Meet Angela Oliver – Co-founder of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild

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Perhaps it was chance, or perhaps fate, that made Angela pick my book up in Paper Plus Hornby and think “Huh… someone else has published through CreateSpace and actually got it into a book store.” She noticed the poster saying I was local and worked at EB Games and came by to say hello (but unfortunately it was my day off). She did, however, purchase an eBook version of the Silver Hawk and leave a lovely review on Amazon – which was how I managed to get in contact with her.

It was upon the occasion of our first meeting that I realized Angela was the Angela… the amazing lady from Whitcoulls Riccarton who always knew which book I would like reading next. She had been a book-goddess in my eyes since our first meeting when I was about fourteen (though thankfully she didn’t remember me… that might have been embarrassing).

We talked about many things that day, including my ambition to connect the writers of Christchurch together so that we didn’t feel so isolated. Many of us were going through the same things, trying to get published, exploring eBooks and On Demand options etc. Angela was enthusiastic and over the next few weeks we put together the idea for our Guild and invited all our writer friends. From there, it grew and grew and now we have sixty members, an admin team of four and lots of plans for the new year.

Despite all of these exciting developments, I haven’t had much of a chance to really get to know Angela as a writer yet, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to do so, and introduce her to everyone else!

Please tell me a little about yourself and what sort of things you write.

I’m Angela Oliver, also known as Lemurkat. I’ve been fascinated in animals ever since I was very small – possibly because my Nana used to take me to feed the ducks, and my family always had pets. I developed a passion for birds in Primary school, which I carried on into High School and University – where I studied zoology and psychology. I also love drawing – and used to get told off in school for drawing while the teacher was talking (because I concentrate better if my hands are busy, honest!) and I have always enjoyed writing. I write what I enjoy reading – which is animal stories, fantasy, things that are a little oddball and quirky (or at least, I hope they are). I can’t write poetry anymore (I “grew out” of that phase) and my short stories turn into novels. I very rarely write human protagonists – most of my recent stories have featured a strong zoological or environmental influence.

When did you know you wanted to be an author? What changed?

I have no idea when I decided I wanted to write. It was probably at University – where I was in charge of the Roleplaying clubs magazine – which meant I had to write most of it myself, since contributions were slim. I just enjoyed writing, and sharing it with people. I started on fanfiction – Pokemon and Elfquest, and then dabbled into original stuff – including the occasional novella commission. That was interesting, to say the least!  So, I guess in a way I’ve always been an author – at least in sharing my stories with the world. I wrote my first epic fantasy in my first year at University, and my first novel at age 13, I believe. I still have everything I have written, although I dread that when I am rich and famous and dead some enterprising soul will find them on my hard drive and publish them.

What do you love most about writing?

The way the characters come to life, and take the story on their own shoulders. The way they twist the plot, doing unexpected things that actually make the plot work better, even if I’m half wanting to yell at them “Aroha, get out of there, stop doing that, it’s only going to get you into more trouble!” I also love receiving feedback when people compliment my characters, and ask me questions like “did Aroha and Maru get married?” Or my parent’s 6 year old neighbour, informing his mother that he’d seen the “Whiteback gang” at school (my magpie bullies). So, bringing the characters to life, shaping them and having them become “real”.

What do you find most frustrating?

Motivating myself when the plot has come to a standstill. Realising that I’ve written 4000 words that are totally unnecessary to the plot and need to be cut out. Even though they’re good words and some funny stuff happened, because they serve no purpose to the greater plot. My latest novel “Tail of Two Scions” which I worked on for NaNo 2011 was almost cut in half after the end of the month. Almost 20k words relegated to the “cuts” files.

What have you published so far and how did you go about getting published?
Two novels – both self-published via Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), also available as ebooks on Smashwords and Kobo.com.

“Aroha’s Grand Adventure” is the tale of a young weka, who is kidnapped from her home in Greymouth and taken to Christchurch. Finding herself lost, alone and far from home, she begins a grand adventure as she walks home – facing many dangers and making new friends along the way.

