Ep 35: Celebs join the rush to write children’s books; Copyblogger closes down its Facebook page; can you plagiarise an email? What’s your favourite book? Blogging hits the big time with Foxtel’s new "Fashion Bloggers"; and meet Writers in Residence Favel Parrett.

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends










Submit

podcast-artwork

In Episode 35 of So you want to be a writer, celebrities join rush of authors writing children’s books, why Copyblogger is killing its Facebook page, is it wrong to post from an email? 50 cultural icons on their favorite books, the Australian premiere of ‘Fashion Bloggers’, Writer in Residence Favel Parrett, post Instagram photos from your computer 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.

Show Notes

Celebrities join rush of authors writing children’s books

Why Copyblogger Is Killing Its Facebook Page

Netiquette IQ Blog of The Day – Plagiarism, Is it Wrong to Post From An Email?

50 Cultural Icons on Their Favorite Books

Australian premiere Fashion Bloggers

Writer in Residence
Favel Parrett’s first novel, Past the Shallows, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary award 2012 and also won the Dobbie Literary Prize and Newcomer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards.

Most recently she was awarded the Antarctic Arts Fellowship allowing her to travel to Antarctica to complete research for her latest novel, When the Night Comes.

Favel’s website
Favel on Twitter
Hachette on Twitter

Web Pick

Gramblr – upload instagram photos from your computer.

The Mapmaker Chronicles is now on sale!

Find out more here.

Sign up to the Australian Writers’ Centre Newsletter!

Just fill in your details over here.

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Transcript

Allison

Favel Parrett’s first novel, Past the Shallows was short listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2012 and also won the Dobbie Literary Prize and Newcomer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Most recently she was awarded the Antarctic Arts Fellowship, allowing her to travel to Antarctica to complete research for her latest novel, When the Night Comes, which is now out, which has been received with open arms by critics and readers alike.

Welcome, Favel.

Favel
Thank you so much.

Allison
Let’s start with Past the Shallows, was that the first novel you ever wrote?

Favel
Yes, it was. I take so long that it was the first novel I ever wrote. I didn’t think it would be a novel, I just started writing sort of short scenes. Eventually, I had a enough that it turned into a novel.

Allison
Like, how did you come to write the book? What made you sort of sit down and start writing scenes? What were you doing at the time?

Favel
I was a postman, I loved that job, but I had this feeling that there was something more. My brother, who’s a sculpture, would always say to me, “I know you used to want to be a writer when you were teenager, why do you give it a go?” I sort of started listening to him. I applied for TAFE, professional writing and editing diploma, with a very sort of sketchy folio that I put together and went from there.

I started just doing short stories and I started to take novel class, but thinking that I would never be able to write a novel. I started slowly and that’s where Past the Shallows first started, in those classes.

Allison
Wow, at TAFE?

Favel
Yeah.

Allison
Fantastic. Where did it go from there? What was its path to publication? How did you go from TAFE classes to hello Miles Franklin?

Favel
Yeah, it was a long road. I had some really great teachers, one in particular Janie She said to me, when I had to quote it, she said, “Look, how much of this have you got?” This was sort of by my second year at TAFE. I said, “I’ve got sort of quite a few scenes.” She said, “I think this is something. I think that the voice is strong,” and she gave me a flyer for the Hachette Manuscript Development Program, the Queensland Writers’ Centre run it as well in combination with the publishers. You have to send in a whole first draft, which I really didn’t have.

I sort of put the thought away and I thought, “I’d never get into anything like that, there’s no way.” It was in the back of my mind and it kept bugging me, it’s the kind of thing that kept me awake at night. I thought, “You know what? I’m going to try. I’m going to try and get all of these scenes into some kind of first draft and send it off.” I think I had about two weeks, and I did that. It was a real skeleton of the book.

Allison
Right.

Favel
I sent it off and I thought, “Well, I’ve done that, it’s good. If you’re going to be a writer you’ve got to start applying for things.” I knew I would never get it, I just thought, “Good, I’m on the road. I’m starting to put my work out, that’s good.”

I got the call, I was in a supermarket and I got the call that I got through, I just really was so shocked. I think I said, “Are you sure?” And they said, “No, we’re just joking…” I was like, “What?”

