In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.
Posts tagged ‘writing inspiration’
Rebecca Bowyer, author and book reviewer, is a self-confessed, card-carrying story addict. On her Story Addict website, she offers range of new release recommendations, particularly historical, contemporary, literary and speculative fiction. You won’t find romance or horror books, but you will find a wealth of inspired and engaging reads in her carefully curated collection. Her debut novel Maternal Instinct, a speculative fiction that explores the humanity of love, has just been released to fab reviews.
Welcome, Rebecca, and thank you so much for chatting with me today.
Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?
Rebecca: I’m a mum who also works in the paid workforce, living in Melbourne, with two gorgeous kids aged 7 and 9 and a lovely husband. I love coffee, pancakes and comfy armchairs and I don’t like brightly coloured Lego-style apartment blocks.
The relevance of all this will be clear to anyone who has read Maternal Instinct!
Of course! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
That award goes to the scene from my novel, Maternal Instinct, where 39-year-old Alice is trying to teach her teen-aged daughter, Monica, how to hand-express breast milk in the back room of a hair salon.
The scene is wedged into other, quite serious, conversations about whether Monica will be required to give up her 6-month-old baby to be raised by the state (she will be) and what would happen if she refused to (they would take him anyway). Australia in 2040 is primarily centred around the needs of children and all children must be raised by professional parents called ‘Maters’ and ‘Paters’.
But a new mother’s body doesn’t respect serious conversations about social structures – the milk needs to come when the milk needs to come.
Dealing with the messy, physical realities of new motherhood is a real bonding moment for Alice and Monica, who have always had a fairly formal relationship. It also provides some comic relief when Monica gets the hand-expressing horribly wrong!
That’s wonderful. If I told one of your characters that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Oliver, Alice’s partner, has the most ‘maternal instinct’ of any character in Maternal Instinct. He’s a professional father – a ‘Pater’ – and picture-book author who has his head in the clouds most of the time.
Oliver has to face some heart-wrenching decisions about his kids throughout the novel. I think if you told him he was imaginary, he’d probably pause and consider it for a moment. Then, quite calmly, he’d nod and say to you, “That’s okay. As long as the kids and Alice are imaginary too so I can stay with them.” Then he’d probably stand up and call out, “Ellie, stop jumping on your brother!”
That’s quite touching, thank you. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
My earliest memory of meeting an author was at the schools component of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival back in the mid-90s. I was obsessed with the Obernewtyn Chronicles and was absolutely thrilled to hear Isobelle Carmody speak. She’s an inspiring speaker and a magical storyteller with an incredible imagination. Her advice has stuck with me ever since – start with the ‘What if?’ and follow the story.
Of course, 25 years later it seems like obvious advice, but it was a revelation to teenaged-me, and I certainly used her advice when writing my first novel.
Maternal Instinct starts from the premise of ‘What if parenting was a high-prestige, highly paid profession?’ What would that mean for the rest of society? What would that look like?
I built a whole world around that single ‘What if?’. It was a whole lot of fun.
That’s such a great premise! Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago I was trying to fall pregnant with my first child. I was still convinced that I was never going to be a writer and had given up altogether.
I’d like to tell myself:
“In the next few years your world will be entirely shattered and pieced back together. When you come out the other side of the pregnancy/baby/toddler labyrinth you’ll find the creative drive you lost somewhere around the end of university.
“Your children will help you rediscover your creativity. Your husband and extended family will help you nurture it. And your online parenting, writing and reading community – which you haven’t yet started to build – will help you bring the end product to life.
“In ten years, you’ll be a published author.”
Oh, that’s such good advice … all we need is a time machine … What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have at least 3 writing roles at the moment. First, my day job is as a technical web content writer. Second, I run a book blog called Story Addict where I publish reviews. And third is my fiction writing.
Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I ‘quit’ fiction writing at least every 6 months or so. I’ve recently un-quit (again) and have finished off the first draft of my next novel, Time Thief. This one is based on the premise of, ‘What if, as a parent, you could buy time?’ What would that world look like? What would that drive you to do as a parent?
