The summer ’09 issue of Alphabet Soup includes a Q&A with Christine Harris. We decided to publish the Q&A here too, with a couple of extra sections that didn’t fit onto the pages for the magazine layout!
Christine Harris is the author of 50 books, including Audrey of the Outback. She was nine years old and sitting up a tree when she wrote her first book. (She claims not to sit in trees when she writes these days. Perhaps it’s too hard to lug a computer up there.)
What do you love best about being a writer?
The surprises, in both the writing and the things I learn about the world, myself and my characters.
The readers that I meet in person and through emails, I love their enthusiasm and eccentric ways of viewing life.
Freedom and the ability to make a difference with my words.
Where do you live?
In my head mostly. But my house is in Mt Barker, South Australia
What made you become a writer?
An impulse that I can only describe as a driving force. Even as a child I was captured by stories, telling them, reading them and then writing some.
Was it easy to get your first book published?
No. But I was determined. I gave myself three years to make something happen. I started with competitions, then went onto articles in magazine and newspapers and, eventually, publishers. I have had books shortlisted for prizes that were rejected previously by other publishers. My first short story was rejected 17 times, before someone said yes.
So? All great things take a lot of effort! The trick is to inform yourself of your best markets, be professional, creative and never give up.
Are there any ‘downsides’ to being a writer?
Starvation, isolation … any ‘ation’ you can probably think of. But, seriously, it is important to get out sometimes, rather than just staring at a computer all day. Talk to another human at least once a day. And it’s hard waiting for my agent or a publisher to say whether they like my material or not. That’s agony. Some parts of writing are boring, but not many. And if I feel like that I take a break or play music or sounds. I bought some CD which are just natural sounds like birds or rain or the ocean and they have no music or words.
What was your favourite book as a child?
A Wrinkle in Time. Scared the pants off me. Then there was Midwich Cuckoos, The Chrysalids – oops, looks as though I like being scared.
Do you have any pets?
Just my husband, David. And he’s quite house trained.
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?
Anything I see, hear, feel, smell, read … sparks come from all manner of places. What is important is to let the idea run its full length, allow time to mull over it, ask ‘What If?’ and write notes.
Of your own books, which is your favourite?
I don’t have a favourite because I only write books I like, and it depends on my mood which genre I might choose on any day.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Knit, watch movies, work in my garden, hike, read, and scour YouTube for funny videos.
Do you mostly write in a paper journal, or use a computer?
Computer, these days. My handwriting is awful now, and I can type faster. Also typing on the computer allows me to change or save very easily. But I do have a collection of notebooks that I use for ideas and some planning.
Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us something about it?
Maze is a psychological thriller for readers 11+ and I am halfway through, but I can’t talk about it as I am superstitious and think it will disappear if I talk about it too soon.
Do you have any advice for young writers?
Write often, in your own voice, and remember to enjoy it!