Monday, April 22, 2013

Interview With YA Author Felicity Pulman

1.      What type of books do you write? I write novels for children and YA, some of which are ‘crossovers’ to adult fiction. My novels reflect my interest in ghosts and the unknown in our world (Ghost Boy and A Ring Through Time); in the possibilities of time travel and reincarnation and my fascination with Arthurian legend (the Shalott trilogy) and my love of history (The Janna Mysteries, a medieval crime series which has been compared to Ellis Peters’ much-loved Brother Cadfael chronicles.)  You’ll find more about my books on my website: 

2.      What is your newest book about? A Ring Through Time is a ‘ghostly romance’ set on beautiful Norfolk Island off Australia, with a flashback to its brutal convict past.  In the present time, Allie starts seeing ghosts when she moves to the island with her family. She’s the descendent of one of the commandants, the most brutal of them all. But Allie has demons of her own to overcome, while her attraction to Noah, a guy in her class, is jeopardized by their mutual link with the past.  It’s only after Allie finds the diary of her namesake that the truth of Alice’s love affair with Cormac comes to light, a truth that raises new questions.  Only if Alice can solve the mystery of the past will she be able to lay the ghosts to rest, but will the answer come at the cost of her relationship with Noah?

3.      What inspired you to write it? On our first visit to Norfolk Island I went snorkeling at Emily Bay.  I strapped on my mask, put my face in the water, and heard a voice say: ‘If only I could see my own life as clearly as I can see now.’ Who was this girl, and what was wrong with her life that she needed to see it more clearly?  Finding the answer to those questions, and investigating the gory convict past of Norfolk Island led me to the story, but the vision of a ring made of hair among the mourning jewelry that I saw while visiting a local museum, helped draw the threads together into a coherent whole, and gave me the title for the book.  (I’ve learned that voices and visions are important. I never ignore them!)

4.      What is the writing process like for you? When the ideas are flowing and my fingers are flying over the keyboard, it’s wonderful.  But sometimes it’s like walking over broken glass – something to be endured until the way becomes smooth again. Solitary walks help (I always carry a notebook and pen) as does spending time with my children and grandchildren, or surfing or snorkelling or bushwalking.  Physical activity of any sort while leaving the mind free to wander is a wonderful brick-wall-buster I’ve discovered. I tend to do a lot of research for my books, and that can throw up terrific plot ideas.  Walking in the footsteps of my characters (in both Australia and England) is a MUST for me.  It’s invaluable for scene-setting, but can also suggest plot possibilities – like the time I visited Stonehenge (on a side trip) while researching the Janna Mysteries.  A vision of a bleeding body stretched out on a fallen monolith convinced me that I needed to take Janna via Stonehenge on her search for her unknown father, and that whole scenario became a focus for Book 4 of The Janna Mysteries, Willows for Weeping.

5.      What did you do before you became an author? I’ve worked as a secretary, an editor, an amateur DJ for a voluntary classical music station (music being a great love of mine) and also a housewife raising a young family. Writing stories was something I’ve done since childhood, but I never considered it a ‘real’ career until, at the age of 40, I wrote the Higher School Certificate and then went on to do a Communications degree followed by an MA in Children’s Literature.  A slow starter indeed!

6.      How does it feel to be a published author?  Wonderful!  It’s a dream come true.  I’ve always had the urge to write stories, but now I’m able to share them. The knowledge that my novels are being read and enjoyed by people around the world is a fabulous feeling.

7.      Any advice for struggling writers? The three P’s: patience, perseverance, professionalism. Tell the best story you can in the best way possible. Edit, edit, edit before sending out your mss.  Remember that a rejection is only one person’s point of view – so don’t give up.  If an editor gives you feedback on your mss even though they’ve rejected it, take comfort from the fact that they’ve made time in their very busy schedule to read and analyze your work, and that their comments are meant to be helpful. Having said that, never lose sight of the fact that this is YOUR book and it will have YOUR name on it.  Think carefully about any advice, but only follow it if you believe it has merit.

8.      Where do you see book publishing heading? We’re living in a time of great change in the publishing industry.  More and more authors are turning to self-publishing because it is so much easier now, and relatively inexpensive. But note: I believe that it’s vital to have your work professionally edited before publication.  Too many self-published novels fall down because of typos, sloppy editing and self-indulgent prose. I think our way of reading will also change with the advent of digital publication. Readers will become more ‘hands-on’ with the text, using apps to access other facets of the stories or characters, to craft their own endings perhaps, or to add eg blogs, music, games to the scenario.  The possibilities are endless, and very exciting.

Felicity is the award-winning author of Ghost Boy, the Shalott trilogy, The Janna Mysteries and A Ring Through Time, published by Harper Collins, March 2013. For more information, please consult:

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