David M. Green, an accomplished TV & radio comedian, writer and MC from Adelaide who is now based in Melbourne, Australia, is with us today.
The 26-year old is the host, head writer & producer of TV game show 31 Questions, syndicated on C31 Melbourne & Geelong, TVS Sydney, 31 Digital Brisbane, WestTV Perth, Adelaide’s Channel 44 & Face Television New Zealand.
Busy David is also a radio panel operator for Crocmedia’s “AFL Live”, and occasionally pops up in print and webseries with Shane Crawford and Alex Williamson.
Hello David, thank you so much for coming in. First let’s visit your TV SHOW 31 Questions
You are the host, head writer & producer of 31 Questions. Such a hilarious quiz show! What compelled you to run this?
I’ve wanted to do comedy on TV ever since I first saw Shaun Micallef in a sketch show called “Full Frontal” back in the mid 90s. Back in Adelaide, I got involved with Flinders University Student Radio and made comedy shows for Radio Adelaide 101.5FM. But I really wanted to try TV, and there weren’t that many opportunities in Adelaide, so I moved to Melbourne in 2010 and got involved with RMITV Student Television.
It was almost all over before it even began. Very early on I was kicked off RMITV’s flagship comedy show “Studio A” for writing a review of a stand-up comedian’s Melbourne Comedy Festival show. Turned out that comedian was one of the cast members of Studio A and they didn’t like what I wrote. I learnt my lesson though. I don’t write reviews any more.
Being kicked off the show was a traumatic moment. The producer yelled at me over the phone: “Everyone here thinks you’re a dick!” and, “You’re not good enough to make it in television!” etc. The funny thing is the producer hadn’t even read the review.
So I wanted to do comedy on TV. But RMITV already had a comedy show. They didn’t, however, have a game show. And it turns out it’s much easier to make a funny game show than a funny comedy show.
And I’ve always loved game shows. I used to watch Sale of the Century with Glenn Ridge religiously when I was growing up and I love trivia. I also just like all the game show paraphernalia that we make fun of on “31 Questions”—the sparkly lights, the sound effects, over-use of the word “fabulous”. That stuff is so hilarious just on its own.
Share with us your journey in producing the show. How difficult is it to secure the sponsors?
This is how I feel about producing: I write because I love to write. I host because I love to host. But I only produce because I love to write and host.
Producing a television show is a lot of work. Often tedious, thankless work. Doing it in a community TV environment is even more challenging because there’s no money, so anytime anyone involved gets a better offer, they’re outta there! But if I wasn’t producing 31 Questions, it wouldn’t exist today. It’s hard. It means I have to do a lot of crap I’d rather someone else do, and which no host of a network TV show would ever have to do, but it means I’ve got a show.
We found getting a sponsor very hard. There are more rules in community television than commercial television regarding sponsorship, so there are more restrictions and that means there’s less you can offer a potential sponsor. For example, you’re not allowed to have any in-program product placement in community TV. But commercial shows do this all the time, to the point where it’s comical just how many aspects of a TV show can be sponsored. “Today’s weather is brought to you by…” “Punctuation marks provided by…” “In-studio oxygen made possible by…”
For our first season, we didn’t have a sponsor. We didn’t even bother looking for one because we knew it would probably be a waste of time. For our second season, we were lucky enough to get “Mind Games” on board. They’re a chain of stores in Victoria and Queensland that specialize in board games and puzzles. They even did a deal for their customers where if you went into one of their stores and could correctly answer a question from that week’s show, they gave you 20 per cent off your purchase. How good is that?
Wishing you success in getting more sponsors, David. Now, tell us about Anthony McCormack and Sophie Loughran. Just pretend they’re not listening.
I love working with Anthony and Sophie. I’d never say this to their faces though. Just behind their back. I always insult them to their face. It’s a power thing.
And whose ideas are the witty hairstyles and fashion?
“Those sideburns = Pure Anthony McCormack. My mullet = Pure the idiot barber who wasn’t f(bleep) listening when he cut my hair 2 weeks before we started shooting Season 2.”
I didn’t actually ask where Sophie got her clothes. Not bad though, aren’t they?
We are grateful viewers—thank you for the good laughs! Why comedy? How did you know you just have to be a comedian?
My Dad always told me I could do anything I wanted in life. The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do more than anything is make people laugh. And to do that in a way that fulfills me creatively and allows me to write and perform my own material on radio and TV. There aren’t many people who do that for a living. That’s the big challenge.
I worked at a horrible office job last year, at a digital advertising agency. It was my first proper “full time” job that wasn’t just a casual job with full time hours. I hated it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I hated having to get up at 7.30. I couldn’t sleep properly. I would fantasise about horrible things that would have to happen that would prevent me from having to go into work, like a fire in the building, or a car accident, or a death in the family. These are signs you’re not on the right career path.
And it was really at that moment that I realized my mind and my body will not physically let me give up on being a comedian.
Which comedians you admire the most? What is it that really strikes you about them?
#1 Shaun Micallef. When I was growing up, there was just an instant appreciation. His elaborately worded monologues, and messing with convention. He’s a brilliant physical comedian. I liked the fact he parts his hair. And when I found out he was from Adelaide and actually went to the same school as me, it was an incredible epiphany. The idea that if he could do it, then I could too.
#2 Tony Martin. He just makes me laugh. I liked his glasses when I was younger and would see him pop up on shows like “The Panel” and in “The Best Bits of The Late Show” on VHS. But when he started doing a radio show called “Get This” on Triple M in 2006, that was just when I was starting radio myself and there was nothing else like it. The sketches they did on that show were hilarious.
There are many others, but those are the 2 important ones.
Success in Raw Comedy is not an accurate measure of comic ability.
Great comedy? It depends on the format. Material that makes a stand-up audience laugh is usually different to material that will make a TV audience laugh. With stand-up, the goal is to get an instant laugh from the live audience. That’s not necessarily the goal of a TV comedy. Single camera sitcoms don’t have a studio audience. Great comedy there usually comes from great editing.
Your facial expressions are so funny! Yet your impressive list of radio shows and the award for “Best Station ID” confirm your voice talent. Which one do you prefer, radio or TV? Why?
I didn’t actually voice the ID that won that award at the 2007 South Australian Community Broadcasting “Bilby” Awards. It was spoken by Shaun Micallef. All I did was hit record and edit out a couple of breaths. Yet that is to date the only media award I’ve ever won. And I won it for producing, which I don’t even really want to do!
I like both TV and radio. You can do things on one you can’t do on the other. But I can use my voice on both.
Your bio shows such a long list of experiences and accomplishments, what a busy young man you have been! Share with us the followings:
Creating radio comedy in 2006 with The Green Room on Flinders University Student Radio, Radio Adelaide 101.5FM and other shows including Brain Damage (autumn 2007), Pow-Wow (summer 2007/08) and On The Yacht (summer 2008/09).
I had a great time at Radio Adelaide. I think I most enjoyed the collaborative comedy shows “Brain Damage” and “On The Yacht”. Listening to a sketch for the first time that I’m in but someone else edited, hanging out at the radio station at 3AM making prank phone calls to petrol stations and hookers with a Bas Ruten soundboard. These were times I literally cried I was laughing so hard. There are few occasions since then where I’ve laughed as much, and I really miss it.
You conducted several high profile interviews (real, as well as fake). Which one left the strongest impression and why?
Interviewing comedy writer and radio personality Richard Marsland in December 2007 left the strongest impression. He was the panel operator on “Get This” with Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee (my favourite radio show). It was over the phone at Radio Adelaide and he was another example of a guy from Adelaide (like me) who started in community radio (like I did), who worked at SAFM (like I did) and who loved Shaun Micallef and Tony Martin (you get the idea), moving to Melbourne and making it in show biz.
He committed suicide just under a year after that interview, which made our chat even more treasured. Being fired from SAFM, kicked off ABC local radio and Richard’s death all within a couple of months in late 2008 led me to bite the bullet and finally move to Melbourne to pursue the dream.
As a professional voice-actor in video games and radio commercials all over Australia. What do you like about this? Share the fun.
It’s fun. I just wish I had more of it. Or it paid more.
Becaming the panel operator for “The Steve Vizard Show” on Melbourne Talk Radio MTR1377, 2011—March 2012.
Now that was something. I’m very appreciative of my time at MTR. I learnt a lot and I was very close to running out of money when I finally got a casual job there as a panel operator, after applying to something like 76 jobs since finishing journalism at RMIT University.
