Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well."
- Guest Author
Today I introduce a very talented Australian author from Sydney who deserves success - Rune Woodman. Rune, along with an amazing artist, Jyoti Di Cola, have collaborated to produce some fine work. Welcome, Rune. Tell us more.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I have always written. I imagine that’s a common element between writers. The first story I remember writing was about a polar bear that had travelled too far south. He got too hot and had to be airlifted back home. That was written in primary school, grade 4, in hot and sunny Queensland. I knew nothing about polar bears, but I did know that I didn’t like the heat – perhaps the polar bear was me.
Ever since then I’ve been writing.
My parents were involved in sport and would often be away on weekends. Sometimes they would be out of town and not get home until late, so I’d make some biscuits for them and leave them on the table with a story about what I’d done during the day. With each new paragraph the tale would become more fascinating, more exciting and further from the truth.
In my early twenties I was surrounded by talented and artistic people. With their encouragement I decided that I would try to write for a living. It was difficult because I like to spend money and I love interaction with other people but as a writer I was earning nothing and my only companion was a typewriter. I was too afraid to share my writing with friends and rejection letters were abstract and distant.
My desire to communicate and my ability to understand this new Windows Operating System led me to a job in software and hardware support. It was a job that allowed me to tell stories all day and has become a career that has lasted 20 years. I work as a test manager for software development projects – ensuring that the products don’t break when they reach the customer’s desktop.
Through that twenty year career I have also written and written and written. I can’t stop.
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
I think I was. I loved reading. One of the most enjoyable books from by childhood was ‘The Bottersnikes and Gumbles’. It was about fictitious creatures that live in the Australian Bush.
Books were often birthday presents. One of the most memorable books came on my seventh birthday, a picture book with lots of words – ‘Urashima Taro’. It tells the story of a young fisherman who saves the life of a turtle. Later the turtle saves Urashima Taro from a hurricane by taking him into and underwater world of impossible beauty.
A few years later I discovered ‘I, Robot’, ‘Dracula’ and then ‘1984’.
Sometimes, when really bored, I read the dictionary – but my spelling it still terrible.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I’d like to think that I became a writer back in Grade 4 with the story about that polar bear. I think I was always a writer, or at least I was always a story teller. In my twenties and thirties friends, when introducing me to someone new, would say, “This is Rune, he’s a writer.”
Jyoti Di Cola (artist) and Rune (author)
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Daydreaming is an essential part of my job description. I can look out the window and explore ideas. By doing that I get to meet new people, go to new places and take part in interesting events all of which exist only in my mind.
I also enjoy the spark of a moment when an idea turns into a story. One day I was driving in heavy traffic on the way to work. I knew that something was about to happen because my mind was a mess of wandering thoughts. The traffic broke and I got to drive forward for about fifty metres. At the end of the fifty metres the thoughts had found order and I had an idea for a story. It was like I’d driven through a giant vacuum cleaner that had sucked all of the rubbish out of my head and left behind the good stuff.
I then frantically steered my way out of the traffic so I could park the car and put the idea onto paper before I forgot it. That was in my old car. My new car has hands-free Bluetooth for my phone so I can keep driving while I call myself and leave messages.
Now that The Ordinary Animals is published I really enjoy knowing that my book is being read by other people.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Rejection. I’ve had so much rejection that I’ve come to expect it, but that doesn’t make it any easier and now I don’t know how to accept praise. I often feel that everyone else is so much more talented than me - then I start to reject myself. It’s a bit like, early in The Ordinary Animals, when Albert feels that everyone has magic except for him. Then it turns out that he might be the only one who has the magic and he doesn’t even realise it.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I’d like to think that in a past life, before this life, I was embarrassingly rich and never did a day’s work.
