Who is your favourite character in Wolfborn and why?
I have a lot of affection for Armand, the hero’s best friend. It’s not easy being a sidekick, especially when the hero drags you into everything and you’re poor (as aristocrats go, anyway) and can’t yet afford the armour you’ll need to be a knight and the only horse you can ride for the moment is a hill-pony which turns out to be a damned unicorn – do you know how embarrassing that is for a teenage boy? But Armand isn’t dumb. He knows when the time has come to go for help and insists on it.
You’re best known for your non-fiction books, the latest being Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly. How did you find the experience of writing novel-length fiction?
It’s very different. The research process is different. Non-fiction of the kind I have written can be done in bits and pieces. If I’m writing about spies or crooks, there’s a different spy or crook in each chapter. It’s a lot of work, but when you’ve finished that bit, you’ve finished and can go on to the next story. A novel is like a tapestry you’re weaving and you can’t afford to put in a wrong thread or the whole thing comes apart. You have to be consistent, not only in the facts you’ve researched but in what you’ve said about the characters and their backgrounds. And you have to make sure something you’re doing isn’t wrecking the story. I had written and re-written this several times and only in the last draft did I realise I still had an awful lot of “had I but known” bits. I cut all but about two of them. And because of something I changed early on, I really had to re-write the ending. My beta readers – three of them – won’t recognise the ending! The editing of non-fiction is often a case of “Have you checked this fact out?” or “Can I have more information about that?” but obviously there’s a lot more to fiction editing. Sometimes I had to re-write because something obvious to me wasn’t obvious to the editor. Other times I stuck to my guns, saying, “This character wouldn’t talk like that” or “Yes, yes, show, don’t tell, but this bit is just not worth several pages of show when I can get the important information across in a few lines of tell.” I have to say, the editors at Woolshed/Random House were very good about this. If I said, “I think it’s better this way and here’s why” they said, “Fair enough.”
What’s next for Sue Bursztynski?
Who knows? I’m still working full-time in the school system. My writing has to fit in around that, but at least I can learn what teens are reading. When the time comes that I leave full-time work, I hope to sign up for a speaker’s agency – I can do this because as a teacher I know how to speak to children – and spend more time on the writing.
Meanwhile, I’m slushing for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, I’m writing short fiction, I’m reading plenty of history and science and folklore – right now, Montague Summers’s book on werewolves. He did the most famous book on witchcraft. And I’m playing with a prequel to Wolfborn, which is already almost as long as the whole of Wolfborn and nowhere near finished! I have a lot to do on that one.
George’s bit at the end
My thanks to Sue for taking the time to answer my questions. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her blog, The Great Raven.
And tune in next time for a guest review of The Wildkin’s Curse.
Catch ya later, George