"Don’t quit! When your luck is out
and your world turned about, when the road is long
and the sun is gone. Rest a while. But for God’s sake smile.
For you’ve done your bit. But you don’t quit!"
Here is part three of the interview with Anastasia Gonis: Clancy Tucker: A Writing Life Begins with Self Publishing, by Anastasia Gonis ©
"Clancy Tucker has entered his book in eight contests and intends to enter it in six
more (which he’s probably done by now) one of them being the Miles Franklin
Award. It’s a book of incredible merit, historically valuable in content. I ask
what will have been proven if/when he wins. ‘It’s about personal satisfaction. I think
it would make a fantastic prescribed text for school kids because it’s a great
story. It’s an Australian story published in Australia; everything happens in
Australia. ‘Interestingly, our High Schools’ prescribed text is To Kill a Mockingbird, an American book. My mate in Alice Springs, his 15 year-old daughter’s prescribed text is the same. My question is this: what happened to the Australian books? Why do we get an American prescribed text for our schools? ‘To answer your question, as a prescribed text, it’s not like some of the other texts that I had to read in my past which I found quite haunting and difficult. I hope that even the most reluctant readers will say, that’s an interesting story! The other thing is that it may subtly introduce an interest in
After affirming that money is not his main aim, I suggest that winning prizes; having
his work acknowledged in that way does shape an author’s future. ‘Well, I hope it does! I’ve thought about that also. I have thought about it a lot over the years. I always say to people I’m not cocky, I’m confident. ‘When I was a teenager I was very shy. But I’m quietly confident with this book. I’m very proud of my work. I work hard, and I think in thirteen years, I’ve learnt a lot about writing. I’ve thought about the glamour side too. It’s not the sort of thing I care about. I’m a good stand up talker. I’ve given eulogies at
funerals and whatever. I do it easily. But, I’m not that insecure that I’ll go
all gushy when someone wants to interview me on radio or TV or wherever. I’m
not looking forward to that. But I realize it is part and parcel of a journey.'
The content of Gunnedah Hero was ninety-eight percent from Clancy’s head based on real life experiences. But whose experiences? ‘Mine, my experience as a kid spending a lot of time on farms, talking to old farmers, probably that very observant trait I have again. My expression is that “everybody has a hard drive and you go through life collecting all these experiences. But with writing, for me, it’s the catalyst that lets it out”. Most people have
been shocked by that fact. Even friends and author friends that have read it
said “you must have done a lot of research”, but I say no no, no I didn’t!’
Then how important is memory? How does memory stand you in such good stead? ‘It’s a wonder. I’ve lived a fairly interesting life. I think maybe it’s the subconscious. It’s that hard drive. You go through life collecting memories. Other people die and a lot of information dies with them. I have the catalyst to let them out.
There are two more books in the Gunnedah Hero series. Book Two, The Drover’s Blanket is finished and the third is coming up. The same characters appear in the following two books but will they be as exciting and eventful? ‘I thought you’d ask this. What I try to do in all my manuscripts is create connections. It’s a bit like that envelope in the story. It’s a lure. I’m seducing the reader. You find out what’s in the envelope in the last three
pages. (It’s there throughout the book though). There’s one stage during the
story where it slides out of the book, and Gunnie looks at it. He looks at the
seal on the back. That seal of the Attorney General of NSW is tied in with the
photographs he is looking at in the main foyer of Wirralee, where there was a signed photograph. Gunnie gets the picture all the way though the book, and so does the reader, that Smokey was a very influential man. He surrounded himself with interesting people. ‘Getting back to your question, Gunnedah Hero is mainly Smokey’s story. You only hear little tidbits about Molly. The only time you spend time with her is the last day of school when they have a bit of a tiff because she wonders why he hasn’t told her he’s going up the long paddock. ‘A Drover’s Blanket (without saying too much) is Molly’s story. It’s about what happens to Molly while he was up the long paddock. I think it’s more powerful than GH. The third story will be Magic Billy. Kids love the character of Magic Billy because he has a great sense of humour. The books are about the three main characters in GH. Billy doesn’t play a large role in the first book. But I feel I’ll have to do a lot of research for that book because there will be strong indigenous content in that. ‘Every female asks me if there’s going to be some romance in A Drover’s Blanket? They ask “What about Gunnie and Jenny?” ‘Here’s a very interesting thing. The first company to offer me a contract, asked what I thought was a stupid question. He said, is there any reason why you made Gunnie and Jenny fifteen? I answered; I thought it was obvious. They’re only fifteen. I can write until they die! I’ve got another thirty-five stories I can write about. When he got it, he said – Fantastic!’
I thought ten completed manuscripts are waiting to be published. ‘I’ve actually
got eighteen completed. They are not all historical in content. My short stories could be around one hundred and forty-five in number. There are some that could be Novellas because they range in length from a page and a half to 25,000 words. Some of those longer short stories I can pinch parts out of, or modify, and use the concept that’s in them for the GH series.’
Although Clancy gives out teasers on his other books that make me long to hold and read
them now; he can also see them visually ‘as movies’. But the thing that reveals the most about this writer and what his work really means to him is what he opens up about next. ‘You probably don’t want to know this but, about three years ago, I was looking
ahead. I retain the copyright for seventy years after I’m dead. I thought I’d
better be a bit visionary here. I re-wrote my will over a three month period. I
established a Clancy Tucker Foundation. Out of it I was allocating funds. If
something happened to me tomorrow it’s in my will. The money coming in from my
books after I’m gone would be directed from my grave as to where it goes. Rather than being used by a lawyer or an accountant, I wanted to allocate where it went. There are a couple of scholarships in there ... one for school kids who are aspiring writers, and the other for an unpublished author.‘
In his ‘engine room’, the place where Clancy writes, he has ‘books and nostalgic
souvenirs from your travels’. I was interested in where he’d travelled and how strongly had his experiences influenced his writings. ‘Many years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with a whole lot of others. I went to the toilet, came out and everyone went all quiet. Typical of me, I said, alright, you’ve been talking about me. What have you been talking about? My
mate Kev said, well we were. We wanted to know out of all of your travels what
was the biggest highlight? I was looking at them and I knew they thought I was
going to say it was when I was at the top of the Empire State Building on the
clearest day in eighty years in New York City. Now to get the clearest day in
NY is fantastic. So the photographs I took were brilliant. Or they might think
when I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower; went to midnight mass at the Vatican
in 1973. But no, do you know what I said to them? The most influential people
have been the poorest people I have ever met. “Why? Because they have happiness you can’t grab, stick in your pocket and take home. You look at the modern world today, everyone’s got a plasma TV, two cars, two kids, two boats, two storeys, but a lot of them are unhappy. I’ve spent a lot of time in South East Asia and been to many villages. If you go to any village
at this time of the day, you’ll see kids playing in the street like they did in the 50s. There’d be fifty or sixty of them. Now, you go to most streets in Melbourne, you won’t see kids in the street. ‘South East Asia always reminds me of my childhood. There’s no TV, no mobile phones, that sort of stuff. Mainly we played cricket or footy. Fifty kids! How they influenced me was the simplicity of their lives. They weren’t moaning that as a foreigner, I had a microwave and they didn’t. There’s only one TV in the village and that’s in someone’s house. Every time you go past in the night time there’d be sixty people in there. It’s like a mini picture theatre. ‘I hope that answers your question. The same applies to observing with some of the photographs I have here.’
Clancy forwards me some photos which make the covers on A Drover’s Blanket, and another book he has written called Pa Joe’s Place. The photography is exceptional. ‘Rather
than only be known only as a historical fiction writer, my next book, Pa Joe’s Place, is about a seven-year-old Thai girl I met in 1973. The story’s set in Thailand and is probably the most powerful story I’ve ever written. What I’m trying to do is let people know that I don’t just write historical fiction.’
But a lot of his other books aren’t historical fiction. They are diverse and cover themes such as racism, bullying, environmental themes, disability and more. But it’s people too, that have brought him to the stage of his writing life, not only his work. ‘I feel I must give extraordinary credit to Lou and Elaine Morris. I went to them to have my EBook of Gunnedah Hero done. In the two months that I’ve been dealing with them, I couldn’t fault them in their drive, their enthusiasm, their knowledge of marketing and so forth. They’ve done more for me in 6-8weeks than any publisher has done in thirteen years. Even the Blog tour Elaine started. There’s fourteen blogs. They’re fantastic. I couldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t even have thought of it. I mentioned that I was Self Published. They’ve got GH on their website and only take ten per cent. It’s selling at $30. The irony of it is that they only earn three dollars. If I had published that book through a mainstream publisher, I would only have got three dollars and I wrote the b****y thing. I think it’s appalling! ‘Out of the four people: the authors, publishers, distributors and bookshops, the last two are the ones that make the money. It’s thirty-three per cent and thirty-five per cent. Recently Barry Jones did a book strategy study. They’re intellectuals. They were not really getting to the
nuts and bolts. ‘When I first wrote to the Prime Minister, I wrote to the Australian Society of Authors, the Victorian Writers Centre (now Writers Victoria), the Wheeler
Centre, NSW Writers Centre, and others saying, why don’t we get together and
write letters and get this poetry category out. I got replies but they were too
busy and so on. The interesting thing as I thought of it later is they’re
reluctant because they’re probably funded. To me, it’s a matter of ethics.
Ethics are always number one. When the poetry category was finally included in
the PM's Literary Awards, I got emails saying: go Clancy; love your work. They
don’t realize it’s the numbers you have to have. A good example is the
anti-Vietnam War marches in Melbourne. The biggest marches in the world were in
Melbourne. It’s about numbers. ‘But you can’t get numbers in this case because writers are very solitary workers. To try and get them together and organize them is fairly impossible. But that’s why I was trying to go to the writer’s organizations to support me on an issue
like the PM’s Literary Awards and Self Publishing. I still think it’s deplorable.
Clancy confesses that he’s very loyal. He has already decided that he’ll stay with his
Printer, his editor (he had three editors before Julie) and yours truly for all
future books. Other editors have wanted to change his work to their design. But
he reminded them that it is his story. ‘That’s one great thing with Julie. She
knows I’m a great storyteller and never tries to alter my story. She just looks
at impactful things.’
Well, Clancy has surfaced and he has made an impact with his first publication. He’ll
continue to be vocal about issues that are important to him and all writers, especially about Self Published books being submitted in the PM’s Literary Awards. He’s a fighter and never gives up. It took him almost a lifetime to be published and he has just started. Good one Clancy! "
Anastasia Gonis (c)
Clancy's comments: Anastasia is a scintillating interviewer and a well known book reviewer. She is skilled at her craft and is not scared to ask pertinent questions. I am grateful to her for wanting to interview me. I am also grateful to Vicki Stanton from 'Buzz Words Books': http://buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com.au/ Check out her website. It's very interesting.
Don't be shy ... send me an email: email@example.com
Thanks for listening.
I'm Clancy Tucker.