Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Pamela Rushby writes lots of different things and claims “that’s why I call myself a ‘writer’, not ‘novelist’ or something like that. ‘Writer’ covers fiction, non-fiction, trade market, educational market, scripts, online, freelance journalism, children’s, YA, some adult …”
Pamela has studied journalism, and worked as an advertising copywriter, a teacher, a producer/scriptwriter for the education department, and a freelance scriptwriter, among other things. She has also done some editing, and served as a judge for literary competitions. In her own words: “I’ll write whatever anyone’s prepared to pay me for.”
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve been writing in one way or another since I was about 5 years old. (I sewed bits of scrap paper together and wrote and illustrated the stories. Heavily influenced by Enid Blyton.)
I broke into writing books (which is what I call really WRITING!) because I was writing some scripts for a TV preschoolers program called Lift Off! They decided to turn some of the stories into picture books. They called to ask if I was interested in writing the picture book from my story, “Dancing Pants”, and I tried to be all cool and say, “Oh well, I guess I could fit it in”, but I would have KILLED to write that book. I had always wanted to have a book published!
Then, while I was working for the education department film unit, my boss said to me, “You write for kids, don’t you?” She had some friends at Jacaranda Press and they were looking for stories for an educational fiction series they were producing. I sent them some stories, they liked them, and I was away …
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
The latest book I’ve had published is The Ratcatcher’s Daughter with HarperCollins – a story about the plague, the Black Death, in Brisbane in 1900, rats, ratcatchers, clandestine burials – fun stuff like that. It was short listed in the Queensland Literary Awards 2014, and has just been awarded a Notable Book in the CBCA 2015 awards. (Happy dance.)
I’m now waiting for the edits on Sing a Rebel Song with Omnibus Books, which is about the Shearers’ Strike in Barcaldine in 1891 – this will come out in 2016. And I’ve just signed a contract with Omnibus for another historical novel, Lilibet and Margaret Rose, about children who came to Australia under the CORB Scheme during World War 2.
Does this look as if I’m a bit history obsessed?
I also write shorter books, fiction and non-fiction, for educational publishers, and these projects come in on a fairly regular basis. I’m currently writing one about Survival and have just finished one about the Light Horse.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
A room with three filing cabinets, a large and messy desk (remember, a tidy desk is the sign of someone with not enough to do), computer, printer, bulletin board. It looks out onto the front yard, so I can keep an eye on the scrub turkey who spent all summer digging up the yard and building an enormous mound.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
There really aren’t any typical days. I’m lucky in that I write full time, so I can be flexible. I do school visits, so that takes time. I love doing research, so that involves trips to libraries (and even, recently, to Barcaldine to check out old Cobb & Co routes and way stations). Deadlines are the biggest routine-imposers. Educational publishers work to tight deadlines, so when I have work for one of them, it’s head down.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I write a lot of history, and non-fiction, so first it’s the research, then discover the story, outline it (I’m definitely, absolutely a plotter, not a pantser), more research, first draft, read it over, push it about, hand it to my trusty first-draft guineapigs, change it, second draft etc etc.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Well, I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t being paid … but seriously, folks, I’ve never thought of not doing it. There’s always another story that needs to be told.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Ideas come from everywhere. You trip over them. Anything that makes you say “that’s interesting” and then “what if?” can be the inspiration for a story.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Getting the backside on the chair and not getting up until something’s been accomplished.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I’m probably glad I didn’t know a lot of things, or I wouldn’t have started at all. How hard it is to be first published, for instance. How hard it is to keep on being published. How difficult it is, now, to get work onto a publisher’s or editor’s desk, or attract the attention of an agent if you’re an unknown. (There are ways. I teach a seminar about this …)
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
Just to keep on getting published, I suppose. (I don’t have anything as fancy as an artistic vision.)
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Jane Austen. Dodie Smith. Catherine Jinks. Jude Rossell. And Allison Rushby, of course!
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Pamela Rushby!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by
And thank you, Allison Rushby, for recommending Pamela! Read Allison Rushby’s WordMothers interview here
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