Friday, April 23, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Chris Cheng

I have the pleasure of hosting Chris Cheng today, a voice from Down Under. In addition reading about to his work, when you scroll to the bottom, you can view the trailer Chris made for a group of authors out of the goodness of his heart.

Congratulations, Chris, on your many publishing successes! Please tell us about some of your books, especially the most recent and upcoming.

I write historical fiction, picture books and non-fiction titles as well. My books are mostly trade titles and are generally for the young through to about age 14.
My most recent title was a collection of Australian poems that we would consider as 'classics' they are the ones that I grew up with so I compiled that title.
My historical fiction titles focus thus far on the Chinese Diaspora and settling into Australia ... but next year I have the most amazing picture book coming out (not amazing because I wrote it but amazing because of the illustrations and what we are going to do with it ... watch this space!!!) that we are calling (at the moment) Night Noises! I wrote the manuscript and then gave it to my publisher with an illustration form Sarah that completely turned the book upside down and inside out!!!! My illustrator is Sarah Davis who won the Crichton Award for new illustrators last year. Her artwork is AMAZING! Bits and pieces you can spy on my blog!!!
At the moment I am just enjoying writing picture book manuscripts in between writing talks for a number of conferences in that I am presenting at, but later this year will be reworking other fiction manuscripts that are with my publisher, one was a manuscript I wrote for my university thesis. But at the moment picture book are heaps of fun!

You live in Australia (a place I long to visit.) What is the publishing community like down under?

The pub community here is amazing ... it is very strong and survived the GFC! MOST of our major houses are attached to international houses but we also have a few very solid independent publishers producing high quality Australian books. Our picture books are very strong and often sell well overseas too. We also have a number of very small boutique publishers who do just a few titles each year but they are great titles and the publishers are mostly great too.
And it really is a community here for teh book creators - there is much collegiality here and yes we talk a lot - we talk about each other, the books we create, our publihsers, our agents, the schols we visit - and heaps more! Sarah, who is illustrating my picture book is due over here soon so that we can go haunted house hunting (and there are lots of spooky type places in my neighbourhood). It is not unheard of for quite a few book creators to turn up at weddings when we get married.

How long have you been writing for children? Can you describe your path to publication?

Writing for kids -- for ever so it seems -- actually for about 20 years. My first title (non-fiction) was published in 1990 when I was working at Taronga Zoo - yes it was about ANIMALS (no points for guessing that one). I was also writing when I was a primary (elementary) teacher in schools here but that was more because I wanted the children I taught to see that I valued the writing process - we even set up our own publishing company in teh school and sold copies of teh books to parents, the school library and anyone else who wanted to buy them! Then of course I was writing while I was working at Taronga in Education - and I haven't stopped. My publisher then had seen some of my articles that I had written for magazines and asked me to write a book about animals, and then I came up with ideas for another and another and another and .... so it goes. Sometimes I am asked to write a title, other times I come up with ideas! I am privileged enough to come up with ideas and then eventually a publisher will probably/possibly/might say yes (Night Noises I wrote quite a while back) - and if it gets rejected I put it in the lower drawer of the desk and pull it out again later and rework it if needed!!!
Now I write full time - and that includes the BUSINESS of being a writer (school visits, communication, publicity etc) and of course I do have to say that I DO have the BEST job in the world!!! And I am also the Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI here ... and that covers all of Australia and New Zealand. And that I consider part of my writing too ... it really is a privilege to be able to share what I have learnt!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

OH yes! I am sure it has been said many times by many other creators but ....

Write write and write ... and then
read lots too and then
write some more.
Also, write for yourself ... don't write because you want to publish a book, just write and see where it takes you! AND be very observant! I love watching people - hence why I always carry a note book with me!!!!

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I am married to my wonderful wife who lets me 'play with words' for a job! The rest of my family continue to wonder when I will get a real job!!!
AND I also love the house so the kitchen is MY domain!
I wrote the libretto for a kids musical (based on my unpublished manuscript) Pa's Christmas Star - and that is going to be live in the next few months. the composer lives in Texas and she took my words and created great songs! People will be able to download the complete package.
I am writing more picture books and then after all the conferences this year will put my head around a new junior novel that has been tapping away at my grey matter for ages and then ....

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about you and your books?

My website is for general info but for the up-to-date right to this microsecond info the blog is the best place to look!!!


holly cupala said...

Great interview with an wonderful writer and person! I'm a big fan of Chris and glad to see him interviewed. G'day!

Anna said...

Fantastic Chris. Loved reading about you and your work. Cheers, Anna

meyerprints said...

Janet Fox said...

Thanks for coming by, everyone! Chris is such a wonderful person - I wish he didn't live so far away.


BUT Hey ... doesn't blogging make us all seem soooo much closer.
thanks folks.
see you soonish!

Anonymous said...

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