Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Pip Harry is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment journalist and the author of the YA novels I’ll Tell You Mine and Head of the River (UQP), and the adult non-fiction book, Get Lucky, co-written with Rachel Smith. When not at a keyboard, she can be found searching for the perfect flat white, swimming in salt water or watching renovating shows.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
My first writing break was at the age of 23, as a junior reporter for a gossip magazine called New Weekly (now called NW). I was terrified, out of my depth and always wore the wrong outfit, but I went on to write and edit for TV WEEK, Woman’s Day and New Idea and a raft of freelance magazines. My fiction break came in 2010 – twelve long years after I first thought I’d like to write and publish a book. My phone rang and it was Sophie Hamley, offering to be my agent. Weeks later, I had an incredible publisher in UQP. The journey to publication was ridiculously difficult as it can be for many aspiring novelists.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
Head of the River (UQP) came out in 2014 and has just made the Gold Inky Award Longlist. It’s a YA contemporary set in the world of competitive school rowing. Twins Leni and Cristian Popescu are vying for a win in the iconic Head of the River race. It’s the book of my heart.
I’ve also just released my first adult non-fiction book – Get Lucky (XOUM), which is a collection of love and sex advice based on a popular blog my friend Rachel Smith and myself launched in 2008. It’s funny, wicked and wise.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Changeable. I work from the kitchen table, cafes, offices, libraries, my home office. I have a few plastic folders which contain current novel research, so I can grab them and my laptop and hot desk to anywhere. I do like a degree of order and clear spaces as clutter makes me feel cluttered, so I try to put away toys and mess before I start.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I drop my little girl at school at 9am, grab a coffee and start work. That might be setting up interviews with case studies, researching health topics, looking for experts (for my magazine work) or if I’m in fiction mode, I’ll turn on some tunes, take the laptop out to the kitchen or deck and try to get into the world. Insert washing, shopping and cleaning into the cracks around this writing time.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
For my novels it’s: find the voice, and the rest will follow. I also take notes along the way, keep a character map handy and do a little research. That might be going to a training session with schoolgirl rowers or chatting to a politician or just hanging out in the suburb where the book is set. For my journalism, I work fast and creatively and always have my finger on popular culture and trends.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Writing has always made my heart beat faster. I love creating characters and being able to exist in a parallel world with them. It’s a challenge too – like doing a 70,000-piece puzzle word by word. After it’s done, sharing my work is such a joy.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Inspiration comes from the world around me. News items, people I meet. I like to re-live and process experiences that have shaped me during my life. Like rowing, for Head of the River. Or being a teenage boarder in I’ll Tell You Mine.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Money, time, balancing family and writing life and writer’s block. The occasionally crippling uncertainty that anyone apart from me will like my book at the other end.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
That it would take over a decade and many detours and dead ends to publish my debut novel, but the results would be sweeter and more satisfying than I could ever have imagined.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I’d like to see more YA and Children’s writers and illustrators included in the main programming in big literary festivals in Australia and more support for writing parents.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Our Australian YA authors are incredible. I adore the work of Claire Zorn, Simmone Howell, Vikki Wakefield, Melina Marchetta, Kirsty Eagar, Fiona Wood, Paula Weston, Ellie Marney, Rebecca James, Gabrielle Tozer, Dianne Touchell, Kate Gordon and Melissa Keil.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
All of the above!
Thank you, Pip Harry!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by Sergio Dionisio
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