What five words best describe you?
Happy. Imaginative. Creative. Curious. Restless.
What is a typical writing day for you?
I tend to write in the mornings. I’m a morning person – always have been. My writing superpowers begin to fade as the sun goes down. And when I wake up from a good night’s sleep I’m generally buzzing with ideas. So my typical writing day looks like this: Write all morning until early afternoon. Then edit/read manuscript through to late afternoon. Repeat the following day.
Is there any part of the writing process you don’t like?
Yes – the publishing schedule! It can really test your patience. After writing your book and responding to editor notes, you might find yourself waiting as long as 15 months before your novel is published. You have to learn to be patient!.
Are you a plotter or a panster? (Plotter = Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)
I’m a little bit of both. When I first started writing it was 80% plotting – especially with the Specky Magee and Andy Roid books – these series had huge story arcs and complex subplots that required a lot of mapping out. But recently I’ve come to appreciate the fun in working with a skeleton-outline and sometimes allowing the characters to dictate the direction of the narrative as I go along.
But with all my stories, whether I ‘plot’ or ‘panst’, I always have a pretty clear sense of the ending from the start of the process. I think if you don’t have a target to aim at, you’ll end up taking your readers down an exceedingly circuitous, and generally boring path.
What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?
Back in the nineties I was living in London, working as an actor in West End theatre. Gripped by nostalgia and a tinge of homesickness, I penned my first story about a boy and a dolphin – all set in Australia, of course. I sent it to a literary agent, who then submitted it to a number of publishers. Within a couple of months I had been offered a two-book deal and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, the agent who took my dolphin story discovered another new author a few months later – the one and only J. K. Rowling.
Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?
All the time! One of the most rewarding things about my job is receiving invitations to speak to children at schools and writers’ festivals. Not only do I get a chance to talk about the books I’ve written, but I also get to share my ideas for new stories. Kids are incredibly honest, and quick to give you feedback – even if you don’t ask for it! I tested out the first Specky Magee story for a year before it was published. I had students role-play some of the characters. This allowed me to fine-tune the manuscript, and I ended up incorporating some of the ‘best bits’ from their performances.
What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
“My mother is madly in love with you. She’s loved you longer than she’s loved my dad. But don’t worry, dad’s totally cool with it!”
What’s next from Felice Arena?
I have a couple more Sporty Kids books coming out this year. I had so much fun writing them, but what I’m really excited about is a novel-length book scheduled to come out in March 2017. It’s an adventure set in Italy during World War II. It’s packed with mystery, suspense, danger, and courage. A stand-alone novel, it’s ideal for readers aged 10-13, but I think it’s something adults will also enjoy, I hope. That’s all I can reveal at this stage, but if you want a sneak peek at this new adventure, (and generally any other information about what I’m doing) then follow me at @Fleech on Twitter or Instagram.
Felice’s website: www.felicearena.com