Love of reading leads to life of writing for Rocky author
SPENDING her childhood in a rainy little New Zealand town, a trip to the library was a treat for Carmen Gray and her sisters.
In a pre-internet world and a house without television, Carmen said days spent with her head buried in a book were the foundation for her future career as a writer.
Despite her passion for reading at a young age, it wasn't until 20 when a friend gave her an old computer that Carmen started writing fiction.
Now the Rockhampton mother is finishing her debut children's series Zombified! and spoke to The Morning Bulletin in October last year before the first novel's publication by ABC Harper Collins.
Carmen will be among the local writers showcasing their books at Saturday's Local Author Expo at Rockhampton Regional Council.
The Zombified! series follows Ben, an ordinary boy who is transformed into a half zombie, something he has to keep secret throughout the four novels.
At the same time, Ben is battling to keep the master behind his transformation from turning more people into the undead.
Zombies have almost become the monster du jour in popular culture and Carmen said sons Jasper, 13, and Lucas, 10, were not immune.
But, she said her children were often affection and sympathetic towards the zombie 'bad guys' in movies, games and television shows.
As well as writing the rest of the series, Carmen is currently working on the illustrations for book one.
Carmen said her children were pleased to read her work, but admitted Jasper wasn't too thrilled to see some of his habits reflected in the book's main character.
Looking back, Carmen said if the internet and social media had been buzzing back when she got her first computer she wouldn't have started writing the way she did.
Solitaire was the only entertainment then and Carmen joked there were only so many times that could be played.
Within a year Carmen had moved from Perth to Rockhampton and started entering her work in competitions.
After a period when Carmen's life became busy with her family, children and work at TAFE, she made a conscious decision to write seriously and submitted work to agents.
At the same time, a friend sent Carmen's work to ABC Harper Collins.
Carmen said she was blown away when both the publishers and an agent wanted to sign her within the same two-week period.
Her new career is a predominantly solitary one, but Carmen said her experience as a costume and set designer came to the fore in working with the publishing team.
She said that role was all about creating the visual image of a performance, working with directors, cast and crew to bring the show to life.
In that field, Carmen said success relied on a designer's relationship with their director.
"I realised pretty early on it's about fifty per cent design and fifty per cent collaboration," Carmen said.
Luckily, Carmen said the somewhat unsociable profession of writing suited her perfectly.
"I'm much more of a lone wolf," she said.
"You're completely in control.
"It's an open door to spending a lot of time thinking."
And while some may think plotting a novel is too much hard work, Carmen said she loves the puzzle of it.
She said although she loves writing, doing it day-to-day came down to discipline.
"It's sometimes just hard work, but it's much more enjoyable than rushing of to work somewhere else," Carmen said.
As with any skill, Carmen said writing was hard work, but average writers could become great writers through training and practice.
She said her sisters, both journalists, saw her manuscripts before the publisher and could always be relied on to give honest feedback over compliments.
Now she's got a publishing deal under her belt, Carmen hoped the books would be successful enough for her to keep doing what she loves.