Interview with Author Sally Heming from New Zealand

Updated: Mar 6

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Tell me a bit about yourself….

I’m 61, mother of 3, grandmother of 3. My grandparents were authors in the UK – Granny wrote over 120 books before she died in 1948. I’ve lived through huge tragedy (infant son died aged 7 ½ months, seven years ago my partner and father died within three days and two weeks after their funerals Mum announced she was dying!), and great joy (seeing first grandson at two hours old and then delivering the second one.

I live in Masterton at the moment, although my adult son and I are planning on moving rurally – better inspiration, clearer birdsong, and cleaner water!

Another great passion is cooking. I absolutely love feeding people. Pre-c19, friends came for dinner regularly, and most had their favorite requests!

What genre/s do you write in?

Not sure I can define a genre – my current project – the Wharematau on Marshwell Road Trilogy covers many: Mystical/Spiritual Realism, NZ Fiction, Family Saga, Historical,

How long have you been writing?

All my life – started with poetry and short stories – I’ve still got the original of every poem I’ve ever written. Some years ago, my son got into trouble and while we sorted him out, I wrote a book. It’s still sitting on my computer... it’s a thriller, I think.

Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took. Many years ago (almost 40) I wrote a weekly column for my local daily newspaper, the Wairarapa Times-Age under the pseudonym ‘Maggi Thorne’. I also did feature writing for them, and another paper in Queensland in the early 80s. I completed the Certificate in Multimedia Journalism at Whitireia in 2018 and, as a part of that course, had many articles published on their online news portal and two in the Wairarapa Times-Age. As yet, I’ve had no fiction published.

Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?

Am still considering my options for the Wharematau Trilogy.

Do you have a blog or website?

I have a blog but it’s currently inactive -

What inspires you most to write?

Being alive. Something I see/hear. Sometimes the words start framing themselves in my head and it’s a race to find something to write them down on before they disappear. I write poetry when I’m deliriously happy or extremely sad. There’s no in-between.

What do you do to help with writers block?

As yet, I haven’t experienced writer's block. I did have an issue with one character in Book Two of Wharematau, and it only disappeared when I changed his name. In Book One I had planned to have a young couple live in the house for three years but they simply didn’t speak to me, so in the end, I had the house vacant, except for the odd squatter, for that period. It worked out rather better, in the big picture.

How do you plan your writing and start?

I sit at my computer with a cup of tea and a cigarette, flex my fingers,

and invite the story to take over. I firmly believe Wharematau was a story searching for a typist.

Is writing your full time job? If not what else do you do?

No, not currently writing. Am supposed to be looking for work. Luckily, I find writing while working to be a doddle – in 2020 I worked 60-70 hours a week in an essential service during the lockdowns and managed to submit a manuscript of 202K words for my final assessment for the third year of the Bachelor of Creativity (Writing) at Whitireia.

What are you working on at the moment?

Packing up my house and getting it market-ready. I’m hoping to move out to a rural area before winter sets in.

What is your target audience?

Adults with an open mind. Book One has a section dealing with sensitive material, so definitely not kids or young adults.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It varies on where the story takes me. When I began the Wharematau story, I planned on it being one book. In August 2019 it split itself into three parts, and a good two thirds was put aside for Book Two, so I had to write most of Book One in a month. Book Two took somewhat longer to sort out, as I had to rehash the parts that had carried over from Book One and carry it from 1837 through to 1969. I had major problems getting one section ‘right’ and only managed to get it done with a name change for the main character. Book Three was written in about 70 days.

When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?

I’ve always known. I started writing poetry as a small child. Writing essays at school was one of my favorite tasks.

What is your writing schedule look like?

I don’t have a writing schedule as such. I write when the story demands I write. I have found I can write with a room full of people chatting and listening to music and generally ignoring me in the corner, tapping away. I do like listening to classical music when I write.

What does your family think about you writing?

My kids are fully supportive as long as it doesn’t get in the way of me being Mum. My siblings are really proud of me, not just for having written a trilogy, but also for getting my degree.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Cook. Feed people Play Pokemon Go – it’s a really good way of making me get out of the house and mix with other people. I used to play the pokies when I needed to slow my brain down, but I can’t at the moment.

I love watching British tv shows, and anything Star Trek.

Where do you get information and ideas for your writing?

The ideas find me. When I’m writing poetry, I find the lines start writing themselves in my head. My job is to capture them on paper before they disappear. Wharematau worked the same way, although I found the lines and ideas stayed in my head a lot longer.

What do you think makes a good story?

Readability – does it flow and does it hold my attention? Is the plot sufficient to make me commit to reading to the end? As I’ve got older, I’ve found my choice of reading material and screen viewing has changed slightly in that I shy away from anything gory. I hide my face when the murder scenes come on shows like Midsomer Murders and other crime shows.

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