- Guest Author -
Today I feature another Aussie author who has had an interesting career and life - Angelo Mifsud. Angelo is also into bonsai.
Welcome, Angelo ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I was born in Malta in 1946 and immigrated to Australia in 1951. I grew up in the inner suburbs of Sydney in Ultimo. I attended Holy Cross College Ryde and then moved to J.J. Cahill High School in Mascot.
After finishing my Intermediate Certificate I worked in the furniture trade as an apprentice wood machinist. In 1975 it was time for a change so I joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a Supply Clerk.
In 1980 the RAAF posted me (and the family) to Canberra. I left the RAAF in 1987 and joined the Australian Public Service, and then in 1994 I ventured into private enterprise as a business analyst contracting till I retired in 2008.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
It was while I was in the RAAF in 1976. I was a purchasing clerk at this time, and it was budget time with restrictions on spending so we did not have much to do. My colleague and I were tasked with reviewing Federal and State Government Contracts but somehow we had a discussion on the subject of writing books. I said confidently that it was easy to write a book.
This off the cuff remark drew criticism from my colleague who duly threw down a challenge. ‘Well smartypants if you think it so easy then write one?’
I went home that night thinking about her challenge that I had accepted without thinking. After the family went to bed I picked up my writing pad and pen, and at one in the morning drafted the first chapter.
Next day, feeling proud of my achievement and how easy it was. I showed her (my colleague) the result with the comment. ‘See I told you it was easy.’
She read the chapter during lunch. After lunch, when I thought that would be the end of it. She politely asked. ‘Where’s the next chapter?’
So each night after the family went to bed I sat and wrote. I drafted twelve chapters but when I came to Canberra I could not revisit the draft due to the long hours of the job, although I did some work on it when time allowed. Then in 2008 after retiring I redrafted the entire book and then finally finished it in 2014, which I duly published in June 2014.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
My first attempt was to shoot from the hip but when I retired and looked at it seriously I realised that I had a complete mess and would not appeal to a reader. I was trained as a project manager and business analyst so using these skills I planned the story and found many flaws in the plot. I find this is the best way for me to work and be most productive. I am currently planning the next novel, the sequel to Inheritance, and using the same process.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me it is the research on an idea and then building the plot or story line. Then it’s creating the characters. I have to visualise the person, what they look like, their moods, their passions, and finally how will they fit in the plot or story. As it evolves I get a lot of satisfaction a story that is logical, visually stimulating, and has creditability. I find ideas come to me often. I may see someone in a café or walking in a mall and an idea enters my head which when I have a chance write it down. This is most exhilarating.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me it is the editing process and finding the right words that convey my thoughts in a concise and unambiguous way. To show the reader the action as if they were there looking on and be part of it all.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A wood machinist, a logistics clerk (RAAF), a business/systems analyst in government and private enterprise.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Finishing my first novel, I loved the process, the stimulation and creativity.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am currently working on the sequel to my first novel Inheritance. It is in the planning stage at the moment, developing the narrative and synopsis. I look forward to getting my teeth in the first draft.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The world is my inspiration. Nature inspires me. I am also a bonsai artist which helps my creativity. Styling and developing a bonsai allows me to remove the noise around my thoughts and lets me concentrate, a sort of mediation on my ideas.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Fiction is the genre I like to write but I have Historical Fiction story and a Science Fiction idea, I don’t like reading science fiction, but it is nagging me so I have to write it. In all have ten projects or ideas that I want develop as books so I have a lot of work ahead of me.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
If you have an idea for a book, write it. Don’t waste a minute thinking about it whether you can do it, and don’t let anyone put you off. It won’t be easy, it’s hard work but with determination you can do it, and don’t ever give up.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Fortunately, I don’t suffer from writer’s block it takes all my time to push new ideas to the back of my mind. I have heard of people having writer’s block, it must be frustrating. I just have to control my thoughts or I’ll forever be thinking up ideas but that does not achieve anything if I don’t do the work.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
As a grandparent, gardener, and bonsai artist my writing time is precious. I normally work in the garden or bonsai in the morning, or go shopping. If we’re not needed by the grandchildren then around three of an afternoon I sit and write till five. After dinner, if I’m free, I write from eight thirty to eleven. I, if the juices are flowing freely, usually manage 1200 to 2000 words in a session.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
We have an extension called the toy room. The kids are grown up and gone. The grandchildren use it when they come over. This is the space where I sit at the desk and with my hand written notes/narrative in front of me and my computer. My books are in the book self also in front of me so I can access any book for information I need.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
It is the development of the plot or story line, which I usually work out in my head before I put pen to paper. I always use a fountain pen and an exercise book initially, it helps my creative juices, it is excuse and I’m sticking with it. This is the research period of the time period and location, character creation, plot progression, and the story flow and events to the ending. This is invigorating and highly stimulating time for me and after a good days work I’m exhausted and ready to sleep.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
My favourite Author is Agatha Christie a master of her craft in suspense and mystery. I ‘try’ to emulate her in my writings and if I can achieve a half of her ability I will have fulfilled one of my goals.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I have had two reviews on my first novel ‘Inheritance’.
