Here’s what Spotlight is about; it’s an interview that promotes you! It will feature questions that are formatted to your needs. Questions will be focused on your work, upcoming work and some personal [but not intrusive] questions for your fans to get to know you more!
Tell us about yourself
I write tales to entertain all ages and my publications include poems and short stories for children and adults, picture books, a chapter book and a junior novel. I’ve also worked in journalism, writing for and editing magazines and local newspapers.
Share with us some of your interests
Reading, flower photography, card making, beachwalking, yoga.
What makes you the person you are?
Interesting question…I suppose my approach to life coupled with a strong spiritual belief. I’m basically optimistic with a bit of a Pollyanna attitude, always trying to look for the positive outcomes of any experience. From childhood, I was also encouraged to question everything, to look within for answers and to seek truth and enlightenment. It’s definitely shaped who I am and how I interreact with others.
About your writing;
When did you start writing?
I was quite young, probably about seven or eight and absolutely loved getting lost in books. While other kids my age were playing games I was writing stories and creating magazines, newspapers and cartoon strips. One day I left my friends at the park down the street to rush home and write a poem that was running through my head. My plan was to become a ballerina and write novels in the dressing room between performances. By the age of 16 I knew the ballerina dream wasn’t going to come true but the writing ambition proved a stayer.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything. A dream…an overhead conversation…a news item that sparks ‘what if?’ questions…the atmosphere of a place…a person seen in passing…
How has writing changed you as a person?
I don’t know that it has. I feel like I’ve been writing almost my entire life so it’s an integral part of who I am, firmly embedded in my character. I’m an observer, a thinker, a dreamer. The question is, did I become a writer because that’s my nature, or is that my nature because I’m a writer? I don’t have an answer.
Adding some fun;
If you spend the rest of your life in a novel or novel series, what novel would it be and why?
Mary Poppins — her ability to spread magic wherever she goes delights me. It would be fun to be part of that.
Share a couple of your favorite things and or things you like?
Birdsong, flowers, dolphins, the ocean in all its moods…and sharing fish and chips at the beach at sunset with the wonderful man in my life is my idea of the ideal night out.
What couldn’t you live without?
Have you read anything that made you think differently about writing?
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and The Right to Write; Natalie Goldberg’s Long Quiet Highway and Writing Down the Bones; What We Ache For and The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I found all of these books inspirational and really related to their focus on the creativity/spirituality connection.
What do you look for in a publishing company as they will end up representing your work?
My ideal publisher values my creative output and recognises its worth by offering a contract that’s reasonable to both parties, then works with me to create the best possible book from my manuscript. Professionalism and mutual respect are also high on my list of publisher priorities.
How do you stay confident in yourself especially by putting yourself out there in the internet world?
I believe in the principle of ‘like attracts like’ so I focus on putting positive energy out there. It’s worked so far. It also helps that I’m an optimist with a basically sunny outlook. My confidence in myself as a writer is on a fairly sound foundation established over many years so I bounce back quickly from setbacks.
How do you handle rejection? What advice can you offer to moving past it?
When I first started submitting my work I knew nothing about the industry so inevitably I got rejections. I didn’t know all the encouragement and constructive criticism that accompanied these knockbacks were out of the ordinary so I was devastated. I’d seen myself as being a writer since I was a kid, so if I wasn’t a writer, what was I?
I still get rejections but I don’t fall apart. Once you’ve written a story – or poem – to the best standard you can, finding a publisher is a case of landing on the right desk at the right time. Rejection is part of life for anyone who’s serious about writing. Of course it’s disappointing to receive a rejection. That doesn’t change. But I simply take another look at the manuscript, decide whether it needs any revisions and submit it to the next publisher on my list. Besides, having a dozen or more different submissions out at any one time does make it easier if one is rejected because I can still keep my hopes high about all the others that haven’t been returned yet.
