We hit the fabulous Jenny Bond with five questions about her writing life, gaining inspiration and her upcoming workshop at the ACT Writers Centre.
What has your writing career involved so far?
I began my professional career as a high school teacher of English, History and Drama. In need of a change after ten years in the classroom, I decided to try my hand at writing. Since then I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had four books published. This includes two non-fiction works, 100 Great Icons (Random House, 2006) and Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara? (Penguin US, 2008) and two novels, Perfect North (Hachette Australia, 2013) and The President’s Lunch (Hachette Australia, 2014). I’m currently redrafting my fourth novel, a task that is at once overwhelming, exhausting and exciting. It’s a little like running a marathon.
You are tutoring a workshop at the Centre on The Basics of Creative Writing. Who do you recommend this workshop to, and what can they expect from it?
Basics of Creative Writing is a foundation course for beginner writers – people who have never written but have a kernel of an idea they’d like to develop. It is also for those who have begun some writing and need the tools and inspiration to keep going. During the one-day course the group will cover the basic elements of fiction writing – voice, point of view, character, dialogue, structure, plot and the drafting process. There’ll be plenty of writing, workshopping and discussion along the way. By the end of the day, students will take home a trusty toolkit of skills they can apply to their own work.
What inspires your creativity?
I don’t need much inspiration to come up with story ideas. I often find myself staring out the window, nurturing the hatchling of a tale in my imagination. Having said that, the basic ideas for both of my published novels came from articles I read in magazines. My current novel began its life while I was watching the tide roll in at Werri Beach on the NSW South Coast. But once I’m buried in the writing process, running on the mountain trail behind my house spurs my creativity. It’s kind of like meditation, I suppose. If I’ve hit a roadblock in regards to plot or character, a lonely run in the hills never fails to clear my mind and set me on the clearest narrative track.
Who are your favourite authors?
They’re an eclectic group. I tend to read across genres and I’m happy to read anything, Dan Brown and Jackie Collins included. My love of books began, when I was a tween, with Agatha Christie and Stephen King, who I still hold very close to my heart. I also love John Irving, AS Byatt, Jane Austen, Raymond Chandler and Henry James. I recently finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was astounded at her talent. Consequently, Adichie has joined my favourites list. I also thoroughly enjoy reading books about writing such as Stephen King’s On Writing. My favourite author in this genre is Anne Lamott, whose whimsical tales of life and the writing process I would recommend to all who have a hankering for the written word.
What is your approach to teaching, and what writing tip do you find yourself giving out the most?
My approach to teaching is straightforward. I believe humans learn best by doing. There’s nothing like practicing, failing, trying again, discussing, then trying again to perfect an idea or concept. As for my most frequent writing tip … people often tell me a lack of time holds them back from becoming a bestselling author. But I argue that even if they only write 500 words a day they’ll have the first draft of a novel completed in six months. So switch off The Bachelor and CSI and start writing!
For more information on Jenny’s workshop, The Basics of Creative Writing, held at the ACT Writers Centre, 10am-4pm Saturday 23 April, click here.
Jenny Bond is an ex English teacher and now an active author of historical fiction. She is currently completing her fourth novel. As a working mother of two young boys, Jenny understands the challenges involved in finding the inspiration and time to write. Find out more on her website at www.jennybondbooks.com.