Warrior Wednesday~Dee White

Close-up with Dee White

Hi Dee. Before we continue with the meaty part of this interview, allow me to give you a little drum roll to my readers. I guess the first thing I would have to mention is that we met through a wonderful Facebook group called Word Warriors. All the writers in this group were from around the globe in every corner, nook and cranny however we were united by one lofty goal: to write a 50 000 word in 1 month in November 2010. From the first I felt a kindred spirit in Dee. Yes, we are neighbours (across the ditch between New Zealand and Australia) but more than that this is a person who impressed me from the first with her gentle positivity and quirky sense of down-to-earth humor. Over the last 3 months I have grown to genuinely like, respect and admire Dee as an extraordinary person, a talented writer and a person who I am proud to call a friend. Dee and I have not met in person yet but it feels like I have known her for longer than a mere 3 months. I am looking forward to meeting up with Dee next month and I know that the chatter will be easy and flowing. I have since started following and subscribing to Dee’s wonderful blog devoted to all aspects of writing where she gives good advice to all who have the writing bug. Now, I know that my readers are eager to jump into the meaty part of this Close Up Interview, so without further ado…..

Welcome Dee…


girl with  a quill: Tell me a little about yourself and who you are?

Dee: I’m a children’s and YA author who loves being a mum to two amazing boys. I’m married to my soul mate (25 years this year) and I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. I’m a sucker for a homeless animal (we even have a stray rabbit) and I live in a town that has more kangaroos than people. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a writer and am so lucky to be living my dream.

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Dee: Since I was seven years old and I wrote a poem about a tree and was asked to read it at school assembly.

girl with a quill: You write YA and children’s books. What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Dee: I think you write for the age that you are in your head – so I guess that means I never matured beyond my teen years:) Having kids in this age group also helps but I think one of the things I particularly like about writing YA is that teen readers want truth. They want to know what’s happening and why and they don’t want you to sugar-coat it. I feel like I can be honest and true to myself in YA writing.

girl with a quill: How many books have you published?

Dee: Four

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Dee: They’re all favourites in different ways. I loved writing a Duel of Words because it’s about an important time in Australia’s history. Hope for Hanna was also special to me because I know it has inspired kids in Australia to raise money for villages in Uganda where the story is set. Harry’s Goldfield Adventure is one of the first stories I ever wrote (even though it’s the most recent one to be published) and it features my cat, Charlie.

But I’d have to say my absolute favourite up to now is Letters to Leonardo. I loved the idea of the story as soon as it came into my head and it was great to be able to incorporate Leonardo da Vinci and his works in my novel because I have been fascinated with him for as long as I can remember. The other thing about Letters to Leonardo was that it took a good dose of determination and belief in my story to get it to publication – over 10 years, more than 30 drafts and over 1 million words on paper.


girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Dee: I’m one of those people who is always working on something new. When I finish a draft I put it away for a month and work on something else so then I can go back to the original manuscript with fresh eyes and I seem to pick up lots of things that need editing. At the moment I am working on a YA thriller and an MG humorous adventure series about a junior scientist whose experiments always go badly wrong. My YA novels are always set in the real world and are usually fairly intense so it’s good to have something funny to be working on at the same time.

girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Dee: I suppose I write with an Australian voice because that’s where I’ve grown up, but most of my settings are generic except for Hope for Hanna which is set in Uganda.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Dee: I don’t think my stories would be different but I suppose my experiences would be. Most of my books are character and plot based so they could happen anywhere in the western world.

girl with a quill: Being a YA writer, do you have any famous influences that you look to in this genre? If you do, Who is your biggest influence and why?

Dee: John Marsden (author of Tomorrow When the War Began and many other great books) would have to have been my biggest influence initially. I loved that he wasn’t afraid to tackle serious issues that teens face – and he also taught me the importance of having an authentic teen voice.  I’m also inspired by the amazing works of Ellen Hopkins and Laurie Halse Anderson.

girl with a quill: Would you say that it is more difficult or easier to write for young people as opposed to writing for adults?

