07 June 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Guest Post by Halliday Smith, author of Colour in Winter

Can you tell us about yourself?

As a youngster, I voraciously read anything I could lay my hands on, ranging from the Anne of Green Gables, Famous Five and Secret Seven series to their Australian equivalents, including the Billabong series, before graduating to adult books in my late pre-teens.

Fortunate enough to have a local bushland setting as my childhood ‘backyard’, I developed a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of nature that continues to this day. ‘Going bush’ remains high on my agenda, with my last two holidays to the hot dry semi arid rangelands of North Western New South Wales and the Far North of South Australia.

A corporate and interpretive writer, I am more interested in conservation than consumption and spend what little spare time I have writing, drawing, blogging and walking in preference to chilling out in front of the TV.

How long have you been writing?

I must have been 10 or 11 when I wrote my first short story, and throughout my working life, I have researched and written non-fiction content for exhibitions, outdoor interpretive signs and audiovisual scripts. During the late 1980s I sent off three chapters and a synopsis to Mills and Boon, followed up by five more, before arriving at the conclusion that I was more interested in reading and writing contemporary and historic fiction. From that point on, I turned my attention to fiction and non-fiction book projects.

Despite encouraging feedback from manuscript assessors, getting published via the traditional ‘pbook’ route, through publishing houses in the form of ‘physical’ books, has proved elusive, so to justify my hard work and get my book ‘out there’, I’ve chosen to embark on the self-published ebook route.

What authors have inspired you?

My reading tastes are wide ranging, and in singling out authors who have been most influential on my writing, I am sure to leave someone out by, but here goes anyway.

During my formative twenties, I was particularly drawn to Doris Lessing, Annie Dillard, Lawrence Durrell, Herman Hesse and Laurens van de Post.

Other writers who impressed me enormously over the years include Janette Turner Hospital, A S Byatt, E Annie Proulx, Michael Ondaatje and J M Coetzee. I also nurse a soft spot for the likes of Jane Austen, George Elliott and Elizabeth Gaskell, and enjoy dipping into a Jodi Picoult, Maeve Binchy or Rosamunde Pilcher novel.

More recently, I have been drawn to anything written by Ian McEwan and Lionel Shriver and have finally got around to reading the complete works of John le Carré, courtesy of my Kindle.

And last but never least, my most inspiring Australian writers, in no particular order, are Patrick White, Tim Winton, Drusilla Modjeska, Frank Moorhouse, David Malouf, Richard Flanagan and Gillian Mears.

Tell us about your latest book.

Colour in Winter, no time to be lost charts the decision points and dilemmas of a woman in her mid 40s who has reached an age where she was expecting to put herself first for once and fulfill her long-postponed creative ability.

Having worked hard all her life, for both love and money, Ula’s decision to accept a retrenchment offer and pursue her childhood dream are thrown into disarray when her doctor breaks the news that far from going into early menopause, her symptoms are entirely consistent with pregnancy.

Mindful that thousands of childless women the world over would be ecstatic to find themselves in her position, the doctor’s bombshell threatens to derail Ula’s mid-life career change plans that have only been made possible after years of frugal living.

What will she do! What would you do if you were in her shoes. My book explores how she reacts to her predicament and the obstacles she faces in reaching a decision that is life changing for all concerned. Determined to be above all true to herself, she finds herself flying in the face of societal views about abortion and adoption, and the widely-held belief that children should be brought up by their ‘birth’ parents, regardless. To have or not to have the baby is the question for Ula but as she quickly discovers, reaching her ultimate decision is anything but straightforward, let alone easy.

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on her situation, and following her agonised decision to take a ‘road less travelled’, she finds herself shouldering the consequences of a choice that involves her immediate family and triggers unexpected complications and turning points.

At the heart of Colour in winter’s storyline are Ula’s relationships with two men, the charming mercurial father of her baby, and a moody father of two she holds a grudge against for bidding against her during the auction of a cottage she eventually secures, in the process threatening the viability of long postponed childhood dreams.

What is your writing process?

Once I have outlined my story, I start drafting the words so I can see where it is going and more importantly, whether it’s flowing. I don’t usually plot in any great detail as I’m unsure at the start about the ending, let alone the actual events leading up to it.

I usually research as I go to ensure that my work of fiction rings as true as possible, especially for Colour in winter as I don’t have first hand experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

When developing my characters, I find it very helpful to leaf through magazines or search online for pictures of men and women that I find appealing. Having settled on the look of my characters, I draw up a table and document their key physical characteristics and idiosyncrasies to ensure that I consistently represent their eye and hair colour, for example, and aspects of behaviour.

Once I have rough drafted the book, and sorted out the plotline and approximate ending, I tend to shift the plot points about, moving entire chapters back and forth in order to hold back information, heighten the suspense and build reader sympathy as the heroine and hero’s respective backstories and motivating factors are finally revealed.

About the Author:
Halliday Smith is the pen name of an Australian author who grew up in Sydney, New South Wales, and worked in other parts of the country from her late 20s for work before returning to Sydney in the 1980s. She has written a number of non-fiction publications on Australian natural and cultural heritage themes for the local, state and federal government sectors, and has worked as a researcher, writer, natural and cultural heritage interpreter, science communicator, exhibition and audiovisual developer and document specialist.

When it comes to works of fiction, including Colour in Winter – No time to be lost, she writes under the pen name Halliday Smith to avoid confusion with a previously published author who shares her actual name.

The author loves going bush, especially to ‘far out’ localities in the interior of Australia. In her spare time, she researches overlooked aspects of Australian history and creates contemporary Australian landscapes on a WACOM tablet, drawing inspiration from Australia’s stark evocative and empty landscapes.

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