As you can tell, my books are basically written around every parent’s fantasies! Being valued, having more time…
More time! Now that’s something I really might be tempted to steal. And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I would be the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The ability to drop in and out whenever I felt like it, make witty comments and then observe the fallout from the safety of invisibility sounds like fun.
Aha! I see the gem of another story: parent can become invisible and actually does have eyes in the back of her head…LOL. Thank you so much for chatting with me, rebecca, I’m very excited to read more from you asap.
Website: Story Addict
Facebook: Rebecca Bowyer – author
Maternal Instinct, by Rebecca Bowyer, is now available at online bookstores around the world. For a full list head to: Maternal Instinct | Story Addict
B.G. Hilton has a fascination with the weird and wonderful, from Victorian-inspired steampunk to a place where low fantasy meets high soap opera … and no doubt beyond! Then there’s Leonard Nimoy and Dr Who to add to the mix.
Ben’s debut novel will be published by the awesome Odyssey Books (where books are always an adventure!) next year. It’s titled Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys and promises to be a rollercoaster read.
Welcome to last Word of the Week, Ben, great to meet you! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Ben: I was always an eclectic reader, even when I was young. The seed for my novel ‘Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys’ came from a book of trivia for kids – probably from Scholastic? I’m not sure.
This book had an article about a weird science-fictiony idea, a hoax that people in the Nineteenth Century believed to be true. Somehow, this idea stuck with me for thirty-odd years and became the basis for my novel. I’ve always been interested in Victoriana, so this idea joined with a bunch of other things that fascinated me about the era – the music hall, weird quack medicines, steam power, the Royal Navy and more.
So, coming the long way round to answering the question, what they should know is I’m a bit of a magpie with ideas, and when I’m writing I try to make use of them.
What a great combination of notions! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
For me, the easiest part of writing is dialogue – I’d write dialogue only novels if I could get away with it. For that reason, the scenes I’m most proud of are the ones that are largely or completely dialogue free. They’re my biggest challenge to write. My favourite is a scene in Charlie and Gladys in which one of my protagonists, Charlie Decharles, escapes from a boat and swims for safety across a freezing river so for obvious reasons he can’t say anything. It’s probably the least complicated action sequence in the book, but I think it’s pretty pacey and it captures Charlie’s struggle against the river. And it ends with Charlie having a nice little chat with his rescuers, so it makes me happy on that level.
So maybe you’ll be writing plays and film scripts in the future! Or episodes of Dr Who. That would be cool. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
My protagonists probably wouldn’t care – Gladys is too practical to let something like that worry her and Charlie would probably pretend to understand but not really follow. The character who would react in the most interesting way is Charlie’s mother, Lady Decharles. I think she’d try to take advantage of the situation by outsmarting me, the author. She’d probably succeed, too. She’s much smarter than I am.
I like the sound of her! Can’t wait for her to appear. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
When you’re in a writing class and they ask you that question, you’re supposed to say Hemingway or Carver or someone like that, I don’t know. I love reading great works of serious literature when I’m in the mood for it — but they don’t make me think ‘I should try that; I should do that’. The people who make me want to write are more like Harry Harrison, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, Frederic Brown, Robert Holmes, Cherie Priest. Not writers of deathless prose, perhaps, but entertaining writers with something real to say. That’s the sort of writer I want to be.
Entertaining and real – perfect goals, IMHO. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago, I was alone and struggling to balance my studies with a job that I hated. I guess I should say to myself ‘hang in there’ – but I actually did, so it wouldn’t be particularly useful advice. More practically, I think I should have told myself to spend more time hanging out with other writers when I had all that time to socialise. Now I’m a dad, and I just have too much cleaning to do.
No, wait, that’s what I’d do. I’d tell myself – ‘learn to be a more efficient cleaner, and also get used to finishing half-eaten bananas’.
That’s hilarious! Great answer. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
Short term? Marketing. Lots and lots of marketing.
