Currently I am writing a lot of children's fantasy. I enjoy writing in that genre but I have ideas for some children's science fiction and some young adult drama too. When I decided that I was ready to write my first book I was trying to choose between some adult drama ideas, a science fiction idea and a science fiction comedy. But I was distracted from all three by the first sentence of The Ordinary Animals, which had started to pop into my head at inconvenient times, like when I was trying to sleep. I ignored it for as long as I could, but eventually gave in and explored the story about the boy who is being chased by bullies and gets onto the wrong bus. Once I knew how exciting the book was going to be I put all thoughts of writing for adults aside and concentrated on writing The Ordinary Animals. Now there are a dozen or so children's books sitting on a shelf in my mind waiting for me to write them.
2. Do you use an outline or just start writing?
I always have an outline. When I get an idea for a story I write it down immediately, I have a terrible memory. I try to keep the original idea as open as possible, giving just enough detail to ensure I've captured the essence of the story. Years can pass between having the idea and writing the story. When I start writing I explore the story and characters while I develop the plot. Then I think about it some more before sitting down to write it. With The Ordinary Animals the plot was very open when I began. I think this is because I didn't know all of the characters or have a full understanding of the universe in which the story is set. I needed to send it off to every possible angle, then pull things back in to keep the story tight. I'm currently writing the second book in the series, called The Ordinary Animals and People. I have found that plotting this book was much easier, possibly because I had already explored a lot of it while writing the first book.
3. What is your next project?
There’s the next Ordinary Animals book and in my down time I'm plotting a different book about a family of two, a boy and his mother - that one's a bit sad. It took me seven years to write The Ordinary Animals. I hope to have the next one ready and on sale before the end of 2013. I've already started it but I'm about 6 weeks behind schedule. Once your first book is published there are so many interesting distractions to keep you from writing your next one.
4. When did you start writing?
I've been asked this question a few times and each time I blunder about trying to work out if it was when I started The Ordinary Animals, or was it when I came second in the New South Wales Writers’ Centre Poetry cup or when I was 30 or 20 or 15. The real answer is that I don't know when I didn't have stories to tell. The first time I remember putting a story to paper was in Grade 4 in Primary School. The story was about a lost polar bear. I might have a go at re-writing it someday.
5. What is your favorite memory?
I tend not to have favourites – so many things are great that it’s hard to work out which is best - but I do have two memories that can take my mind to the special, peaceful place where we all need to go from time to time. The first memory is from a holiday I had in Thailand. I took an overnight, rice barge cruise down the Chao Phraya River. At sunset we came to the outskirts of Bangkok, passing houses built on the river's edge. People were arriving home for the day and there was plenty of washing, cooking and eating activity. A cooling breeze brushed away the heat of the day, so I sat back in my chair and enjoyed the golden sights and wafting sounds of another day's end.
Memory number two is similar yet very different. I live in Sydney and am a big fan of Philip Glass and his music. About 15 years ago some friends and I bought last minute tickets to see him perform at the Sydney Opera House. Our seats were scattered, so we couldn't sit together. Drawing the short straw I was left to sit up in the Gods, about as far away from the stage as you can get – it didn’t matter, the performance was incredible and there were no bad seats that night. It was the Solo Piano tour, so on the stage there was one man and one piano, nothing and nobody else. I remember the last number with vivid detail. It was called, Wichita Sutra Vortex. Ever since that night, whenever I hear it, I disappear into my memory, drawn back in time to experience it again.
On one side of me someone coughs, another person fidgets with his jacket, a third person yawns. But none of that matters because the first few notes have arrived, risen from the stage like a caged bird allowed to fly again. It doesn’t fly for long, mere minutes, and all too soon its tail feathers pass my ears as it turns and returns to the cage below.
The music has ended.
I can't applaud. I take a deep breath instead. My chest and arms tremble and a tear finds its way across my cheek. I'm dragged back to the present. There are more tears and I want to go back.
It sounds sad, but it's not. It was a perfect performance and a moment of joy.
Short stories coming soon: http://www.theordinaryanimals.com/detective-oliver-mysteries
Find The Ordinary Animals by Rune Woodman at Amazon