Today I have the pleasure of having as a guest to my blog the author of both children and adult fiction, Teena Raffa Mulligan. Teena is here to answer some questions about her, her writing and her new novel, After Goodbye.
LL: Hi Teena. Thanks for being a guest on my blog. It’s really exciting to have you here for the first time to celebrate your new release, After Goodbye. Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel?
TRM: It’s about a woman who has to make a new life for herself after the breakdown of her marriage. The story is set in the 1980s but feminism has passed Stella by and her sole focus is being the best wife and mother she can be. Without warning her husband, Daniel, announces at breakfast that he’s leaving. Stella has to rethink everything she believed about herself and their life. The future she imagined of growing old together is not going to eventuate and she has no idea what will replace it. Meeting a stranger at the beach where she goes to seek solace takes her in an unexpected direction. Free spirit Chris introduces Stella to a different perspective on life – and the possibility their friendship can become something deeper.
LL: It sounds like an emotion-packed novel. Is this a standalone or are you planning a little bit of a series?
TRM: After Goodbye is a stand-alone novel.
LL: Authors are always being told it’s best to diversify in this ever-changing publishing environment. Do you write only women’s fiction, or do you also write in other genres too?
TRM: I’ve always written in different styles and genres, whether poetry and short stories for adults and children, picture books, chapter books, MG novels or the diverse range of non-fiction I worked on during my years in journalism. I’ve now added romance and women’s fiction to the publication mix. Writing has been my passion and my business throughout my adult life. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be working on a story of one kind or another.
LL: I think that’s true for many of us. ? What are you working on currently?
TRM: The Seventh Summer is a contemporary romance – or perhaps it will become another women’s fiction title – about teenage sweethearts who thought their love would last forever until one left the other in the lurch. Their paths cross seven years later on the first day of the school year and it soon becomes clear they have conflicting memories of what happened. Beth blames Chad. Chad blames Beth. They can’t both be right. And even after the misunderstandings are resolved, Beth must decide if she can trust Chad enough to tell him the truth about her son’s father.
LL: Can you share with us your ‘Call’ story?
TRM: I’d been trying to crack the children’s books market for about 10 years. Following a community policing talk at our local primary school I wrote a rhyming stranger-danger story about an elephant and a tiger and sent it to a publisher I’d read about in the daily newspaper. I’d had a lot of rejections by that stage so my hopes weren’t high. A few days later I couldn’t believe it when the publisher phoned and asked if the manuscript was under offer to anyone else. It wasn’t and I had my first publishing deal. The publisher came round to our house with the agreement for me to sign. It was early October and he decided to put the book out for the Christmas market. When the postie delivered my 10 author copies it was the most exciting early Christmas present I’ve ever had. The icing on the cake was all the publicity organised by the publisher in the new year – a book launch, interviews with TV, radio, magazines and newspapers, and a TV ad with a well-known presenter. All my author dreams had come true. I really thought I’d made it but soon came back down to earth. It was 15 years before I celebrated the release of another two picture books, though I had lots of short stories and poems published along the way.
LL: That story is so familiar for many of us too. How long have you been writing for and what led you to being published?
TRM: I feel like I’ve been writing my entire life. While other kids were playing outdoors, I was making comics and writing stories. In my late teens I took a brief break and met and married the man in my life. By the time our son was born a couple of years later I had picked up my pen again and was writing and submitting stories to publishers – unsuccessfully at first because I knew nothing about the publishing industry or writing to market. I had so many rejections I took a (successful) detour into journalism. Fortunately, I am an optimist with a stubborn streak so I didn’t give up on the book publishing dream. I learnt as much as I could about writing, kept at it and about 10 years later my first picture book was published. It was a stranger-danger story that was endorsed by the West Australian police and education departments and used in schools around the country when it was released in 1982 so I was famous for about five minutes.
LL: What do you think is the best advice you could give to a new writer with an aspiration to being published?
TRM: Write in the way that works best for you. If that means having a nine to five working day five days a week and planning every aspect of your novel before you start writing, then do that. If your creativity works best with an unstructured, fluid approach, embrace it. Try to avoid measuring your productivity and achievements as a writer against anyone else’s. Be gentle with yourself. Explore where your writing takes you and enjoy the journey. Most importantly, don’t give up on your dream. Persistence pays off.
LL: Great advice. What inspires you to keep writing? Where do your writing ideas come from?
TRM: I keep writing because I still have stories to tell. Anything can trigger an idea. They flutter by like butterflies and sometimes I’m lucky enough to catch them.
LL: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how that led to you becoming a writer.
TRM: I grew up in an English/Italian family, surrounded by natural story tellers whose tales about their lives captured my imagination. Once I learnt to read, books opened a wonderful window into the world of make-believe and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to become a writer. I also wanted to be a ballerina so I thought I’d write novels in the dressing room between performances while travelling the world. Reality woke me from the dancing dream but I didn’t give up on the ambition to become an author and began submitting short adult fiction and poetry to publishers in my late teens. When I became a mum at the age of 21 and began sharing books with my small son, I realised I wanted to write for children.
LL: What are your pet peeves? What are your favourite things?
TRM: I can never take off my editor’s hat so my pet peeves are reading badly edited books and seeing signs with misplaced or unnecessary apostrophes. Favourite things are easy: my family; walking our dog along the beach path; watching the birds having party time in the trees and shrubs in our garden; curling up with a good book; eating fish and chips in the car and watching the sun set over the ocean.
Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today, Teena. It was fun finding out a little bit more about you and your writing.
You can buy Teena’s latest novel, After Goodbye from:
Teena Raffa is a reader, writer and daydream believer who is convinced there is magic in every day if we choose to find it. Teena discovered the wonderful world of storytelling as a child and knew from an early age that she wanted to become a writer. After many years of writing for children and working on newspapers and magazines, she is now flirting with romance. Teena shares her home near the beach south of Perth in Western Australia with a sometime surfer and a golden Labrador with anxiety issues and a toast obsession. When Teena isn’t writing stories she is reading them. She also enjoys family time, sunshine, birdsong and sea-gazing.