Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer...Heather Hapeta

Today’s interviewee is New Zealand travel writer Heather Hapata. Heather’s articles have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, NZ Listener, and Morning Calm (Korean Air’s in-flight magazine), she writes a monthly travel column for Homestyle magazine, and has her first book, Naked in Budapest, due for release in June.

Hi Heather and thanks for stopping by My Year of Getting Published.

1. Did you always want to be a writer ? How did you get started writing?

I was an avid reader as a child and always dreamt of being a writer – I thought how fabulous it would be to give such joy as I had from book. However it wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I had the time and confidence to give it a try – after all when you are fifty-plus surely it’s time to do what you really want to do.

2. What do you consider your first "break" as a travel writer?

I attended a short writing course (gifting your stories with love) when I lived in Napier and after the six weeks, our little group stayed together for two years, meeting monthly to read our latest work. My group encouraged me to send some of the pieces to papers and magazines – I did and some where accepted. That’s when I decided to reinvent myself, bought a second-hand laptop and started writing.

3. As a traveler and writer, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road?

My biggest challenge is always how to travel as far as I want to with the very small budget I always have! Apart from that, my biggest concern is always the ‘moving on’ - I always feel apprehensive, or fearful, yet excited when I’m going to a new place or crossing a border.

4. You're just about to launch your first book 'Naked in Budapest: Travels with a passionate nomad'. Tell us about the process of getting the book from idea to publisher.

From idea…. Well that started as a child really – confirmed by my writing group that I had a good style to read, continued during a winter in Wales – living in a caravan and rewriting all my stories to become a coherent whole. I also had an appraisal from an editor, took some of her advice on board, re-edited the manuscript, attended a self-publishing course at Canterbury University, and the rest is history. Now that the launch is about to happen I find I swing from elation to dread as imagine peoples reaction to all my hard work. I have to stay in the now and realise that any criticism is a chance for me to improve my writing – and that their views are always subjective.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

Write write write.

Travel on your own and be prepared for lots of rejections and NEVER give your work away. If you want to be published keep writing until its good enough to be paid for.

When you give your work away you are ensuring the amount paid to writers is kept low. You don’t need clippings to prove you are a writer – each piece is judged on that piece. No matter how many articles you have or don’t have, the editor ONLY decides on that quality of that story alone (I also know that from a year as travel editor of a Christchurch newspaper).

6. Finally, where is your favourite place and why?

Turkey was fabulous – the people friendly, helpful and fun; Malaysia is my favourite Asian country and … and ….

I don’t think I have been to a country that I wouldn’t return to and still have a great time!

(note from Liz: Heather was also recently interviewed by NZ Freelance Writer newsletter (May 2007)and has her official book launch on 9 June in Christchurch, New Zealand)

Previous Interviews:
Thomas Swick
Leif Pettersen
Rolf Potts
Ian Mackenzie
Sheila Scarborough
Graham Reid
Candy Harrington
Terah Shelton
Rudy Maxa
Shannon Hurst Lane
Wendy Perrin
David Whitley

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