Lia Weston – Author
Lia co-owns Adelaide’s greatest bike store and is a published author. Pretty impressive, right? Lia has taken time out from creating worlds (not the god type of world-creation, more the literary type – although I don’t want to place any limitations on her, she is quite clever) to discuss some of things she does to keep the words (and the book deals) flowing.
Anyway, here she is!
Can you recall any situations or environments or objects or animals or people which/who have inspired you to create?
People are my best inspiration. People are bizarre, hilarious, infuriating and fascinating; they are the foundation of fiction. I tend to be more of a character-driven writer; I like to see what’s going to happen to certain people in a certain situation rather than a ‘what would happen if we unleashed a pack of virus-riddled kittens into the population’ kind of thing. Though now, of course, I’m wondering if I can use that.
Do you have a set methodology for coming up with new ideas, or do you just happen upon them during the course of your day?
I wish I did have a set methodology, as that would make scheduling my time a lot easier! I try to cultivate new ideas through freewriting – just picking words or characters and then scribbling out two pages of random associated thoughts. This implies, however, that I’m organised, which I’m not. If I’m honest, most ideas tend to occur to me when I’m walking through the parklands with my dog.
What do you do (or where you go) to open your mind?
In light of the previous answer, I guess it’s the parklands. When I actually begin writing, however, I use a method of sense absorption to kick off—you take a moment to pause and absorb your environment, and then describe it with all your senses—what can you see, smell, hear, touch and taste? This helps awaken the observational eye, which is critical for good writing. I’m also determined to get back into meditation, but it hasn’t happened yet. As a result, I try to take small moments during the day to just stop and be, for want of a better term.
Do you carry a notebook, or voice recorder, or camera (actually, a phone can do all those things…) wherever you go?
I’m so forgetful that, no, though I know it’s good practice. I do try to immediately note down any potentially good idea or dialogue on my phone, however; if I don’t, guaranteed I won’t remember it in five minutes.
How much sleep is enough sleep?
It purely depends on the person. I’ve found, to my surprise, that I function very well on six hours. My husband, however, would probably murder someone. My only never-fail tip, however, is to not hit the snooze button. If you wake up naturally, GET UP. (Yes, it needs all-caps. Forgive me.) If you snooze, you will always feel like the walking dead for the first few hours.
Do you embrace new technologies in your work?
I try to be open to all new technologies, but I’m afraid I suffer from the fear that if I take the time to learn how to use them properly, it takes away from time I could be writing. As a consequence, I use an excellent program called Scrivener, but only know how to operate about 10% of it. If I actually went through all 290 pages of the manual, it would probably make my life easier but instead I bumble on like the white rabbit. “There’s no time! No time!”
Have you won any awards? – Are awards ceremonies fun?
What are some of the most powerful/memorable lessons you have learned on the job?
In fiction writing, I’ve learnt that even the most accomplished and brilliant writers have a constant fear of rejection and that they’ll never be able to sustain a career. Many authors I admire confess that they’re still convinced they will be unearthed as frauds any day now. On one hand, I find this very comforting. On the other, I find it worrying as I’d hoped to be able to control the ‘this is all awful, awful, awful, why am I wasting my time’ side of myself somehow. Perhaps it can’t be done. Crap.
In editing, I’ve learnt that it’s important to charge a sliding scale for work based on the expected turn-around time. This will weed out lazy and disorganised clients very, very quickly. I’ve also learnt that people who write in any art-related field have very delicate egos (try telling an exhibition curator that one of their sentences makes no sense grammatically or literally; you may end up bleeding), and that even though someone may have just told you that you’re one of the best editors they’ve worked with, it’s best not to then confess that you don’t have any formal qualifications.
Do you learn best by doing, seeing, reading, hearing, or a mixture of some, or all of them?
By seeing and doing. I had huge trouble understanding how our (unfortunately complicated) accounts worked together when someone was telling me about it. Finally, in frustration they literally drew me a picture, and then everything clicked. Doing also helps, and is better than reading (oh, the irony); I need to feel things practically. Hearing is the worst for me; if someone on the phone starts spelling out their name, I panic. I haaaaaate it.
If you could go back in time (forget all the other super-amazing things you could do, like meet Marie Curie, or Jules Vern, or be witness to the building of the pyramids by aliens), would you approach your study differently?
I’m tempted to say ‘yes’, because then I wouldn’t have had to torture myself through several years of statistics in Psychology, or work in an RSL club in between schlepping my very crappy portfolio around advertising agencies in Sydney, but those experiences gave rise to who I am and provided quite a bit of material for the fiction I write. I also sometimes regret not doing English or Creative Writing at university, but I’ve heard from others that the former in particular pretty much killed their love of literature, so perhaps I dodged a bullet there. So I guess my answer is, “no, kind of.” Helpful, huh?
What was the greatest animated series ever made?
The Simpsons, though everything after season eight I find unwatchable. Later episodes make me angry. It’s testament to how much I love the earlier stuff, I guess. Kudos, writers. Kudos.
What are you listening to?
At the moment, it’s music that I can write to, so: This Will Destroy You, Thomas Newman soundtracks, Abbe May, Cheb I Sabbah, Massive Attack, Washed Out, Radiohead.
What are you reading?
Butterfly (yet again, Sonya Hartnett), Jasper Jones (Craig Silvey), Figurehead (Patrick Allington), The Great Gatsby (curse you, book club!) and (sigh) the Scrivener manual.
If you had the space, would you keep a unicorn as a pet/housemate?
No, because I don’t really trust horses or horse-like animals. Sure, they’re fun to ride, but I can never shake the feeling that they’re barely tolerating us.
And, finally – is there anything I missed out, something which you feel is important in the search for artistic excellence?
It’s such a frickin’ cliché, but it’s important to be yourself. Your odd, insecure, prat-falling, bumbling self. If you don’t have authenticity, what’s the point? I’ll also add that it’s great to be confident in your abilities, but don’t be so confident that you feel you can’t learn anything. Some of my most important and meaningful artistic lessons have come out of the strangest areas. There’s something to be learnt in nearly every situation and from every person. Even if you don’t like them. (Actually, sometimes especially if you don’t like them.)
Thanks a bunch, Lia Weston!