Stories: Passports without borders

Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…

Unveiling the Debut of Forbidden Territory

Forbidden Territory

by Melissa Pearl & Brenda Howson


Book blurb:
Mica and Lexy have been best friends and next door neighbours since they were eight years old. They share everything and have no secrets from each other until… Tom arrives on Mica’s doorstep – a gorgeous exchange student from England. And Lexy is smitten.
Suddenly both girls are keeping secrets. Mica is hiding news about Tom’s English girlfriend and Lexy hasn’t got the heart to tell her best friend that her brother Eli, the guy Mica is mad on, thinks of her as only a friend.
After a massive fight, the girls decide the best way to mend their friendship is to spend some quality time together. And what better way than to go camping away from their parents and why not invite along the guys they are crushing on.
So the four teenagers embark on a geo-caching expedition into New Zealand’s native bush expecting a long weekend filled with flirtatious fun; instead secrets are exposed as they stumble across a hidden marijuana crop and its gun-wielding watchmen. Forced apart they spend the next forty-eight hours racing blindly in opposite directions as they fight to find each other before the hunters do.
Today I talk to the brains and the beauties behind this new YA Adventure Novel: Melissa Pearl & Brenda Howson. 
Melissa and Brenda are two best friends who have co-authored this YA debut set in the spectacular location of New Zealand. The book is filled to the brim with adventure and prove that girls can get up to as much mischief as boys can and live as many adventures. But enough from me. 🙂 Make yourself comfortable and get a little behind-the-words look at the world of Forbidden Territory and the friendship that inspired the friendship and bond of the two main characters: Mica & Lexy. There is even a sneak peek or two from some included excerpts.

1. Where did this story come from? What inspired it?

Melissa – We were out geo-caching with our husbands. We were hunting around the bush, looking for the hidden treasure when one of us said, “This would make a cool story.” That little statement sparked a plethora of ideas and by the end of the day we had each created two characters and come up with a basic storyline.

2. The story is told in two very distinct voices. You each chose a character and co-wrote the plot-line. 

a.) What were the 3 aspects of co-authoring a story that you most enjoyed?

Brenda – 1) spending time with my bestie, 2) creating a story together meant two brains coming up with ideas, which is so much better than one, 3) did I mention spending time with my bestie? She is so awesome and sharing this love of writing is the cherry on top!

b.) What were the 3 aspects of co-authoring a story that you found most challenging?

Brenda – 1) we live an hours drive away from each other and both have kids, so that makes it harder to find time to actually get together, 2) because there are two writers we needed to make sure we knew the other authors character inside out but sometimes we get it wrong, so rewrites are needed (so not a big issue though), 3) this is a future challenge, my bestie is moving to CHINA…. Soooo much more than an hours drive away!!

3. Geo-caching is what sends these two girls on an adventure into Forbidden Territory. 

a.)What is Geo-caching? 

Melissa – Geo-caching is basically modern day treasure hunting. There is a website with hundreds of different cache locations listed. You type the co-ordinates into your GPS then go searching. It is so much fun. You find little trinkets and swap them out for other trinkets. There have been some little badges and things that have made it all the way around the world. SO cool!

b.) Have either of you experienced Geo-caching before? 

Melissa – Yes – Ben got Pete and I into it. I’m not sure how he found out about it… Brenda?

Brenda – My husband Ben bought a GPS for sailing and when he was looking for instructions on how to use it, he came across a website about geo-caching. The first cache we tried, we accidentally put the wrong coordinates in and ended up walking soooo much further than we needed to, heh heh, but we eventually found the cache and were hooked. Treasure hunting is awesome!!!!!

Melissa – We’ve found quite a few caches throughout NZ. It’s a really fun thing to do when you’re away on holiday or if you have nothing to do on a sunny afternoon 🙂

4. Are either of you anything like your characters in nature or are they personality opposites to your real-life personalities?

Brenda – Lexy is not based on me but she does share a few of my characteristics, we are not opposite in nature. We look nothing alike however, she’s much hotter than me, but I did give her the career dream I wanted as a teen (Architect).

I would say that Mica and Melissa’s personalities are opposite though. Mica says things that Melissa never would (out loud anyway) 

5. This book is about the bonds of best friends and is co-authored by best friends. What is the funniest thing you can each tell us about one other?

