AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dee White
I've known Dee White for a little while now and find her to be the loveliest, most giving author who shares so much wonderful information online and in her workshops. Dee is also a brilliant writer, who has published books for a wide range of children, from little ones and up.
This week I'm super excited to be interviewing Dee to find out all about her latest and upcoming projects, her creative inspirations, and more. Let's get straight into the Q&A...
Can you tell us a bit about your latest books, and the themes/issues they explore?
I'm crazy about animals, so they always seem to feature in my stories, and my latest releases are no exception. Reena's Rainbow is a picture book about a deaf girl and a homeless dog, and K9 Heroes is about dogs who have saved people's lives.
My books explore the strength of the human (or canine) spirit, and characters overcoming adversity. Reena wants to play with the hearing children in the park, and introduce them to her world. In the K9 Heroes stories, which are inspired by true events, the dogs save people from cougar attack, fire, drowning and homelessness.
What was the inspiration behind writing these particular stories, and did it change much as you were writing them?
Reena's Rainbow was inspired by my own hearing loss. I discovered how isolating it is when you can't hear what people are saying so you become excluded from conversations and activities.
I was inspired to write the K9 Heroes book, by my own dog Puff, who rescued two abandoned kittens from the bushland near our home.
How do you hope readers will connect with the books, and/or what do you want them to take away from them?
Reena is deaf, but she's very perceptive, and this quality helps her save her friends from harm. I want readers to take away the realisation that everyone is an individual with their own talents and difficulties, but difficulties can be overcome with friendship and understanding - when we stick together.
K9 Heroes is about ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. Anyone has the potential to be a hero.
Biggest challenges in writing these stories, or in getting them published?
The biggest challenge in writing Reena's Rainbow was that I wanted it to be authentic, but I hadn't experienced deafness as a young child.
K9 Heroes provided some challenges in the research process. One of the 'true' stories I pitched to my publisher turned out to be a fake. It was listed online on all the 'world record sites', and it was a story about an Australian dog who had walked the longest distance ever (across the Nullarbor) to find its way home.
When I delved into the research more, I started to get suspicious because it was hard to find photos of the dog. It came from a small Victorian town called Pimpinio, and I wondered why there were no statues or other tributes to this 'famous' canine. I contacted the historical society in the town, and was preparing to take a trip there, when they discovered an old newspaper article that proved that the 'incredible journey' never happened.
I had to find another story, and fortunately, my publisher was happy to include the new one in the book.
Do you have any suggestions on ways parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers can get more out of the book? For example, questions to discuss or ponder, activities to complete etc.
I wanted Reena's Rainbow to be inclusive for both deaf and hearing children so I applied for, and received a grant to have Auslan interpreters at my launches and workshops.
I also received funding to have Reena's Rainbow made into an Auslan book. Tracie Grimwood (Illustrator) and I are really excited about this because it will make the book accessible to deaf children. It will also be something teachers can use in a hearing classroom to introduce children to Auslan, and help them walk in the shoes of someone who's deaf. It can be read in conjunction with the print stories.
K9 Heroes is also a book that can be used in classrooms to discuss the notion that anyone can be a hero. Heroes can be ordinary people (or animals) who do extraordinary things.
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects?
A couple of years ago, when I was researching my novel, Paris Hunting, I came across the true story of Muslims at a Paris mosque who saved Jewish children during WW2.
Last year, I received a VicArts grant to spend a month in Paris researching this story. It was one of the most amazing months of my life, and Beyond Belief, the novel I wrote there, is being published by Scholastic Australia next year.
What influences do you think shape your writing?
My love of research. I really like coming up with a glimmer of an idea, and delving until the full story reveals itself. I'm also fascinated with history, and love travelling, and being in the world of my story when I write. True stories draw me in, and I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to tell them. And of course there's my obsession with animals.
Where do you do your writing, and do you have any particular rituals in your creative process?
I write pretty much anywhere, anytime and all the time. When my kids were small, I used to get up at 5.00am so I could write for an hour before the chaos started. If I don't write, I become cranky, so my husband is very supportive of my writing obsession :-)
Before I stop writing for the day, I always scribble notes on where I'm going to next with my story so when I pick it up again, I haven't lost the thread.
What got you into creating books?
I wanted to be a writer since I was seven years-old. I had a very active imagination, and was always 'making things up', and it just kind of evolved from there.
Do you have some tips for other creatives?
Don't let anyone else define who you are as a creator, or deter you from following your dreams. Find your own creative voice and be the writer you want to be.
If you're sending your work out, always have a plan for alternative submission options. So if you receive a rejection, you can send your work out again straight away ... and you still have hope. It's okay to grieve over a rejection, but having somewhere else to send a manuscript helps you to stay optimistic.
Believe in yourself and follow your creative vision. Write the stories you want to write, not the ones you think will sell or that others tell you to write.
What about a favourite word?
Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
I used to do karate. I'd really like to start training again.
You can connect with Dee online at Facebook (Dee White Author) and on Twitter (@DeeWhiteauthor).