'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Author Interview: Sarah Pye

Today we're joined by travel writer Sarah Pye, whose first guidebook for travelling families, Kids Welcome to Queensland, we have fallen in love with. Here, Sarah talks to Kids Book Review about how she came to write this series of books. Visit Sarah's website, kidswelcome.com.au, for more.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I have rather an unusual background. I grew up for the first 13 years in England. Then, in 1979, my parents had what can only be called a ‘serious mid-life crisis’. They took my younger brother and me out of school and we moved onto a 32ft sailing boat. We were homeschooled for the next few years as we travelled through various parts of the world.

I left my floating home to go to university in the US. Eventually I ended up with a degree in hospitality management AND a commercial captain’s licence. I ran a restaurant in Hawaii, taught sailing in California and created an award-winning boat company in the Whitsundays before settling on the Sunshine Coast. That’s the short version!

What other areas of writing have you worked in or dabbled with, other than travel books? About four years ago I identified a gap in travel information. By this time I was travelling with my daughter and I couldn’t find information specific to HER needs. Although I didn’t really know how to write, I decided to create a guidebook for families.

The next step was enrolling in my Master’s in Journalism and my thesis was ‘the needs and desires of travelling families’. This, of course, was the first step to the creation of Kids Welcome guidebooks and my first book, Kids Welcome to Queensland was published almost a year ago. I didn’t just learn to write in a classroom: I took a job as a writer at the Sunshine Coast Daily (writing about absolutely anything!) and did still do freelance work with various magazines. Two years ago I accepted a position as editor of Kids on the Coast magazine with issues on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Townsville.

When I write, my passions are kids, parenting and environmental issues, but the best thing about writing is learning things I didn’t know, so I don’t like limiting the subject matter!

What do you love about travel writing? First I love to travel. I think my wanderlust started as a child and I haven’t been able to quell it yet. I am passionate about enabling families to explore together so writing in a way that makes it easier for them is something I love to do. My daughter, Amber (10), is my chief expert and she is very much a part of our books. Not only is her picture on most pages of Kids Welcome to Queensland, but she puts her two cents in on the reviews too.

What inspired you to begin the Kids Welcome series? Amber was my inspiration. I feel kids can learn more outside a classroom than in it (I certainly did) and, every chance we get, we try new things and go new places. I know, from experience, how difficult it can be to travel with kids (especially as a single parent like myself) so I hope my experiences might inspire others to try new things as a family.

What are your top five, personal favourite, family travel destinations in Australia? I have consulted with my chief expert and these are our favourites so far (there is still half a country to explore!):

  • Watching the turtles hatch at Bargara Beach, Bundaberg
  • Searching for sapphires at Rubyvale
  • Snowboarding in Kosciusko National Park
  • Driving down Route 39 in NSW and stopping at Moree hot springs, Dubbo Zoo and the Dish at Parkes and the Peace Bell at Cowra!
  • And lastly, we just got back from a trip to Canberra. What a place for 10 year olds!!

Do you plan to take the series international, or stick with Australian travel? For the next few years my radar scans only as far as Australia, but the world is my oyster!!

Tell us about your path to publishing your books. Once I had decided what I wanted to do, I set about learning to write. During holidays, Amber and I would hook up our camper trailer and explore together and late into the evenings, while she slept, I would tap away at my keyboard. I approached publishers and found one. Then we didn’t see eye-to-eye so I took the huge step of self-publishing.

I then researched distributors, worked with a graphic artist and gathered quotes. My first book hit the shelves last October and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Now I am busy writing the second in the series: Kids Welcome to New South Wales and ACT. I hope it will be out early next year.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? Perhaps the biggest challenge was deciding to self publish and I am so glad I did. (Even though the work load AFTER writing is far greater than the actual writing stage). Self doubt is always something that creeps in, and I know I am not alone in that, but the occasional pat on the back validates all the hard work. Recently I was named Sunshine Coast Small Business Woman of the Year which still amazes me!

What’s a typical writing day? Running a business and writing a book are two distinctly different jobs. In order to be able to concentrate at one or the other, I have created a weekly schedule and locked in writing time. When it’s time to write, I shift from left to right brain and time disappears. Of course, writing from home (or in my campervan), I also have to schedule in time for research and domestic duties too!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Deciding if you want to write for yourself or others is an important step. If writing for possible publication, it’s important to do your homework first: Does your book have a specific audience? How are you going to reach that audience? The answers to these questions will change the way you write, the publishers you choose and the marketing plan you develop.

What else do you like to do, other than write? Sometimes I wish I had twice as long in every day because I love to do so many things… for relaxation I love to read, do Sudoku’s and sing. But I am also rather an adventurous sole so I love to kayak, hike, swim and try adventure sports…

What’s next for you? My focus at the moment is on completing my next book and continuing to travel as much as possible with my daughter. After that, perhaps the third book! I have just launched Kids Welcome e-books which are going great guns, and I am working on a few other interesting products as well. I think it’s important to dream big, otherwise you won’t know when you have reached your goals… I am inspired by Tony and Maureen Wheeler who started Lonely Planet guides in their Melbourne garage. Now look at Lonely Planet!

Anything else you’d like to add? I have two favourite sayings that I would love to share:

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page" - Augustine 354-430 AD

"Not all those who wander are lost" - J.R.R. Tolkien

Read our review of Kids Welcome to Queensland - and stay tuned to win yourself a copy!