Melissa – oooo – tough one!! One thing I love about Brenda is the occasional contradiction in her personality. She is an incredibly strong and motivated woman… very talented and goes about making things happen. Yet if it comes to complaining about something in a shop or having to question something in a public setting, she always hides behind me!! What’s with that 🙂

Brenda –  Heh heh… you are so right. I’m a total contradiction. Melissa is WAY braver than me and I take advantage of that. Hmmmm something funny about Melissa would be, she puts mayonnaise on EVERYTHING! This is only a problem for me because I hate the stuff, but Melissa has a love affair with it and I can’t think of anything she wouldn’t have it with… ok, maybe not with chocolate 😉

Totally! How embarrassing. Thanks for not mentioning my addiction to ketchup as well. LOL!

6. I know that Melissa has mentioned that this book might be first in a series of Mica’s and Lexy’s adventures…Can you tell us if this is just a rumour or is this only the first of their adventures?

Melissa – I’m very happy to say, it’s not a rumor. The next book, “Forbidden Waters” is due out next year and is already planned out. We just have to write it now 🙂

The book after that is tentatively entitled “Forbidden Liaisons”. We have some ideas for that story, but haven’t nutted out a firm plot yet. There is much fun to be had… she laughs evilly! Can’t wait to see how Mica and Lexy will deal with the mayhem we are going to dump them in 🙂

7. If you could pick a favourite guy in the story, which would it be and why?

Melissa – I am totally in love with Eli. Whether it’s because he’s my creation, I’m not sure, but I just find him delicious. I also love his quiet strength and the way he is with Mica. I love those two together.

8. If this book were a movie, who would play the lead characters?

Brenda – Agh that’s so hard. I’d actually love some unknown actors to play the leads, as I find over time, popular actors play their characters all very similar and that takes away from the story. I’d love some New Zealand actors to come out of the woodwork and rise up to the challenge. I actually think it would make a really cool movie too!!!!

9. Can you each give us an excerpt of your favourite scene in the story and tell us why they are your favourite scenes?

Melissa – I have so many scenes I love and I don’t want to give away spoilers, but one of my favourite little interactions between Mica and Lexy is…

“Mike,” I could hear Lexy forcing her voice to be gentle, “you told me it was just a scratch.”

“I lied.” Sniffing at the torrent of tears, I kept my head turned away.

Grabbing the side of my face with a gentle tenderness, she wiped at my tears and placed a little peck on my forehead. “I know,” she sighed, “you stubborn little shit.”

I think those few little lines show the depth of Mica and Lexy’s friendship. They are so confident of their friendship they can say anything to each other.

Brenda – This is probably my fave scene, and I’ve pulled a few sentences out so it doesn’t spoil anything, but basically Mica has just called Tom (Lexy’s crush) weedy. This excerpt is written from Mica’s POV:

I looked up at my best friend. Standing in front of me was a determined looking brunette and hanging by her side was the gun we didn’t want to use. Breathing hard, she looked up from the crumpled body and shook her head. “Weedy?” Her eyes narrowed.

“What?” I crouched towards the ground and grabbed the unconscious man’s hands.

“Tom’s not weedy!” Lexy bent to join me, whipping off the man’s belt and wrapping it around his wrists.

“He’s a little weedy.” 

“No he’s not! He’s gorgeous!” 

“I didn’t say he wasn’t gorgeous. I said he was a little weedy.” 

“He’s not weedy!”

I tried to quell my laugher. This was ridiculous, we were probably in the most fatal situation of our lives and we were having a whispering argument about whether or not Thomas Williams was skinny!

“He’s wiry,” Lexy finished with a superior tone and a tip of her chin.

I just love the way Mica and Lexy interact. They have such a deep friendship and know each other so well and sometimes they just have the funniest conversations. Love those two girls.

Melissa – CLASSIC! I nearly chose that scene myself 🙂

10. Thank you ladies for giving us a behind-the-words insight into Forbidden Territory and sharing a little of your own friendship with us. But before I let you go, tell me where can readers buy Forbidden Territory?

Melissa – the book comes out on July 1st and can be purchased digitally from Amazon stores and Smashwords. It can also be purchased in paperback from Amazon.

Here are the links:


Author bios:

Melissa Pearl and Brenda Howson have been best friends for about 12 years. Both mothers of two young children, both married to school teachers and both lovers of writing, they have a lot in common. Having spent many vacations away together, they have become as close to sisters as two girls can get. It was on one of these holidays away that the Mica and Lexy Series was born.

Melissa is the author of the Time Spirit Trilogy, which was published at the end of 2011. She is a fully trained elementary teacher, but is lucky enough to stay home and watch her kids grow. She is also spending every spare moment trying to turn writing into a full time career – and loving the process.

Brenda was the one who encouraged Melissa to start writing in the first place. Once Melissa got started, Brenda caught the bug and she has been writing for ten years, in between motherhood and working at a local high school in the computer department. She has won two short story competitions and been runner-up in another. Forbidden Territory is her first published novel.
Blog Tour Schedule & Giveaway!! – Click here
** This is what you could win on Melissa and Brenda’s YAlicious Blog**
And now for the giveaway. Please spread the word far and wide. The more, the merrier.We are giving away 3 prize packs, which include:
– a digital copy of Forbidden Territory
– a friendship necklace like the ones Mica and Lexy wear
– Forbidden Territory and Time Spirit Trilogy bookmarks
We are also giving away a Grand Prize, which includes:
– a paperback copy of Forbidden Territory
– a friendship necklace like the ones Mica and Lexy wear
– bookmarks
– a digital copy of Golden Blood (Bk 1 of the Time Spirit Trilogy by Melissa Pearl)

Hello June…I am going all Jackson Pollock on You

It’s June!

It’s time to get a little crazy, go a little wild, ride the winds…

I am going all Jackson Pollock on this month!

As stated last week… “I am going to do more than play Hookie with Tattoo. I am going to have a full-blown affair with Tattoo. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.”

For the first time in months I am going to be flinging my creative ink at the canvas of my new WIP without thought of editing and embracing the freedom and unadulterated joy in WRITING that First Draft!

“A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said ‘This is it.’

Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.”

– Hans Namuth 1950

I love the first blush, the illicit intimacy and the head-rush of a First Draft. First Drafts are all about the Writer, the Creative, the Artist. I love simply getting lost in a first draft and a new story. I love meeting the new characters and watching their scenes in my mind’s eye like a movie. I love that the story can and will go anywhere and everywhere.

What do you love about first drafts?


In other exciting News just in from this weekend…The anthology that could…

WooHoo! I am now a contributor to an AWARD-Winning anthology! “Tales for Canterbury” just scooped the 2012 Sir Julius Vogel Award in NZ for the Best Collected Works in Speculative Fiction-SciFi/Fantasy/Horror. This is a national award awarded annually at the NZ National Science Fiction Convention to recognise achievement in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  Congrats to our editors: Cassie Hart and Anna Caro on scooping the win! The editing team did a brilliant job in pulling together a great crew of authors, who all contributed incredible stories all for an amazing cause. Once again, I am so proud and pleased to be part of a fantastic crew of authors and editors who helped get this anthology  out there.
There are still print copies available on the current print run of Tales for Canterbury. You can buy them here. *All profits* will be donated to the NZ Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. See for more details. (* ie after we’ve paid any applicable transaction fees, printing, and shipping costs – neither Random Static nor the authors are keeping a cent)
A little background on the Sir Julius Vogel Award: The awards are named for Sir Julius Vogel, a prominent New Zealand journalist and politician, who becamePrime Minister of New Zealand in the 1870s. He also, in 1889, wrote what is widely (though erroneously) regarded as New Zealand’s first science fiction novel, Anno Domini 2000 – A Woman’s Destiny.[1] The book — written and published in Great Britain after Vogel had moved from New Zealand — pictured a New Zealand in the year 2000 where most positions of authority were held by women – at the time of writing, a radical proposition. In 2000, New Zealand’s Head of State, Governor General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Attorney General were all women, as was the CEO of one of the country’s largest companies, Telecom.

Across ‘The Ditch’ – My interview with Sheryl Gwyther – author

A microphone
Image via Wikipedia

Across ‘The Ditch’ – an interview with Kim Koning, NZ author « Sheryl Gwyther – author.

My trip to Australia where I visited with the lovely Sheryl Gwyther. It was quite interesting being on the other side of the interview process. Sheryl had some great questions that really had me scratching my head for just the right answer.

Join me in Australia as Sheryl and I sit down for a chat on writing.

– Kim

Tales for Canterbury « Parchment Place

I Say A Little Prayer For You...
Image by Christine ™ (Formerly with the red wall.) via Flickr

Tales for Canterbury « Parchment Place.

What an Amazing contribution and idea to help support Christchurch in her time of need. Thank you Cassie and all the other people who are helping to put this together.

