authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Wendy Orr


It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week we’ve featured a book creator who answered one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) This is our last Pass the Book Baton post for 2016 but — after a summer break — we’ll be continuing with the series in 2017.


Today the book baton is passed to author Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song. (You can read an excerpt if you go to the publisher’s site.)

Here are some of Wendy Orr’s book covers:

Last week Anna Ciddor asked:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?

Wendy answers:
I agree with Anna Ciddor that it’s fascinating to find out how other authors work! It always seems to bear out the Somerset Maugham quote that there are three rules for writing a novel, but nobody knows what they are. I’m also intrigued — or depressed, depending on the day — that as soon as I figure out my own rules, I start a new book and the rules change. However, I always need to know several things before I start the book — the first scene and first line, a climactic scene, and the ending. Details about the ending sometimes change, but I have to know where it’s heading. And in general, I seem to be planning more now than I used to. For Dragonfly Song, when my editor asked if the first deadline was achievable, I made a list of all the scenes from where I was till the end. It was amazingly helpful (who knew!). Of course there were still surprises and aha! moments of insight, but I stuck to it fairly closely. Admittedly the book had been freewheeling in my head for the previous year.

As for speed — how I envy those fast writers! I’m very slow. It’s true I’ve got a huge list of books, but I’ve been writing for 30 years, and many of my early books were small. Dragonfly Song took 22 months, (ignoring several false starts over the previous 5 years) without working on anything else. I rewrite obsessively — and oh yes, the research! The two main problems are that I don’t always know what I need till I find it, and conversely, sometimes some little fact really has to be clarified before I can continue with the story. Then down the rabbit hole I go … And then have to rewrite again because there was too much research showing, and sometimes obscure facts have to be bent to suit the story! But what a feeling when I work something out to suit the story, thinking I’ve purely made it up — and then find the research that says my theory is right!

But all I really care about once a book finished is that the reader enjoys it and believes in it while they’re reading.

Happy reading!


ERIC VALE OFF THE RAILSAnd now Wendy Orr passes the baton to the next visitor — Michael Gerard Bauer. Michael is an award-winning author who writes humorous books for children and young adults.

Wendy asks:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’   that started the process.) Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

The series will be taking a break over the summer school holidays. We’ll leave Michael Gerard Bauer with some thinking music while he considers Wendy’s question …

And Pass the Book Baton will resume in 2017 with his answer.

See you next year! (While you’re waiting, you can check out all the book creators who have had the baton so far.)








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