Paul Jennings – Interview (Dec 2013)

Paul Jennings

Q. Tell us a little about your writing journey. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

I always wanted to be a writer and I thought I was no good because I had a rejection from Women’s Weekly when I was 14 years old. My feelings were so hurt that I didn’t try again until I was 39 years old. I wish I didn’t give up so easily.

Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I think it’s the same for a writer as it is for a person with any job. Because it’s meaningful and useful and I enjoy it, I get a lot of pleasure from the finished product.

Q. With many titles to your credit has your writing process changed since you first began?

My skills and abilities have probably improved with practice and time. My work may have grown a little more serious but I always seek to entertain with my stories.

Q. What tools do you use in your writing process?

An old exercise book in which I write my ideas and outlines. I use a word processor and a printer. I usually do about ten drafts for each story.

Q. Do your characters wake you up at night with ideas?

I have written a couple of stories from dreams, including one which provided me with a wonderful surprise ending. My characters never come back to haunt me, I always say goodbye to them when I’ve finished the book.

Q. Do you do a first draft, then second etc before you pitch your idea to your publisher?

In the early days I would have to have a couple of short stories finished and edited before signing a contract. These days publishers know that I can do it and I can get a contract before I have written anything.

Q. You have a huge following amongst Australian children both past and present. What advice would you give writers in engaging with their audience?

It is very difficult to know whether one can write fiction successfully or not. There are skills involved, but basically a person is either a story teller or they are not. Your first effort is not always your best, so keep trying and changing your tack, and read, read, read, because that is the fuel you need for your own writing.

Q. Who do you bounce your ideas off? An agent, friends, family etc.

I don’t have an agent but over the years I have had some wonderful editors and publishers to consult. Your friends and family are not reliable judges of your work because they are often kind and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Your editor will always tell you the truth, even if it hurts.

Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?

I would be Ricky from my latest book, Don’t Look Now,  which I wrote with Andrew Weldon. Ricky can fly, and even though it causes him a lot of problems, I would love to give it a go.

Q. What’s next from Paul Jennings?

I don’t know yet, I am having a rest from writing because Don’t Look Now  took a few years to write. I am going to get back into a new project in a month or so – or maybe tomorrow.

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