I spent 6 months living in this beautiful city. Christchurch and the generous, courageous spirit of  the people of Christchurch will always have a special place in my heart.

This is a city built on faith, strength and fortitude. Two days ago the foundations at the core of this city shook and Christchurch underwent another massive natural disaster  just 6 months after the earthquake in September 2010.

Where many other people of cities would have fled for the hills caring only for the safety of their own, Christchurch has banded together with the courage and generosity particular to the Cantabrians and helped one another. Strangers are taking the time to search for missing people and other strangers are taking in homeless people.

This is a city that may have been shaken to fall on her knees but she is not down and she is not defeated. Christchurch will persist in getting to her feet and rebuilding the city that is so dear and near to so many hearts.

The news coverage throughout the last few days has portrayed stories of ordinary people turned heroes and of selfless strangers doing everything in their power to help their neighbour, their friend, a stranger.

The people of New Zealand and the world who watch stand in awe of the stoic courage and hope that the Christchurch people have shown in the face of great calamity.

This is my prayer and hope for Christchurch, a city very dear to my heart that is home to some of my favourite people…

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57:1) Lifting up Christchurch in prayer tonight…May your strength and hope shine through and may it be a beacon to the rest of us. May God be with you all. May the Lord still the earth beneath your feet. May He strengthen your foundations. May those that are trapped be sheltered under the Lord’s wings and kept safe til they can be rescued…May those who are waiting to hear be comforted and strengthened…May those who are scared be encouraged to know that many, many prayers are being lifted up for your city in this hour of her need. And a special prayer for strength and endurance for those brave rescuers amongst fire-fighters, paramedics, police, military, medical staff and good Samaritans.

Christchurch – May God be your foundation as the ground’s foundations tremble beneath your feet.


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

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:)



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

Out now:   Letters to Leonardo
Harry’s Goldfield Adventure
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

National Novel Writing Month 2010 WINNER (NaNoWriMo))

Well today, being the 25th of November here in New Zealand, I officially verified my word count for NaNoWriMo and am a Winner. This is one of the badges I have downloaded from my Winner’s Goodies.

I have taken a short hiatus from writing, hence no blogs from me this last week. Having just returned to work, I have been in the thick of getting back into the swing of life post-nano.

This experience has been one of the most valuable writing experiences for me. Through doing and completing NaNoWriMo I have found a new confidence in my ability to treat writing as my occupation and sit down for sustained periods devoted to writing. I have gained knowledge from the vast experience bank of my fellow wrimos and my Wonderful group I belong to called NaNoWriMo Warriors. I have formed writing friendships with people who have cheered me on and supported me. I have learned how to put aside my inner editor and just let the writing flow. I have learned to trust my writing. I have learned that anything is possible if I can write 50 000 words in 12 days: I finished NaNoWriMo on the 12th of November after starting at midnight on the 1st.

As a writer, it has been wonderful to be part of a global group of people who understand my motivation and drive to be a full-time writer. What is usually an individual pursuit has become a group pursuit. One of the best parts of every day of the 12 days was downloading my word count. Not only did I watch as the green bar became longer but I felt proud as my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors, friends and family cheered me on from both the writing battlefield and the sidelines.

I have also realised that I am a writer that enjoys writing to timelines. I enjoy the structure of seeing a goal post of time or word count ahead of me. In many ways Wrimos are a bit like racing greyhounds constantly chasing that rabbit that sits just a little way ahead of us.

Today I feel like a winner and more importantly I know without a doubt that I am a Writer. Nobody can take that away from me. Many people have asked me why I have entered a competition where there seems to be no “prize”. This is why I entered. I entered to prove to myself I could do this in a set time period. I entered to increase my self-confidence in my writing. I entered it to meet fellow writers who have similar dreams to me. So to those people who believe that there always has to be a monetary prize, I say that you are limiting yourself and your own potential. The “winning” in this challenge is that you take the risk to follow a dream that many think illogical or unfeasible. Some wrimos might not get to 50 000 words by 30/11. Does this mean they have lost? No. I believe anyone who has taken up this challenge has won. It takes courage to chase a dream others believe to be a mere pipe-dream. So to all those wrimos who do not think they will make it to 50k, I say this to you. Firstly it is not over. You still have some days to go before the 30th of November. Secondly, even though you may not reach 50k, you have still tried and for that you are a NaNoWriMo winner.

