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Interview with Anna Kirtlan


Anna Kirtlan has a background in journalism, and is currently a communications advisor and magazine editor. Although she completed her Boatmaster’s certificate in 2010 Anna is still not sure which way starboard is! She lives between Wildflower, berthed at Chaffers Marina in Wellington, and a flat in Hataitai which she shares with her cat Ollie.

She describes herself as a ‘short, loud, orange cat-lady who enjoys reading, writing, sailing, scuba diving, gardening and playing David Bowie at deafening volumes.’

Anna blogs about her experiences at seamunchkin.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter as @SeaMunchkin. Which Way is Starboard Again? is Anna's first book.

What is a typical working day for you?

One of the good things about my job as communications advisor and magazine editor is that no two days are really the same. I guess a typical day would be - go to work, deal with media issues if there are any, help out a couple of journos, work on some articles, edit some articles and keep an eye out for anything that crops up during the day. When I get home I'll often blog or journal, just to keep my hand in writing, and fluff about on social media for a bit (for book promotion purposes of course!)

What are your three favourite books of all time? And why?

It's really hard to pick just three, but here we go:

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende - I won this book in a colouring competition when I was 12 and have re-read it most years since. It's absolutely magic and so different from anything else. It is quite a bit darker than the movie but also even more magical and an interesting look at the dark and light side of human dreams and desires. I actually have the Auryn symbol from the book tattooed on my chest (I hope that's not too much information!)

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy - This was the first young adult book I read as a young adult. It was also the first of it's kind I'd read that was set in New Zealand. At that point I was either reading children's books or adults' books and for the first time I felt like I was reading something written just for me. Whenever I re-read it I still get that feeling.

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones - This is the best thing I have ever read about a man who brought so much brightness into the world. I don't know if I love Jim Henson because he was so much like me or whether I am like me because of Jim Henson but either way this is a great and insightful read. It made me cry a little bit and smile a lot.

Which author do you admire most? And why?

There's a long list here too but leading it would be Anne Rice. Her characters are beautiful and accessible, her research and attention to detail is really impressive and she has written a number of very different genres and stands by them all. I also really admire the way she interacts with her fans. She takes time out to do that more than most authors yet still manages to consistently produce quality work. She's developed a really cool little reader community.

What tips would you give aspiring writers?

Start writing. If you spend too much time thinking about it and planning it, it will only ever exist in your head. Don't over analyse it, just write until you are happy with it (or as close to happy as you are ever going to be). Read a lot, decide what you like and that will help you develop your own voice. Be persistent. If it doesn't work out the first time then try again, and again and again. Every knock back is a learning experience.

What’s your most memorable experience at a Literary Event?

I was in a book signing queue for Neil Gaiman at the Wellington writers festival one year. The line went on forever but he still took the time to interact with each person. When I neared the front of the line, out of the blue, the girl in front of me asked him if he'd ever thought about his own funeral. He didn't bat an eyelid. "Not really," he said, smiling at her "but I guess I should. Noone wants to have a boring funeral do they?" I don't remember what I said when he got to me, I was too busy being a googly-eyed fan girl, but I do remember being impressed with the unruffled way he dealt with that.

If a movie was made of your life, what three songs would you want on the soundtrack?

Sorry, but you're getting four!

All the Madmen and/or Life on Mars - David Bowie, Wildflowers - Tom Petty, The Muppet Show theme tune

What advice would you give to your younger self?

1) Don't give up, especially when it gets hard and scary.

2) Journalism school is hard work but hang in there, it will totally be worth it.

3) Quit trying to write stuff with vampires in it, it’s just not your thing – leave it to the experts.

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