When did you realise you had an interest in writing novels?
My interest in writing was sparked the first time I told my sister a story and she liked it. Then as soon as I could put pen to paper, I would write my friends and family a story for their birthdays.
In year five, John Marsden, author of Tomorrow, When the War Began started teaching at my school.
Learning creative writing from him sparked my passion for writing in junior school. I won a few creative writing awards including the 'John Marsden Award for Creative Writing'.
Every time I was asked, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' my answer was concrete and clear: a kids' author. Children's authors were the rock stars of my childhood and I wanted to join the gang.
How did you become involved in writing?
I loved English at school; I devoured books and had awesome English teachers. Telling stories, hearing stories, collecting words and reading weren't just hobbies for me but oxygen. I'm not sure any writer can become 'involved' in writing so much as they are born writers. If I don't write every day, I'm in a bad mood. I find it therapeutic - it's not just what I do for a job but a need, an urgency.
I studied journalism, creative writing and professional writing at Melbourne University and published my first health book in 2008.
Four health books later I was ecstatic to have my fiction published. The Roxy Ran series is only the beginning - I also write for teens and have a young adult novel coming out next year.
Where did the idea for the Roxy Ran series come from?
I wanted to read a book about a strong heroine who kicked butt, who was a ninja but also really girly. Often boys seem to be the protagonists in adventure books. So as Toni Morrison says, "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." That's how I felt.
I grew up ninja with parents who are black belts and run martial arts schools. My father was an Olympic coach for the sport of Taekwondo and mum was one of the first women to earn her black belt in Australia.
I'm a 5th Dan black belt and have studied martial arts for over 25 years.
As a child I was obsessed with ninjas and samurai, martial arts movies, weapons and the legends and philosophies of martial arts.
Do you prefer writing recipe and health books, or children's novels?
I'm so lucky to have two passions: health and fitness, and writing fiction. While my adult health books are important to me, nothing in my life compares to the escapism of writing stories for kids. It's a wild adventure without leaving my chair. I'm addicted to it. It's a process of discovery; I can't wait to get to work each day.
Why do you think it is important for kids to be interested in, and enjoy reading?
Reading helps sprout the seeds of imagination and creativity. It's important for kids to exercise their imagination because it helps them to see possibility in their lives, to be adventurous and to forge dreams.
Reading is also imperative for learning, improvements in speech and communication skills, academic excellence, acclimation to new experiences, learning to break through stereotypes as well as to improve concentration.
What has been your most rewarding career experience?
The publication of my debut novel White Ninja, and receiving an endorsement from the renowned author John Marsden, were highlights.
What helps you stay motivated to reach your fitness goals?
Health and wellness - when I'm healthy, I have clarity of mind to focus better on my writing. When you exercise, you increase oxygen to the brain and endorphins, so I exercise in the morning as a mind-gym workout to make sure my brain is chemically balanced to write. When I am healthy, everything around me becomes healthier; my imagination, my relationships, my career, my family. That's the greatest motivation. You feel great when you are healthy and therefore you make better choices for yourself and your future.
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Paris - I have a French degree and I loved studying there. Whilst my French may be slipping, my love for the city of Paris never will!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Practising Taekwondo, playing the piano, reading, hanging out with friends, movie marathons, walking my dog, more Taekwondo, surfing, visiting kids at schools to talk about books and running anti-bullying workshops.
What are your top five tips for aspiring authors?
- Another author once told me to think of my writing as a muscle that needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as repetitions, your paragraphs as sets & your pages as daily training sessions. It doesn't matter if you write a little or a whole lot, what matters is that you are training. It takes a lot of practice, dedication &
training to write well. You don't win everyday.
- Read. The greatest advice I ever received as an emerging writer was to never write more than you read. Books will teach you your craft. Be a book ninja! Attack! Devour!
- Double trouble. A great story is full of characters getting into trouble. My editor is always asking me how Roxy Ran can get herself into more trouble, make more mistakes & cause more conflict and tension.
- Chill out. Have fun writing! If you have fun writing, then people will have fun reading your work! If you entertain yourself, you will entertain your readers.
- Believe in your dream. My dream has always been to publish a novel. This was not my first attempt. I wrote my first novel at the age of 14. I have had a lot of rejection & learned a lot along the way. It took a lot of training! Writing is 80% grit & determination. Whatever your dream is, believe in it & don't give up on it.
What are your top tips for leading an active and healthy lifestyle?
- The biggest secret I've learnt is the best bodies are cooked up in the kitchen not the gym. 95% of weight loss is food. If you just concentrate on your nutrition you will get better results than someone who does three hours of exercise a day.
- Stick to one rule with food: eat naked. Don't eat junk in packages &
cook most of your meals so you know what you are consuming. Forget fads & diets. It's not about deprivation. In my cookbook, Lighten Up, I've included favourite foods such as ice-cream, hamburgers, meringues & pizzas but I've created healthier versions. There is ice-cream for less than 20 calories per bowl.
- Set food rules such as never eating whilst standing up in the pantry, or stocking your cupboard with nuts rather than biscuits, or not eating unconsciously in front of the TV. Most importantly, become aware of your cravings, & when you do eat, eat mindfully.
- Don't train hard; train smart. Add intervals to your training. You can add 30 second interval sprints to any work out on the bike, treadmill, stepper, rower, boxing or simply sprinting up hills at the park. Interval training boosts the metabolism.
- Exercise your 'NO' muscle. If you think a sneaky biscuit here & there won't hurt, remind yourself that two cream biscuits at morning tea & two in an office meeting can deliver up to a meal's worth of calories: 420 calories & 12.5 grams of fat! There are 7000 calories in a kilo of body fat, so if you snacked this way for two months, you will gain a kilo. Harsh but true.
- Keep it simple. Go for a half hour walk. It costs nothing to go for a walk or a light jog. Even if you only have five minutes to exercise, go for a run. You may only burn 150 calories but you'll burn a further 200 calories from the metabolic boost and after burn.
About Tiffiny Hall
Tiffiny Hall has a varied and exciting career to date; Fifth Dan Taekwondo black belt, athlete, Logie-nominated television personality and former trainer on Channel Ten's The Biggest Loser. She can now be seen on Channel Nine's Mornings program as the resident Health Ninja.
Tiffiny has a Bachelor of Arts/Media and Communications and a Diploma of Modern Languages in French from the University of Melbourne. Her health books include: Weightloss Warrior, Fatloss for Good - the secret weapon and The Lighten Up Cookbook.
Tiffiny is also the author of the popular Roxy Ran series for younger readers.
Her debut novel White Ninja is endorsed by John Marsden and was picked as one of the Get Reading campaign's '50 Books You Can't Put Down' for 2012.
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Get Ahead Kids® Mar/Apr 2013