Friday, 1 November 2013

Author Interview - Josh Donellan @jmdonellan

Image of Joshua Donellan

How do you work through self-doubts and fear?

Fear and self-doubt are useful things for an author to have. If I was absolutely confident in everything I did then I would write and release a lot of trash. I think it’s important to be your own worst critic. But in the same way that if you are climbing a mountain, you should recognise the fact that it’s dangerous but not let that stop you from doing so, you should understand that self-doubt is part of the gig and then punch it in the face and keep climbing.

What scares you the most?

They say that most people fear public speaking more than anything else. I love getting up on a microphone in front of a crowd, but the thought of an office job is terrifying, and yet that’s something that many people happily do every day. Fear is a strange and idiosyncratic beast.

What makes you happiest?

Knowing that I’ve made some kind of difference in the world. When my first book (which features a funeral scene) came out I had a stranger email me and tell me that it helped them deal with the passing of a loved one and that was a really emotional moment for me. Once I told a class about the creatures in my novel Zeb and the Great Ruckus and they went out into the playground at lunch and pretended to be these magical Alephs with funny ears and that was hugely rewarding.

What motivates you to write?

If I don’t write the stories in my head, then no one else will. I don’t write to genre, so I’ve never been able to say ‘my book is one of the 3000 vampire/romance/horror stories being released this year’. There are other authors out there with superior structure and command of language, etc, etc, but no one else has the same ideas as me, so if I don’t give these stories breath then they don’t get to live, and I would feel a sense of overwhelming existential guilt if I denied them of their own right to existence.

What are you most proud of in your personal life?

Over the last few years I’ve been developing my ability to use art as a tool of social engagement and change. It’s important to recognise that art isn’t just relaxation or recreation, it is communication, discussion, protest, instigation, invention and exploration. Working at places like 4ZZZ and with school and charity based large scale art projects keeps me focused on what’s important and reminds me that art should always have a higher purpose. It’s also a great way to meet other inspiring artists.

What books did you love growing up?

As a kid I really loved Roald Dahl, Tolkien and CS Lewis. I think those writers had a real sense of play and boundless imagination to their work. They were also able to weave great social messages into interesting narratives. When I was a teenager I was really into comic books Terry Pratchett, Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey, then later I moved onto the heavy stuff like DeLillo, Blake and Palahniuk. I like authors who can blend humour with a touch of the macabre.

What book should everybody read at least once?

Einstein’s dreams. Theoretical physics and poetry and magic have never been so happily woven together. Plus it’s only a tiny little thing, so it’s something I often recommend to my friends who complain that they don’t have enough time to read.

What do you hope your obituary will say about you?

A friend (and famous rock star) once told me ‘Josh, you live more than anyone else I know.’ I think that may have been one of the most flattering things I’ve ever heard, and a good philosophy to aspire to.

What marketing works for you?

My father is an economist, my mother a painter and PR agent, and my sister is in marketing so this is a subject that comes up a lot in our family discussions. I think that ultimately, I’m completely uninterested in trying to sell myself as a commodity or yammer on about sales or anything like that. I want to be absolutely authentic in everything I do without thinking about how that’s going to test with a sales demographic. The artists I really admire have managed to be very successful without compromising their personal integrity and ideology. (Amanda Palmer, Margaret Atwood)

Do you plan to publish more books?

After Killing Adonis comes out next year, I have the next two books halfway drafted and the next five after that all planned out. I’m going to write until my brain and/or body give up completely. Unless of course I can transfer my consciousness into cyberspace and then I’ll just keep going until I get consumed by a malicious virus in a Ghost in the Shell type scenario.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time!

I run workshops and substitute teach. Teaching is a wonderfully rewarding job that allows me to get paid for sharing my love of books. As an added bonus, I get a lot of my best dialogue from things my students say.

What other jobs have you had in your life?

So many. During my undergrad I had five jobs on top of full time study. I’ve done everything from hospitality to retail to art to education. I guess I’ve always sought out work that would let me meet a lot of people from different walks of life to develop character ideas from. For a while I worked in a bar in Ecuador where I once ended up dancing at a masquerade with a girl who turned out to be the lover of a big time coke dealer so I had to high tail it out of there pretty quick.

I co-wrote and voiced the iPhone app Pocket Hipster, and managed to get the gig by sending in an audition tape where I told them, in an angry cockney accent, ‘If you try to give me a script I will literally, and I mean LITERALLY, shit on it.’ I figured that would be the only time in my life I’d be able to get away with that in a job interview, and once I got the gig it turned out to be one of my favourite things I’ve ever done.

I like to say to people ‘I’m a fiction author, everything is research.’ It makes life feel like an adventure rather than a chore.

Zeb and the Great Ruckus

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre - Junior Fiction, Fantasy

Rating – G

More details about the author and the book

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