Copyright - Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you,
then they fight you, then you win."
- GUEST AUTHOR
Today I introduce a very interesting and talented Australian writer, illustrator and public speaker - Peter Taylor. Peter has written and illustrated books for adults and children - books published by Allen and Unwin, HarperCollins/Unwin Hyman, Hinkler Books and GMC Publications (UK). He is also writes magazine articles, is a public speaker and workshop provider for adults and children. Welcome, Peter.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR
I’ve now lived in Australia as long as I did in England, where I was born and which stills feels ‘home’. When I was a young child, my grandfather inherited his father’s collection of ancient books, prints and the stock from the family stationery shop, on which I endlessly drew, wrote and used to make my own books.
I trained as a science teacher and ecologist and studied book-arts in my spare time, developing a reputation as a calligrapher. In 1986, a friend was offered a contract to write a calligraphy book but said she didn’t have time and put my name forward – the result was my first book.
When my children were little, I made up stories for them and my wife suggested I do it properly, and in 1998 I studied for a ‘Diploma in Professional Children’s Book Writing’ and paid for a mentorship. I also joined SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators and over the years have had articles published in an online magazine read by writers and publishers – PIO (Pass it On).
My next book came after I asked an editor, who I did not know, for virtual friendship on www.jacketflap.com. As well as acceptance, she asked if I’d be interested in a project. That became two books. Had she read my articles? My latest book, ‘Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking’ resulted from an unscheduled meeting and conversation with the publisher and managing director of GMC Publications, at The London Book Fair in 2010.
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
I read fluently and easily, but reading was not a priority activity. I loved drawing and making things more than reading.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
My first writing course was the Diploma in 1998, but I’ve always enjoyed writing non-fiction. At school, I wrote nature reserve guides for trips that were organised. When teaching, I loved re-writing textbooks to make their meanings clearer and, as a museum curator, I wrote scripts for audio-visual presentations. It’s been natural and ongoing for many years.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
It’s a special and euphoric feeling when the words are flowing freely. Who was it who said ‘It’s like taking a dictation from God’? But sharing the words and having someone honestly say that they like them is an enormous buzz for me.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Making a living from it. My last book took two years of pretty much full-time effort to write and illustrate. An advance against royalties was paid that covered a month’s expenses. Any royalties due need not be paid until the 3rd accounting period (18 months) after publication - which is all very normal.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Biology and Art teacher, Natural History Curator at a local museum, part-time nature reserve warden – and I now also have a calligraphy and book-arts business as well as writing.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
It always feels good that a publisher is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to produce a book from my text and illustrations.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My friend, Norman Jorgensen, and I have recently completed a text (mainly written by Norman) and I’m now producing sample illustrations with the hope of attracting a publisher. I’ve a YA and two picture books in progress and also have a publisher trying to interest their production team in a half completed project that involves pop-out structures. I’ll complete that one if it’s approved. Others are tucked away for a while before re-editing, and some are hopefully being considered by publishers.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Nature, people, objects, family histories and stories, and old buildings.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Non-fiction ‘how-to’ craft guides; YA biography; mid-grade humour/mystery; verse and picture books for the young.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Learn all you can about the industry and its expectations – always be professional. Join organisations for writers and volunteer to help. Have your work critiqued by published authors or publishing professionals, even if you have to pay (critique circles are good but are only of value if some members are already published). Paid appraisals do not have to be expensive and start at about $25 for a picture book. Go to conferences, workshops, talks and more, and get known to other writers and editors. Gather a network of writer friends.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
The words sometimes flow more easily than others – but not total block. But I do confess that I am feeling bogged down in research for my YA story that’s set in the early 1800’s. It’s the true story of an English hermit who barricaded himself in his house for 25 years. He wore only a horse blanket, never washed, never cut his hair or nails and slept on ashes. Up to 400 onlookers a day came to see who would be given gin and cash and who would be pelted with rock-hard stale loaves. But was he really ‘mad’? While boarded up in the house, his siblings were unable to realise their inheritance, and I’m telling the story from his brother’s imagined
point of view.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I have a preferred one – but that’s not practical. I grab time as it’s available. I’m most productive early in the morning, often before other family members are up.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My favoured writing place is either at my desk-top computer (where I sit and can look out on to my garden and tiny fish pond) or sitting on the couch in some spine-wrecking position, with pen or pencil in hand, writing on plain paper. There are plenty of places where I can never write anything sensible – our kitchen table, for example.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
When someone says they’ve enjoyed what I’ve written or found it useful. When a child says that they can’t wait to read something else I’ve written.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
That’s too hard! Possibly Geraldine Brooks – her books are always page-turners and, though set in different places and periods of history, her dialogue is easily read but fitting with the times and characters.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER
RECEIVED FROM A READER?
‘Did you really do all that?’ – incredulous, looking at my illustrations, designs and text.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I had an agent once tell me that they thought a story was ‘absolutely dreadful’. Fortunately, for my ego, someone else said they loved it.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS
THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes, some of my characters are based on people I’ve known, and scenes are often adaptations of events I’ve experienced.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
I’ve had four books ‘trade’ and traditionally published by major publishers, plus overseas editions. I self-published a picture book nearly 10 years ago (which was probably unwise) – and I’ve two non-fiction eBooks being formatted for self-publishing very soon for Kindle.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
Not yet, but I do have hopes and everything crossed for the latest one – the publishers have done an exceptional job on the design and production.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Family, of course. Being outdoors gardening or roaming the countryside, especially somewhere remote. Taking landscape and natural history photographs. Book binding, art and craft work, and woodworking. House renovating. Music (including playing my mandolin, badly). Reading. Good conversation, a glass of wine...
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
The professional editing of my trade books has always improved them enormously.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Walking a wild mountain track, taking photos, returning to a roaring fire and relaxing and laughing with family and friends, and making music. Giving someone useful advice or teaching them something they want to learn.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I must finish the books I’ve started! I really really must finish the books...
Peter Taylor’s contact details:
Clancy's comment: thanks, Peter. Love ya work! Now, grab a glass of wine and relax - CT.
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