In 5 minutes with author, Over60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Judy Nunn, a novelist, scriptwriter and actor. After achieving success as a writer for the TV series Neighbours and as an actor for iconic soap Home and Away, Nunn expanded into prose in 1991 with her debut novel The Glitter Game. Since then, Nunn has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. In 2015, she was named a Member of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author”. Her latest book, Khaki Town is out now.
Over60 talked with Nunn about the books more people should read, a trick she swears by to ward off writers’ block and the difference between writing for TV and novel.
Over60: What is your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
Judy Nunn: Best writing tip: Never let the book out of your head for too long or you’ll lose not only the plot but also your confidence.
Worst writing advice (actually came from a UK publisher): “All scenes must be written from one character’s perspective”, which means if you have a scene between two major characters, you’re not supposed to see, within their minds, their specific thoughts or points of view. Ghastly!
What book do you think more people should read?
J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – anything that fires up the imagination of the young and reminds adults that they too were once young.
What was the last book that made you laugh?
Beware of God by Shalom Auslander. I read it years ago – it was first published in 2005 – and recently re-read it. I laughed out loud all over again.
What does your writing routine look like?
I head off to my ‘office’ – across the balcony to the room at the front of the house – and start work around 9.30. Break for a sandwich around 12.30, back to work until a rewarding glass of wine at 5, on for another hour or so, and that’s it.
In your view, what is the biggest difference between scriptwriting and prose writing?
Utterly different mediums. Scripts are written for interpretation on the stage or screen, prose is written to be interpreted by the reader’s imagination.
Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve fortunately never suffered writer’s block, but I have a trick to ward it off. At the end of my writing day I go into ‘upper case’, give no thought to form or ‘correct prose’, just freefall, giving vent to where my characters might go, what they might say and where the plot is leading me. Then, even if I have to leave off writing for several days, I can go back to work, read my big print and I’m right back on track.
Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?
Authors are often less interesting than the characters they create. I might prefer to have dinner with Doctor Zhivago rather than Boris Pasternak or to have cocktails with Silas Marner rather than George Eliot. But if pushed, what about a beer with Spike Milligan?
What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?
I can’t stand ‘The bottom line is…’ and ‘At the end of the day…’. They’re so constantly repeated that to me they lose impact. I love the cliché ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’.