Please welcome another guest on the blog this week from Satalyte… the lovely Sally Odgers!
Were you good at English?
Interesting question. I was considered very good at English right from the start. I think the lowest mark I got was an A-. Then, in Year 8, the subject “English” was split into English Expression and English Literature. I went right on getting A and A+ for EE, but my first mark for EL was a D. I couldn’t understand it. I was me, right? I was GOOD at this. It took me a while, but I discovered how to get back to my A-grade average. It had little to do with what I liked reading. It had everything to do with what that particular teacher admires. Once I discovered (by trial and error and observation) her tastes and opinions, I simply reflected them back to her. Bingo. My A average was restored. I believed (and still do) this was pretty disgraceful, but it taught me one thing: my feelings about stories are important to me. However, for my career (which at that point was being a schoolchild) my opinions were unimportant. I had to please the customer. (In that case, it was that particular teacher.) I might add that reflecting that teacher’s opinions never affected my own opinions in the slightest. It was just a garment I put on, as it were, for that particular job. It taught me the value of studying the market!
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want to go on making a living from my writing, as I have done since the 1980s. I would prefer to sway the balance more towards the types of stories I love to tell. Come to think of it… I do love most of my books, even if they weren’t all what I wanted to write at the time.
So, what have you written?
It’s more a case of what I haven’t written. My favourite genres are historical, fantasy, sf and cross-genre; in fact, all genres where the world is not quite the world we live in right now. I love either creating worlds or recreating them. My book Heather & Heath (Satalyte 2015) is a historical saga set in Van Diemens Land (later Tasmania) in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Other 2014/15 titles include two picture books (Goodnight Truck and Rainforest Lullaby), four books in the Pup Patrol series, (all Scholastic) and Ramses Rat and the Great Cat, Bastet (Prints Charming Books). For a listing of most of my books from 1977 – 2011, you can check out http://www.sallyodgers.com (click on “Books”.) For my more recent titles, go to sallyodgers.weebly.com. I write series about dogs with my husband (Jack Russell: Dog Detective, Pet Vet and Pup Patrol). I love doing these as they allow us to create a world where dogs are of utmost impawtance!
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
My novel Heather & Heath has three main characters.
Agnes McCleod, known as Ness, is eighteen when she leaves Scotland to sail to the colony of New South Wales as a maid for her older friend Jean. Jean dies on the voyage, leaving Ness alone and frightened in a new land. It is 1837 when she stands on the deck of the ship. That’s when she spots a large Scotsman on the wharf. Married to a virtual and rather frightening stranger, Ness spends the next two years learning to live a new life at beautiful Glen Heather in Van Diemens Land. Here, she learns to cut her cloth to match her circumstances. Her greatest triumph is in remaining herself and moving forwards, no matter what the world throws in her path.
We meet the next main character, Isobel Jarvis, in 1860, on the day of her wedding to Ness’s son, John. This marriage is made to secure the future for both partners, and Isobel, a practical girl, looks forward to a prosperous and happy life as the wife of the owner of Glen Heather. Fate has other ideas and Isobel finds herself faced with an enormous and heartbreaking challenge. To win through, she must battle convention, family and her own grief.
The third character is Alice MacDonald Campbell, Isobel’s granddaughter, whom we meet in 1913. Alice is the elder daughter of Isobel’s son Robert, and, having no brothers, she expects to inherit Glen Heather, now a prosperous sheep property, in due course. The Great War gives her a chance to step away from the life of a lady and into that of a working farmer, but then come the shocking events that mean Alice may never have the future she expected. Alice, like her ancestors Ness and Isobel, must somehow fight for what she wants while remaining true to herself.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Interestingly enough, I have played the casting game for the characters in Heather & Heath. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to this at https://www.pinterest.com/sallyodgers/heather-and-heath-cast/
Mia Wasikowska or Karen Gillan could play Ness McCleod Campbell
Rachel Griffiths or Claudia Black or Rose Byrne could work for Isobel Jarvis Campbell
Emilie De Ravin or a younger Sigrid Thornton could play Alice MacDonald Campbell
How much research do you do?
Depending on the genre, I may do a lot of research or none at all. Mostly I do some. Historical novels such as Heather & Heath need quite a bit. It’s easy to find the big picture information, but the day-to-day details are more difficult. I used a website called Trove, and also looked up old newspapers and interviewed a few people who remembered the earlier 20th C. I did a lot of the research for an earlier book (Anna’s Own) back in the late 1980s, which is why I was able to talk to people born in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Fortunately, I kept the notes, so I was able to refresh my mind when writing Heather & Heath years later.
Why do you write?
I write because it’s my strongest talent and because I love a good story. I also write because it’s a job I can do at home, working around my odd body clock and my other commitments.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I work full time in the writing business. I write as and when I can find markets. Since the late 1990s I have also worked as a manuscript assessor and freelance editor, running a small service called Affordable Manuscript Assessments out of http://www.affordablemanuscriptassessments.com . I do this partly to give my hands a rest (I have chronic tendonitis) and partly to bring in bread-and-butter money between royalty and advance payments.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I tend to wake late (because of my odd body clock) and spend the morning sorting out work emails, and editing or assessing. I work on writing projects whenever I can fit them in. I also visit my dad three times before dinner to make sure he’s okay. (He lives nearby) At some point in the afternoon I go for a walk (usually 90 minutes) with two or more of our dogs. I get the mail and do odd bits of shopping. At six o’clock I go to my very old dad’s place again and get his dinner and get him to bed. I come home and get our dinner, and then often watch a DVD with my husband. He goes to bed and then I start work again and work through until 2 am when I check my dad again and then go to bed. This routine happens seven days a week.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I write on a laptop. I have tried to use Dragon but it’s of limited use for fiction. When writing dialogue, the scenario works like this;
TAB OPEN QUOTES Are you going too QUESTION MARK CLOSE QUOTES asked James FULL STOP
TAB OPEN QUOTES No FULL STOP Why do you ask QUESTION MARK CLOSE QUOTES
Since Dragon often mishears words, it can be a very slow business.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I always write an outline which I then refine to a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. Then I start writing. If things develop in an unexpected direction, I amend the story line. I find this is the best way to keep the pacing right.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Undoubtedly, the hardest thing is finding markets that want to publish the things I want to write, and in getting readers to be aware of the books’ existence.
I have lived in the same area all my life. My first book came out in 1977 and got quite a bit of publicity. Nearly forty years and two hundred and seventy or so books later, I occasionally get asked; “still doing the writing, then?” Well, yes… “Oh? I haven’t seen anything about your books in the paper.” No… well, they won’t. When a new young writer comes along, or when a celebrity writes a book, that’s NEWS. When an older midlister writes a book… that isn’t. If the person asking me used Google, s/he would find literally hundreds of mentions of me and my books. By relying on the local newspaper… none. This is why I am so delighted to have this opportunity to answer some questions! I love talking about my books. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why most locals never mention them to me!
Writing is also one of the only jobs where experience and practice can actively work against one. In most jobs, the public point of view is that the more one does the job the better one gets. However, if writers produce a lot of work (by working hard and persisting) then they often find themselves labelled as potboilers. Also, if a writer releases several books of the same genre in a short period, the sales of each one may suffer. On the other hand, most midlist writers could not survive on the income from one book every three or four years. I would love to see writing accepted in the same way as other skills; that is, that practising the craft makes us better at it.
Thanks so much Sally for joining us today! Please be sure to follow Sally and check out some of her work!
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sallyodgers @sallyodgers
Book Links: http://satalyte.com.au/product/heather-and-heath-by-sally-odgers/