With the launch of his new book Maybe just around the corner haven spoke with Morris Gleitzman to find out the secrets to becoming a writer. His new book hits the shovels on August 28.
What initially drew you to become a writer?
I wrote a lot of stories when I was a kid, but my career ambition was to be a professional soccer player. Unfortunately the school I went to only played rugby, so most of my soccer experience was in the playground kicking a tennis ball around. I couldn’t find a Premier Division club that used tennis balls, so I found a new ambition. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 17.
What’s the best part about being a writer and what’s the worst?
I could write a whole book about it and perhaps I will one day. For now, here are some of main things about being a writer.
- You get to go to work in your pyjamas. I’m wearing mine as I write this.
- It feels very nice seeing your name on books in bookshops and libraries. Sometimes just through the window if they won’t let you in because you’re wearing pyjamas.
- Writing on your own for months can get a bit lonely, but it’s not too bad because the characters keep you company.
- After doing it for 25 years you get a bad back.
- When you’re not writing, you get to travel to different parts of the world and meet readers from different countries.
- You earn money from doing something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid. Pretty lucky, eh?
What do you love about writing books for young people?
See above. Plus young people are the smartest, most passionate, most honest readers around. And many of them are at that exciting age when we start thinking for ourselves. What more could an author ask of his readers?
What is some advice you’d give to young people hoping to become writers?
Welcome to the club. We’re all developing. A good start is to use language you feel comfortable with. Some people think that using big words makes them look more like real writers. Usually it doesn’t. When you’re writing stories, try not to let your characters spend too much time thinking and feeling things without doing things, or doing things without thinking and feeling things. Read lots. Write lots. Read even more.
Do you have a favourite book that you have written and why is it your favourite?
That’s like asking a parent which of their children is their favourite. However, deep down I probably do have favourites, I’m just not admitting it to myself. On my website I’ve written personal stuff about each of my books. I reckon an inquisitive reader could probably find some clues there about possible favourites.
Tell us a bit about your new book that’s coming out at the end of August?
It’s the sixth Felix book and it’s called Maybe. It’s about a make-or-break time for Felix. The spring of 1946, when he comes to Australia to start a new life.
What inspired you to write Maybe? How long did it take?
I’m always thinking about my future books (which is why I walk into things quite a lot) so it’s hard to put a time frame on that part of the process. At least a year, I’d say. Once I start working on a story in earnest, I usually take about nine months. Two months of planning, two months of writing and three months of re-writing and editing. With gaps in between so I can take a breather and get some perspective on where I’m up to and rearrange all my tea into nice matching tins.
Inspiration? Felix’s whole life up to the beginning of this book has been lived in a world of maybe. War is full of uncertainty – you can never be sure if your home, family, pets, friends, school or even self will be around tomorrow. If you’re an optimist like Felix, you hope they will. You want your loved ones to have a future and you want to have one with them.
You also want a future because the world fascinates you with its possibilities. Which is another type of maybe. Maybe, you think, the world will manage, with help from us, to be the best world it can. Which is one of the things I really like about Felix. He’s growing up in the worst of worlds but because of the love and friendship in his life, he can imagine the best. Perhaps. Maybe. With a bit of luck.
I knew from writing Now, the book that jumps ahead to Felix’s 80th birthday, that he comes to Australia as a fourteen year old. I had to write about this huge adventure of his. Crossing the world to start a new life is full of maybes. Maybe I won’t like it. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll be lonely. Maybe I won’t.
There’s another big maybe for Felix in this book. He suspects he might need to have a fight to the death with a revenge-crazed Polish killer. Australia, he hopes, will be a better place for this to happen with its fully-functioning police force and less rubble to trip over than in Europe.
This is the kind of maybe we readers love. We want to know what’ll happen, and even as we read the story to find out, we’re imagining the possibilities. How will Felix survive? Maybe he’ll fight. Maybe he’ll hide. Maybe he’ll make friends with a big tough Aussie bloke and get him to do the stabbing. Maybe he won’t. Maybe his friend Anya will help him instead, and not just because he’s fallen in love with her.
Maybe … maybe … maybe …