Chris O'Malley - Childrens Author
I believe that every one of us is multi-faceted. We are made up of a range of parts - the time and place in which we were born, family, friends, interests, experiences, beliefs, etc. These are all elements we to a greater or lesser extent define ourselves by, but even these can be just scratching at the surface facets of the greater whole.
The following is a small overview of some of these aspects for myself, as well as my approach to writing, and why I do it.
I was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia. Actually, this is too general. Adelaide is a city, and that wasn’t my experience growing up. I am the youngest of four siblings, with two sisters and a brother.
We were in the southern suburbs in the Morphett Vale area until I was eight, when we moved to the back of McLaren Vale, in the quiet little patch of Tatachilla Estate. 2 1/2 acres of almonds, olives, dogs, cats, trees out the back to climb and space and time for the imagination to get carried away.
My dad was a gardener, and my mum a teacher at my primary school, McLaren Flat. It was a small school with a good community around it. After school there were a small handful of us teacher’s children left in the empty space. I either played alone, with them, or would take myself into the library and read. Mostly Asterix comics and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, to be fair, but I’m a qualified librarian now, and I’m sure that there’s a link there…
The ‘literature highlights’ I remember from primary school age are, I realise as I write this, influential within the creation of Red Rabbit Rises.
I’ll stretch that ‘literature’ definition a bit with three short examples that I remember fondly still.
Two were trips into the city. One was to see and be transfixed by the local legend, writer and storyteller Mem Fox. As a kid, she was incredible at absorbing you into the moment. The other trip was to see ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ which is still a great memory. The third example was another local legend, this time the singer songwriter Peter Coombe. I remember wanting to be grumpy and cool and not enjoy it, but soon he had us all forgetting our cool façade and ego and singing along in joy.
There was quite a long stretch of not reading between late primary school and high school. The teenage highlights and inspirations were a bit eclectic. The influences I remember within school were the visceral impact of the poems of Wilfred Owen, and the David Malouf novel Fly Away Peter. Without any deliberate link, both focused on the First World War. Strong emotions and sensory writing cutting through the teenage years, It seems.
Outside of school I started reading again.
Mum was (and remains) a voracious reader, however the one book I remember dad picking up to read was Catch-22. This inspired me to pick it up, and it remains a top five favourite. Others in the eclectic teenage mix were Dostoevsky with Crime and Punishment, Douglas Adams with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, and beyond and into university days, another continuing favourite, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
John Steinbeck came around the same time, and others like Barbara Kingsolver came a little later again.
In the last few years graphic novels and comic books have come back into the fold again as they are just a beautiful and interesting way to tell a story when done well. And many are done exceptionally well!
In terms of what I was ‘doing,’ through life, school was followed by university, and then patches of various jobs and unemployment, until I finally got some secure work in a public library. However, throughout all the study, work, no work, work again, studying while juggling work, there was something else going on.
That common thing of wondering if there was something out there that I actually wanted to do with my time and life. Libraries have been excellent in that respect, but there has always been something ‘else’ rattling around in the back of the brain, vying for attention.
This, at least I believe, turned out to be writing. It is that thing which allows me to be absorbed in the moment.
It was a slow burn thing in terms of acceptance of this fact. It took time and a lot of itching the back of the skull to allow myself to come to my current position, and being happy to admit that I wish to write – wish to maybe even ‘be an author.’ To have it as a ‘thing’ that I both do and identify as.
My slow acceptance of this was partly trying to secure a wage that would pay the bills, and partly that writing and authors weren’t really around as an influence growing up. As much as I now remember loving seeing and reading Mem Fox, it was not a ‘thing’ to aspire to when and where I grew up. It took a lot of looking to find what was right in front of my face - or more rightly what I said above, to identify the scratching at the back recesses of my mind.
I highlight this context as I believe that it influences my writing. In particular writing for children, which is the first writing here at Red Rabbit Rises to be shared.
I like the idea of characters who get to know themselves, and accept themselves. The children in the stories get this chance at a younger age than I did, but this is just a projection of hope for both the characters and any child that may hopefully read the stories.
The working thought on this, as a phrase I’m using variants of elsewhere also, is ‘self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-confidence.’ If there’s a chance that a kid reads or has these books read to them and gets that message, and takes it on board, I’ll be pretty happy.
Between that, and just being absorbed in the moment and enjoying the actual process of writing, the itching for attention feeling at the back of the skull has started to show me what it took years for me to listen to. I like writing. I like the idea of being an author. I like the idea of potentially being an influence on kids accepting who they are and what they want to do in life.
I’m starting to learn that for myself, finally, too! It's a good feeling. If I was going to suggest anything to anyone, it would be this.
If you want to read about how this goes for me, please explore this here website further.