This month I am pleased to present an interview with Australian author, Pamela Freeman, who has many publications to her credit – some of the titles for children and young adults include The Willow Tree’s Daughter, The Murderer’s Apprentice and the Network Mysteries; and for adult, The Casting Trilogy.
Thank you for your time, Pamela. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.
I started writing professionally as a scriptwriter for children’s television, and began writing stories for kids then. I’d written stories for adults before, but never submitted anything anywhere – I didn’t have any confidence in them (and reading them over, I think I was right!). My first short story was published in 1990 and my first children’s book, The Willow Tree’s Daughter, came out in 1994. Since then, I’ve published twenty books. The Castings Trilogy (Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle) are my first books for adults.
I’ve read several of your books, even the ones for the younger audience, and was impressed. My favourite is The Casting Trilogy. I’m interested to know if there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?
No, not really. I first thought about it when I was around 12, but I had a vague idea that I needed to have a really interesting life before I started writing, so around 15 I decided I wanted to work in television, and set my sights on that first. I think that did me no harm, frankly, as TV writing gives you a great apprenticeship in story-telling.
I didn’t know you started out writing for television. That must have been quite different to novel writing. Tell us about your latest publication?
My most recent book is Full Circle, which is the third and final volume of the Castings Trilogy. I hope people who have enjoyed the first two books will feel satisfied by this one!
For kids’ books, my most recent publication is Victor’s Challenge, which is a funny chapter book for younger readers, a sequel to Victor’s Quest, my most popular books for kids. It has great illustrations by Kim Gamble.
I must admit that I can’t wait to get my copy of Full Circle. The first two books were excellent! What project are you working on at the moment?
Several! I am working on Ember and Ash, a stand alone novel set in the same universe as the Castings Trilogy. I promise, it’s not the fourth book in the trilogy! It’s set more than 20 years after Full Circle, and involves earlier characters only peripherally. We get to see the Ice King’s realm, and discover more about the old Powers of the Domains.
Sounds interesting. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?
No, fortunately I haven’t encountered too many blood thirsty ghosts out for revenge recently! Seriously, I think an author’s life always influences what they write, but in my case the influence is indirect, more a matter of theme and flavour than content or characters drawn directly from people I know. A couple of my children’s stories have been sparked by incidents in my own life, but they tend to be just the jumping off point for a very different story.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?
So many different places that it’s hard to say. The Castings Trilogy was actually inspired by a lecture Bishop Desmond Tutu gave on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a fairly obscure inspiration, which I hope will make sense once people have read Full Circle.
Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?
If it’s a short story, not always. If it’s a novel, pretty much, although things do change in the writing and surprises can always trip you up. I prefer to know the end because I like to make plots interesting and fair for the reader, so they don’t end up feeling that the solution to whatever problem the heroes are facing just came out of thin air.
Satisfying the reader isn’t as easy as it sounds, so I understand what you are saying here. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, I would like to know how do you manage it?
I usually have several stories at different stages – one I’m actually writing, one with the editors, one with an illustrator, and so on. So I concentrate on one book at a time, but I juggle two or three over the course of a year.
I suppose it all comes down to discipline. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
Basically, I write while my son is at school. Towards deadline time, I may also need weekend writing time, but I try to keep that to a minimum. Having juggled a career as a writer and a consultant in organisational communication for quite a few years before he was born, I was already used to fitting my writing in around something else, which was helpful.
What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?
Three things – just do it. Write, write, and keep writing. Second, find a community of people who can read and critique your work with some understanding. I workshop everything I write and I find it invaluable.
And thirdly, listen to criticism and be prepared to do the redrafts. The main difference between a professional writer and an amateur is the number of drafts they’re prepared to do.
Oh, I wish this was a live interview because I’d go off in another direction here and ask you more about rewrites and drafts. But…it’s not…so I’ll continue on. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a mum! I do all the mum things – except cleaning. Not really a cleaner. But I manage my son’s soccer team, and take him to a multitude of sports, and cook (I enjoy cooking a lot) and steal time for reading and TV and Facebook. I like computer games (especially logic puzzles), I love the net, I like making music with my family, I garden a bit… just a life, like anyone else’s, except I walk into bookshops and there are my books, which sometimes seems quite strange! I got a fan email from India the other day (I didn’t even know you could buy the books in India) and it was astonishing, knowing my words had reached someone in Mumbai and meant something to them.
It’s unfortunate that many fans don’t see authors as people with real lives so it’s good to see that you do the same things as other people. It makes you more human…if you know what I mean. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book(s) was made into a movie and why?
For Ash, I’d pick Daniel Radcliffe – looks right, acts well, right age… perfect!
For Bramble, I just don’t know… I’d love to hear suggestions.
Maybe readers of this interview will make some suggestions for you. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?
I think sometimes you get to a point in a book where you don’t quite know what to do next. Some people, I think, suffer more from this than others. This is when I love having more than one story on the boil. I switch to the other one and let my unconscious deal with the problem. I know that some other writers have more difficulty with this than I do – talking it out usually unblocks things for me, or going for a walk. On the other hand, I think ‘writer’s block’ is sometimes a code for either laziness or fear – being afraid the book won’t be good enough is a good way to freeze your creativity! All you can do is ignore that and just keep writing, even if what comes out at first is total crap and you have to throw it away later.
What are your writing goals for the future?
More books! Lots more books! Some set in the same universes as the Castings Trilogy and Victor, some not.
Secretly, what I would really like is to have many, many people waiting for the next book in the way I wait for my favourite authors’.
There can never be enough books, so keep writing them and people will keep reading them. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?
My next book for kids will be a non-fiction picture book about Lake Eyre in the centre of Australia – usually a dry salt pan, every ten years or so it floods and creates an extraordinary oasis, full of life. So keep an eye out for The Dreaming Lake.
Thank you for your time, Pamela. It’s been wonderful “chatting” with you and I wish you all the best for the future.