1. I’ve written a book. How do I get it published?
The query process can be a lengthy and sometimes discouraging one. Most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and you need to get an agent first. My first book was written on commission and so it was assured of publication, but my Telesa book was rejected by many agents and a couple of publishers. If you are considering indie /self publishing, you can read about my experiences and advice here:
2. I’ve written a book…some poetry…a play… Can you please read it?
I regret that I’m not able to read people’s unpublished work or critique works in progress etc. I’m crazy busy with children/home/church/work and life in general and it’s important that I prioritize my own writing or else the next book wont happen.
3. How do you deal with writer’s block?
For me, it helps to remember that writing is not a hobby or a fun pastime for when I’m ‘feeling bored’. Writing a novel is work and one must approach it as such. Whatever your personal situation is, allocate a set amount of time each day for writing and then don’t allow anything to disrupt that. Likewise, work can be boring, stressful, and something that one dreads. The same goes for writing. There are some chapters/scenes that you will be excited to get on paper and then other days, you will hate the sight of your novel. If you expect to LOVE LOVE LOVE writing every minute you attempt it – then you will be disappointed and quit when it gets tough. I like to work on two projects at a time, preferably books that are quite different from the other. That way, I will spend an hour on one and then work on the other book for an hour.
4. What inspires you?
My children are my greatest source of creative inspiration. Twelve years ago, after the birth of our third child, I decided to quit my teaching job, become a full-time ‘stay-at-home’ parent and help my husband with his construction company. There were many people who were horrified with my decision. Particularly my female friends pursing their careers. They warned I would ‘go brain dead’ and suffocate in the domestic sphere, be miserable and more. For me though, the opposite happened. The flexibility of being ‘my own boss’ allowed me to begin writing in earnest. The ‘domestic goddess’ sphere has been a creative furnace for me. And children can help you see the magic in everything – when they’re not driving you nuts.
5. How has your Samoan culture affected you as a writer, both good and bad?
In the Samoan culture, one is never just an individual. One is part of an extended family and community, as well as an heir to a rich geneaology. There is incredible strength and support in this kinship and connectedness. We always have a family ‘aiga’ to support us. My life’s journey as a daughter, student, teacher, wife, mother and then as a writer has been nurtured continually by this. At the same time, it can be challenging because I worry about how my writing will reflect on my extended family and my community. Subjects like sex, love and romance are not always discussed openly in our culture and to address them in a contemporary fantasy adventure series written for young adults makes me feel like I’m walking on eggshells… I look to the example of Pacific writing legends like Albert Wendt and Sia Figiel who have the courage to write with fierce honesty and I am inspired by their strength.
6. Is there a technical side to your creative process?
There didn’t used to be. As a super-stressed out mother, I write everywhere and anywhere that I can, carting my laptop from the bedroom to the kitchen table to the living room sofa. I didn’t plan or map out anything when I was writing the first Telesa book and so the final product was a nightmare mess for my editor to deal with. Things like – a teacher having one name on pg 24 and another name on pg 67, tattoos that miraculously moved from one arm to the other as the book progressed…messy. I’ve had to accept that writing a series requires planning and so I take the time now to talk out ideas with my daughter and together we try to map a plot before I write it. I constantly rewrite my writing, refining it and rewording it. I always read sections out loud so I can hear them and ‘see’ them. I need to see my scenes come alive like a movie playing – and if they don’t flow like a movie – then I need to rewrite them.
7. Does writing “come naturally” to you?
Writing is a breeze. I love doing it. It’s crazy exhilarating to create people and chart their stories. BUT revising and rewriting and improving my writing – that’s what is hard work. That’s what I dread but I have to do it because otherwise everything I write would be rubbish. I have so much to learn. I do a lot of research, I study a lot of other writer’s techniques. I read voraciously. When I find a book I like – I ask myself why and identify what can I learn from that author’s technique? I watch a lot of movies. I think that writers have a lot to learn from movies and television. Both good and bad. Especially when it comes to writing action and event sequences. Knowing how to make reading flow, what kind of dialogue is realistic and what to do to leave readers hungry for more. After I watch a great movie – I come home on FIRE, just burning to get at my laptop and start writing. An example, the recent Avengers movie. That blew me away. The dialogue in particular was witty, profound and captivating. The portrayal of some of the characters was epic. When I think of a TELESA movie one day? That’s the kind of movie I hope it will be.
There are many different kinds of writer and people need to be certain of what kind of writer they are trying to be. I’m not writing to impress and astound with my grasp of imagery and language – no, I’m writing to tell a story. I’m a storyteller. And I’m always hoping and trying to improve .
8. What does your workplace look like?
My writing workplace is any space in my house – usually wherever the children are so I can pretend to be keeping an eye on them. Usually at the dining table in the kitchen. I have my ear phones on with music on full blast so I can ignore the sibling squabbles. Beside me is the requisite Diet Coke and a pack of Eclipse candy.
9. What’s it like to be a writer? How did you get started? How do you find time to write and be a parent to so many kids?!
I was a blogger waaaay before I was an author of real books so I blogged a lot about the writer life and challenges. Read about them here:
About Author Visits and Book Events
10. Can you come speak at our school / Festival / conference ?
I enjoy the opportunity to visit places and speak about any of the following: Writing, Publishing, Education, Pacific Literature, Blogging, Social Media for the Small Business, Womens Empowerment Issues, Recovery and Healing from Sexual Violence/Abuse. I waive my speaking fee for schools. Living in NZ made accepting speaking engagements a lot easier. I now live in Samoa though, so unless your organization is able to fly me to you – I can’t accept any invitations. There are book tours planned for whenever a new book is released and so it’s possible to combine a visit to your school etc – with one of my trips to your area for a book launch. Please check my Calendar of Upcoming Events for more information about dates. Alternatively, use the Contact page and send me details of your proposed event.
About the Telesa Series
11. I haven’t read any of your Telesa books yet. What comes first?
In order, the Telesa Series:
1.5 I am Daniel Tahi (Novella from Daniel’s point of view.)
12. Will there be a Telesa movie?
There’s been some exciting developments in this area. Read about them here: A Telesa Movie.
13. Where did you get the idea for Telesa?
There are many legends and stories whispered in Samoa about ‘teine Sa’, spirit/demon women who have supernatural powers. They are guardians of various areas in the islands – like rivers, forests, a particular village etc. They curse, bewitch, poison, and kill those who defy their rules and disrespect their lands etc. There is a lot of fear and respect given to these legends and many people believe in their existence. As a child growing up in Samoa, I often questioned my father and other elders about the ‘teine Sa’, because I wanted to know more about them. Who were they exactly and where did they originate? People did not like my questions and I got very few answers. Mainly because teine Sa are such a taboo topic and also because, few people really know much about them at all. I took that unfulfilled curiousity and used it to dream up the Telesa women in my books. They are nothing much like the original legends as they are my creative interpretation of them.
14. What’s it like to create a main character in a Young Adult book series?
It’s super exciting, thrilling stuff. You get to draw up this blueprint for a person and then as you write their story, your imagination takes off in all directions as you wonder, why is she this way? Why would she make that choice? What influenced her to act like that? Young adults are such fascinating characters. They are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit. Trying to handle all sorts of emotions and new experiences as they find their place in the world.
15. What do you like most about your line of work?
Being able to do what I love. All day. Every day. (Well, in between trying to be nice to my children.) I like that I don’t even need to leave my house – to be transported to a whole other world of mythology intertwined with magical realism and teenage angst.