Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shirley Marr - Author Interview Series

"Shirley Marr is an accountant by day and a masked writer by night. That's when she becomes her true self — Writer Woman, with her trusty sidekick, BetaGirl." Fury (Black Dog Books) is her first novel.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

When I first arrived in Australia at the age of six, I couldn’t write or read a word of English. I could only understand a rudimentary amount of spoken English. I remember the very first time I sat down with my classmates in front of our teacher and she read to us Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. Although I could only understand some of it, I remember that moment being so magical that it cemented my determination to learn how to read. So hence began my love affair with books, I slowly devoured every single book by Enid Blyton. The Secret Seven being my favourite series.

When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

At first, I thought I was a drawer. But as my English improved, and I shifted my form of communication from visuals to word, I realised I was actually a better writer! I realised this is primary school. My novel is called Fury and I hope my readers are left with the feeling of what that emotion really means after having read the story. I hope it lingers in their memory.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

Yes, it is true - everything comes under my microscope! But I know when I find a perfect read - my mind stops trying to pick everything apart and I just go for the ride!

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?

Surprisingly, I don’t avoid anything while I write – I write every single day, so I believe in living my life! I read what I want to read at any point in time. I believe life in general has an effect on what I write and of course books do as well. Anyway, when you think of it, every book written is derivative of what came before, so I don’t try and shy away from it. In fact, I believe in acknowledging and reflecting in my work the books I like – I’m very fond of pop culture referencing!

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?

Jane Austen, William Faulkner, John Marsden, Margaret Mahey and Sue Lawson.

If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?

I’d probably take a Lonely Planet suitable for where I was going… um, is that a cheat’s answer?

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Compelling characters, storyline and narrator’s voice. Makes it sound easy to write a book doesn’t it?

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Sometimes (and it’s not a fault of the book itself) I just can’t “get into” a book. It’s usually because I can’t relate to the book at all and when I read I’m looking for that intrinsic human connection from the author – which is what I believe writing should be about.

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

I love William Faulkner above anyone else. I love his writing because it’s more than just telling a story, he really makes you feel complex emotions and he makes words - what is supposed to be a quiet medium - beautiful, furious and loud.

If you had to list them, what would be your ‘top ten’ reads of all time (excluding the classics) and why?

I can’t make this list unfortunately – most of my top reads are classics! But I will mention Letters From the Inside and So Much to Tell You both by John Marsden, which are in my list.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

My ‘best read’ is Dare You by Sue Lawson. The prose is beautiful and almost lyrical, it’s woven together almost like a Japanese pillow book, It’s so different to anything I’ve read this year in YA, it’s totally underrated and it’s one of those books that get better with each subsequent read. Oh and it made me cry.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I own a Kindle, I’m supportive of technology. If it makes books cheaper and more portable, then I am happy if that encourages more people to read. Especially if they commute and are put off by the bulkiness of traditional media, but with a media reader they end up reading a few books every year. I’d rather someone read, no matter the format, than not read at all.

Despite being blasted for writing an avant-garde short story completely in dialogue in Year Eight, and being fired from the Yearbook committee in Year Twelve for being disruptive, she still loves to write things her way. This type of behaviour led her to be the only person she knows who has ever been kicked out of a bookstore. You can learn even more about Shirley here.

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