieces come from everywhere. I’ve travelled so I can write about other places: Russia, China, Turkey, Italy, Syria, Fiji, Vanuatu, Singapore, Hong Kong, Yugoslavia, Bali, Cook Islands, Thailand and Vietnam.

Where have you written stories?
At my desk, in the garden, in planes, cafes (I once wrote a story on a serviette in a fast food cafe), on ships ... everywhere really. But my first real story was written up a nectarine tree in Nanna Mavis's back garden.

What’s the best part about being a writer?
I can act weird and people expect it. I work whatever odd hours I like – or take a ‘power nap’ if I’m tired. Writing is exciting. I receive wonderful emails from  readers. Sometimes they write to me, Christine Harris, and sometimes to my characters. One of the funniest was from a boy who wrote to Jesse Sharpe, my Spy Girl/Undercover Girl character, saying, ‘Do you know you’re not real?’ Holding a new book in my hands is pretty good too. I look at the cover, then open the pages and sniff them. (Don’t laugh till you try it.)

What’s the worst thing about being a writer?
Waiting for my agent or the publisher to say whether they like my story. And when I’m about to start a new book, I sometimes worry that I can’t do it and spend a long time doing a cover page and setting up paragraphs because I trick myself that I’m working on the story. 

What does it take to be a writer?
'Is this a book bag?'
Imagination, being observant, regular practice – even if it’s diary or letter writing, and determination. Reading a lot, and all sorts of books, is a good idea. We absorb language patterns and ideas without realising it. A thick skin helps. Sometimes I’m asked, ‘Do you ever get rejections?’ Of course I do. What writer doesn’t? There’s an old saying, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

What are some funny things that fans have said to you? 
‘You are my third favourite author.’
‘This autograph will be worth a lot if you die.’
‘I thought you were a man.’
‘I imagined you’d be six foot tall, have writers’ cramp and a bit of a moustache.’
‘I thought you’d be a much younger woman.’
'Did you do maths when you were a person?'

Where can I find more information about you?
Australian Writers’ Centre (30 min. podcast & transcript)
Scholastic: About the Author Q & A

Do you have a literary agent?
Yes. Lyn Tranter, 2a Booth St, Balmain, Sydney, 2041 New South Wales.
Phone: (+61) 2 9818 8557