Australian author Dean Mayes has established himself as a writer of great literary style and dedication since the release of his first novel The Hambledown Dream in 2010. He continues that tradition with his landmark new release Gifts of the Peramangk for Central Avenue Publishing. Dean lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife Emily and their two children Xavier, 6 and Lucy, 3.
Time to chat with Dean!
What is your latest book?
I’ve recently released my second novel titled Gifts of the Peramangk through Central Avenue Publishing.
Gifts of the Peramangk tells the story of an 8-year-old Aboriginal girl named Ruby who is an undiscovered violin prodigy living on the struggle streets of Adelaide’s suburban fringe here in Australia. Ruby has been taught to play by her frail and elderly grandmother Virginia who, herself displayed a prodigious talent for the instrument as a child but was never able to fully realize that gift because of her circumstance. Virginia was a child of the so called “Stolen Generations” here in Australia. During much of the mid 20th century, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as part of what was known as the White Australia policy. They were put to work, often in appalling conditions, as domestic servants or farm hands and were stripped of their culture and their family links. Virginia was one of those children and the ramifications of her being taken have huge ramifications for her family.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Not really, however one would be encouraged to read my previous release The Hambledown Dream as there are some subtle linkages between both books.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
That they are undisciplined and don’t take the time or the care to produce high quality work. I have met and worked alongside some really talented indie writers who have produced novels that are far and away more polished and offer a much richer reading experience than their big name/big published counterparts. I think that has come about because these independent authors have taken much more care with their work and have crafted it rather than handed it over to a big publishing machine that act to arbitrarily “manufacture” a product for mass consumption.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
I write on the proviso that my characters be allowed to direct the storytelling to a certain extent. I will draw the basics of a character at the very beginning of the writing process but I won’t lock them in to a particular arc because my stories tend to evolve organically from the basic structure that I begin with. I discover a lot about my characters and I find that really stimulating.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
Funnily enough, I really enjoy the editing process. It’s the part of the journey where stories are really made. I’ve learned not to allow myself to become too invested in story elements during the initial writing phase because I’m always looking for the best ways to serve the story. Research can be a tedious process but I recognize that it is an essential part of the journey. This was especially the case with Gifts of the Peramangk which dealt with historical subject matter that I had to portray faithfully.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I always have a basic idea of what the ending to a story will be but I allow myself the flexibility to change the ending. So yes it is important to me but not essential. The title of a story is not as important to me because I tend to discover the title of a work in the process of writing it.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I’m getting better at writing without editing as I go along but I have been known to edit incessantly as I go along. That habit grew out of my tendency to procrastinate incessantly and I used the micro editing as I went along as a way of avoiding writers block. I have, with subsequent projects, becoming better at planning so I’ve been able to resist the temptation to edit until I have produced a draft.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Be open to change and don’t allow yourself to be locked into a particular story arc. Always look for alternative pathways to reach your destination and don’t be afraid to work with your ideas. You will find that you’ll be less likely to run into problems associated with writers block if you have those alternative ideas available to you.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
Oh man, I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I mean, I love it because I have met some wonderful people through my platform and it is but I tend to become overwhelmed by all the noise it creates. In the beginning, I felt as though I had to have a presence on every available platform there is and it seriously got insane. I have streamlined quite a bit to a suite of four key platforms, those being my official site of course, my Facebook page, Twitter and Google Plus. Occasionally I’ll make use of my WordPress account but it’s usually just to post a link to whatever I’m showcasing on my official site. My official site is at the core of how I communicate with my readership and my platform serves to promote that. While I regard engagement with my audience as important, I’ve tried to limit my activity on my social network – otherwise I’d never get any work done.
