Okay we are off. I’m very firmly in the driving seat – absolutely no room for growth when you put your butt into the driving seat of a Lamborghini Gallardo – a very sporty little number. Which I don’t own – I’m hiring. I’m on my way to pick up Trudie Trewin. Won’t she get a surprise? We are travelling in style. Our trip will take us along the coast from Cairns to Port Douglas and to the Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple resort and spa. Try saying that after a few drinks!
As we cruise along the coast road, Coral Sea glittering in the sunlight, towards Port Douglas I ask Trudie what she’s working on at present.
“At the moment I have about three picture book texts in varying stages of completeness and a young adult novel which is still brewing in my mind. I need to clear some points with the Federal Police before I get too much further into the plotting for that one. Now that sounds intriguing doesn’t it? And how boring am I going to be, because I don’t really like to talk too much about what I’m working on at the moment – I’ve had too many people comment, ‘Are you STILL working on that one!’ So now I like to just surprise them with a completed book!”
Anyone not in the book business has absolutely no idea how long the writing, editing, publishing process can be. There are exceptions but most suffer this frustration. Trudie has just interrupted with, “Are we there yet?” How childish. We’re not and she still doesn’t know exactly what I have in store for her.
Trudie goes on to tell me some of her recent successes. “I have a short novel with Walker Books coming out mid year – one of their ‘Lightning Strikes’ series. It involves the same characters as my first Lightning Strike book, Camp Croc. This one is called Camp Crazy and is another humorous mis-adventure of boys in the bush. Also coming out early next year is a picture book with Windy Hollow Books. It’s called Calpepper’s Place and is about a camel looking for a more exciting place to live than the desert. The illustration roughs that I’ve seen have me very excited to see the finished product – some of the expressions on Calpepper’s face are so funny!”
I am constantly amazed at the talent of illustrators to bring a story to life and how often the illustrator sees something in the story that the author hasn’t ever thought of. I know Trudie received a surprise like that with her book, I’ve lost my Kisses.
We pull into the car park, Trudie and I endeavour to extricate ourselves from the low seats. She’s infinitely more graceful; swinging her legs sideways using the door and seat back as support. I, on the other hand, adopt the fall sideways onto the ground method. I’ll let your imaginations fill in that picture. Giggling we check into the spa. We are having the works. Total body massage, sauna, facial, manicure, pedicure; finishing with an invigorating swim in the resort pool before booking into our rooms. We’re staying overnight because I have a lot of champagne to drink and I’m not driving back until tomorrow! During all of this pampering we will be fed delicious titbits of smoked salmon, oysters, prawns; washed down of course with the icy cold champagne. The staff will then bring strong coffee for me and cleansing green tea for Trudie.
As we relax under the skilled hands of our respective masseuse Trudie tells me about her best moments so far as a writer? “
“Best moment is a tie between getting my first picture book acceptance for I’ve Lost My Kisses, with Scholastic Press, and the day the package containing the author copies arrived. I carried a book around with me everywhere that day, popped it in front of me while I ate, read it on the toilet, shoved it in everybody’s face, and made my family listen to me read it until I fell asleep with it on my pillow!”
I’m aching for the day I can do just that.
Now we are quite relaxed I feel brave enough to ask Trudie about her worst moment. She sighs, gives me her cheeky grin and spills the beans. It also involves her first book.
“Firstly was the excellent news that Scholastic in the US were going to publish I’ve lost my Kisses, then the even better news that they were using it as their lead book for the Spring catalogue and printing 30,000 copies (usual print run for a non-US pic book is about 8000). When the author copies arrived, I grabbed one of the books and read through – only to discover that the resolution line “I’m filling up with kisses,” gasped Matilda. “Just exactly when I need them.” was missing. I checked my proofs – the line was included in the proofs I signed off on…. so it MUST be in the books, right? I reached for another copy… same thing. I was still in denial – it wasn’t until I was reading the third copy that the realisation slowly dawned on me that of course if the line was missing in one book, it would be missing in all thirty thousand books. Bad day in the Trewin house that day. Scholastic US apologised profusely and sent me a box of Hershey’s Kisses. I shouldn’t complain as it still sold reasonably well in the States, but I can’t help thinking it would have done so much better if it hadn’t had the printing mistake in it!”
I don’t know about you but I felt my heart sink as Trudie told me that. She’d done everything right and yet…
My manicure is progressing nicely; Trudie is being pedicured as she imparts advice for aspiring writers.
“Read widely, in your genre, and in others. Persevere. Don’t listen to your family’s praise of your work (remember, your mother used to stick your squiggles of crayon and blobs of paint on the fridge and declare them to be masterpieces!) People who love you have unreliable opinions of your work! Get critiques from manuscript assessors, enter competitions.”
With some difficulty we continue the conversation swathed in warm towels. We’re about to have facials so just before I drop off I ask Trudie why she writes.
“Unlike some writers, I don’t have a need or compunction to write. I’ve heard other writers say they can’t not write. And I’ve always felt like a bit of an impostor because I don’t have that same drive! Don’t get me wrong, I like writing, even love writing, but I don’t need to write. In fact I’ve been very successful at not writing for months at a time when life gets too busy! In the end, I guess I really enjoy playing with an ordinary sentence or paragraph, and turning it into something that makes me smile, laugh or cry.”
Can someone remind me why I said we’d finish off with an invigorating swim? I’m far too relaxed and Trudie is fighting to keep her eyes open. I think we’ll finish off with a restorative snooze instead.
News hot off the press: Camp Crazy appears in the shops tomorrow; published by Walker Books as part of their Lightening Strikes series. Wooohoooo!