How did you become a writer?
I must have been born a writer. I was making up stories by the age of four. Writing them down was harder. My handwriting as a child was slow, clumsy and illegible. I was taught to write again at age 15, in a modified italic. I still write all my first drafts by hand. I worked as a journalist, film critic and arts editor before I emigrated to Australia and had my three children. When they were small I wrote poetry and made up stories for them. My youngest child went to school and I thought I would try and write a novel. It was published eventually and I was on my way. It was 1986 and I have been a full-time writer ever since.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
I’ve always been a wide and eclectic reader, but I’ve never done a writing course or read many books about writing. I learned how to write from reading. I studied French and Spanish at school and university and so was influenced early by literature other than English. Now I read in Japanese as well, which has an effect on my style. As a teenager I loved Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. Also Lord of the Rings which I read when I was 19 and it was still a little known cult book. When I was poised to try writing my first novel Diana Wynne Jones was a huge influence.
When and where do you write?
I write very early in the morning, in bed, the cat on my knee, a cup of green tea to hand. I like to start before anyone else is awake, while I am still half in the dream world.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a further tale of the Otori, looking at what happens to the characters who survive the trauma at the end of The Harsh Cry of the Heron. I’m also letting some ideas for horror stories simmer away somewhere in my unconscious.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
All my life I’ve written in stolen hours so I’ve never had time for writers block.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Trying to be a writer is full of paradoxes and contradictions. Grow a thick skin but be sensitive to everything around you. Get a day job but make writing your priority. Read other writers but find your own voice. Have the highest expectations but don’t be disappointed. Be prepared to sell yourself in a marketplace but remain modest. Success if it comes will be followed by failure, so have courage.
Lian Hearn is the pseudonym used by British born Australian writer, Gillian Rubinstein for her Japan inspired medieval fantasies, Tales of the Otori (2002-2007) and The Tale of Shikanoko (2016) These books have been translated into 40 languages and published around the world. She has also written two historical novels, set in 19th century Japan, Blossoms and Shadows and The Story Teller and his Three Daughters. In her previous incarnation Gillian wrote over thirty books for children and teenagers, as well as numerous plays, winning many awards and inspiring many young writers. Previously she worked as a film critic, freelance journalist and editor in London and Sydney. She lived for thirty years in South Australia and now lives in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales.