SCBWI Bologna 2012 Author Interview: Christopher Cheng

Visit Christopher Cheng

By Resham Premchand
for SCBWI Bologna 2012
at Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Walk us through your typical day.

I wake up early in morning. In summer, I go for a walk but in winter not so early. Then after breakfast and kicking my wife off to work (teacher-librarian at primary school), it is down to the business of writing, lots of emails to other creative folks overseas and agents and publishers, etc.

Then at around 9 a.m. the creative work begins and continues right through to lunchtime … with a break in the middle to make a pot of tea, and a walk around the house.

After lunch and a stretch and a read of the newspaper (digital or in print), it is back to the computer, sometimes to review the morning work, sometimes to do more business … websites, blogs, communication with folk … and of course SCBWI things.

In the afternoon, when my wife returns, it is again time for another pot of tea (I really like making tea) and then chitchatting – a bit more writing, maybe some reading of other authors books (important for reviewing) and then time to prepare for dinner and unwind for the evening.

I cook the dinner. … and then it’s reading and bed!

With your success in producing picture books and YA novels, have you found similar or different speed bumps and how so?

I guess the big hump is that picture books take so long to come out after I have written and had the manuscript accepted. It takes time for those hugely talented illustrators to add their own part to my words to make it a joint creation!

For novels, and I love writing historical fiction – the problem is knowing when to stop the research and start the writing. So, in both situations, it is a time thing!

Please describe how you think the market for children’s literature has changed in Australia in the past 10 years and how distinct it is from America?

In Australia, we have seen lots of wonderful titles continue to be produced. Definitely the children’s book market has continued to be a strong seller for publishers.

We have had a huge drop in retailers with the collapse of the RED group, and so that has meant that there have been fewer places to sell the books. This of course that has also meant that some of the independents have flourished.

On the publishing front, there has been an increase in the number of smaller boutique publishers, the ones who often take the risk on titles only to find that it thrives while some of the other publishers have been absorbed into the aprons of larger publishers. It’s a cyclical thing!

And then there is the digital explosion. This is wonderful! It is another means for readers to unite with the word. I love it! And SCBWI has become a real cog in the Australian literary scene. It is thrilling to be part of it and see it explode down here, not only as a support network for other creators but also as a network of folks with knowledge about the industry.

With your writing commitments, keeping your blog- up-to-date, continuously being updated yourself and workshop engagements, how you have the time to write or have space for your own creativity? 

I do have to schedule in when I will write. I don’t have a big slot of time (read that as months and months) to write a novel as I am doing a lot of festivals both here in Australia but more so internationally.

It is a privilege, and I take the opportunity when it arises.

I speak on not just my own titles but also the titles of other creators that are being published here.

I also chitchat, too, about the digital side of publishing, I love that!

But back to writing novels, I need to be uninterrupted for quite a while to write the longer work but I continue the research and work on smaller projects – especially picture books which are so rewarding – especially when you see what the illustrator creates from my stimulus!

What are the next challenges or goals for you as a writer?

Grab more time to write.

Get more in-tune with the digital side of publishing. I love where that is leading and how we creators can be part of it. My latest picture book is just ripe for animation, and I want to be part of it!

Continue to support and continue to shout out about the wonderful kids’ books that are produced.
I want to see kids’ books being regularly featured in the mainstream media, not as an aside but as of vital importance and “have you read this ripper book”.

Grab some more time to write.

But now I have to go and finish my packing for the Hong Kong Literary Festival and then Bologna.

What was that I mentioned about grabbing some more time to write?

Cynsational Notes

Christopher is blogging the Bologna Book Fair–day by day!

Don’t miss his blog, New Kids Books in Oz: The Latest Australian Books to Arrive in Bookstores.

Resham Premchand is a keen life-long student of literature and enjoys playing with words.

She is an active member of Hong Kong and Singapore SCWBI groups and enjoys learning from critique groups. Resham is a primary school teacher and loves working with children!

The SCBWI Bologna 2012 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Showcase in conjunction with Cynsations.

To find out more, visit the SCBWI Bologna Showcase Special thanks to Angela Cerrito for coordinating this series with SCBWI Bologna and Cynsations.

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