Dee: I think it really depends on who you are and who you are at heart – that’s where your writing voice comes from. I think at heart I might really be a 15-year-old boy. Not sure how that happened:) There are usually fewer words in books for young people but in some ways the readership is more discerning and you are competing with the electronic age so the writing has to be tighter.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Dee: When my kids were really small I wrote picture books and as they got older, the age of my readership has changed too. I think I’ve always had two kinds of books – the ones I write for me (usually YA) and the stories I write for my kids (these are appropriate to their age and stage in development). Some of my books for younger readers are set in the fantasy world but all of my YA are based on real events and are set in contemporary times.

girl with a quill: I know from our many online chats, that you are a mother as well as a writer. Do you tend to have your children be your beta readers?

Dee:  Both my boys are great beta readers. They pick up all sort of voice and language inconsistencies, ‘boring bits’, plot issues etc (as well as typos). They are both quite good writers themselves and my youngest (aged 12) is currently on the second draft of a novel that will probably be around 20,000 words when it’s finished.

girl with a quill: You have a website and a blog. Do you think it is important for authors to build a public platform on the web? And Why?

Dee:  A public platform on the web is a great way to connect with your readers from all over the world. It also showcases your work to prospective agents, publishers and readers and gives them a sense of who you are. I did a fourteen day blog tour with Letters to Leonardo and when I launched it at Byron Bay Writer’s festival people bought the book because they had followed my blog tour and it made them want to read the book. So I think that having an online presence helps with direct sales too.

girl with a quill: Being a steady blogger, do you find that your blogging helps you in your writing skills and how?

Dee: Blogging is good for getting an idea across within a limited number of words, and these skills are useful in writing query letters and pitches. These skills are also helpful to a writer in identifying the important things in their own story. I also review books at my blog and I learn a lot about writing from reading other people’s work. Reviewing makes me delve deeper and look at how and why an author has written the book that way and what I like or don’t like about their methods and the end result. It helps me to be more analytical about my own writing.

girl with a quill: What would be the 3 pieces of advice you could give to an aspiring author for young people?

Dee: Read as much as you can, write as much as you can, don’t give up.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Dee: For me a story idea tends to pop into my head and then the main character comes next. For example this is the idea that came to me for Letters to Leonardo – what if a boy received a letter on his fifteenth birthday from the mother he thought was dead? Next I started thinking about this fifteen year-old boy and how he would feel and respond to this event. He became Matt Hudson. I ‘interviewed’ Matt to find out more about him and the story kind of evolved from there. His behaviour was the catalyst for events that followed.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Dee: Definitely a plotter – or maybe I’m both. Often the creation of the story line is a fluid, free thinking process then once I know who is in the story and what is going to happen to them, I put the plot points in place. I guess this article at my blog best describes how I work:) http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/how-to-mind-map-your-story-tuesday-writing-tip/

 

 

girl with a quill:

You took part in NaNoWriMo2010. Was this your first NaNoWriMo? What if anything did you learn from your NaNoWriMo experience?

Dee:  it was my first NaNoWriMo. I learnt how motivating it is to work alongside other writers and how much fun it is to be part of an international writing community and chat group so there’s always someone online 24/7.

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Dee: I don’t think so. Although I don’t write under ladders. I used to get my kids to kiss the envelopes before I posted them but I gave up on that after a while.

girl with a quill: You often hear of “Muses” in the same context with creative people. Do you have a Muse? If you do, can you tell us about your Muse? Who or What is it?

