Can you give us a brief bio of your work?
Mm … I’ll try to cut to the chase. I write young adult fiction, but I have also had some success as a poet and photographer. I guess I’ve had an interesting life: lived in four countries, speak three languages, had photography accepted and published in books in the USA, used as covers for magazines, have work registered with the International Library of Photography and been published in literary magazines. I’ve also written more than 145 short stories and numerous bush poems.
As you know, Goldie, writing is a tough gig in Australia. I’ve been short-listed, ‘Commended’ and ‘Highly Commended’ in writing contests: 2006, 2007& 2011 National Literary Awards, Raspberry & Vine (twice), Positive words, Australian Writers On-Line, Shaggy Sheep Tale, The Cancer Council Arts Awards (2005 & 2008), The Dusty Swag Awards (2010) and had ten short stories published in literary magazines (Page Seventeen, Branching Out & Positive Words), newspapers (The Standard, Mountain Views & The Advocate), written articles for Kid Magazine in the USA and won a poetry prize to name a life-size statue
Nowadays, I spend much of my time marketing my work, writing a daily blog for aspiring and emerging writers, mentoring young writers around Australia, working voluntarily with IndiePENdents.org to promote independent authors, and teach students from the University of the Third Age (U3A). Naturally, all of that takes me away from my core business – writing. However, it’s great to pass on knowledge and do things for free.
You post wonderful daily blogs. What gave you the idea to do this and why?
Good question. Writing a blog was the last thing on my mind. However, after entering eleven Australian book awards in Australia in 2011, and being somewhat gob smacked by the well-known names on the short and long lists with only one debut author, I decided not to roll over. I spent three and a half weeks networking with other professionals around the world. The end result was a resounding 800 connections – human rights lawyers, illustrators, authors, poets, publishers, literary agents, musicians, educators, social activists and others. Some were people I already knew. The purpose of my blog is twofold: promote other authors and market my brand – Clancy Tucker. I now find people from around the world are contacting me to be a guest on my blog. Who’d have ever thought?
What are your views on the current state of publishing in Australia?
Cracker question, Goldie. I and many other authors, musicians, poets, playwrights and actors, are totally disillusioned and I’ve written much about this topic on my blog. Firstly, there is no appreciation for any author, other than those who have been published by a mainstream publisher. That means that every teacher, child, parent, librarian, grandparent and member of the general public is not privy to the full list of books that are available. Sadly, some distributors and most bookshops are the same, but independent authors are growing at a rapid pace and flexing their muscle globally, because they are frustrated by the current system. A good example of this is the fact that self-published authors cannot enter the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards or the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. We put a man on the moon on the 20th of July 1969, but in 2012 we cannot appreciate all writing in this country. My blog posts for the 21st and 22nd of September 2012 clearly highlighted this scenario which is discriminatory.
What is the answer? Mm … I’ve suggested that the Prime Minister’s and Victorian Premier’s Awards have a separate category for self-published books, even suggested some simple guidelines but that idea fell on deaf ears. My suggestion is to have a public debate. I have 17 young readers who read all of my manuscripts, complete a simple questionnaire and rate my work out of ten. They are 8 to 16 years-of-age, Aboriginal, Muslim, Christian, male and female, and all of them are as sharp as a tack. I’d like them to debate the ‘big wheels’ at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival or any other festival. Get in early for a front seat, Goldie. I’d back my young readers to slice and dice any spurious responses given by the publishing hierarchy in regard to self-published or unpublished works that they’ve read.
I’ve developed a very healthy respect for my young readers, far more than my respect for those who are the supposed doyens in the industry. Why do I engage young readers? Simple: they are my clients and they readily tell me if my work is suitable. On the other hand, many publishers think they know what kids want to read. What would I do if I was a publisher? If I had a good piece of work that was neat and tidy, I’d send it to at least 100 kids around Australia and ask for their opinions. Then, I’d collate their responses and make a suitable business decision based on my market survey. Kids are honest.
The saddest part about all this, particularly in regard to book awards, is that I am not convinced that the major players are the slightest bit interested in finding the next Banjo Paterson or Henry Lawson – our literary heritage. Worst of all, who is encouraging and promoting very young emerging writers? Twitter? Facebook?
How do you feel about self-publishing: both hardcopy and ebooks?
I self-published after I’d rejected four contracts for my first book: Sydney, Melbourne, New York and London publishers. I’ve learnt heaps and now know enough to write a book about preparing a manuscript for printing. Fortunately I am a photographer so my own photographs are used for covers. Why not, eh? I believe the Internet is the ‘gateway to the world’ and ‘www’ is the biggest marketplace in the world. So, for every paperback, I will have an e-book. Traditional books will not die overnight. No way! However, as a writer, one has to avail oneself of every opportunity, including audio books – my next project.
