Matilda Woods's beguiling middle-grade novel THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER was published by Scholastic UK in May 2017. http://matildawoods.com
Australian author, Matilda Woods, lives in the Southern Tablelands with her three dogs. Her debut novel THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER has enchanted everybody who has read it. It’s the charming, eccentric, heart-warming tale of a friendship between a lonely old coffin maker whose family is gone and a little boy in need of safe harbour. Interest in the book was so strong that foreign rights had been sold in 10 territories – Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Thailand, the Netherlands and the USA – before it was first published in the UK. Her second novel – which is equally beguiling and heartwarming – THE GIRL THE CAT AND THE NAVIGATOR was published in November 2018.
Matilda is a qualified social worker working with children in out-of-home care.
When and how did you start writing?
I started writing when I was twenty. I’d always loved reading and loved the idea of being able to create a story of my own. I also loved the fact that I could write at home in my pyjamas with my dogs sitting at my feet!
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
THE PROTECTOR OF THE SMALL series by Tamora Pierce. It was the first chapter book that I read by myself, and I just loved that the lead character, Kel, was a tomboy who loved animals (just like me!).
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER was the fourth book that I wrote (but the first one to be published) and it was a surprisingly quick process. The idea for the book came while I was out running with one of my dogs: it was the final scene of the story and I was really intrigued to find out how the two characters had gotten there. I let the story develop in my mind for about a week and then I sat down and wrote the first draft in ten days. After seven edits spaced across several months it was finally ready to submit to agents.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
It was very hard to get an agent! I had been rejected by over one hundred agents in the UK, US and Australia before I found a home at Greenhouse. It was an extremely stressful, frustrating and depressing experience, and I’m very glad it’s over!
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I like to start writing early: at about 6 or 7am. I try to write on days when I don’t have anything else on so that I can write right through until dinner.
I’m not exactly sure where I get inspiration from: I think everyone has a million different ideas a day and I’ve just been lucky enough to have some ideas that could be turned into books.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Read books in the genre that you want to write. I can’t think of anything more heart-breaking then spending months or years of your life writing a story that has already been written. Also, don’t get too disheartened by the rejections. It doesn’t matter how many people say ‘no,’ you just need one who says ‘yes!’
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you've developed as an author?
Write standing up. The words come quicker.
Always stop writing for the day when you want to write more.
Be honest with yourself. If something in the story isn’t working, rewrite it. And if the story itself isn’t working, leave it and write something else.
Which favourite authors would you invite to a dinner party? Which fictional character do you wish you'd invented?
John Steinbeck, Roald Dahl, George Bernard Shaw and Agatha Christie.
I wish I’d invented Sherlock Holmes!