Welcome to YA Author, Paula Tierney.
Paula’s debut novel Jamie Reign The Last Spirit Warrior has just been released.
Jamie Reign can’t read a word, but he can handle a tugboat better than most. All his life he has dreamed of becoming a kung fu expert, like the legendary Master Wu. But that sort of kung fu, the sort that draws on the ancient and mystical force called the Way, is only for the Chinese boys and Jamie is half-Chinese.
While diving on an uncharted reef, Jamie discovers a terrible force that exposes his connection to these ancient warriors and to the warlord intent on destroying them all. He must quickly learn kung fu and the secret skills of the Warriors of the Way, guided by Jade, who seems intent on making him fail, and Wing, who is even worse than Jamie is at kung fu.
Jamie’s past and the future of these ancient warriors are inexplicably linked. And as the two collide, Jamie and his new friends set off on a desperate mission to save them all.
Thanks for being my guest on Flying Pony Paula and good luck with the book!
1. What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?
I like to key into the emotions I’m putting my characters through. So I’ll listen to music or watch scenes in films that I know I respond to the same way I want my characters to respond. And if that doesn’t work, Bruce Springsteen booming so loudly the windows rattle seems to drown out the self-doubt.
2. What sort of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or erratic, focused or easily distracted?
I really need to create a much better writing routine than what I have now. I have long undisciplined and unfocused periods which inevitably lead to concentrated burst of writing. You see I’m a plotter, I plot every detail in every scene. I spend so much time doing this I don’t leave enough time to write it down. So long periods of living in my head is followed by a furious amount of actual writing as the deadline looms.
3. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?
All the time, although it’s probably a combination of fear and laziness that holds me back (and I’m quick to justify it as the plotting noted above – although harder to justify is the re-runs of 21 Jump Street I seem glued to at the moment – tragic, I know.) When I do get stuck with the plot or the characters I usually nut it out at 4am when it keeps me from sleeping.
4. Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?
I love the story and I love taking the journey with the characters. I like being them for a little while, living vicariously and getting under their skin. I like to figure out not only how they respond but why. And it’s such a joy to find their happy ending or in some cases the inevitable consequences.
5. Which aspects do you least love (or detest!)?
‘Ahem,’ she says, looking around sheepishly, ‘the actual writing.’
6. What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?
I find Annie Proulx’s ‘The Shipping News,’ both inspiring and intimidating. How she describes the cores and pits of old fruit is amazing. I long for a vision that detailed and the vocabulary to deliver it.
7. Can you describe for us your writing process from initial idea to publication.
The idea for the Jamie Reign series arrived in human form. My partner’s early childhood was spent living on a barge in a small Hong Kong fishing village. He lived with his father, salvaged wrecks for a living, and wondered about the mother who abandoned him. His stories fascinate me and are the inspiration behind Jamie Reign and his adventures.
To write the first story, I spent a long time researching Chinese mysticism and Kung Fu. The more connections I discovered the more layers and subtleties I imagined in the story, not realising that all this research could quickly become an obsession with nothing to show for it except a pile of notes and a convoluted plotline. I finally had to just stop, be brave, face the blank page and trust I had enough for the basic premise.
So I started, then I started again and then re-started. I think I wrote the first chapter twelve times. In eleven of the false starts I made all the new author mistakes of starting at the wrong place, not finding a voice till half way through, hating that voice and having to start again. I wallowed. It was when I pushed through that first chapter, ignoring the doubts and mistakes that I eventually wrote my way into the story.
And miraculously the words came. Okay maybe not so miraculously, I employed a mentor. The brilliant Kathryn Heyman gave me deadlines, forced me to look at every word choice, every character and to be perfectly honest, every typo too. It was humbling but it made me accountable and made me deliver.
By the time I saw an advertisement for the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival at the NSW Writer’s Centre I was ready to submit. I spoke to every publisher there, had a great website to direct them to and by the end of the next week had three offers for my book.
I think I’ve been lucky and I’m eternally grateful for that.
8. What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?
I think I’m probably too new to add much of value here except to say, be good at writing but be good at your other job too.
Creating opportunities for yourself can be about luck and timing, but as I discovered it’s about committing the resources to it as well. The mentoring, the website, the short courses, the festivals – all these elements combined is what made publication possible for me but sadly, none of it came for free.
When opportunities do come up, you really want to be able to afford them.
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