Here at Olympia, we love hearing from our authors, getting an insight into their lives in writing and asking them what their advice would be to future authors. This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Mclaughlin about his book.
Writing is in the blood. I never set out to become a writer – I just always wrote. Loving reading helped. Dickens, from young – Blyton, too. Twain. Hesse, Tolkien, Sartre, Irving – and more - followed. My take is that you can’t write unless you read – they are an interlinked manifestation. And, as writing is a form of speech, you can’t write unless you speak. To speak you have to listen in the first place. There are those who hear but who do not listen. A good writer is a good listener. Listening, then speaking, each help reading and they, in turn, propagate writing.
For me, there are two types of writing – systematic, disciplined and the investigative, finger-and-thumb type. I am not of the former: I don’t wait days or weeks for inspiration or for a plan to be organised into writing on a page. I am of the latter: I sit down and just start writing. It can happen at any time. There is something somewhere in my head waiting to come out and I am not always sure what it is when I begin. But I begin by writing down the first thing that is in my head: that’s the thumb. Once I have a thumb, a finger wondrously follows, then another finger until I have a hand which becomes an arm and then a whole person. The thumb-and-finger type.
My recent book came out of a conversation with a grandson. To attract and hold his attention, I asked, ‘Did I tell you the story of..,’ and he looked sideways at me. I didn’t know what was coming. But I continued, ‘Did I tell you about the boy…,’ and added ‘who lost his hand?’ He took the bait – the thumb. I didn’t know what would follow but, piece-by-piece, finger-by-finger, a story emerged. I first spoke and then wrote it down. It turned into a book.
Children’s writing has become my forte. As a teacher, I taught reading and writing (not to mention listening, the most important of the skills). I knew something about children – what they read and what they liked. I could talk to the children.
Way back at the start of my career, I had three books published and then hit a type of writer’s block for 30 years. Until that recent conversation with my grandson when the conversation became a thumb and then a whole person. I began to write again.
So I was delighted when the books finally arrived. Finally. Patience is a requirement during the publication procedure – it is a measured, necessary process, and, accordingly, takes time. Patience is a prerequisite - the book will arrive in its own time. Then there is nothing like seeing, touching and smelling the new book that is, after all, the unique creation of the beholder. It is quite magical.
And thus, ‘The Five Cousins of Gulladuff’ - for children, aged 6 to 9 years old - was delivered, telling tales of the respectable and not-so-good-secrets set around strange and fantastical experiences to perplex and bewilder the young reader.
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