A little bit, um, EXCITED to bring you our very first How She Does It for 2014. It’s a roundhouse kick of an interview with none other than P.J. Tierney. Not only is she the zen mastermind behind the Jamie Reign books, but also Mum to a nine year old son and five year old daughter, wife, wonton soup enthusiast and hanger of rock stars heavy stuff. [I’m afraid you’ll have to read on to find out more about that. Spoiler alert: The Matrix, Keanu Reeves…]
PJ and I are lucky enough to share the same Awesome (intentional caps) agent, Catherine Drayton and figured out, at a party Catherine hosted, that we lived barely a stone’s throw away from each other in Sydney, Australia. I was going on about dumplings, as I tend to do, and she was telling me where I should go for dim sum if I was, like, serious. If there is one thing I am earnest about it is good yum cha so I inmmediately decided the frank, funny, super-likeable PJ was my very good friend, whether she fancied it or not. Hmmm, hijacking people into friendship seems to be my thing? We only got one coffee date in before I went and did my regular nomad trick of moving countries but I already know the next coffee date is just around the corner. For now, I (and you too, lucky ducks!) get to have a P.J. Tierney fix right here, right now…
Alright, straight to the good stuff, Paula: How did you come to be a writer?
Although I left school thinking I’d pursue a career in writing, I didn’t come to be an author via the most direct route. Between degree and the first draft of my novel was a staggering twenty years. This was primarily due to the fact that I didn’t have a story to tell. I could rehash with the best of them but when it came to a story that was uniquely my own, well I didn’t have a lot to drawn on. In those intervening years I did put my Creative Arts Degree to good use because at university I was exposed me to the theatre. While I was disappointed to learn I was less than average on stage, I quickly discovered that all the real excitement in show business happens behind it. So after graduation I headed backstage.
I have since worked on some of the biggest stages for the most popular artists in the world; from Madonna to U2; Bon Jovi and The Eagles. There were stints on movies as well, and on the set of the Matrix, I watched the legendary fight director Woo Ping turn Keanu Reeves into a kung fu master. It was around this time I met the man whose stories would inspire Jamie Reign. James had been abandoned by his Chinese mother and left to his neglectful English father. At eight he was sent to work salvaging boats, diving for wrecks and outrunning typhoons. Watching Woo Ping and listening to the stories of James’ early life reminded me of what had initially set me on this path, the search for a story that only I could tell. Other encounters with action stars and healers, tug operators and kung fu masters, gave more layers to the tale that was formulating. From there it took a few short courses and a fabulous mentor to remind me I could write, then I set out to tell the story that truly came from my heart, Jamie Reign, The Last Spirit Warrior. It took me longer than most but I hope the journey that brought me to the story also brings depth to the page.
What is your proudest career moment so far?
You know, I thought it would be holding my book for the first time, and although it was a moment I had longed for, my proudest moment had come earlier. It was when I realized I had created something that would have a life beyond my own imagination; when the first offer was made for my manuscript and when I signed with my agent.
What about your work brings you the most joy?
Those moments when one’s words match the sentiment perfectly.
Ah yes, that is pure bliss. What quality do you think is the most important for a person to be successful in your field?
Passion and commitment in equal measures. It’s the equal measures that I think is vital but also the most challenging for me. I seem to oscillate between the two…
I’m guessing you’re talking about juggling other responsibilities and getting the writing done? How do you like to work?
I like to work a few hours a day, early in the morning when it is quiet and the family is still asleep. What I actually do is somewhat different. It usually involves way too much planning and plotting, then in that final crunch towards the deadline, I run away to a hotel and write furiously for days on end.
Who is your biggest cheerleader for when the going gets tough?
Definitely my family, even more so now that my son’s friends are talking about Jamie Reign. I think I’ve grown in his esteem, and I like that a lot.
What do you enjoy least about your work?
Cough…ahem…. the actual writing.
Ha! That’s not the first time I’ve heard / seen that response. I’m pretty sure the magnificent Mem Fox said something similar. Who is your favourite author?
Annie Proulx for The Shipping News, I love that book. It inspires me and makes me feel totally inadequate at the same time. How she describes discarded fruit is magnificently perfect!
And which books have made a big impact on your life?
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, the circular nature of the story made me truly appreciate the journey not only in life but in literature as well. It taught me a lot.
I have to talk about food. Because, well, I just always have to. Tell us about the best meal of your life.
Wonton soup, sitting on plastic stools on Aberdeen Wharf in Hong Kong. Sadly the stall is not there anymore, the old woman has moved on, either in this world or onto the next
Do you eat while you read? If so, what?
YES, damn it, everything in sight.
Cough…sounds familiar. Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?
Lau Tzu, Bruce Lee and Pink – philosophers all. I can’t imagine I’d be contributing much to the conversation but I’d certainly be taking notes.
Wow, what a guest list. Can I come? Will you serve wonton soup, pretty please?Now, you sent me the world’s most adorable photo of your daughter dressed as your protagonist, Jamie Reign, from the cover and promo for The Last Spirit Warrior and I’m going to post it here. I am expecting a collective “awwwww!”
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Surround yourself with mentors whose wisdom and values you trust and then act on their advice.
And final request – sum up your life right now in three words:
Wonderfully rewarding. Thankyou.
No, thankyou! Loved learning more about your journey. Always so reassuring to know we are not alone in our procrastination and that the paths to and through this wonderful work are generally crooked (which reminds me of this great diagram). I am now waiting rather impatiently for the new Jamie Reign, The Hidden Dragon to be released in June this year and dreaming of hot and slippery wonton soup with the smell of the sea in the air. Gah! Stomach rumbling…
P.S. For more news and gossip from PJ and to find out more about our favourite young hero, Jamie Reign, please check out PJ’s website and facebook page. Hai-ya! (Sorry, I got swept up in the martial arts excitement)