Interview

Who were/are your writing inspirations
1. I’m inspired by Chinese philosophers like Laozi and Zhuangzi. I like to use some of their thoughts in my books. They talk about peace and harmony and going with the flow.

Where do your ideas come from for your books?

2. I write from my personal experiences because I’ve had lots adventures both really exciting ones and sad ones. An idea for a book might come from a dream as in The Garden of Empress Cassia a picture I see in my mind’s eye as in The Hidden Monastery, or a memory as in The Pearl of Tiger Bay. The rest comes from my imagination and what I observe around me.

What does your writing process involve?
3. The whole process of writing a novel from the time I have an idea until the time it is in the bookshop takes two or three years. Sometimes it can take longer than that if I come to a deadend and have to put the idea away for a while. Starting the novel is always the slowest part for me because I’m still getting to know the characters especially the main character. The main character is always a part of me. I do a lot of experimenting in the early stages and make many drafts for the first few chapters. When I write a new chapter, I like to go to a cafe with my notebook and sit in a corner drinking a chai latte. Later I come home and put the words onto my laptop.

What are some of your favourite words to use in your writing?
4. I don’t have any favorite words, but often, while I’m reading a novel, I’ll see a word that I haven’t used in my own writing before, then I will make a note of it and try and use it the next day. This is a great way to expand your vocabulary.

Who or what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
5. I enjoy all kinds of books – dramas, thrillers, detective novels, some science fiction, non-fiction.  But my favourite books are those written in a similar genre to mine – those set in the real world but have magical or supernatural elements to them.

Where’s your favourite place to read?
6. I love reading in bed, but unfortunately tend to fall asleep too soon. I’ve recently bought an ipod and listen to audiobooks. Now I read three times as many books as I did before because I listen to my ipod while I’m eating breakfast or taking my dog Saffy for a walk or sitting in the car driving somewhere. It’s great!

Who are some of your favourite book characters and why?
7. I have many favorite characters. One of them is Lyra from Northern Lights by Philip Pullman because she’s very brave. I like all the main characters from my own books too because I get to know them so well as if they are real people. And they always turn out just the way I want them to be, of course. They might start out being timid or fearful or sad, but they will always triumph in the end and become brave and contented souls who have gone on a long long journey.

What issues does your latest book deal with?
8. My latest book, The Lion Drummer, deals with breaking of tradition and aiming high. If you really want something, with determination and hard work, you are almost there.

What are you working on at the moment?
9. I’m working on four projects at the moment. A ghost story called A Ghost in my Suitcase which will be out in February 2009, a Young Adult novel called Little Paradise which will come out in 2010 and a picture story book about the origins of the Chinese zodiac. I’m trying to write an Aussie Nibble but it’s not going too smoothly so I might have to either scrap the idea or put it away for a while.

What’s your advice for budding young writers?
10. The only way to get better at anything and this doesn’t just apply to writing, is to practice very hard and very often. If you want more practical hints about writing, go to my website and click onto the page, Tips For Young Writers.

Interviewed by Natasha Boyd, Book Bonding Essendon

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