All The Books I Can Read

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Author Q&A With…. Persephone Nicholas

on August 9, 2013

nicholas, persephoneAustralian author Persephone Nicholas recently released her debut novel, Burned which was the winning entry in the National Seniors Literary Prize. I’ve already read and reviewed Burned, which is a beautifully written novel (you can see my review here). I also had the chance to ask Persephone a few questions about writing and life.

Q1. Hi Persephone and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Congratulations on winning the 2013 National Seniors Literary Prize. How long did it take you to complete Burned from first draft to publishing?

Hi Bree – thanks for having me on the blog. I wrote the first draft of Burned very quickly – it took about six weeks – but completing the manuscript took another couple of years. I had to fit working on the book around my day job, so weeks and months would go by when I didn’t have the time to do anything much with it, but I came back to it when I could and always took the manuscript with me when I went away on holiday. Burned came with me to The Whitsundays, on a cruise around New Zealand and also to Fiji. It was after the Fiji trip last year that I reached a point where I knew the manuscript was as close to finished as it could be without professional help.

Q2. Share a little bit about your writing routine: do you write full time and if so, to schedule or merely when the muse strikes? Do you have a preferred writing location such as a study or café and is there anything you consider necessary to the process, i.e. music or coffee etc.

I’m a full-time writer but I’m usually writing for magazines and newspapers or my corporate clients. I love writing fiction but it has to fit it in around work that pays the mortgage! I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration to strike; ideas come once you start writing. I like quiet when I’m writing and work at home with my dog at my feet. If I’m really stuck with something, I takeher out for a walk or go for a swim in the ocean. A spot of exercise outdoors always seems to do.

Q3. Are you a plotter or do you just wing it and let the story go where it will?

I do a bit of both. I usually have a broad idea of what’s going to happen but sometimes things surprise me. Of course I’ve created the characters in my story, but once I’ve created them their own personalities take over and I don’t feel as though I control everything they say or do. This is definitely the case when I’m writing more emotional or darker scenes – I’m tapping away at the computer, supposedly responsible for what’s happening on the page, but the words that come out of the characters’ mouths or the things they do often shock me.

Q4. The narrative in Burned jumps backwards and forwards in time. What made you decide to tell the story in this way, rather than using a more linear narrative?

I thought it would make for a more compelling story – and allow the reader to compare the characters’ attitudes and emotions at different times more easily. I tried to make the storyline clear for the reader by setting all the past events in Sydney and the present day in Salisbury –and highlighting when the place and year change.

Q5. You also use both adults and children to tell the story. Was it difficult slipping back and forth between the two and did you find one voice easier than another?

As a mum, I’m constantly switching between conversations with adults and talking to children so writing that way came very naturally to me. Writing the parts with teenagers was the hardest, but I tried to tackle that by paying attention to the ways they behave and speak when they’re out and about in public.

Q6. What do you like to do to relax when you’re away from the keyboard?

I love to get outdoors with my husband and kids, my friends, my dog… I live close to the beach and it’s my favourite place to be. If I’m on my own I like to swim and then find a shady spot to relax with a coffee and a good read.

Q7. Share five favourite books and/or authors.

It’s so hard to choose just five, but here are some of my all-time favourites:

  • Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Q8. What do you feel is the most difficult part of the writing process?

Creating the right structure for the narrative. Without this the writer – and reader – can get lost.

Q9. And lastly… what’s next for you?

Winning the Random House/NSLP for Burned was a real highlight of my writing career. I’m definitely looking forward to writing more books. I’m currently working on my second novel and hope to complete it this year.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

Thank you for your time Persephone and best of luck with your second novel. I look forward to reading it when it’s ready!

Follow Persephone on twitter
Read her blog
See her page at Random House AU
Check out her website
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Burned

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One response to “Author Q&A With…. Persephone Nicholas

  1. Thanks for the interesting post. Burned sounds like a compelling read and I will be sure to follow it up! I agree with Persephone about not waiting for inspiration to strike; ideas come when you allow mental headspace for intuition. Some lucky days you even grow wings 🙂 I’m also writing this with my dog at my feet. Living near the beach sounds wonderful and a lifestyle to aim for!

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