|Credit: Liliane Grace|
Liliane, Nice to meet you. You've authored several genres of work among short stories, novels, articles, plays, songs and poetry. Do you recall the type of stories you wrote at the age of seven? What genre of work did they represent? What were the themes in those stories?
As a seven-year-old I modeled my stories on Enid Blyton! (Eg. The baddies smuggling diamonds in oranges.) As a teenager, I was modelling on Mills and Boon… (One famous line that my sisters recall is, ‘He kissed the creamy curve of her breast.’…) Sadly – or happily – not many of my childhood writings have survived multiple house moves, and I don’t recall any other dominant themes.
Your fiction and non-fiction writings educate audiences on life skills, spirituality, self and professional development. The presence of cancer is referenced in the book, The Hidden Order - Can You See It?, The Power of the Light as well in your work The Dream. What is the purpose of lacing the presence of cancer in your literary presentations?
I began to explore the theme of cancer because I was learning that it’s not the death sentence so many believe – it’s really a wake-up call to change one’s diet and lifestyle to some degree – and I felt that this was powerful and empowering information that people needed to know!
My short play, The Dream, was inspired by a friend who died of cancer. I felt that she had ‘lost herself’, in a sense, and so was writing about the cancer message to create time for oneself and nourish oneself. The Hidden Order is a novel for youth that addresses the belief that life is chaotic and unjust – it presents the idea that there is actually a ‘hidden order’, if we know what to look for. Cancer offers a great wake-up call and is really an invitation to heal rather than a reason to go to war against our bodies (i.e. the ‘cut, burn or poison’ response to a tumor). I really enjoyed the research I did when writing Power of the Light when I interviewed people who have recovered from cancer naturally, by changing their minds (attitude) and diets. To my mind, cancer is much more of a pandemic today than covid-19, and is also more easily healed than most people realize.
As a Coach and an Editor, what are the common challenges that writers face when they embark upon their storytelling experience? As a Coach, do you find yourself spending more time nurturing the writers' mindsets, emotions or skills?
It’s always a pleasure encouraging people to trust themselves and write! I’ve been teaching Creative Writing classes since 1987 and I never cease to be touched and impressed by the originality and skill that even beginner writers demonstrate. So far, I’ve found that most of my clients are very dedicated and committed to their project, even when quite a bit more work is required than they were expecting. (This applied to, for example, the author of a fantasy novel for youth, and several authors of books with personal growth themes.)
As an editor working with first-time authors, I often have to remind them that writing requires an apprenticeship, like any other skill. Just because we can walk, doesn’t mean we can be an Olympic runner; likewise, just because we can speak, doesn’t mean we can automatically write articulate books. There’s an art to it that requires practice. Most people’s grammar is a little dodgy in places, too, so there’s some humility required in receiving feedback and fine-tuning one’s work.
Do you believe that most individuals have the ability to refine their communication skills in order to become better writers?
One of the first things I do in my Creative Writing course is to ‘Bust the Talent Myth’. There is research indicating that ‘talent’ is really ‘deliberate practice’; i.e. those who demonstrate great ability are usually the people who apply themselves more diligently/passionately than others. (This includes the classic example of Mozart, who had already practiced several thousand hours by the age of six.) I’m not particularly interested in arguing the point philosophically that there is no such thing as talent, but I do like to give my students this acronym: TALENT = Time, Application, Love – Energy, Not Talent. It’s not about being lucky enough to have been bestowed with talent; writing skill comes about as a result of writing (and reading).
Is there an ideal personality that garners better chances of succeeding as a writer?
I don’t know that I’d identify a particular ‘writing personality’. The x-factor is the desire to write! One of my editing clients is a tradie who traveled around Australia on a motorbike. He might not fit the stereotype of a writer but his book is a compelling and colorful read. I felt as if I was there with him, he had described his journey so vividly.
"Let's Bully on Purpose in Schools" teaches students the significance and application of communication skills through role playing scenarios. In your opinion, what factors in society have compromised the quality of communication in schools, work places, social settings and domestic environments? If you had a magic wand, what aspect of communication would you like to change forever?
Gosh, where do you start?! My sister is a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence. She feels that our society has become very ‘left brain’ and has lost contact with feelings/right brain/body wisdom/intuition. I think this is very true. Schooling has ‘externalized us’, making us dependent on approval from outside of us, and we’ve lost connection with ‘within’.
