A Talk with Australian Author Stella Tarakson

In Paris, where I lived before I moved to the United States, several cafés are famous for the renowned writers who spent hours there writing but also exchanging ideas with other writers and artists. This one for example.

cafedeflore#2

 

Our blogs have in a way become the new cafés where we meet, comment, and also support each other along our artistic and creative journeys.

Today in my small café, I am very happy to welcome and introduce you to Stella Tarakson who lives and writes in Sydney, Australia.

Hi, Stella, and thank you for sharing a little bit of you and your writing journey through the following questions.

Stella

Your junior fiction book Mike the Spike has just been released. But if it is your first fiction book for children it is not your first book at all. Can you tell us about your early writing days?

My first books were law-for-the-layperson type books. I’ve got a law degree and that was a natural first step! I then started writing books for the educational market on all sorts of topics. Obesity, terrorism, euthanasia. All challenging to research and write, but highly rewarding. I’ve had 35 non-fiction books published, but when it comes to fiction I’m still a beginner.

What triggered your desire to write fiction?

I guess it’s the usual reason. I’m fulfilling a childhood dream! Like most writers, I’ve always loved reading. I was a complete bookworm when I was a child (I still am) and this is my chance to give something back.

Now who is this Mike the Spike?

He’s a cool little boy who is very vain about his hair. To his horror, he discovers he has head lice. He can’t bear the thought of anyone finding out, and tries to get rid of them himself. His attempts are imaginative, to say the least!

What about the title? Did you find it as soon as you got the idea of the story? Or did you have the idea of the character before the idea of the plot?

The title came last, after I’d written the whole story. I chose it to be in keeping with the other books in the ‘Little Rockets’ series. The idea for the story came first, then I needed a character to carry the story. I needed someone who’d be utterly horrified and embarrassed by the discovery of a louse. Not a girl – they’re too used to it!

Some writers stick to an outline while others write by the seat of their pants. What kind of writer are you?

Gosh, definitely an outliner! I find the idea of being a ‘seatser’ quite frightening. I’m sure I’d waste lots of time if I didn’t know where I was going. I create an outline first, but it does tend to change once I start writing.

Do you think that being already published was an asset when you sought publication for Mike the Spike?

It didn’t help me get a fiction publisher; the markets are quite separate. I’d tried several times before and it hadn’t helped at all! Once I sent a story to a publisher who ignored it entirely and asked me to write some business case studies! Still, I enjoyed the work and went on to write several. Being already published helped in other ways, though. I understood the publishing process and felt confident negotiating the contract.

With so many books published do you have an agent?

No, but I’d love one! We have very few agents in Australia – about a dozen. Of those, many have reached capacity and aren’t taking new authors. Of those that are, most don’t take kids’ writers. On the plus side, we still have several publishers who are willing to take unsolicited manuscripts. Mike the Spike was picked up off the slush pile. I think, though, if I’m going to continue with fiction, I’m really going to need an agent.

A traditional publishing house is publishing Mike the Spike. What part of marketing and promotion is left to you?

Quite a lot of it! Publishers – especially small ones like mine – expect authors to be very active in promoting their work. So thank you for helping!

You are regularly welcoming a mix of traditionally and independently published authors on your blog. Here, in the USA, the stigma that was once attached to the self-published writer is fading, mostly due to the better quality of tools that writers can use to publish their own work but also to a few exceptional success stories. How is it in Australia?

I think the issue here isn’t so much about stigma – but about whether it’s financially worthwhile. Self-publishing seems to be far more expensive here and we’ve got a tiny market. Many people who self-publish spend thousands of dollars and only make a fraction back. The situation is better with e-books, but it’s hard to make much money – if any – by self-publishing hard copy, especially fiction.

Now that Mike the Spike is in the hands of young readers, what are your next writing projects?

I’ve written another junior fiction novel that will hopefully become the springboard for a series. It deals with Greek mythology – and rightly so, as I’m Greek! Well … Greek-Australian. That’s still under consideration. In the meantime, I’ve been commissioned to write a non-fiction series about dangerous Aussie animals. No shortage of material there!

Evelyne, I’d like to thank you for having me on your blog. It’s writers like you that make the blogsphere such a warm and welcoming place!

 

The pleasure is all mine, Stella.

I encourage any writer and reader to visit Stella’s website: a mine of concrete information for writers and readers alike.

Of course, I also encourage you to get a copy of Mike the Spike available through the publisher and various online stores.

mike the spike

Now I only wish I could offer everyone a cup of coffee or tea so we can keep talking about writing and maybe even reading Mike the Spike together.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Nice interview Evelyne — nice to meet Stella. Hugs!

  2. I met Stella a while ago now and I really like what she does on her blog in terms of providing specific tips and support to other writers. A few Australian writers are actually among my favorites. Thank you for stopping by, Teagan.

  3. Thanks Evelyne, I hope your followers enjoy the interview! I’m sitting here with a coffee now, imagining you doing the same … although it’s probably the middle of the night there. Still, not bad going seeing we live on opposite sides of the world!

    • It has been a long day for me and I am finally now enjoying the coffee I didn’t get to have earlier this morning. I am so glad to see that several of my faithful readers stopped by and got to read about you, your writing journey and your new book. Mike the Spike is perfect for young readers, and I hope that many will take the opportunity to get a copy for a young child they know. Best tl you, Stella.

  4. Behind the Story says:

    I’m happy to meet, you, Stella. I love the cover of “Mike the Spike.” Congratulations on its publication. What a prolific non-fiction writer you are! Thirty-five books. That’s stunning.

    When my late husband and I lived in Vanuatu, we visited Sydney for a week. It’s such a beautiful city, we hated to leave.

  5. Agnès Grandguillot says:

    Thank you Evelyne, Thank you Stella, this is such a good idea having coffee together and having a talk about a book as if we were in the Café de Flore !
    I have already had my breakfast but I really enjoyed this interview ! It makes you writers closer to me, reader !!! Thanks again !

  6. Thanks for introducing us to another writer in such a nice fashion. Not quite a cafe in Paris, but I nice few relaxing moments.nonetheless.

  7. Nice touch, Evelyne! 🙂

  8. Lovely interview Evelyne – nice to meet you Stella over a cup of coffee this morning! 35 books is pretty stunning, how wonderful body of work.

  9. I “met” Stella through her blog, then just kind of latched myself on to her, and she so very graciously allowed me to do so. She’s such a gem. Thanks for the interview, Evelyne.

  10. Beverly Broughton says:

    I miss you…just started my research on Robert Edsel for our first Town Hall lecture and, of course, you immediately crossed my radar! I would love to purchase Stella’s book…I continue to tutor a few students….good literature opens their minds and even helps with problem solving! Love to you and yours, Bev

  11. Evelyne, I love your thought that our blogs are the new cafes for writers! I’ve recently started reading Stella’s blog, so it was great to find out more about her – great interview. I’m amazed at how many books Stella has already published, I’m also amazed by how few agents there are in Australia!

    • So nice to see you, Andrea. The last weeks have been very busy for me as I was putting the last touches to my soon-to-be published novel, so I thought that it was great to open the door to someone like Stella who is a prolific and supportive writer.

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