Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Theory on Thursday with Fleur McDonald

This week we have a Theory on Thursday with a twist. I'm excited to bring you fellow West Aussie, Fleur McDonald, who writes gripping suspense novels for Allen & Unwin. Fleur has a book shelf full of craft books but has barely read any of any of them... So today, she's talking about another author who has inspired her to embrace her own writing process.

Welcome Fleur...

Most people who have read the ‘about me’ section on my website, know that I don’t have any qualifications when it comes to writing. In fact that was one of my publishers selling points when it came to publicity; ‘Outback Cinderella’!

Well the Cinderella experience is right, except the glass slipper is actually a muddy Rossi boot and instead of shovelling cinders, I wade through wet sheep yards and get covered in slop, poo and dust, depending on the season. When I come in from the yards and manage to find time to sit at the computer, (after I’ve had a shower of course!) I have the lingering feeling of that mud on my skin or the ache from when the sheep hit me in the raceway.

Maybe that, instead of qualifications, has stood me good stead in writing my stories.

I have numerous craft books on my shelf, all of which I’ve tried to read. However, I haven’t got passed the first chapter in most of them. And for a while, that really upset me. I was desperate to improve my writing, understand sentence structures, plot points and how beautifully words can be entwined together. My favourite saying was ‘I need to improve my writing with every book.’

And yes, that’s still the case, but I’ve learnt more than I could have by talking to my publishers and other authors, than I could have by reading a book.

Tony Park (author of eight books, the most recent being African Dawn) is someone who I admire greatly. I had the privilege of meeting him in Perth and I can safely say that the meeting which lasted but an hour, is my ‘craft book’.

When I wrote Red Dust, I had a story to tell and I just sat down and wrote. Now I know that sounds trite (and I was very lucky that A&U could see there were good bones to the story because when I look back at what I submitted, I cringe), but I wrote with the freedom of not knowing I could do something wrong.

I am a panster, just the way I am in life; disorganised, running with ideas, never plan anything and hope for the best. Tony actually told me that was okay. The relief I felt when he said those words was amazing!

After I asked him about planning, research and the writing program Scrivener, Tony said: ‘How can you trick your audience if you know what is going to happen next. Surely, they will work it out. Just write and see where it leads you. As for Scrivener, it would be a fantastic tool if I could use it, but I don’t plan.’

For someone who was beating herself up about not using Scrivener and not planning, it was music to my ears! But in saying all of this, he did tell me that I should read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Apparently it’s the only craft book to say that it’s okay not to plan.

And so, these days, this Cinderella is free to write the way she chooses but I wonder if I’ll remember that when it comes to writing Silver Gums?

Thanks so much Fleur for sharing your time with Tony with us. I must admit I've never read a Tony Parks novel but obviously after all your praise, that is going to change. And he's write, Stephen King's writing book is AWESOME! Can't wait to read your next book either but in the mean time if any of you haven't, do check out Fleur's latest, Blue Skies.

In the tradition of Rachael Treasure and from the bestselling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies tells the inspirational story of a young woman battling to save the family farm no matter what it takes. Armed with an honours degree in Agribusiness, Amanda Greenfield dreams of employing all the skills she's learnt at college to help her father turn the family farm from a debt-ridden, run-down basket case into a thriving enterprise.

Then tragedy strikes with the death of Amanda's mother in a car accident. Wracked by grief and guilt, and wearied by the long struggle to keep Kyleena a going concern, Amanda's father argues that they should sell up and get on with their lives away from the vagaries of drought and fluctuating stock and crop yields.

Having inherited half the farm from her beloved mother, whom she also grieves for, Amanda determines to summon all her strength, grit and know how to save Kyleena. Along the way she faces mixed fortunes in both love and life ...


Fiona Lowe said...

Great to hear your process, Fleur. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa said...

Thanks so much Fleur for an insight into your writing world:) I live a continent-width away from you in regional NSW and just have to say that at out local library you can NEVER borrow your books as they are both out!

Bec said...

Love On Writing and love the idea of freedom to follow your on process... particularly when it's obviously working!

Rachael Johns said...

WOW Melissa - that's some fabulous news for Fleur :)

Cathryn Hein said...

Great post, Fleur. Always interesting to read about other author's processes.

One thing's for sure, there's no right and no wrong way. It's whatever works for you.

Phht, look at that. The word verification is 'claus'. As if I needed yet another reminder Christmas is coming. I spied decorations in a store the other day. Don't these people know it's only September!

Joanne Dannon said...

Interesting post Fleur - good to read you've found a process that works :)

Fleur said...

Hi All, thanks for your comments. No I can't believe Christmas is so close that we need reminders!

tonypark said...

Thanks for the mention, Fleur. For me it was great to meet another writer who doesn't plan! And thanks, Rachael, for posting Fleur's interview.

scarlet wilson said...

Really interesting post, enjoyed it

Helene Young said...

I'm with you, Fleur. Can't plan ahead to save myself and always laugh when some one tells me I must know the end of the story before I start writing it!

Totally agree with Cathryn - do what comes naturally to you as a writer!!

Love the series Rachael :)

Rachael Johns said...

Cathryn - why are you talking about Christmas? Shhhh!

Fleur and Tony thanks for stopping by :)

Helene - so glad you're loving the series! I have some really interesting posts scheduled ahead!