Bottom line, most people don’t know how to communicate. I remember when I first attended a communication and conflict-resolution skills workshop in the 80s being very impressed with the content, which struck me as brilliant and yet was really common sense. It seems to me that those skills should be a core curriculum for all children from Kindergarten to Year 12+ as they are much more urgently needed by literally all of us than most school subjects. We might never need to know the name of cloud formations but we all need to know how to ask for what we want, how to listen properly, how to stand up for ourselves, etc. And yet we are rarely given the opportunity to practice those skills, and communication is a SKILL – it doesn’t come naturally unless we’ve been brought up by highly skilled communicators, and most of us have not. So… with my magic wand, I would make Communication and Conflict-Resolution Skills a required school subject (and I’d make sure that it was taught in a fun, interesting, useful way).
Most students globally are encouraged to read classic literature in their academic curriculum. Are there any literary classics that you enjoyed reading during your academic years? Are there any literary characters that have influenced your work over the course of your four decades long career?
I’m probably a little unusual in that, while my first love as a writer is fiction, I tend to mostly read non-fiction, and my reading of classics was (too) long ago. As did many, I struggled at first to decode Shakespeare but when I got it, I loved it. There have been a number of characters and authors who influenced me, such as Anne (of Green Gables) – I loved those books when I was a teenager, and more recently Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief) and Guus Kuijer (The Book of Everything). These latter two books are the epitome of language originality and mastery.
The book "Quest for Riches" delivers financial literacy as a tool for young adults. There are four money personalities presented in the book which exhibit each identity's strengths and weaknesses. What was the motivation behind writing this book? Which money personality do you relate to the most?
I was approached by a financial coach to write Quest For Riches. She had created a workshop to teach financial literacy and wanted a novel that could accompany the course. She presented the idea of four ‘money personalities’ to me and we agreed that these teenagers would demonstrate their personality in the process of raising money for a school trip to India. I loved the idea of presenting the basic four personality types viewed through the lens of finances and thoroughly enjoyed the project – especially researching India. I had to set one-third of the book in India but we didn’t have the budget to send me there, so all my research was online and through interviews. (But I’m told I nailed it!) I probably relate most to the personality type that works hard and does their best but doesn’t necessarily find it easy to generate abundance! But I also have an entrepreneurial streak…
Different schools of thought debate whether motivation is inherent while others believe motivation can be derived from our environmental resources. As a motivational speaker, do you believe motivation is an internal or external element of our existence?
It's funny that you should call me a motivational speaker as I’ve never used that expression to describe myself, but found myself described that way today when looking at my own Facebook page! Both my Tech Support Person and I contemplated the description and wondered how that had happened…
I think of myself as an inspirational speaker – i.e. I have the aim of inspiring my audience rather than motivating them. I learnt this distinction from one of my mentors, Dr John Demartini, who explains that motivation is external whereas inspiration is ‘an inside job’. I’m not a rah-rah kind of speaker; I tend to speak honestly about my own journey and the principles that inspire me, and hope that listeners will resonate, will hear something that speaks to them, and will find whatever next steps they need to take from within themselves. I don’t tell people what to do.
As a parent who has home schooled three children, what are the benefits of homeschooling compared to learning in public schools? What advice do you have for prospective adults contemplating the future of their children's education?
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the child’s freedom to play and find their own way, and especially to create a rich inner life. Schools were designed in the industrial age to prepare children for adult lives in the workforce (slavery…), to condition us for responding to bells and timetables and other people’s agendas. Home education, especially the sort that doesn’t try to replicate school (workbooks and timetables), gives children the opportunity to find what is truly meaningful to them. It’s a risky endeavor, of course, because not all children are immediately able to be self-sufficient and resourceful, and not all parents have the skills to guide their children in managing their time well or becoming an autodidact.
I have been very inspired by the schedule adopted by American teacher John Taylor Gatto, who was awarded Teacher of the Year a couple of times and addressed a home education conference I attended many years ago. He described his students school week like this, and I wished I had learnt of this model sooner:
Monday: Student is apprenticed to a member of his/her family to learn a family trade or skill
Tuesday: Student is apprenticed to someone in the community who is working in a field of interest to the student
Wednesday: Student spends the day in community service
Thursday: Student spends the day at the town library researching a topic of interest
Friday: Student attends school to discuss the experiences of the previous four days.
