Friday, July 29, 2011

Around the World with YVONNE EVE WALUS

With Iowa enduring a July heat wave, I so want to get in my transporter and go to someplace cool to interview this week's author. However, the controls are jammed and I'm stuck. So this week's questions are asked and answered hrough a series of instant messages. Where is my author? I'll let her tell you.

1. Who is Yvonne Eve Walus and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

Hi! I’m writing this on my laptop at one of Auckland’s boat clubs. The sun sparkles on the creased silver of the lake, the wind blows strong into the white sails. All New Zealanders are boat-mad and I stick out here like a bookworm at a Halo convention. But then, despite spending the last 13 years on this lush Pacific Island, I’m only a New Zealander by passport. I simply don’t fit in: I don’t drink beer or follow the rugby, I can’t mend a fence, and I’ve been known to wear a little makeup when we go out to dinner. Oddly enough, nobody falls off their chair when they learn I’m a published, award-winning novelist. Fame, talent and success don’t make a person fascinating in this part of the world: catching your own dinner does!

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

For some bizarre reason, I have a lot of James Bond skills: I can scuba dive, skydive, flirt, concoct a poisonous mixture out of ordinary household items, shoot a handgun as well as a semi-automatic. I’m good at poker, know my single malt whiskies and can tell a Dom Perignon from a Taittinger as well as a revolver from a pistol. I have a PhD in Mathematics and speak several languages. I can program a computer… but I cannot, repeat, not, hack into a secure network (and you can quote me to the authorities on this).

3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming a mountain climber?

Mountain climbing is exercise. Writing I can do sitting comfortably on my bottom. Also, I like telling people that I lie for a living.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I love the intelligence, the pacing and the rhythm of Harlan Conan thrillers. If he talks as well as he writes, he’d make an excellent dinner companion.

To make friends with, I’d choose Joshilyn Jackson (Gods in Alabama, Backseat Saints) – from her blog and Facebook page, I’m guessing she and I have a lot in common.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?

Almost any Discworld Series book (some are brilliant, others merely very good). You can read them for the humour, you can read them for the plot, but what I value about them the most are the multiple layers of philosophy and acute observations about humanity.

6. Share the Walus process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.

For short stories, it all starts with a single idea: how well would you get along with a clone of yourself (The Seventh Taboo), what if your husband told you you’re too fat to have an affair (Small Price To Pay), what actually happens in teen chat rooms (Witch Hunts on the Internet). It then takes about a day per 1000 words to get the first draft down, and one edit a few days later.

Novels are a bit more complicated. I usually have a setting in mind: apartheid South Africa, communist Poland, planet Qwerty. The theme is usually tied into the setting from the beginning, so much so that sometimes I’m not sure which comes first. I brainstorm the theme and setting until my characters begin to form, then I come up with some conflicts for them to deal with and start writing. At this point, I have no clue what the plotline is, I just write. After about 10,000 words I step back and map out the plot highpoints. Then I write some more. When the book is finished, I will typically need two revisions to get it exactly the way I’d imagined it at the outset.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

• Start with your core idea and write it down in the centre of a large sheet of paper. Draw a bubble around it and an arrow leading from it. How does this idea make you feel? Write down the emotions – these are the emotions that the characters will experience in your story and the readers will feel when reading your work – draw another arrow and write down a few ideas how to make that happen. Go back to the centre, draw another line. How does your core idea change people’s perceptions and what can the characters get up to in order to convey your message?

• Make a list of all things you’re currently passionate or curious about: interior decorating, parenthood, preparing to run the marathon, hating your boss. Look at the list and select those that will fit your core story. Try to incorporate them into your work, for example, make your heroine an interior decorator who gets distracted from the main plot when her toddler gets chickenpox. She has to stay at home with the child because her husband is training for the marathon, but her boss needs her to….

• Sit down in front of the dreaded white screen. Type in these words: I want to write about…. Keep going. Every time you stop, type in those words again: I want to write about…. You may not end up with any ready passages for the story, but it’ll break your writer’s block.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Life is too short to read or write mediocre books.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

Thank you for this insightful question. As much as I love writing, I sometimes wonder whether that’s the best use of my time on earth. Would I be a better wife and mother if I focused more on my family and less on my story people, or would the drudgery make me impossible to live with? Are stories useful, or should I learn to build houses instead? Does the world need novelists as much as it needs nurses?

Until I figure it out, though, I’ll listen to Nemo the Clownfish and keep on swimming… writing, I mean. My work in progress is a humorous thriller for women, think Harlan Coben without balls.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

Just Google Yvonne Walus. My website should be the first hit.
The wind is picking up and the water doesn’t look like crushed diamonds anymore. Better go… it’s been a privilege.

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