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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Interview with Yvonne Walus

(This was an interview I did for one of the pupils in an Auckland Intermediate school.)

What advice would you give any young reader with publishing dreams?
A: Think very carefully why you want to write a book. Is it for money or fame? Chances are, you won’t get either. Approximately a million books get published every year in the USA alone, not counting England or Australia or New Zealand. Your book will be one of the million. You will have to be both extremely good and extremely lucky to become a bestseller.

If you want to write for the sheer pleasure of writing, though, go ahead. You’re a real writer.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
A: I’ve always had a burning urge to write. I wrote letters to my friends (who sat next to me at school), I wrote poetry, I wrote short stories. Books were a natural progression from that. My first book was a murder mystery, because that’s the genre I enjoyed reading. I wanted to be another Agatha Christie. Now that I read thrillers, of course, I want to be anther Lee Child.

Do you have a specific writing style?
A: My writing style is chatty rather than formal, hopefully with a touch of humour. I try to make my writing beautiful and unique. For example, why write: “He circled an ad in the Classified section”, when you could instead say something like this: “The crayon moved down the page. Red, livid, ready. Spread on the table, splayed open like a sacrifice, was the Classified section of the New Zealand Herald. He could’ve found the information faster online, but the risk of leaving an electronic trail made him turn to the old fashioned, the tactile, the untraceable.

How did you come up with the title? 
A: My first murder mystery was called “The butler did it”. I thought it was funny, as there was no butler in the story. But the publisher changed it to “Murder @ Play” because the phrase “murder at play” can mean different things to different people, and the @ symbol was important because the killer was caught using computer technology.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
A: Always. In my opinion, if a book has no message, what’s the point of reading it?

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? 
A: Let me see. I never base my characters on a specific person, because they could sue me if I said something they didn’t like. But sometimes I get inspired by real-life people. In one of my murder mysteries, the victim was someone very much like an ex-boss of mine. I must say, I enjoyed writing that book probably more than I should have.

you got to choose a current author as your mentor, who would it be?
A: One of the bestselling thriller writers, like Tess Gerritsen or Lee Child.

What book are you reading now? 
A: A thriller by a South African writer called Deon Meyer. And a parenting book titled “Taming the Tiger Parent”.

What are your current projects? 
A: I’ve written a thriller set in Auckland, and my agent likes it very much but would like me to do some revisions. While doing that, I’m also plotting my new thriller set at a boarding school. Oh, and not to forget that travel article about Singapore that I have to submit to a magazine. J

Do you see writing as a career? 
A: Definitely. It’s something I take as seriously as my day job, even though it doesn’t pay as much.

Who designed the covers? 
A: Publishers employ graphic artists to do it for us. They are expert at making sure the cover looks good as a small image on the computer screen at as well as on a paper book.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
A: It’s always the first page, the first chapter, the first half. The more you get into your book, the easier it becomes.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 

A: My books are unique because I make sure the setting plays a crucial part in the plot. You can’t take a book of mine set in South Africa and rewrite it so that it now happens in New York. Can’t be done. It’s like you can’t set The Hunger Games in Auckland.

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