Ep 134 How to improve your dialogue. And children’s author Wendy Orr on how her book was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Jodie Foster.

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends










Submit

podcast-artworkIn Episode 134 of So you want to be a writer: Discover great resources for children’s writers and seven ways to improve your dialogue. Bookworms rejoice: Kindle Unlimited launches in Australia. Learn how you could win a Surface Pro 4. And meet children’s author, Wendy Orr, who talks about how her book was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Jodie Foster. Also: book marketing trends to avoid and much more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Review of the Week
From Z L Arnot:

I listen to this podcast several times a week, while running, walking or just doing things around the house. I love the diversity of topics covered, from copywriting, journalism to fiction writing. I love the depth of useful information and tips. I particularly enjoy the interviews with writers. It’s so fascinating learning about how writers in various genres and settings approach their craft, and build a career as an author. Love your work Valerie & Allison.

Thanks Z L Arnot!

Show Notes
Fifteen Great Resources For Aspiring Children’s Authors

Bookworms rejoice: Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service has launched Down Under

How to write dialogue in a story: 7 steps for great exchanges

Writer in Residence

Wendy Orr

author wendy orrWendy Orr grew up in France, Canada and USA and now writes for children, young adults and adults.

Her books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards including the CBC (Australian) Book of the Year, American Library Association Book for older readers, and the Israeli March of Books.

Wendy also worked on the screenplay that turned her book Nim’s Island into a 2008 Hollywood feature film starring Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerard Butler.

Follow Wendy Orr on Twitter

Visit Wendy Orr’s website

Platform Building Tip

7 Tips for Avoiding Book Marketing Trends That No Longer Work

Competition

WIN a Surface Pro 4!

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Share the love!

writer-ep-134-artwork-1

Interview Transcript

Valerie

So Wendy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Wendy

What a pleasure to be here.

Valerie

I’m so excited to talk to you. Now, there’s so many questions that I want to ask you. I think perhaps if we can get started with, before getting into writing the many books that you’ve written, can you tell us, did you actually want to be a writer when you were younger?

Wendy

Oh yes. Yes, I was one of those children. From the time that I learned to read and write in English, which is when I was seven, that’s when I really decided that I wanted to be a writer. And I kept that until I got to high school and thought, oh this is so weird. I don’t think that you could really be a writer. How could somebody make a living? And I sort of put it aside for a while.

Valerie

And then, so what was the turning point? When did you then decide, I can actually make this a real thing?

Wendy

I was actually crossing a road, with a friend going out to lunch, and she said, “Did I tell you, I’ve written a book?” And I thought, when am I going to do that? And I was actually doing a little course at the time, I was an occupational therapist and I was doing a specific course on a type of test, and, well, I’d like to go on doing something else. Because I just had two kids and a job and my husband’s farm. But I’d like to do something else. And when she said this, it just sort of clicked for me. And I thought, I have to write.

Valerie

And… Yeah, go on. Please go on.

Wendy

Well I, basically I sent off the last assignment of this course on Christmas Eve that year, and I started writing on probably January 2nd. I always say January 1st, but that’s unlikely. It was probably January 2nd.

Valerie

Wow. And what age were you at the time?

Wendy

32.

Valerie

Okay. So at that time did you know you were going to write children’s books? Or did you try adult? You know, how did you make that first step?

Wendy

I just was doing everything. I hadn’t particularly thought of children’s books. But my own children were little. They were four and six, I think, when I started. And so I was kind of steeped in children’s books, and I used picture books at work. But I started writing everything under the sun, just about. This friend had actually written a Mills and Boon. Now, it wasn’t actually published. But she got through to asking for the full manuscript. And I thought, well, that’s a good idea. I could write some Mills and Boon, make a lot of money, and then that could help pay for writing what I want to write when I find out what that is. And then I could cut down my hours at work. Now, I’d never actually read a Mills and Boon, so the arrogance is absolutely unbelievable. And you won’t believe it, they didn’t want my take on their formula that sells very well. So my husband actually said one day, “well, if you’re going to be unsuccessful, you might as well be unsuccessful doing something you like.” So I gave up on the Mills and Boon plan.

