29 August 2013 - BILL CONDON - Guest Australian Author


BILL CONDON

- Guest Australian Author -


G'day guys,

Welcome to an interview conducted with another well known Aussie author - Bill Condon. Bill Condon is an Australian author, playwright, poet and for a period of time a newspaper journalist. He has written more than 80 books, including several collections of plays and poetry, as well as short stories, novels and works of non-fiction. A large number of his published books were written for young readers. 

Welcome, Bill ...
 

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.



I’ve been writing on a full-time basis for at least 20 years, but my first children’s book was published 30 years ago. Not bad going for someone who’s still only 21! (I like to kid myself.) I’ve written in all kinds of genres but since 2000 I’ve concentrated mainly on young adult books.





WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?



The writing began at school when a teacher – whose name I’ve long forgotten, alas – praised a story I’d written. I was about 14 then. It was the only bit of praise I received in my school years, so I suppose it was only natural for me to pour all my energies into writing after that.



 WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?



I’m a hip shooter, always have been. Often I wish I was wired to be a planner, because that might make writing more straight-forward, instead of the torturous wander in a maze that it is. The positive side is that if I don’t know what’s going to happen there is a chance my readers will also be taken by surprise.





WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



Dorothy Parker, the famous American writer of yesteryear, once said: ‘Hate writing, love having written’. I can’t improve on that. It’s hard to write well, and instead of getting easier with experience, it gets even harder. But of course, I’m not complaining. To live in a country where I can write what I like – within reason – and have it published, and get paid for it, is not too shabby. And on those rare occasions when the right words pop up on my screen, writing is the best job in the world.






WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



Where do I start? Zillions of books have been written, covering every subject possible. Yet we who call ourselves writers still set out to can create something new, and somehow different. It’s daunting. It gets even dauntier (I’ve got a poetic licence so I’m allowed to make up words) when you’re an old bloke like me (64) and you’re trying to write in the voice of a teen. If you’re lucky enough to have had some success, as I have, the problem is always to keep up the standard. Because of this I’ve become very self-critical. If I’m not careful this can turn in to something of a choke-hold that stymies writing altogether. It’s always been like this with me. I write very slowly, editing as I go, doubting myself, giving up, crawling back to try again. You get the picture.



WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?



I would say ‘normal’ for a laugh, but it wouldn’t be true. I left school at 17 and became an apprentice greenkeeper. My father chose that job for me because he said I liked mowing the lawn at home. I didn’t have much aptitude for greenkeeping. After I lost that job I did various things, including being a real estate salesman. I only lasted a day, being sacked because I tried to talk customers out of buying a property I thought was too expensive. In the early 70’s I quit a labouring job to become a professional punter. Prior to quitting I’d won fifteen times a row. However, as soon as I quit, I lost fifteen times in a row. Goodbye to that career. 


Around this time I owned and trained greyhounds. At one point I had eleven dogs, which was about ten too many. Finally, after working as a tree-lopper, landscaper, bread delivery-man (I crashed the truck on the first day and was sacked) and lots of other bits and pieces, I ended up at a milk depot.


For seven years I worked the graveyard shift, from 11 pm to 7 am. My workmates were characters named Norm, Ekka, and Superstud. They called me Dreamy. It was hard work, unloading trailers full of milk and making up orders for milk vendors. Some great memories there. 

In 1983 I wrote a stage play. The editor of the local newspaper attended a reading of it, and then decided to mount a production. Eventually the editor, Larry Rivera, who I’ll always be indebted to, gave me a trial as a reporter on the Liverpool Leader. That was a big leap of faith by Larry as I had no qualifications, and no experience. I stayed ten years, and loved just about every minute of it. I think that more than anything else, my experiences on the newspaper taught me how to write. 

Twenty years ago I left the paper to write full-time.



WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?



Winning the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2010 for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. Also, having three Honour Books - Dogs, No Worries, and A Straight Line to My Heart - in the CBCA Awards, was a huge thrill. Awards are a lucky dip, and I’ve had more than my share of good luck. 



And, possibly for just being around for so long.




WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?



I’m busy doing nothing. I keep hoping my subconscious is working feverishly behind the scenes to compensate for my lack of dedication. I was writing another y/a but after I got to 20,000 words I decided it wasn’t cutting the mustard, so I ditched it, at least for a while. Next year I have a junior novel coming out with Allen and Unwin. It’s called The Simple Things.



WHAT INSPIRES YOU?



When I was a kid I used to ‘inspire’ myself, if that’s the right word, by dreams of glory; winning Wimbledon, and/or writing the great Australian novel. Now I have to admit that tennis glory won’t come my way and I’ll never write the book of my dreams. So these days I keep the fires of inspiration burning by searching for ways to plagiarise great chunks of The Book Thief without anyone noticing.



WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?



Mainly young adult, as mentioned earlier, but also poetry and plays for kids – mostly humorous – and I’ve tackled many non-fiction assignments.





DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?



Don’t do it! I don’t need any more competition!



DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?



I invented writer’s block. I also invented procrastination. I’d be a millionaire now but I haven’t got around to patenting either invention – I’ve been too busy sharpening pencils.



DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?



Not really, but whenever possible, I try to do it when I’m awake. But seriously – for once – the best thing about being a full-time writer, is that you can go to work at any time of the day or night. And that’s what I do.



DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?



I have an office and that’s where I work. I write directly onto my computer. I have almost inaudible music playing in the background; usually it’s the same gentle guitar track. I couldn’t concentrate if the music was loud or if someone was singing.  I used to have a naked muse who gave me no end of inspiration, but my wife caught me.



WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?



Two magic words: The End.





WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?



Lots to choose from here. Mostly they amounted to the same thing: ‘Your book sucks!’





WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?



Most of my work is autobiographical. I’ve written about a boy who trained greyhounds – Dogs - a boy who works in a milk depot - No Worries - my schooldays - Confessions of a Liar, Thief, and Failed Sex God - a friend’s marriage break-up - Give Me Truth - my fears of dying – Daredevils - and about a girl who works on a newspaper, A Straight Line to My Heart





OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



My wife, Dianne (Di) Bates, my family, movies, books, tennis, Scrabble, oh yes, and breathing.




DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?



On one or two occasions I’ve paid to have books edited before publication – usually when I was in trouble with them and needed some guidance. Mostly though, I rigorously self-edit before submitting anything, and the only editing work is done by the publisher.



DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.



A thousand good words written before noon - and not torn to pieces when I revisit them after lunch.



 

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?



I’m in all of them. I think that unless you can put yourself in a character’s shoes, feel the same things he or she does, then you’re not really inside the story, and that’s where you have to be.





WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?



Probably my y/a, No Worries. It was published in 2005 and I can still read it today without cringing. I think it’s the most honest thing I’ve written, and the most powerful.



 HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?.



I think if you enjoy it, that’s enough. Not everyone can climb Everest, but dreaming of climbing the literary equivalent, can be fun.





 WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?



‘Aaarrrggghh!’










Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Bill. Love your sense of humour ... and love ya work. Also love ya books.

I'm ...













Think about this!