Eight of us went up to Queensland. It was like a sort of industry boot camp. We had publishers from Hachette came to talk to us one on one. We had an agent sort of talk to us about what agents do. A writer talked to us about what we could sort of expect if you ever get published and what happens after that. Then we just wrote, worked on our manuscripts for five days. It was pretty intense.

They’re all told, “No one has got a contract, this is really just to get to know you. You now have a contact in the publishing industry if you ever have anything you want to send through.” I thought, “Well, that was great. They’ll never take my novel, so I won’t even bother sending it.” But, the publisher, Vanessa, rang me and she said, “Well, are you going to send it?” I said, “It needs a little work.” She said, “Yeah, it needs a lot of work, so you send it to me when you’re done. And I’ll have a read and we’ll see from there.”

It took me another year to really get it right. I sent it in and from there it was a long process, it nearly didn’t get through, and everyone knows it’s just excruciating, it gets through one meeting and it gets rejected at the next. It’s a long process, but I eventually got through.

Allison
From sort of like when you first started in your TAFE classes with it, to when you got the nod that it was going to become an actual book, how long did that process take? You’re talking a few years there, right?

Favel
Yeah, three years, easy. It’s hard to remember now, but I was working and studying and writing bits. So, easily three years. It wasn’t really until the last year that I worked very hard, I actually quit TAFE. I never finished the course, but I finished the book. I had a real drive then to just put everything in.

Allison
When you think back on that first draft that you sent off to the Hachette boot camp, sort of speak, process, how much resemblance does that first draft bear to the actual final book? Can you remember?

Favel
The essence is there. Harry and Miles, they’re the characters, the place is there, all of the key bits are there, but it’s very emaciated. It’s almost like a summary, but with some feeling. But, some of the key scenes are there, some never changed. I just didn’t know where they would go in the book at that point.

Yeah, it’s there. The essence of it is definitely there. It’s interesting to read it now. When I finish a book everything goes into this massive box, it’s all in there, all the drafts and all the corrections and everything, all the false starts, all of the scenes that didn’t make it.

Allison
You’re going to lug those around with you for the rest of your life?

Favel
Yeah, well, they’re in my writing room. Yeah, it’s kind of cool, I kind of like them. It would be great to one day have ten boxes in there. I don’t know if that’s possible. It would be amazing. I would look at that and feel, “Wow, that’s a lot of work.”

Allison
That is a lot of work.

How did it feel when it was released and was suddenly in contention for major prizes? I mean that must of have been a surprise.

Favel
It was definitely a surprise. I think I thought, “Well, I’d love to sell 2,000 novels and that would pay back my small advance, then I wouldn’t be in debt to the publisher, maybe they would take me on again.” It went past that and then it kept getting short listed for things, it was quite bizarre. It would sort of fall away and then be short listed for something and then the sales would be back on, and it just kept doing that for, like, two years. It was way beyond anything I ever imagined.

Allison
Definitely what you’ve written is classified as literary fiction, you didn’t set out to write that, did you? You just basically started writing and that’s what came out?

Favel
Absolutely. I struggle with this whole classification of writing, if one is easier than the other, genre fiction is easier than literary fiction. All writing is hard, all novels are very hard, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. This is just how I write and it’s the publishers that classify — or the reviewers, actually, who classify it. I think my book… some editors thought it was YA, I didn’t have a problem with that, I read a lot of YA. It doesn’t mean it’s a lesser form of writing, it’s just as powerful, and, in fact, more so sometimes.

It’s up to them to classify. I don’t know how they work that out, but I don’t have a problem with that at all.

Allison
As long as they keep buying them, that’s fine.

Favel
I mean I think literary fiction probably sells less than anything, so you probably don’t want that tag on your books. I don’t know, I think it’s interesting, I think we like things in little boxes, people like to know what kind of book this is and what kind of book that is.

Allison
Was there any sense of pressure in writing the follow up to such a successful debut novel? Did you feel like you had to perform?

Favel
Yeah, a little bit. It’s more time pressure, because knowing that one took me so many years and now you’ve sort of got a contract and some deadlines, of course they’re negotiable with my lovely publishers. I’ve negotiated many times, because I’m always late. But, there was time pressure, definitely.

Also I thought, “A lot people really liked my first book,” I kept thinking, “They’re going to be disappointed because this isn’t Past the Shallows, this isn’t Harry and Miles, this is something completely different.” I worried about that, but you have to try and put it aside, which is hard.

