TLC Books interviewed the lovely Fleur McDonald this week, author of Red Dust and Blue Skies. Fleur’s books are set in the outback with really vibrant and resourceful women Gemma Sinclair in Red Dust and Amanda Greenfield (Blue Skies). Each of her books drew you in to the characters and storyline like you were there by the women’s sides, battling along with them.
Basically, I am trying to find a nice way of saying that they suck you in and have you staying up way later than you should to finish them.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as we and Fleur did, and I think we should all encourage her to stop playing around on the net and finish her third book! (just kidding Fleur) (kind of).
First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Well, first and foremost I’m a wife to Anthony and Mum to two gorgeous, active kids. Rochelle is eleven and Hayden’s ten. He‘s just been diagnosed with autism, so that presents us with lots of challenges.
Secondly I’m a farmer or at least a farmer’s helper! We live 100km east of Esperance, on 8,000 acres and here I help care for a menagerie of dogs, chooks, sheep, cattle, tractors and all sorts of other farm machinery. Let me tell you, there are times that the machinery is just as needy as the animals!
Thirdly I’m a writer. That just fits in whenever I have the time.
Your novels have strong women characters based in outback settings persisting against adversity, does any of your work draw on personal experience?
I don’t think that anyone, who has been involved with farming hasn’t been affected by some sort of crisis, at some point in their career. So yes, I can write with authority about farms, nature and pretty much anything to do with our environment. I know how soul destroying it is to feed animals in a drought, put up with floods, pests, diseases and whatever else Mother Nature wants to throw at us. To able to share this with people who aren’t in our industry, gives me awesome amounts of pleasure.
However, my characters are much stronger than me – if half of the things I threw at them, I’d experienced in real life, I would have been running for the door.
What’s the biggest obstacle you face when writing? That is, what gives you the most trouble?
The time factor, is my main problem, but in terms of actual writing, everything after about 30,000 words! I start off at a cracking pace, love meeting my new characters, becoming friends with them and thinking of problems for them. I write and write and write… then I stop. And I don’t just stop, I stop for months. It does take me a while to get back into it, but during the break I think and plan a lot. I can often see holes in my story line while I’m not writing and as much as these blocks annoy me, especially if I have a deadline bearing down, they are good for helping me see things clearly and how to make things better.
Conversely, what brings you the most joy?
Everything about it. I love putting words together, knowing that someone, somewhere, will get a smile or a laugh, or maybe cry.
I loose myself, while I’m writing. I get so caught up in it, I often don’t hear if someone is talking to me, or if the phone is ringing. (My Mum said I used to do this as a kid, while I was reading). When I wrote Red Dust, there was a scene in which the two Stock Squad blokes were bringing stolen cattle into the yards, in the rain. I could see everything as it was happening, in my head and my fingers just flew across the keyboard and nothing else mattered. By the time I finished writing it, I had a really sore bum and I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t until I realised I had been sitting on the edge of the chair, as I was writing it, that I knew how involved I’d been.
Do you have any little quirks when you are writing?
No, I don’t think so – although I’m pretty keen on a good cup of coffee, if I’m writing in the early morning.
Would you ever contemplate writing a book of non-fiction about your life on the farm?
Well, to be honest, I’d never really thought about it. Anthony and I have clawed our way up the farming ladder by sheer hard work. The first hut we lived in didn’t have power or a septic and I lived like that (well, without power) for seven years. As soon as we could afford to, we put in a loo and that was about a year after we moved there.
I guess I think some of stories are interesting to our families, but maybe not so much to the general public.
With your blog fleurmcdonald.com and being on twitter @fleurmcdonald, do you get a lot of feedback from your readers?
Yes, I do. I love hearing from people, especially if they’ve enjoyed the book and I always try and respond, even to the negative responses.
And if so, do you let it affect your writing?
Yeah, it can. I have been known to use up all the writing time, I’ve allocated for a day, on the internet. I’ve now started writing in the spare room, on my laptop, that doesn’t have access to the internet and I still write at my accountants office, for two hours every week and the girls there love making sure I’m not anywhere near the social networking sites! They’re always checking on me.
Do you have a favourite character?
Actually I do – an neither of them are main characters! I loved Jess and Dave Burrows, from Red Dust. It seems as I get older, the gorgeous male characters in their forties have an appeal to me! (Never thought I’d be old enough to say that!)
You have a new book in the works, Purple Roads, due out in 2012, what can you let us in on?
Hmm, well, let me think!
Firstly I’ll say that my main characters are a married couple – I’d like to branch out slightly, this time. Secondly, even though there is farming involved, there isn’t actually a farm and there is a Vietnam War aspect to it. Thirdly, Dave Burrows from Red Dust makes a reappearance!
I hope that’s a good enough teaser!
Thanks for having me.
Interview by Tanya Caunce for TLC Books
This week I had the opportunity to interview a debut author I absolutely love, her autobiography, Burqalicious; The Dubai Diaries, is a new favourite!
Becky Wicks is a writer who I hope people will be reading for a long time to come. Becky has that rare ability to tell a story that has you in stitches at nearly every turn of the page, while also being insightful and educational. I enjoyed Burqalicious immensely, my only complaint was that I wanted to know more, I wanted to hear what happened to Becky after Dubai, I wanted to know more about Becky’s life and the crazy characters she found as friends.
We have found a lot of people who read Burqalicious also had questions about Becky after Dubai; her relationships, her life, her writing and more. I hope this interview answers some of those and more. If you haven’t already read Becky’s book, then what are you waiting for? Go out and get it immediately you wont be disappointed, but first read this interview and find out what we are all buzzing about.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Brit who has somehow reached the age of 31 existing on coffee and white wine, and the odd pie. I’m a huge pie fan. When I moved to Sydney the first place I ate in was Pie Face. You probably didn’t need to know that. I live in Bondi now because the men are hot and I love looking at the sea. I don’t go in it because of the sharks. I write all day in a cute little café called Katipo, if anyone wants to come and say hi. They’re probably gonna start charging me for electricity soon.
Burqalicious: The Dubai Diaries was your first book, how did you find the creative process?
I found it really therapeutic writing it all down actually. They were pretty intense times, in Dubai, so when it came to editing my blogs and notes into a manuscript I had a good laugh and a cry too, remembering it all. I couldn’t stop until I’d gotten it all out, which is a good thing, because the result is a book I’d have been way too lazy to write otherwise.
So we know you spent two years in Dubai from 2007 to 2009, but can you let us in on something that you didn’t put in the book?
Hmmmm, that’s tough because I tried to be as open as I possibly could when I was writing it all down. I had to cut a good few diary entries out though; else the book would have been a million words long! Stacey had a kickboxing instructor from Iraq who was obsessed with her. That was all pretty amusing. One night we ended up in a nightclub full of hookers because of him. I’ve put some deleted entries like that one on my blog if anyone wants to read them. www.beckywicks.wordpress.com
Did you get any distinctly negative feedback or backlash from Burqalicious?
Not really… not that I’ve seen or heard about yet anyway! (Don’t make me cry!) I think some people might think it’s more appealing to girls because of the name, and I guess, because I’m a girl… OK well yeah, it’s mainly for girls, but it’s really just about Dubai being a mad place to live, and as an expat I guess there are experiences all kinds of people will have in common. I tried not to be negative and as a result, I would hope people don’t see the book as a negative thing.
Of all the crazy characters you met in Dubai who was the most bizarre and why?
I would have to say the Iranian inventor, with his fleet horse and creepy artwork. If you Google the fleet horse you can find his promotional videos on YouTube. It really is awesome! I still can’t believe we lived on his landing and slept in beds he built himself. Not a day goes by when I’m not grateful for my Bondi bedroom.
I know everyone who has read Burqalicious will want to know; do you ever see or hear from MM after your time in Dubai?
Yeah, we’re still in touch. He’s a great guy and we just went through some tough times. It’s funny, when you go through things like bust ups and break ups, you write about them in the heat of the moment. But when you read those words back months or years later, that emotion and drama has passed and you’re like, “What was I talking about??!”. It was hard not to edit my feelings on paper when it came to working on the book, but I felt that if I did that it wouldn’t have been an honest account of how things were at the time. As it is, we’re still in touch and hopefully always will be.
If you were offered to live and work another two years in Dubai, would you want to go back?
I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about Dubai a lot, maybe because of the book dredging it all up again! But no, I think that time has passed. There are definitely still some amazing opportunities over there though. I would encourage anyone to go and give it a shot!
What are the things you miss the most about your time in Dubai
Well, apart from silly, shallow stuff like brunches and boozing in the lap of luxury, I miss the fact that every day was an adventure. You literally never knew what was going to happen next. Even a trip to the bank to open an account was an epic, life-changing experience. Seriously – even the little things over there were inspiring. I felt writing about it all was easy, way easier than I find writing about, say, Sydney.
And the things you miss the least?
