Sunday, July 29, 2007


Great to see readers here, and welcome! In particular, thanks for liking the books so much. One reason I wrote them was because I remembered how much some books mattered to me when I was young (actually, books still matter enormously to me: but there's something about the books you read when you're younger, they stay with you) and I hoped that the Pellinor books might be like that for others. So you don't know how wonderful it is to hear from readers who love the books.

Quite a few of you have been asking some interesting questions about how the books were written (ah, that past tense is so wonderful!) and I'm revolving a post in my head which I'll put up sometime next week. At the moment I'm flat out with theatre - four shows in three days! I put on my favourite dress to see the Royal Shakespeare Company do King Lear last night (disappointing) and am off to see whether they make a better fist of Chekhov's The Seagull tonight. I hope so. And I'm also reviewing Ursula Le Guin's wonderful book Voices for ABC Radio... Once I've done my reviews - I review some shows twice, once for the newspaper and once for the theatre blog - I'll have a bit of a rest and talk about me.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pellinor web page

Exciting news from my US publishers Candlewick, who are putting together a special Pellinor website. (This is thrilling for me: a website designed by proper designers? Wow! I can't wait!) They're planning to include audio interviews, Q&As, fan features and other goodies. I expect it will be launched to coincide with the release of the gorgeous hardback edition of The Crow this September. I'll keep you posted.


Friday, July 20, 2007

On why procrastination is important

One of the commonest questions I am asked by readers is: do you have any writing tips? And it usually reduces me to silence: I never quite know where to begin. Worse, some of the most sensible things I have to say about writing are really boring. However, I have been promising for years that I would write something about writing and, now The Singing is finished, I no longer have any excuses.

So I thought I'd start an irregular series of reflections on the process of writing, as I've experienced it, anyway. In any case, today I am supposed to be reviewing a very thick, very complicated book for The Book Show on ABC Radio (it's not the kind of book you can read in bed, because if you fell asleep reading it, it would knock you out). And I suddenly thought I'd like to do something else.

Which leads me to my first observation: writers are, without exception, huge procrastinators. I have never known a writer - and in my time I've met a few - who wasn't. A writer with a deadline tends to be a writer with well-ironed clothes, or with a sudden strange desire to evict the spiders who have been living peaceably in the hall cupboard for years. One of the most frustrating things about writing - for the writer, at least - can be a weird allergy that develops towards the activity that, supposedly, you love most of all in the world.

There is a good reason for this. A lot of the most important work you do occurs when you're not actually writing, or even thinking about writing. Somewhere at the back of your mind something is going on: wheels are whirring, cogs are clicking, feelings are being felt. The annoying thing is that it's impossible to know what that work is until it appears on the page. The only thing experience teaches you is how to tell when it's ready, when it's "cooked" - and even experience doesn't mean that you're certain. Once it's "cooked", the hard work starts. I'll talk about the hard work in another post.

If that "underneath" work has happened, then what you write down will surprise you: things will occur that you don't expect, people will turn up whom you don't know. (This has always struck me as one of the most mysterious things about writing a story: where does it come from? The author doesn't necessarily know, you know.)

This is why I don't believe in writer's block. If you can't write - really can't, no matter how hard you try - it's because the writing isn't ready. Do something else. Your brain is cooking. And yes, sometimes this cooking takes a very long time. Sometimes it can take years.

Did I say that being a writer requires patience?

But - I hear you ask - if you can't control this "underneath" work, how do you get anything done? And how do you know what you want to do?

Sometimes you don't know, and sometimes you do. You can get glimpses of what's going on - feelings and desires, an image maybe, or a person saying something - enough to give you some idea of what it is you want to make. You might even sketch out a plan. But unless the "underneath" work does its job, what you write will feel empty. It's like the difference between joining the dots and making a beautiful painting. You can plan all you like, but what makes something seem real and full is the unexpected things that happen as you discover what it is that you're making. And you only discover that when you make it.

So, the best thing to do is to feed that hidden part of your mind. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch people on the street, notice how they walk or speak to each other. Read a poem. Go to the art gallery and find a painting you really like and really, really look at it. Think about your writing, and then put it out of your mind. Read some more. Read all kinds of things: fiction and non-fiction, poetry and plays, comic books and visual novels. Make sure that you read things you really enjoy. Put on your favourite CD and listen to it over and over again. Talk to the cat.

If people accuse you of being lazy, tell them that you're working really, really hard. Tell them that you're feeding the book that is growing in the dark part of your mind. They probably won't believe you, but it will be true.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Newsy bits

The big news is that I have finished The Singing. Or at least, I have written to the end of it (there will be editing to come - not much, I hope!) So, at last, the story of Maerad and Cadvan and Hem and Saliman and all the others, has come to an end. The book is due out in Australia and the UK in 2008 (no US pub date yet). I'm certain none of you wanted me to finish it more than I did! And yes, I'm very pleased. I won't know until it actually gets into the hands of readers, but I don't think it's an anti-climax. I have a feeling it's the best written of the lot.

I spent two weeks delirious with disbelief and relief, and have come back down to earth with a bad cold. And realising now that I have to do all the work that fell behind while I was writing The Singing. No rest for the wicked...

In the meantime, the largest independent German publisher Verlagsgruppe Luebbe (who also, I notice, publish Dan Brown) has bought the Pellinor books for release in Germany. I found out today that they have bought The Riddle and The Crow as well as The Gift - wow! That's demonstrating some faith in the series - the first one isn't even out yet! The Gift is due out some time later this year, with The Riddle due out early next year. Which seems very quick to me!


First post

I've decided to start this blog for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I don't have batallions of secretaries (ok, one would do) who can answer my mail for me and - pathetic though it sounds - I'm getting very behind on answering my fanmail. I can't even keep up with my SFFWorld discussion forum. And I'm beginning to feel very guilty.

This is partly disorganisation, and partly that I'm incredibly busy. I have too many lives: I don't just write fantasy books, I also write poetry (I ought to be working on my next collection right now), edit an online magazine called Masthead (which I'm also feeling guilty about) and spend a lot of my time at the theatre - a passion of mine - which I review for the Australian newspaper and my review blog Theatre Notes. And sometimes my family likes to see me, too.

Meanwhile, lots of things are happening with the books. And my webpage is getting more and more out of date. A blog seemed to be the answer for all these problems. So here it is.