A brief history of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper has been on my radar for a while and I had the chance to read it this weekend. I ended up reading the book from cover to cover, a luxury for me and a testament to Cooper’s storytelling skills.
The book is the diary format of 16 year old Sophie FitzOsborne who charts the adventures of her life on an island claimed by her ancestors thousands of years before. The book is divine and features all the archetypes that we love, an eccentric family living in a crumbling castle, a supernatural element, romance and intrigue, madness and ghosts.
It’s a gothic tale of suspense and gives a nod to the Bronte’s in atmosphere and brooding. The best part it’s the first in a trilogy and I’ll be following up with the other books.
I'm introducing a guest interview feature and today I'm posting my email interview with Dimity Powell, author of children's books.
Dimity's past life included a lot of travel, a lot of people, and a lot of boats. She cruised around the world and in and out of a career in Hospitality and Marketing until she finally grounded herself back in Queensland. Family and a fortune which exists only in her fantasies now maintain and motivate her.
She loves eating cake with ice-cream, sailing on the beam and writing in her diary although combining all three makes her nauseous.
To Read, Write and Inspire, especially for Children, has been her passion for decades. She's been actively indulging in it since 2008 by writing picture books, chapter books and short stories for kids.
She has had her work published by the School Magazine, Australian Women Online and has won and been shortlisted for numerous writing awards. She currently blogs and reviews children’s books for Boomerang Books Blog.
"PS Who Stole Santa's Mail?" is her debut junior novel by Morris Publishing Australia. http://www.morrispublishingaustralia.com/
Discover more at www.dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/
Tell us about your writing journey/how you got published?
Like most people, I went to school first. My happy place was in the world of books and reading which led me to spending long hours penning stories about lost ponies. I loved composition exercises the most in English class. And to this day have never forgiven my Year 8 English teacher for ‘losing’ a story which had taken me weeks to perfect – an anthropomorphic tale about ants. Even at the tender age of 12, I suspected foul play. I never got it back and am still wondering why…
Apart from hand written letters to pen friends and family (remember those?) and keeping detailed diaries from the age of 21, I never really committed to writing stories again for a while…possibly still getting over the missing Ants saga.
Later after the dizzying pace of travelling around the globe, and the tedious routine of shift work all lost their shine, I settled down to raise a family and discovered that in between baby’s sleep times, I had time to write again. I did a long distance course in children’s writing, got over the ant saga and managed to get a short story accepted by the School Magazine in NSW. I thought this was encouraging so, gave up all ideas of going back to my marketing position for a house boating company I was working with prior to motherhood and assumed the title of Children’s Author.
Many manuscripts, years and competition entries later, I won a full publishing contract with Morris Publishing Australia to release PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? The irony is that I intended to spend 2012 reworking this story completely in an effort to get it off to a publisher. Fortunately my Christmas wish came true early.
What was the inspiration behind developing your book PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail?
The original ms was a result of an assignment required for the completion of my Writing for Children Course back in 2008. The initial idea stimulus came from a newspaper article about how local council was rumoured to take away post boxes on the Gold Coast thereby decreasing their numbers dramatically or perhaps entirely. I thought this would make a good light hearted mystery novel based on the ‘what if all the post boxes in a small boy’s town suddenly and inexplicably disappeared just two weeks before Christmas?’
What is your writing routine?
I don’t have a stringent one and it really depends on what I am writing. Reviews can take minutes or days depending on the book. I love to creep away with pencil and journal and jot my impressions down to later form a review. I usually nut out a picture book manuscript directly onto the computer but oddly, when writing longer short stories or chapter books, I often draft the first copy manually. I like peace and quiet when I write; no music in the background, birdsong is ok. I don’t often write on weekends when the house is full of family and distractions. I’d like to rekindle my habit of going for a quick early morning walk before hopping on the computer for the day. It’s a wonderful way to kick start the mind and heart.
Share a writing quote/motto about writing.
Again, there are many creedos I try to infuse into my writing, but one I recently thought of myself seems applicable in most situations: Be Bold, Be Brave and Be Brilliant.
What is the one piece of advice about writing that has stuck with you?
Don’t get it right, just get it written. There are many marvellous bits of writerly advice floating around out there. I’ve kept some in a special quotes file and draw on them from time to time, but eventually, you just have to write, something, anything before you can perfect it. Writing is only part skill. It’s also a craft which needs constant practise to maintain and perfect. Passion should fuel creativity but also that desire to preserve.
What is the first book you read or what is the first book that made an impression on you and why?
I can’t really remember the first book. Mum read to us a lot as very small children. Storm Boy by the late Colin Thiele resonated loudly with me but perhaps the books that made the strongest impressions on me as solo independent reader were the ones I could get completely lost in; series like the Trixie Beldon mysteries, The Silver Brumby and Enid Blyton’s the Naughtiest Girl in School. I adored reading about the shoes these characters wore, the weather they encountered, the food they had to endure. I treasured moments in the bush with the brumbies, the wild scent of eucalyptus on a cold mountain wind; books don’t always make the impression, it’s the places they create into which I could escape that was so alluring for me.
What are you reading at the moment or what’s the last book you read and what did you like/not like?
I’m reading about 8 different titles right now. Crazy but true. I read dozens of picture books with my 7 yo every day because I love them and I review them too. I am slugging my way through Chris O’Brien’s Never Say Die autobiography, a YA novel, The Little Prince again, Eric Vale Epic Fail by Michael Gerard Bauer, and Ben Elton’s Blind Faith for a bit of light-hearted adult diversion from all the kids’ lit. I have just finished Ben Law’s The Family Law, which I loved. A supremely hilarious, dark, wretchedly accurate recall of growing up in a large immigrant family on the Sunshine Coast a couple of decades ago.
What are you working on now?
This interview! I love writing just about anything. My writing goals list is long and ambitious this year. I want to finish / rework the children’s chapter book I’m half way through. I have a dozen or so picture book mss I need to polish up and I aim to write a lot more frequently in my diary this year to keep my writing mojo fresh and focused and not always about required word count.
Blog: http://dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/ and
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I am an author, reader and teacher.
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