My Writing Process blog tour
Why do I write what I write?
My lovely, clever writer friend JACQUELINE HARVEY from Sydney, whom I first met in Perth during the All Saints’ Literature Festival when we were both published by Lothian Books, has invited me to continue this WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR, and I feel very honoured to have been handed the baton for this week.
Jacqueline is a very different writer to me. She writes wonderful girl-oriented series, like the gorgeous Alice-Miranda, which are so entertaining and have a great following of female readers both young and old. Yes, I admit it. I’m a great fan of A-M.
While Jacquie’s books have a girl focus, my writing more often than not boy-oriented. Let’s have a think about that. While Jacquie’s background is working in girls’ schools, I have one big brother, no sister, a husband and three sons. You get my drift. As writers I believe that we really are the product of our different environments. Jacquie knows girls. I know boys.
That said, what Jacquie and I do have in common as far as our writing goes is our love of travel and the fact that we use our travel experiences in our writing. For instance, PEEKING DUCKS (illustrated by Sally Rippin) and WARRIORS (both titles from Windy Hollow Books) are set in China and came directly from my visit to China in 2007 when I finally set out to meet the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, having wanted to see them since they were found in 1974.
POINT OF VIEW FOR WRITING STORIES BASED ON HISTORY
When I began writing WARRIORS I struggled with my choice of point of view because I had two stories to tell: the first was for whom and why the warrior statues were made some 2,000 years ago; and the second was how they were found in the 2oth century by farmers digging a well. How could I span that two thousand years? Apart from the paddock or a tree in Xi’an telling the story of how things unfolded over two centuries (and somehow I couldn’t see that point of view working!) I realised that the stories needed to be told in a traditional retelling format: a Chinese father telling the historical stories to his Australian/Chinese son.
Likewise with my recent title, BURNING THE BAILS: the story of the Ashes (illustrated by Ainsley Walters, One Day Hill, 2013) is a story set in 1882 and in essence it really is an historical story for adults interested in cricket but I wanted to write a tale that would capture the imagination of young readers, especially cricket tragics, many of whom (dare I say it as a girl who loves cricket) are boys. I want boys to read and enjoy this book. So, point of view was crucial to my achieving this aim.
The story is told from the viewpoint of young Russell Clarke who grew up to be my girlfriend. Louise’s grandfather. Louise ‘gave’ me her family’s story. Russell was six years old when his mother, Janet Lady Clarke, burned the bails after a social cricket match between England and some local Sunbury lads on Christmas Eve in 1882.
In my version of the Clarke family story, Russell wants to be like his older brother Clive. He wants his father’s acknowledgement. So I used actual historical facts mixed with “author’s licence” as I made the character of Russell come alive. I wanted him to play a crucial role in the creation of the Ashes: the procuring of the ceramic perfume bottle that became the famous “urn”.
In fact there is no historical record of who may have handed the urn to Lady Janet so for the purposes of my book it was perfect that it be young Russell who decided on the urn.
JACK’S BUGLE illustrated by first time illustrator Belinda Elliott (Windy Hollow Books, 2014) is an historically based picture book about Gallipoli in 1915, but ultimately it’s the story of a bugle that goes off to war with a young solider and returns home with his best mate.
The story idea came from a lady in Alice Springs telling me she had bought an old bugle at an op shop in Adelaide and then discovered it had originally come from Alice Springs. Beautifully circular.
What am I working on at the moment?
Currently I am obsessed with all things Italian and have been fortunate enough to travel to Italy for times and to stay there for extended periods over the last four years which has helped my learning the wonderful Italian language as well as giving me fantastic opportunities for research.
TROUBLES IN TUSCANY and SECRETS IN SICILY are two junior novels I’ve been writing over the last year or so. They are aimed at readers of 8-12, have 22,000 words each and follow the adventures in Italy of ten-year-old Gianni from Australia as he meets his Italian family for the first time and discovers family secrets.
I really love Gianni and meeting his extended family is a treat for both him and me. When I’ve stayed in Italy these last four times I’ve kept a diary and made research notes to which I refer as I’m writing. I jot down things I see real Italian doing and saying as they go about their daily lives as well as taking salient photos, the best reference for the smallest details.
Living in places like Florence or Sicily for an extended time has let me be immersed in daily Italian life and I’ve come to understand the people and their culture. I love Italy.
Now I want to share the cultural differences and the similarities through my writings so that Australian young readers can get a sense of the culture and the food of Italy. It’s such a rich culture and the food is to die for: and don’t most young Aussies eat spaghetti and pizza as though they are and have always been Australian cuisine?
The secret to writing success
Write about things that you’re passionate about and don’t follow trends. Stay true to yourself and write in your own way, sharing your take on life and people. If you try to emulate the current bestsellers your writing will be old hat by the time it gets published so find your own fresh approach. Your own individual storyline. And enjoy it.
Next week you’ll hear from JULIE FISON from Queensland.
Julie Fison is an author of books for children and young adults. She has written a series for kids who love adventure – Hazard River – as well as several titles for young adults – Tall, Dark and Distant, Lust and Found and Counterfeit Love. Her new book How to Get to Rio is part of the Choose Your Own Ever After series – out in April 2014. You can see her blog here. LINK