Today, my guest is Fiona Trembath, a Melbourne author.
Her first children’s novel is called Crackpot. Fiona is also a singer, a performer of comedy, a composer of children’s songs, a sound engineer, a late-night radio announcer on Melbourne’s ABC and many other things.
Fiona, your book, Crackpot has had an interesting journey to publication so I’ve got lots of questions. First up, tell us a bit about the story.
Crackpot is a story about 12 year old Phoebe Wallace who is coming to terms with her family: an often-absent Circus Ringmaster father, an eccentric (‘crackpot’) mother, and an annoying, vampire-obsessed eight-year-old brother. It’s set in a fictitious rural Victorian town and explores themes such as belonging, bullying, friendship and family.
Crackpot is a funny and endearing story told through the eyes of a terrific main character, Phoebe. Where did your story idea come from initially?
It hit me with a bolt of lightning. I had three hours to come up with an outline for an independent study unit for my undergraduate degree in 1998. The book title – as it was known back then – was: ‘My Mother, the Comedian’. I just started writing and thus, Phoebe and her family were born! There’s a lot of me in Phoebe, but there’s also a lot of me in Phoebe’s mum as well. And as a young child, I wanted to be a trapeze artist…
What did you do after you finished writing the Crackpot manuscript?
Laughed hysterically. Not really. I smiled a lot, as I never ever thought I ‘had a novel in me’. I love that magic, timeless space (which I’ve since heard coined as ‘flow’) that exists when I’m immersed in writing and time passes without conscious awareness. I knew it wasn’t perfect, of course, but at least I felt I resolution and accomplishment. It’d been a long haul to get it to a novel-sized entity.
Why did you go to Avant Press? What was it like to publish with them?
Aside from the fact that I’d been rejected by the Big Guns on numerous occasions over the years, I really just wanted someone to love my story enough that they could see a future in it. Avant was my first ‘small press’ stop. I’m glad I published with them because I felt nurtured, supported and respected at every step: from the first redraft, to having a say in the book design and font style, through to fast turnaround (I heard back from Avant after only a few days of giving them the manuscript to read).
What have been the positive aspects and the negative aspects of working with a small, independent publisher?
Positive: see above. Negative: It’s a financial partnership, and I am 100% responsible for marketing and promotion. That’s not such a bad thing, but there are some days I just want someone to handle the Whole Damn Lot, and let me get down to the nitty gritty of doing what I love most: writing (the second and third books) and speaking to schools about my book.
Tell us about Crackpot’s connection with India.
I’m veddy pleased you asked me that. When I first launched my book, I gave every since cent (rupee) to a charity that I have supported over the years called ‘Deep Griha’*. I personally handed the wad of rupees over to the founder of the organisation when I visited India a few weeks after the launch. It was a great moment.
Where to now?
In the overdubbed words of Buzz Lightyear: ‘To infinity and beyond!’ Seriously? I’m half way through writing the second book, ‘Dingbat’ and have a draft of the third and final book, ‘Nutcase’. But what I’d like, right this very moment, is time and uninterrupted quiet, so I can lock myself up in my studio and write.
But reality dictates otherwise: I have a ghost-writing deadline to meet, children to feed and tend, a B & B to manage, and desperately need to catch up on sleep after doing an early morning regular gig on ABC Radio.A time-expanding machine would come in handy…
* The Deep Griha charity is designed to empower the disadvantaged, giving people the skills, confidence and support they need to improve their lives. (Editor’s note)