Nick Earls blog Q&A’s May 2013
Q1 What’s your typical daily routine?
It now has childcare drop-offs and pick-ups, which it didn’t used to, and I only work four days a week at the moment so that I can spend one weekday with my son. The writing part is still the same though – pick the clothes up off the floor, get dressed, write, run when the time is right, find clean clothes, shave every fifth day. I fit in writing whenever I can, since I’m trying to fit more life in now, as well as spending time on the road doing events.
Q2 What are you reading now?
I’ve just started The Son by Philipp Meyer. I think I’m going to love it.
Q3 What influences you most and is your passion? In our last interview you were involved War Cry.
I’m still involved with War Child. And I still love writing. I’m working on my 19th book and every one is still a puzzle I need to work out how to solve.
Q4 At Somerset Literary Festival, I attended your Blog and Author Platforms panel. Clearly you were pushed into the blogging arena. Do you find this helpful in promoting yourself and your books?
To some extent, it’s a good way to connect with the people who read them, but that’s not exactly the same as promoting books. I don’t know how well it does that, but I don’t think anyone’s game to not do it anymore. It’s a good way to connect with people though.
Q5 Do you plan your projects for the year ahead?
I usually have clear plans for 1-2 years ahead and sketchy plans for a couple of years beyond that, at least from the point of view of what I’m planning to write. My ideas are usually about five years ahead of my writing. But I need flexibility in case new opportunities come up, eg, the chance to work on a film adaptation.
Q6 Do you have a stash of writing notes to refer to when you start a new project?
More than a stash. In each case I have a pile of notes that’s taken a few years to come together, and from that I put together an outline that’s typically 1/4 of the length of the novel.
Q7 Friends tell me they love to hear you on the radio, do you have a secret longing to be a DJ?
Only if someone else was there to push all the buttons and do all the other hard work. Radio is a great medium to work in, but a whole lot of work goes on to put a show together.
Q8 Zig Zag St is a zany adult book about relationships and how to deal or not deal with break ups, while 48 Shades of Brown is a coming of age story for a younger market. How do you aim to write for a particular market age group?
I end up writing the stories that bug me until I write them out of my system. Some ideas can’t be shaken off, and I figure I should pay attention to that. Then I need to find the right people to inhabit them. Sometimes those people are 16, in Word Hunters they’re 12, in the book I’m writing now the central character’s 49 – because the details wouldn’t fit with a teenager or someone in their 20s. As much as possible, I do what’s right for the story and then face the marketplace. In the case of Word Hunters, I was prepared to call in some expert editorial help, since it was quite a stretch to write a big time-travel adventure trilogy with 12-year-olds at the heart of it, but it was another challenge to take readers around that age into account and make the end result right for them.
Q9 In a totally different vein (or perhaps not) The Fix is a complex analysis of friendships and how deceptions can be taken the nth degree. Where did this idea spring from?
You’ve described it really well. The first idea involved having a character who sought to lead a private life, but who was thrust into the spotlight (by the siege) and who had unwillingly been there before (because of his father). The second idea was to make that character somewhat elusive by creating another to narrate. The third was complicating their relationship. Several more years of thinking, and a screenplay draft, followed before I had a clear idea of what the novel should be.
Q10 You write in diverse genres, do you do this to stretch your writing muscles to see just how far you can go?
That’s a big part of it. You might be surprised how rarely that question comes up. The other part is accepting that the only way to clear my head of my more persistent ideas is to write them. But I have a better time if I’m stretching myself a bit – if I’m not cruising.
Q11 Clearly collaboration with Terry Whidborne has been successful as the Word Hunter books delightfully combine the written word and illustrations. How did you meet Terry?
He was the art director on two advertising campaigns I did for Brisbane Marketing in 2002 and 2004. We stayed in contact after that. Then I saw his art, which is brilliant. Then I became aware he was keen to be a book illustrator.
Q12 Where did the concept for the Word Hunters books come from?
It’s one of those ideas I couldn’t shake, even though it was nothing like anything I’d written before. I’ve always found etymology interesting, but there seem to be quite a few experts around and I’m more of an excited amateur. Also, I don’t write non fiction. So, I wasn’t going to write an etymology book. But then the idea of an adventure story built on etymology occurred to me, and that seemed like new territory and maybe something I could do. I called Terry and he was keen to get on board.
Q13 In the Word Hunters books you give children an insight into the plight of languages being lost to the world. Do you see these books reaching an international market and perhaps encouraging kids to be more aware of language and words?
I’d love it if that happened. The books are only out in Australia and NZ so far, but already it’s great to talk to kids who are suddenly excited about the story of English and really coming to grips with how languages evolve. At a time when change feels really rapid, it’s great to see them getting motivated to take a longer view and get a sense of 1500 years of change. I hope there’s a lot to think about in there, including how crucial literacy is to a language, and how fragile some of the things we take for granted might be.
Q14 With the digital age Amazon and a broadening of markets, do you feel you have to be very hands on in your marketing strategies?
I think we’re marketing in more domains than ever, and the new domains all seem to be both global and personal at the same time. It means you might have great reach, but it has to come from – and feel like it’s coming from – the author. Also, publishers are pretty keen to push us there, since it costs them no money and no staff time.
Q15 Travelling and promoting your work as you, are you able to take your family with you?
If I can squeeze a trip into two days, I go by myself and work just about every minute. If it’s likely to be longer than that, I either say No or work out a way to make a family trip of it (and maybe extend it). So far we’ve been to five writer’s festivals together and only been struck by significant illness at four of them.
Q16 Do you make time on your travels to write?
No. Actually, I make time to write down any new ideas, but that’s usually it. If I’m by myself I’ll take some work to do, but not a first draft – emails or edits. I try to clear large tracts of time in my diary to write, then try to hit day one with as few loose ends hanging around as possible.
Q17 You are living a life that many aspiring writers would like to follow. What is your best advice to getting on that track?
Work on both the business side and the writing side. Try to connect with the industry, go to festivals, join major writer’s centres, enter the big competitions and learn what publishers want and how they want it. Then clear your head of all that from time to time, find your voice and your kind of story and write. Once the writing’s ready, feed it into the system you’ve been connecting with, then step back while it’s languishing in an in-box somewhere and turn your mind back to the writing. Expect rejection. The people who make it are the people who can’t stop doing the writing, despite the rejections coming in. Read – that’s important too.
Q18 Finally, without a crystal ball, in the last interview I asked you where you would be in ten years time Do you think you’ve accomplished more than you would have expected since then?
I don’t think so. I think I was probably aiming pretty high ten years ago, though whether or not I owned up to that is a different matter. I’m still writing and still being published, and maybe that’s the main aim. As is typically the way, some things I was hopeful about haven’t happened yet, but I’ve also done some things I never expected to. The Zigzag Street film is still in development – that had only been going for six years when we last spoke and it’s now 16 1/2. I couldn’t have predicted writing Word Hunters. I didn’t predict I’d get so involved with ebooks.
I think it’s fair enough to hope for big things any time you publish a book, even if you often end up settling for simply not losing your toehold on the mountain you’re attempting to climb.
Thank you again Nick for your candid answers, I’m sure my readers will enjoy seeing how you view the world. I’m very grateful to have met you and to be a fellow Queenslander striving to reach some of the goals you’ve attained.
For more about Nick go to his extremely entertaining and informative blog http://nickearls.wordpress.com/
Michelle Worthington is the author of Start of the Ocean, The Pink Pirate, The Bedtime Band, Yellow Dress Day and e-books. Her books for children are bright and enticing and the stories within are stories that relate to feelings and how to view yourself in the world.
I love her blog and website, clearly pink is colour and the title Michelle Worthington – Author and Shoe Diva says it all. The background and the simplicity of the tabs make it an enchanting site to visit. http://www.michelleworthington.com/
I’ve invited Michelle to share some insights on her writing journey with my writing friends, readers and subscribers of my blog.
Q 1 When did you start writing?
I started writing poetry in Grade 5. I love the way certain words sound together and was supported by my teachers and principal in primary school to improve my writing by attending writer’s camps and entering poetry competitions.
My first picture book, The Bedtime Band, was based on a poem I wrote in Grade 6 about what the animals do while I was asleep.
Q3 What writing groups do you belong to?
Being the mum of two busy boys and still working full time, I don’t attend any writers groups, but I love the support I receive from my online community of likers on Facebook.
Q4 Do you have a specific writing time set aside each day?
After the kids are asleep, if I can still keep my eyes open, I do my writing and editing on a very old Dell computer. Otherwise, I write sentences and ideas in my notebook during the day and when I find some time, work on developing stories. I also do my editing work at night.
Q5 You interview illustrators for your books, how do you find this process works?
The success of a picture book depends on how the illustrations enhance the story, with both being equally important. I look for illustrators who ‘see’ what I ‘see’ and whose style already fits the story, not the other way around.
Q7 I see on your website that you are now manuscript appraising, as well as speaking engagements and readings in schools. Is this now you full time career?
My goal is to be a full time author, speaker and editor, but that is still not a financially viable option for me at the moment. Just like you build your career as an author, building your back balance is a marathon, rather than a sprint.
Q8 Your Youtube videos are a great sample of your work and taste of who you are. Do you find this promotes your work to more people than just having a blog and website?
I like to help people, and people like to know who they are dealing with before they trust them with something as precious as a story manuscript. Having the YouTube videos helps me connect with people and show that I am very committed to what I do and about helping others achieve success.
Q9 What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading the Spooks Series by Joseph Delaney with my oldest son. I like reading what he reads so we can talk about it.
My favourites are still the books I grew up with. Enid Blyton. Anne of Green Gables series. But I do love the Harry Potter and Twilight series; the books are heaps better than the movies.
Q11 Who is your favorite author or authors?
Jane Austen. She is my literary hero. I admire her courage and the clarity and depth she uses with her story telling.
Q12 What is your current project?
I have 5 projects on the go, which is not unusual for me. I am working on another picture book with Karen Mounsey-Smith who did The Pink Pirate with me and I already have another two manuscripts waiting for her to illustrate. She is amazing to work and has unbelievable talent when it comes to picture book production.
I think in words and rhythm and rhyme, not pictures. I leave that up to my illustrator to capture.
Q14 Do you draw from your own life experiences to write?
More often than not, my stories come from personal experience, or are written specifically for the people in my life.
Q15 Do you derive inspiration from your own family?
I have been to New Zealand, Bangkok, Spain, and England and spent a year in France after high school that I was far too young to appreciate fully. I am hoping to travel more when I am a famous author. The good thing about being a writer is you can do it anywhere!
Q17 You have an agent to look after your media bookings. How did you secure the services of http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/cnet
I met Paul at the CYA conference and sent him an email after the event to ask if I would be able to be added to his list of authors. Never underestimate the value of networking with other authors, editors and publishers.
Q18 I love your Free Stuff page on your web page, the pictures to colour and puzzles are very engaging for your readers. Did you study other author’s blogs and websites to decide how you would set up your site, or did you get professional guidance?
Inge from Storm Designs did my website for me. I highly recommend her to any authors looking at a very professional and economical website with amazing customer service. http://www.stormdesigns.com.au/about-us.html
Q19 Do you do the hands on marketing of your books, working on your blog and website yourself, or do you have someone supporting you in that role?
I do all my own marketing and blog updates, but Inge helps me look after the website. Hopefully, when I am a famous published author, the publisher will help me with that kind of thing, but I enjoy getting out there and sharing my stories with other people, so it doesn’t feel like hard work.
My goal is to be a successful Australian author, well known for classically elegant and compassionate stories for young children who writes full time and devotes my time to helping others.
I hope all my readers, subscribers and friends enjoy this interview as much as I have. Michelle is clearly a very talented lady with a joy of sharing her stories.