- Guest Author -
Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Poppy Inkwell.
Welcome, Poppy ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
My first literary effort was made with bright orange lipstick scrawled across my parents’ bedroom walls at age three. I think I was destined to write about crime and mystery because I promptly ate the evidence.
My family and the children I have subsequently taught have been a constant source of inspiration for my writing. I remember writing one children’s story inspired by my mother-in-law’s struggle with smoking and my three older children did the illustrations. When I thought my younger daughter might need glasses I wrote a story about a school girl who was worried about needing glasses. It turned out the character was happy to have them (I won’t spoil it and say why).
In many ways I see story-writing as a way of helping people cope because I derive comfort from reading stories myself.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I began writing as a child. The school librarian wouldn’t let me borrow a picture book for an extra week unless I put words to the illustrations so I wrote my first story. I’ve written bits and pieces ever since. I committed to writing full-time about five years ago after reading about an environmental disaster that I thought would make a great children’s story. The manuscript didn’t make it but it led to other things that did.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I wish I was a planner but I’m not. But the one rule I live by is that I never start writing unless I have a clear picture of the beginning and end because all my endings have to have a ‘twist’. After that I fill in the bits and pieces with notes to self about what should go here or there for later. I jot down all my ideas in one file and refer to it as a guide while I’m writing, but often this will change as the story gets built up and filled in.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I love the autonomy of writing and the licence to use my imagination. I also love my characters and feel really close to them. It’s as if they’re real people with real personalities. When I write about a character ‘getting into mischief’ I revel in the vicarious pleasure of being naughty too. When I’m able to share an insight into someone’s personal pain, for example when Trân talks about landmines in Cambodia, it’s an opportunity to provide unexpected windows into other cultures and alien experiences. That’s the ‘teacher’ part of me coming out, I guess.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The fact that people don’t take you seriously until you’re published. Until then, many people see writing as a ‘hobby’, or you don’t feel you’ve earned the right to say you’re a writer until you’re published. You need a stubborn streak to keep going, and very thick skin. Not everybody will like what you write and that’s okay.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I have been a DJ for 2RSR Koori Radio, an interpreter for a Japanese ultra-marathon runner in the Sydney-to-Melbourne race, and I’ve done PR for bands like Vicious Hairy Mary and Sydney’s avant-garde performance artists, the Post Arrivalists. Curious about Islam, I went to Brunei to teach English to ASEAN diplomats for 6 months and ended up living there for almost 15 years!
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I think my greatest writing achievement is actually an unpublished manuscript (!) It’s a children’s picture book that takes the reader to lots of different countries through different children’s eyes. I would love to get photographers I’ve met through Instagram involved in putting pictures to the text.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m working on Book 4 in the Alana Oakley series. The four girls in the book become separated and I’m keen to explore issues of resilience, identity and stereotypes.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The humour in my stories is inspired by real events that I collect from newspapers and online reports.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
a. Write, even if you think it is rubbish. The more you do it, the better you will get and the more distinctive your voice will become.
b. Seek professional help. Getting friends to read your work is great but an objective eye provides constructive feedback and concrete ideas to help you make the necessary changes.
c. Don’t do it for the money.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
In the beginning I really struggled to find my own ‘voice’ as a writer so I read a lot of books and chose my favourite passages and typed them out. Even though they weren’t my own words, the act of typing out really beautifully crafted words helped me find a voice that was my own.
I also find taking a shower helps ... Go figure!
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
My warm-up is to edit what I’ve written the day before. I’ll finish off a writing session with more editing.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I write at the dining table ... conveniently close to the kitchen for those all-important energy boosts.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Seeing someone laugh out loud while they’re reading YOUR book. Nothing beats that feeling.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I love Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series because he has crafted entertaining stories that are so wise and so profound; they teach me about myself and the nature of humanity. Plus the fact that his character, Death, speaks in CAPITALS is a masterstroke. He is such a loss to the world of literature.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
S (age 12) “I finished Book 2 and then I was like, I want more, more, more.”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
No negative comments that I know of as the series hasn’t been widely reviewed but Book 1 once received a rating of 3/5 on Goodreads.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I’ve had to escape from a public toilet. I’ve cuddled up to a stranger because I mistook him for my dad. And I’ve been frisked at Long Bay Gaol ... not all on the same day. While I have not used these specific examples in my writing, I have drawn on the overall arching question which I ask myself in these situations: How did I get into this?!