My advice on handling rejections would be: Dry your tears. Rejection isn’t personal, it’s a business decision. It doesn’t mean you can’t write, simply that what you wrote didn’t suit the publication so learn from the experience. It’s OK to put creativity ahead of commercialism but know that only by writing what publishers want will you become a published author.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write. Read. Believe in your dream but don’t let it take over your life.
My ‘4D Approach to Writing Success’ is Desire + Discipline + Dedication + Determination = Publication.
If you want to be published the first essential is the desire to write. It takes discipline to sit down and produce a manuscript, dedication to stay focused on the task and determination not to give up despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments.
Featuring your work and or upcoming work;
Tell us about your book [s]
I write mainly lighthearted, quirky tales with a touch of understated humour for children of all ages. My publications range from poems and short stories in magazines and anthologies to picture books, a chapter book and a novel.
Who is your favorite character and why? [If you can share without spoiling your work]
Joshua Jones, the main character in my latest junior novel The Seven Day Dragon, which hasn’t been published yet. Josh is energetic with a lively and inquisitive mind and wants to know everything there is to know about everything there is. He’s only briefly surprised when an amazing creature from Jupiter offers to be his houseguest for a week, because he already suspected there’s more to life than there appears to be on the surface.
What character do you hope readers understand?
Old Joe in the same novel. He’s Josh’s friend with a wonderful wisdom about the world and I based him on my dad who’s no longer with us and was my strongest influence.
Do you have a favorite part of your own book (s) ?
That would have to be the section in Mad Dad For Sale when Luke admits to Mum at dinner that the reason Dad’s missing is because he sold him and a couple of characters called round that morning, scooped him up in a giant butterfly net and took him away in a van. Luke doesn’t quite get the reaction from Mum, brother Nate and sister Susie. It always makes me smile when I read it.
Choosing a character or even yourself, can you give us a sample playlist of music that would follow said person?
In my as yet unpublished novel Then and Now, Stella is a conservative, family focused woman who loses her marriage and finds herself. She is shattered when her husband of 15 years tells her at breakfast one morning that it’s over. The announcement has come completely out of left field. She thought they were happy together. While trying to come to terms with the situation, Stella spends hours at the beach, walking along the shore. Here she meets Chris, an unusual young man who introduces her to a different way of looking at life. This new perspective helps Stella to move on. Their relationship deepens into love, very different from that she knew with her ex husband. Ultimately Stella becomes a strong, independent woman who can enjoy the intimacy of having a man in her life but no longer needs it. Here’s her playlist…
Love on the Rocks — Neil Diamond
Yesterday – Paul McCartney
Lonely Looking Sky – Neil Diamond
Some Days are Diamonds — John Denver
Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon & Garfunkel
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry Marsden
Too Soon to Know — Roy Orbison
Do You Want to Know a Secret? – The Beatles
I Can See Clearly Now — Johnny Nash
I am Woman – Helen Reddy
Memories – Barbra Streisand
Have you had trouble writing about any of your characters?
No. Sometimes I get stuck on what happens next in the story because I’m not a planner but the characters themselves take shape quite effortlessly.
What would you like readers to get from your book (s) ?
Enjoyment. A smile…a chuckle…and the idea that there might be more to life than we think.
In your book (s) what had been the hardest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The hardest challenge is always finding a publisher who likes my work enough to offer a contract. For me it’s been the toughest part of being a writer. Comments about how beautifully I write are encouraging but I want my stories to reach an audience.
How is this world a better place because of your books?
I like to think I quietly spread a little bit of sunshine around the place.
If you could meet any of your own characters, who would (they / it) be?
Definitely Josh…but further down the track when he’s an adult so I could find out how his experience with Traveller and The Keeper changed his life.
If you had to write a scene for a character of your choice that would put them in an awkward situation how would it go?
This is the scene where Luke’s mum puts him on the spot about the whereabouts of his dad…
(Mum) clamped both hands on the edge of the table, leaned forward and stared at Luke. She’d never looked at him like that. It felt like he was being pierced with something cold and sharp. He squirmed. The pea he’d been chasing around his plate shot at the clock on the top of the fridge. It pinged against the clock face. When Mum spoke, her voice was very quiet.
