Thursday, May 17, 2007

Simmone Howell - Australia’s Award-Winning Short Story Writer & Screenwriter

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Simmone Howell. She’s an award-winning short story writer and screenwriter in Australia. Her short film Pity24 was awarded the 2004 AWGIE for Short Film Screenplay.

Her fiction has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia, Canada and the UK. Notes from the Teenage Underground is the first novel of Ms. Howell and it is being develop into a feature film in Australia.

EI: Please tell us about your latest book Notes from the Teenage Underground and how did you come up with the title?

SH: NFTU is about three girls Gem, Lo and Mira who decide to make an underground movie and it wrecks their friendship. The book is written from Gem's perspective. She's on the losing end of the friendship triangle and needs to sort herself out. She does this through film and art and family. Along the way there is outsider girls, dodgy boys, crazy parents, wild parties, art happenings, great movies and bad poetry.

The title is a little homage to Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground. Gem is given a copy of it for her birthday but she has trouble reading it.

EI: What can we expect from your characters?

SH: Trouble! You won't like them all. You might learn some strange information from them. And a bit of Australian slang.

EI: Some authors after spending so much time creating their character they become an extension to their life. Is that how you feel about Gem and her best friends Lo & Mira, do you now think of them as part of your family?

SH: No. Maybe. I'm a bit sick of them to tell you the truth. I'm still trying to work Lo out!

EI: How much of Gem’s life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with her or with any of your characters?

SH: I have a definite idea of where Gem goes after NFTU ends. I'm not sure if I will write it. I'd like but I've got a few things to get done first.

EI: Do you have any fascinating experiences while writing your book, or while researching for your novel?

SH: The most fascinating thing for me was the fact that even though I had studied creative writing, I still managed to forget all the rules. Writing is a bit like reconstructive surgery - you know, when you get a nose job they have to break it before they can make it beautiful ... so there was a lot of backwards and forwards for a long while before the book came together.

My favourite thing was reading all about Happenings and Art movements - and working out how to put my own peculiar film knowledge into a 17 year old girl's head.

EI: How long does it take you to write a book?

SH: NFTU took 4 years all up. But the last draft was written in a fabulous 2 month frenzy. I wager I could write a good book in a year if I didn't have anything else to do. Finding the balance between art and commerce is my main concern in life. I'd like to live in a tree house and just read and write and eat tinned tuna but then there's my family to consider...

EI: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?

SH: I like the teenage voice. I don't have to dig too deep to find it. I remember my own teen years a being a time of grand defiance but also awful, awful emotional turbulence. Maybe I am trying to rewrite my life (!!!!!!!!).

EI: What can fans look forward from you in the coming months?

SH: Nothing for a while. There is the possibility that NFTU will become a film, and I am working on another YA book at the moment that hopefully won't take as long. Oh - but I am the writer in residence at this month.

EI: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

SH: You will always have that doubt. I stil have that doubt. I think it comes with the territory. The important thing is the doing, not so much where it ends up. Most of my favourite writers were unknown and dissed and they just did it anyway because they had to.

EI: Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which one are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

SH: I am all about character. Plots kill me.I find the hardest part of writing is starting.

EI: Would you like to close the interview by telling your readers any writing tips for the young aspiring writers?

SH: Um ... write first, revise later - don't do it as you go or you'll never get past the first paragraph! Read lots. Read everything. Read Shakespeare and Jackie Collins. If you write at night, don't expect to be able to understand it in the morning. Night brain and morning brain are two very different beasts!

To learn more about Simmone Howell, please visit her at:

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