Longer term, I’m working on a sequel to Charlie and Gladys. Also, I have a horror-inspired speculative fiction manuscript I’m trying to get into publishable shape. It’s about a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she learns that she’s Frankenstein’s granddaughter. To escape from her family’s enemies, she must seek shelter with the creatures that her ancestors have made and cast out. I think it’s a basically a good manuscript, but the setting was very misjudged, so it needs a serious rewrite.
Great heavens, that sounds interesting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I hate to say it, but probably I’m most like Mr Toad from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in that I get very enthusiastic about things and then lose interest in them. It’s not a bad thing for a writer, having dozens of past obsessions that I can call on when I need. Saves a lot of time researching, sometimes.
My wife says I’m like Professor Moriarty. That could mean that I have big plans that don’t go anywhere or just that I rock a top hat. Or maybe she’s just saying I’m good at maths. I’m not sure I want to know, so I didn’t ask.
Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Ben. Can’t wait to meet Charlie and Gladys.
The wonderfully talented Dr Eugen M. Bacon (MA, MSc, PhD) studied at Maritime Campus, less than two minutes’ walk from The Royal Observatory of the Greenwich Meridian.
Today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, Eugen is a computer graduate who has mentally re-engineered herself into creative writing. Eugen has published over 100 short stories and articles and multiple anthologies worldwide.
She is also a professional editor, of the very highest quality (yes, she edits some of my work! Much to my delight.) Today Eugen has agreed to tell us a bit about herself and her writing.
LWOTW: Welcome, Eugen! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Eugen: I knew as a child that writing took me to a mystical place. There was flair in my letters when I wrote them—remember real letters, pen on paper, before email? Always vivid in my imagination, English composition was my favourite subject in primary and secondary school.
I express myself best in writing. I look at my text, and it’s exactly what I mean to say. Sometimes I feel but lack words to clarify the feeling until I put it to text.
A natural-born writer, then. That’s impressive! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I love dreams, especially when my departed beloveds come to visit. I dream in colours and smells and sounds. Never music, I don’t think… But I hear conversations and the timbre of voice, for example my mother’s. And I imagine. I always imagine.
Planning is a discipline that came as part of doctorate studies. It was excruciating but necessary to chart my non-fiction. But shorter fiction is spontaneous. Planning would ruin it!
Sounds like a great balance you have there. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Please don’t make me choose! Every text has led me to where I am. Even those stupid earlier pieces Amazon has refused to take down! I was young and impulsive, and I really wanted to get published.
My very first achievement came in winning a writing competition and the Writers Bureau in the UK published ‘Morning Dew’, my very first publication. I later republished the short story as ‘The Writer’—it is a cathartic piece that is also autoethnographic, fictionalised. It was also my first earnings as a writer. Fifty pounds.
Frankly, the doctorate opened the literary world. Suddenly I networked and had access to publishers who were open to give my work a go.
Meerkat Press is a highlight, one of the best publishers to work with. The US book tour for Claiming T-Mo is just magic.
So many highlights, of course you can’t choose. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I love my work as an editor, especially when I read a piece of text that stirs me.
I would love to write professionally, but all formal reports on writers’ earnings paint a dismal picture. Only a rare few authors can truly live on writing alone without subsidiary income.
I am excited about current writing projects—a cultural novella set in Australia; a graphic collection of speculative flash fiction; a prose poetry collaboration… I also have a collection of speculative fiction out with Meerkat Press in 2020.
Sounds like you have plenty to be getting on with. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Edit, edit, edit. Make sure you professionally edit your work. Stay away from boutique publishers who will snatch all your publishing rights and continue to make the work available long after you’d rather they didn’t.
And, most importantly, don’t keep a shrine of rejection slips. Work at quality, read the authors who most inspire you, and keep submitting until your work finds the right home.
Great advice there. And finally:
Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Professor Moriarty. A tantalising mastermind. S/he’d be a person of colour.
Aha! That makes a kind of sense, I must say.
Thank you so much Eugen for having this week’s Last Word.
