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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Author Interview: Elizabeth Inez Louise Greentree a.k.a. Buffy: An Oxford Trained Tutor

As an Oxford trained tutor, she honestly believe that working with someone who will give you constructive criticism is THE most helpful thing you can do for your writing. So she is more than happy to offer this service to those taking a chance to prepare for a lifestyle of writing.

Welcome Elizabeth Inez Louise Greentree a.k.a. Buffy…

Your real name and pen name?

My full name is Elizabeth Inez Louise Greentree, but I've been called 'Buffy' for short since I was born (my elder brother had a lisp at the time and couldn't say 'Elizabeth', so said 'Elizabuff', and it sort of stuck.) So I publish under Buffy Greentree as this is what most people know me as.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

I spent the first six years of my life in a small country town an hour out of Melbourne, population 800. As my dad was the local Anglican minister, and my Mum the town doctor, everyone knew my siblings and me. It was an amazingly safe and exciting environment, as we were allowed to run around everywhere. Setting out on amazing adventures in a blow up boat on the small creek in town, riding across medieval England on my fat little pony, tracking bush rangers with our terrier that kept getting stuck down rabbit holes. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants their kids to be creative.

About your education

I was very privileged and was sent to some of the best schools and universities in Australia. I spent most of my primary and high school at Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne Girls Grammar, before moving out to a country school – Braemar College, for the last two years of high school. When I started University, I was sure that I wanted to be a teacher (because no one actually makes a living as a writer!) but enrolled at The University of Melbourne in a Bachelor of Arts with the plan of starting a combined degree in teaching the next year. Because of this, I got to pick subjects I loved in my Arts degree so did some psychology, classics, archaeology, and creative writing. However, I never got to enrol in teaching, so finished my degree with first class honours in Classics and Archaeology.
I then went to a small conservative Bible College to do a Grad Dip in Bible and Ministry, which turned into a Master of Divinity because I loved theology so much.
I came back to Melbourne Uni to start my PhD, but after 6 months I realised I was in the wrong department. So I applied and was accepted to study the Old Testament at Oxford in the UK. That was an amazing (though immensely difficult) year, which ended up with me failing for being on the wrong side of theological politics.
I came back to Australia and completed a Graduate Certificate in Business Management again at Melbourne Uni while I decided what I wanted to do next.

What career did you plan during your education days?

At first I was definitely going to be a teacher. Then a psychologists, then an archaeologist, then a theologian, definitely an Old Testament scholar, then a business executive, and now I'm sure I won't have a 'career' as such, but hope to keep doing what I love for the rest of my life. I currently see myself as a writer and entrepreneur with a company offering self-publishing services.

What languages you can speak and write?
I'm awful at speaking, but over the years I've studied:
-         Latin at high school.
-         Ancient Greek (Attic and Koine)
-         Biblical Hebrew
-         Japanese (lived in Japan for a year, but never got very good)
-         And German

One day I would like to be conversationally fluent in at least one other language.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

My inspiration comes from a mix of looking at the small things of life in wonder, and then closing my eyes and trying to picture the biggest things. I enjoy getting a feel for a character by trying to imagine how they would cook breakfast, and then also looking around at this world and trying to imagine something grander, bigger, better.

What hurts you most in this world?

Arrogance and pride. These lead to most of the injustices in the world: the belief that one race is better than another, that men have the right to dominate women, that the law only applies to other people.
Though, I have a particular hatred for the sex slave trade. I believe it is totally unjustifiable and anyone who is involved even just by watching videos that might have been made without the woman's permission is guilty.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? Were you able to overcome it?

I feel like I've faced a number of challenges, and each time they get a little bit harder. Though standing up for my beliefs in primary school was just as hard at the time as the bigger challenges I've faced since then. However, Oxford is definitely on the list. I had not realised that politics dominated theological study so much, and naively assumed that if I could support my arguments then even if they didn't agree they would have to accept them. I still had a rose-tinted vision of what Oxford was, and assumed that being a centre for learning it would live up to my ideals. I didn't see that the people who get to the top are usually those who are best at playing the game. I was informed at the end my degree not to bother trying to resubmit, as they were never going to pass me no matter what I wrote.

How?

