One of our favourites here at Better Reading is Jenn J McLeod. Jenn writes her novels while travelling Australia in her van Myrtle the Turtle. Over the next month, we’ll publish a series of interviews Jenn has done with authors who write from some unusual places – a boat, a van… even a tractor. We think you’ll enjoy reading about these Authors On-The-Go. This week, Jenn interviews Helene Young.
If you know of any authors who write On The Go… let us know.
Helene Young and Roo Bin Esque
Where do I write?: Since my home is Roo Bin Esque, a 12 metre catamaran, I write in a floating office. Sounds idyllic, huh? Sailing through the warm tropical waters of Australia and the South Pacific, dolphins playing on the bow, the sun gilding the world in gold. Who wouldn’t love that? No strong winds, anchors dragging, thunderstorms, mountainous seas or difficult bar crossings to be seen!
What are the challenges of writing on the go?: The real life afloat may be a little different to what you’ll find on my Instagram or FB feed – hard to believe, I know. Some days are literally too rough for me to write. If the laptop is sliding off the desk and I need one hand to hold on, it’s easier to do something else for the day. We run on batteries and it can be a struggle ensuring I have enough power to run the computer – and since my handwriting is so illegible, if the computer’s battery is flat then that’s that for the day. Internet is sporadic and rather than NBN we have a slowish wi-fi modem which can’t always be coaxed into joining the online world. Disastrous when researching. The upside is less distractions.
Best thing about writing on the go?: We rarely stay in one place long, so the changing view, the amazing areas we visit, and the fascinating people we meet are a constant source of inspiration. Of course, that can lead to inspiration overload which can leave me frozen, trying to harness too many ideas.
Worst thing about writing on the go?: Life can get incredibly hectic. No, seriously! I appreciate everyone thinks living on a boat involves swimming in azure water, hoisting spinnakers in gentle breezes, anchoring at deserted islands, and sipping cocktails as the sun goes down, but… Take grocery shopping. By the time you drop anchor and secure the vessel, launch the dinghy, make the two-kilometre run ashore, pull the dinghy up the beach and secure it, walk thirty minutes into town, do the shopping and then start the reverse journey, several hours has gone by. Heaven forbid you need a plumbing or electrical spare – that can take weeks to find. Keeping Roo Bin Esque ship shape is ultra-important for safety, so there is constant maintenance undertaken on a boat. All of that distracts from writing. And then there’s the adventures waiting to be had. It’s impossible to let Capt G go ashore without me – I have a serious case of FOMO*.
What is the soundtrack you write to while on the go?: The wind in the rigging and the rush of the water passing the hulls. There are occasionally songs that attach themselves to books and I can play them endlessly. Gurrumul Yunupingu’s haunting voice is perfect and Andrea Bocelli, Adele, Shania Twain, and Sam Smith have all kept me company. But often it’s just me, the sounds of the boat and the occasional yell from Capt G, ‘Heleeeeeene!!!’ which normally means drop everything right now and get on deck!
Do you think writing on the go has changed anything about your process?: When I was gainfully employed as an airline pilot I could write just about anywhere – in hotel rooms, departure lounges, coffee shops. My favourite place was at home in my office with the ever-helpful Zeus asleep at my feet; I was more disciplined. Flying is a disciplined job – no one wants a scatter-brained pilot at the controls – and so I made sure writing fitted into my busy schedule. Sailing is a whole lot more laissez faire and I now seem to have trouble being disciplined with my time. But I’m still an ‘organic writer’ who sits down, meets the characters for the first time and then sets off with them on the journey of the story.
(*FOMO = fear of missing out)
About the author . . . Writer, a pilot, a photographer, a recently retired airline captain, and now a fulltime sailor cruising the seas with her husband, aboard their catamaran, Roo Bin Esque, Helene’s seven award-winning novels are published by Penguin. www.heleneyoung.com