“A Midsummer Knight’s Quest” is about a goblin – a little scaly lizard-rat, who finds an egg and is about to take it home to feed to his Hive Mother when it hatches, and the chick imprints on him. From that point on, his entire life changes, as he makes friends – real friends – for the first time in his short life and then has to fight to save their woodland home from an evil developer.

Both are Children’s books, what I would call “Middle Grade” or “Older Elementary”, probably best for ages 9+ although children as young as 7 have read “Aroha’s Grand Adventure” or had it read to them. “Knight’s Quest” is probably a little more advanced, comprehension wise as it has multiple PoV characters.

My third novel – still in its proof stage is my “epic fantasy with lemurs”. It is called “Fellowship of the Ringtails” and I am currently procrastinating on editting it by deciding to make an entire deck of tarot cards. It’s a bit like “Game of Thrones” but furrier. And with a lot less sex.

My Amazon page is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Angela-Oliver/e/B005G5LNZA/

Are there any pitfalls to avoid or advice you’d give to others wanting to go down this path?

Don’t plot your structure too tightly. If you do, you don’t give your characters room to breathe and grow. However, do have some idea of the direction of the plot and try to avoid it running off on a wild tangent. If you do, you may have to “kill” some of your “babies”. To avoid feeling too ruthless, store their “remains” in another document, so you can poach the best bits from it at a later date. Or release it is a short story set in the same world. Do not get distracted by searching google for hours seeking information on whether a weka would die or become sick if it ate a cigarette, or apple pips, but do learn that chocolate can be fatal to birds, just as it for cats and dogs. Research is important, but if you’re spending more than ten minutes trying to find the answer to some unimportant action you’ve just written, it might be better to not have her eat the cigarette at all!  Also, you may find yourself watching videos of people fishing for wekas.

Disconnecting your internet can be a great way to actually get some writing done. Or take your laptop to somewhere outside of wi-fi range.

Oh, and set a deadline. If your story is flowing – then all is well and you will write pages, but if you allow yourself to become blocked and do not attempt to fight your way through that block, you will end up with a 95,000 unfinished manuscript. This is why I enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo – one month is a good time limit and 1,667 words per day an achievable goal – as long as you remain motivated.

What is most important to you as an author?

Doing what the characters tell me too, and getting their story out there. My characters are all like my children – somewhat unruly children – and they all have their stories, and I want to tell them and share them. All I can hope is that someone will read them and enjoy them.

How has your writing influenced you as a person?

This is a hard one. I think it has made me more dramatic – and hopefully a bit more interesting. My research has led me to learn about all sorts of random stuff. Maybe it has also made me a little more confident. Ultimately though, I think writing is so much a part of me that trying to say what I would be like if I were not an author, illustrator, reader and dreamer would be like asking a sparrow how being able to fly has influenced it as a bird. I do tend to dissect what I’m reading a lot though, especially self-published kindle stories. I believe it has made me more critical as a book reviewer. And rather more scornful of the success of what I would consider poorly written books in the mainstream. On the other paw, I would hardly say that I am writing high class literary fiction, but at least my characters are interesting.

What advice would you give young writers just starting out?
Write a lot and read a lot. Don’t worry about writing for a market – write what you enjoy, write for yourself. Because, if you enjoy it, chances are someone else will too. And reading influences your writing too. When I read darker books, my writing will take a darker turn. Also, read different genres, and analyse the books as you’re reading them – not too much! Just ask yourself – what is it about this book that is making me enjoy it so much? Or why do I just want to throw it against the wall and jump up and down on it?But mostly, if you want to write, then WRITE.
Find out more about Angela on her website: http://lemurkat.co.nz/

2 thoughts on “Meet Angela Oliver – Co-founder of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild

  1. Nice to meet you Angela!

    I love looking every day and finding a new interview to read, Beaulah!!!
    It’s so inspiring!!!
    Thanks again!
    Ella! 😛 🙂 😀 😉

  2. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely helpful information particularly the last part :
    ) I care for such information a lot. I was looking for
    this particular information for a very long time. Thank
    you and good luck.

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