In Conversation with Nina D’Aleo

Fairymead House soared to life with wine, laughter and not just fantasy tales when Aurealis short-listed Nina D’Aleo joined Bundaberg readers In Conversation last night.

Cheryse & NinaOver a glass of red and Alowishus canapés, D’Aleo enchanted readers (and a swag of our fave Bundaberg Writers Club convicts, myself included) with her down-to-earth honesty, delicious authenticity and colourful anecdotes of her writing career that started aged seven with a flying horse story, scribed with a feather dipped in water… so even the text was magical and invisible 🙂

Some of the gems from last night’s talk:

Coffee and night-time are credited as the tools behind her successfully writing and publishing her science-fiction-esque novels, despite the busy world of her everyday, which includes two sons aged four and six and a husband (age not supplied) and a psychology career which has demanded further study this year.

Nina received her first rejection at age 13 and didn’t get published until her early 30s. She said she could wallpaper her bedroom with the number of rejection slips and letters that she has received during that time (and it was pretty cheap wallpaper at that).

Her big break, she says, came from a previous Bundaberg WriteFest where she was interviewed and successfully acquired by The Cameron Creswell Agency (agent Sophie Hamley). She said, “I owe (WriteFest Director) Sandy Curtis big time, thank you Sandy.”

Although she’s only been published in recent years, Nina said she always thought of herself as a writer. I think that statement resonated with all the writers present – that it’s not about whether you’re published or not, but that writing is what you are – and WHAT YOU DO.

A background in psychology has injected additional layers of depth into her characters. “Having people tell you their deepest stories helps bring out, I think, a greater depth in your own stories. Readers say my characters have a lot of depth.”

Patricia C Wrede and her world-building resources came highly recommended.

Writing and publishing is a business process as well as a creative process, even though most writers just want to remain in the creative confines of their art

Working on a different book can energise you when you return to a previous WIP, especially a long-term series like the Demon War Chronicles.

Nina struggled with the writing of subsequent novels after publishing her first book because she is very demanding of her writing quality and will often rewrite and rewrite scenes until she is happy with them – and because real life still gets in the way (THIS resonated with all the published authors in attendance).

Nina D’Aleo In Conversation was brought to Bundaberg as part of the Queensland Writers Centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations (1990-2015).

For the first time last night, Bundaberg writers met the delightful Katie Woods, who took over the reins of the Queensland Writers Centre as its new chief executive officer two months.

Katie previously worked at the State Library of Queensland where she was most recently Manager of Reading, Writing and Ideas, and worked closely with the QWC on many partnered projects including Read Around Gladstone and the delivery of the Queensland Writers Fellowships.

Wide Bay writers are always a little nervous when there’s a changing of the guard at QWC. Although the centre is based in Brisbane, it has been highly supportive of its regional members in the past decade, recognising the tyranny of distance and the effect that has on rural careers, and subsequently implementing many initiatives for regional writers and supporting them in fresh and diverse ways. Without the Queensland Writers Centre and their courses, I wouldn’t be where I am today – and I am grateful for their continuing support.

Fortunately, Katie’s love of Queensland writing, and her own empathy for regional Queensland, means the QWC – and Bundaberg writing – are in safe hands for many years to come.

Thanks, Nina, for dropping in at Bundaberg and sharing your deepest thoughts and dreams with us and thanks, Katie (and the QWC), for bringing her to our little sugar town. Finally: Happy Birthday QWC!

For more information about Nina and her books, go troll her website or stalk her on Twitter. I’m very inspired now to check out her books and the other hiddens gems lurking in Momentum’s spec fic collection.

Inside a Librarian’s Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Mind…

David Tennant as Dr WhoMost readers would love to be surrounded by books. Bundaberg Regional Library Youth/Community Services Librarian Sue Gammon not only gets paid to do this every day, but was recently nominated as Australia’s Favourite Librarian* so she gave me permission to journey inside her mind for a fascinating Q&A. These are her answers:

What is your favourite shade of nail polish? Dark Red

What do you eat for breakfast? I’m a yoghurt and toasted muesli person.

What three sMuesli and yoghurtpecial things do you keep on your desk? My porcelain mug, a potted cyclamen and a Marvin the Martian lolly jar.

What sort of a teen were you and what books were you reading back then?  A fairly quiet teen I think, but very involved with books and art. I read almost anything – at that stage I think I was into true crime and fantasy fairly exclusively.

What era was it and what was hot?  The late Seventies – flared jeans, cork shoes, curly hair and horrific music…

What were your favourite books or films back then?  Definitely Lord of The Rings for the book, and probably Star Wars for the movie – I remember seeing it 7 times at the movies!

A Tardis cuppaIf you could have dinner with any three storybook characters (any galaxy, wookies included), who would they be?  Hercule Poirot (as long as I wasn’t the murdered person), Psmith from the PG Wodehouse series, and Dr Who of course!
If you could have afternoon tea with any three authors (any space or time), who would they be? Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens and C.S.Lewis  – and maybe Agatha Christie if I can have a gatecrasher!

Are there any special questions you’d ask them? I’d be learning about their lives, and their impetus to write the books they did. And what they think of how well known their books have become.
Buckaroo BanzaiWhat is your favourite quote from a movie or a book? Buckaroo Banzai across the Fifth Dimension: “Wherever you go – there you are.”

Do you have a favourite genre? Probably Urban Fantasy or Paranormal at present
What are your favourite books? Hard one – I have a lot! My favourite childhood book was Ursula Moray Williams’ The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse (don’t know why exactly, it just was). My current favourite is Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches

What are you reading right now? About 10 books, from non-fiction to thrillers, fantasy and romance
Are you a Hunger Games fan? Yes – I thought the books were great.

What is the next big book happening for YA?  To be honest I have no idea – media dictates a lot these days, so a sleeper novel could go ballistic if a movie is made.

Librarian Sue Gammon (right) with author Anita HeissWhen did you decide to become a librarian? Sadly, when I was about seven, I announced to my parents that I was going to become a librarian and that was it – total focus and nothing else would do! I did think though, that it meant sitting around in libraries reading books all day…

Did you have a favourite librarian when you were growing up?  Yes, the daughter of a family friend became a librarian about 15 years before I did, and inspired me a lot.

Why do you think you are a favourite librarian? I think it’s about making an impact on someone at some stage, and maybe that’s why. I’ve been doing the job for 30 odd years so, it’s nice to know at least someone out there has appreciated something I’ve done.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you not be able to live without? Three books that I could re-read forever.
What gift do you never-ever want to be given? A Country and Western CD – of any kind…

To vote for Sue as Australia’s Favourite Librarian, an initiative of the Australian Library and Information Association, visit Australia’s Favourite Librarian website before April 15. The winner will be announced during Library and Information Week in May.