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- author Jackie French

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Author Interview: Leanne Davidson

Who is this talented person? Leanne Davidson

What does she do? She's an author

Where can you peruse her stuff? quizzicalbook.com

What's her story? My writing career officially began when I self-published my first children’s book, Quizzical, in September, 2006.

I have always loved to write, ever since I was a little girl, but when I was younger there weren’t the opportunities there are now for budding writers, so for me it was very much a part-time hobby.

It wasn’t until I turned forty that I sat down and wrote Quizzical as a short story of around 2,500 words. I sent it off to a large publishing house, because I wasn’t sure who to send it to, and it was returned to me several weeks later with a letter saying that the story was ‘very enjoyable, well-written and showed great potential, however it did not suit their lists at this time’.

Although disappointed, I was buoyed by the positive comments the manuscript had received, so I put it aside and pondered what I could do to make the story more ‘publishable’. I decided to do a writing course, the Diploma of Professional Writing for Children, a twelve month course by correspondence through the then Australian College of Journalism. In the meantime I decided to expand Quizzical from a short story to a novel and used some of my proposed chapters as course assignments. I received very favourable comments from my tutor, which gave me the confidence to keep pursuing the ‘novel’ idea, and by the time I’d finished the course, I’d pretty much finished the novel version of Quizzical.

Then, I pondered what to do next. I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, so I didn’t want to send the manuscript to various publishers knowing that it could take weeks, or even months to receive a reply, and more likely than not that reply would be a rejection letter. So I decided to self-publish the book and see where the journey took me.

Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I was very shy as a child, and I lacked a lot of self-confidence, so ‘putting myself out there’ and self-publishing a book was something I didn’t think I could ever do. I didn’t think I was brave enough. But I had a lot of faith in the book, and in the story’s concept, and at that stage in my life I felt that self-publishing it was something I needed to do.

It subsequently won the 2006 Best Australian Self-Published Book for Fiction Award, and was picked up by commercial publishers, The Five Mile Press, who re-released it in 2008, followed by the sequel, Money Bags, in 2009. They also published a chapter book I wrote, called Alby and the Cat, for their Ripper Reads series in 2008. My dad was blinded in an industrial accident many years ago and had a beautiful black guide dog called Duke for thirteen years. I wanted to write a story about guide dogs so that people, especially children, could get more of an idea of what they do, how special they are, and the difference they make in the life of a visually impaired person.

Quizzical, Money Bags and Alby and the Cat all appear on various Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists, which I’m really proud of.

What genre do you write in? I write children’s general fiction. Believe it or not, Quizzical came about due to a racehorse. A few years ago my mum and dad owned a racehorse, and around the time she was racing, there always seemed to be another horse racing, by the name of ROYGBIV. I always thought it was a strange name for a horse, and wondered what it was named after. I found out several weeks later when an article appeared in the paper about that very horse, who just so happened to be named after the colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, violet.

I remember thinking, what a great way to remember the colours of the rainbow, which led me to thinking of ways I could incorporate informative bits of information like this into a story for children, so that if they learned even one thing, then I would be happy.

Why do you write? I write because I love it. It gives me an incredible amount of satisfaction to know I am writing books that children will eventually read and, hopefully, enjoy.

What made you decide to write children’s books? That’s a good question! I have always enjoyed being around children, and I have three sons myself, so writing for children seemed a logical place to start for me.

What do you love about writing for children? It is very rewarding, and there are so many enjoyable aspects that follow on after the writing process is finished, such as promoting the book, and going out into schools and meeting the children who read your books. I also love it when children write to me, saying how much they have enjoyed one of my books. There is no better feeling!

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? Being a relatively new author, I’m finding the hardest thing is getting known, especially interstate. I have started visiting schools and libraries with something I call ‘Interactive Quizzical’, where I have taken the quiz book setting of Quizzical and ‘brought it into the classroom’ to help promote literacy and to encourage student participation in a fun way. It is a lot of fun and has been really well-received. One day I hope to be able to write full-time.

What’s a typical writing day? Unfortunately for me, writing is very much squashed in between everything else. Having said that, I try to write every day – actually, it’s usually at night, when I have more time to myself – and when I’m not writing, I’ll be editing what I’ve written the day before, or researching something for a particular story line. My first drafts of any story are always done by longhand first, usually a chapter at a time on a writing pad, then I will type it up on the computer and expand on things as I go. I am a typist by occupation, which comes in very handy for my writing.

What advice do you have on writing for kids? I would say, if you really enjoy it, and hope to one day be a published author, just keep writing, about anything and everything. Hone your craft. Join writers’ organisations such as the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the NSW Writers’ Centre, the Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrators, etc. where you’ll find lots of informative articles and writing competitions. Learn as much as you can. And never give up on your dream, because dreams do come true. I am proof of that!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? That’s a tricky one. I think I would like to be a proofreader. I enjoy reading, and often find mistakes in the text of books and newspapers. I think it would be something I’d enjoy.

What books did you read as a child? I loved reading as a child, but the ones I remember most vividly are The Magic Faraway Tree, Famous Five and Secret Seven by Enid Blyton, Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White, and both Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I love spending time with my family, especially my three sons, who keep me busy with their sporting pursuits. I also like reading, and going for walks.

What would be your perfect day? A perfect day for me would be spent relaxing somewhere by the water, away from the hustle, bustle of daily life, where I would be filled with inspiration and words would flow endlessly on to paper. Either that, or a day of pampering!!!

What five words best sum you up? I think: happy, friendly, giving, caring, and motivated sum me up pretty well.

Keep an eye out for reviews of Leanne Davidson's books, coming soon to Kids Book Review!