[Interview] Tahlia Newland

Australian writer, Tahlia Newland has worked as a high school teacher and as a dance, mime and mask performer.

She has also written novels, scripts for theatre and short stories for children and adults.

In this interview, Tahlia Newland talks about her writing:

When did you start writing?

In 1997, I began writing a series of children’s stories for my daughter (then 4 years old), but I didn’t think much of them, so I stopped. When the inspiration for my present YA series hit in 2007, I started again and couldn’t stop. Scenes from the story kept leaping into my mind demanding to be written, so I wrote.

Fairly early in the process of writing Lethal Inheritance, after some positive feedback on the story by an industry professional, I realized that the story was good enough and that if I could write it well enough, then I might be able to get it published.

As time passed, I became more and more determined to make it good enough. I had put so much work into it that I didn’t want that work to be wasted. I also discovered how much I loved writing and I knew that readers would enjoy the story and love my characters as much as I do.

I wrote passionately. I studied what made good writing, mostly via the web and library books. I revised and revised. I had a manuscript appraisal and worked on the weak parts, and I developed the ability to objectively criticise my own work. I also studied the publishing industry and researched how to make submissions, write a query letter, a synopsis and so on.

I sent submissions to every agent in Australia who was open for them, and by the time I was rejected by most of them, some of the others had opened their books, so I sent submissions to them too. It was in the second round of submissions that I got my agent.

Which authors influenced you most?

Garth Nix in his Old Kingdom trilogy and Stephanie Meyer.

I loved the drama in the Old Kingdom trilogy and the way Garth used of the third person to look into the minds of a variety of characters.

Stephanie showed me how far I could go with the love story and that the beauty of keeping language simple is that more young people can read it easily.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My personal experience of working with my mind has directly influenced this series, and my interest in eastern philosophy is reflected in the world view of the Warriors and the hidden realm in which the story in Lethal Inheritance takes place.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Mind, perception, the nature of reality and dealing with emotions as well as writing well enough to do my ideas justice.

I work at improving my understanding of what makes good writing, and constantly evaluate and revise my work in the light of this.

Do you write everyday?

Yes, I write everyday unless I have finished a project and haven’t started a new one. Even then I am likely to write something for my blog or maybe play around with a short story.

When writing, I begin by re-reading what I wrote the day before and making changes where necessary, but I don’t spend too much time on it.

Then I write whatever scene is uppermost in my mind. It won’t always be what comes next in the timeline of the story.

I end either when the scene is satisfactorily completed, or when I have to eat, cook, sleep or tend to the family.

How many books have you written so far?

Lethal Inheritance is finished and my agent is in the process of sending submissions to publishers.

I have written the second drafts of the following three sequels: Stalking Shadows, Demon’s Grip and Eternal Destiny.

How would you describe your writing?

Modern day fantasy with strong urban elements.

What would you say Lethal Inheritance is about?

When demons kidnap her mother, Ariel is catapulted into a mysterious realm in a hidden layer of reality. Stuck on a rescue mission she doesn't want, she must negotiate an intriguing and unpredictable world where demons who feed on fear are hunting her, and they’re aiming to kill.

She needs help fast, but can she trust the quirky old guide who says he can teach her how to fine tune her mind into a powerful weapon? And what is this volatile energetic connection between her and Nick, her enigmatic traveling companion?

How long did it take you to write the book?

Three years, but I also did the second draft of the other three books in that time as well.

Who is your target audience?

Young Adults (roughly 14+) and Adults who like the freshness and romance of YA fantasy.

What motivated you to start writing for this audience?

My daughter was 14 when I started writing, and I love that age group; they’re funny and sophisticated but still fresh. It’s an exciting age when everything seems possible, and it’s an age when stories of empowerment are very important, especially for young women.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into Lethal Inheritance?

I loved it all, but it was difficult at first to know if the idea was good enough to be worth pursuing. I was also terrified of it not being good enough, which made early criticism difficult.

I dealt with this by working at becoming a better writer and I got a well-respected industry professional to do a manuscript appraisal. When the appraisal came back with rave reviews, I had the confidence to really get stuck into it.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I enjoy it all, but I love the initial writing when you immerse yourself in the fantasy world and get to know the characters. It’s a very magical time.

I also love it when the characters surprise you and when something new comes up during the revision process.

What will your next book be about?

Stalking Shadows will tell us what happens next for our heroine Ariel and her companion, Nick as they make their way up Diamond Peak in search of Ariel’s mother and the Master Demon.

Their challenges will require them to work with overcoming arrogance and jealousy; the dividing lines between friendship, love and intimacy; sorting out allegiances and re-defining opinions.

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Tahlia Newland said…
Thanks for posting the interview Ambrose. I hope your readers enjoy it.

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