I was recently tagged by the incredibly talented and energetic Tania McCartney to join this exciting blog tour on writing processes. Each week, authors post their answers to four questions, then tag some writerly pals to play along the following week.
You can read Tania’s answers and discover more about what she’s up to right here. (As you’ll see, Tania is not just an author, but an octopus – she has so many fingers in so many pies!)
So… here are my responses to the writing process questions, and way down below you can check out the two inspiring authors I’ve asked to post next week.
What am I working on?
Well, as a real “newbie” I’m currently working with my publisher on getting my first picture book on the shelves later this year! It’s exciting stuff to be both author and illustrator, and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands! I’m also working on a sequel, just in case everyone out there wants to cuddle this first book as much as I do!
I’m also putting the finishing touches (a.k.a editing with a fiery, burning passion) to an adult creative non-fiction book, and I’m fleshing out a Young Adult novel, which usually resides, somewhat mysteriously, in a bottom drawer of mine. (Oh, it can hide, but it can’t run!)
The other genres are sulking, however, because they’re taking a backseat to my picture books, which, try as I might (and I confess, I don’t try too hard), I just can’t stop writing!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, I can multi-task, in that I can both illustrate, and write across multiple genres for adults, teens and children. I guess many authors pick a favourite genre and concentrate on that. But I like to see what’s possible. Can I do something new? Why not try? What’s that fabulous saying? “If you reach for the moon – you’re sure to touch the stars!”
Perhaps what makes me different from other author/illustrators in the picture book genre is that this first book of mine appeals to not only children, but a very wide audience. Well, that’s the aim anyway! Fingers crossed!
Why do I write what I do?
This is going to sound cringingly clichéd – but I write and illustrate picture books because I think they’re the best books on the planet. Picture books are every child’s first introduction to the wondrous world of words and pictures. So as an author/illustrator of picture books, I’m given the amazing opportunity to guide those first faltering footsteps into literacy. In short, I’m here to encourage children, parents, teachers and friends to read aloud and fall in love with books together.
And I must confess: I’m an addict! I can’t stop drawing and writing – and the older I become the worse I get! Occasionally, I do try to control myself and walk PAST my computer and art desk, but then those tell-tale signs begin… my eyes widen, my fingers start to tingle… and before I know it, I have another scathingly brilliant idea which I simply must jot down before the fit passes!
The hard part – is no matter where I am, I simply MUST stop and write or draw what’s in my head! So if you spot me at the bus stop or in the cinema with my head in my handbag – I’m not shy – I’m searching feverishly for the back of a shopping docket and an eyeliner pencil! No kidding!
How does my writing process work?
To date I have written and partially or fully illustrated 10 picture books, though how I got there for each one is vastly different.
My furry muse…
For some stories, I find myself coming up with the title first and saying (even though there is nobody else in the room): “Hmm, now that’s a great title for a story! I wonder what happens?”
Then there’ll be a slight pause before I add excitedly: “Let’s find out, shall we?”
(By this point there are usually two lazy cats lolling about on my keyboard which I need to move aside so I can start tapping straight away.)
I often write in rhyme. In fact I find it hard not to. I think this hails back to my Third Grade days, when I was taught by rote. Classrooms in the 60s and 70s resonated with it. Poetry, spelling lists, times tables… and by golly it worked too! Most kids thought learning by rote was about as enjoyable as eating a jar of Perkins Paste, but I believe it taught me the joys of rhythm. And rhyme. (And I guess it’s not a bad thing to know your times tables!)
When I’m writing, I try to give first priority to the words and ask the pictures (very politely) to just wait their turn. For the pictures, the first thing I do is go back over the story, line by line, and write (in words) next to the text, what I see happening. I do this for the whole story. Then I go back to the beginning and just sit and think; sometimes for hours.
I don’t listen to any music or drink tea or coffee. I just look out of the windows of my study at the green, green trees… and think. (And I can’t recommend this activity too highly.) I believe this is where some of my best work comes from. During this time I open the door to the illustrations and a number of characters (who just can’t wait any longer) come barging in. From there, I just start scribbling with a 2B pencil. And believe me, I go through a lot of pencils and a lot of paper!
Who’s up next Monday, 24 March:
Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally-bestselling, award-winning author of 30 books, published in 15 countries. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called “one of the finest writers of this generation”. The Wild Girl tells the story of star-crossed lovers Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, who told him many of the most world’s most famous fairytales. It was recently named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013 by Australian readers. Bitter Greens received an Honourable Mention in The Norma K. Hemming Award, and was called “the best fairytale retelling since Angela Carter”. Kate’s books for children include the award-winning The Gypsy Crown, The Puzzle Ring and The Starthorn Tree.
Adrian Deans is a lawyer, journalist and novelist who grew up in the bushy north of Sydney, which forms an occasional backdrop to his evil stories. He writes in a range of genres but has had the greatest success in crime with Mr Cleansheets (April 2010) and Straight Jacket (September 2013). He aims to write immersive novels that bounce along at a decent clip, but are textured enough to go on giving up their secrets over multiple readings.
Can’t wait to read their responses next week!