As a writer you need to be a bit of a magpie. Tuck things away you hear or see.
Fleur Beale is one of New Zealand’s favourite and most prolific Young Adult and Children’s authors. She’s written 40 books, is winner of the 2012 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and her most recent title, Dirt Bomb, has been shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.
And now she has the dubious honour of being the first author I’ve heard speak at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012.
Yes, I’ve made it to Auckland! It’s wonderful to be here.
The friendly taxi driver drove along evenly surfaced roads to our central city base right in the middle of – be prepared to read and weep – a fully functioning metropolis. I just had time to touch base with my colleagues before I realised I only had 20 minutes to get to Fleur Beale’s session.
“Turn right. You can’t miss it,” they called as I tried to exit through the fire doors. Funny how finding your way around tall buildings is confusing these days. Anyway, they were right. You can’t miss the beautifully designed and very central Aotea Centre. I made the session with five minutes to spare.
Fleur Beale spoke to a large audience of mainly young adults. She looked small on stage but her passion for her craft soon filled the space and the audience listened attentively.
She discussed her new novel, Dirt Bomb, the story of Jake who desperately wants to buy a car but has no money and is ‘allergic’ to the idea of getting a job. The author explained how placing a challenge in front of your characters creates a story.
She stressed the need for accuracy in fiction to made a story believable. Not a car fanatic, she enlisted the help of her mechanic brother when she was unsure about the tricky technical bits. No motorhead would accept a story that confused a points differential with a points distributor. The publishers even got a designer who is a ‘real Holden expert’ to do the cover.
Fleur Beale then went on to talk about Heart of Danger which is the third part of her Juno of Taris series.
The story behind the invention of Taris, her dystopian vision, was fascinating. Fleur was due to meet a friend in New York in September 2001. Of course, events happened to prevent her travel but six weeks later she decided it was safe for her to go. She arrived in New York City on Halloween and the flight crew were all in fancy dress costumes but their underlying anxiety was palpable.
Ground Zero was still smouldering, flags and flowers were everywhere and there was a sense that New York was shut off from the outside world. This experience made the author imagine what it would be like to be in a place that really is isolated. The dome-covered island of Taris in the cold southern ocean was born.
I won’t give away too much about the fate of Juno in case you are yet to start the award winning series but if on completion you’re still curious to see how Juno’s romantic relationship ends, the author has published this extra tale online.
A lively question and answer session followed. Someone asked the Fleur Beale what advice she would give to young writers. She said to be an author you must read a lot and enter any competition you can to gain practice at writing to deadlines and word limits. She also recommended reading a book first for pleasure then again to examine passages that worked particularly well. It would certainly be worth examining Fleur Beale’s novels in depth. She’s doing it right, no doubt about it.
The strength of writing comes from nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs.