Monday, May 16, 2011

Dee White - Author Interview series

Dee White is the award-winning author of Letters to Leonardo, Hope for Hanna, A Duel of Words and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure.

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

My father used to censor what I borrowed from the library. He didn't approve of what he considered 'frivolous' reading so I guess I grew up reading fairly 'heavy books' by authors like DH Lawrence, Somerset Maugham and Charles Dickens. At the time it didn't bother me because I have loved books for as long as I can remember so I thought that any book was a good book. (I went back and read books like Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna when I was in my twenties). I always loved reading books about people and I liked really thick books because they last longer. Even today, I hate finishing a good book. When I wake up next day I feel kind of sad that I don't still have that book to read.

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

When I was seven I wrote a poem and read it out at school assembly. Everyone seemed to really like it and it was the first time I experienced the feeling that my writing could mean something. That's when I decided I was going to be a writer. I think I had written at least twenty novels by the time I left primary school (but none of them were finished). As a writer, I want my books to move people and perhaps encourage them to think about some aspect of the world in a different way. I guess like every other author I want my books to be life changing.

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

To be honest, I don't have trouble turning off my 'writer' microscope when I'm reading for pleasure. I get dozens of books sent to me for review every month and I try to read every book by Australian authors and illustrators. So I really have to set time aside to read for pleasure - and when I do have that time I savour it. I just immerse myself in the book and enjoy the experience.

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?

No I don't avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing my own - quite the opposite. If I am having trouble getting a character's voice right, I find that it can be helpful to read other books and look at what has worked for other authors. I also find it hard to write endings of books and can spend days reading endings of other books to work out what techniques others have used and what might work for my book.

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

DH Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, John Marsden, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson

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

This is an impossible question:) I'd have to say I would take my own book, Letters to Leonardo because it reminds me of why I am a writer and that truth is important in art and literature no matter how hard it can be to tell it.

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

When you get so engrossed in the life of the main character that you can't wait to find out what happens next - you feel almost as if the events of the story are happening to you. To me, this is a sign of a really well developed character.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

When I can't engage with the main character so I don't care what happens to them. I think this is usually when plot and setting have taken over and that distances me from the character.

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

Sorry, I can't narrow it down to one, but I think there are some great Australian YA authors around at the moment, including Bill Condon, Sue Lawson, Maureen McCarthy, Karen Tayleur, Alyssa Brugman, Melina Marchetta, Penni Russon, Mo Johnson, Michael Gerard Bauer, Belinda Jeffrey and the list goes on. I don't tend to read much fantasy as you can probably guess from the authors I've listed. I'd have to say the things that draw me to these authors are authentic characters, believable voices and stories that make me think about them long after I've finished reading.

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

Not allowing me to include the classics is totally unfair seeing as this is pretty much all I was allowed to read as a child:) So, I'll have to go with my modern ones.

They are in no particular order, So Much to Tell You (John Marsden), Hand Me Down, Peeling The Onion (Wendy Orr), When Dad Killed Mom (Julius Lester), Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson), Impulse (Ellen Hopkins), Letters From The Inside, Perfume (Patrick Suskind), The Last Time I Saw Mother (Arlene J Chai) and The Dressmaker (Rosalie Ham)

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

I read something like one hundred and fifty books last year so narrowing it down to one is impossible. But my most memorable are Girl Saves Boy (Steph Bowe) for its authentic voice, Jaguar Warrior (Sandy Fussell) for the way it has woven fact into fiction, 6 (Karen Taleur) for the intrigue and Beautiful Malice (Rebecca James) for its complex characters.

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?

When it comes to publishing, I think we have to move with the times. I think that new technology will encourage some people to read more and I can see the benefits of taking an e-reader on holidays rather than a suitcase full of books. I still think there is a future for print books as some people enjoy the tactile experience of reading and a print book is easier to share with a group. People said that radio would die out when television came in, but it hasn't. I think that print books will survive and thrive in the same way.

Dee is passionate about encouraging new writers, and her blog has career and writing tips.

Find out more about Dee at


  1. Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog, Lisa.

    Always lovely to catch up with a fellow author.


  2. It was my pleasure Dee... Thanks for being a part of my series. :)