Working on “The Steve Vizard Show” was a valuable experience. At times I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I’d press something like 1,000 buttons during a shift and 99 per cent of the time I pushed them all exactly at the right moment. And I had a front seat view of a rotating series of celebrities and important people as they walked into the studio. One time I was walking through the reception area and there was former Governor-General Dr Peter Hollingworth just standing there on his own, waiting to do a pre-recorded interview with Steve Vizard. I had to escort him to the studio and make small talk for a few minutes. The first thing I said was, “I’m not even sure how I should address you?” He said, “Call me Peter”.
But also, it was a ridiculous amount of work. A lot of it unnecessary, which I found frustrating and pointless at times when the show rated so poorly. When they changed my start time from 9AM to 8.30AM that really threw off my sleeping schedule. I’m just not a morning person. And I should have been paid more than $20 an hour for the work I was doing. I never took a day off the whole time I was there and comically signed a lease on my own conveniently-located apartment just 2 days before the station shut down and I lost my job.
Panelling syndicated radio for Crocmedia, including their flagship program “AFL Live”. Okay, is this sport reporting or comedy about AFL LIVE? And tell us about these legendary sports broadcasters: Rex Hunt, Sandy Roberts, Peter Donegan, Shane Crawford & Craig Hutchison.
Crocmedia is all sport. I’m a panel operator for their flagship show “AFL Live”. I love everything about the job: the hours, the people, the product, the culture, the location, the conditions, the penalty rates. I’m probably the luckiest panel operator in Australia. All the broadcasters are great to work with and it’s just a great environment.
Rex Hunt in particular is a lot of fun to work with. He’s like a big kid. We have a sort of “sixth sense” relationship, because I have to be in his mind in order to anticipate the sound effects he wants me to play (although we don’t do so many sound effects these days—people were getting a bit sick of them). The last 18 months have been quite surreal.
Written and producing content for “The Science Show” on ABC Radio National and “Mornings with Jon Faine” on 774 ABC Melbourne.
I’ve enjoyed the handful of things I’ve done for the ABC and I would like to do more. I did a story for “The Science Show” on ABC Radio National last year about a play based on Carl Sagan and the famous “Pale Blue Dot” photo of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a very long way away. I’m not particularly passionate about news (apologies to my journalism lecturers), but I am very interested (and well read) in science and space, so it was great to actually do a news story about something I’m very interested in.
Writing/co-hosting for THE Big Show on the Triple M Network in 2009.
Back in 2009 I entered a competition called “Semi-Pro Radio” that was open only to people who worked for an advertising or creative agency. The finalists were given the opportunity to record a once-off 2-hour comedy show to be broadcast at 11PM on a Sunday night on the Triple M Network across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. I bent the truth a little and entered as a representative of a voice-over agency I belonged to, and included my old Radio Adelaide buddies as part of my team. We were one of the 13 finalists and the only team from Adelaide.
One of the guys was in Sydney but he took 2 weeks off work and came to Adelaide (at his own expense) so we could record it together at the Adelaide Triple M. But the people at Triple M Adelaide burdened with the task of holding our hand through this competition had better things to do, and were more concerned about their Adelaide audience (Triple M Adelaide has a less masculine demographic than its Triple M counterparts on the east coast).
They gave us very little to work with. We had to prerecord our show (THE Big Show) in a standing room only voice-over booth, not a studio. We were given limited time and could only record 75 per cent of what we had planned for our 2 hours. Once you take out all the ads and the music, our 2-hour show only ran for 23 minutes. Yet one of the other finalists from Melbourne had a show that ran more than 60. Why were THEY given three times as much air time? That’s bullshit.
I worked with the production guy to edit down a few of the “longer” segments, but then those same segments were then further edited again after I had gone home. The most frustrating cut was made to a very funny prank call I’d actually recorded a year earlier at Radio Adelaide, and that I thought was so funny I’d use it again on Triple M. The call was initially 5 minutes, but I found I could make it even funnier if I cut out some of the flab and got it down to a tight 3. I’d introduced it on Triple M as “probably the funniest soundboard prank call you’ll ever hear”, but someone at Triple M had cut that 3 minutes down to 2, editing out a lot of the running gags that “built” towards the big pay off at the end. It effectively ruined the whole call. It was very disappointing.