To my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors I say Thank You and Well Done for being the most supportive group of people I know. I am proud to be a NaNoWriMo Warrior and I am even more proud to call many of you friends now. Though oceans may separate me from my Writing Warriors, this challenge has bridged those oceans and the many time zones. Thank you for the cheering and the support. Thank you for the word wars. Thank you that someone was always there on the Facebook site to talk to in the lonely hours of the night when I am tapping away on the keyboard.

This has been a phenomenal experience for me. Will I be taking part in NaNoWriMo 2011. Definitely!

Lastly a huge and hearty Congratulations to all my fellow wrimos who are winners and have reached 50k words. To the wrimos who are still writing and still racing, Good Luck and may the Muses never stray from you in these last days.

Signing off from NaNoWriMo 2010,

Good Luck with the upcoming editing Wrimos – this will be the next challenge for us all.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Dancing in the rain and laughing with joy….

Dancing in the rain
Image by 6U5 via Flickr

The 15th of October is Blog Action Day. This year’s Blog Action is all about WATER.

Water is the one universal element that all forms of life on earth need. Whether you are a Human Being, an animal, a bird, a fish, a reptile, plant or soil; Water is the one element that nothing can survive without. Water is the one element that unites all creatures.

I have lived in two countries. My birth country is South Africa and my current country is New Zealand. Although these countries have elements that bond them in similarity, the greatest difference between these two countries is Water. South Africa is a land that can go from flooding to drought at a rapid rate. Although as a country of Africa, South Africa is elemently well off when it comes to water. Many countries in Africa have very little water and if they do have water the water is unsanitary. This has been one of the reasons that Africa has always struggled in its survival. But this is also the reason that water is so precious to the people of Africa.

In New Zealand, on the other hand, water is plentiful. Water is also exceptionally clean, pure and sanitary in this green land. Often times it is easier to take the presence of clean water for granted when you live in a country like New Zealand. There are even times when one gets tired of “another rainy day”. I am always deeply aware when people complain about too much rain that some places, indeed many places, in this world never have “enough” rain let alone “too much” rain.

Water is a life-giving force that powers this planet. But Water can also be destructive. One only need look back at the past decade to see the destructive forces of Water.

Water also has a spiritual element in many cultures across the globe. Water is depicted as a cleansing element both physically and spiritually.

For myself, water has always been precious. I find inspiration through water: being by the sea, watching a waterfall, listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, watching the magnificence of a rain thunder-storm. Water fuels creativity and philosophy. It brings out a soulful element.

I traveled to Dubai last year and was struck by how precious water really is. I was relieved to be travelling to a country where there would not be a constant downpour of rain. I thought I needed some sunshine and dry weather. On my third day there, there was a thunderstorm. Coming from New Zealand, this did not seem unusual for me. But that day I was struck by the attitude of gratitude and wonder from the people all around me. Children were dancing in the streets with their heads lifted up to the sky in adoration and adulation. People were laughing and happy. It seemed that all of the city of Dubai ran out to sing and dance in the rain. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. The joy all around me was infectious. The rain lasted for three days. There were even some parts of the UAE which experienced flooding. But the people were happy. In a place of desert sands of 7 different colours, there was a joyous gratitude for this rare sustenance falling from the heavens. In that place, I realised more than ever, what a blessing water and rain truly is. It was a sobering moment for me. I will never forget the dancing people of all ages just being happy to be able to dance in the rain.

So next time it rains…take a moment to truly cherish it. Toss aside your umbrella and your rain coat. Go outside and dance in the rain. There is nothing more liberating than dancing in the rain. The next time you pour yourself a glass of water, take a moment before you drink it. Give thanks that you live in a place that takes it for granted that if you are thirsty, or you want to cook, or you want to clean; it is as easy to make this happen as turning on a tap. Take a moment to remember that there are many more places in the world where people have to walk for many miles to get to water. Even then that water may be unsanitary. The next time it rains, stop before you complain about “another” rainy day and remember that in some places a rainy day only happens once a year.

Cherish water. Give thanks for rain. Be grateful if you are within walking distance of a beach, a river, a lake or a dam.

Let us all take a moment to dance in the rain and laugh with joy. Rain is a blessing. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t complain. Just think, you could be living in a place where rain is so rare that it is cause for celebration and wonder.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…

it’s learning to dance in the rain.”

© All rights reserved Kim Koning