For this life it’s been software development mostly. Before that I was a number of things, a book-shelver in a library, a qualified boiler attendant, a general hand in an industrial laundry, a door to door encyclopaedia sales person, a cleaner with specialist skills in buffing ballroom floors (I made them so slippery that everyone who danced fell over). I did some acting, attempted modelling, tried my hand a singing, teaching and gardening. In the 1980s I spent a lot of time acid-washing jeans and sand-washing silk.
Rune at Maryborough State High School Library
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I want to list two. First - two poems, called ‘The Something-or-other’ and ‘The Night Crawler’. I entered these poems into the 1992 (or was it the 1993) New South Wales Writers’ Centre Poetry Cup. All entries had to be read by the author in front of an audience and the judges. I’m not sure if the achievement was in the writing of the poems or in having the courage to stand up in front of a group of strangers and read them out. Both are children’s poems that require a certain amount of acting ability to be able to pull off in front of an audience. My acting ability is very limited, but I did win second place so the poems must have been alright.
The other achievement has to be The Ordinary Animals. I spent seven years writing it while renovating a house, working on time absorbing jobs, passing several killer kidney stones, living with kidney failure, having a kidney transplant and going through months of recovery. With that many distractions it seems more miracle than achievement that The Ordinary Animals is finally complete.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m working on about 35 different projects. There are some that are more prominent on my calendar than others. I’ve completed the audiobook of The Ordinary Animals and I’m in the final stages of getting that released through audible.com. The eBook is on the way too.
I have a weekly commitment to write The Oliver Files. Oliver is a character from The Ordinary Animals. The Files are 12 short stories based on Oliver’s early days as an amateur detective while he was in high school. New episodes are added every Thursday night.
I am also finalising the plots for the two remaining Ordinary Animals books and working on a fourth book called ‘i am the kinG’ – which is not related to The Ordinary Animals.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
It doesn’t take much to inspire me to write new stories – a sunny day, a cloud, oxygen in my lungs.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
The Ordinary Animals is a children’s fantasy and I will continue to write in that genre.
Someday I’d like write science fiction – I’ve always had a burning desire to create one of those stories where most of the human race is killed off and the survivors go on to build a better world (or perhaps not build a better world).
I also write drama for adults, but I get emotionally involved with my characters and it hurts me when something bad happens to them. I once wrote a story that included a scene where a woman committed suicide. For days I knew that I had to write the scene but kept putting it off. Eventually I ran out of other things to write and her final moments were all that was left.
My work room was in the attic. The house was high on a hill and overlooked a park. It was summer and I had the windows open. The character jumped from a tall building and as her feet lifted from the concrete a cool change blew through the attic. The wind blew as I wrote and cried. Finally my character landed, half on the grass, half in the gutter, and died. Then the window nearest my desk slammed shut. I was a complete mess for the rest of the day.
Writing fantasy is much more fun.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Never give up!
I gave up writing so many times that I feel I’ve wasted years. Of course, writing always came back to me but I often wonder where I’d be now if, when I was back in my early twenties, I’d continued writing instead of going off to support software. How many books would I have written by now?
Keep writing. Keep learning. Have the courage that I didn’t have to let other people read your work so you can learn and become a better writer. Then write some more.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I haven’t had a problem with it yet. If I do become stuck with something I’ve always got lots of other projects I can turn to as a distraction, to clear my head.
I don’t like to start a story if I don’t know the first sentence. If the sentence doesn’t come to me while I’m working out the plot or getting to know the characters I’ll go and do something else – gardening or walking usually get the brain going. When the sentence comes I write it down as quickly as possible and then all of the other words start to flow.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I’m not a morning person, but I generally start working around 7:30 or 8am. While I’m eating my breakfast I have a look at emails from overnight and see if there’s anything I need to reply to, read the paper and review my journal. My journal is less like a diary and more like a work list. I look at what I didn’t get done yesterday and work out if I can get it done today. Then I work out what else needs to be done and write it all down. I never complete everything on the list. After that I try to get some exercise then get myself ready for the day (shower etc.).
For the rest of the morning and up to about 1pm I like to write. I like to edit in the afternoons, but I only edit work from previous days. When that’s done I go back to writing, or procrastinating – that’s my real talent. Around 6pm I stop and get dinner ready and if I’m feeling inspired or under the hammer I might do two or three more hours of writing at night.
When I’m writing I don’t like to take days off, but I’m generally forced to get out of the house once a week.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Where I live now I have a room that faces the street and the front garden, that’s where I like to work. The street is a dead end so there’s little traffic and the garden, once a patch of grass, is full of Australian native trees, shrubs and vines. During the day I like to watch as different birds come by and do their thing. When the finches come through in the late afternoon I know it’s almost time to start dinner. It sounds idyllic, but I should also point out that I live two doors down from a major motorway and on the other side of that is a train line and my house is in the middle of suburbia.
I also have a favourite editing place – in my car. When editing full copies of The Ordinary Animals, I’d print out the manuscript, jump in my car and drive. Sometimes I’d end up in the middle of a national park, other times I’d be at Bondi beach or Manly. When I find a place I like I park the car and start editing; the steering wheel becomes my desk.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
There are so many joys
I love typing a sentence really quickly while looking out the window and not at the keyboard. It’s a joyous moment if I can do that without any mistakes.
I get a lot of joy from discovering who my characters are. Working on the audiobook for The Ordinary Animals I learnt a lot about one of the characters. She only has one scene. When I wrote it I thought she came across as weak and defenceless. In re-writes I tried to make her more courageous but if she was too plucky the scene wouldn’t have worked. When I was recording her part for the audiobook I still worried about that balance. On listening back I realised that she was tougher than I had thought and definitely capable of taking care of herself, not the victim I worried she might have become. That was a wonderful thing to learn.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I like so many things that I’m not the sort of person who has favourites.
The authors I’ve read (and re-read) most are HG Welles, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov – mostly science fiction in that list. But, I really enjoyed ‘Marilyn’s Almost Terminal New York Adventure’ by Justine Ettler, ‘My Blue Heaven’ by Joe Keenan, ‘The Stars’ Tennis Balls’ by Stephen Fry (I’ve read most of his books, perhaps he’s my favourite) and the Dr Who books about the Eight doctor (got about 20).
As for children’s authors I’ve always enjoyed work by Colin Thele (the only author who came to my primary school) and Patricia Wrightson (especially ‘The Nargun and the Stars’).
I don’t know why I read work by those authors, probably because they make me laugh, or they make me think.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“I’ve read your book!”
What a day that was, I was visiting a school and there was a girl who’d already read The Ordinary Animals. She was so excited that I became excited and we jumped up and down with joy.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I was lucky enough to have someone senior at a very large, New York based, publishing house request to read an early version of the full manuscript of The Ordinary Animals. I sent it off and impatiently awaited the response, which I expected would be something along the lines of, “We love your book, it’s going into print tomorrow and here’s a cheque for eighty million dollars so you can go off and spend the rest of your life writing more of this delightful magnificence.”
The response was, “Thank you for sending your manuscript. We will not be pursuing it for publication.” But that wasn’t the worst bit. The worst bit came when I emailed them asking if I could make changes to it, to fix it, and submit it again.
The response to that email was along the lines of, “There are so many problems that it can’t be fixed.”
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes I am, but the degree of influence varies.
Albert, from The Ordinary Animals, and I have little in common. In fact we’re almost opposites in every way. He’s small for his age, I was always the tallest person in my school. He’s bullied, I never was. Kids make fun of his name and use it to hurt him, my name, though unusual for Australia, was too short to be used as a weapon. Despite our differences we do have one thing in common, childhood frustration. Albert is frustrated by the bullying, I was frustrated by the rules. Albert is luckier than I was, I’ve put him in a situation where he can do something about his frustration. The influence is there but in a subtle way.
I have another book that is mostly written, but on hold for a few years, about a group of people who work in a factory. I’ve worked in factories and there are very real situations and events from my life that show up in that book.
After my transplant last year I expect that one day I might come up with a character who hates being in hospital as much as I do but I don’t think he will have had a transplant. His problem will be something much more interesting.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
The Ordinary Animals is my first book. When I started writing in I thought I only had one children’s book in me. After finishing it I planned to write adult books, about murder, science fiction and so on. As I was writing The Ordinary Animals I realised that it was going to take three books to tell Albert’s story. I also have rough plots for 6 other children’s books and I have ideas for at least 6 more.
It took me seven years to write The Ordinary Animals. I hope that it only takes one year to write the next one. So, if you ask me that question again in 10 years I might be working on my 12th book.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
No, just that second place for my two poems twenty years ago, oh, and second prize in a beauty contest while playing Monopoly – but that doesn’t count, right?
WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
The beauty prize meat I had a few more dollars so I could buy Mayfair. The prize for the poems meant a lot to me, but I didn’t make anything of it, I didn’t know how. The contest was held on a Saturday and Sunday. The winners were announced on Sunday afternoon. Monday morning I got up and went back to my job, told a few friends and that was the end of it.
I’ve written about two poems since. I should have written more.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
The kidney that my partner donated to me so I didn’t have to die is pretty high on the list. My partner is at the top, of course.
I really love cooking. It’s my worst habit, that and gardening.
When I was sick with kidney failure I stopped reading books (aside from my own). It was one of the many things that became too hard to do. I missed it. I’ve only just started reading again and I love it.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
My book was published through Little Steps which is part of, the more traditional publisher, New Frontier. The book went through the same process as any New Frontier published book. It was edited by their editors, typeset and designed by their designers.
I also sent the book for assessment by Virginia Lowe at Create a Kids’ Book (www.createakidsbook.com.au). Virginia pointed out the obvious problems that had become invisible to me. She taught me a lot about writing and helped to clean up the plot so I could see what was missing. Her criticism and praise gave me courage to keep going.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Be nice to each other. That’s such a beauty pageant answer, but really, if the whole world was listening to me that would be my advice. Be nice to each other.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
It would be winter, there would be a gentle breeze, the sky would be blue but there would be some morning frost puddles begging to be jumped on. But I wouldn’t jump on them. I would go back inside, turn on the heater, find something caramel flavoured to eat and watch movies.
Look at that, another beauty pageant answer.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSETS AS A WRITER?
I’m fast. Even though it took seven years to finish The Ordinary Animals, the first draft was 21 chapters long and took 21 days to write. If I get my editing skills up to the same standard I could be putting out a book a month. Can you imagine how bad they would be?
To me my characters are real. They all have a past, a present and a future (that goes beyond the story), they have motivation, worries, family, flaws, and so on. Because of this realism I hope you, the reader, feel that you are experiencing real lives too. In turn that should also make the fantasy elements feel real. If I’ve achieved that reality, within the fantasy, then I’d be happy to say that it’s one of my greatest assets as a writer.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? WHY?
Okay. If I were stuck on a desert Island with one person I wouldn’t care who they are just as long as they love to fish and hate to cook.
The reasons are – a person stuck on a desert island who loves to fish will fill their days with fishing and catching many delicious fish. And if that person doesn’t like to cook then it will be my duty do the cooking so I can rightly claim a share of the food. That way we might both survive until rescued.
Now, to survive in style we’d need a third person who can’t fish or cook, but knows how to make vodka out of coconuts.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Generally: more writing.
Specifically: Ideally finish The Ordinary Animals series soon, write all of my other books shortly after then perhaps write a series of Dr Who, write several screenplays for big budget animated movies and earn lots of acclaim and money.
Oh, and do something that results in everlasting world peace.
Important links for Rune:
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Rune. Now find something caramel-flavoured, chill out and watch a movie - CT.
New book trailer for 'Gunnedah Hero'