But the REAL frustration came a week later when I got an email from someone at Triple M with some feedback on our show. One of the criticisms was that we had “over sold” the prank call, and that it wasn’t as funny as we had set it up to be in the intro… Gee, my mistake. If only I had known I was introducing a much shitter prank call, the segment might have worked…
But hey, no hard feelings. It was a great opportunity to learn firsthand how commercial radio works.
“The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do more than anything is make people laugh. And to do that in a way that fulfills me creatively and allows me to write and perform my own material on radio and TV.”
And hopefully next opportunities will give you better results! You can do it! You completed a Graduate Diploma in Journalism with Distinction at RMIT University and have written for mX, Mamamia, The Punch, The Drum, Popular Science and Video Education Australasia. What story would you like to share about the joy, challenges, or hardships of writing?
The hardest thing is getting any of them to pay you. Some of these places, if you even ask them whether they pay their contributors, it’s like you’ve just spat in their face and killed their puppy.
How inconsiderate of them! Have your vengeance man, write them into your show 🙂 By the way, what’s the most rewarding: being the host or writing the show?
Getting a big laugh on your own is very rewarding. But it’s also very rewarding seeing a joke you wrote months earlier being delivered perfectly by someone else, and knowing you couldn’t have done it better yourself if you tried.
You’re too kind. And what inspires you the most, David?
Real life events. And Wikipedia.
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
I like to nurse a soda or a tea when writing.
Any writing tip?
Carry a notepad and a pen everywhere. And make sure your favourite pen you’ve had for 10 years doesn’t fall out of your pocket while you’re walking around Hawthorn.
Oh I used to carry my drawing pen to the mountains, because drawing ink didn’t fade or get blurred in the rain. Now I write on my phone, looking like a texting addict. Oops, getting sidetracked. David, tell us about Too Easy and about Alex Williamson.
Too Easy is a webseries about a nerd and a bogan who live together. It stars me and Alex Williamson and for some reason, it’s extremely popular.
Perhaps because people relate to your topics. What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
Aside from crafting responses to the most comprehensive interview in history? Still working on 31 Questions. We’re not done with it yet.
Hahahahaha! Wasn’t my fault that you have a mile-long bio! But I’m glad you aren’t done purveying fine humour. Good luck with 31 Questions! Now, let’s talk about the person you are outside the shows.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Telepathy. The power. THE POWER!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve googled?
Your endless energy and positive take on life are so inspiring! What drives you?
You’re not getting any cynicism in any of these responses? I just want it bad enough that nothing is gonna stop me. I’ve got no choice anyway because I just won’t let myself work in another dead-end office job again.
What song best describes your work ethic?
Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels.
Who gives you the most encouragement?
A lady named Van Badham.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up around 10, if I’m paneling at Crocmedia I’ll work 11-6, either make some dinner or go out with a friend, dabble in social media throughout the day, read some stuff online, write down some ideas, go for a walk around Hawthorn, watch an episode of something and go to sleep 1-2AM.
It was closer to Adelaide than Sydney, cheaper than Sydney and has more media opportunities than Adelaide.
Share your dreams with us. What’s next? You going to leave our beloved Aussieland to create fame across the pond like some of us have done?
I have the ultimate goal of moving to the US and doing writing and TV there. Though I currently have no plan as to how I’ll actually do it. I figure keep the momentum going with 31 Questions and see what happens. There are a few things on the horizon.
Connoisseur of fine soft drinks, you also enjoy golf, motion pictures, cranberries, light-rail, booth seating, tea, Scrabble, cycling, collecting obscure ’80s New Wave records, loitering with friends, and generally having a laugh. Care to elaborate on any of these hobbies?
Yeah, if Subway could put cranberry sauce back on their menu, that would be great.
Okay, I’ll be sure to notify Subway. Now, if I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for me?
You like cereal?
But, but David… I have my cereal long before you wake up! Oh well, stop by for a cooking lesson next time you’re in Sydney. For now tell us a bit about who matters to you.
People I like.
A keen-ish environmentalist…What one thing is important for your audience to know about you? Why?
I once killed a guy.
Ohh why did you bother to do that? Next time just show your enemy how successful and cool you are, that will kill him slowly and painfully.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You’ll never take me alive!
Of course 🙂 Okay, here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let’s hear your shout outs.