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I have a really eclectic and varied taste in the books that I read but in all of them, I really look to the voice of the author and how it engages me. If the voice speaks with enthusiasm about the subject, then I’m usually drawn in. If there is a lack of enthusiasm, I’ll spot it pretty much straight away.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
There was a huge research curve involved in Gifts of the Peramangk because I was setting it against the back drop of one of Australia’s most controversial periods in the 20th century. The White Australia Policy was instituted as a means of addressing the “problem” of half caste Aborigines in Australia over the life of the Policy, many thousands of children were forcibly removed from their families and fostered out to white families or were put to work as domestic servants or farm hands, doing menial jobs for little to no pay. They were prohibited from returning to or having contact with their families. The resultant Stolen Generations was the result of this policy – Aboriginal Australians who had their identity and culture stripped away from them. It lead to massive social problems which still resonate today. In order to portray the effects of the White Australia Policy on one particular family with a sensitivity and accuracy, I devoted nearly a year to reviewing literature, examining case studies, talking to individuals who were directly affected by the Policy.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
During the writing of Gifts of the Peramangk I did share my work with a couple of people who were able to assist me with the technical aspects of my writing as well as the accuracy of my portrayal of Aboriginal Australians. I was happy to do so and I think it really benefited the story.
Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?
I have posted a number of short pieces at my official site which are examples of my trying out different writing styles. I’m really proud of them and one or two of them have the potential to be expanded on in the future if I want.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I realized I had a love of writing from an early age but I guess you could consider me somewhat of a late bloomer as a serious author. For me it was a case of my life getting in the way – school, university, work, family commitments and so forth. And these aren’t bad things of course (laughs) but they certainly gave me little time to devote to writing. Also, I don’t think I was really in the right head space to write until my mid 30’s. I had a couple of failed attempts at it before then but for whatever reason, I couldn’t make the stories work. When the idea for (my first novel) The Hambledown Dream germinated, it seemed to be the right fit at the right time.
Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?
I’m very proud of both Gifts of the Peramangk and The Hambledown Dream and they each have qualities that I’m drawn to for different reasons. I think Gifts of the Peramangk is a more accomplished work mainly due to the research effort I undertook for it and I edited it more heavily than The Hambledown Dream. Hambledown is a more personal work and it represents facets of myself. I really explored both the dark and light sides of myself to craft the dual protagonists in Hambledown and so, for that reason I tend to look upon that novel in a more personal way.
Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
I have come to view negative reviews with the maxim “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” in mind. I try to respond to every review that is left for both my novels and I always thank the reviewer for taking the time to read my work. I look for constructive criticism of my work and I do take on board what each reviewer has said in that sense. Where there hasn’t been any constructive criticism, I like to encourage the reviewer to elaborate on their comments. Most of the time however, such reviewers don’t hang around so I don’t dwell on them for too long.
Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?
It is a good way to interact with readers but I personally, haven’t seen a huge knock on effect in terms of promotion.
Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?
As far as I’m concerned, the less said about Kindle Direct the better.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design
I do place quite a bit of stock on cover design because I have an artistic streak in me that just won’t let me go. The way I see it is a book as a whole is a piece of art and the cover itself is very much an artistic component that will help sell the overall piece. So it has got to be eye catching and attractive. I’ve seen many a good book fade into obscurity because of a poorly designed cover.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
Your review matters. It really, Really matters. We slave away on these writing projects, often with little support and understanding from those immediately around us and it is only when our work is done and we turn it over to the world do we really wait for and covet those reviews. They remain the only true measure of whether it was all worth it or not.
Would you like to write a short poem for us?
I suck at poems.
What makes you angry?
Unshakable belief in the morally indefensible.
What music soothes your soul?
Vince Jones. He is an Australian jazz singer/trumpet player who I regard as a personal hero. I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid.
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
The Talented Mr Ripley with Matt Damon. I love Matt Damon but that film was a complete toilet bowl.
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
The 1985 drama Witness starring Harrison Ford is probably my most favorite film of all time. The True History Of The Elephant Man by Michael Powell and Peter Ford is my most favorite book.
CONNECT WITH DEAN
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