Oliver Phommavanh, Children’s Author: The Writer’s Studio

Children’s Author Oliver Phommavanh in the The Fairfield Advance.

I spent last week at Voices on the Coast children’s literature festival with author Oliver Phommavanh. Oliver’s sessions were a massive hit with kids, a fusion of his work as comedian, children’s author and all-round madman. Here, we’re lucky enough to get an insight into his process (a surprising mix of Red Bull, shock jocks and Avatar) and an invitation into his writing space.

Where did you write your latest book?
I wrote Con-nerd mostly at home, in my nerdy dungeon aka my bedroom. I also write with my uni friends and haunt libraries around Sydney. My favourite is the state library. I also did a bit of writing when I travelled interstate, squeezing in an hour here and there.

How important to you is the space that you write in?

I’m not too fussed to be honest. I chuck in my earphones and listen to music or talkback radio, drowning any outside noise anyway. As long as I have my laptop or notebook, any space is a good space to write. Except on transport or I’ll get sick!

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you ‘get into character’ at all?
I stick articles, quotes or ideas on sticky notes and scatter them around my desk. They help inspire my characters when I write. When I switch into writing mode, I slip into my character’s head, sort of like Avatar I guess. I let the characters roll around in my head and when I go do other stuff, they speak to me and tell me where the story’s headed. No, I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It hasn’t changed too much, I have upgraded my laptops but that’s about it. Piles of paper rise and fall. A messy desk means that I’m too engrossed in my story to notice.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
If I have a writing day at home, then I write 9 to 12 and then again at 2 to 5. If I’m out and about, then I try to squeeze in an hour. If I have a deadline, then I write pretty much all day and night. It’s uni all over again.

Oliver Phommavanh’s latest book Con-Nerd

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
It sounds really bad but after breakfast I drink a can of V/Red Bull/Monster/whatever energy drink is on sale. Yeah, I don’t drink coffee or tea but I need my caffeine hit. I listen to a lot of talkback radio so when the shock jock starts his show, I begin to write. Some days it’s slow, other days my fingers can’t keep up with my mind. I’ve learnt to ride the rollercoaster of writing, but I make sure that I have something to show for it, even if nothing can be saved in the next draft.

Next week in The Writer’s Studio: Nim’s Island and Raven’s Mountain author Wendy Orr.



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