I think it’s more sales pressure, I put a lot of pressure on myself — all artists do, I think. You’re your own worst enemy there, because when you’re under pressure you don’t work well, with creative work anyway, I think. It sort of seizes, it stops flowing. But, I eventually got there, I was sort of six months late, but my publishers were lovely, they were just very supportive and kept moving the dates. They could see that it was something and they know my process. I would have loved to have done it quicker and written in order, but I did it the same. I just wrote scenes and I didn’t know —

Allison
Oh you did? I was going to ask you that.

Favel
I wish I could write in order and have a plotline. It doesn’t work for me, I did try, the writing was terrible, it didn’t have any heart. I went back to what I know, which is following character, following energy and just writing scenes and not really knowing what the storyline is.

Allison
It’s a very organic process, obviously, the way that you write.

Favel
Absolutely. It’s organic, absolutely.

Allison
Where does it start? I know with this one you actually did go down to the Antarctic. Did the idea for this come out of that trip, or did going down there help with the writing?

Favel
Yeah, I applied with a bit of writing already done and a fairly good idea that I wanted to follow… that one of my main characters actually is going to be this ship, a polar resupply vessel, that was actually a real ship. She was called Nella Dan and she was a Danish resupply vessel, she worked for 26 years. I had a strong, historical Antarctic link and I applied for this with a fair bit of writing already done.

The reason I started writing about it was I found some photographs when I was cleaning up and they were of this ship. I used to have them on my bedroom wall when I was a kid, I was obsessed with these Antarctic ships and I wanted to be a sailor. All of that came flooding back and I just started writing that day I found the photo. I was like, “Wow, this one has got real energy. I think this is something,” so I just followed that.

I got to go to Antarctica with the art fellowship, which was just incredibly wonderful for my research, because I got to work on a polar vessel. I got to be my character, in a way. I woke up everyday sort of a Danish man at work at sea. It was wonderful. I can’t tell
you — I just loved it. I got to be a sailor, I got to live out this dream.

Allison
Wow, you really ticked some boxes there.

Favel
That I had as a kid. I cried my eyes out when we went back. Part of me, some of the crew were like, “Why don’t you apply and become crew?” Part of me would love to do that. That was a really strong passion of mine as a kid. I love being at sea. I had that feeling that, “You know what? This would have been a good life too.”

Allison
Could you do that and write your books as well?

Favel
Absolutely.

Allison
You could just combine those two things.

Favel
I know.

Allison
You could be a sailing writer.

Favel
I’d miss my dogs, but I’d love being at sea. Yeah…

Allison
Are you an author who has got notebooks where you write ideas down?

Favel
Absolutely.

Allison
What happens now? Are you ready for your next book?

Favel
I work from notebooks a lot. I have a writing group that is key to my work. Once a month we meet around a big table and we get to work. That is the sort of thing – like writing exercises, no excuses. It might be everyone, we say ‘hello’, we have a cup of tea and then we start work. It’s, “OK, the first topic is the shoes, ten minutes, write.” Quite often you’ll be stuck, but you come up with something. Then we’ll quickly just read it all out around the table.

It’s fantastic because we’ve been doing this, like, five years. It breaks down ego, you’re not afraid to just read it out. Everybody’s first draft is terrible, there’s mistakes. Everyone’s voice is unique and you can get so much from other people’s — it spurs ideas. Honestly, half of my books, the beginnings of each scene are written in those writing groups.

Allison
You’ll take an essence of an idea or something that’s come out?

Favel
Absolutely. I have notebooks. I have hundreds of notebooks. I’ve got these very cheap blue notebooks that I’ve bought from Officeworks for like five cents, I bought like 500 of them. I’ve got boxes and boxes of them filled with very messy handwriting, my handwriting is terrible.

Allison
I can’t read my own handwriting, so there’s no point in me writing —

Favel
I can hardly read it. I’m like, “What does this say?” The notebooks are key. I’ve got a notebook in my bag and it’s completely empty. This book took everything and I’m absolutely — I’ve got nothing at the moment. That’s OK, I know it will come. It’s probably the longest I’ve been without writing anything.

I am trying to read a lot, and that helps, that’s nurturing too and that brings ideas. Things like going to see a movie, going to see an exhibition, music — all of that stuff, getting that nurturing creative stuff back. As artists, I think we live in isolation when we’re working, but if we keep that isolation going we become empty. We have got to reconnect with other arts, other ideas, other creative things, and that fills us up again and spurs us on, gives us new ideas.