Obviously my Mum and Dad for raising me right. I liked growing up in Adelaide, for the most part. And I have a lot of great friends and the rest of my family who are still there. I miss all of them very much.
In Melbourne, the great people I work with at Crocmedia. The great people I work with on 31 Questions and at RMITV and Channel 31. They all do great work.
And my mentor Van Badham for her constant advice and friendship.
Thank you so much for your very precious time, David. Best wishes for your work!
And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting our talented guest and learning about the production of non commercial TV shows. Come visit David’s website and follow his latest news on Twitter @David_M_Green. Watch 31 Questions on YouTube and show your support on its Facebook page. If you aren’t in Australia, remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel and you will be notified of each new episode of David’s 31 Questions. Enjoy!
Tania Elizabeth, Australian author of “The Moon Clearing”, the first book in the fantasy series “The Tie of Eternal Grace” is visiting us today.
Like each and every one of us, Tania’s own journey has been one of trials and tribulations, of love and of passions; and the dissolution of it. Heartache, sorrows, smiles and laughter always seeming. Though through the struggles, she found her true self. Through the words of Tatiana, her growth continued as further peace within was found. Alongside the words, her mentors and her guides of thee divine, Tania has healed within. That is not to say that she does not have her moments of ego minds elapse, though she has learnt to now understand what it is to acknowledge when this appears and to then surrender it’s wrath back to the universe. It is now Tania’s only dream to unite the world through Love, one soul at a time. And it all begins with a smile and an I LOVE YOU!
Hello Tania, would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of “The Moon Clearing”?
Book One of the series ‘The Moon Clearing’ is an immersive tale of mysticism and adventure, of spiritual and sensual intent that shall enrapture your every sense.
How real are your characters?
Though this is a fantasy fiction, and thy beings are of an ethereal nature from a realm unlike that of our own. The stories of Tatiana and her people are wound into the conceptions of reality. Love, Compassion, betrayal, deceit, sexual energies. All emotions and acts felt on as much an undesirable standpoint as it is the assured. Each of the characters are also based on aspects of myself and that of people I have come into contact with throughout my lifetime. Therefore, I would like to say that my characters are very real.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write?
The inspiration arose from many things. My love of fantasy, in particular that of faeries. Though do not think childlike. These ethereal beings are one of strength, being sensually and spiritually consumed. Though my want for this trilogy was also of my love for wanting others to gain an understanding of themselves . . . to love oneself within. I wanted to create a story that not only allowed the reader to delve into an enchanting realm of every emotion under the sun, but to create a read that would enable the reader to begin a journey of self discovery. To gain an understanding for their own selves as well as that of others. Where judgment and fear did not hold strength.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Book One took 11 months in total.
How did you come up with the title?
The title came to me in meditation. I am of a very spiritual nature and have much faith in my connection with that of my higher self.
What is your favorite line in this book?
“Your heart was always in the right place even if it was in the wrong place!”
Thank you! Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
Enid Blyton. For it was her books, The Adventures of the Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair in which had me lost in the fantasy worlds as a child.
Then you would have the classical and poetic writings of William Shakespeare. This being where my love for poetry began.
And, last but certainly not least, I must mention, Florence Scovel Shinn, who wrote the book in which became the catalyst for my own journey of self, love and discovery.
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
The editing process. Not from my end, but from that of my editors. It took a few attempts at having them understand my poetic style of writing. Therefore they would change context to suit the general, when this is not as I had intended. I would then have to change things back. Though it has all been a learning curve, and one in which I could only grow from as a writer.
Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
It would have to be my three beautiful children and that of my father. Having them stand beside me on my own journey, only gives me further belief in my own strengths and that of all that I am capable of accomplishing.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
At present I am writing the second book to the trilogy ‘The Mirrors Shadow’. A read of lost. Will thy be found? Through hearts beauty and the soul’s calling, will she awaken from her mind removed? Will their realm wield to the break?
Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?
My writings are that of heart and it is my passion. So as long as that still lives within me, then there will always be words to come.
How much do you have in common with your protag, Tania?
She is me. I am her. We are one and the same in regards to beliefs and thought processes. Though I am not capable of magic as she is, I do believe that we all attain the power to perform any such magic, provided complete belief and faith are held. What disables us as humans to have such power, is our human minds, which have been dealt those two things that stop us from doing and believing in all that we do . . .fear and doubt.
