Friday, July 10, 2020
Author Spotlight Oliver Smuhar
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing young, multi-award winning, Australian author, Oliver Smuhar.
Oliver, what made you start writing your book in year 11 at school?
I wrote a lot of different kinds of short stories and I’ve always wanted to be a film makes, so when I was sixteen, on New Years Eve 2016, I decided to begin writing the book as it was something I knew I could do. Writing for me is very rewarding and over the last few years my practice has improved. I had this very original idea and a new take on contemporary fantasy, so I went into my room in 2017 and began writing one of the longest projects I have ever written. Now I have almost 4 books and am helping to write screenplay for indie producers!
What are you currently studying at the University of Technology in Sydney?
Currently I am in my second year of a Bachelor’s of Communication Journalism. Its helping me with my interviewing skills, types of writing, video editing and audio editing.
How important is your description of Australia to your novels?
Being from rural Australia, I do use a lot of Australian slang and the dialogue—especially from my first book—is very Aussie. Lots of yeahs and nah for no real point of reason, but it does flow nicely. Sidewalks, drylands and eucalyptuses are important landmarks within my fantasy books and my home, The Blue Mountains, is the setting for my drama.
The most important book with Australian description is my latest, which is planned for release in 2021. This book is a children’s book about the impact of the 2019-20 Australian Wildfires. It takes places within Australia’s natural heritage and I spent a long time accurately depicting the fires and the nature that is inside this land. The story follows a koala and sugar glider as they venture through the burnt land and help their family herd to survive the fire’s rage. The description, dates and locations are all accurate and depicted as they were during the fires.
What were you striving to convey with the first book, The Gifts of Life?
The primary theme is identity. It’s that we are all individuals with unique traits and talents. That’s the whole moral to ‘The Gifts of Life’—our gifts that make us special and unique. Whether in a group environment or individually, we are our own person and that is something that I want to outline through the series. It’s about being weird and accepting others for their quirks.
Another heavy theme that will be reflected in both this book and the series as a whole is the idea of multiculturalism, pluralism and acceptance. School has definitely taught me that it is important to respect others, their culture and background and Australia is becoming more multicultural every day. The Gifts of Life symbolises this through animal spirits, crests and town colours.
As well as book one’s identity, its sequels that are in the works will explore different aspect of society. Two and three discuss the ideas of love and happiness and four will talk about the aspects of lies and how they can hurt and protect people.
But for the first book, I’d be happy if someone finishes the last page and understand that we are all different. We all achieve things at different rates, we have different smiles and goals and we should be proud of those things not discouraged.
What did your teachers say when they read your book?
I had this one teacher who laughed when she found out. She was younger than the rest and she was really proud like an aunt. I remember she was scrolling on Amazon, looking at the book, its cover and then stopped. She looked me in the eye and says, “No wonder you couldn’t remember your syllabus. You were too busy writing this. Next time you don’t do your homework, I’ll keep this in mind.”
Another teacher of mine made me bring the book in. She didn’t believe me and thought I made it all up as a prank. Even my author website. I brought it in and the next day she bought a copy.
Most teachers were proud or shocked. I showed my Society and Culture teacher and he scrolled through the pages and said, “No way! This is impossible.” He was one of those teachers who thought that studying was everything. You study or you get a trade. So, seeing his eyes light up was pretty rewarding.
Were you surprised by the 'Reviewers Choice Award”?
Yes! Although due to the length and detail of my book, it’s understandable that reviewers may be impressed as the book is 180,000 words long, it was still very surprising. I never thought that others would think that my book was award winning or even great enough to be gifted such an honorary certificate!
Do you have particular practices that help you write?
Indeed. I go for long walks. I live in the bush, so seeing nature and being around silence is nice to get ideas rolling. Music can always help get you in the mood for a scene and recently, the relaxation of showers has opened new doors for plot points and stories.
I have a note book as well, so if I do have an idea, anywhere, I can jot it down and make sure to refer back to it. However, I don’t often refer back as writing the idea stabilises most of them in my head for later. For my third fantasy book, however, I do plan on scaffolding the whole storyline before writing, which is something I don’t normally do!
How do you feel people see you when they interact with you?
I had an interview the other day with a production manager and he said I was confident! It’s funny, because I have never thought I was confident. Maybe determined, but never confident. It’s just strange as I am an introvert. Another one was ambitious and that I know what I want. And truth be told, I do. I’m a storyteller and I want to tell as many great stories as I can, learn from them, see what works, what doesn’t and maybe one day make another classic like Shawshank Redemption, The Monkey’s Paw, The Fly, The Alchemist, etc.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
The Gifts of Life is an invitation to any who are willing to come along on the journey. Basically, this is the first book to my own little magnum opus. However, unlike Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson as my characters grow from 16, to 19, to 23 and so on, so will I. I’m going to grow with my characters and my audience and as this happens my writing will improve and become more rewarding.
But that’s not all.
Book two is going to continue the story with the same amount of effort at the rerelease. It’s going to have hand drawn chapter images, paintings, maps, floorplans, a glossary and more. It’s not just a book, it’s a doorway to whole new world. It’s going to achieve a new high standard that I’m planning to top every book release. But I’m not only writing fantasy.
Next year will be the anniversary of the 2019-20 Australian Wildfire and I’m planning a massive project to help raise money to plant new trees, help the native animals, clean our waterways and protect the bees. However, I’m also in the works to create a movie. I’ve got a screenplay and now I need to play my cards right.
If all goes well, I’ll have around four books out by next year. And for those who read all the books there will be a secret narrative that might link everything together. You just have to come join me on this journey. I promise anyone who is reading this that it will be like nothing else in the world. It’s going to change lives.