- Guest Australian Author -
I'm pleased to introduce a very successful Australian author who has a great sense of humour. Here is a brief resume' of Bill's sharp humour ...
Bill Condon was born, which is always a good start.
He became a children's writer after failing the entrance exam for bottlewashing...
Bill Condon was born in 1949 and was still alive when he wrote this. He lives with his wife Dianne (Di) Bates, in the seaside town of Woonona, on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia.
He left school at the first chance he got and worked in an assortment of jobs that did not require much in the way of qualifications.
He mowed lawns, cut down trees, delivered parcels, trained greyhounds, worked in a milk factory, drove a forklift truck, and briefly, before he went broke, was a professional punter. All that time he longed to be a writer, the only vocation he felt an affinity for.
A chance meeting with Larry Rivera, the editor of a local weekly newspaper, led Bill into a career as a journalist. He was given a one-day trial at the paper, to fill in for someone who was sick, and stayed for ten years. (There is almost no truth to the rumour that he murdered the person who was sick.) Throughout those years Bill was also writing for children, following the example of his wife Di, who is a well known children's author.
About ten years ago Bill left journalism to devote himself full-time to writing for children. When not writing, Bill plays tennis, snooker, and Scrabble, but hardly ever at the same time. His dream is to receive a wildcard invitation to play tennis at Wimbledon - if nothing else, his knees would provide great comic relief for the spectators.
Welcome, Bill ....
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I had my first book published in the early 80s when I was just a boy of 30 something. Now I’m just a boy of 67, but I’m still hanging in there. I live on the south coast of NSW with my wife Di (Dianne Bates) and spend my days writing – or to be more accurate – trying to write. I’ve written for young people of all ages, and across many genres. In the words of AB Facey, I’ve had a fortunate life.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I stumbled into writing, probably because at school it was the only thing I showed any aptitude for. When I was about 14 or 15 I wrote an essay that a teacher singled out for praise – a rare thing for me in those days – and I think that’s what got me dreaming of one day becoming a writer. My writing apprenticeship was simply living and earning a crust, mowing lawns and working in factories, meeting people and hearing about their lives, all the time subconsciously ‘growing’ my own stories, which I’ve been plundering ever since.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I’m hip-shooter from way back. Planning would make things a lot easier, and I’m sure I’d save a great deal of time, but I doubt I’ll change my method now. The only planning I do is thinking, usually during morning walks. This is a very long and drawn-out process, and it usually leads to nothing. But once in a while an idea takes hold, and I run with it.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Dorothy Parker said it best: ‘Hate writing. Love having written’. That doesn’t quite pertain to me because I don’t hate it at all. But I do find it very hard, and it’s so easy to give up, or not even try. But when I do try and it works – and I think this goes for most writers – there is nothing better.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I did lots of manual work, including mowing lawns, cutting down trees, pretending to be a landscape gardener, and had stints in milk and ice cream factories, before fluking a job as a journalist for a local paper. I filled in for a day for someone who was sick, and ended up staying ten years. Since the early 90s I’ve been a full-time freelance writer.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Every book that I’m able to write is a big thrill and gives me a sense of achievement, but I think highest on the list would be winning the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2010.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m in between books. I recently finished a novel so my brain has decided to go on holiday. Hopefully, one day it will come back.
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Many things. Today I saw a young man in a wheelchair struggling to push himself up a steep grade. I told him it must be a battle to make it up hills and he just shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, but it’s good for my arms and my heart.’ I found him and his attitude inspiring. At the start of the year my oldest friend died. I’d known him since schooldays. Whenever I feel lazy now, or fed up in general, I think of how grateful John would be to have one more day to live and achieve. That inspires me to stop complaining and get to work.
9. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Young adults and junior novels for children. I’ve also written more than 100 plays for kids, plus several collections of poems, and I’ve had a few non-fiction books published.
