Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books: Children's Author Gabrielle Wang: The Writer's Studio

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Children's Author Gabrielle Wang: The Writer's Studio

Author / Illustrator Gabrielle Wang

Author / illustrator Gabrielle Wang has worked as a sales girl, abalone sheller, dishwasher, waitress, graphic designer, English teacher and Chinese teacher. She says she wasn’t particularly good at writing  at school but is now the author and illustrator of lots of books for young people. Here she gives an intimate insight into where and how she approaches the creative process.

Where did you write your latest book? 
My latest series of books are the Poppy books published this year. They were written in my writing room in Melbourne. I liken this room to a bear's den. It’s dark and a bit gloomy, but it does have a lovely view out onto a bed of camellia trees, which are in full bloom at the moment.

How important to you is the space that you write in?
When I first started writing I took over a small corner of our bedroom, propped my laptop on an old cane table and wrote my first two books there. Later, as my writing grew into a profession, I set up the office I use today. But I also enjoy working on the kitchen table, or in the back room where the sun streams in, or in a noisy cafe. It all depends on what stage I'm up to in my WIP, and how I’m feeling.
Gabrielle Wang's Writing Room
When I’m writing the very first draft of a new book, I like to sit in a cafe with a pen and notebook. That way I won’t be tempted to do housework. Even the ironing is more enticing than working on my novel sometimes. I find writing such hard work that I need to take myself away. I often go down to a friend’s beach house on the Great Ocean Road. I love it there. It’s just me and my dog, the koalas and the kookaburras. It would have to be my favourite place to write.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
My actual writing room is very messy. But the space inside my head, where the story is written, is tidy. That is where my writing space really exists. I turn my eyes inward and let the story play out at the back of my mind. I always begin a new novel with the setting because that is where my characters will act out their story. Perhaps it’s because I was a graphic designer and illustrator that I tend to see the story like a movie.

The Poppy Books by Gabrielle Wang
Do you 'get into character' at all?
If I’m writing dialogue I might put on a certain voice in order to hear the dialect of my character. Or if I’m writing an action scene I sometimes role play the action to see how the characters would interact with each other.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
As I mentioned before, I began writing in a corner of my bedroom and used my bed to spread out various drafts of my novel. But as my writing life took over, I needed to file things away. I needed bookshelves, a space for all the printed drafts and editor’s notes and reference books. And I also needed a filing cabinet for the business side of writing. And because I still illustrate I have taken over the dining room as my painting studio.
Gabrielle Wang's Painting Room
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
During the week, I keep very regular hours. I begin around 8.00 am and write until about 2.30. I’m always best in the morning. A few weeks ago I lost my dog of 14 years. I would take her for walks everyday and gather fresh ideas or sort out plot problems. A dog will always be a part of my life. On the weekends I’m a bit more flexible when it comes to work, but I do like to write everyday.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Sometimes I practice taiqi, which is a great way to calm the spirit. Before I go into my writing room, I have to tidy the kitchen. If there are dishes lying around I feel quite unsettled. After that I make a pot of Dragon Well Tea and begin my writing day.

Thanks Gabrielle. I was lucky enough to be interviewed over at recently as part of the How Writers Work series. Next week, another children's author will be here to take us inside their world. Meanwhile, here's a link to previous authors and illustrators in The Writer's Studio.

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