'Do not be disturbed at being misunderstood
be disturbed rather, at not being understanding."
Today I welcome Lana Penrose, from Sydney, Australia, who describes herself on LinkedIn as an, "Author, Writer, Journalist, Producer, Acrobat and Tamer of Small Dogs."
Welcome, Lana ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I, Lana Penrose, am the author of ‘To Hellas and Back’ and ‘Kickstart My Heart’, first published by Penguin/Viking. ‘To Hellas and Back’ went on to become a bestseller and has been optioned for film adaptation. Both books are now available worldwide via Amazon and Smashwords.com.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I became a writer by accident. I was living in Greece with a lot of time on my hands. I started spinning words together and it gradually turned into an obsession.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Impacting others and drinking copious amounts of tea.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Getting your books noticed by those who will enjoy them (ie. lovers of memoir, non-fiction, chic lit, travel, humour, emotion). It also takes a long time to write a book.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A lizard. Then a freelance music journalist, record company PR girl and MTV producer. I briefly worked with Simon Cowell, actually. Weird, huh?
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Getting published by Penguin/Viking. When I received that email from Penguin offering my very first book deal, I collapsed in a sobbing heap. I’d decided some time beforehand that if I could just get ‘To Hellas and Back’ published, it would lend a lot more meaning to what I’d endured. When it happened, I was beside myself.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m working on my third memoir which is about the pursuit of happiness. That should be out in the New Year, followed by a fictional tale later in 2013.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Non-fiction/memoir but I’m also dabbling in fiction.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Persevere. Never give up. Everything is rubbish to begin with. Don’t listen to idiots. Write what ‘feels’ right. Beware of charlatans. Keep polishing away and do it because you love it.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Not writer’s block but procrastination. Writing a book requires infinite concentration. I therefore punch myself in the head to get in the mood and get on with it.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I wake up, answer emails, then rearrange words for around six hours straight. I’ve been doing this now for many years, which is why I appear so dazed and confused.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I write by a window overlooking the ocean. I find the view stimulating, plus the ideal location should I have the desire to hurl myself through it!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
My greatest joy is connecting with people. My stories have resonated with many readers who have lived similar experiences so the ‘OMG, You Too!’ factor is unbelievably rewarding. Women who like chick lit enjoy my stuff, as do armchair travellers. My first book is of particular relevance to those who’ve lived in other countries or found themselves in cross-cultural relationships going cross-eyed.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I really like David Sedaris. I met him once, actually. I shoved my book in his hands and felt kind of bad, like I was a gypsy forcing my child upon him. But basically I love writers like him who can make me laugh. Carrie Fisher is another. And Augusten Burroughs. And Anne Lamott. And Charlie Brooker.
I just realised that I love authors who excel at writing about dysfunction. What does that say about me?
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I’ve had a lot of people say really nice things (go to www.lanapenrose.com.au to see for yourself!) but one of the most touching came via a hand-written letter from a lady who read ‘To Hellas and Back’ while suffering cancer in hospital. She told me that my book had really lifted her spirits and helped her to heal. I think that’s the greatest compliment a writer could ever receive and makes writing worth it if for that alone.
As with everything today, if you dare put yourself out there, you can find yourself on the receiving end of flack, particularly from those hiding behind keyboards. Of my time in Greece I had someone accuse me online of having the world at my feet and blowing it royally because I lived in a nice apartment in a sun-dappled country. I genuinely seemed to disgust her! To me, her criticism suggested that there was no excuse for me struggling in accordance with my personal psychology and I wondered if that same person would supply a dyslexic with a nice, expensive pen and scream, 'Now write with it, idiot!' While the vast majority understand my plight, particularly those who have lived similar situations, there’s a tiny minority who prefer to pass judgement. Who can blame them when they’d obviously do better!
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
All the time. My work is based on my life.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love investigating the nature of reality. There are things happening all around us that are far more compelling than me writing books, like what the hell we’re doing here, on this planet, right now. At the risk of sounding kooky, it would appear that love is all that matters.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, absolutely. If you want to be taken seriously, it is a necessity. Nobody should kid anyone otherwise.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day is walking along the water’s edge, drinking in the surrounding beauty, going for a swim, not drowning, and then managing to construct a bunch of sentences that I know will bring amusement to people. Doing something for someone in need of help would feel nice too, along with listening to some early Cure.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Bear Grylls, so he could get us the hell off said island lest we perish!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Can you please pass me the chicken sandwiches? And stop being stupid!
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I’m finalising my third memoir, which will be out early 2013. It’s about the pursuit of happiness. I’m hoping to finish off my first fictional tale next year too. My ultimate plan, though, is to experience life with a lighter heart.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
There’s a book by British comedian David Mitchell called ‘Back Story’. I’d take that with me to pass the time in limbo. There are also some Carrie Fisher books I’m still yet to read. There’s a book called ‘Dying to Be Me’ I’ve been meaning to read about a woman’s near death experience, but given the circumstances, I guess that would be pointless. I’d take my own books to show my grandmother who passed away before they were published. And maybe the Bible to put me in good stead with those I was about to face.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Yes, that odd one called ‘Lana’.
Like any industry, publishing has its shortcomings. Self-publishing can be frustrating in that there’s a bunch of techie things to do on top of writing, while working with a publishing house comes with its own set of frustrations should others’ ideas conflict with yours.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Many times, but it’s like I can’t stop. It’s a sickness, really.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
‘To Hellas and Back’ was my favourite because it was like my friend to whom I vented. The narrative flowed naturally and the process was cathartic. I still cry when I re-read certain parts. Not that I sit around reading my own books very often.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I define success as my books landing in the hands of those who really connect with my words and as it happens, many have. Positive reviews in the media are always happily received, but actual human contact with readers is thrilling for me.
Thankfully I don’t measure success according to financial reward. In that respect, I’m a screaming failure!
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Stronger, thoughtful, determined, happy, wistful, merry, hopeful, sad, weird … and a bit hungry.
*Clancy's comment: Best wishes and good luck, Lana. Your confidence will get you there.