- Guest Author -
Today I feature a well known Australian author who has previously featured on this blog - Goldie Alexander. Goldie has authored 75+ books for adult and young readers of all ages. Today, she talks about her latest two novels for readers 9-12 Neptunia, Cybertricks 2043, and the junior novel: Gallipoli Medals.
Welcome, Goldie ...
Q. You are in the unusual position of having three books out at the same time. How did this happen?
It was just one of those extraordinary co-incidences. I had written the first drafts of Cybertricks 2043 and Neptunia some time ago. No publisher picked them up, possibly because at that time they were interested in reality fiction. In 2012 when Roger Furness of Five Senses Publications picked up The Youngest Cameleer and then eSide: A Journey through Cyberspace he also took my next two novels.
Gallipoli Medals Is published by the Anzac Society. This junior novel was intended to come out three years ago, but the lady who looked after the publishing side of the company died and the project was put on hold. I think these stories should inspire anyone who has a text presently rejected not to lose heart. Of course, when I resubmitted, after such a stretch of time, I was able to edit and rework.
How did these ideas form and grow? What inspires your stories?
Most of my ideas come from what I have read, what is happening around me, movies and TV I watch, conversations I listen to on trams and trains, my own grandchildren and what children suggest when I visit schools. I am a magpie who uses everything I come across as ‘grist for my mill’. I try to write stories that I would have enjoyed reading when I was the same age.
Here is something about these latest books
Neptunia: “Cassie Georgiana Odysseos has the potential to become an Olympic swimmer. However, after her parents separate, her training is interrupted when she and her little brother Timmy are sent to live with elderly Mike and Peg Calypso in Ithaca, a small country town without a training pool. Asked to deliver an important message to the underwater city of Neptunia, Cassie must use all her strength, strategy and spirit to survive a marathon swim. But can she overcome King Neptune’s terrifying obstacles? “
Cybertrick 2043 “It is 120,43 AD, and Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist, live in tiny Cells cared for by tutor-holos only able to communicate via an avatar. Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends their actual bodies back to the mid 21st Century where they meet Rio and Charlie. But if they manage to survive in an increasingly dangerous world, can they also achieve Independence and Cooperation?
Gallipoli Medals: “Major Peter Romsey contacts Jaxson’s dad to ask if some medals he found in an op shop could possibly belong to the Donoghue family. Intrigued by the story of his great, great uncle being part of the Great War, and what happened to him after that, Jaxson reads about Gallipoli. As a result his close friendship with Abi wavers. Even if this conflict took place ninety odd years ago, Abi’s family are Turkish. Does this make Abi his enemy?”
I am also interested in what I perceive as the two important issues for our times - climate warming and tyranny. I believe that food is children’s sex, and what my protagonists eat become symbols of the strange worlds they enter.
Q. Your characters are strong and resourceful. You always have girls in powerful, leading roles, regardless of age. Is the female protagonist a preference of yours? If so, why?
In some of my recent books, ‘The Youngest Cameleer’ I am writing as a 14YO Muslim boy. ‘Killer Virus and Other Stories’, has ten varied stories all about boys, all aged 13. ‘Space Footy and Other Stories’ has ten stories about boys aged 12. I use the gender that best suits a situation. However, my four Dolly Fictions, which is where I got started, demanded strong resourceful females, and I think that concept has stayed with me. However Gallipoli Medals is all about boys. Cybertrix 2043, features the ‘Hatchlings’ two girls and two boys: Pia, Zumie, Jafet and Trist
Q. Your novels are character driven. How easy/difficult is it to create characters that carry the whole story?
Creating characters is the most important element of a story. Once a writer has established a character’s likes, dislikes, his or her settings, conflicts and needs, the plot is almost written for you. Can I give some examples from my own work?
In Neptunia, Cassie Georgina Odysseos aims to be an Olympic swimmer, and is thwarted by her circumstances. She has to undergo a number of physical and mental trials to be proved worthy of the task.
In Cybertrix 2043, the ‘Hatchlings’ must undergo amazingly difficult adventures before they achieve the desired Independence and Cooperation.
In Gallipoli Medals Jaxson has to understand what happened to Great Great Uncle Jack in WW1 and overcome his own misgiving about Abi before he can resume their friendship.
Q. Adventure, personal challenges, mystery and suspense fill your writing, while your themes are many and varied. How do you choose what you are going to write about?