Valerie

Okay. That’s sort of positive, kind of.

Wendy

I know. I think it was kindly meant.

Valerie

Yes. Of course. So what was your first break then? With your first book that a publisher was interested in?

Wendy

It was actually a picture book, Amanda’s Dinosaur. So for that first year I experimented in all sorts of things. I did actually try one children’s book. Because I… I must have been coming up to 35 at that point, because I thought that I would enter the Australian Vogel. And I would only have time to write a children’s book. I mean, I just knew nothing. So I wrote this book which my kids loved. And it didn’t win the Vogel, amazingly enough. I got a really detailed analysis with the rejection from Nelson, Thomas Nelson, which was at that stage a trade publisher. And that made me think about children’s books more. And then I saw this competition for a picture book text. And, probably most of the people at the Writer’s Centre already know that you don’t have to draw the pictures yourself for a picture book. However, I didn’t know this. This was the first time I had realised that you didn’t have to present it as the whole. And picture books just came fairly naturally, because the kids were that age. And so I wrote Amanda’s Dinosaur. And it won publication. I had to change the last line, which took me about three months.

Valerie

Wow.

Wendy

But yes, it won. And it was published. And it wasn’t actually an easy road after that. You think, well, there you go, you know, foot in the door. But basically, the editors that I worked with there both left.

Valerie

Oh.

Wendy

So, you know, I didn’t publish anything else with Scholastic. But, that was my break.

Valerie

So when you first saw that book, do you, I mean, because you’ve written so many books since. But do you remember when you got the news, or when you first saw it in your hands?

Wendy

Oh my goodness. I don’t think that anybody would ever forget that first acceptance and first book. The letter was a rather strange letter, to be honest.

Valerie

Okay.

Wendy

It’s long enough ago. I’m going to sort of tell the truth about the letter.

Valerie

Please do.

Wendy

It said something like, “well, thank you for entering this competition. The standard was basically pretty awful. But I’m delighted to tell you that you and somebody else have won. And we decided not to award the first prize outright because you have to change the ending. But good luck, and congratulations.” I mean, my husband actually opened it while I was at work so he could phone me at work. The letter is all crumpled up because he was so upset at the start, and then got to the very bottom, where it said, oh well we’re going to publish it.

Valerie

How bizarre.

Wendy

And, look, I don’t think they said ‘pretty awful’. But it was pretty much what they said.

Valerie

Goodness.

Wendy

So he phoned me at work. And said, “you’re going to be published.” And a neighbour told me that he’d driven right up their driveway, still on the tractor, waving this letter and saying, “Wendy’s getting a book published!”

Valerie

Oh wow. That’s gorgeous. So you got that book published. And then after that, you said you didn’t publish again with them. But how did things flow after that? Was it long before you got your second book? Because you said, what’s interesting is you said you wanted to become a writer at 32, then three years later it finally happened at 35. What was the next step? Just so that we get a little bit of idea of the momentum.

Wendy

Well, I thought that I would go on writing picture books. And somehow the first book had flowed quite easily, so, you know, this is easy. I can do it. And I started writing various picture book manuscripts. And a lot of them came close, but it was a period of high flux in the publishing industry. So this was about ’89. Because Amanda’s Dinosaur was published in ’88. So one book was given a letter of offer, a contract was going to follow from Heinemann and then they – I better not say the publisher’s name. So everybody wipe that from your ears, because I don’t remember who took over who. But basically, one publisher said, “we love this little book, however we’ve just accepted one very similar.” Then another publisher said, “yes, we love this we’re going to send you a contract.” Then they said, “We’ve just been taken over by this company and there’s another book that’s very similar.” So there was a lot of things like that. And then I sent something to Thomas Nelson. Which the day I sent it changed from being a trade publisher to an educational publisher. And they actually accepted quite a lot of things.

