Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Patience, padawan

With a new book about to land in bookstores, I’ve been nervously casting an eye about to see what other titles are hitting the market at the same time. As a non-established author, I’d obviously prefer not to find my novel up against a new Harry Potter or Twilight-style juggernaut.

One of the August YA releases that will land about the same time as Five Parts Dead is Kirsty Murray’s latest, India Dark. I’m quite keen to read India Dark, partly because I spent time working on the subcontinent in the mid ’90s and partly because Kirsty begins with the ripper opening line, “Daisy opened her mouth and lies flew out.” What a great way to kick off a yarn.

By my count, this is Kirsty’s fourth YA novel in four years (certainly the second in two years) – a remarkable achievement. In realising this I experienced a flash of impatience and envy, wondering what my output might have been if I was a fulltime author too.

Anyway, I was reading Kirsty’s blog and was struck by this post in which she speaks about her frustrations at combining motherhood with writing. I take some comfort in the advice given to Kirsty by the late Peter Porter, that there’s time for many words, poems and stories in an ordinary life and that everything happens in its own time.

It’s another reminder that we should savor the now rather than getting anxious about what might be. So, here I go. I’m excited to have another story on its way out into the world. I hope my ideas and work strike a chord with readers and the leap of faith by my publisher is rewarded.

And I wish the lovely Ms Murray all the best for her new book too.

Writing and reading to an exclusive audience

Readers of this blog might have noticed the Little Dragon and I are huge fans of Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kids series. As is often the case, knowing the inspiration for a story can make the actual stories even more engaging.

Here’s the skinny on Sandy’s stories from Book Chook. It tells how Sandy started writing because she wanted books her sons would read. Sounds like mighty fine motivation to me.

I’ve been lucky thus far that the Little Dragon is a keen reader. (His personal preference is for manga and other graphic novels.) I read to him almost every night and, apart from Sandy’s series, we’ve ripped through the Harry Potter tomes (I skipped the adverbs to save time), The Hobbit, the excellent Skulduggery Pleasant books and various others. On the go now are Howl’s Moving Castle and Emily the Strange: The Lost Days. We’ll probably do Neil Gaimain’s The Graveyard Book soon because a) I’ve read it and it’s far less scary than Coraline and b) the Little Dragon has a taste for horror that can’t be explained by his immediate gene-pool.

For me, the best bit about reading aloud, apart from encouraging a love of story, is that the text takes on new meanings. My son also helps me see humour and nuances I might not have picked up. By way of example, he thinks Gandalf is hilarious.

The Little Monkey is pre-reading but seems equally keen. She insists on “silent reading” after we read to her and often stacks picture books on her bed that thunder to the floor when she falls asleep. Her favourites include Amy & Louis, the Gruffalo books, Milly Molly Mandy (who’d have thought these quaint stories my Mum read as a child would have such a shelf-life?), Roger Hargreaves’ Mr and Little Miss tales … and anything containing babies.

As for writing for the kids, the Little Dragon is most impatient for me to write something suitable for him to read. Five Parts Dead will be closer to the mark than Game as Ned but still not ideal. I do have a few ideas … but lack the time to write them down right now. One day.

On rejection and acceptance

I was interviewed recently on the subject of rejection letters. The article, possibly with a photo of me, will be printed in the next week or so. I have mixed feelings about the prospect.

So why did I do it? Part of me is aware of the “any publicity is good publicity” school of thought. It’s tough selling books when you’re not a ‘name’. Media coverage is one way to build a profile and, hopefully, boost sales. Indeed, part of me was grateful that I should be considered credible enough to discuss the topic.

As I have blogged previously, I believe rejection letters are a fact of life. There’s certainly no shame in getting one. JK Rowling reportedly got 12 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before she got an acceptance.

No, my main reservation was that I wasn’t sure I had any wisdom to offer on the topic. I told the journalist this and then proceeded to babble away anyway… I’m not sure how useful or newsworthy my thoughts were. As a journalist myself, I don’t think I was all that quotable – but it’s not my article so I guess that’s not my worry.

With the benefit of hindsight, there are two main things I’d say about rejection letters:

1. You’re more likely to get constructive feedback, as opposed to a form letter, if you have an agent. You can use this information to improve your work.
2. It really doesn’t matter how many rejection letters you accumulate. You only need one acceptance letter to get your story published.

Get one letter that says ‘yes’ and the disappointment of one ‘no’ (or several) fades very quickly.

If you’re yet to get that letter, keep the faith. And don’t be afraid of criticism or hard work redrafting. Attend a writing group or take a class. Workshop your manuscript. Put it in a drawer for a while and then read it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself, honestly, how could it be improved?

Very few of us can claim to be God’s gift to literature. Chances are, there will more blood, sweat and tears required. You need to earn that one letter you’re seeking. When you do, be sure to celebrate.

Books for boys

An invitation to speak at a book-flavoured breakfast for fathers and sons this week saw me cover a couple of topics – a brief version of my Melbourne Writers’ Festival chat on Ned Kelly and a rundown of the books that I enjoyed reading as a lad. For good measure, I threw in those that I’ve read recently and would recommend to male readers.

Some of the fathers have since requested the list and it goes as follows:

John Wyndham cover
John Wyndham cover

Childhood favourites
To the Wild Sky – Ivan Southall
Biggles books generally – Capt W.E. Johns (mainly because my Dad had oodles of these.)
A Pictorial History of Bushrangers – Tom Prior et. al
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series – C.S. Lewis
Asterix books – Goscinny & Uderzo (a great way to learn wordplay and puns)
Tintin books – Herge (Is this why I became a reporter?)
The Chrysalids / The Trouble with Lichen / The Midwich Cuckoos … anything by John Wyndham
The Stand – Stephen King
Blade Runner – Philip K Dick (actual book title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
1984 – George Orwell
A Kindness Cup – Thea Astley (a book that I believe still influences my life)
The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien

And while I forgot to mention them on Thursday, I’d also include just about all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books.

Current recommendations for YA readers
The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling (more fun to read to my son than solo)
Tomorrow When the War Began series – John Marsden (favourite book Burning for Revenge)
Boys of Blood & Bone – David Metzenthen
Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori series) – Lian Hearn
Samurai Kids series (White Crane, Owl Ninja, others to follow) – Sandy Fussell (My son and I got a lot of laughs out of these books.)
Gravity – Scot Gardner (also One Dead Seagull and White Ute Dreaming)
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Fighting Ruben Wolfe – Markus Zusak
The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Of course, there are plenty more titles that have inspired and informed me. When I work out the technology, I hope to post a library shelf to show you what’s currently on my bedside table.

Happy reading.

NB: This post has attracted a LOT of eyeballs. For those who are interested, here’s a follow up post where I expand on my ideas about boys and reading.

To check out my personal library, click here. I have added a Books for Boys tag to anything I think cuts the mustard.