Q. What inspired you to write for children?
Young people are such honest readers. If they don’t like your work, they won’t read it. If they like it they will read it. If they love it, they will read it many times. It will become part of who they are. As a child, I felt life intensely. As the child of refugees, I felt life intensely. As an observer of the world, I felt life intensely. Reading was an escape, entertaining at times, comforting at other times, always a friend . Writing was a way to make sense of the world. I didn’t plan to be a writer. Never thought about it. Once I had children, I told them stories. When I became divorced, it was terrible for my children and me. I saw they needed stories. It became the inspiration to write and publish for children and young adults.
Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Read the books of well known and much loved children’s writers. Read school journals and short stories. Establish a writers’ group to share your work, edit comment, craft, enjoy as well as struggle with the process. Join your local writers’ centre, go to festivals and participate in the creative life. When you feel ready, submit your work to magazines, journals, enter competitions. Research publishers and what they are publishing. Then submit the appropriate work for the appropriate publisher. It’s about a great idea, well written work and timing, luck, persistence, craft and friendship on the way.
Q. Do you begin your stories on the computer or do you use a pen and paper?
I always use the computer as it offers a natural editing process. Pen and paper is too time consuming for me these days.
Q. How long do you live with a character in your head before you bring it to life on paper?
A very long time. My characters are inspired by people I know. Then they change and develop as the story changes and develops. The Nanna is I AM Jack is my mother. Jack is inspired by my son. His sister is inspired by my daughter. So I spend a life time with my characters.
Q. What tips would you give to a potential author in writing their cover letter to a publisher?
Short is very good. One page with a quick pitch and a few sentences about yourself. Publishers have limited time. They usually want your credentials and a good concept. A website and Google presences is helpful.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I love her feistiness, flawed character, independence and then of course, she falls in love and marries one of literature’s greatest male idols – Mr Darcy. He’s most women’s ideal man – tall, dark, handsome, rich, intelligent, but most of all, deeply in love with Elizabeth Bennett. Ahhhh……
Q. What’s next from Susanne Gervay?
I’m working with illustrator Serena Geddes on a beautiful new picture book called ‘Gracie and Josh’ to be published by Ford Street Publishing February 2013. It’s a total joy as the relationship between Josh and his younger sister Gracie is revealed. Josh is going to be a famous movie maker and Gracie dressed as a spider, is going to be famous spider. It’s endorsed by VARIETY, the children’s charity as it gives a voice to children who live with serious illness and their siblings, as they celebrate life. I will also be working on a JACK 4. The feature film ‘I AM JACK’ which is driven by anti school bullying, where JACK is 15-16, is an amalgam of I Am Jack, Super Jack and Always Jack, is in development. It’s exciting.