Sandy Fussell – Interview with CKT

Sandy Fussell

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

Having readers. I love that they give my stories an existence outside of my own head. I meet lots of young readers who take ownership of my Samurai Kids  stories; they have ideas for what should happen next and suggestions for new characters. To me, a truly successful story is one that eventually leaves me behind and goes to live on inside a reader’s head.

Q. Where is your favourite place to write?

In my dreams it’s a big uncluttered desk in front of a window overlooking the ocean. In reality it’s anywhere I can find the time and space – most often in my office, surrounded by piles of paperwork I should be doing instead. Sometimes it’s the school bus stop and I’ve even been known to pull over on the way to the supermarket and scrawl scenes on the back of my shopping list!

Q. What tips would you give to an aspiring writer?

Never give up. Read lots. Write lots. Never stop practising your craft. The road to publication is often long and difficult but the only way to get there is to keep putting one foot (word!) after the other and to seek out as many writerly companions as possible along the way. There is no-one more encouraging or supportive than a fellow writer.

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

No. I’m not a good sleeper so I don’t go to bed until I am dead tired and nothing can wake me then. But my characters still harass me. They talk inside my head all day. My plots are all character driven. Once the character starts talking, where the story goes has nothing to do with me anymore. I just write what they tell me.

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

My eldest son was an avid reader until he turned ten. Suddenly all books were boring. I couldn’t find anything that he thought was worth reading so I challenged him to write what he thought was a good story. I was surprised when he agreed. My task was to transcribe but his plot was very random. For example, the main character was a girl and half way through he decided he didn’t like girls anymore and she never got mentioned again! I tried to offer advice and was told to “go write your own story”. So I did and it was so much fun I have been doing it ever since!

Q. Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?

Someone once said to me that a children’s author writes for the child inside them. Inside me – I discovered much to my surprise – is a twelve year old boy. So while I don’t read my stories to potential readers, I do have an inner child who helps out. I have only once read my words aloud to a group of kids – at their request – and when I looked up from the page part way through, they were staring at me rapt. I’ll never forget that (thank you Bellambi Public School). It’s one of my favourite writing experiences.

Q. If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?

Can I have two? From my childhood I would choose William Horwood, who wrote the Duncton Wood  series. I am a great lover of animal fantasy stories and although they are currently not popular (except perhaps for Guardians of Gahoole ), I think one day they will find their place again. I hope so because I have two animal fantasy stories in my head and they are taking up space I need for new ideas. From recent times I would choose Neil Gaiman. Some of the most beautiful and powerful words I have read have been strung together by him.

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

I’ve thought and thought about this question. I even raided my bookshelves for inspiration. There is no-one I want to be. I want to be the one creating the characters.

Q. What’s next from Sandy Fussell?

In the immediate future I have a picture book and a YA novel to be released with Walker Books. While both have been an enjoyable challenge to write, I am keen to return to a middle grade series. I think that’s my writing comfort zone. I’m going to write a historically based fantasy next – sort of set in a museum – my characters are literally taking flight. The main character already has a strong – and loud – voice inside my head and we are currently arguing about some of the secondary characters. He also doesn’t like his name so that will have to change too!

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