“What aren’t you telling me, Lucas John McAlister?”
“Nothin’.” Luke concentrated on sawing his steak.
“Something. Dad hasn’t been at work today. I called his personal assistant and the factory manager. There was no urgent business. His car is in the garage, his mobile’s on the bench, he didn’t take his wallet and Mrs Halliday told me there was a terrible commotion here this morning while I was out. Where is your dad?”
“I dunno. Honest.” Luke gave up on the steak and started making patterns in his mashed potato with his fork. He had to do something. She was making him nervous.
“You said some men came by in a van and picked him up?”
“That’s right. A green one.” Everyone was looking at him, waiting for more. He sucked in a deep breath. “It stopped in the drive and two men jumped out. They scooped Dad up in a gi-normous butterfly net, put him in the back of the van and drove away with him. He yelled real loud.” Luke lolled back in his chair and grinned with relief. There. Now she knew.
But she thought he was being smart. “Luke,” she snapped, “this is no time for funny business. Your father is missing. You were the last person to see him today. I need you to tell me what you saw.”
“I am telling you, Mum.” Why was it, when you told people the truth, they didn’t believe you? Luke spoke very slowly and clearly. “The two men put him in the van and slammed the doors. Another man got out, came up the path, gave me the money and when he went back, the van drove off. That’s what happened. Really.”
Susie giggled. Nate snorted. Mum shook her head from side to side. “Run that by me again. Gave you money?”
“Yeah. Five hundred dollars. Alex and me wanted to ask for a thousand but Tiff said no one in their right mind would pay that much for a second-hand dad. So we charged less. See?”
“No. And I’m getting completely fed up with this nonsense. Now tell me the truth. Where is your dad? What happened to him?” Her voice was getting louder by the minute.
Luke stopped chasing a pea around his plate and looked her straight in the eyes. “I already told you. I sold him.” Why wouldn’t she believe him?
She sagged into her chair. “Luke, you can’t sell a person.”
Mum buried her head in her hands. “Come on, love, stop messing around and tell me the truth. You won’t get in trouble, I just need to know.”
Luke opened his mouth to repeat what had happened and then had a better idea. “I’ll show you.”
He leapt up, almost knocking over his chair, and dashed into his room to fetch the local paper from its hiding place under his mattress. Returning to the kitchen, he spread the paper on the bench, flicked through to find the right page, pulled it out, thrust it in front of Mum’s face and pointed to the ad in the For Sale column.
“I’m – very – afraid –that – I – do.” Mum’s face went the colour of uncooked pastry. “You sold your dad?”
Luke had returned to his meal. He finished shaping his mashed potato into two separate mountain peaks and then nodded.
What do you do for marketing?
I’ve been increasing my online presence through my websites, Facebook and Amazon author pages, guest blogs and social networking. A couple of times a year I send flyers promoting my availability as a guest author and workshop presenter to schools and libraries. I also have a couple of websites. Basically I follow up on any potential opportunity for promotion.
Promote your books in a sentence or less 🙂
In Who Dresses God? a mother answers her daughter’s questions about how God can see, hear and speajk without eyes, ears and tongue as they walk to kindy.
Mad Dad for Sale is a quirky novel about a kid who sells his cranky dad through an ad in the local paper, then risks his life to get him back and save himself, his whole family and a host of townspeople from an alien.
Jimbo! Don’t go! is an entertaining, non-threatening rhyming picture book about an elephant boy who forgets his mum’s warning not to go with strangers who pretend to be friends.
Rainbows in my Kitchen is a collection of my newspaper columns about finding the magic in every day and looking on the bright side of life.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a YA novel about a 15-year-old girl who answers the phone to the biological father she didn’t know existed and her happy family fantasy is shattered. It’s about trust, betrayal and finding your place in the world.
Teena Raffa-Mulligan’s links
Links to websites that sell your work