What makes a good writer? Imagination? Perseverance? Passion? Wordsmith Group’s Stephanie Daniella spoke with Arleen A, an Indonesian writer on her ability to welcome her readers into her world. A world of children book.
How long have you been writing?
I started on my 30th birthday. (You know how people tend to contemplate more about their lives, what they had done, what they had not done etc, on their birthday .) So it was 17 years ago. People asked me how I got the time to write 300 books. Well, they were done in 17 long years instead of overnight. (And now I feel old haha ).
How did you get into writing?
The experience you get when you first go to a restaurant will determine whether or not you will come back to that restaurant. If your first experience is good (the waiter is friendly, the food is delicious, you didn’t find any insects in your soup and the price is right), you will come back to that restaurant.
Children book is everyone’s first experience in the world of literature. I want to be someone who makes that first experience wonderful so more children will grow up as readers.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When you find a new martabak place where the martabaks are out of this world, you will want to tell all your friends about it. If one finds something wonderful, one usually wants to share it with the world, at least with loved ones. I was born a reader and so I discovered the joy of reading very early and I automatically want my daughter to discover this as early as possible, too. Seventeen years ago, however, I couldn’t find enough good children storybooks at affordable price (most were imported) for my then 2,5 year old daughter. That was when I realized that I should write.
How do you get inspiration for writing?
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said that this is the question that all authors get and this is the question that all authors don’t have answer to. I think it’s because inspiration can come from anywhere and most of the time we, authors, don’t realize that we are getting an inspiration at that specific point of time. As for me, I believe that all my writings came from Him and that my hands are just being borrowed to write them.
Are the characters in your books based on real people you know?
Some yes, mostly no.
Does anyone help you with your writing?
Yes! It takes a village to write a children book it’s basically a group project! There are the illustrators. And also the editors. Without them, I have nothing.
Have you ever considered another job besides being an author?
I’m actually not a full time/professional author. I write as a hobby. My education background was in finance so my full time job is in the finance department of a trading company.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Do they also happen to influence your style of writing?
For children book authors, I love Dr Seuss, Mercer Mayer, Roald Dahl, David Walliams, JK Rowling, Chris Colfer, Brandon Mull, Rick Riordan and many others actually .
For adult book authors, I love Jodi Picoult (I have read ALL of her books), Chitra B Divakaruni, Marissa Meyer, Sarah Dessen, Liane Moriarty, Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sidney Sheldon, etc.
Could you also name some of your top 5 favorite books?
Do you realize that it’s almost impossible for a bookworm to answer this question? Haha . Let me try:
The Book of Two Ways (Jodi Picoult)
Queen of Dreams (Chitra Divakaruni)
Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, Winter) (Marissa Meyer)
Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? What are your other interests and hobbies?
I’m that kind of person who has to many hobbies . I read, I crochet, I watercolor, I handletter, I paper quil, I play piano, I play board/card games. I used to bake but since I try to go gluten free, sugar free and dairy free, I ran out of ingredients to bake .
What do you think makes a good story?
The one that warms the heart of the reader.
What do you think makes a good writer?
The one who writes for him/herself because he/she wants to and not because he/she has to. (If I have nothing to say about a topic, I don’t want to write about it simply because the book will sell well at the current time.)
Which is your favorite book / novel that you have written so far, and why?
Dreamlets. It’s a 200 page picture book about creatures you can’t see who live inside the walls of your homes whose job is to create dreams.
I loveeee the characters and the plot and I’m very grateful that I was the one entrusted to write this story by Him.
What is your next book going to be about? Could you give us a little sneak peek?
It’s about a pair of siblings who are always up to something. The book will consist of ten stories in which the pair will try to make the tallest cake in the world, the longest shawls, the fastest wagon etc.
What is the most important lesson that you have learned from being an author?
That when a door closes, another door (or window) will open. Early in my career, when I didn’t have that many books yet, I submitted three manuscripts to a publisher. They accepted them and I was elated. The first book was published but it didn’t sell. The second book was published and it, too, didn’t sell. So the publisher decided to cancel the publication of the third manuscript and return it to me. I was heart broken. I then submitted this manuscript to another publisher. Her response was: Make 9 more like this and we will publish it as a collection. This became my very first best selling book.
What kind of message do you want to convey through your books?
That no matter who you are, or who you aren’t, no matter what you can do or can’t do, there is always a place for you in this world.
What advice would you give to new aspiring writers?
There are two aspects of writing: knowing what to write and knowing how to write it. I think the first one is more important. So live more so you have meaningful things to write about. And if you leave that manuscript inside your computer, it will not publish itself.