Dee: Okay, now you’re probably going to think this strange, but my muse is a goat called Molly. My study looks out over her paddock and all is right with the world when she’s there grazing or sitting on a rock looking out towards the river. In the mornings, she likes to break out of her paddock and come to the front door to say hello. I guess she embodies the qualities you need to be a writer – kindness (she is particularly loving to the dog and likes to give her a massage), determination (If I haven’t said good morning to her she breaks out of the paddock and comes to see me), a sense of adventure, fearlessness (she comes for a walk with the dog up and down the road) and a love of life and everybody in it.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Dee:  This is just the way I write, but characters and how they respond to events are what drive my stories. I become very attached to my characters and they ‘live’ in my house, my head and my heart. Particularly with YA novels, I think it’s the character that readers engage with.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Dee: People who have read Letters to Leonardo might be surprised to hear me say this, but it would have to be Troy, Matt’s best friend. Troy is everything I wanted in a best friend when I was fifteen.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Dee: This is a completely impossible question to answer:) I think that Harry Potter is a great character because he engages the reader and makes them care about him so much. I loved Mrs Danvers in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca because even though she didn’t appear in the story much I felt like I knew exactly who she was. I also really loved Ed Kennedy in Markus Zusak’s, The Messenger. Ed is pretty hopeless at most things but he is a deceptively complex character.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Dee:  John Marsden, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Rosoff and Jacqueline Wilson. So then we could talk about my favourite subject, great YA books.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Dee: I’m not a posh dinner party kind of girl so I’d probably go for a Roald Dahl Dinner Party with Fantastic Mr Fox (and Mrs Fox), The Big Friendly Giant, Matilda and Willie Wonker and the dinner party would have to be in a chocolate factory (and that means I’d have to invite my boys as well).

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Dee:  Don’t submit things until they’re ready.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Dee:  Be patient (even more than you already are:)

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Dee:  That my writing has meant something to be people – been inspirational – maybe even changed lives.

Dee White
Author


Out now:   Letters to Leonardo
Harry’s Goldfield Adventure
twitter@DeeScribe
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Thank you Dee for taking us through a fascinating close up of your life, your inspirations and your process of writing. I know I speak on behalf  of my readers to say that this has indeed been a fascinating interview. I look forward to your books reaching ever widening audiences throughout the globe.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for…
The Quill is swifter than the rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than blood…

~ girl with a quill

Stories with Sheryl Gwyther

Stories with my favourite Story-teller - Sheryl Gwyther

Belonging to the writing world and joining the online writing world via this blog and various writing groups has brought a richness to my writing life and given me friends and writing partners. Writing is a solitary profession. Indeed one could say that the “solitary” aspect of it is vital to the creative process. After all, the room the writer is in is already filled to overflowing with the various characters and muses that occupy our days, there is not any room for anyone else. But, every now and again when we have a caffeine break, it is good to have a water cooler area to go to and natter about the day’s events with colleagues who work in the same work line and understand our particular stresses and joys. I have such a spot in my writing life and it is called Word Warriors. This is a phenomenal Facebook group that was started initially for support and moderation for NaNoWriMo but has since continued and is now a permanent feature of the writing life. It was on this site that I met and befriended first strangers who were writers, then writers that became colleagues, then colleagues that became friends. This is how I met one of my favourite people on this site: the Superlative Sheryl Gwyther. This is a lady who weaves children’s’ stories about dinosaurs and vampires and all things weird and wonderful. She is just across the ditch from me. (In Kiwi / Oz speak: that means she is my neighbour in Australia.) Since we are in the same time zone (she is just a little behind me), there have been numerous times when we have both been at our water-cooler at the same time and find ourselves drawn into chats about everything from our stories we are writing to the characters, that are driving us up the wall and the ones that are breaking our hearts or making us smile, to what is happening in our personal lives. She has become very dear to my heart and I know that many in our “water cooler” group feel the same way. She is warm of heart and generous of spirit. She is a writer by career but a natural story-teller by calling. Now without further ado….

Welcome … Sheryl Gwyther

 

The Superlative Storyteller – Sheryl Gwyther

 

 

Firstly Happy Australian Day. Hope you have been enjoying the holiday. I have said it to you before but I am happy to hear that the floods in Queensland are slowly subsiding. I know I speak on behalf of all my readers when I say, our thoughts have been with you all.

Thank you for joining me today and taking time out to share a little bit about yourself with us.


girl with a quill: Tell me a little about you and who you are?

Sheryl: Thanks for the chance to jump onto your blog, Kim.  I’m an Australian author writing for kids – although I have written a couple of micro-fiction stories for adults (and really enjoyed it).

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Sheryl: The writing bug bit me way back in 1999 – but I’d been writing in some form or another forever. Y’know the usual thing girls do – secret diaries with locks on them. I did win a writing prize when I was about 12, all about some roo shooters killing kangaroos. I was, of course, on the side of the poor kangaroos.

girl with a quill: You are a children’s writer or as you term it, “You write for young people”. What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Sheryl: I was an early childhood teacher for a few years and used story books to ‘tame the savage beasts’ – no, seriously, I loved how reading and telling stories to the kids had the potential to open their eyes and their minds. Fiction can expose kids to their own world and to the worlds of others.

The majority of quality books for young people are clever, funny, sad, poignant, thoughtful and many other positive things. For me, it seemed a natural step to become a children’s writer.

girl with a quill: How many books have you published?

Sheryl: Three books, and a short story in an anthology. Secrets of Eromanga (Lothian/Hachette Aust), Princess Clown (Blake Publishing) and Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper (Pearson Education). My story, Corn Dolly Dead is in the Short & Scary Anthology (black dog books).

I’ll also have a short story, Scaredy Crow in the April issue of the New Zealand School Journal. I’m absolutely chuffed about that, being a long-time lover of our sister country across ‘The Ditch’.

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Secrets of Eromanga

 

 

Sheryl: They’re like children – bit hard to pick a favourite as they’re all different and special in their own way. Secrets of Eromanga is a junior fiction novel (for 10-12 year olds) – an adventure set on a fossil dig. I like that one because I worked on a dinosaur fossil dig while researching for it. Such fun!

Princess Clown

 

 

I dug up a piece of the huge sauropod they call the Elliot Dinosaur (check out the Queensland Museum website). Both Princess Clown and Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper were also fun to write and so totally different.

Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper

 

 

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Sheryl: Yes, my junior fiction (aka mid-grade) novel, Fangus Fearbottom – just an ordinary vampire. It’s the one I worked on for NaNoWriMo. It’s been tricky to write because: 1. I want it to be different from all the other vampire books for kids. 2. I wanted to set it in Australia. 3. It’s the first in a trilogy. 4. I’m hoping to get boys to read it (probably the biggest hurdle facing children’s writers). Unless you’re Andy Griffiths.


girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Sheryl: It seems to be that way. Although both the chapters books could be set anywhere, and both of them are sold overseas via the internet. Two other stories I’m writing, Singing the Wires and Mountain are most definitely set in Australia. The landscape here is like no other and definitely suits these two stories.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Sheryl: I guess everyone is informed by the places they live. It’s part of who we are – for example, Australian humour is sometimes not appreciated overseas, although probably more easily understood by New Zealanders than anyone else, and visa versa. I mean, we both loved John Clark’s Fred Dagg, didn’t we?

girl with a quill: Being a children’s writer, do you have any famous influences that you look to in this genre? If you do, who is your biggest influence and why?

Sheryl: I read a ton of books by a huge variety of authors – both children’s, young adult and adult – mainly for enjoyment and also to learn. There are many brilliant Australian children’s authors who I adore – and I guess, learn from by osmosis.

Authors like my good friend, Michael Gerard Bauer (we live in the same suburb), Cassandra Golds, Anthony Eaton, Marcus Zusak, Kate Forsyth, Dee White (another good friend) and lots more.

girl with a quill: Would you say that it is more difficult or easier to write for young people as opposed to writing for adults?

Sheryl: Many people say it is much harder to write for children – an adult reader will give you the benefit of the doubt, reading a chapter or two to see if they’ll keep reading. A child will give you a paragraph or even the first sentence. They easily pick up moralising in a story and will toss it aside. They know when someone is ‘talking down’ to them. Some of the most wonderful stories that appeal to adults have been written for children – because they are stories of universal truths.