Now, not all of them were published. There was a lot of upheaval there, too. But it actually gave me a little bit of an apprenticeship, working with some editors. And that was very valuable. But at the same time, I was sending out other things. And I believe that the next book that was actually accepted was Ark in the Park, which wasn’t published for quite a long time. Ark in the Park is 3000 words. Which again, going back to the fact that I knew nothing about publishing, I didn’t know that there were standards of lengths or anything. I just wrote what I saw. So I wrote this little book. And I sent it off. And about ten publishers said, “well, it’s very sweet, but it’s the wrong length.” And I sent it to Cathie Tasker who had actually been the commissioning editor for Amanda’s Dinosaur. And she was now at Harper Collins. So I sent it to Harper Collins; it found its way to her. And she said, “it’s a lovely little book. Let’s publish some books this length.” She had another manuscript that was also a similar length. I don’t know if it came in at the same time. It took about, all up, I think it was about five years in the process.

Valerie

Right.

Wendy

And yeah. Then she started this series of highly illustrated little tiny chapter books of about 3000 words. And quite a few publishers wrote to me after it won Book of the Year to say, “We were thinking of doing some books at about 3000 words.”

Valerie

Oh my goodness.

Wendy

And then that was my true break. Cathie Tasker was there for a number of years. And she published a lot of my books.

Valerie

That’s wonderful. And of course, she’s one of our teachers at the Australian Writer’s Centre.

Wendy

Awesome. I didn’t know that.

Valerie

It’s great. She’s teaching picture books and children’s books. So that’s great to hear.

Now, I would like to touch on Nim’s Island, which of course is one of the books you’re most well known for. It’s huge. Now, I read that when you were nine years old, a child, you wrote a book as nine year olds do, and you said that it was probably what was really the first draft of Nim’s Island. So can you tell us first a little bit about that? But then also when was the first draft, you know, as an adult? The real draft.

Wendy

The adult draft. Yes. Well, it is true. We were actually heading out to see my grandparents on a ferry, near Vancouver Island. And I was nine. My mum and I are guessing that I was nine. And we went past this little tiny island, and I decided I would like to run away and live on an island. And I don’t think I was particularly unhappy or anything; it just appealed to me.

So when we went back, we lived in the prairies, in the Canadian prairies then, so no water, no islands. And when we went back, I started writing this little book that I called Spring Island. And because I was very enamoured of Anne of Green Gables at the time, she ran away from an orphanage to live on this island. And then a little boy ran away from his orphanage and they lived on the island together. Until after a year or so my interest changed and they got adopted and got horses. So,

Until after a year or so my interest changed and they got adopted and got horses. So, Nim was published in ’99. So I guess I started playing with the idea around ’97. And… Sorry, it actually would have started at the end of ’95. Because Ark in the Park won Book of the Year in ’95 for junior fiction. So I was getting a lot of mail, as you do. And one week I got letters from two girls who as far as I know had nothing to do with each other or weren’t from the same school or anything. But they both wrote identical letters saying, “could you please write a book about me?” And I wrote back, you know, politely, and said, “Well, I can’t do that. That’s not how I write. And why don’t you write a book about you?” And that, you know how it goes. You start playing with something. Something just strikes you, and you think, well, you know. What if a child wrote to an author and the author said, “oh! I couldn’t write a book about

And that, you know how it goes. You start playing with something. Something just strikes you, and you think, well, you know. What if a child wrote to an author and the author said, “oh! I couldn’t write a book about you, because I’m a very important author. And your life would be very boring, because you’re a little girl.” Well, you know, but what if the little girl’s life was much more interesting than the author’s? So I started thinking about it. And it was immediately obvious to me that a little girl’s life was more interesting because she lived on an island. And I started playing with that. And at the start, it was going to be done entirely in letters and journals. So it absolutely failed to come to life. And then I really, I remember doing this quite consciously, remembering not so much the story I’d written, which of course was still stored in my mother’s treasure drawer in Canada, but remembering being the feeling of being the nine-year-old who was writing that story. And I remembered some little things like making dishes out of mussel shells and oyster shells and things like that. And I don’t think I actually worked it out consciously then. But what I was tapping into was that sub-conscious desire to be resourceful and strong and brave. And, oh, it must have been about the twelfth draft, I went back and I wrote it as it starts now. “In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, lived a girl.” And I remember sort of thinking that line in the morning and I went and wrote a substantial part of the manuscript, certainly, if not all of it. And I remember thinking – I don’t mean all at once, no – before I got brave enough to show my publisher again, but I remember thinking, even in the first two pages, if this isn’t right I can’t do this book. This is how it has to be. And I don’t believe there was actually an awful lot of editing on it. You know, of course, it went back and forth for a year or so. But I don’t remember big changes once I finally got that.

Valerie

And did you imagine it would be as successful as it was?

Wendy

Oh goodness, no!

Valerie

As it is.

Wendy

No, not at all. I mean, you sort of always have hopes for your books. And by that stage, I had of course been shortlisted three times and won once, and the Honour Book once. So I did know a bit more about the ways of the world. But, so of course, I hoped it would have been shortlisted. Which it never has been in Australia. It’s only overseas that it’s won awards.

Valerie

When did you find out… Can you remember when you found out that it was definitely going to be made into a movie? And of course, it became the Hollywood film with Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler and was very successful. Do you remember how that happened?

Wendy

Strangely enough, I do. I mean, it started with an email. And what was lovely about it, well two things actually. One, was that it was the first email I got asking for film rights. And because I have a terrible feeling I probably would have agreed to anyone. And I did have, I believe, there were two or three requests after, after I got Paula’s letter. So Paula Mazur wrote to me. She wrote me the most beautiful letters. If nothing else had happened, it was a beautiful fan letter. You know, she’d got it out from the library for her son. It was just on that edge of being a little bit hard for him to read, at eight. She was just going to start him reading. But she liked it so much she kept on reading. And her daughter came in. And then the two fat cats, and her husband, who was also Canadian, and we live by the sea… And she told me later, you know, she put in everything she could that would relate to me. And then I think that says a lot about the craft of storytelling. You know, she looked me up. She thought, she likes the sea. She was born in Canada. She likes animals. I’m going to build her this beautiful story of the family being captured in their house by the sea by my story. And then she said, “Please know, I am writing to enquire about the film rights.” And I rrrrrrrr!

Valerie

Yeah. I bet!

Wendy

And I phoned my agent, and my agent wasn’t home. And so of course I couldn’t wait two minutes or anything. You know, I sort of emailed back immediately. I said, “Well my agent isn’t home, or isn’t in the office, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t sold the film rights.” I thought, I would remember that! And then I forwarded it to mum and dad. Oh mum and dad! Look at this! And so a minute later the producer, Paula, emailed back and said, “Oh, I’m pretty sure the one to mum and dad wasn’t to me.”

Valerie

Oh my god!

Wendy

And I said, “well at least I didn’t try, I told you I wasn’t going to try to be cool.” I had said, “I’m not going to pretend. This is very exciting.” So we actually became really good friends, which made the whole process just so much easier.

Valerie

Yes. And then you got such great stars in it, as well. Was that surreal, when you saw it on the screen?

Wendy

Oh, yeah. And, look, the whole process was very slow. Because Paula Mazur was an independent producer. So she, what she was asking for there, I had no idea how far away this was from having the film. She was asking for the right to pitch it. And she actually had interest from four companies, which was phenomenal. And I think so much of that is because she was so passionate about the book. And we talked about the pitch a lot. I wanted, what was in the first scripts, my vision was that the first time you saw Alex Rover, the author, the shot would come in through the clouds. And she’s in a high-rise apartment, so the clouds are around this high-rise, so she is also on her own island. And what’s amazing is I always say that I have no visual imagination. And I do see my books, but I’m not strong on the visual part of it, I don’t think. And as soon as I knew we were talking about a movie I just started seeing everything in visual images. And Paula told me that that image was one of the things that took the pitch over the line. Which was fabulous.

Now, the final script changed it, but… She went with Walden Media and I think at Christmas time we knew that we were definitely getting it. But the day that she told me that Walden Media was going to make us an offer that day, my agent rang and said, “I’ve just been given two tickets to see Holes at a question and answer teacher screening. And Louis Sachar was going to be there.” And of course that had just been produced by Walden Media. And I mean it just seemed like the most incredible omen. We went off to see this. And I was actually so nervous, I did not have the nerve to go up and introduce myself. I think partly because there was somebody in the audience who was a little bit spacey, let’s say. And he stood up and did a long rant about how he was a writer and a screenwriter but he didn’t want to dumb himself down for Hollywood. And I just thought, I just can’t go up and say, look, your studio is making me an offer today. You know, I’d just sound like another nutter.

Valerie

Yeah, sure.

Wendy

And I so regret not having gone up and said hello. And everyone has said, oh for pity’s sakes! Why didn’t you go and introduce yourself? And the final thing I’ll say about that is that it then takes a long, long time before you get the green light. So basically, we didn’t get the green light until Jodie had signed. And there was a lot of stuff going on with that because Jodie wanted the part, and she had to really, really fight for it. Which is bizarre. But anyway.

Valerie

Which is great.

Wendy

It was fantastic. But it was just really strange that she had to fight so hard. And there was a lot of stuff going on with all the studios. And then finally, I worked at something with my agent, and Paula was trying to phone me and I don’t know what happened. I just never managed to get the phone call. I kept trying to call her back. And I remember coming home on the train. And it’s a long, we’re quite a long way from town, more than two hours on the train, and the drive after that. And what is she saying? I think I know. And I got home and there was a message on the answering machine and she said, “It’s Paula! I’ve got good news for you, girlfriend!” And when I called her back and she said, “We got the green light!” And I said, “I guessed.” And she said, “How did you guess?” So it was just so exciting. And I think partly because we worked very closely on it.

Valerie

And of course that became very successful. And now there’s also the sequel. Can you tell us how that all came about?

Wendy

Well, Paula had wanted to option Nim at Sea right from the start. But it got very messy. Just like publishers, studios change hands. And they have new ideas. And the new head wasn’t quite so keen on doing movies on 11 year old girls. So that option was actually returned. So an Australian company, Paula had some relationship with this Australian film company, and they bought the rights and made Return to Nim’s Island, which had to be quite different from Nim at Sea because the budget for Nim at Sea would have just been massive. I wrote it because it was just the story that I saw next. What they did was they really remained true to Nim herself and Nim’s ethos and way of being. And when I read the final script I said, “look, I know it’s not a script really from the book I wrote, but it’s absolutely a story I could have written.” It’s so Nim. I was really pleased with it. By the time I saw the movie itself, we had a little premiere up at Australia Zoo –

Valerie

Because of course it starred Bindi Irwin.

Wendy

Who is just so fantastic. I mean, just so perfect for the part. And sitting there I really totally forgot that this wasn’t the story I’d written. It was so much my Nim. And then I did write the third one, which its future is still in flux. Rescue on Nim’s Island is out there as a book.

Valerie

And so, you started out as an occupational therapist. And then you thought, oh, I’m going to write this book. But obviously when you first did your first picture book, you were still an occupational therapist, I’m assuming.

Wendy

Yes.

Valerie

At what point did you make a full transition to writing?

Wendy

Well, I did it a bit dramatically. I don’t recommend this one. I broke my neck.

Valerie

Oh! Really? Oh my goodness.

Wendy

Yeah. So I’m not a quadriplegic, but I did break… It wasn’t a simple break. So I had a lot of other damage. And so I eventually had to give up being an OT. But this is, the symbolism here would just be too shonky to use in fiction. It took me two years to actually admit that I couldn’t go back to work. I was on sick leave without pay in the end. The day that I cleaned out my office, officially resigned and cleaned out my OT office, was the day that the shortlist was announced. I’m Leaving It To You was my first book shortlisted, and that was… So I’d actually made an appointment to see a psychologist for when I’d finished cleaning out my office. Because it was really hard. And I couldn’t drive, of course, so this friend drove me to the hospital then drove me to the psychologist’s office. And of course this was before mobile phones, this was ’93. And the receptionist met me and she said, “Your husband’s been leaving messages for you. Something about a shortlist!” That was a waste of a grief counselling appointment.

Valerie

Oh geez.

Wendy

Just fabulous that, you know, I felt I could say I was a writer.

Valerie

Yes. Yes. Now, tell us about your latest book, Dragonfly. Just for those listeners who maybe haven’t read it yet, what’s it about?

Wendy

Dragonfly Song is the story of an outcast girl in ancient Greece. She lives on a small island. And she has a – this is the only place where it sort of verges off into a little bit of fantasy – she has an ability to call snakes, in particular, but other animals as well. Sometimes just mentally. Because through trauma she is mute. But the singing, so sometimes she does communicate mentally and sometimes the singing breaks through. It’s really limited. It really only happens to her in times of stress. She doesn’t have this sort of constant communication with animals. Her life is so terrible that she really volunteers to go as one of the tribute that this island pays to Crete where, drawing on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur where the seven youths and seven maidens were taken from Athens as tribute to be fed to the Minotaur, a sort of bull-headed man-beast. I’ve decided that if Crete took tribute from one place, it probably took it from anywhere that the Cretan navy ruled. So I’ve decided that the tribute is actually trained up to be bull leapers. In the famous fresco from Knossos in Crete of a girl and two young men leaping over the back of a bull, and this is a motif that is repeated over and over in Cretan, in Minoan sculpture and jewellery and everything. It’s obviously very significant. And so I decided that she becomes one of the tribute and becomes a bull leaper in Crete. It is an unusual book, I admit. And it’s written partly in free verse, because it really decided it wanted to be. And I decided that it was too complex to be written entirely in free verse. So I mixed free verse and prose.

Valerie

And so when you think of your… Before you start writing your books, do you start with a premise? Or with, for example Dragonfly, did you already map out the whole story before you started writing? How do you approach your writing process?

Wendy

I map a lot more than I used to. I used to be afraid that mapping a story out would really just kill the magic, or something. And I think that I wrote one manuscript, and I actually don’t remember what it was, but I felt that I had done that, that I had really killed it. But I’ve realised now that I do actually plan quite a lot mentally. And this was quite a complex book. And I’ve written other ones that are complex, actually. I think I have to have a pretty good idea of the thread. So, I really knew, I really knew I think the whole story pretty well by the time I was writing it. I did start it five years earlier.

Valerie

Oh.

Wendy

And then I put it aside for Rescue on Nim’s Island. And I wasn’t completely sure I had the tone the way I wanted. And that was partly because I kept hearing it in verse and transposing it into prose. So when I started again this time, I had one go again. And then I thought, no I’m going to, that’s when I decided that I would give up and just do it the way that I wanted to. But this one was the most thorough plan that I’d made for a first draft. And that was partly because I was being rather slow with it and my editor said, “well, how about say August for showing us your whole first draft? Is that possible?” And I think I felt like I had about five years’ worth of first draft to write still. And I sat down and I outlined all the scenes that needed to happen, and how many days.

But the other thing I did, which I’ve never done before, was usually I’ve discussed… Well, usually I’ve actually written the whole book before I’ve shown it to the publisher. But I’ve often talked about it with my editor. So sometimes it’s contracted before I’ve finished. But we talked about this one quite a bit. And she said, “Well, could you write me just a little blurb to take to the publishing meeting? You know, don’t spend more than an hour on it.” So I took three days, and I wrote what was way too long for a synopsis to hand in to a publisher. But that is the luxury, that I was working with the editor who has been thinking of this story with me four or five years before. So I sent her the whole three pages, and she presented something neater, I presume. But, I know, surprise, surprise, I couldn’t believe how useful it was to write that synopsis. But I do think that part of it was because, as I say, it had been in my head for so long.

Valerie

Yes, yes.

Wendy

But even as I wrote the synopsis, the reason it took me so long to write, I remember coming up to, you know, as I was describing the ending, or near the ending, and I thought, that’s not going to work at all! And until I actually wrote that down, I hadn’t seen it. So, I am… I mean the new one that I’m starting now, I’m doing sort of a bit of alternately sort of starting at the beginning and making the plans.

Valerie

What can you tell us about the new one? About your next one?

Wendy

The next one is set in pretty much the same world as Dragonfly Song. It’s actually 200 years earlier. Dragonfly Song is set in about 1450 BCE, and this next one whose title I don’t know, I’ve been calling it Saffron, which is no longer the name of the girl, so it really doesn’t make much sense at all. And it’s set in 1625 BCE, which is the time that the Santorini volcano exploded. And I went to Crete and Santorini and did some research. And actually have had to slightly change my synopsis because of that, because the very latest research has changed some things quite significantly. But yes. The main character will be a girl again. I don’t believe it’s going to have that little touch of fantasy that Dragonfly Song had.

Valerie

Right.

Wendy

But who knows?

Valerie

Do you typically only work on one book at a time? Or are you editing one book while you’re writing another book? Is there a crossover?

Wendy

I’ve usually had a crossover. And Dragonfly Song was so all-consuming I didn’t do anything else.

Valerie

Right, yeah.

Wendy

Which means that I also don’t have anything else to edit now as I work on this new one. So this one will also end up being like that.

Valerie

And when’s it out?

Wendy

Haha!

Valerie

Not sure?

Wendy

I believe we’ll be aiming at July 2018.

Valerie

Okay. Wow.

Wendy

Because I’m just starting. I’m a very slow writer.

Valerie

And finally, what would your advice be for aspiring writers who hope to be in a position like you are one day? You know, hope to make the change maybe from being an occupational therapist or something else and moving into writing?

Wendy

Okay, something like this is a little bit contrary, I think, but having, if you can work part-time and have some form of outside income, I think that can actually help your writing. Because to write anything really good, you have to be prepared to fail badly. Because you have to experiment. Now I mean there are lots of people who certainly make much more money than I do, sell many more books, and they do not take this advice. And they have honed what they want to do, and they do that. So it’s a personal thing. But I believe that you want to go on experimenting. I mean, Dragonfly Song was a huge risk. It was very different to what I’d done before. But it was something I just felt I really had to do. So I do believe that a little bit of outside income so that you can write what you want. I mean, failure is horrible. You know. You pour your heart and soul into a book and it flops; it’s horrible! But you have to be prepared to risk it. And so, that is something I believe. I do think that the other thing about maybe working two or three days a week also gives you some social interaction.

Valerie

Yes, of course.

Wendy

Which matters. So I think my other advice is, leading on from that, do try and do what you really want. I mean, look, it’s a good idea to learn more than I did at the start. But as I say, I knew nothing. But we lived on a farm. I was working. I had no means of going to Melbourne regularly or seeing writers or anything. And that world is quite different now where things are online. And things like this. So certainly you do want to learn as much as you can about the craft. The craft and the business.

Valerie

Yeah for sure. Without a doubt. But I like what you say, you do have to experiment, and I think that’s so true. And it’s not going to happen overnight but it is something that you need to explore and hone. So thank you so much for sharing your story and your insights into the world of writing today, Wendy. Really appreciate it.

Wendy

Well, it was fun. I never quite know what I’m going to come out with until I see it. So it was very, very interesting hearing your questions.

Valerie

That was awesome. Thank you.


Comments