It has taken me quite a number of years to recover, and it has only been through developing my love of writing that I've really succeeded. I am right now in the process of taking one of the essays I developed for Oxford and turning it into a lay-person's book on the Liberal/Conservative divide. Realising that I could write what I wanted and have it read by more people than would ever read my theses has made a big difference. I actually started the first novel I was to complete while studying there. I wanted to write theology that was practical and useful, so I created my character Sally Hunt, a rebellious Australian teenager from a dysfunctional family. I wanted to see what would happen if she met the Biblical God (with prophesy, spiritual warfare, etc.) and what theology she would need to know in order to survive.
Sally Hunt Vs God is the first in the trilogy and is currently being reviewed by a publisher. It was a lot more fun to write than my theology essays.


If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

I would have to say Moses. I don't think I could cope with being Jesus, the whole 100% human and 100% divine aspect would probably blow my mind. But Moses got to speak to God face to face, in such a way that he came out radiant. I would love to experience that.

What is your favorite genre and why?

I'm actually still deciding. The works I've published have been self-help probably because I spent a number of years as a university tutor and teacher and love trying to get ideas across in their simplest and easiest forms. However, I loved writing my Young Adult series, as the characters are so honest and down to earth. Then again, the historical romance that I'll be bringing out in the next few months allowed me to engage in great banter.
When I'm reading, I also flick between genres. I've only recently realised that while I hate horror, I actually like Stephen King because he is such a great writer. His description of the father's reaction to his son's death in 'Pet Semetary' had me in tears.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I've always loved writing, but also always believed that it could only be a hobby, not a career. I had my first critical acclaim at the age of 13 when my Christmas play was performed by the church youth group.
At Uni I did some creative writing classes and won the college prize for a short story. My life goal was to get one book published, then I would be happy. I actually decided I wanted to be an academic because I would get paid to write. True it was scholarly work, but being paid to write anything seemed like a dream.
I didn't finish my first novel until May 2012, and realised that one book was never going to be enough. Things have escalated very quickly from there.
I'm currently working hard to build up a body of work, and then will focus on the promotion aspect.

Which of your work published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

The first book that I finished was Sally Hunt Vs God. I entered it into a Christian writing competition in 2012 and got some very useful and encouraging feedback. I entered it again in 2013 and became a finalist. I have just finished polishing it again (it is amazing how much I've learnt in the last year!) and have sent it to a publisher who asked to see it. Fingers crossed.

The first book I published myself was The Five Day Writer's Retreat. It is the first in a series of six books that go from planning to be a writer through to promoting your work. This first book focuses on preparing for a lifestyle of writing. I had in mind with the series title 'The Five Day Writer' someone who wanted to write full time – five days a week. This has developed into being the brand name of my self-publishing company.

I have just brought out my next book on Kindle: The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles. As a writer I spent a lot of time behind a computer and not meeting people, so online dating made perfect sense. However, so many presumably very nice guys had such awful profiles that eventually I would reply 'Look, I'm not interested, but would you like some advice on how to make your profile better?' They always jumped at the opportunity, and one even sent me his login and password straight away! For the book I've divided it into three parts. The first is looking at the psychology of online dating to work out how to best represent yourself and make your profile appear more honest and attractive. The second part then uses at the tools of internet marketing to develop a brand and work out who your target market is. The final section uses the craft of story telling to create a profile that is engaging and memorable.
I hope that it helps at least one person out there have success online.

What are your forthcoming writings?

I have the unrealistic, yet fun goal of trying to get another three books out by the end of the year (though, that gives me about 40 days). I currently have a complete first draft of:
1.    After the Winter, a 1920's romance set in the Italian lakeside village of Piedeluco. After being out of society during the Great War and her mother’s illness, at 27 Lucinda Hargraves is suddenly rich but weary. She only agrees to spend the summer in Italy because it seems easier than arguing. When she meets the flirtatious and gallant Lord George Everdale, she is sure he must be making fun of her, because he couldn't really be interested. But when she also attracts the attention of the American John Huntington the Third, she begins to reconsider whether it is too later. But she'll need to decide whether the good option is always the best.
I've actually set up a Pinterest board for this story, to give me inspiration on clothing, setting, props, etc., which is a first for me but really useful. http://www.pinterest.com/buffygreentree/1920s-romance/
2.   The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, book 2 in the series focuses on training up for your novel. This is not a book of general writing exercises. Those books have a necessary place in the writer's life. However, I usually find them very difficult to use once you have written a bit, because you always have a specific project in mind, and don't want to practice writing in other genres or style while you could be working on your project. Therefore, The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp is a series of training exercises, modelled on the training program for a marathon, that focus towards improving performance for a single project (like a single race). Over the five days you will learn how to measure and improve your writing process, build strength in your given genre, endurance for your project, and technical skill for your style of writing. On the final day you still start putting everything together so that you can see where your first draft needs to start and finish. Though, you will not actually start writing the first draft of your project, The Five Day Writer's Drafting Affair (Book 3) will take over from there.  

