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Thursday, 2 May 2013
Author interview with Goldie Alexander (revisited)
Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Goldie Alexander for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children's author Goldie Alexander. 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, Goldie. You write children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
Goldie: I began writing for Young Adults after I left off teaching in secondary schools. I felt I knew the audience very well.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Goldie: I began with the pseudonym Gerri Lapin, but since have published some 60 fiction and non fiction books for both kids and adults under my own name.
Morgen: What age group do you write for?
Goldie: In my 25-year career as a writer I have written for every age group except babies where the content is all illustration.
Morgen: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Goldie: When I was young there wasn’t all that much written for young readers. There were the usual Enid Blyton stories, and in fact a few years ago I took her idea of the Famous Five and wrote 2 contemporary Aussie versions: the A~ PI series ‘Hedgeburners’ and ‘Car-Crimes’. As a child I loved folk tales, particularly those with a magical twist and my latest novel for upper primary students ‘eSIDE’ takes a present day situation where the action is also magical. I went into adult literature when quite young and I recall adoring (sorry about this) Jane Austen and my admiration for her writing has never faded. I think I try to use some of her character perceptions in my Young Adult work such as ‘The Youngest Cameleer” –about the finding of Uluru, and my newest YA ‘Dessi’s Romance” .
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Goldie: I’d rather not! Good writing should carry the author’s own voice and imprimatur.
Morgen: Do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
Goldie: No, I think it is much harder. An adult might plough through something vaguely unreadable. A child will discard it immediately. The hardest to write is a good story picture book text. It has been likened to writing haiku for children.
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Goldie: It’s hard to get willing readers but I do my best, mostly seeking out children from the right age group.
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Goldie: Masses! Can I recommend anyone who is interested in writing for kids to go to both my blog www.goldiealexander.com/blog for writing tips. Also, I have a book on line written by myself and Hazel Edwards: ‘The Business of Writing for Young People’ that can be accessed through Hazel’s website. That book contains all you really need to know to get started. My major piece of advice is to read widely before even beginning to write. Explore libraries, bookshops and the net. Know your audience intimately.
Morgen: Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Goldie: Yes, but never for children. I self published ‘The Grevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’ and my ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’ that I use in my ‘mentoring’ workshops.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Goldie: Many of my books are also available as ebooks and some are for children. My latest YA ’Dessi’s Romance’ is being first published as an ebook as well as eventually in POD. It came out on Amazon Kindle on the week beginning 18th February.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Goldie: The last book I have completed is always my favourite. Presently I have two characters Dessi and Emma from ‘Dessi’s Romance’ as my favourites. Of course I would want Scarlet Johanssohn and Kiera Knightly.(both too old, though perhaps they can still pretend to be 18years old)
Morgen: Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Goldie: Very important. I have a great respect for covers, titles and blurbs. Don’t let anyone think that a cover doesn’t sell a book. I have had a few disasters( in my opinion) in my time. My favourite title is “My Horrible Cousins” (a short story collection) as every kid has a horrible cousin.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Goldie: A YA novel set in 1954 at the height of the Cold War called ‘That Stranger next Door”. It combines politics - both local and global – with a couple of teens from different religions.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Goldie: I write most days. When I’m coping with writer’s block, I work on my own blog and blogs like this. I just keep writing....
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Goldie: I try to plot according to my major character and when they live... the settings. For example, in “The Youngest Cameleer”, my 13YO cameleer Ahmed, who lives in 1873 travels through unknown territory with an expedition led by William Gosse to stumble on Ayers Rock. The story was already set out by being based on fact. In ‘eSide’ (coming out next month in hardcopy) I invented a cafe, a good-luck-conch, a witch, a magician called tGF, and two 12yo girls who must cope with the conch being stolen and their subsequent adventures in eSide.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Goldie: I always write a character dossier. If you do this and include everything about them as for a thorough police check, you will have your story because then you know their likes and dislikes, and what they greatest aim and conflicts might be.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Goldie: I do lots and lots of editing. Even when a book comes out I hate reading it, as I am sure there are places where I could ‘have done better’.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Goldie: When I am writing historical fiction I do masses of research. I do anyway, because I always think of situations for my characters that might be unfamiliar. The best literature intertwines great research with excellent writing. But the two must be seamless.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Goldie: It is always easiest to write in 1st person, but this has the obvious limitation of presenting one POV(Point of View) only. I find the omniscient POV rather irritating, though lots of writers enjoy using it. I think it only works if the characters are kept separate and written about in the third person.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, novels, non-fiction or short stories?
Goldie: Yes. I write everything. Lots of nonfiction for youngsters and I have recently completed YA verse novel called “In Hades”. Most of my most recent books are up on my website.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Goldie: Everyone does!!!! Early pieces or experiments that never worked.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Goldie: Never believe any ongoing writer who claims s/he has never received a rejection. We all do. Sometimes it’s the wrong time for a book, or the publisher already has one too similar, or it just doesn’t appeal to a submission editor, or even marketing has put the kybosh on it( usually because they can’t see ahead). Just grit your teeth and try not to get too upset.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Goldie: Not really. I used to enter adult short story comps, but seldom write them now. They take too much time/energy and are rarely published.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Goldie: Not any more. I can’t answer if they add to success or not. It’s too individual.
