I am lucky to have a special guest with me today, and that is Danielle Weiler, author of the YA contemporary Friendship on Fire!
Let's talk to her, shall we?
Hi Danielle! When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I've always written, in some way or another. Whether it was diary entries, poetry, emotive articles, immature stories attempted at 13 and discarded shortly after...
The inspiration and writing bug really hit me in 2009 while I was living in Melbourne. I woke up one cold Sunday morning with Daisy's story on my fingertips. She didn't stop hassling me until I started writing it down. And once I started, I quickly developed RSI in my wrists from the onslaught of information. But it was when I handed it to a year twelve girl and asked her to be brutal that I started to believe in myself. She read it in about two days and pestered me for the rest of the year to send it off to publishers. So I felt brave enough to give it to others after that.
What made you decide you wanted to publish with Sid Harta?
They gave me really positive feedback and believed in my story. They are small and fast-growing and they have a variety of options available for writers. They gave me the leg up I needed.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The first draft of Friendship on Fire was 135,000 words. I could easily have written about it forever. I mean, it does cover the entire school year of year 12. That took me about 3 months and I was teaching full time. I polished it for a while but it still could be pared down a bit I suppose. My second ms took me about 4 weeks for a first draft. Still working full time. I added a heap to it then cut a heap out of it and polished it. It's nearly half the size of FoF. The third ms took me about 2-3 weeks for a first draft and after that I was too scared to touch it in case I'd over-write and have to cut a heap out of it. So I got Sarah to appraise it before adding in meaningful sections to give it more depth. If I'm forced to write I can do it but it might not be good. If I have the right encouragement and inspiration I can be pretty efficient with what I do.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Well my teaching always comes first so that's my day job. I have been known to get up really early before work and write something that's bugging me, or write a few lines here or there in class. I took to taking a journal around with me so I could record ideas that flew my way. I'd then get home from school, park myself on the couch, and write until hubby got home from work. It's generally every night until I purge the story from my system. I don't let it get past midnight, though. I write silly things after midnight.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don't know how different it would be from other writers. My husband says I talk about the characters as if I actually know them. I'm pretty protective of them. I read him random parts of the story and assume he knows what happens in between. I constantly talk about the plot until I nut it out, while he nods and smiles. Now you've got me wondering if I'm quirky at all. I'm naughty and write ahead, not chronologically, OK? That's all I can think of.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I've never researched for a book. I write contemp YA so I make it up from my history as a teenager or people I've come into contact with, or just from my brain. Something about researching seems clinical to me, but I found with my third ms in particular that I hadn't met anyone like the antagonist I created and I don't have a messed up head so I found it hard to convey those steps along the way. I think that's one way I need to grow. The ideas, however, just pop into my head. Generally the main character goes, 'Hello, I'm here. Tell my story.' (in a non-creepy way) and I groan and say, 'I'm busy. Must I? Really?' And it goes from there.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Does it count if I never finished it? When I was about 6+ I would constantly fold up coloured paper and staple it and make stupid little books for my parents to read. That was part of the teacher ‘calling’ too. I got to about 50 pages for the above-mentioned immature book at 13 years old and then the storyline got a bit creepy so I just stopped. That and my mum didn’t like the fact that the MC’s mum was a smoker. It just dampened my spirit. I’m sensitive like that.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Shopping. Going to the beach. I read when I get time but it’s an indulgence. At the moment hubby is trying to be my personal trainer (before summer, you know?). So it’s not that I actually like to do that stuff but I like hanging out with him. I also like my job, most days!
What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My Dad usually reads my first draft and tells me how amazing it is, unless it has really naughty characters in it. My Mum doesn’t like the bad language and raw scenes I put in my stories but she eventually loves the characters with all their flaws just like I tell her she will. I get my sisters-in-law who are my age to have a read too. Hubby is helpful but totally biased. My friends know nothing about the writing world so they are quite useless (sorry). It’s the students who prove most helpful. They tell me if the voice is authentic and they don’t hesitate to tell me if it’s crap.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I could write about characters so unlike myself and so unlike how I would behave and talk and still love them as though they were friends of mine. That writing is addictive. That the yearning to be published never goes away. That it is a big responsibility to be in sole charge of something like a novel.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve written 3 books in 3 years. If I don’t have inspiration, I don’t write in-between because it’d probably kill me to have a day job and be constantly writing. The last 2 are awaiting feedback from publishers. You can’t ask me which one is my favourite – it’s like choosing between children (not that I’d know). But they are all very different and I’ve developed my style across the 3 so I love them for who they were when I wrote them and how they helped me learn for the next one, if that makes any sense at all. Writing from a teenage male voice was very interesting and challenging, so I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finished number 3.
Do you have any suggestions to help budding authors write a good book? If so, what are they?
Read, read, read. You don’t read because you want to copy, you read because it helps
inspire you to write. It gives you hints as to how long a book is in that particular genre,
what type of stories are getting published, what different authors’ voices sound like. Then
try your hand at your own voice. I did it the opposite way in the beginning. I didn’t read
anything or research any YA books before I wrote Friendship on Fire. I didn’t have any
hang-ups or pressures. No one knew I was writing and it was blissful. It was only
afterwards that I read and read and read and adjusted how I wrote the second two. It all
depends on how much you’re willing to adjust and refine your craft.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yeah I do hear from them quite a bit and it helps sustain me. If I’ve had a bad day where I
feel like I’m a failure, I’ll get a little message saying, ‘Just finished reading _________ and
wanted to let you know how much I loved it. It really spoke to me and I’ve given it to (insert
name here) to read.’ Something like that. I love hearing what people thought about
particular characters’ dynamics and how scenes shocked them etc. One girl emailed me
and told me what she thought of the blurb for my second book that I was playing around
with. She joined the two options I had there and it was really cool. Sometimes people who
are unbiased can see a story differently to the writer. Feedback like that spurs me on and
helps me believe that I can actually do it.
What do you think makes a good story?
Strong characters. Strong dialogue. The plot of course is integral but I love immersing
myself in the characters and barely hanging on to find out what they’re going to do/say
next. I’ve just read Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta and I haven’t been able to enjoy
anything since. If you haven’t read it, get it now and it’ll ruin you forever.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A teacher. Always.
Tell me about your newest book.
See, that’s mean. How can I put it in a nutshell? I was playing around with blurbs while writing it and I did the boring ones and then I did this one just as a dare:
Your best friend has gone to Juvenile Detention,
Because of you.
Your other friends blame you.
You want a girl who’s not yours.
Your Mum’s pregnant to an abuser.
You’re in trouble at school again.
You have two strikes against you and you’re that close to going to Juvi yourself.
Seventeen was never meant to be this hard.
What would you do?
(Sarah's note: I've read this one, and it's good!)
Where can we find your books?
All good bookstores (the ones that are still left?) might have it or can at least order it in, or there’s Amazon of course. There are a few random online places that have it. Readings is a good one. Dennis Jones & Associates. Kobo Books. Planet Books. And lastly, I have a secret stash if anyone wants a special one from me.
Thanks so much for visiting Danielle! I have been lucky enough to read an early draft of her next one and I can tell you now it's going to do big things. Look out for it!
Friendship on Fire is available now.
Find Danielle here!