Questions Kids Ask

What is your
name? Do you have any nicknames?
My name is Dell Elizabeth Brand. Before I was married it was Dell Elizabeth Houghton. As a kid I was called Dellabella and Dingadonga. Dad used to joke to people when I was a teenager that Dell was short for Delinquent. My colleagues at school called me Delligator because I was good at giving out jobs to others!
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
What’s your
favourite colour?
Purple, though I like blue too. I don’t like orange.
What sort of
car do you drive?
An old Toyota Prado. But we also have a motorhome and go away in it often for amazing holidays. The grandkids love it too.
What it’s like
to be an author?
Fun. Especially writing for children. It’s great talking to you guys and hearing that you love reading my books. It can be all-consuming sometimes when I’m just bursting with ideas and have to get them written down before I lose them!
Do you ever
get ideas from other writers?
No. I’ve got plenty of my own.
Do you
have any pets?
Not at the moment. Our last moggy died a few months ago and we have, sadly, decided not to get another one until we stop travelling so much.
How do
you get your ideas?
I get a lot of my ideas from travelling. Not only places but funny things that happen to me and other people all the time.
What do you
do when you get
stuck for ideas?
Take a break. Go for a walk. Play golf. Play with the grandkids. It doesn’t happen often. It’s usually the other way around. I generally have the ideas but not enough time to sit and write. I use mind maps to keep me on track when writing a story.
How can
I get ideas?
Become observant. Look around you. Watch other people interacting. Try to see the humour in things that happen. Practise writing them down. Use mind maps – put your central idea in the middle of a page and then think up all the different scenarios that COULD happen. Don’t worry if some of them sound silly.
What other
jobs have you had?
My first job when I left school was in a pencil factory where I ran two machines that painted pencils. Then I worked in a box factory while I was at uni, before getting a job as a kitchen hand at the North Sydney Leagues Club. I also cleaned houses (for $4?) and babysat.
Why did you
start writing for kids?
I spent many years encouraging reluctant readers to read. So I finally decided to write the kind of book that I thought they would WANT to read. I had to make it interesting, exciting, dangerous and a bit bloody (that’s what boys like).
Where do
you live?
I live in Kiama on the south coast of New South Wales.
What’s your
favourite animal?
Cats. They are so independent and only give you cuddles when THEY want to.
What are your
favourite books?
There are too many to mention. You can see some of my favourites on another web page.
What made you decide to become an writer?
I was bored with my job teaching PDHPE in a high school. I needed a new challenge and so my husband talked me into doing a freelance journalist course. I loved it and began writing and selling articles to magazines and newspapers.
How difficult was it
to get your first
piece of writing published?
Very easy. A travel article I wrote was published in a newspaper only a couple of months after I had completed
my course.
How difficult is it
for new writers
entering the field?
It is extremely difficult for a new and unknown author of books to get published. You just have to try and try again until you finally have success. Begin as I did, writing small stuff and achieve success that way.
Does writing
run in your family?
My mum kept a diary of all her travel adventures and she encouraged me to do this. Now I write in my diary every day (this has the added advantage of helping me remember things I have forgotten). My daughter also keeps a diary so it has become a family thing.
Were you good at writing at school?
I failed English in Year 8 but when I finished Year 12 I placed in the top 100 in the state. How do you explain that?
What’s the
worst thing about being
an author?
Not having enough time to write.
Do you think
I could be a writer?
You can do whatever you set your mind to. Never say never. And there is no such word as CAN’T. If you want to do something badly enough you will find a way to do it.
Will you look at
my story and see if it is good
enough to be published?
Yes, I will try and help you when I can. But sometimes I get really busy so an answer may take a while.
How many
drafts do you do
of each book?
Hundreds! Or it seems like that many. I know I keep editing and editing until I am sick of it, then I edit some more.
How long
does it take to finish a book?
It depends on what you mean by finish. The first draft may only take six months, but then the editing can take eighteen months. After I have finished with it, my husband and daughter read the manuscript and make suggestions, then I ask teachers to read it aloud to their classes so I can get feedback from kids. This is really valuable. Only then is it ready to go to the publisher.
Have you had
any problems publishing your books?
It took me over two years to find a publisher for my first book.
Do you
like reading?
I LOVE reading. But I have this silly idea in my head that I MUST finish a book I start. This means that sometimes I have to finish a boring book. How stupid is that! I also keep a list of books I have read on my computer.
What are your
favourite foods?
Caramel, caramel and caramel.
What are
your hobbies?
I have so many I can’t fit them all in. When I’m not writing, I love scrap-booking and family history research. I do cross-stitch and am just beginning to do some patchwork. I gave up my stamp collection a few years ago. Outside, I love golf. I grow vegies. I go cycling, walking and swimming. Then there’s bush-walking and kayaking. And I love playing with my grandkids. And we love to travel to new places and old favourites. Now you can see why I’m so busy.
What are
your major influences?
My Christian beliefs. I’m a big fan of Jesus Christ. And my family. My mum and dad had a big influence in shaping the way I am, and my husband has too. Living in Australia has obviously moulded my ideas on equality and the concept of a fair go for everyone.
What is your
attitude to drugs?
I’ve never smoked or done any drugs, except for alcohol, which I do in moderation. I love my red wine.
What were your
favourite subjects at School?
Maths and Geography and PE.
What do you
plan to do next?
I plan to keep doing all the things I am doing. More writing, more travel and more time playing with my grandkids. Everything else can fit in around these three.