I’ve become very involved with IndiePENdents.org, a voluntary organisation that promotes any self-published author. Three random members of IndiePENdents.org, all professional writers or editors, review fellow members’ books and provide a simple ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’. Reviewers pass books which meet basic objective standards of spelling, grammar, punctuation, editing and formatting, outlined on www.indiePENdents.org website. I sincerely hope the ‘IndiePENdents Seal’ becomes universally known and accepted.
Can you describe your typical day’s work?
Simple. Get up, smile because I am alive, and get into it. First job is to post my daily blog. Then I check emails which may take some hours. For the rest of the day I might chat with other authors, prepare blogs, do work for indiePENdents.org, prepare classes for my students, write editorials and articles for local newspapers, send helpful ‘stuff’ to the 47 young teens I mentor, do ‘writing’ favours for other writers, lawyers and friends, network with past and future blog guests and human rights lawyers, eat, drink coffee and keep doing it. Every Friday afternoon I relax with a senior citizen and enjoy what I call the ‘Friday Orgy’- a few drinks and lots of pontification about the world in general. I have not written anything of substance for 12 months. Sadly, marketing yourself is a necessary task that takes you away from what you love, but you need to do it. I now work ten hours a day, but for twelve years I worked 12 – 14 hours a day, going to sleep at 2am every morning and waking up at 6.30am.
Do you enjoy researching material?
I have not done all that much research for any of my manuscripts but I do enjoy researching facts that will make my books more credible. Most of my 19 manuscripts have been based on true-life experiences. However, I’m about to embark on book three of the ‘Gunnedah Hero’ series. It will be called ‘Magic Billie’ and it will involve more research than I’ve ever done. Why, because it’s about one of the characters mentioned in ‘Gunnedah Hero’ – an Aboriginal drover in 1910 – Magic Billie. I’m meticulous about facts because my readers have the Internet and will check if I’ve stuffed up … and they tell me fairly bluntly. That’s what I love about them. They are great editors and teachers.
Writing a manuscript usually takes me three months. It’s an adrenalin rush.
What has been your most successful publication?
Thus far, I’ve published one book that has won two awards in the National Literary Awards – ‘Gunnedah Hero’. It is book one of a possible fifteen books about the same family. The sequel, ‘A Drover’s Blanket’, is finished and ‘Magic Billie’ will be number three. However, I have always said that ‘Gunnedah Hero’ would make a sensational movie. Why, because it’s a story for all ages, has very few mild swear words, is accurate, human, adventurous, credible and would be a movie that would suit the entire family; grandparents to kids. Imagine the tickets you’d sell?
Then and now: what has changed?
Mm … I became a full time writer fourteen years ago with swags to learn and lots of energy. Now I have heaps of confidence as a writer and knowledge about publishing, but I feel very jaded by the industry – jaded for and on behalf of all writers and authors. However, I’ve never been one to roll over so I’m always thinking outside the square. Although I love all forms of sport, I am often disheartened by the amount of money thrown at sports men and women in this country, compared to that spent on the arts.
Writing is a solitary profession and that causes a problem. How do you organise thousands of people who work alone? Not easy. It’s time for a literary revolution where all players get together and work out some fair and reasonable arrangement. Example: most people are shocked when they learn that an author receives $3.00 for a book that sells for $30.00 RRP. The book sellers and distributors make most, yet the author wrote the bloody thing! Question: what would happen to thousands of folks in the book industry, book shops et al if writers stopped work like they did in America some years back? I’m sure you get my point. They’d be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. However, it is not all about money, fame and glory. No, it’s about recognition of literary talent, equity, our literary heritage and the integrity of the publishing industry in the so-called lucky country.
Why is it that so few authors seem to gain literary recognition? Is this country so poor in talent?
Goldie, stop reading my blog. You’ve learnt how to press the right buttons. Mm … This country has an extraordinary amount of writers, poets, musicians and playwrights with talent. Australian publishers receive in excess of 2,000 manuscripts a year. Not bad for a country with 22.5 million people. And, that does not include those who write but do not submit to publishers, or those who only produce e-books.
Again, I say, we need a literary revolution to smash the literary ceiling. Too many writers are swimming upstream like a literary salmon. It should not be this difficult in 2012.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Ring me and I will give you some good tips that might prevent you from inventing the wheel. However, history has recorded swags of famous writers who were treated shabbily by the publishing industry … but succeeded. Passion has always been my driving force. So, find something your passionate about and write passionately about it. Then, learn all you can and keep trying until they finally submit. Persistence overcomes resistance.
Thanks, Goldie. It’s been an absolute pleasure.