What are your hobbies?
I love the outdoors and staying active as much as possible. So hiking, swimming, kickboxing, gym and dance of course . . . I love to dance!
Sounds fun! What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?
I am a mother first and foremost. Thus, my days are full with all that they do and are. They are my life. I also write a few columns. Though come by my night, and, that is when my magic happens. That is when I have time to become one with myself and that of my words.
Tell us a bit about who or what matters to you.
Besides that of my children. Family. Friends. Mother Earth. Truth. Faith. Belief. Gratitude and above all else, Love. For none of this would be possible without it.
How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?
I am still me, just as I will forever be me. Though my attitude towards life has changed dramatically, and it is through those aspects that others have looked upon me differently. Though this had only been in a positive manner. As my friends all state, ‘I am a Love Bubble’. I love life and life loves me back.
Any tips for us on reading or writing?
The only advise I have, is to awake each day being grateful for who you are and all you have. The reading, the writing will all be as you have ever dreamed it to be, provided you have absolute faith and belief in oneself.
Great advice! What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?
I am an advocate for the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Having seen first hand what these children and their families must go through on a day to day basis. To see what strength they must conjure every waking minute. By raising awareness and funds for such a worthy cause, I alongside so many others, help to make their lives just that little bit easier and assist in making their dreams come true. This is why at present I am running a fundraising event ‘Starlight Author’s Aid’.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation transforms the experience of hospitalisation and treatment for seriously ill children and their families- Starlight is the only children’s charity with a permanent , physical presence in very major paediatric hospital in the country. Every minute of every day a child is admitted to hospital in Australia. For thousands of these children what happens next is the diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness that changes their life, and the lives of their families, forever.
This is where Starlight steps in – delivering a range of innovative programs, built on the World Health Organisation’s social model of health, to support the well-being and resilience of these seriously ill children and their families. Starlight programs are integral to the total care of seriously ill children – while the health professionals focus on treating the illness, Starlight is there to lift the spirits of the child – giving them the opportunity to laugh and play and be a child again.
If anyone would like to help change the lives of seriously ill children and make a donation, even that of a single dollar, for every bit counts, you may do so via this link: Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Thank you so much for your time, Tania!
Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Tania; now let’s support her cause! Come visit Tania’s Facebook, blog and YouTube. Her book “The Tier of Eternal Grace” is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Sue-Ellen Holmes, Australian author of several science-fiction and urban-fantasy novels for young adults is with us today. Sue is different from most authors. She is very shy, humble, but she writes about outspoken, passionate heroines who would fight for justice.
Hello Sue, lovely to have a neighbour stopping by J It was so entertaining your book BRINK. Would you be so kind to give readers its one-sentence synopsis?
In the near future where the intellect rules and science offers civilisation’s only salvation, a mad-man bio-terrorist is determined to purge the planet of its human stain and the only one standing in his way is defiant hyper-immune girl called Io, whose ridiculed physical gifts may just give her the upper fist.
How real are your characters?
Well it’s really important to create characters with the full range of human emotions, complexity and depth, but whether I succeed or not is for the reader to judge. Often what’s in your head is not always transcribed well on the page no matter how hard you try because real people are actually quite confusing and their motivations are often obscure. I have a Psych degree, but as in life, I find that’s no help at all. As you can tell, I’m good at nailing confusion!
You’re good at building the characters! Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m a Neuroscientist, so many aspects of the physical world fascinate me. If I had my time over, I think I’d specialise in bacteria and viruses—they’re such perfectly nasty little suckers. So, it was only natural that I wrote about something I’m very interested in. Also, many people write about catastrophe in retrospect and I thought it would be fun to see an extinction event as it unfolds. BRINK was actually the first full length novel I attempted and it’s ten years old now. Unfortunately, if I’d had the skills back then to clean up the story and edit it to a higher standard, I might have beaten the current slew of dystopian/post-apocalyptics flooding the market. Still, despite the poor timing, it’s a far better story now that I’ve practiced and schooled myself in the art of writing and I’m grateful for the delay.
The catastrophe is well detailed. When did you first know you just had to write?
I’ve been writing creatively since primary school—poetry and short stories—but didn’t attempt a full length novel until I was an adult. Now writing’s like breathing and I can’t imagine a day without it. I resent anything that interferes, such as mortgage-paying jobs and maintaining personal hygiene. All of my jobs involve either academic writing or educational writing, so I guess it’s always been deep in my bones.
