Why do you write?

I remember having to answer this question when I had my first interview with my (then, potential) agent. I haggled it over in my mind for a few days trying to come up with something wise and eloquent. I settled for honesty instead.

‘The reason I write,’ I told her, ‘is because I’ve tried stopping and I can’t’

I heard another writer on the radio once saying that she wrote because she had an unashamed fear of mediocrity. If I’m going to be completely honest, that’s a motivation, too. I have done a lot of different things in my lifetime and while I’ve had quite a degree of success, I’ve never felt completely sure that it’s what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always had this nagging thought that I wasn’t doing what I could do and what I really wanted to do.

How long have you been writing?

I wrote a lot in grade seven, then almost nothing for the whole of high school (that wasn’t for assessment) until University. I began writing children’s stories and moved onto longer fiction.

What did you do before writing?

Well, I have way too much creative energy. I used to knit my own jumpers in high school, paint and sew. I’d dabble in any craft there was. I usually go way out at Christmas time and hand-make my gifts. I’ve always got ideas for paintings and clothing, but usually nowadays, I don’t get much time. 

In terms of ‘career’, I have worked in aged care as a nurse and a Diversional Therapist, I’ve been a primary school teacher, practitioner in alternative health, adult educator, Professional dancer, research assistant and Author event coordinator. I’d like to be able to leave my list of ‘past careers’ where it is and just say ‘writer’ from now on. That’s the dream.

Where do you get your ideas?

Hmm. I find this a strange question. I just assume that everyone has an overload of ideas flooding into their mind everyday ranging from novel ideas, conversations with characters, ideas about quantum physics and alternative consciousness, ideas for the next abstract portrait painting, groovy skirts to make and the best Christmas Ginergread Houses. Really, I have to turn off my ideas often, just to turn any of them into reality. I don’t lack ideas. I do lack focus, sometimes, particularly when I get stuck on a scene or a section in a book. My tendency is to drift into another project to let the subconscious percolator solve things that my conscious brain can’t.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Trusting myself and the creative process. I’ve written a couple of books in a very intuitive, emotional way where it all just flooded out. Everything was there and I just had to keep up with what was pooring out of my mind. But my latest books have been much slower and more considered. I’m learning to trust. I think that a good writer knows that she/he has to learn how to write that book. I struggle with perfectionism. 

What is the best thing about writing?

It might sound corny, but it’s true to say that there isn’t much else – besides my husband and children – that makes me as happy as writing. In fact it’s a lot like having children. You’d do anything for them and the moments of joy are worth every ounce of pain and effort. I have never felt more satisfied and content that when I’ve finished writing something I’m really happy with. When my editor told me she absolutely loved Brown Skin Blue I felt like I’d found my place in the world. 

Is it true you were a Polynesian dancer?

Yes, and, actually, my love for dancing and writing are an equal tie. It’s just that at thirty something with flabby arms and hehem (childbearing ‘scars’) polynesian dancing is not something I can have anymore. It’s just lucky that my body can wither away into the private world of age and deterioration as a writer and no one really cares so long as my words are still nice to look at. 

When I was a child, I used to rush up to the large speakers in department stores, put my hands on them and dance. Mum enrolled me in ballet and I said it was way too slow. I tried jaz, tap, all the usual. But I wanted to do something else. A little like writing, I knew there was another avenue for me that I had to find. I went along to a Polynesian class with my neighbours and because I have dark skin, they let me into their Professional troupe. Even as a child of eight, I toured South Australia dancing all over for audiences large and small. I had the time of my life. I joined a professional group in Brisbane when I was ninteteen and for then next few years I performed everywhere. Some of the best moments of my life. I still have dreams about it. I love being on stage performing. Sigh. Illness, injury and the all too real plague of bitchyness and cat-scratching behind the scenes saw it come to an end. The sound of Polynesian music and drums still makes me cry. We think that my great-grandmother was either Polynesian or Aboriginal. It’s a mystery…

How do you get published?

Write good books, believe in yourself, listen to criticism, don’t think you know everything, be prepared to scrap every word you’ve ever written and start again, learn about the industry and listen to the professionals, get yourself out there and look for every opportunity to connect with writers, agents, publishers. Getting published isn’t the hard part. Writing a great book is hard. Everyone comes into the industry in different ways. Some are overnight success stores with the first book they’ve ever read, and others have to work at it. Some writers write book after book after book. Some write very few. I think that every writer has to find their own voice and their own path. It takes equal amounts of self awareness (knowing when you’ve got something that’s good) and self belief. 

What advice would you have for aspiring writers?

Write. Learn. Listen. Join Queensland Writers Centre (see links on this site)


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