For a debut author, you have already accomplished so much – dancing, acting, extensive travel and teaching – what made you decide now was the time to write a novel?
When I left my home town of Port Macquarie at 14 I had all these big hopes and dreams of becoming a professional dancer. In December 2017 I returned to Port Macquarie to judge a scholarship at the dance school I used to train with. I was overcome with emotion as I remembered the girl I used to be when I lived there. So happy. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the awful things that were going to happen to me over the years that followed.
I realised that I was silly to have kept my story a secret for so long because I would have loved to hear a familiar story when I so unwell. So I began to write.
You’ve travelled extensively in your career, did you find that the arts industry differs from country to country? Many people find it hard to break into the industry in Australia and so move to somewhere like America, was this the case for you?
The approach to the arts industry in other countries is different but at the end of the day the actual skill you deliver is the same. What I mean by that is… In America the casting process, budgets and appreciation for the arts is on a much bigger scale then Australia. However, the actual acting or dancing skill set you need is the same.
We have an incredible amount of talent here in Australia however our industry is very small so there are limited jobs. So yes, traveling overseas gave me more opportunity to find the right fit for my abilities.
How did you develop your plot and characters? Was your main character – who shares the same name as you – based on you and were any your characters based on real people?
The book is a memoir about my time as a teenager so I was incredibly lucky to have the plot and characters already in my head. It’s a true story. This time of my life strangely played out like a movie. It was a coming of age story in a rather horrible situation that still had a happy ending. So I didn’t have to put much thought into character development because I knew everyone that I mentioned in the book. Although I did have to think about which scenes I desperately wanted to include because a lot happened when I was a teenager and I couldn’t fit everything into the one book.
I was given permission by my family to keep their real names but I changed the names of my friends and other characters to protect their identity.
Was it difficult writing a book so closely based on your own personal experiences? Or was it more cathartic?
At times it was incredibly difficult to write this book. Some days I couldn’t keep writing because I didn’t like remembering some of the really scary things that happened to me. However, when I finished the book I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. Writing allowed me to process and work through things that I probably should have dealt with a long time ago. I would say that writing this book was both difficult and cathartic.
Your book was great at showing the positive and negative sides of being a dedicated dancer. What did you find the best and the worst of being a dancer, especially as a teenager?
The best part of being a dancer was the stage! I loved performing and sharing my passion for dance with an audience. The worst part of being a dancer was having to deal with all the aches and pains you have on a daily basis. A lot of people say that its hard to give up your social life when you’re dancing because you have to dedicate so much time to training. Making these sacrifices didn’t really bother me because I wanted to be in the studio and on stage all the time!
You’ve clearly been drawn to the arts, have you found there to be a big difference between dance, acting and writing? Or are they more similar then they appear?
I am still so surprised by how similar they all are.
Dancing is similar to acting because on stage you always have to portray a character through dance.
Acting is similar to dancing because your body is your tool. You need to embody the physicality of a character.
Writing is similar to acting because you have to bring to life a scene from a script. Actors are imaging scenes in their head all day long. This is exactly what I was doing when I was trying to write En Pointe.
Criticism and/or rejection can be incredibly painful. How have you handled criticism and/or rejection of any of your works (dance, acting, writing, etc)?
I’d like to say that over time you get used to rejection but some days its really not fun and can be incredibly tiring. I have however learnt to use any rejection as a way to better myself as an artist. Most of the time I take on board whatever has been said and try to do something creative with it so I don’t just fall in a heap and give up on my dreams. At the end of the day I just want to make art and if it brings me joy that’s all I need to keep going.
Which authors/ books do you think influenced your writing style the most?
If I am completely honest, my acting background had a huge influence on my writing style. I always read a tonne of scripts for TV shows, Films and Plays. I am so used to seeing scenes play out in my head so all I could think of when writing was ‘how would I perform this if I was acting in this scene?’ At times I felt like I was writing a voiceover for a movie! This must sound strange to most writers. My approach to writing is a little unconventional but I get there in the end.
Do you have any advice for young people dreaming of working in the arts industry? Would you suggest going onto tertiary or TAFE to study arts as you did?
It is very hard to work in the arts without having training of some sort. I would definitely suggest taking classes or getting a tertiary, TAFE or university degree so that you are well equipped for the industry.
If you love something enough you will find a way to do it. Work hard and try to do something that supports your aspirations everyday J xx