If I had my time again, I would definitely home educate again but I would make sure that we travelled more. I think that children whose parent models are engaged in observable physical activities do the best – eg. gardening, cooking, construction, design, etc. It’s important for a child to be inspired by their parent model, and difficult if that model is immobile, gazing at a screen all day. Reading is a key: parents who read to their children often and across a range of genres are usually effective home educators. There are many inspiring books to be read on this exact subject!
One last tale is this: when my son was 14, he was struggling with Maths and we were clashing about it. I enrolled him in Kumon where he was told his skill level was that of a Grade 2 child… The very same year he spent a day doing work experience with a staircase builder and was told that his maths skills were on a par with Year 10 students. The difference here: the tutorial setting made him feel like a young child where he had to follow the rules and do busy work that didn’t inspire him; in the workshop, surrounded by timber and wood dust and rulers and saws and presented with the real-life, important requirement to measure accurately, he ‘stepped up’ and did well because this was meaningful man’s work. This is the x-factor: one’s ‘study’ must be meaningful.
Wanted: Greener Grass is a novel that binds the ideologies of love, envy and courage in one. What were you taught about love while growing up? What have you learned about love in your adult life prior to meeting your present life partner? Is there anything about love that surprises you in the world?
My parents did not create a very happy marriage so I didn’t grow up with a healthy model for how couples should communicate, express their love or manage their disagreements. I was in one marriage (de facto) for 29 years and together we had three children. There were many rocky times and we even reached the low point of not even liking each other anymore, but we had some core values in common and persisted – his skill was in just hanging in there and mine was in continually trying to connect. I learnt how to take any crisis and communicate our way through it. One of our counselors did us a great service when he pointed out that we were both operating under myths about good relationships: I wanted to hear my partner say ‘I love you’ more often and he didn’t want to say it unless he felt moved to do so; our counselor gave me the task of asking him to say it, even if I felt I shouldn’t have to ask, and told my partner he had to say it, even if he felt he didn’t want to. We both found this quite transformational. When we did finally part ways, a few years ago, it was with great love and respect and friendship.
My current life partner came into my life unexpectedly after I had finished writing the Greener Grass novel. After meeting him, I felt intuitively called to leave my partner of 29 years and begin a new relationship journey. I knew absolutely that there is no such thing as ‘greener grass’ but of course every relationship begins with a sweet ‘fall’ into infatuation, and then one’s eyes are gradually opened… I wanted growth and I got it – after all, the purpose of marriage is growth, not happiness. I love observing how each relationship is a magnificent blend of alignment and difference, and how each person brings to the party the exact lessons and opportunities that the other person needs to experience.
Liliane, you're also a ghost writer. What parts of ghostwriting do you enjoy? Are there any obstacles that ghost writers need to confront when composing work on behalf of a third party?
I’m going to confess that I’m only a baby ghost writer at this point in time. I have danced around the edge of this role when working with beginner authors whose book project required bigger shoes than they could yet wear, and my examples of what was needed became part of their books. I especially love writing fiction, and when presented with a story that is not quite flowing, or is lacking in the sort of detail that brings it to life, I find that ideas just leap into my mind. Being an author of books about creating one’s reality, I decided to declare to the universe that I am a ghost writer as I think it would be rather delicious to be given a fictional project by an author who doesn’t have the time to do the work, and be paid to flesh it out for them!
Being a seasoned writer has introduced you to several professions through the literary arts. Aside from your present occupations, is there any other role you would like to explore for pleasure or business?
I enjoy my role as a public speaker, which is allied to my author role as usually I’m speaking on themes that show up in my work and simultaneously marketing my books. I’ve spoken in a number of environments now, such as libraries and seminars, though my favourite was on a cruise ship! I’d like to do more speaking, especially events that give me travel opportunities.
Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
Thank you for the opportunity. My website is https://lilianegrace.com and I’d be delighted to sign any books personally to any audience member who is interested in my work and wishes to support me by purchasing them. Book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are also greatly appreciated. I’m a self-published author without a great record for marketing myself, so all word-of-mouth recommendations help enormously.
My books aim to empower readers through the pleasure of story, so if any of the themes resonate with your audience or if they feel my work would appeal to someone they know, I’d be grateful for any efforts on my behalf. (Eg. introductions to other media or school teachers or anyone who might be interested in purchasing books in bulk!)
|Credit: Sasha Talks | Liliane Grace|