Margaret wrote to me a while ago to ask if I’d put information about the publication of her new book in our newsletter. I was fascinated by her story and asked if she’d like to be interviewed. She agreed and here’s her story.
Aneeta: Margaret, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s start with something about you. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now and what do you do for a living?
Margaret: I was born in the suburb of Northcote, not far from the city of Melbourne, Victoria Australia. By today’s standards I didn’t move very far.
For a few years I grew up in an almost rural area of open paddocks, farms, creeks and dams. Even while we lived there the subdivisions moved in and nowadays it is an old, almost inner suburb. My childhood memories are of blazingly hot summers and bushfires, and freezingly cold winters, cold enough to freeze icicles on dripping taps and floods.
I have been settled for the last twenty or more years in an underground flat in the Dandenongs, which is up in the hills outside Melbourne. It was built to be fireproof after the Ash Wednesday fires. It is always cool in summer and warm in winter and of course fire proof which is very important in the hills area where I live.
What I did for a living for years was office work, and wrote in my spare time. Now I have reached the age where all my time should be spare except I seem to have time maintenance problems.
Aneeta: I am aware that you have a book that’s about to be published. Before we go to that, please give my readers and idea about your writing/publishing history.
Margaret: My writing history must go back to childhood, to having essays read out over the school assembly, to writing and illustrating picture books for younger cousins (in exercise books which should have been put to more academic use) and sending off ten page badly written letters to all my male relatives away fighting the war.
I went into an advertising agency to do secretarial work and ended up as their copywriter. I didn’t start writing fiction (sorry, I know advertising copy is fiction) until my children started getting older as you never run out of research material when you are coping with kids. My first published material was a poem read over the ABC. I kept getting fiction, articles and poetry published, and then Penguin took my first children’s book, THE CIRCUS RUNAWAYS, and off I went.
Aneeta: You have told me that your first book is of ‘novelette length’. In all honesty, this is the first time I’ve heard these words. What do they mean, Margaret? How long is a novelette?
Margaret: HOLE IN THE SKY is my second book with Custom Book Publications. They broght out my teenage DR DOOLITTLE’S RING last year. Novelette length seems to depend on the publisher. Some publishers think 20,000 words and talk of it as an overlong short story, and Custom Book Publications are talking of 40/44,000 words for their new teenage series.
Aneeta: Please tell me a little more about ‘Hole in the Sky’.
Margaret: My daughter and her husband were into sky diving and so was my son. Personally I would have been happier if they had taken up stamp collecting as a hobby. I spent a lot of my weekends up the country watching them fall out of planes and breathing out again when their chutes opened. As I say a writer is never short of material with close acquaintance with kids. So I sketched skydivers, watched and put a lot of their exploits into HOLE IN THE SKY.
Aneeta: As you know, this website caters to storytellers. What advice would you give to those who would like to venture into storytelling?
Margaret: Don’t think I’m a good person to advise other writers whether to take their writing seriously or be a hobby writer. I write because I am a compulsive writer and getting published is very good positive reinforcement.
Never write for the clink of the cash register (unless you are a copy writer). Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and be on the right wave length so publishers and editors love you, but mostly your satisfaction is in achieving a form of communicating. Writing is an adventure because you never finish learning. It can be a form of self expression and creativity always gives the creator a buzz.
Aneeta: Margaret, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Margaret: Said it all.
Aneeta: Thank you, Margaret.
Margaret: Aneeta, thank you for offering to listen to me.
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