Author Interviews

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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Author interview no.511 with writer Gigi Sedlmayer (revisited)


Back in October 2012, I interviewed author Gigi Sedlmayer for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the five hundred and eleventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s / YA author Gigi Sedlmayer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Gigi. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Gigi: Hello Morgen. My name is Gigi Sedlmayer. I was born in Germany, Berlin in 1944 and married an Australian / German in 1967 living in Munich by then as my parents moved a lot around, going after the work my father did. So I had to change schools around 9 times. In the end I had no friends anymore, thinking I would lose them anyway.
In 1975 we moved to New Zealand. Because of language problems, I started a handcraft business. As a specialty, I made colourful parrots of which I sold thousands in a few years.
In 1988 we decided to adopt from Fiji and became adoptive parents of twin girls the year after.
Living in New Zealand for 18 years we decided in 1992 to move to Australia, Gold Coast. Two years later I was diagnosed with cancer. After operations and radiation, I withdrew, thinking that I would soon be dead, like my friend who died of cancer, but my two little girls gave me the courage and strength to keep going. And then finding myself still alive after two years my brain started to work again and I thought, 'Get a grip on yourself and do something good with your life'.
In my earlier life I loved writing short stories about animals. With these stories I could express myself, being me. I wrote what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, but had never, and could have never done it. And so I thought about that love again, since I couldn’t go to work anymore, having damage from the radiation and so lots of pain, my husband taught me how to use a computer. Writing many short stories, I entered them in competitions and often got very good reports back, which gave me confidence to go on writing. One day the idea for the TALON series came to me, and so in the next several years I brought the story and the characters to life.
Morgen: You have such a powerful story of your own, I’m sure that feeds through in your writing. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Gigi: I started to write the Talon series for children for the age of 9 years to teenagers. But, as reviewers tell me my books are for all ages, from 9 to 99 years.
Children suffer from all sorts of affliction and through my books they can learn how to cope with everything, as Matica did, the main character in my books. She had to learn it in her early life. Children can and should find a “Condor” as Matica did. Not literally a condor, but every child or adult for that matter, they are battling with none curable afflictions, should find something that let them forget what is happening to them. Finding a “Condor” would help them to overcome that.
Parents can read my books to younger children so they can see that they are not alone, but that they can overcome their affliction in a positive way, not in a negative way.
I know that there are lots of people and children out there, who are not accepted by their peers. Children are getting bullied in school, driven to suicide. We know that first-hand as well. We have adopted Indian twin-girls from Fiji. Mostly they were accepted, particularly in our church. But when I went shopping with the girls, some people looked at us, with the look on their faces that would say: How can she do something like that?
Since I went through the things Matica is going through, Matica is actually me. (I am not handicapped but faced lots of rejection in my life as well.) Matica and I we are one person and we are looking for acceptance.
I say:  Children with special needs or with disability, or are handicapped don't have an illness, so there is no cure and it's not contagious. They want what we all want, to be accepted.
But I think that my books are not only for children. As I said, adults face some illnesses as well, so my book is for adults as well as for children.
Morgen: Writing is therapeutic whether you’re creating them or reading them. You mentioned a series, what have you had published to-date?
Gigi: I have now self-published 3 books in the Talon series. I plan about 8 to 9 books, as long as my imagination flows.
The first book: TALON, COME FLY WITH ME
The second book: TALON, ON THE WING
The third book: TALON, FLIGHT FOR LIFE
I am working on the fourth book now, called: TALON, HUNTING THE HUNTER
You can find them at amazon at my author page: http://www.amazon.com/Gigi-Sedlmayer/e/B003U8G4WC.
Also at my website: http://www.writersportal.org/Gigi.
Morgen: You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Gigi: After I finished writing the first novel in the Talon series about Matica and Talon, I wrote query letters and sent my manuscript to several conventional publishers here in Australia. And guess what? I always got that rejection letter back. I even lost count of them. I tried for many years. I failed.
Next I approached an editor and agent and she edited my book properly. She loved my book and she tried to place it with a conventional publisher. But she too failed.
So I looked up all the self-publishers here in Australia and decided to let my book be published by BookPal in Brisbane. At that time, they were new here in Australia and weren’t as expensive as the rest. They did a very good job with the designing of the cover page, the outlaying of the book, the distribution, and making an eBook. They also wrote a press release.
When I finished the second book in the Talon series, I approached them again. They were a bit too expansive for me then. But a friend of ours offered me to pay, because he just loved the first book and thought, the books has to go out, people have to read them. And now in the meantime I finished the third as well and published with BookPal again.
Morgen: It’s hard finding a reliable (and reputable) company so it’s encouraging that you’re happy to stay with them. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Gigi: The completed books in the Talon series are available as eBook as well. My publisher, BookPal produced first the printed books then the eBooks. I myself love to read printed paper books. I like to have something solid in my hands.