How long did it take you to write Brink?
The writing process is very quick for me, it’s the editing and fine tuning that takes a long time. I finished an entire re-write of the first version of BRINK for a contest (ABNA 2011) in four frenzied days. It’s taken months since to fine-tune.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted a word that represented not only the visual image of teetering on a cliff, but also one that auditorily came to a screeching halt. I spent a long time messing around with crappy titles, until BRINK finally hit me.
What is your favourite phrase in Brink?
“They’ll come” because it encapsulates a particularly unexpected instance of treachery and provides a bit of a cliff-hanger in a book that is mostly stand-alone.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
The list evolves, as there have been so many. I know it’s cliché for fantasy writers, but I love Tolkien or any author who can transport the reader to a place that, although utterly strange and unreal, seems likely (of course, J K Rowling). Dr Seuss is the earliest genius I remember encountering. Everything he’s done is just so gleeful, yet also imparts a subtle, valuable message. I read Dune when I was quite young and even though it necessitated a dictionary and periods of extensive confusion, I just loved the grand scope of that series, the tantalising possibility of it all. At the moment, I’m enjoying Laini Taylor and her exciting new spin on angel mythology. It sounds harsh, but I cherish any writer who can effortlessly keep me turning pages. Currently, I put so many potentially good YA stories down unread due to boredom and it’s such a shame.
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
I’m a fairly solitary creature so the great stretches of time alone writing don’t bother me, as it does some people. Besides, I’m surrounded by the characters I conjure on the page. It’s when I’m forced to venture outside the comfortable sphere of my study, even in virtual realms that I find being an author testing. Discoverability is something I’ve struggled with and failed miserably to master—letting the target reader know you’re actually there. And reaching teens is not the easiest in reality, let alone across the world wide web. Plus, if you’re not determined to overcome the self-doubt, the lack of financial reward, the constant rejection and less than glowing opinions, forget about it. So in essence, real thick-skinned writers never give up!
But getting immersed in your writing is a wondrous adventure and a reward in itself, right? Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
Selling the odd book tends to give me an enduring high… My family, while not effusive in their encouragement, are stoically non-critical of my crazy dream to work full-time as an author. They weather the tears and gin-abuse with eye-rolling fortitude. My adorable long-suffering husband no longer bothers to compete with the computer for attention and now sleeps with his surfboard. It doesn’t matter how much external validation you get, if you don’t ‘back’ yourself nothing anyone can say will make a difference—which is supremely ironic given this entire career choice is about the subjective opinion of others. Go figure…
Sounds rather like my long suffering, accepting family! What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
I’m attempting to work on completing the trilogies for each of the novels I’ve published on my website http://www.unrealya.com . Unfortunately, I’ve a few rather annoying jobs that eat up far too much time, so the endeavour is patchy at best. And I’m toiling to complete a space opera that is my own personal favourite, Able Unwilling.
You’re very creative and courageous! Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?
A career, without doubt, because it’s the thing I most love doing (except in my pesky day jobs, which are the true distractions!). You know that old adage ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’? It’s true. Now, if I could just make enough/any money as an idle, gin-swilling, hammock-swinging writer…
And we can’t possibly give to readers something that we can’t love. How much do you have in common with your protag?
Io is head-strong, highly strung and anti-authoritarian, while I am as meek as a lamb. <I read this aloud and assorted family members were on the floor in tears of hilarity. I admit to being slightly miffed at the implication I am in any way oppositional. I am so not!> Okay, so maybe Io and I share some character traits. But she is also elegant and athletic, the opposite of clumsy old me (her abilities are wishful thinking on my part, perhaps).
I could see you when I was reading her 🙂 What are your hobbies?
Writing, painting, writing, running, writing, reading, writing, surfing (sort of, see comment above)… Oh, and that elusive past-time of doing absolutely nothing for a stretch longer than thirty seconds. Not to mention shamelessly embarrassing my adolescent children at every opportunity.
What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?
I’m a Neuroscientist by trade, but am working as a monkey-slave running research for several sets of doctors at the moment. Squeezing time out of the day is the biggest challenge right now and writing is relegated to the weekend, much to my irritation. This means I’ve been working seven days a week now for two and a half years. My body is frozen in the seated position, which makes jogging particularly challenging (and fairly awkward).
Sue, come tell us a bit about who or what matters to you.
My husband and my children are the world. They provide me with that other essential ingredient in a life worth living: laughter (even if it’s often at my expense).
Wonderful family! 🙂 Now, how has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?
I’d have to say it’s barely made a ripple to the exchanges I have with others. In the beginning, I had too many friends apologising for ‘not getting around’ to reading my stuff, which just made everyone fidget and stare at the floor. Unless I morph into Stephanie Meyer overnight and people beg me for a profound sound-bite (and despite what people think of her technique, that woman is a brilliant example of connecting with her target audience. I’d take tips from her any day), I’ll be sticking to my ‘keep quiet and don’t startle the nervous/apathetic/guilty associate’ approach. Clearly, self-promotion is not my forte.
What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?
I work my bum off to avoid boring readers… I study television and movies to see how tension is maintained, strive to first and foremost write entertaining adventure stories where the protagonist struggles to prevail, much like everyday life, only bigger, harder and in much weirder places, usually with a generous helping of the supernatural or technology or my friend ‘the germ’. Boredom is the enemy of good story-telling.
Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?
If I were to offer tips on writing technique, the underlying inference seems to be that I am somehow an expert, which I do not feel is true. There is always something more to learn about writing. Reading good books is the best thing an aspiring writer can do—find examples that you love and try to discern why they push your buttons, what you admire. See if you can somehow emulate them with your very own twist. The best I can suggest is to keep writing and endure—never give-up on yourself. Oh, and remember when receiving criticism that planet earth would be a very boring place if we all liked the same things. Even Harry Potter got a one star now and then. So, have a laugh and go in search of a large gin to toast the honest effort.
What you’d like people to know about you apart from the questions above?
That I sing like a nightingale, am exceptional at ballet, have an IQ to rival Hawking and speak ancient Hebrew at parties just for the smart-arsed hell of it… I harbour a secret desire to be a dark avenger and right society’s wrongs ala Dexter Morgan, only a little less messy as I’m averse to doing housework. Well, Ia, you didn’t specify it had to be true (except for that last part)!
Hahahahaha… you forget to mention your sense of humour!
It’s been fun Sue, good luck with all these marvelous books, thanks again for coming!
Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Sue. And now my review of BRINK, here it goes:
Book title: Brink
ASIN: B007DMWZXS, 306 pages
Author: Sue-Ellen Holmes
The year isn’t clear, but BRINK takes place in the future when science dominates our earth. This first book in the Maverick trilogy is the story of 17-year-old Io Calypso, originally of Maverick Institute of Advance Thought. Here intellectual brilliance and obedience are the most valued assets, but alas, rebellious Io is a freedom-craving girl with physical gifts and a penchant for rock climbing instead.
On the day Io gets into trouble for challenging Maverick’s constrictive rules, a mad bio-terrorist places humankind at the brink of extinction by permanently covering the land with hazardous pollution and deadly disease. To survive, Io and 14 other survivors must take refuge in a shielded subsurface pod, protected from harm. Io loses her entire family in the disaster, except her grandmother. Or so she believes as she grieves.
Concerns for her grandmother’s health cause Io to sneak back to Maverick, their former luxurious home, one year later. Unexpectedly, impossibly, she encounters a surprise survivor, and learns that the disaster which she had thought was an accident was actually a sabotage staged by a devious and dangerous enemy, and that more survivors exist. Is her beloved brother Iz among them?
Enter Io’s pod members, geniuses who have shielded the deviant girl from the truth for her own “good”. At the head is her bossy, crafty grandma; at her side is Wim—an over-protective friend; around her is an assortment of interesting characters who now must back Io as this tough girl embarks on her lethal mission to free Iz from the clutch of menacing evil.
BRINK is a gripping dystopian science fiction that will delight smarter readers. Io is of your typical teen-against-the-world variety, but she has an extra-ordinary immune system and splendid determination. Sue-Ellen Holmes plays the early events by flipping the present and the past back and forth. These frequent flips wouldn’t allow me to lose myself in the mood of the scenes at the beginning, but once the story flows Io’s adventures through dangers are carefully plotted and original, the catastrophe and treacherous grounds vividly detailed, the descriptions imaginative, and the narration at times chilling.