Look for a Victorian gown and antique writing desk to find this superhero. Read on and find out more…
According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
Living in New Zealand, I’ve always held a fascination for the 19th Century pioneers of our country, especially the women. They needed strength of mind as well as body to survive, let alone flourish, in a country still coming to terms with its existence. Being a genealogist in love with history, these men and women and their ancestors drive my stories.
My early efforts were far too academic, looking and sounding more like a thesis than a story, but I kept them. I have too many resources cited and referenced to discard any of it. And while they may be boring, I don’t think they are suitable blackmail material – at least I hope not.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My number one partner in crime is my husband and best friend of 46 years. He’s the big picture thinker and puts my worries into perspective. My other partners are my fellow authors in Mairangi Writers – a critique group, who help me shape and fashion my work to the highest standard I am capable of (along with my publisher/editor friend Adrienne Morris of AM Publishing NZ). We meet every fortnight and read aloud our latest piece of writing to be openly commented upon. It helps enormously. We are honest with each other but caring.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
The past. I am totally fascinated with how our ancestors lived and what made them tick. I spend an enormous amount of time delving into family trees looking for stories. I’ll be found wandering around old cemeteries, reading old newspapers online and researching the history of the time and place looking for a character for my next story.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
An antique drop-front writing desk, hand made from NZ native timbers is home to my laptop. It resides in my sunny family room overlooking my secluded courtyard garden. I can hear the birds, smell the roses, and listen to the water trickling in the water feature. It’s peaceful and inspirational, reminding me to use all the senses when I’m writing.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
I read – I love reading. Always have done. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hand. I follow certain authors and try to analyse why they are successful. I also follow blogs and online posts offering good advice on structure and form to remind myself what I should be doing. You cannot be a writer and not read. Read, and read some more.
And walking. I live next to a park and when I need to rewrite words in my head to get them in the right order, I walk around the park and the duck pond until I’ve got them right, or I walk a little further and go to the beach if the solution eludes me and I need more time.
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Elegant, graceful and flattering gowns made from beautiful fabrics from around the late Victorian and early Edwardian period (As long as I didn’t have to do any housework, of course.) The clothing of that period was so feminine.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
Marketing! I love to write, but hate the selling side. I will play with words to my hearts’ content. I love words, but sometimes I get too bogged down in the history and have to delete screeds, but all of it is better than marketing.
I also risk getting buried in history and forgetting it’s the background not the story, but if I’ve been doing my job correctly the characters soon come to the fore again.
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
After a year of research, I began writing ‘The Girl from County Clare’ based on an Irish family who emigrated to Australia in 1886 and moved to New Zealand in 1902. The first part of the story, about leaving their village and travelling by ship to the Southern seas, was exciting and interesting. I got stuck when life in Australia became a drudgery of domestic work and family life where nothing changed from day to day. It took me a seemingly endless time wandering down Procrastination Street – blogging, researching, thinking, walking – trying to resolve the problem until I ditched reality and followed her dreams.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
Good editing and professional layout and design are essential. Don’t even think about putting a book out there for the public to read that hasn’t been read, reviewed and edited many, many times beforehand.
History is important, the facts must be correct but action and emotion is what drives a story forward. Mixing the two together successfully needs careful management.
A critique group is essential and writing friends keep you going when you begin to doubt yourself.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Having readers tell me they enjoyed the story. That is what story writing is all about. I write because I love to write – I love putting words together and finding new words. I write because I believe I have stories that need telling. I write because our every day history needs to be brought alive, but having people enjoy reading that history is all the reward I need.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
In hindsight, I wouldn’t change much, except I would decide on a brand early on. I wrote my first book (Daniel – retitled as The Disenchanted Soldier) as a personal family history story that I hoped would appeal to lovers of history. It did, but it wasn’t until I was half way through my second book (The Cornish Knot) that I realised I was going to write more stories about families and how they lived in previous centuries. I developed a logo (The Past Finders), but still hadn’t really decided on a brand design. On my fourth book (The Girl from County Clare) I decided I needed a brand and recovered and redesigned my earlier books to match.
I am happy and proud to say I am an indie author. I print my books either locally or through CreateSpace (depending on the quantities I want) and sell them by word of mouth, and I have e-books available on Amazon and Smashwords. I choose not to part of KDP Select so as not to limit my options, especially when I don’t rely on the American market.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
To edit: and then edit and edit again. The best writing comes from good editing. Removing extraneous words, unnecessary repetition, irrelevant history and just plain waffle. We all do it, and we know we do. It’s being prepared to delete it before the reader sees it that counts.
And never give up. Write something everyday even if it’s no good and you won’t use it. Write it down – it will lead you to something better. Let the mind take you where it will.
Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
Readers tell me my latest release, ‘The Girl from County Clare’ is my best yet. Full of action and emotion and a real page turner. What more could an author ask?
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I have two more books developing somewhere in my sub-conscious as I travel around the country in our caravan, and which are about to break free. Both are about women and set in New Zealand during the late 1800s and first part of the 20th century.
The Treaty of Waitangi had been signed in 1840 and only 50 years or so later, New Zealand was still a nation coming to terms with itself, defining what it meant to be a New Zealander and writing its history as it went. How could I not want to write about such beginnings and the ordinary people who shaped our nation?
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