I love hosting and interviewing authors on my blog, no matter their journey to this point, no matter how they became published. And today, I'm pleased to welcome an indie author from my neck of the woods!
Please welcome AV Mather!
AV Mather is a Brisbane-based writer of fantasy adventure stories for Young Adults, Middle Grade and Children, and author of Refuge. Previous career experience includes work as a Scenic Artist and Secondary School Art teacher. Interests include art, history, psychology, imagery, popular culture, road trips and good stories, real and imagined.
To find out more about Alison and her books, click the links below!
Who are you and what do you write?
Hi, my name is Alison and I write MG fantasy adventure stories, under the name AV Mather.
Tell us about your book!
Refuge is about a twelve-year-old Brisbane schoolgirl called Nell, who desperately wants to be noticed by her work-obsessed parents. When she is sent to the tiny township of Sippy Creek to spend two weeks of the summer holidays with her estranged grandfather, on the heels of a catastrophic last day of school, that goal seems even further out of reach. Miserable and lost, Nell wanders the basement of Sippy Creek Public School, searching for the detestable Drama Course that her mother has enrolled her in – when she discovers a sign that she assumes will lead her to where she wants to go. Following the directions, Nell rushes to open the door at the bottom of the stairs. In that instant her wish to escape the mess of her life is granted and she emerges in Refuge, a world born from the last desperate act of eighteenth-century psychiatrist, Doctor Nathaniel Fray.
Refuge is a world like no other, populated by dysfunctional children from different places and times. Like Nell, they have been lured to this seemingly safe haven by Doctor Fray, who provides care and shelter for those in need, but at a terrible price. Truly alone and out of her depth, Nell must decide who to trust among this host of dubious characters. Each has different advice and their own agenda, and she has only three days to choose her future before being trapped in Refuge forever.
This story is about finding your own strength and your own character, regardless of what other people are doing or saying. It can be very difficult to back yourself, particularly when you are young and out of familiar territory. It becomes easy to be taken in and controlled by others, when you are lost and desperate. Nell discovers that she does have worth, beyond the needs and desires of the people around her. She has her own power, and this gives her the courage to forge her own path.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
Writing began late in life for me, as an accumulation of triggers. I have always been an extremely communicative, if not confident, person. I am an only child with a huge imagination, who grew up in a semi-rural suburb of Brisbane in the seventies/eighties. My mother was an academic Canadian who made a point of fostering in me a love of books. As a devotee of Jungian psychology, she had a fondness for fairy tales, myths and legends from all over the world, so these were my bedtime stories. My father was raised on a dairy farm at a time when – unimaginable today – the only form of entertainment was a radio. So, like most farmers, he was always fond of a yarn, and the more entertaining the better.
Words and the ability to craft language have always dazzled me. Along with the fairy tales and standard coming-of-age novels, I grew up with the wonderful comedy writing of Spike Milligan, Monty Python and Douglas Adams. Fantasy was always my first love, though, and I hero-worshipped anyone who could make a fantasy story seem as real as everyday life. After growing up and completing a degree in Visual Arts, the idea was kicked around that my mother and I should write and illustrate story books. It never went any further, sadly, but it did ignite a flame of interest.
After leaving my job as a high school Art teacher, the flame grew stronger and was fuelled by the experience of communicating ideas and knowledge to young people. I decided to take the next step of exploring that by writing stories.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Like running the 100 metres in the Olympics at five different speeds and constantly having to stop and go back to the beginning again, while maintaining an enthusiastic smile.
I first wrote a story for young children, entitled Violet Green, had some interest but no success in finding a publisher for it, and then I wrote Refuge. It took me about six months to write and then another two years to rewrite and edit. I tried to interest publishers in the story for another year without result and then decided to have a professional manuscript assessment done. This was the best move I could have made and I only wish I had thought of it earlier. A couple of months later I had signed with an agency in London and felt like I was finally on my way.
Unfortunately, it coincided precisely with hard times for the publishing industry and doors closed tightly. After pursuing avenues for four years, my agent decided to leave the children and YA sector and focus on adult fiction, which put me back at the beginning again. In all honesty, I had all but decided to put Refuge away when it was suggested that I go ahead and publish it through Amazon. As the book had already been professionally edited and was ready to be published, I decided to go ahead, back myself and become an Indie Author.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
In my experience, the hardest part of writing books has been trying to get them agented/published. It makes writing them seem like a working vacation and bears almost no relation to the creative process at all, despite being the second half of the equation. It is almost like a conflation of two entirely separate industries. The most devoted support system for those who’ve made it inside the walls, and yet the most exclusive club for those scratching at the door.
The most enjoyable experience is getting to live for a while in a fantasy world of your own making. To create every part of it. That time when everything is flowing and you are living entirely inside your own creation, simply recording it as it happens around you.
Also, having a young person enjoy your book so much that they choose to dress up as one of the characters for Book Week. That is very special.
Would you go back and change anything?
Yes, I would have made a few different decisions but I think anyone who hasn’t experienced instant success would say the same.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
If life has taught me anything to date, it’s not to be too prescriptive about the future. I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve for stories that I would like to write, and hopefully more that will appear when they’re ready.
I feel like I owe Nell another trip to Refuge, despite the trauma the first one caused her. She has unfinished business there and some disreputable characters are still at large. I would also like to give readers the opportunity to spend some more time with their favourite characters.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Think hard about how you are going to cope with repeated disappointment. There are few situations in life that can prepare you for the knockbacks that are par for the course in publishing. We are conditioned to say to ourselves, ‘I’ve been refused ten times now, surely it has to be my turn next’, when in reality it doesn’t work like that at all. You may well be the one in a thousand who scores on their first try, but the odds are that you will be knocked back often. Industry insiders are not exaggerating when they say that there are thousands of brilliant manuscripts out there that will never become books. Take that to heart and do everything you can to give your story the best chance of success. Start by seeking an unbiased opinion of your work. If you think it is worth proceeding and it is within your means, get a professional manuscript assessment. If you can’t afford it, research the process and get your manuscript into the best shape you can. Do not throw away your one shot with a publisher on messy work. Be aware that you will be doing all this hard work for free and that it will not guarantee success, only improve your chances. You must be able to accept that and still do it anyway.
Ketchup or Mayo? - Mayo.
Night or Day? - Night.
Inside or Outside? - Both.
Dogs or Cats? - Cats to look at, dogs for company.
Twitter or Facebook? - Instagram. I love pictures.
Ebook or Paperback? - Both.
Walk or Drive? - Drive, so I can go further.
Sun or Rain? - Rain.
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Keyboard, now that I have taught myself to touch type.
Comedy or Drama? - Drama.
Chips or Chocolate? - Both, please.
Thanks for joining me, Alison, and good luck with Refuge!
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