Do you have a writing ritual or routine?
My writing routine is get up, get my son off to school, walk my dog, grab a coffee and think about the upcoming day. Then I open the MS and simply try and write slowly, word by word, fuelling with coffee. I don’t set targets but I am very aware of days when I am not trying hard enough – ie. slacking off!
How long does it generally take you to complete a first draft?
I generally take about six months to a year to do a first draft…lots of re-writing and fixing… trying to get it word-perfect before I show it to anyone else.
Do you have a clear idea or goal in mind when you begin or do you discover it as the story unfolds?
I always have a goal for the characters, and an ending in mind, but if I think hard enough and invent every day – and think about it at night, the story advances/changes as I try to make it as entertaining and meaningful for my potential reader as possible. By living with the story (in a good way, generally) it develops energy. Pushing it along too fast never works!
What inspires your stories?
People I meet inspire my stories, or people I see; generally these people are in the real world, and not on TV! Small things kick off an idea then a new idea adds to that idea – then, if I discover a main character that I care about, I think for a few months before starting – but I genuinely have to be able to see the characters and feel the thing – or it will be a dead duck. The story has to be real to me, authentic in some way, and worth telling.
What draws you to a character?
I like quirky characters who do not fit easily into the world, but see the world in their own way – that allows a viewpoint that is generally a bit skewed… no accountants in my work, generally. Characters must care about something a lot to be worthy or worthwhile…but I am drawn to stuff that just appears and seems thought provoking.
What kinds of details do you consider when you’re creating a character?
The name/s of a character is so important – until I get the right sound, the right name, I’m not writing a word. When I have the name I can imagine the person. I also have to know what they will do in all situations…which is why my work is sometimes seen as slow – because I stick to their script! No UFO’s for me… keeping it real (as I can!) Or staying true to the truth of the person I am trying to write about.
What kinds of stakes do your characters face and how do you raise them in a realistic way?
My characters are simply trying to live lives in the real world of… fiction…. I just hope that their struggles can carry the story. I guess I try to analyse the world and what it is/try to present what I see to people, and hope that they might understand my books offer thoughtful scenarios. Trying to find a way to live a satisfying life is what all my characters strive to do.
Do you come to a point where you feel your book is done?
The point when a book is done is when none of it makes me feel like vomiting. The MS has to feel right to me/that I have said what I tried to say to the best of my ability… and although the books are always a fail, I do not rest until I think I’ve got as close to finding the end as I can! Then… what can you do? Coffee!
Are you able to let go of your stories once they’re published?
Once my stories are published they live with me, and will never be let go. I don’t want to read particularly what other people think about them, or talk about them; I just put them out there and hope for the best. They are what they are, and I hope they are good… they also get me though the day often – give me sense of creating something that is mine, but I hope pleases other people.
Which book(s) inspired you to be a writer?
I think On The Road by Jack Kerouac inspired me the most to try and become a writer; I was an eighteen year-old hitch-hiker when I first read that book, and I love a lot of it still. Jack looks into the night, and sees much of what I value… he gets to the essence of things in a way that I like… a faulty writer, too, but nobody’s perfect! It’s a beautiful book, that one – as was his lifelong struggle to nail what the world is, and all those kinds of things!
Why do you write? (feel free to wax poetic)
I write to describe the world, and then try to give what I see to my reader. I try to give an essence of things, find the true character, the feel of things, the meaning of things, what it is like to live, what is good about it and what is terrible. I try to memorialise all sorts of things… I wish I could paint or write music! I hope also to be optimistic in my work… to offer ideas that people might find of some value or see their own struggle reflected. I hope never to be BORING – but I probably am! I hope to write something sublime one day…yeah, good luck with that, I say!
David Metzenthen is a writer of Australian stories for readers aged from six to young adulthood. He has won many prizes for his work and his books have graced many shortlists.