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Believe in yourself, because if you don’t no one else is likely to. With most things in life, the more you you do something, the better you’ll be at it. I think this certainly applies to writing. So hard work and lots of it. Often I’m very reluctant to face the horror of the blank page. To overcome this I set myself a writing time limit of one hour. That isn’t too daunting so I can usually manage it. Surprisingly, very often when the hour is up I’ve become engaged in a piece of writing and I don’t want to stop.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
To be more specific, I suffer from fear of trying to write and not being able to, which often blocks me. There is a four-year gap between my latest two books. When the writing got hard I stalled and told myself that I was too old to write anything decent. Finally, when I overcame the block, I realised that writing has always been hard for me. I just had to knuckle down and do it.
12. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I write every day from morning till about 5 pm. I’m also frequently at my desk in the middle of the night. That makes me sound like a workaholic, but I write extremely slowly, so I don’t accomplish a lot during all those hours. The exception to this is when I’m on a roll with something – which is rare – then the writing comes easily and I lose track of time.
13. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Finding the right voice for a character. Writing a good scene. Most of all, typing The End.
14. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
That’s too hard. Australians are spoilt for choice. We have so many terrific writers.
15. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Very much. All my stories are in some way autobiographical. My problem now is that I’ve written so much that I’m running out of life to steal from. If I can’t think of something soon I might have to start using my imagination!
16. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes. I’ve published with Allen & Unwin, Random House, UQP, About Kid’s Books, etc. They won’t release a book that hasn’t been professionally edited.
17. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Keep writing for as long as I can.
18. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I’ve never had a book trailer. (I wouldn’t be able to park it.) I doubt I ever will have one, so I’m not the person to ask.
19. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Not at all. It’s been very good to me so I have no complaints. I should also say that everyone I’ve had dealings with over the years has been kind and helpful.
20. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
No. As I said earlier, I’m not much good at anything else.
21. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Another hard question, Clancy. Success has different meanings to various people. I’d say that basically if you write something to the best of your ability and you’re happy with the result – whether it’s published or not – that’s a success.
22. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Hopefully they should know the characters and empathise with them. And I always cross my fingers that they don’t hate the author.
23. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
No to both.
24. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Quite a lot I imagine, but I don’t get involved in that side of things. I leave it to the publisher. They always send me the cover for my approval before they go ahead, and usually it’s excellent
25. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I’ve already had more dreams fulfilled than one person should be allowed.
26. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I know that more and more writers are supposed to be marketers of their books. I try to avoid it as much as possible and prefer to let the book speak for itself. However, I have to admit that some Net presence (on amazing sites such as yours) is a very good way of getting the word around about a new publication.
27. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
28. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
The way Andrew O’Keefe waves his hands around on The Chase. And I hate Australians (like Andrew) who say ‘Listen up!’ Grr! This isn’t America – yet. I also hate the way the newsreader Michael Ferguson refers to the weatherman on Ch 7 as ‘Brownie’. And of course the weatherman calls him ‘Fergo’. Double grr! Apart from a few little things like that, everything is sweet.
29. TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST BOOK. WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s a junior novel called All Of Us Together which is set in Australia at the start of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Although it sounds like it would be knee-deep in history, it’s not. It’s a simple story about a family and what happens to them when the Depression hits.
Apart from Mum and Dad there are two girls, Lydia and Adelaide, and their slightly older brother, Daniel. And of course they have a much-loved dog. (All my books have dogs.) At the start of the story their dad goes off in search of work, because there’s none near where he lives. Apparently this was commonplace during the Depression. It was this idea that first attracted me to the story. I wondered what would happen to the kids and to their mother, with Dad away for a long time.
In my story Daniel takes it on himself to try to be the man of the house, no easy task for a twelve-year-old. As you might expect, he runs into a few problems along the way. But through all their travails the family stick together and support each other. There are parts where it’s funny, and parts where it’s sad, which is pretty much what real life is like.
30. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Just a big thank you for letting me visit your site.
All of Us Together is available from About Kids Books:
... or from any children's bookstore.
Clancy's comment: Great author, top sense of humour, and I highly recommend any of Bill's books. I'm about to read his latest book, ALL OF US TOGETHER, and am looking forward to it. Why, because it covers a very important period in Australia's history - THE GREAT DEPRESSION. Grab a copy and see for yourself. Love ya work, Bill!