All you kiddies out there will really enjoy today’s Guest Star! Have you ever heard of a GREEN Polar bear?? Me either, I thought they were all white… must be an Irish thing. Perry’s handler is from Cork.
Kristi: Here she is now. Hello, Olive, welcome to How Did You Get There! Where’s your bear?
Olive O’Brien: Thank you, Kristi. You mean Perry the Polar Bear?
Kristi: Yes, we can’t wait to meet him.
Olive O’Brien: I’m sorry, he lives on the North Pole.
Kristi: The NORTH POLE?! — I’ve always wanted to say that line!! Remember when Buddy the Elf goes to his Dad’s office for the first time?
Olive O’Brien: I think so…
Kristi: (checks list) One Life-Goal down, only 1,238 more to go!
Olive O’Brien: (tries not to imagine the others)
Kristi: Before we ask about Perry dying his fur green—
Olive O’Brien: Dying his fur…?
Kristi: –first things first. Tell us about yourself.
Olive O’Brien: OK, I’m a children’s writer based in Cork, Ireland. I have written two picture-books called “Perry the Playful Polar Bear”, which was on the Christmas gift guide in the Star newspaper and in Woman’s Way, and “Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green”, which was just released in March 2010.
Kristi: I’m amazed you found a polar bear willing to dye his fur for your book—actors will do anything for a starring role these days.
Olive O’Brien: Er…”Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green” is about Perry helping the environment.
Kristi: Oh, of course! Silly me. I’m normally so careful with my facts.
Olive O’Brien: (smiles) Honest mistake.
Kristi: Exactly, who knew green hair dye was good for the environment?
Olive O’Brien: No, no–
Kristi: So when did you discover you wanted to be a writer?
Olive O’Brien: I simply love to write! As a child I would write short stories on anything and kept a diary, which I still cringe at. I loved English and would spend hours writing long essays or poems.
Kristi: Is that when you started writing children’s books?
Olive O’Brien: No, I didn’t write my first book until October 2008.
Kristi: Only two years ago? And you’ve already published two books?
Olive O’Brien: Yes, through my own publishing company, Silver Angel Publishing, which I set up last year.
Kristi: (wonders why she never thought of that) Impressive. What do you like most about being a writer and publisher?
Olive O’Brien: I love the freedom it brings. I have worked in offices before and it can feel very claustrophobic. Now I can work when and how I want to.
Kristi: Or not at all!
Olive O’Brien: Thankfully, I’m relatively self-disciplined, so motivation is not a problem.
Kristi: (shifty-eyed) Right…that’s what I meant.
Olive O’Brien: The worst thing about being a writer is that you can feel a bit isolated.
Kristi: Like you’re far away from everyone? On the farthest tippy top point of the world? Somewhere like– the NORTH POLE! (falls over laughing) I LOVE that line!!
Olive O’Brien: (wonders if Kristi’s parents left her alone a little too often) I try to stay sane, by meeting other writers, book lovers and publishing people through meetings, seminars and of course interacting through blogs, twitter and so on.
Kristi: What do you think suits you for writing and publishing books?
Olive O’Brien: From a business point of view, organisational skills. I have to do my own sales and marketing which requires a weekly plan. I draw up a list of people to ring to sell my books to.
Kristi: (scribbles on notepad) …call every child under the age of 9. Got it!
Olive O’Brien: I would also say I have good time management. I’m constantly juggling writing and promoting my books.
Kristi: …learn to juggle. Three balls or four?
Olive O’Brien: (not sure how to answer this)
Kristi: I‘ll start with three. I know juggling takes practise, but being organized must be somewhat innate?
Olive O’Brien: Yes, I’d say so. I always say “Organisation is the key to success”, but I developed my organisational skills through another career.
Kristi: What was that – as a street performer?
Olive O’Brien: I worked as a solicitor in Cork for several years.
Kristi: A lawyer– I was right!
Olive O’Brien: I was under a constant pressure to meet deadlines, juggle clients, going to court, answering calls, emails, letters, closing sales. It trained me how to prioritise my time.
Kristi: How did that help with your writing?
Olive O’Brien: In my opinion, being trained in legal writing can stunt your creativity. When I sat down to write my first book, I found it unexpectedly difficult to write fiction.
Kristi: Huh, I would have thought the opposite. Were you still practising as a solicitor when you began writing Perry the Polar Bear?
Olive O’Brien: No, I was working at a newspaper in Bangalore, south India.
Kristi: Ah, I see…running form the law?
Olive O’Brien: Er…I left my legal career in 2006 to complete a Masters in Journalism at DCU, which led to an news reporter internship at the Sunday Business Post, and then a features writer in India.
Kristi: Sounds like an adventure.
Olive O’Brien: It was only for a couple of months, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, a huge change. I took a rickshaw to work every morning, and had to negotiate the price with the driver before I even sat in it! I also had the opportunity to speak with children who live in some of the poorest slums in Bangalore. Their enthusiasm and positive attitude is admirable.
Kristi: So the children’s enthusiasm spurred you to start writing children’s books?
Olive O’Brien: Not yet. After India I returned home for Christmas 2007, after which I travelled around the world in 2008—
Kristi: To the North Pole, where you met Perry?
Olive O’Brien: No, I travelled solo, to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, back to northern India and the United Arab Emirates.
Kristi: Bet you took some great pictures…
Olive O’Brien: It was an amazing experience! When I look back at photos of me sitting in front of the Taj Mahal, Ayers Rock and Sydney Opera House, it seems a bit surreal.
Kristi: …though they’d be even better with Perry in them. When did you meet him?
Olive O’Brien: I returned home in September 2008 and started writing my book in October of that year.
Kristi: It must’ve taken a while for your head to stop spinning.
Olive O’Brien: Absolutely! The past ten years have been a rollercoaster ride.
Kristi: I’ll say. I’m still dizzy.
Olive O’Brien: (wonders if that’s innate)
Kristi: Any valuable life experiences you’d like to leave us with, other than green hair dye being good for the environment?
Olive O’Brien: (considers correcting Kristi but…) Thanks to my legal career I can buy a house, or draft a will, and from a life experience point of view it improved my judgment of people and situations, and making me quite analytical and measured in my thinking. Thankfully, it didn’t damage my creative side. The journalism career was a real buzz– being in a newsroom, surrounded by people, with radios and tvs on all the time. I hope to dabble in freelance journalism again pretty soon.
Kristi: Thanks for sharing your exciting life with us, Olive O’Brien, and as always – Thank You For Playing!
More about Olive O’Brien:
- Women Mean Business magazine: http://www.scribd.com/doc/27711143/Women-Mean-Business-Mag
- Silver Angel Publishing: http://www.silverangelpublishing.com
- Olive’s blog: http://www.writeolive.com