LJ Evans, my guest on today’s Last Word of the Week, is an award winning author who lives in the California Central Valley with her husband, daughter, and the three terrors called cats. She’s been writing compulsively since she was a little girl and will often pull the car over to write when a song lyric strikes her. While she currently spends her days teaching 1st grade in a local public school, she spends her free time reading and writing, as well as binge watching original shows like The Crown, Victoria, and Stranger Things.
If you ask her the one thing she won’t do, it’s pretty much anything that involves dirt—sports, gardening, or otherwise. But she loves to write about all of those things, and her first published heroine was pretty much involved with dirt on a daily basis. Which is exactly what LJ loves about fiction novels—the characters can be everything you’re not and still make their way into your heart.
LWOTW: Welcome, LJ, it’s such pleasure to meet you! Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer?
LJ Evans: This question always has me stalling out. I mean…I’ve written since I was a little girl. Stories by myself. Stories with my sister. Novels. Screenplays. I published my first book, MY LIFE AS A COUNTRY ALBUM, because my sister “made me.” It even won an award, and the first 3 books in the series were nominated for and won some awards, and yet I still didn’t feel like a “writer.” I didn’t feel like I deserved that “tag.” Then, I joined a group of other writers online in December who were talking about all the same things as me. Plot problems, inspiration problems, publishing dilemmas, and it finally clicked. I am a writer. I am an author. It doesn’t matter what happens with the books I write (even if no one reads them). I love to create worlds and characters and stories, and that’s all it takes to be a writer.
You are SO a writer! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Imagination. I get a LOT of inspiration from music. I’ll be listening to a song and the lyrics and I’ll see a whole scene or a whole novel plot including the characters and sometimes even their names. Is that a little bit of dreams and imagination? I don’t know. I do know that I’m not a planner. I don’t plot out stories before I start, so sometimes that means I have to start over or do more rewrites, but for me, I have to just learn the characters and the story as a I go. I’ve also learned that this is okay. To not plan. There is no one way to write just like there is not just one book that fits everyone. Be you as you write, and that will shine through.
All my books have playlists…in fact, music is so entwined in my books that each chapter starts with a song title. My latest book has over 30 songs tied to it.
That’s completely inspirational. I love it, thank you! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Having my first book win the Independent Author Network’s Young Adult Book of the Year was pretty cool. Having no idea, but being nominated for an UTOPiCON Award was huge. But really, the true HIGHLIGHT of my career has been when people I don’t know reach out to me and tell me that my book impacted them in some way. I’ve had lots of parents of Type 1 diabetes children reach out to me, and it makes me realize that I’ve brought attention to a disease that is often overlooked because a lot of people don’t get that Type 1 is NOTHING like Type 2 diabetes. People don’t understand that Type 1 can kill you in a heart beat or slowly and painfully. I love that my story has reached a community of people and wound its way into their hearts. That for me, is the best gift that I can ever have been given back.
That is wonderful. To touch other lives in such a positive way must be very rewarding. Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Summer. With time to cuddle the cats, time to see my girlie who is on her own creative writing journey at college, and time to read and write.
Oh…did you mean writing? 😉I’m definitely looking forward to writing some spin offs to my last book with characters that people have been asking for. Mac Truck to the rescue!
Well, writing and life are intertwined, aren’t they! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t get hung up on how others are telling you to write. Write your way. Write your thoughts. Let “you” shine through. But do it a lot. Practice a lot. Write a lot. That doesn’t mean it has to be every day or a certain word count. It’s okay to ebb and flow in the volume of your writing and what you write. Just do it with your own authenticity. Then… TAKE THE RISK to put it out in the world. It’ll be worth it. I promise.
And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
I WANT to be Jenny Weasley. She was cool, quiet, and powerful. If I can’t be her, then I’ll be Veronica Mars. Do you have the Veronica Mars show in Australia? It has been “off” for several years, but has a new season coming out on Hulu in July! Veronica is played by Kristen Bell, and she’s like a modern-day sassy, bada$$ Nancy Drew. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that sassy, and I’d love to be.
Great choices there. And isn’t it wonderful how writing allows us to let out our sassiest selves?
Thank you so much for speaking with me today. A truly inspirational interview. Plus music! What could be better?
Find out more about LJ and her books at www.ljevansbooks.com
AUTHOR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES:
Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/LJsMusicandStories/
Author Alex Marchant is first and foremost a Ricardian – yes, read on for more information. Alex also has a background in archaeology and publishing. When she’s not writing, she strides about the moors devising ways to help the rest of us learn about the real Richard III – not the maligned chap of Shakespeare’s telling, but the actual king whose skeleton was recently discovered under a carpark in Leicester.
Lovely to meet you Alex. Can you talk a bit about when you first realised that you are a writer?
That’s quite a difficult question, but there were probably two main occasions – the first at the age of about seven or eight when I began to write my first ‘book’ (I was convinced that I could do as well as C. S. Lewis, who was my favourite author at the time – the main differences being that I had a horse-emperor rather than a lion and a magic fireplace for the children to go through instead of a wardrobe!). The second I guess was when I published my first book, The Order of the White Boar, and the first five-star reviews came rolling in. I have to admit to being rather older on the second occasion than on the first…
But dreams do come true, as we see! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Good grief – and there was me, thinking it was perhaps odd for writing to be regularly inspired by dreams, but you’ve placed it first in your question! I wouldn’t say I rely on them, but dreams have fed into my writing at important times. Particularly those ‘between sleeping and waking’ types of dreams. Often an issue that’s been bothering me for a while is resolved in that way – just as I surface from sleep in the morning, or perhaps during the night. I don’t imagine I’m the only writer who always has to have a notebook and pen by the bed to catch ideas, just in case. Otherwise a large proportion of my ideas come while I’m on autopilot in the shower or walking the dog on a familiar path across the moors. Nowadays I do plan more than I used to, to ensure a decent structure for the ideas that come at odd moments like that.
Autopilot times are very important, I find. Especially dog-walking. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
A single highlight is difficult to pinpoint. Having come rather late to writing seriously, I’ve been enjoying almost every part of the process of independent publishing. The enthusiastic reception of my books – among both people already interested in my lead character, Richard III, and people who previously had barely given him a thought – has been fantastic, and meeting readers at various events is always a buzz, particularly children, as the books are primarily aimed at young people aged 10 and above.
One of the best was when a young student remembered me from a school author visit, and came up to my stall at an event months later and in a completely different county, a big grin on her face, asking me to sign the sequel. Another highlight was being asked to King Richard’s 566th birthday party at Middleham Castle as special guest to cut his cake, while a very early confidence boost came when I was notified that my first completed manuscript, Time out of Time, had won the Chapter One Children’s Novel Award.
No wonder you have trouble choosing one highlight! What a great collection of fabulous happenings. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I sell a lot of my books at events and I’m again attending a range of medieval festivals over the summer, including Bosworth and Tewkesbury – sites of two iconic battles in King Richard’s life. Only one of them features in my books – and last year it was very emotional to be able to read an excerpt from The King’s Man only yards from the site of the king’s death. I’m also looking forward to reading all the entries for the new anthology I’m editing which will be sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK – a follow-up to last year’s collection of Richard III-inspired fiction, Grant Me the Carving of My Name, which has proved so popular. (Details of how to submit can be found at https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/call-for-submissions-to-new-richardiii-anthology/, deadline 19 May)
Thanks for the tip!If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Never give up! Keep reading, keep writing, believe in yourself, tap into all the positive energy flowing from fellow authors, and don’t take no for an answer from agents or publishers.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Will Stanton, lead character of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising – the original boy who wakes up on his eleventh birthday to discover he’s not ordinary after all. We all need that sort of magic in our lives. (J. K. Rowling is apparently also a fan…)
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Alex. It’s been an absoloute pleasure to meet you.
Buy links: mybook.to/WhiteBoar
Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels including her latest, The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me, a novel about the healing power of the music of the Boss.
A longtime Springsteen fan, and native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester, Barbara lives with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She has travelled to forty-seven states and six continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.
Barbara’s many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, reporter, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress, and postal worker. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family, planning her next adventure, and listening to the Boss.
With that background, I can’t wait to hear how Barbara approaches writing. ‘I’m sick of sitting right here trying to write this book’ (Dancing in the Dark) seems to be one line from the Boss that doesn’t apply!
LWOTW: Welcome, Barbara. Tell me about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Barbara: As a child I was drawn to books at an early age. I became lost in stories my parents read to me of far off lands and fairytales. I started writing stories and plays that my brother and I performed for family. I never stopped. My first produced play was for my Girl Scout troop. That was a fractured fairytale about a good wolf and an evil Red Riding Hood. Ah, I can still feel the joy caused by the audience clapping.
I love the sound of that version – the good wolf especially. Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I have a vivid imagination. I can’t control it but have learned to depend on it and to suddenly be taken someplace new and unexpected. Once there, other skills take over.
What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Having my latest novel The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me published brought me so much pleasure. What a kick to see it out there. But the part that really made me happy was the incredible fan mail I received. There’s simply nothing like having complete strangers connect with my work to the extent that they are so moved they write and tell me about it. We are all human and that need to connect is real and is so rewarding when we accomplish it.
That sounds wonderful. What a great experience. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I’m looking forward to finishing another novel so stay tuned! And to traveling more now that my husband is retired.
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read widely. Write often. And find a place to share your work.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Alice in Wonderland! I so would love to jump down that rabbit hole.
That does sound like a great place to travel Thank you so much for talking with me today, Barbara. I can’t wait for news of the new novel.
Paula Harmon writes terrific books so many of you will know of her already (such as Murder Brittanica). I’m very glad to introduce Paula to LWOTW so we all have a chance to get to know a little more about her.
LWOTW: Welcome, Paula! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Paula: The first I can remember was when I was about six or so. It was about the Clangers because I was a huge fan and fundamentally wanted to live in a world a lot more exciting than my own.
And the Clangers were always exciting, I agree! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I have very vivid dreams and they often lead to stories if I can remember them long enough to write them down. I’m also a great day-dreamer and spend a lot of time wondering ‘what if…’ – What if I went somewhere different? What if that person is in disguise? What if I found another world behind that door? Having said that I do plan stories a bit – the longer ones that is.
That sounds like a great combination of writerly imagination and organisation. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I think getting wonderful feedback from readers and interacting with them at writers’ events. I have read from ‘Kindling’, ‘The Advent Calendar’ and ‘Murder Britannica’ and it’s fantastic when people respond with laughter or sighs or surprise in all the places you want them to. And it was great to be able to publish ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’ in time to give it to my mother as an 80th birthday present. It is a tribute to my eccentric late father.
What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m working on a sequel to ‘Murder Britannica’ which I hope to have out in 2019 if possible and on the fifth in the ‘Caster and Fleet’ Series. (By the time you read this, the fourth – ’The Case of the Masquerade Mob’ – will have been out a month.)
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Write something regularly, even if it’s a couple of sentences or some dialogue – it keeps your writing muscles supple and you never know what it might lead to.
Great advice there! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
A deep wine red.
Thank you so much Paula for speaking with me this week.
Today on our occasional Something to Say series of interviews with a variety of creative folk, I’m very pleased to speak with Perth playwright Liz Newell, whose play Alone Outside (what a chilling title!) has finally reached us over here in the east of Australia after debuting in Perth in 2017.
STS: Welcome, Liz. You have exciting news for us?
Liz: My one-woman play Alone Outside is making its East Coast debut as part of Melbourne Fringe, thanks to the glorious guys at Lab Kelpie. It’s on in the Fringe Hub at Arts House from September 14-29. It’s a warm, funny, occasionally bittersweet exploration about the journey home – about how the things we leave often wait for us to get back, and about how we wouldn’t be who we are if it weren’t for where we’ve come from (whether we like it or not). The play premiered in my hometown Perth in 2017 as part of FRINGE WORLD Festival at The Blue Room Theatre, so this is its second outing, and my first play to be produced on the East Coast, so it’s a pretty exciting time.
