21 May 2012

Q&A with Peter Cooper

Out this month is is the exciting second book in Peter Cooper's Tales of the Blue Jade fantasy series. Peter blogs regularly here but today we have him right here on the ol' bus to tell us about his writing process. And if you'd like to test your knowledge on the series so far, head on over here and take a quiz!

How long did it take you to write The Ghost of Ping-Ling?

All up close to eight years, although the story evolved so much I probably wrote closer to four different novels in that time. 

Do you procrastinate?

It depends a little on whether I'm writing or editing. When I'm editing I can occasionally drift off to check email or the news or stare aimlessly into space. I tend to be more focussed when I'm writing because I'm caught up in the creative process.

Are you an early-morning or late-at-night writer?

If I could choose my optimal writing time it would be from around 8 am to early afternoon. That seems to be when my head is clearest and I'm most able to focus. However, because I work full time my writing tends to happen between about 8 pm and 10 pm. I'm not as productive as I would be earlier in the day but I usually manage to get a good amount done.

Where did you get the idea for The Ghost of Ping-Ling?

From many places over a long period of time. The story started life as a satirical take on Lord of the Rings (believe it or not) and then as time went by it became less satirical and less like Lord of the Rings, until eventually it took on a life of its own. The idea of setting it in an Asian-style world came later in the form of an 'aha' moment and was mostly inspired by my love of the television series Monkey, as well as Journey to the West which the TV series was based on.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

When I was about 12. It was a science-fiction saga called 'Children of the Empire', about a future human empire populated entirely by children. They would listen to loud music in their spaceships and all kinds of cool things like that. It probably won't be in print any time soon.

What does your family think of your writing?

My twin five-year-old sons are my biggest fans. Whenever we go into a bookshop they find my book and yell out that it's 'Daddy's book!' then busily look for their names in the front. They were quite put out when book 2 had Mummy's name in the front instead of theirs.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have a few books on the go, including Emily Rodda's Wizard of Rondo and a book of short stories by Sean Williams. I just started reading Artemis Fowl which is incredible. I'm also reading my sons the Hobbit, which we're all enjoying immensely.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a teenager all I wanted to do was join the Navy, but they knocked me back on medical grounds. Then I wanted to be an archaeologist and an explorer, and I actually went to uni to study archaeology though I quickly found out it wasn't as exciting as Indiana Jones made it look. Eventually I settled on engineering, although it took me until my late 20s to reach that point.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Spending time with my family rates highest. I also like bike riding and recently I've started doing Judo, which I really enjoy although it's a constant reminder that I'm no longer 20 years old.

When was the last time you went on a bus?

A few weeks ago, when I pulled a hamstring muscle at Judo and couldn't ride my bike to work. It was a nice ride but alas not my preferred mode of transport.

04 May 2012


I am off to Darwin next week to speak at WordStorm, the Northern Territory's literature festival.  This is definitely a treat - not only for the opportunity to escape these cold Adelaide mornings as I walk to the bus covered in all the woolens I can find, but also because it's years (let's see, my youngest was eight when we last visited and he turns 21 this year) since I was last there.  Darwin is a long way from the rest of Australia but such a remarkable part of our country that I am very much looking forward to returning.  I only wish I had the opportunity to visit some of the more spectacular places while there, but sadly that is very unikely.  I hope to have the opportunity to meet and talk with plenty of N.T. writers and illustrators - in particular indigenous creators.  It has long been my wish to publish more indigenous writers and illustrators to complement Omnibus' wonderful backlist in this area.  So if you will be there, come up and say hello.  If you are an illustrator be sure to have a portfolio somewhere handy - include your sketch books; these are where I get most of my inspiration.  Our author Leonie Norrington lives in the Top End and I was excited to be able to visit her 'in situ' so to speak.  But Murphy's Law says Leonie will be in France when I am in Darwin.
Let's hope I get another opportunity to visit in the future.

 ABC radio have just started a monthly on-air bookclub.  They look like starting with our very own Monster Blood Tattoo.  I will post more when I have the details.

I have been thinking a lot about the list recently.  I am really keen to find new writers - people who are capable of realist fiction with powerful narrative and strong story lines. In the past couple of months the in-box has been crowded with picture books again.   I need three new Mates too - if you don't know what these are take a look at the link.

And this picture is not related to any of this post at all, but simply proves I'm doing more than reading on the weekend.

My first croquembouche.
A note from your Conductor.

02 May 2012

Q&A with Edwina Howard

The Ice-cream War was discovered by our intrepid Conductor on one of her expeditions into the Slush Pile (unfortunate industry slang for 'ever-growing mountain of unsolicited manuscripts'), a term that, in this particular case, is hilariously appropriate because this book is all about frozen goodies (slushies, geddit?).
Awkward punning aside, first-time author Edwina Howard is a rare find and so we thought you might like to find out a little bit more about her. We asked her the Omnibus Eleven Questions to get to the bottom of her genius.
How long did it take you to write The Ice-Cream War?
I guess it took about five years from the time the very first idea trickled into my head. But it only took about six months of solid work.
Do you procrastinate?
Well, I don’t think of it as procrastination exactly, but I have noticed that if you delay things for long enough they frequently either cease to need doing or you simply forget they ever needed doing.
Are you an early-morning or late-at-night writer?
I am the Nite Riter! Remember me when you look at the night sky … (Sorry, that’s a rather sad Mad Max reference.)  I’m not so much of a morning person any more, probably because I do most of my writing late at night, hence creating a vicious-circle-type effect.
Where did you get the idea for The Ice-Cream War?
In my first ever writing notebook I wrote 'something about ice-cream' which seemed terribly cliched. I started asking a few what if questions, tried to turn it around a little, and it went from there. Jake simply came to life in my head, and I wanted an animal character who wasn’t remotely cutesy (as none of my animals ever are). It seemed like a fun thing to pull ice-cream around in an ice-cream cart. Plus I listened to the radio and they were talking about getting boys to read. I kind of thought, well, if it’s funny and fast moving it should be entertaining. Reading should be fun.
Have you ever had your own Shetland pony?
Sadly I have never owned a Shetland pony. I was lucky enough to own a very clever 13.2hh bay pony called Tommy who was incredibly cunning and always played plenty of tricks.  He had a particular way of peeking at you beneath from his forelock which is pure Hoppy.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I have always been terribly lazy. My stories have always taken place in my head. It took until my mid-thirties to start committing anything at all to paper!
What does your family think of your writing?
Sometimes they probably wish they could eat it. Dinner can be late at our house.
What are you reading at the moment?
I usually have a handful of books on the go. At the moment they are Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, Phillip K. Dick’s The Turning Wheel, Eyewitness to History (I never knew they saw a UFO on Apollo 11!), T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (illustrated by Axel Scheffler – which I appropriated from the children), and Roald Dahl’s The Twits (the whole thing about beards and with the glass eye always cracks me up).
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A dressage rider, a spy, a rock star, an actress and funnily enough I really wanted to do something with books.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sadly I wish I could just write! But if you insist, I like sleeping too.  And reading. And spending time with my family (and other animals).
When was the last time you went on a bus?
I love buses!  There aren’t too many out here in the country though. I think the last bus I went on was a few months ago, and it was to the beach, which is a rather nice place to take a bus.