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.
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.
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.
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.