I don’t miss that horrid heat. Or the traffic. I lost count of the number of times I almost suffocated, or narrowly avoided being splattered by a Lamborghini.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes I am, but it’s fiction so it’s a thousand times harder! I find writing about real life pretty easy as you have the sights, smells, sounds and emotions all at hand to put into words, but when it’s up to you to create a whole other realm of existence, wow, that’s tough. I’m persevering though and enjoying the challenge. No one has seen it yet though. In fact, I don’t think anyone knows I’m doing it. Don’t tell anyone. It might be shit.
I hope everyone who reads this interview finds it as funny and insightful as I did and for anyone who hasn’t read Burqalicious, I hope it gives you a taste for the sort of hilarity you’re in for! If like me, you still want more, then head over to Becky’s Blogspot for all the fantastic stories and extra diary entries that didn’t make it into the book, along with photos of Dubai and all its weird and wonderful characters.
We have also included the link to our review of Burqalicious The Dubai Diaries for your pleasure, happy reading!
Burqalicious – The Dubai Diaries is available in all good book shops in Australia and NZ.
Becky’s blog: www.beckywicks.wordpress.com
TLC Books book review: http://www.fb.com/note.php?note_id=10150105859943863
Courtney Nicholas for TLC Books
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Author, Columnist, and Charity Ambassador for War Child Australia and The Pyjama Foundation, and a woman I admire greatly….Rebecca Sparrow. Having been a big fan of Rebecca’s column’s in the Sunday Mail for a long time now and being a huge admirer of her tireless charity work, I was very excited to be given the opportinity to ask her some questions and gain a little insight into what makes her tick. Being a working mother myself I was curious to know “How does she do it?”, I hope you find her answers as amusing and enlightening as I did.
1. First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m the author of four books including The Girl Most Likely (which is in development as a feature film) and Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school). I am also a columnist for Mamamia.com.au and I write a column for the Sunday Mail in South Australia.
2. There is a common thought that many authors début books are semi autobiographical, is any of The Girl Most Likely based on you?
Certainly my real life circumstances inspired that book. I was a magazine editor who went to Las Vegas, married my boyfriend in secret only to wind up unemployed, and broke and living back in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house nursing divorce papers and working as a nanny. So about 30% of the book is from my real life. The other 70% is pure fiction.
3. You co-wrote your third book Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight, with fellow author Nick Earls, how was that? Did you find it changed the creative process for you?
It was a wonderful experience. Nick and I wrote alternate chapters (he wrote from Joel’s point of view, I wrote from Cat’s point of view). We were living in different cities at the time and would just email each other the next “bit”. Our goal was really to make each other laugh out loud... it was great fun and not like work at all. Interestingly we had to go through magazines together to find images of what we thought all the characters looked like. We had to make sure that when Nick was describing Cat’s mum — we both had the same image in our heads (if that makes sense!).
4. Do you read reviews of your writing? And if so, do you allow it to influence you?
It’s hard not to but I try not to go on the “review roller-coaster”. You get a good review and all is right with the world. You get a bad review and you want to stick your head in the oven. The thing is reviews are subjective. And you can’t write to please critics. You have to write for yourself. Not your editor. Not your agent. Not your fans. Just yourself. If you can write a book that you would actually enjoy reading — that’s the goal.
5. You have written fiction and non-fiction (Find Your Tribe), do you prefer one over the other or are they totally separate in your view?
They are completely different. Fiction, for me, is a hundred times more challenging.
6. If you were to do any job other than be a writer what would it be?
I have no idea. Maybe a teacher. I love working with teenage girls. But the truth is I will always write — regardless of whether I get published.
7. Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
Zoe Budd! Rachel Hill’s best friend in The Girl Most Likely. She’s hilarious and fiercely loyal. And I think I’d try to talk her out of her obsession with writing (bad) erotic fiction!
8. Do you have any strange quirks or rituals that you have to undertake to get into the creative process?
I’m the mother of a toddler (Ava is 2 years old and like a hurricane). That means I don’t have the luxury of rituals! Here’s my ritual — “Quick! Ava is playing with her toys; let’s see if I can grab 15 minutes on the laptop!”
9. With your first book The Girl Most likely being made into a feature film do you have a desire to act in it?
Officially No, Secretly Yes.
10. Do you have anything new in the works?
I’m just today writing the last chapter of “Find Your Feet (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school)” …. Of course, it all depends on whether Ava has a nap!
If you also harbour secret desires to be an actor or are interested in more details about the film of The Girl Most Likely, then check out the Facebook fan page for the film. Want to know more about Rebecca, her novels, her column or her charity work? You can read all about her at her blogspot www.rebeccasparrow.com
I hope you enjoyed our interview as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you, being a fan of Rebecca’s for many years I wanted to share a bit about her writing and her charity work in the hope that she might inspire you as much as she has inspired me and many other women.
Courtney Nicholas for TLC Books
Moya Kate has done what many could not, she has written a hilarious, fun-filled story about the ups and downs of motherhood and made it stylish. Mama Couture is fantastic. For anyone who has had children, is pregnant or one day dreams of children this book is a must read for you.
Mama Couture is the story of Til Fisher a woman who has it all, the perfect job, a wardrobe full of designer clothing and a social life that most would envy. But on New Years Eve Til makes the greatest fashion faux pas: teaming sexy stilettos with way too many champagnes and a gorgeous virile man in a suit. When the haze of New Years Eve passes Til discovers she is pregnant, in all its sickness inducing hormone crazed madness. Nine months pass as Til swells to epic proportions, and then out of the blue Til discovers she actually loves being with her baby, in spite of the screaming, nappy changing and mess she is actually dreading the end of her maternity leave. The decision Til makes sets her on a path she never dreamed of, a decision that will take her around the world and set her on a path she never anticipated.
Woven with incredible facts about pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, Mama Couture takes an honest and unflinching look at one woman’s journey into parenting and beyond. Told in the style of such great women writers as Kathy Lette and Maggie Alderson, Moya Kate will have you laughing till you cry and wishing you could be Til even if it was only for a week. This story is real, it’s funny, it’s honest and most of all it is hilarious. Few people can make parenting so funny without resorting to the usual nappy changing jokes but Moya Kate has done exactly that! Not only that, but she has given women everywhere a voice that says yes; you can be a mother, but you can also be a million other things as well and you can do it all while wearing a fabulous pair of stilettos.
I hope that every woman who reads Mama Couture loves it as much as I did, being a mother to a little girl myself this book spoke to me like nothing I have ever read before, part comedy, part mothering manual, part business guide, Mama Couture is the modern anthem for women everywhere, It’s Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman, with stiletto shoes and designer clothes.
TLC Books will be hosting the launch of Mama Couture, Monday the 2nd of May at 6.30pm. Come and toast this great book with the author, champagne and cupcakes will be in abundance as Moya Kate shares about writing the book, the creation of Til Fisher and the trials of motherhood and business!
Tickets are free, please RSVP by facebook, email email@example.com or ph: 33935130 as places are limited.
Courtney Nicholas for TLC Books
This month we chat with author William Kostakis who wrote Loathing Lola, a young adult novel we really love here at TLC Books.
Tell us a little about yourself and your book, Loathing Lola.
I’m a 21-year-old TV blogger and journalist based in Sydney. Loathing Lola is my first novel, a satiric look at the Australian TV industry and private school life. It’s been described as Chuck Palahniuk meets Gossip Girl meets Jersey Shore – when I first heard that, I didn’t know whether to be flattered, offended, or consider therapy. I decided to take it as a compliment and run with it. It’s a ‘Girl’ Book, written by a (then-teenaged) guy.
Which of your characters is most like you, and in what way(s)?
The three leads are different versions of me. I see protagonist Courtney as my goodie-two-shoes side (had it not died off before high school), Tim is more-or-less me now, only he’s better at Maths, and Katie has the penchant for innuendo that I have after a six-pack.
Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
Yiayia Susie is a definite dinner guest. Based word-for-word on my grandmother, I know she’d 1) cook and 2) say inappropriate things. As for not invite? The Vs. I’d draw a ring of chalk around the table and douse the house in holy water to keep them away…
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Reviews are important. Stories have two creators, writers and readers. While writers shouldn’t shape their works to please reviewers, as a writer, you have to listen, because if your story isn’t working for a reader, then, more often than not, you’ve done something wrong. I didn’t have a tough time with reviewers, Lola was well-received critically. (Commercially? Not so much). But I’ve had a tough time as a reviewer, and been told, by authors I’m reviewing, that I “can’t be negative” because “I know how hard it is to write a book”. Well, sorry, it’s not hard to write a crap book, and if it’s crap, I’ll say it is. I won’t say it’s great because then you’ll do it again. 🙂
Do you have anything new in the works?
Yes. It’s coming along really well, but constantly evolving, so if I start talking, I’ll look like an idiot when it comes out and is completely different.
TLC Books has a limited number of signed editions of Loathing Lola available.