Morgen: Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Goldie: Not nearly enough. I know I should market lots more, and do, but it is hard to see myself as a ‘brand’. Maybe it’s my advanced age but I find the whole business of marketing vaguely objectionable. Perhaps if I was selling coffee or tea, I would think differently. I advise other authors to market themselves, then become stupid about it myself. However I suppose one way is to keep a blog and write for other kind people, like Morgen.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Goldie: It would have to be marketing as my least favourite. Most favourite is when a book emerges and it seems to work. That’s a real ‘high’. Sometimes I get a kind comment from an unknown reader. That always pleasantly surprises me.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Goldie: Never give up! Keep on writing.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Goldie: I would invite Margaret Mahy who wrote my favourite YA novel “The Changeover”, Lewis Carroll, for his “Alice in Wonderland” and Maurice Sendak for“Where the Wild Ones Are.” I would cook something simple, perhaps a roast chicken with vegetables and an apple cake as I suspect none of these authors have strong digestions.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Goldie: The day I met my husband. And the day my first book under my own name: MAVIS ROAD MEDLEY was accepted for publication.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Goldie: I take lots of workshops in creative writing and I mentor young writers.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Goldie: I read a lot. Walk, cook, watch movies, knit, look after family members. No party tricks. Any suggestions?
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Goldie: In Australia I recommend PIO and Buzzwords (both emags for authors and illustrators) I belong to SCBWI, a worldwide organisation.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Goldie: Mostly books being published as ebooks apart from coffee table expensive publications. No money to be made that way, only through being asked to participate in festivals and talks. I predict that it will get even harder to make a living as a writer. And because so many people are placing their novels on line, it will become even more difficult to be noticed.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Goldie: Please look up my website www.goldiealexander.com and my blog www.goldiealexander.com/blog where I give lots of advice for emerging writers.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Goldie: I would love some feedback on what I have written from readers in the UK as well as Australia. If anyone is interested in some of the books on my website and would like to buy one, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Goldie: Wow! Haven’t we covered almost everything? Joking aside, just to thank you for allowing me to participate in your blog.
I then invited Goldie to include an extract of her writing and here is the opening of “Dessi’s Romance”:
I prop my right leg onto a stool and poke a knitting needle inside the walking boot It’s early. Just after nine. My mother, Hannah, is at work. My father, Graham, is hammering in the backyard. My brother, Jeremy, is at school. The silent TV flickers between commercials and scenes from a bloody terrorist attack. For all I care, it could be announcing the start of World War Three...
A fortnight ago all I had to worry about is which university will give me a place. But last day of school, backpacks crammed with books and files I never wanted to see again, we were halfway home when the skies opened up. Wet hair plastered across her face, my best friend, Emma, glimpsed Jon McKenna’s beat-up car and signaled him to stop.
I grabbed her arm. ‘I’m not getting in with him.’
I claim Jon should be forced to wear a sign: ‘Beware. Accident approaching.’ Besides, ever since I refused to date him anymore - and that was only because Emma talked me into it saying ‘he’s so into you, give him another go…’ he always looked hurt whenever he saw me.
So avoiding eye contact, I climbed into the rear.
Emma slid into the front passenger seat.
Jon hit the accelerator.
Maybe if I’d sat beside him, that collision might never have happened. But he kept eyeing me in his mirror instead of concentrating on the road.
He didn’t see that other car.
Swerving to avoid it, he went straight into a tree.
Emma escaped with badly bruised ribs.
Jon was mildly concussed.
But the driver’s seat slid back jamming itself onto my right leg fracturing my ankle in four places. The result was two operations, three weeks in hospital and a fortnight in a rehab inhabited by seniors having hip and knee replacements. I never got to the end-of-year parties. Never wore the silk green strapless bought specially for the Formal. And now I’m not going on holiday.
And a synopsis…
End of school is a crucial time for life -making decisions. Eighteen year old best friends Dessi Cowan, Lilbet’s grandniece, and her best friend Emma Simpson have planned a celebratory trip to the Gold Coast. Emma is an artist, Dessi a poet; their mothers long term ‘best friends’. In the past the girls have always been there for each other and this relationship is central to their lives. However, when Emma meets charming Adbul Malouf and Dessi is forced to stay in Melbourne to recover from a car accident, Emma asks her friend to look after Abdul while she is away.On the Gold Coast Emma meets up with her father and participates in some of the Schoolies activities. Her closest male friend Sasha, convinced he might be ‘gay’, takes her to a ‘gay’ club and then realises he is really ‘straight’.In Melbourne Dessi is totally infatuated with Abdul who takes her home twice. Though his parents are openly appalled at his taking up with a non-Moslem girl, for Dessi his ‘stop-start’ behaviour only makes him more desirable. When Emma’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, Emma cuts short her holiday only to be confronted by Dessi’s duplicity. As the story progresses both girls must spend a lot of time coming to terms with these events.
“Goldie Alexander writes for both adults and children of all ages. Her books are published both here and overseas. Her best known historical fiction includes " My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove", now in its 10th edition and printed in the UK as ‘My Story: Transported”. Her latest work includes “The Youngest Cameleer” about the finding of Uluru in 1873, and the YA “Dessi’s’ Romance”. Coming shortly are “Gallipoli Medals” for junior readers and “eSide: A contemporary Fantasy” for 8 to 12Year olds. Amongst her other work are three collections of short stories for young readers, and the mystery series A~Z PI’s. She also writes scripts and non-fiction for children and fiction and non-fiction for adults.
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