Teena Raffa Mulligan writes stories to entertain children of all ages and her publications include poetry, short stories, picture books, and novels Teena Raffa Mulligan first published picture book was an alien danger story about an elephant and a tiger (Don’t you know me? Reprinted in a revised edition and republished by the author. refresh titled Jimbo! Don’t Go!) that brought him 5 minutes of glory and introduced her to the joy of sharing her passion for writing with others. Since then, she has presented talks, seminars and workshops for children and adults and all of her presentations have a strong focus on inspiration and encouragement. Teena Raffa Mulligan also had a long career in journalism before retiring to focus on fiction. She lives in a seaside town south of Perth, Western Australia, and has three grown children and families of her own, who inspire new stories.
Here is an Interview with author Teena Raffa Mulligan
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in an English/Italian family in Western Australia, surrounded by natural story tellers whose tales about their lives captured my imagination. Books also opened a window into the world of make believe and my ambition to be a writer was born at an early age.
I write quirky, whimsical books for children full of warmth, gentle humor, heart and hope. My publications range from picture books to Middle Grade and YA novels, exploring themes of family, friendship and the need to belong. Many of my poems and short stories for children and adults have appeared in magazines and anthologies and my writing life has also included a long career in journalism. I am passionate about the importance of story in our lives to inspire greater empathy and understanding between people.
I share my home near the beach with a sometime surfer and a golden Labrador with anxiety issues and a toast obsession. When not writing or encouraging people of all ages to write their own stories, I like to fill her life with family time, sunshine, birdsong and flowers
How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have a set timetable these days. It depends what I’m working on. I spend time every day working on writing related activities but not necessarily writing new stories. It might be designing book covers and formatting work for publication; organizing marketing/promotions; preparing social media posts; or editing a first draft. When I am editing a book or preparing a title for publication, I do a couple of hours concentrated work both morning and afternoon. Life/work balance is important to me and while I do set personal deadlines, they are flexible according to what else is happening in my life.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
My goodness! Too many! Three unfinished romances, three unfinished women’s fiction novels, 12 unpublished picture books, two unpublished junior fiction novels, and one completed first draft of a MG novel that is next on my list to edit and submit.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I write picture books quickly over a few days, working intermittently as I go about other activities and jotting down fragments of text on scraps of paper. Once I feel I have enough to work with I will spend an hour or two on the computer putting the story together and preparing it for submission to publishers. Novels are a different matter and I can take years to complete them because I take long breaks in between writing stints and go on with other projects.
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
The Parent Tamer, released recently by Dixi Books in London, came about because I saw a lion tamer in an old movie and my writer brain clicked into gear and started thinking about a parent/child reversal. What would happen if a kid was being driven crazy by his misbehaving parents and he decided to call on expert help? Initially I thought I would use dog training techniques on the parents but the story took an entirely different direction.
How did you develop your plots?
I don’t do any formal plot development. I come up with an idea, have a strong sense of the main character and the tone of the story, then start writing. The plot suggests itself along the way. Often I reach the end of a chapter in one of my quirky middle grade novels and have no idea what will happen next, so I leave the story until it ‘tells’ me the next episode. It’s a strange process but it works for me and I’ve learnt to trust it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I usually settle on the first name that pops into my head. The Parent Tamer was different as I wanted a really original name for him so I thought about it for days. One morning as I was walking up from the beach I cam up with the idea of using fish names and simply changing one letter. So the parent tamer is called Talibut Vish and the story also features a character called Nalamander. As for Mike Hinklebink, I just wanted a funny name for the main character. Everyone else in the story has a normal name.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I spent many years working for newspapers and magazines before I retired 11 years ago. If I hadn’t gone into journalism, I would have become a teacher or librarian or pursued my interest in graphic design.
What is your favorite childhood book?
There were so many! Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, all the books by Enid Blyton, E Nesbitt and Elizabeth Goudge.
What are you currently working on?
The UFO Effect is a quirky MG novel about a kid who finds a mysterious object in the nearby quarry and begins changing colour. I’ve completed the first draft and set it aside so I can come to the editing stage of the manuscript with fresh eyes. I’ll probably pick it up again at the end of March.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I do read reviews of my books. The good ones always make me smile. Bad ones are unpleasant to receive. Fortunately, in all the years I’ve been writing, only a couple of reviews have really upset me. I let myself wallow in misery for a couple of hours, then took a deep breath, reminded myself that not everyone will like what I write and kept writing my stories for the readers who will connect with them. Chocolate helped too!
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I have been writing since the early 1970s so I have established a wide network of contacts. My circle of friends includes authors, journalists, editors and artists. I regularly attend workshops, talks and seminars (mainly on-line at present!) because I see developing my craft as a lifelong learning process. About 15 years ago I joined a small critique group of professional authors whose feedback on my works in progress has helped me tremendously in my growth as a writer. We have supported and encouraged each other throughout the years and without their constant reminders that they wanted to know what happened next, The Parent Tamer might still be incomplete.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Write in the way that feels right for you. Measuring yourself against how or what others write is a waste of creative energy. Explore where your writing takes you and enjoy the journey. Most importantly, don’t give up on your dream. Persistence pays off.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
When I first started writing I sat at the dressing table in my bedroom and tapped out my stories on a small portable typewriter. With some of the first money I earnt from submitting stories to magazines I bought myself a timber roll top desk which I set up in a corner of the kitchen and that became my writing space for a number of years until we built a separate office/darkroom in the back garden for me to share with my husband, who was working as a casual newspaper photographer at the time.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Playing with words and following ideas to see where they take me. I also enjoy editing and polishing a manuscript until I’m happy with it.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
My next picture book due for release by Serenity Press later this year is an Australiana counting book called Can You Guess Who? which is currently being illustrated by Veronica Rooke.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I have a website at https://www.teenaraffamulligan.com
Readers can also find me on FB at https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan
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