I move between adult, young adult and books for younger readers and try and vary them so I won’t get bored. I choose themes that will involve a particular reading level. For example, my latest YA novel ‘Dessi’s Romance’ ( www.indra.com) concentrates on issues that interest 18YO teenage girls. In my forthcoming verse novel ‘In Hades’ which will be appear late next year from Celapene Books, the issues are perhaps more profound, as my hero and heroine are already dead. I suppose I am looking at ‘lives not so well lived’, looking at remorse, love and redemption. This ms is based on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ which is also the basis of Neptunia. Though Cybertricks 2043 is set in s dismal future, the adventures my four youngsters go through are very scary. I get stuck on an idea and there’s no rest until I carry it through. I sometimes wonder what I would do if I didn’t write. The thought is too horrible to contemplate.
Q. You write a weekly Blog for Emerging Creators. (www.goldiealexander.com/blog) It covers Board Books and goes right through to Young Adult and Non Fiction. How long has this Blog been running, and what major points do you cover in your advice? Have you had positive feedback to your Blog?
Thankfully I have lots of feedback, or I wouldn’t bother keeping up. I also enjoy interviewing other creators. Some weeks that turn into fortnights because I run out of time. I have taught creative writing in one form or other for 18 years and have mentored through the ASA, some excellent emerging authors. I love teaching almost as much as I adore writing and am happy to continue doing this until everyone gets tired of me. I also add comments on my blog about books I have recently read. Sometimes feedback comes in Chinese, or another language, and is badly computer translated. I do enjoy reading these. My blogs try to cover all the rules a writer should know before they throw them out the window. Right now I am running some fascinating interviews with other authors.
Q. Often creators who use small publishers have little chance of winning literary prizes. How does an author continue a creative flow with this knowledge hovering in the background?
Yes, it is discouraging as so much emphasis is also placed on the quality of the actual hard copy, the editing, paper, illustrations, the typeface, the thickness of the cover and whether the author and the company are well known.
Small companies have to invest a lot of cash and mostly this doesn’t come off. For example, a book may cost a small company anything up to $10 for each copy. To enter the CBCA awards, they must post 10 copies and a cheque for $99.00 – a further four copies and another $99.00 to enter the information award. Let’s say a company has put out half a dozen books. The costs become astronomical and the gamble akin to playing the pokies. Also, as committees must agree it is always easier to pick a company and a name no one will disagree with, so the same people tend to pick up the same prizes. This is not meant as sour grapes, merely an observation.
The invention of the ebook has set the cat amongst the pigeons. Few awards so far permit ebooks to enter apart from perhaps the Aurealis Science Fiction. Their argument is that not every school has computers, but I think this is no longer valid. Perhaps judges find it hard to read on line. Many adults do. Then how do you judge the presentation of a book when there’s nothing to hold apart from your iPad or Kindle?
Q. How do you see the future of children’s books, and your own adaptability, in light of the current publishing climate?
If I haven’t already created an army of enemies by my above comments, I think all books will gradually ease into ebooks as young readers continue to use computers. I come across toddlers reading and playing on their mothers’ iPads. Imagine what this generation will do when they are old enough? Hopefully, there will still be a place for beautifully presented literary and coffee table hardcopies. However, there is surely room for both, certainly in the story picture book area which is undergoing a splendid revival.
Q. Editors play a huge role in a writer’s success story. Have they played a specific role in your writing career?
Some have and some haven’t. However a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold. Too many have lost their jobs or are underpaid. Also, it seems the better known an author becomes, the more s/he refuses to accept criticism. I wish I could edit some of the books I come across. Can we introduce the pinch test? More is not always better, though I am talking more about adult rather than books for kids. Thank god the novella is returning. There is one lesson every children’s author knows - once your audience loses interest, they will never return.
Q. You have covered many genres in your writing. What other areas of writing have you covered in your career?
I have tried everything apart from film scripts, adult plays and graphic novels. I co-wrote with Hazel Edwards numerous plays and non fictions including ‘The Business of Writing for Young People.’ Lots of my adult short stories and non-fiction pieces have won prizes and appeared in print and on the web. Some of my adult work has been heard on radio and some recorded on CD’s. My monologues have been performed on stage.
Q. Is there anything more you would like to add that I haven’t touched upon?
Only in that I would love readers to look up my website and blog, both newly created by Jin Wang. And please write to me via my blog or email address which you will find on my website www.goldiealexander.com If you are a teacher I would love to be invited to talk to your students. There are lots of potential topics and workshops on my website. If you know an adult club that might be interested, please do the same.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Goldie. Yes, entering book awards such as the CBCA Awards is also expensive for self-published authors. However, sadly, this country and others, have not allowed independents to enter their awards. Very, very sadly, great works will languish.
Think about this!