It's an incredible gift to get a glimpse of the creative process of a writer.
As a reader, a peek behind the curtain to see where the idea for a remarkable book came from feels like being included in a secret society. We know the magic happens somewhere out there, but learning more about an author and their writing habits brings a story to life in a whole new way.
The 2016 Prime Minister's Literary Awards are being announced later today and we spoke to three of the shortlisted authors about their writing habits.
shortlisted in the Fiction category for The Life of Houses
How do you get started each day?
I try to figure out what I want to write that day--what might be interesting or difficult about it--and then go walking along Merri Creek or in Royal Park--places that are a bit messy and feel natural--before I sit down and start.
Any tips for beating writer’s block?
I think that writer's block comes when you want to be writing one thing but feel that you ought to be writing something else. I guess you need to trust to what you want to be writing, as digressive as it may seem – unless it's a shopping list.
, shortlisted for the Australian History category (with co-author Peter Monteath) for The Red Professor
Where do you like to write?
Usually at the kitchen table with my lap-top, or a banana lounge on the verandah – anywhere except a desk!
Usually between 11am until dinnertime, with a couple of breaks for lunch and a solitary walk -s when possible on the beach.
, shortlisted in the Young Adult Fiction category for Becoming Kirrali Lewis
Where do you find inspiration?
When I grew up, as a voracious reader there were no novels with Aboriginal characters with the exception of the ‘Boney’ books. So my first motivation, as a writer, is to reflect Aboriginal lives and people in the stories I write, especially focusing on Aboriginal lives that take place in metropolitan areas.
As for inspiration, it might begin as a little idea - like a splinter – that digs in and is impossible to ignore until I begin to ease it out into a narrative. Many of my stories are based on themes of identity and belonging. I also like to upend stereotypes, and in doing so, mess with the reader’s head and expectations.
Do you have any writing habits you can share?
One habit that I’ve had for many years is to write really flat out during the Christmas/January period. This is because during my adult life I’ve had to combine ‘real’ work (i.e. paid) with creative work (speculative or intermittently paid). I then write on weekends in order to finesse the work. I started writing Becoming Kirrali Lewis
16 years ago. I wrote 60,000 words and periodically came back to it, knowing there was a story to tell. But it wasn’t until I submitted it to Blak & Write! competition and got some encouraging feedback, that I finally finished the manuscript. I resubmitted the following year and, to my great joy, it won. I’d love to say the rest is history but I knew there was still a lot of work to be done on the manuscript. After unsuccessfully trying to negotiate down from four days work per week to two, as I wanted to give the last draft the best shot, I quit the job. For three months there was lots of editing, checking, rewriting and running the script past my teenage daughter (who doesn’t mince words – she lasers them), then I pushed the send button.
Winners of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards are announced later today, Tuesday 8 November, in Canberra. Full shortlists can be found here
Get involved with the discussion with the official awards hashtag: #PMLitAwards