October 18, 2012

Interview with Children's Author Deborah Abela

I'm honoured to welcome popular Australian children's author Deborah Abela to Books for Little Hands. Deborah has dropped by on her
blog tour to share her spooky writing inspiration for her latest Ghost Club Series Book, The Haunted School.

When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

When I was 7. I used to watch lots of TV (Get Smart, The Addams Family, The Munsters…there were a lot) and apart from my semi-serious aspirations of accepting Oscars with hairbrush speeches into the mirror, I mostly marvelled at the writing….how week after week writers came up with such great ideas and dialogue. My sister was also intrigued and became a playwright.

What was your road to publication like?
I wrote and produced a National TV Show for kids for 7 years at Network TEN. It was conveyor belt style writing where every day for 6 days a week we had to come up with ideas for the hosts and write their scripts. It was great pressure cooker experience, but I also craved writing something that would take time and so wrote a few novels in my spare time. My first novel was Max Remy, In Search of the Time and Space Machine. I wrote it in six weeks and sent it to 6 publishers. They all sent hand written letters to say they liked it but, no. A year later I had a call from Random House who said they not only liked it, but they wanted more. I quit my job in TV and have been writing novels ever since.

Tell us about your new Ghost Club series.

It was inspired by Charles Dickens, who not only could see ghosts but formed the Ghost Club in 1862. This was a time of Spiritualism and great advances in inventions and technology, such as the phonograph, and Dickens wanted to use this technology to prove ghosts existed. I decided to create my own club where two of the most successful catchers are 11-year-old twins, Angeline and Edgar Usher. Like the real club, they investigate haunted sites with specialist equipment, but the Usher children try to convince ghosts to stop their haunting pesky ways.

Do you write with an age group in mind?
As the story unfolds, that becomes clear. Who the characters are and how they act and speak with each other, the tone of the scenes and what needs to happen to advance my story… all that comes together as I write and with it, the audience becomes clearer.

Ghost Club 2: The Haunted School, Deborah Abela

What's your secret to making your book characters come to life?

This is what I love about writing characters, they are like real people you see from afar at a party. At first you know the barest about them…what they look like, what they are wearing, but as you spend more time with them, you know more. This is exactly how it is with characters and so at first you are directing them but after spending more time with them, there is a moment where they take over and you watch them behave, talk, act and it’s delightful and sometimes surprising.
Did you visit any spooky places or surround yourself with any scary paraphernalia for writing material?
Oh I’ve read lots of ghost stories and have visited a few spooky sites, plus my family have their own hauntings that poke up in aural histories. I also have a few pictures around me to help me immerse myself in my imagined locations when I write. The rest springboards from there.
Do you have any routine that you follow before writing? Coffee, no noise, walk etc.
I wake up at about 6am and very soon after that I am working….it’s the time of day when my mind is freshest. I don’t look at anything on the internet before midday and rarely answer the phone. I drink lots of very weak tea and work for about 12 hours, with a break in the middle and time for a brief look at emails at around midday, then I’m away again.
Do you present workshops for school-aged children? If so, what do you share about your writing?
Yes! And I love this! I trained as a teacher before travelling for three years and completing a Communications degree. I then worked in TV for 7 years before writing books and am in schools a lot, but we had such brilliant lecturers, that I remember so much about the practical activities they taught us to use in the class. Kids need very little stimulus before their ideas take off….a photo, a few lines of dialogue…I tell them I was a poor kid from the suburbs but I always had this plan to be a writer and wasn’t going to let anyone stop me and that most writers are very regular people and if they want something badly, they can have it too….but it does take a bit of stubbornness and hard work.

Tell us about your other books.

I’ve always been short and a bit of a coward and grew up at a time when being a girl was a dainty thing and you weren’t expected to have a career or ambition beyond being married and the books I read all had male heroes. So, all of the heroes I write tend to be girls, who get to be messy and brave and find themselves in adventurous situations where they have the chance to save the day. I write about kids trapped in a flooded city with flying machines and sea monsters (Grimsdon), feisty girl spies (Max Remy), a plucky girl who saves a seaside pier (The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen) and now kids who face ghosts who they find aren’t as scary as most people think, but are simply beings who need a little help and understanding (Ghost Club).

What's next?

I have just finished the first edit for Ghost Club Part 3: A Transylvanian Tale and am about to start work on book 4….I also potter away on other ideas that wont leave me alone but that I need much more time to get to know better.

Visit the next stop on Deborah’s blog tour:

Did you miss the previous stop? See:

To see all the stops on the tour see http://www.DeborahAbela.com


Mary Preston said...

Fabulous!! I love finding new authors & their works. These all look wonderful.

Neridah McMullin said...

Hi Renee, fascinating interview. Working for 12 hours sounds incredible. Wish I could do that. Have a great weekend. Neridah :-)

Charmaine Clancy said...

Ghost Club looks like a lot of fun :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments, Mary, Neridah, and Charmaine. I'm buying my copies of The Ghost Club this weekend for my 10 year old daughter. She loves mysteries, and spy sort of books and I'm sure she'll love Ghost Club.

DimbutNice said...

Fantastic Renee. Ghosts seem to be cropping up in (my) life more and more often. I can't wait to read Deborah's new books. Exciting stuff.

Traudi Allen said...

It's always so interesting hearing what has inspired other writers.

Traudi Allen said...

It's always so interesting hearing what has inspired other writers.