Being on the other side of the author interview

As you know, gentle readers, I interview people on my blog, usually authors and usually people I care about, and whose books I love. This time, I thought I’d swap places on the couch. I also got to share some things nobody knows about me in the Bio at the beginning.

Forgive me being ‘centre stage’ ! Promise I won’t do it too often. 🙂 This post is reprinted from the October Creative Kids Tales blog where its owner and administrator, Georgie Donaghey interviewed me for her October post. Georgie has been a great supporter of children’s books and their creators during her blog’s first year. So Happy Birthday, CKT! Take it away, Georgie….

Q. Sheryl, where’s your favourite place to write?

I love my workroom with its view over my garden, but nowadays I find I can write anywhere – usually with my laptop stable-table (thank you, IKEA), and my trusty ASUS Zen computer. Often I head out to our back deck, the best place for winter sunshine or summer breezes. I can write away from home too. Once I start re-reading what I wrote the day before, I’m in another place and the story takes off again. Who’d want to trade this life?

Tidied up especially. Yep, that is tidy.

Q. What inspires you?

I think it’s mostly books and language that inspire me – all the wonderful narratives I’ve read since I was four; all the unforgettable characters who’ve kept me company for so many years; all the places I’ve been in my imagination because of fabulous authors.

I’m also inspired by people who fight against the odds to make this world a better place – the scientists, the artists, writers and political activists.

Q. Do you decide what’s going to happen in your story or do your characters tell you?

Good question, Georgie! For me, it’s collaboration – a combination of instinct about story-telling (maybe that’s the right-brain at the wheel) and an organised, thoughtful consideration about plots, characters, dialogue and all the rest. I can jump between right and left side brain without too much clanking of gears. Sometimes, the transition is so smooth, I’m purring along in a lovely, crimson red Maserati, with the hood down.

Enough of the car analogies, though! I do love it when an idea comes from out of the blue and I follow it at full throttle. Darn! I promised no more cars.

Q. How many rejections did you receive before you were accepted?

For my first book, Secrets of Eromanga, probably around eight rejections. The letters did get longer and more positive every time though, and I did improve the story after each rejection.

The question is why did I send off the story before it was fully baked? Impatient? Willing to take risks? Yep, that’s me. Nowadays, I curb my impatience, and I have to say my writing has definitely improved over the past six years. My short stories and my school plays are finding their place in the world without rejections – does that mean something? Mmmm, must think about that one more.

Q. How did you celebrate your first book being published?

I think we went out to our favourite Thai restaurant and drank a whole bottle of superb Margaret River Dry White. It did all seem a bit surreal though – seeing as it took 18 months from acceptance to holding the book.

Before the publication, I’d had the amazing experience of being awarded an Australian Society of Authors Mentorship. Now that really was an occasion to celebrate. It boosted my confidence no end – to feel that I must be heading on the right path if strangers who are experienced writers and editors believed in my story writing ability.

Q. Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?

I probably do a bit of road testing (are we back on cars again?). But it’s more in my head than in front of a person. I trust my conscious and sub-conscious, absolutely.

I do a lot of thinking before I start writing. I do a lot of thinking about everything. You wouldn’t believe what goes on in my head sometimes. Even when I’m cooking dinner or hosing the garden, the old brain is at work. I don’t do it consciously all the time, but I know that eventually the words will come. And that’s just the first draft – my favourite part is the rewriting, the re-working and editing, that’s when the magic can sometimes happen. And all is well with the world (of a word-crazy author, at least).

I have a couple of trusted writing friends that I share my stories in progress with and get valuable feed-back from them. Thanks, girls!

Last week, I was out in the bush, at the Chinchilla State School doing a writer-in-residence gig. I ‘road-tested’ the first chapter of my current work with the Years 5/6/7s. FANGUS FEARBOTTOM (book 1 of a trilogy) is still in the polishing stage, but you can tell when kids are interested and caught up in a story. And I reckon this novel could be a winner when (notice I say when, not if?) a publisher picks it up.

Q. What’s next from Sheryl Gwyther?

I have another school play appearing soon in The School Magazine (love writing plays!) It’s called SCAREDY CROW.

I’ll keep writing my novels – like FANGUS FEARBOTTOM, MACBETH & ME and SINGING THE WIRES – did I mention I have three works-in-progress? Yeah, that’s me, a glutton for punishment. But I love all three and they’re heading down to the finishing line.

I would like to do more art work, painting and printmaking… my other loves. But words keep getting in the way. Maybe this year sometime?

This year, I was elected on to the Board of Directors of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) so that takes up some of my time too – it’s an honour to represent authors (in particular, children’s authors).

I’ve also taken on the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Queensland (SCBWI), and it’s a great experience. It’s great connecting up with other people who are passionate about children’s writing, like your good self, Georgie! All part of what keeps me going.

I also love visiting the wonderful and special writers I’ve met over the past few years, like Dee White, Angela Sunde, Tania McCartney, Karen Brooks and Lynn Priestley – they’ve become like sisters, and I love them dearly.

Thank you again, Georgie, for the opportunity of being on your fabulous blog.

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