Thursday, March 17, 2011

General Questions

Hi Everyone, thanks for those great questions, and here are my answers.

•   We noticed you had a contest on your Facebook page for naming a character in a book. Where do you come up with names for your characters?

I find characters' names in all sorts of places, but I always try to make the name appropriate to the character. For example, dwarves live underground and are great miners and masons, so all their names are based on rock types, like the sly conman Con Glomryt (conglomerate), the disembodied head Shizzt (schist) and the hard-as-nails dwarf leader, Ob Sidyan (obsidian, an extremely hard rock). 

Among the goblins, there is the wicked Aigo (an anagram of the evil character Iago from Shakespeare's play Othello, and his girlfriend Clangour (which means very loud, when she is exactly the opposite, being shy, quiet and nervous). And the goblin king's pet white rat, called Kegg, who makes cheese puns all the time. Kegg was the name of my daughter's favourite pet rat. 

Various demons are named after parts of the body, like the imp Nuckl (suggests anger or violence), his big sister the demon Spleen (rage, malice, spite), and their enormous big brother, whom I enjoyed giving the silly name, Tonsil.

And then there's the hero, Ike. People call him Useless Ike because he can't do anything right, so I gave him a name that was the exact opposite, Isaac Newton, after the greatest scientific genius that ever lived. Though in the end it turns out to not be opposite after all, because once Ike finds confidence in himself he discovers that he can do all kinds of clever things.

But sometimes names just come to me, like Mellie's name, Melliflua di Sorrowgrove. I just made it up as I was writing about her and the name was perfect.

•   What books did you enjoy reading as a child?

I'm so incredibly old that you might not have heard of any of the books I read as a child. I remember enjoying Enid Blyton's Famous Five books, and I read lots of Biggles books about a famous flying ace in both the First and Second World Wars, and his life fighting crime afterwards. And a book called The Wreckers of Pengarth about several children who discover a tunnel down to the sea used by wreckers who lured ships onto the rocks so they could steal the cargo after the ships were wrecked. But actually, I read anything and everything. I loved books and reading from before I went to school. Mum taught me to read when i was very small.

•   Out of the 27 novels novels you have published, do you have a favourite? If so, what is it? When you write a book, do you generally reread it once it is published?

Sometimes my favourite book is the first one I ever wrote, which is called A Shadow on the Glass. I wrote it more than 20 years ago and I still feel sentimental about it, because I'd never written a story before, and I spent years writing it. I did 22 drafts of the book, and it's a 200,000 word book, so I lived with that book for a very long time!

But at the moment, my favourite book is The Calamitous Queen, the fourth and last book of Grim and Grimmer, which will be published in June. It's really fresh in my mind because I just corrected the proof copy yesterday (the proof copy is a copy of the book printed out to look the way it will be when it's a finished book). I really enjoyed reading it, because there are some really good characters, and lots of exciting moments, and some great tricks and revelations, too. And quite a few laughs.

I never read a book of mine after it's published. I guess by that time I've spent so much time on each book that I'm a bit sick of it. When I need to check facts for the next book in the series, I do that on the computer file. But I am looking forward to re-reading my first series of books soon. It's been 12 years since I read any of them and I'm hoping that I'll have forgotten enough that I can read them afresh.

•   Do you have any advice about how to start thinking creatively once you've run out of ideas? What do you do when you get writer's block?

To be honest, I never run out of ideas. I have enough ideas for about five lifetimes. And I can't say that I've ever had writer's block, though I often get to a stage where I think that what I'm writing is a load of old rubbish.

What I do then is ask myself questions. For instance, if the hero is in trouble but it's the same kind of trouble he's been in before, I might ask, How can I make this different? Or, how can I make things worse for the hero, because the worse things get for the characters, the more fun it is for the reader. Or I might think, when is the WORST time for things to get worse for the hero? If he or she has a friend or ally, I take the friend away, send him to hospital or have him get lost in the forest. Or I cause a fight between them, or have his friend disagree with what the hero wants to do. There are all sorts of ways to change ordinary, dull writing into a fresh, interesting story.

•   How old were you when you wrote your first book? When did you decide you could be a full-time author?

I was 37. I hadn't really done any writing before that, and when I started it was incredibly hard work for the first half of the book because I didn't have the faintest idea what i was doing. I also knew at that moment (halfway through the book) that I wanted to be a storyteller, though it wasn't for many years after that I realised I could be a full-time author. At the time I began writing, 1987, there were hardly any full-time writers in Australia, and it wasn't until my first 4 books come out, in the series called The View from the Mirror, and sold well both in Australia and a number of other countries, that i realised i could write for a living.

•   Is there another author who has influenced your writing?

There are many writers I really like, such as Tolkien, Ursula le Guin and JK Rowling, who have certainly influenced me to write fantasy, but I don't imitate other writers. In fact I try not to write like other writers because I want to tell my own kinds of stories as best I can. 

•   As your books are fantasy, do you travel and base places on locations your visit or do you just use your imagination?

 I mainly use my imagination, but I have also travelled very widely in Australia and the world. For example, I've been to almost every state in the USA, and most of the provinces of Canada, and I've also travelled widely in Europe and worked in a dozen countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands. So i've seen a lot, and met a lot of people, and learned about all kinds of different cultures and societies. This has certainly helped to give me a broad outlook to draw from when I'm writing, though i don't base anything directly on what I've seen. I always change what I'm writing to suit the story.

If you have any comments or opinions about my books, I'd love to hear them.

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