Nowadays, it’s easy to have a chat even when you’re ten and a half thousand miles apart. Here’s the first half of a conversation I had with Australian author Tahlia Newland.
First, then, Tahlia, a bog-standard, basic question. How do you want your readers to feel as they read and when they’ve finished one of your books?
I like to inspire my readers and leave them with some understanding of how they can work with their mind to handle their life issues in a positive way.
That suggests that you have a clear personal philosophy. Do you ever write fiction with the intention of ‘educating’ or ‘enlightening’ readers? By that, I don’t mean indoctrinating them but encouraging them to move outside their normal perceptions.
Yes. Our minds are the cause of our frustration, and all my characters have or are learning skills, whether I call it meditation or not, that they use to help them handle the challenges they face in the books in a calm clear way. Of course, they often fail, because they’re human, but they keep trying and always I give them some success. The way they approach their issues and the skills they learn or strengthen as part of the story are where the possibility of learning comes in for a reader.
Ah, that leads nicely into the next question. You write in different genres and the books of yours I’ve read have all had a firm basis in reality. But they’ve also alluded to a dimension beyond the surface events. It sounds as if this connected with your expertise in meditation. Is that right?
Absolutely. I’ve always been fascinated with the boundary between fantasy and reality, and the way that dreams and other internal and creative experiences reflect and enhance our lives. I find that meditation opens my mind to a space where creativity is unlimited. It’s like a doorway to another dimension where all the stories are, be they about completely different realities or based in our own world. This vibrant realm where anything is possible and everything exists as a potential is just below the surface of our ordinary perception. Meditation is the way to access it, and when you enter that mind state, besides it being good for your creativity, reality doesn’t seem so real anymore, and that allows you to handle reality with a lot more humour and ease. My Prunella Smith books, Worlds Within Worlds and The Locksmith’s Secret go into these ideas quite deeply.
That coincides quite closely with my own perceptions of the worlds we move into as we write (although mine’s much vaguer than yours). And yet, we’re on opposite sides of the actual world. I’m naturally Euro-centric; is it very different being a writer south of the equator? Or are we truly working in a global market accessible to all?
I think it’s truly a global market. My sense is that readers like to read books set in different countries, and many Americans find Aussie culture and terms quaint. I always say that I use Australian conventions so American readers know not to get upset about the spelling and the single quotation marks, but I doubt anyone reads the bottom of the copyright page. I also put a glossary of terms up the front if I use Aussie slang. By far the majority of my books are sold in the American market.
Well, while we’re on the geographical location, do you think you (and/or Australian writers in general) have a significantly different world-view or approach to your writing?
Not significantly different, but there are cultural tendencies that show up in the best Australian writing. Aussies have a quirky sense of humour and an irreverence for social conventions. They are very open and direct people who say what they think and appreciate honesty. You’ll see that in characters and stories, in being freer with literary conventions than in the US, and in a willingness to try something different.
I think that’s enough for one blog. I’ll post the concluding bit next time. Meantime, for those of you who don’t know her work, here’s some background on Tahlia.
She’s written and published nine books, three of which have won a BRAG Medallion and an Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence.
She writes inspirational magical realism and fantasy, and also makes masquerade masks and steampunk hats and accessories.
Her wardrobe is full of steampunk clothing which she wears every day because beautiful clothes deserve to be worn.
She works as an editor for AIA Editing and AIA Publishing, a selective, author-funded publishing company. She also co-ordinates Awesome Indies Books‘ accreditation service for independently published books. She lives in an Australian rainforest with a lovely husband and two cheeky Burmese kittens.