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I’m Asian so of course, food! Music and art are also very important to me, and I love taking photographs, so travel is a real passion, too.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, I worked with a professional assessor before approaching a publisher and then the books went through another editing process with Big Sky Publishing.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
A successful morning of prolific writing, eating great food in great company, an afternoon nanna-nap, taking beautiful portraits of everyday people in an exotic locale and then finding a bargain in a car boot sale. The perfect day would end with tapas and a virgin mojito with my husband as we listen to live music.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Bear Grylls because if anyone could get me off that island, he could ... or at least keep us alive until someone rescued us.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would borrow Maya Angelou’s words and remind them that “hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” I’d also demand that they take on Zainab Salbi’s suggestion to allow the non-combatants a place at the negotiating table once the fighting is over. If humanity is truly serious about long-lasting peace then it has to cease being negotiated by soldiers.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I gave my husband and younger daughter tickets to the recent One Direction concert. Neither of them really appreciated the gesture (not being fans) but it was important to me that they experienced that slice of history. I would want my own future to be full of unique experiences.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I think they can definitely help.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
There are bits of me in Emma, Alana Oakley’s mum, but I’d like to think I’m nowhere near as embarrassing or untogether!
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
I’m still finding my way around so I can’t really comment yet.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Yes and no. I don’t think I could have ever stopped writing but I was often tempted not to submit my manuscripts. During these periods I thought it was okay for writing to be ‘just a hobby’ when deep down it was important to me to have the external acknowledgment that I could actually write.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I loved writing Book 3 because it flowed really well and I was able to add so much more depth to my characters. I got very involved in the storyline and even made myself cry at my own ending! Pathetic!
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Success comes in many forms to many people but I would feel a really big victory if I received feedback from readers who felt they were no longer invisible because of reading my books.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I’d like them to know more about themselves and other cultures, through humour. If they’re suffering from stitches from laughing I’ll consider it a job well done.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I’m a very visual person. I think it’s because I was a bit of a TV addict as a child. While I was a big reader, I also watched a LOT of shows like Batman and Robin, Get Smart, and the Thunderbirds. So when I write I see ‘min-movies’ in my head (complete with cartoon-like Kablams!) I could definitely see my books as a TV series but no, I have never written a screenplay.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A lot (!) but I’ve learnt that it’s difficult to convey a visual concept unless you have the talent to create it yourself. Sometimes the reality is that you have to compromise.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
This changes all the time but I’m also a big believer in being careful of what you wish for. When you get what you think you want, you soon realise that maybe it wasn’t what you wanted after all. Ultimately I want to be happy, and making a difference is a part of that.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I have marketing experience but self-promotion is another kettle of fish. I am still on a huge learning curve but I think it’s important to be yourself, just as it is important to write with authenticity. Having said that, I’ve (obviously) chosen a pseudonym because it helps me separate my ‘writing self’ from my personal life where all the mundane stuff happens.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Spectacular at stuffing up punch-lines.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
“The Girl at Midnight” by Melissa Grey which my younger daughter recommended. I like ‘quest books’ and I really enjoyed it.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I already suffer from a terrible memory so I think my last sentence would be Paddington Bear-esque in nature: If lost, please return to …
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
We returned to Australia with the view of spending more time with my aging parents but they have developed a reticence to travel – or do anything outside of their routine, as is common with older people. I would love to be spending more time with them, though.
Clancy's comment: Go, Poppy! Get that unpublished manuscript out. Happy to offer some of my own photographs.