Inspired by Simmone Howell’s Anatomy of a Novel, this is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work.
Australian author Hazel Edwards talks about her writing process.
The Bonus of A Creative Family Life
One of the pleasures of being a children’s author is getting to know the creative families of other authors and illustrators. Often their partners or children are in problem-solving occupations too.
Check out my theory! How many film-makers, animators, editors, actors, literary agents, painters, sculptors or graphic designers emerge? (Of course a few financial planners, electricians , lawyers or plumbers might be of more immediate use, but…)
Does it make you wonder about genetic inheritance? Or is it just a nurturing environment where ideas are valued?
But in my case, Gabrielle’s mother Mabel Wang taught Chinese cooking to my husband. We have all benefitted from this. And I’ve always considered Gabrielle’s ’The Garden of Empress Cassia’ to be a significant ‘coming of age of the artist’ novel and am delighted it has been so widely translated.
Despite my ‘creativity’ theory. I didn’t come from a family of writers. But they were readers, who valued ideas.
In my adult life, I’ve noticed the children or grandchildren of authors do read avidly the works of other authors whom they know personally. Many value personally autographed copies or collect artwork from children’s book illustrations.
And are starting to collect film DVDs or Youtube animations.
Our children consider it the norm to value words, images and ideas because many visitors to their homes, do so. Intellectual property is the important investment.
Domestic and professional lives become parallel and since many creators have home offices, or travel together to festivals or overlap at literary events, this is a bonus. Sometimes we even collaborate on books.
With e-mail , web-cam or blogs, we are not limited to geographic proximity.
How did you get your first book published?
YA novel ‘General Store’ was my first published book. This was the working title, because the setting was a general store. ‘Write about what you know’ , I was told. So I did. We’d lived in a country store when I was 14 . These days I would have chosen a better, non-boring title, but frankly I expected to write three novels as an apprenticeship before acceptance. I drafted a list of the publishers I was going to try in order. But the Hodder & Stoughton acceptance stunned me. So I had my first baby and first book in the year I turned 27. And then came the Finnish translation, so the title was different anyway.
Since then I’ve had rejections, like everyone else. You re-write, and try again. Or try that idea in another format.
Your writing routine?
As a result of writing every spare minute when I had young children napping, I’m sort of disciplined. Research I often combined with family life, so you can chart that from the settings of my books. Orienteering. The airports of the Frequent Flyer Twins mysteries, which are being re-issued as e-books.
I write from 8am for about 5 hours, but increasingly the administrivia of being an author eats into my writing time. I use my web-site to provide answers for aspiring writers, resources and links with downloadable hi-res author photo etc. In transit, I use an Apple Mac laptop, which is relevant for Powerpoint talks, but I’m still learning its capabilities. Currently I’m converting old ‘favourite’ titles to e-books to be available from my website soon.
Where do you work?
Recently we’ve had a few guests who wanted to see or photograph an author’s work space.The dilemma for a writer, is do you ‘tidy up’ or leave it ‘real’?
- Coffee mug. Have a number with logos from various organisations who tend to give spoons, pens or mugs to female authors and bottles of wine to male authors.
- No-name Computer. Admittedly my car GPS is called Brunhilda. I’m moving slowly from my printer-linked pc across to my laptop which is not printer linked, yet. On my electronic to-do list. When I first started writing, I had a typewriter called Curser which occupied about 20% of my desk. Now I have a computer, modem, mouse, Skype microphone, web-cam, router and various USBs & disks which occupy 80%
- International Web-chats with camera range, mean my husband will ‘tidy up’ his desk which has been behind my head on a NZ bookstore launch, online.
- Battered diary is in a standup holder, so I remember what I’m supposed to do that week as opposed to what I have done.
- Side drawer with ABN,- website and GST registered stamp. Saves a bit of form filling. Also a Recycled to save time and trees stamp which I use on re-gifted padded bags.
- WIP folders, (I hate filing and only do it when I’m brain dead)
- Hippo memorabilia. I’m a minimalist, but people kindly give me hippo memorabilia like china models.
- Shelf with 2 copies of each book published and a few translations.
- Posters from various literary events and my favourite from the National Museum toilet door. ‘Don’t just sit there…listen to the visiting authors speak…Apparently the male toilets had ‘Don’t just stand there…
- Inspiration quotes: ‘Pray to Allah but tether your camels.’ I don’t have a camel in my study.
I don’t listen to music while working .Whenever I do radio interview on the phone, the fridge has a heart attack, low flying planes buzz or the mower starts nearby. Murphy’s Law of home offices.
Forgot to mention Imagination. That’s a permanent resident.
Your latest book or WIP
I’m in my ‘history’ phase this year. ‘Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop’ is part of the commissioned Aussie Heroes series from New Frontier and ‘Fred Hollows’ is coming soon. ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’ has been updated by ghr Press and links to workshops. But the Pocket Bonfire premiere of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’ film, I am REALLY looking forward to.