It’s also a well-known fact that Australian editors and publishers of children’s imprints are the toughest in the publishing world and are passionate about creating fabulous fiction with their authors. I bet it’s the same in other countries.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Sheryl: Yes, I wrote adventures in the beginning – think I was still reliving the adventures I read when I was young. I still like writing adventures, but weave history and humour into them now.

girl with a quill: What would be the 3 pieces of advice you could give to an aspiring author for young people?

Sheryl: Read as many children’s books as you can manage. Write something every day. And never give up your dream of becoming a writer. You probably won’t be wealthy money-wise, but you’ll be all the richer for trying to make a difference to a child’s imagination.

Oh, I’ll add a fourth – read aloud your drafts to yourself, only then will you recognise those bits of clunky writing. Then get rid of them!

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Sheryl: I usually think a lot about a story before I actually start planning and writing it. And I’m always happier if I have a sentence in my mind to start off the writing. Usually it changes, but at least a great sentence/paragraph gives you hope for the rest of the story.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Sheryl: I like to have an outline so I know the direction the story is going and a possible ending – once the ‘big picture’ idea of the plot is there, I have the freedom to branch out in lateral directions once writing. I find it hard to write first drafts – but I love to rewrite and edit! It invigorates me and many new ideas pop up when rewriting.

girl with a quill: You took part in NaNoWriMo2010. Was this your first NaNoWriMo? What if anything did you learn from your NaNoWriMo experience?

Sheryl: Yes, Kim, it was my first NaNo. I loved having the group to help commit to it – especially the Word Wars and the encouraging dialogue on Facebook. I also learned to not fiddle too much with the first draft – to just write as fast as possible. Fiddling with edits in a first draft is one of my downfalls.

girl with a quill: You often hear of “Muses” in the same context with creative people. Do you have a Muse? If you do, can you tell us about your Muse? Who or What is it?

Sheryl: I don’t have a Muse – but I’m becoming much more aware when my ‘blasted critic’ is sitting on my shoulder. Nowadays, it’s not so difficult to give him the big push.

Sometimes, I think maybe the Australian landscape is my muse – it informed many of the paintings I used to do (until writing took over from art). I still like to get away from the cities into the heart of the outback.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Sheryl: Both together. For me, neither functions without the other – makes it doubly tricky writing an outline, but worth it in the end.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Sheryl: I rather like 11-year-old, Fangus Fearbottom – he is curious, funny, and doesn’t always follow the strict rules of the Great Vampire Reformation of 1812. Hopefully, other people will get to read his story in the not-too-far future.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Sheryl: Lyra Silvertongue and her daemon, in ‘His Dark Materials’ series by Philip Pullman. Courageous, brilliant mind, kind-hearted, intriguing, stubborn – a perfect character.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Sheryl: Brilliant British author, David Almond. The gorgeous Marcus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. Actor, David Tennant (especially if he’s dressed up as Dr Who). Artemisia Gentileschi, female Italian painter who lived in the 17th century – what a woman, what an artist! And Mary Anning, (born 1799) who lived through a life of privation and hardship to become one of the world’s most famous palaeontologists. She found her first dinosaur fossil at 12. She would have to qualify as creative!

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Sheryl: Resist submitting manuscripts to publishers before the stories are ready (i.e. the very best they can be). I’m getting better at not doing this now, but have an occasional slip-up.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Sheryl: You reached your goals with writing, Sheryl. What happened to the one about learning to play the violin?

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Sheryl: That children loved reading my stories, and might have even learnt something about themselves from them.

Thank you, Kim, for inviting me onto your blog! Hope I can reciprocate one day.

You can find Sheryl’s internet homes here…

Website: www.sherylgwyther.net (some of my art work is on here too)

Blog: http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

What a lovely chat. Thank you again Sheryl. Now I think I am going to have to go and join Sheryl on a search for dinosaur fossils and child vampires…Take us on a journey in your world of wonder Sheryl…turning the pages and listening to your stories…

Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for….

 

The quill is swifter than the rapier,

ink imbrues deeper than the blood….

~ girl with a quill ~

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning