This is part 2 of an interview with Australian children’s author, Fiona Trembath. See my previous post for part 1.
Fiona's first book, 'Crackpot'
Fiona, how did you manage to get media coverage for your book?
Yes. I employed a publicist (Alan Davidson), and he was able to get me a lot of media coverage. I’ve been on ABC Radio National, ABC Launceston, Hobart, WA, Newcastle, and Melbourne (Richard Stubbs’ program), plus a few local and community radio stations. I also appeared on Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s show and had a feature article about me in the Herald-Sun newspaper.
I employed a publicist because I hate ringing and asking things like ‘Can I please be on your program?’ Or ‘You simply MUST publish my book, because…’ etc. That sort of thing. Part of me says ‘Why would anyone be interested in you?’
And yes, it’s been very worthwhile having a publicist – I can’t sing Alan’s praises highly enough. I’m now a regular guest on ABC Radio’s ‘Overnights’ program, thanks to him.
Did you do anything to build your profile as a writer prior to getting published?
I did a lot of ground-work before I officially ‘launched’ my book to the media, like getting snappy business cards printed, and having a website professionally designed, as well as a few profile photos. (I treat the business of writing as a business.)
Will you sell or promote your book through any non-mainstream outlets?
Whoever wants it, can have it! Whenever I visit a rural town, I always drop in to the local bookstore, introduce myself and leave a copy of my book and business card. You never know your luck in a small city…
Do you or publisher have any plans to sell your books overseas. If so, how?
Not yet. However, I did have some representation at the Bologna Book Fair recently. I live in hope.
How did you decide what content to put on your website?
Good question. I wanted the website to be a reflection of both me and may book, so it took quite a few drafts from the designer before I felt they nailed it. Then I started writing. I also had some one-on-one lessons with the designers so I could upload and manage my own content.
With the website, I wanted to appeal to both young readers and the buyers of my book, which is kind of a ‘ nine-to-ninety’ demographic.
Apart from your website, do you have a strategy for promoting the book online? Will you do a blog specifically for the book?
Yes, I have a few other blogs, but nothing specifically to do with children’s writing. I’m so strapped for time in writing adjunct material for my book to go into primary schools, as well as the day-to-day chaos of my life, that I barely have time to eat, let alone construct another blog and add to it religiously. I think I’m a bit of an Annie Proulx – she didn’t start ‘seriously writing’ until her kids left home. My youngest three children are 15, so I’ve got a few years left before I reach and maintain my maximum writerly output!
How do you promote yourself to schools? What do you offer?
This year’s plan is to visit to schools in rural Victoria. I’m hoping to offer something different to primary schools in two ways: 1) exploring ‘positive’ character traits in Crackpot, and teaching teachers and students how to identify and expand their own strengths, and 2) as a past children’s performer, I’ll then get the children working on their own performance … And I’m going to do this the old fashioned way: snail mail!
Did you write the teachers’ guide for your book?
I wrote it, but also had a student teacher, Nevenka Elvin, study my book and write a research assignment on it, which gave me some great ideas. I also enlisted a colleague and Primary School teacher, Carole Poustie, for tips and guidance.
You are appearing at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne. What are you planning to do for your ‘15 minutes of fame’?
I’ll probably burst a few bubbles when I talk about the 10 year journey it’s taken for my 22,000 word junior fiction novel to be published… But I also want to talk about the up-side, and the sense of achievement and fulfillment I’ve received at the end – and a lot of the time during – the past ten years.
How does your background inform your writing?
We can’t but help put a little bit (or a lot, in some cases) of who we are into what we write. My background is comedy coupled with chaos: nine children (six of them stepchildren), two businesses, a large house on five acres… I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life, as well as some pretty damn fine ones as well; there are many times I laughed when I should have cried, and vice versa. I suppose this makes ‘Crackpot’ a fitting title for my book! I also have very vivid memories of my time as a young child in Central Victoria, in a place called Dingee, and given Crackpot is set in a fictitious rural town, that part of my background, you could say, has also greatly informed my writing.
You were a teacher at Box Hill TAFE. Did this influence you as a writer?
I was a teacher for ten years at Box Hill TAFE – teaching Editing and Writing for Children – up until 2009, when I decided to pull back and devote more time to my own writing. So I’m now unofficially ‘retired’ from teaching. However, I absolutely loved teaching with a passion. My students over the years taught me a lot; I loved their enthusiasm, their envelope-pushing, their passion for writing and reading, as well as their openness and vulnerability. I think teaching influenced me as a story-teller: a good teacher needs to hold the attention of their audience (students), no matter what the subject matter. Humour helps, too, as does compassion. These two qualities – I just realised! – are the two of the main themes within Crackpot.
Are you a full-time writer? How do you structure the days that you write?
I’d like to say I’m a full-time writer, but I’m also a mother, an editor, a ghost writer, a company director and a manager. That’s a lot of eggs. I also need absolute quiet and non-interruption when I write, which is hard to find, and a big ask. So to get big chunks of writing done I often escape to our B & B in Hepburn Springs, where I go into serious lock-down writing mode. (It’s bliss.)
How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? What is it that differentiates you from other authors?
I have absolutely no idea! I do know I absolutely love being up front, entertaining audiences (especially children) and talking about my passions (positive education and parenting). I also love to have a good laugh. I’m not sure if that differentiates me from other authors or not.
If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Judith Rodriguez was right: ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, Fiona.’ In other words, don’t celebrate until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.
Fiona Trembath, thank you.
No no no! Thank YOU!
Fiona’s novel Crackpot is the first of three books. She is currently working on the second and third books in the series: Dingbat and Nutcase. She is also writing a memoir, which she started in 1994.
You can hear Fiona speak at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne on the 26th of May at 6.45pm.
Click here to visit Fiona’s website.
For tomorrow, I’ve got a special mystery guest blogger. She’s a well-known Australian author, and has generously agreed to share her hints for promoting yourself as an emerging writer.