STS: Alone Outside sounds very interesting. What aspect of the play do you relate to most – the character, a scene, an effect? Can you tell us more about that?
Alone Outside is a pretty personal work for me – by no means autobiographical, because I’m nothing like Daphne is (I wish I were!), but it’s very much based on people and places I’ve experienced. I grew up in a small regional city in south-west WA and the story takes place during a woman’s first few days back in her small home town after a long absence. The coast, the rolling green hills, the little islands in the harbour, the cold nights and warm days, the dingy pubs, the school friends she hasn’t seen for ages who are all married now – it’s not much of a stretch for my imagination because I’ve experienced it first hand many times.
Daphne also wrestles with this sense of unease upon her return, with the knowledge that she doesn’t particularly enjoy being there anymore, but that so much of who she is now has to do with the place and its people. It’s strange to confront the things that make us who we are, and even stranger when we’re not sure if we like them anymore, and I think a lot of people who grew up in places or situations they don’t look back on fondly can relate to that.
Playwright Liz Newell and performer Sharon Davis.
STS: Yes, I totally agree. What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?
Writing is the only thing I absolutely love doing and feel like I sort of know how to do. Other things I probably know how to do, but don’t enjoy, or I do enjoy, but I don’t know how to do them.
I draw a lot of inspiration and motivation from theatre and TV shows and any kinds of stories that I see and think are phenomenal in one way or another – well acted, well written, well structured, a solid story, a surprising character arc, anything. I saw Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls (directed by Imara Savage and featuring Helen Thomson and Kate Box, amidst an all-star cast of ladies) in March this year and I still think about it nearly every day. I also recently devoured US sci-fi show Counterpart on SBSonDemand in a single weekend; it’s brilliantly acted, and a master class in narrative structure. To create something at least half as good as the things that light a fire in my belly, and maybe give some other audience member the experience that I once had, is the dragon I’m forever chasing.
A lot of my work is very character-driven and female-centric, and I think it’s really important, especially in this day and age, to give people the chance to see themselves onstage wherever possible – especially, with any due respect, people who aren’t Straight White Middle Class Males. I’d like to give a bit of a voice however I can to anyone who can’t see themselves in anything Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and others of the Canon have ever written.
STS: Chasing dragons, eh? Many writers have described their processes using analogies – Hemingway staring at a blank page until he sweats blood for example. What can you say about your process?
Hemingway’s “sit at a typewriter and bleed” is a classic. I think of that often and I think there’s an important lesson in there that I like to remember – that in order for words to really sit perfectly on the page, or for a story or scene to really sing, you do have to put a tiny piece of yourself into what you’re doing; some small truth which, if it weren’t there, the work would be lesser for it. The audience might never know what it truly means, and you might never tell anyone how true it is to you, but it’s still there, doing an important job.
I’m also a fan of the often-used expression that to write a first draft is to just “vomit onto the page” and deal with it later; the key is to just get something out as a starting point. It certainly feels like that sometimes when you’re pushing through a scene or plot point that you’re not convinced is working yet, and all the words on the page look like slop.
Bleeding, vomiting, it’s all pretty unpleasant stuff but then, the act of writing can be pretty brutal!
For my overall process, I tend to think of every beat or scene as a building block. I move them around, stack them on top of one another, replace them with bigger, better ones. Eventually, hopefully, you end up with something strong enough to bear the weight of the director, actors and creative team who will eventually jump up and down on it in rehearsals.
STS: Wonderful images; thank you for those! Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
Disorganised. Stubborn. Ambitious. Determined. Inconsistent.
Wow, some great foremost protagonist attributes there, Liz. Thank you so much for having Something to Say. It’s been a complete pleasure. Go catch that dragon.
ALONE OUTSIDE plays at the Fringe Hub, Arts House, North Melbourne 14-29 September 2018. To book, go to http://bit.ly/AloneOutside
All Alone Outside promotional and rehearsal images of performer Sharon Davis are by Adam Fawcett.
Image of the Rockies and headshot feature our playwright Liz Newell.