Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
The Australian author Goldie Alexander writes award-winning short stories, articles, radio scripts, plays and books. Her novels are published both in Australia and overseas. Her books for adults include: The Grevillea Murder Mysteries: A Trilogy, Lilbet’s Romance, Penelope’s Ghost and the sequel, Emily’s Ghost, and the how-to guide Mentoring Your Memoir. Her first YA novel, Mavis Road Medley, was listed as one of the best YA books in the Victorian State Library.
Alexander’s best-known book for children is: My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove. Her fiction for children includes three collections of short stories and a series of detective stories. Her latest historical fictions include: The Youngest Cameleer, That Stranger Next Door, and My Holocaust Story: Hanna. Her science fiction for children includes Eside: a Journey Through Cyberspace and the verse novel In Hades.
WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
Quite late, not until I was an adult. But from the age of three I was an obsessive reader and I think that gave me the necessary feedback every writer needs. Any time something good or bad happened to me, some part of my brain would lock the experience away as “one day I will write about this.”
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST BREAK?
My first YA novel had a very long title, which was the only good thing about it. My break came when I was commissioned to write four YA fictions under the umbrella of “Dolly Fiction.” In fact their intent was serious in that they wanted to empower young girls to think beyond their everyday expectations. These novels at 35,000 words were very prescriptive so they taught me a lot about writing. They were published under a pseudonym. I now wish I had used my correct name.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
Just published are three books: the young adult That Stranger Next Door, set in the mid-fifties when so many people were wary of being called communists, the middle grade novel My Holocaust Story: Hanna, set in the Warsaw Ghetto, and In Hades, a verse novel very loosely based on the Odyssey where 2 youngsters come together to learn about the real meaning of trust, love, family and forgiveness. This novel has just been shortlisted by the Aurealis Awards.
All my latest books are available in hard copy and ebooks. Amazon lists most of them under my name.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
We live in an apartment in an inner suburb of Melbourne where I have a small space set up as an office. Weekends we are in the country where I also have a small office space. This is where I do most of my writing as there are fewer distractions.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
Because I started life as a teacher where I had to get up every day and go to work, I have carried these practices into my writing career. Six days a week I get up and go to work, even if work means getting dressed and sitting down at my desk. I rarely work after lunch, but often return to the computer in the late afternoon. I think the ability to work from home is wonderful.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I am not a “splurger”. Slow and steady is my motto. Five hundred new words per day is pretty good for me. Nothing is more terrifying than a blank screen. When I get truly bogged down, I walk. And walk. Often when I am well away from my computer, and have forgotten to bring pen and paper, the ideas come freely. Then it’s a matter of remembering them until I get home. I like to manage many drafts. Oddly, the verse novel In Hades, which is only 15,000 words, demanded the most. What I wanted to say had to be condensed as much as possible. It was a real challenge.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
People. Other books. Films. Television. Newspapers. The juxtaposing of unusual ideas. Writers are magpies. We are constantly on the lookout for material.
Many people lead interesting, even extraordinary lives, and I enjoy telling their stories.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
I always see the process as threefold. The writing. The selling. The promotion. All three are hard. Personally, given the number of books now on the market, I find promotion most demanding. Unless the writer is well known, we come up against librarians and teachers who know nothing about us, and sometimes don’t show the respect we possibly deserve. I’m sure I’m not alone in this response.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
My personal vision is to keep on writing and for my work to continue to improve.
My other goal is to not have adults comment: “Oh you only write for kids…” as if that isn’t the hardest thing to do – far harder than writing for adults because if a kid doesn’t like your work s/he won’t persevere. I’d also like to see children’s literature receive the same kudos as adult books, and receive the same wealthy prizes.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
These authors all write for children but they are very, very good: Di Bates. Errol Broome. Helen Chapman.
Thank you, Goldie Alexander!
— Nicole Melanson
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