Morgen: Most people do, although it’s great having the choice. How did choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Gigi: I have asked my husband when I had two or three different titles, and we always agreed to the one my books have now. I think the cover of a book is very important. When I am going into a book store, I look for the covers first, then the title, then I read the blurb in the back. I told BookPal how to do the cover, and provided “Matica” the girl.
Morgen: They’re very simple but effective, and of course they show the content which is important. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Gigi: I am working at the fourth book in the Talon series and hope that it will be finished and edited by my editor at the end of the year. It is called: TALON, HUNTING THE HUNTER.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Gigi: Yes, I am writing nearly every day. Sometimes I have too many other things to do, but mostly I do write every day. Well, today I am writing at the interview, to get the answers out. What is “writer’s block”? Never had it, and hopefully will never get it.
Morgen: Apparently it doesn’t exist. If I do get stuck with a project in hand I go off and do something else then continue pretty easily when I come back to it. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Gigi: Difficult to say. When I am sitting on the computer and want to write, the ideas just floating out of my fingers, my head, my thoughts and my fingers can’t write quickly enough. They just come.
Morgen: For me too. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Gigi: I just write the story down as it comes. But then comes the fine art; the rewriting and the rewriting. I think I become better now. The first book I think I rewrote it at least 20 times.
Morgen: Ouch. I’m on my seventh (and hopefully final) edit of my chic lit novel, and at over 100,000 words that’s quite painful. Do you have to do much research?
Gigi: When I started the story and knew I had to set it in Peru, because only there are flying the majestic condors around, I sat in the library for 3 full days. Studying everything about the Indians, their land, their culture and about the condors, their habits and all.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Gigi: I am writing in third person, but Matica is dreaming a lot, so I am writing in first person as well.
Morgen: It’s interesting to have both, and it’s fairly common these days. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Gigi: I still have all my short stories I wrote, when I started to write after surviving the disease. Some of them I weave in as Matica is dreaming them. I hope, when I am famous one day that all my short stories will be published in a book.
Morgen: :) I have over 100 languishing in folders on my computer that I hope to do something with – the trouble is I keep writing new ones. You mentioned rejections earlier, how do you deal with them?
Gigi: If you mean the rejection letters I’ve got when I started to write, yes, I’ve got so many that I lost count. I had bad reactions, each time. I just couldn’t understand that they wouldn’t see the potential of my book and what they have in their hands. But again, next day, I said “Next”. That’s why I went to the self-publishing.
Because of having plenty of rejections in my life, I actually cope with it quite well, I have to say. Matica is me, in all aspects. I don’t have her affliction, but other things I am still battling with. So yes, Matica is me. We share it. But we overcome them together.
Morgen: They say write what you know and a writer certainly has to be ‘in character’ so it feels realistic. Do you enter competitions?
Gigi: When I started to write, I wrote short stories and entered them all in competitions. All adventure stories with children and animals. I even wrote a sci-fi short story. Never got the first prize, but always got good comments. These comments inspired me to go on. One of them was a short story about Matica und Talon.
Morgen: Which presumably inspired you to expand on them. You mentioned your experience with an agent, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Gigi: I had an agent for a year, but she wasn’t better than I was with placing my story to a conventional publisher. When she stopped doing it, because of that, I approached the self-publisher. So, no, I don’t think it’s vital to have one.
Morgen: It’s certainly how a lot of people are going these days, and they’re happy. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Gigi: Well, that is a thing I am not doing too well. I am still a bit impaired and weak after I survived the disease. I also have big problems with my feet. Pain is a constant ‘friend’ with me. I am in several networking sites. My website: http://www.writersportal.org/Gigi.
Morgen: Keeping busy always seems to help. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Gigi: To face myself. When I started to write the book, I never thought of the things they came out then. I wanted to write an adventure story for children and see what came out of that. Because, like Matica, I was rejected in school, not because of the growth handicap she has. I had other things. I had to face what Matica is facing, rejection, and learned, even from writing the book, more and more to cope with myself, to overcome my own rejection and to realise that I have survived a deadly disease.
In a sense it changed my life as well. I have more confidence now as I never had before. I never thought I could write a story like that. But now? I can and I will write more stories about Matica and Talon and her adventure, her life.
Morgen: I know so many readers when they get to the end of a book want it to carry on, to know more about the characters so series are very popular, especially longer ones like yours. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Gigi: Never to give up. Your success can be right at the next corner. When you gave up, you’ll never know.
Morgen: Absolutely. They say a successful author is one who didn’t give up. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Gigi: Quotes from my books: “Love and acceptance for each other, without boundaries.” “Self-pity is a useless emotion.” “Self-pity can ruin one’s life.” “Be you, yourself, be happy. Don’t let life pass by you. Don’t look back, look into the bright future. The future is as bright as the promise of God.” “Smile – it’s the most beautiful attire.”
“I can do it.’ These four words are the most power-filled words.”
Matica in the second book is saying:  “I see myself as a girl that likes to overcome all obstacles, all problems and all difficulties how bad they maybe, because I found out in my young life that I can overcome them, if I set my mind to it. I succeeded and so can you. Don’t stick your head in the sand, face your difficulties, face your affliction. Look for a condor as I have done, I don’t mean a real condor like me, but something you can identify yourself with, relay to it, love to do or like to be.”
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Gigi: I love handcrafting, cross-stitching, 4x4 tours with my husband, gardening, swimming, and walking.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Gigi: I am in several networking sites.
But I have to say, unfortunately, they are not doing well, as I thought they would. They don’t help me sell my books. They are good for liking and tagging your books in amazon.com. Haven’t heard or seen any different.
Morgen: There’s a fine line between not marketing a book and touting, and some people make the mistake of promoting their books too often (in some cases having nothing else to say). There are so many authors out there trying to be heard but at least by being on them you have a chance, and by doing things like this interview the readers get to know you as an author then (hopefully) have an interest in your writing. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Gigi: Again difficult to say, but with the bookstores closing down here in Australia, the eBooks will be very popular, I believe and they will be the future.
Morgen: So do I but hopefully alongside each other. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Gigi: at my website: http://www.writersportal.org/Gigi
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Gigi: Do you know any tricks how to get my name out there so people will buy my books? Anything?
Morgen: :) I know these interviews have sold some so you never know but you have a strong web presence in being on all the sites you are. Despite all I do on this blog my sales are a trickle but then I don’t have much available yet (I do have two novels on their way) so there’s no easy answer. Having more than one book out (which you do) certainly helps because if you have one and people like it then they have something else to buy. As Harper Collins’ / Friday Project’s Scott Pack said to me “keep doing what you’re doing”.
Thank you, Gigi.
I then invited Gigi to include an extract of her writing and this is an excerpt from the first book TALON, COME FLY WITH ME…
The male condor spread his huge wings and hopped to the ground. Matica had to jump clear, out of the reach of his huge wings. Instead of flying off, as he normally did, he kept standing, turning around and looking at her. Matica’s eyes nearly popped out of her sockets. He’s so huge, she thought.
Standing stock-still and not folding his wings to his body, the bird blinked and waited for what Matica would do. Since nothing happened for the next few minutes, the bird tilted his head and grunted. Matica interpreted it as: what now? His mate screeched from the sky in surprise.
Matica couldn’t move. She was frozen stiff with fear and her face was as white as a ghost. The bird looked way bigger on the ground than he had looked on the branch. He folded his wings very slowly to his body now as if he knew he might frighten her, then he made another strange sound. Matica felt so small and thought: Will he kill me? But no, I’m alive. He can’t kill, just like Dad said.
Matica gasped for air and her pink colour came back into her face. She was amazed that this had really happened and she wondered: What should I do now? I think he’s afraid of his own boldness, and so am I. He’s watching me. I should move, do something. After all, I told him to come down … but he’s so big.
And a synopsis of one of her books and this is the third in the Talon series, ‘TALON, FLIGHT FOR LIFE’…
Matica is walking with her father to the next big city of Cajamarca to purchase some food, medication and the tickets for their six month holiday in Australia.
On the way she misses her condors terribly, but still has an adventurous and very good time with her father walking through rain forests and other parts of the beautiful country of Peru, seeing macaws, toucans, monkeys and a puma.
In Cajamarca they heard that the poachers are back, asking for condors. Matica is distressed, and wants to go home quickly, to tell her condors.
On the way home they visit an old Incan dwelling. And there, shortly after something terrible is happening. Her father fell ill with high fever after he was bitten by a nasty huge spider.
Not knowing what to do, she calls for her condors. But the wait until they arrive, that is the hardest time she ever had to endure.
***
Gisela (Gigi) Sedlmayer was born on 19 May 1944 in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin in Germany.
Her family escaped to the West just before the infamous wall went up. They moved around in Germany until finally settling in Munich where Gigi studied architectural drafting, working in various private consultancies in Munich. Meeting Albert in 1965 and marrying in December 1967.
Since her uncle was a writer, she tried to write short animal stories herself. Nothing further came of it, but she developed a love for the written word and started to consume books.
In May 1975, Gigi and her husband moved to New Zealand. Because of language challenges, she started a handcraft business. As a specialty, she made colourful parrots of which she sold thousands in a few years.
In 1988, they decided to adopt and became adoptive parents of twin girls the year after.
In September 1992 they moved to Australia, Gold Coast.
Two years later Gigi was diagnosed with cancer. After operations and radiation, she withdrew, thinking that she would probably soon be dead, like her friend who died of cancer, but her two little girls gave her the courage and the strength to keep going. After a two years, still among the living, she thought, ‘Get a grip on yourself and do something good with your life’.
She remembered the time she wrote short stories and got inspired again, seeing her husband Albert writing the story of their adoption. Her English became increasingly better so she pressed on to develop her creative writing.
She wrote many short stories and entered them in competitions. Often got very good reports back, which gave her confidence to go on writing. One day the idea for the TALON series came to her and she spent the next several years bringing the story and the characters to life.
***
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