Allison
So something will come?

Favel
Absolutely, from reading. I mean sometimes you pick up a book and there’s this fantastic passage and you’ll just be filled with this great feeling that, “Yes, look at the magic that writing can do. Look at the feeling I’m feeling,” and get that feeling, like, excited. “I think I want to do this again.”

Allison
Now that you’ve got your second book out you’re very much part of the publishing industry, so to speak, what are your thoughts on this idea of the author platform? Do you take steps to build your profile as an author?

Favel
Unfortunately, I’d love to be like Cormac McCarthy and never do anything, public speaking, and just hide away and write books they’d would sell. But, unfortunately, I think that now marketing and touring and meeting people and all of that stuff is really part of it. There’s some nice things, like book clubs and bookshops, lovely school talks, when you’ve got small groups that can actually interact with people. I get pretty nervous.

Most writers are not great public speakers, they’re people that sort of sit on their own, and are introverted. It takes a lot out of you, the touring. It’s really hard to be creative when you’re on the road and touring and doing all of that. But, you get to meet some great people and you get to speak to some great people, you get ideas. That’s one good thing.

Allison
So you are going out, you are doing a lot of festivals and author talks and that sort of stuff?

Favel
Yeah, absolutely.

Allison
You are out and about a lot?

Favel
I don’t know if you guys know, when we’re sort of promoting we get an author schedule and they can be quite intense. Yesterday I had an event at a bookshop on the northern beaches of Sydney, then we went to four bookshops and did a sort of author meet with the bookshop, signed some books. Then I might have had a radio interview and then that evening I did another event at Mosman Library.

Allison
Wow.

Favel
It’s all great. It’s all great stuff and you meet so many people, but it’s exhausting.

Allison
Yeah.

Favel
There’s no time for writing. You get to bed and just watch TV and just fall asleep. But, it’s fantastic because you meet a lot of great people.

I think Facebook and Twitter and all of it is really part of the new age of promotion.

Allison
How much time do you put into that sort of stuff?

Favel
When you’ve got a new book out I think you probably put more. With my Facebook page I like to just post photos of my Antarctic trip or different things like that. Just more of a photo thing, I don’t often say much. I’ll also put all of my tour dates and stuff, like, “You can see me in Sydney,” or here…

Twitter is sort of more funny things. I saw my book in the confectionery aisle at the airport, so I might just post that you can find me in confectionery aisle, or something. I don’t know.

There’s no pressure. We don’t have to do it, but it just is part of it now. Some of it is fun too, downtime fun.

I think there’s little blogs that we do now. I get asked to do a lot of blogs and that’s always great.

Allison
Fantastic.

Favel
Yeah. Or, “What are you reading?” I think Goodreads and those things — a lot of authors do that. I don’t do that one. But, that’s great to see what other people are reading.

Yeah, it’s all time-consuming. I think you’ve got to be careful and not slip down the slope of doing it all the time, or you just never talk to your friends or family, or go for a walk or anything.

Allison
Do you have a typical day, do you sort of get up in the morning and do an hour of writing? Is there like a routine for you?

Favel
Yeah, I do have my routine.

Allison
When you’re not doing festivals.

Favel
I’m really good in the early mornings, so I get up at six and leave and go to my writing studio, because I find it very difficult to work at home, because I just pfaff around and there’s too many distractions and I make excuses. But, when I go to my office I know, “OK, I’m going to work.”

I try to do four hours, five hours, and then try to stop because once you’re tired you can sort of get really negative about your work. Later on that day I might read or something else, but I try to do a solid time in the morning. I can capture that energy in the morning, I can get quite a lot done.

I used to be strict about, “I’ve got to do 2,000 words a day,” or whatever, of a first draft. But, now I know that word count is meaningless. You’re going to have days when you write 300 words and that’s a key essence piece that means a lot, you’ve suddenly worked a lot of things out. And you can have a day when you write 10,000 words and they’re just nothing, they’ve got no feeling, they’re terrible.

I think it’s just about sitting there — a lot of writing is thinking. That sounds so, like, we’re just really lazy, but I mean thinking in a space where you’re alone. The phone is off, you’re not on Facebook, I don’t have the internet at my studio. So, just focused in a feeling in the book, trying to work things out.

Allison
Wow, staring at the wall?

Favel
Yes! Staring at the wall. It’s so weird. If people knew what writers — it’s a crazy occupation.

Allison
I remember doing our podcast in an earlier episode Val mentioned that there were some people that were going to write a novel on the internet, they were going to YouTube themselves writing a novel.

Favel
Oh my god!

Allison
She was like, “What do you reckon about that?” I was like, “I cannot think of anything more boring than watching somebody write.” Like, really? Because, as you say, so much of it is staring at the wall, staring at the ceiling, type, type… You know, it’s not exactly great physical entertainment.

Favel
Oh no, I think you’ve got to try to keep the physical stuff happening because that helps too — I don’t know walking helps. If I’m stuck, walking is good.

Allison
Yeah, I like to walk.

Favel
Just a walk through the city and just look at things. I sound like an alien, but I just like looking at things. It’s nice.

Allison
Has there been anything that has surprised you about being a published author?

Favel
Probably the publicity and the touring. I just had no idea about that.

I think the feeling of embarrassment when there’s like public reviews. It’s so weird because you’ve got this terrible feeling like you’ve been — like everyone you know in the world has read this review, if it’s maybe not such a good one, and you have this deep, like, “Oh my god, I’ve exposed my soul and I wish I could take it back.” It only lasts for a short time, like a day or two, but it can be excruciating, that stuff.

Allison
You’ve had so many positive ones, do you only remember the negative ones?

Favel
Yeah, everybody is like that. I’ve had a really lovely ride with reviews, I’d never be able to be a reviewer, it’s a hard job. It’s like you’re out there in the open. That was surprising to me. It’s like, “Wow, I can’t take any of this back now, this is…” people are going to think all sorts of things about your work. It can also have an effect on your family, like maybe people will think in this new book my brother is the boy in the book. He isn’t, but I had to talk to him and say, “People are going to think this is you, especially since it’s first person.” He was OK. If he thought it wasn’t OK, then I can’t publish it.

Allison
Because everyone does assume that you’re writing your own experience, don’t they?

Favel
Yeah. You’re in the book, absolutely, in a way, because it’s your voice and some of your experiences are definitely in there.

Yeah, and my mum. I had to talk to her and say, “Look…” She was laughing the other day because someone wrote a review and said, “The mother in this book is clearly unhinged.” She was like, “Well…” I said, “Mum, we know it’s not you…”

But those things, they have a ripple effect. It’s hard for the people around you too. Your real friends and everyone know you’re still just the same and you’re just the same and you’re just a dag and you’re just the same old Favel. But, some other people sort of think that you’re somehow different.

Allison
Interesting.

What are you top three tips for writers then, people who are sort of starting out today?

Favel
I think that number one is you’ve got to take yourself seriously. I think you’ve got to call yourself a writer, even if it’s just to yourself. Write it down, “I’m a writer. I’m a writer.” What does a writer do? They work. They do the work.

Two, I think it’s just absolute persistence. It’s more than talent an it’s more than luck, it’s persistence. There’s so many people who drop away after a couple of rejections, but you get so many — for years. Persistence, persistence, persistence. You just keep goingm, “Back yourself.”

I’d say three is back yourself. You’ve got to believe in yourself, because no one else is going to, until you can sort of show that you’re published. You’ve got to believe in yourself, absolutely, and it could be for years and years and years.

Allison
Yeah, a long time.

Favel
That’s a real strength of character to do that.

Allison
It’s either that or it’s just sheer craziness, Favel.

Favel
It’s sheer craziness, but, no, there’s a creative drive that’s making you do this. We’re not doing it for money, you hardly make anything. And it’s not for fame, there’s something inside you that wants to go through this excruciating process for years, badly enough because you’ve got something to say.

Allison
Yeah, that’s so true.

Favel
That’s chosen you in a way, that’s your gift and you can use it or not use it. Do it or not do it. But, it’s up to you. If you do it, back yourself 100 percent.

Allison
Well, that’s an excellent note to end our interview on. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time today, I really appreciate it.

Favel
Oh, my pleasure.

Allison
I’m sure our listeners will, as well. Good luck with the rest of all of those tours and speeches…

Favel
Thank you so much.

Allison
All right. Thanks!


Comments