The first was from a friend. ‘A bloody good read’.
Another from a winner of one of my giveaways said. ‘I won this as a giveaway. I absolutely loved it. I loved the plot twists. I loved how he named places around Sydney that I knew and understood. I couldn't put it down.’
A close cousin read the book in three days. ‘I have to read it again because I read it so fast to get to the end.’
My friends have told me they have enjoyed it and are looking forward to the sequel.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I have not had a bad review as yet but no doubt I will.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I am influenced by all life around me that is my garden from which I take to sculpture a story.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My other passion is bonsai. Writing and bonsai for me go hand in hand. Bonsai is an art of illusion much the same as writing fiction. In bonsai I use nature and my creativity to create a tree in a pot, a story in nature. It can be a forest, a tree growing on the side of a mountain, a tree that has been subjected to the forces of nature, and each sculpture has its own story to tell. In writing the story is a little harder as I have to build a world that has a life with conflicts, happiness, and sorrow from a single idea. The same creativity hatches my ideas for my bonsai are the same for my plots and stories.
Just two bonsai from my collection
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Unfortunately, I could not afford the cost of a professional editor, not that I begrudge the price because editing is hard work. In this case did the editing myself with the assistance of my friends but I admit it is not the same. No doubt people will find errors and let me know in uncertain terms, the book is out there so I will accept the criticisms. I hope the next novel I will have the resources to employ a professional editor.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Get up in the morning. If it’s a nice day spend the morning in the garden or shopping or minding grandchildren. Around three sit down and write, have dinner and family time, and then write till I go to bed.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
The only person and that is my lovely wife. She is the only one who puts up with me.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Talk to each other and work to eliminate the woes of the poor, and the sick. Have compassion, and treat people like they would expect people to treat them.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
My plan for the future is to keep writing. At the moment I have ten projects/books in mind. A trilogy, and a series of thirteen books, science fiction. So I plan to keep busy in my old age.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
A Thousand and One Arabian nights (Anonymous) , Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain) from my Alexander Classic Library collection given to me by mother when I was 8 years old. I would also take The Case of the Missing Lady (Agatha Christie), Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson), and Terra del Fuego: Fatal Lodestone (Eric Shipton). These books are my favourites, which I read time and time again.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I am like an actor which in the course of writing I become each of the characters. I visualise the scenes as if I were there. I feel the emotions, and as best I can write from a viewpoint that involves the reader in the events and show the reader the drama of the story.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes it does but in saying that they are in the business of selling so it is understandable they do not take a risk with unknown authors. In my case, I would have preferred to have a traditional publisher but being in my sixties I could not wait to be found under the bushel, especially when there are so many good young writers out there. So I self-published and took a risk on myself, I have nothing to lose.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
The word is not in my vocabulary.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I have only written one novel and two indexes for bonsai magazines Bonsai Focus and International Bonsai my novel Inheritance is my favourite so there is not much to compare it with. I spent forty years of writing in a stop and start cycle till I retired. Then I spent six years learning the real craft of writing. It was worth the effort when I held the finished book in my hand.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I achieved my success as a writer was when I typed ‘THE END’ on the last page before sending the manuscript off to the printer. The satisfaction of receiving the final product and the exhilaration I felt as I flicked through the pages.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
This is a good question and since I am writing for my readers my hope would be that they are part of the story, they are there in the action. They will love or hate the characters and be in the emotion of it all.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A book cover is the first part of the journey for the reader. It has to draw them to the book. The cover should in some way reflect the theme of the book.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
My hope is to take the reader reading my novel on an enjoyable journey. For my non-fiction bonsai index books they draw knowledge from the pages.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
This is a hard question because I’m not good at marketing myself. I applaud those authors who are confident enough to show themselves to the world and shine. I’m naturally shy and do not like pushing my own barrow, but I’m learning, and through this interview I hope to learn more.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes because of my age I can’t wait around for a traditional publisher to come and present me with a contract. So I’ve decided to do it myself, it is a risk but I’m happy with the progress so far, slowly, slowly one step at a time. If the readers out there enjoy my stories maybe a publisher will take a risk with me. All I want to do is to write. The links for Inheritance:
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Intolerant people who treat others badly and criticise what others do and yet do the same thing themselves.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The last historical book I read was Rome by Robert Hughes. I enjoyed it and if you like history and the arts then this is good. The last book of fiction was Twisted by Jeffery Deaver, an excellent book of short stories. I’m currently reading ‘In The Shadow Of The Sword’ by Tom Holland and so far brilliant.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
They sat at the table; the glasses of red wine tingled as they came together in salute. She smiled as he put the glass to his mouth and held her breath as she waited. And then he turned to her and winked. The End
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I have a loving family, a great and understanding wife, two children and their partners, and seven grandchildren, I write, I create bonsai so what more do I need?
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you Clancy for the opportunity to answer the questions you have posed. I hope I haven’t been boring in my replies. I’m more than happy to answer your reader’s questions they wish to ask. I can be contacted on the following social media networks:
Clancy's comment: Thank you for sparing the time, Angelo. Keep writing. Loooooove those bonsai. Righteo, folks, get out there and buy Angelo's book for Christmas.