I have also almost finished the first draft for my first theology book: The Great Divide, a layperson's book on the liberal/conservative divide in protestant theology.

And I'm very excited about the final project that I'm currently polishing. A Little Bit of Leaven is a historical fiction originally written by my great-grandfather and given to me by my grandparents to re-write and try to get published. I'm currently going through and adapting the text for modern readers.

It is a darling story set in the early 1900's, following the adventures of a newly married couple in an industrial town in Scotland. Mark and Mary are determined that before Mark is ordained, he should try living as a common labourer so that he can understand their plight. Mark takes on the lowest of the low role as 'The Sweeper' in the blacksmith's shop of the shipyards, while Mary does her best to make their small one-room house feel like home. Follow their adventures as they learn about working life, meeting friends and try to make a difference. 


So those are my next immediate projects.


What are your future plans?

I really want to spend the next few years getting as much work out there as possible. I'm learning so much as I write, and developing so much, that I don't want to slow down. Maybe in a few years time I will then find one project and give it my all for a while, but I want to know that I've mastered a lot more of the art before then.
I also see each book that I publish as an investment in my future. With the new technologies books need never go out of print, so even if they only sell a few copies this year, next year it might be more, and the year after that even more again.
I don't know whether I will specialise into one field in the future. I just have too many ideas and passions. I know that I'm breaking the cardinal rule of building a writing platform (write in one area), but for me the fun of it all makes it worthwhile.

I am also building up my company The Five Day Writer. I've helped produce three books in the last six months, though most of my clients have been family members. I've brought out my brother's action adventure book Tom Grafton Vs The Environmentalists, my father's book theology book Colostrum: Spiritual Antibodies for New Christians, and a book my aunt has been working on - A Mother's Story: Emotional Abuse and Bullying At Figtree Anglican Church. It is the personal account of a client my aunt is giving legal counsel to about a church dispute. We are in the process of producing a much large work that looks at the entire case and how justice was miscarried.
I've stated running intensives and one-on-one consultancy for other authors as well. I enjoy helping other people, and it does tap into my teaching background. However, I do sometimes feel torn about not working on my own writing. But it is helping to support me so I can write more, which is always good.


What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

Character truth is very important. I've gotten myself stuck before trying to force a character to do something they wouldn't naturally do. I'm learning to sit back and let them show me how they would handle the situation.
Emotive Imagery: I want people to have an experience while reading my books. I want them to 'feel' the book as much as 'see' it. Even in my non-fiction I try to use examples that are not generic but really bite into an issue.
Body Language: One of the things I learnt from my sub-major in psychology is that a lot of our communication is non-verbal. Therefore, when writing dialogue scenes I'm very conscious of trying to complement these with appropriate aspects of body language. I hope this gives the reader a deeper connection to the characters.
An appropriate worldview: while most of my books I don't consider 'Christian' books, I work hard to make sure they have a consistent and appropriate worldview. There are bad guys and good guys, good guys can slip, bad guys can be redeemed, but all in suitable ways. I work not to back-project modern views into the past (having a background in classics and archaeology makes that easier) and I make sure that there are consequences for actions. It might sound silly, but it's important to me.

Your dream destination on Earth?

At the moment I really want to visit and stay at the Italian lakes. I had always thought I wanted to visit the ancient monuments of the world, but when I visited Rome I realised that what I had in my head was nothing like what was there in reality. I wanted to see the streets as they would have been 2,000 years ago, not the ruins that are surrounded by tourists taking snaps. So now I'm focused on enjoying the cultures I can actually experience. I hope to spend a summer at the lakes and maybe get a few novels out.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I was born and spent most of my time in Australia, mostly around Melbourne. Australia is a beautiful country, and so diverse. When I go up to Queensland, it is like a different country because it is so different. There are so many parts of Australia that I haven't visited yet, that I should probably get in and do some of them!
I lived in Japan for 3 months and then 10 months after I finished my first degree. I was in Saku-City, Nagano-Prefecture. It was a very small town by Japanese standards (50,000), and very traditional. I loved the history that drenched the country, and the ritual around everyday life. Also, on a personal level, I enjoyed the achievement of just being able to negotiate posting a letter in my stilted Japanese.
I also lived in the UK for a year while I was at Oxford. I had always dreamed about going to the UK, and parts of it lived up to that. Oxford is an amazing city to live in, particularly if you are enrolled at the University, which is spread across the entire town. The history of each of the colleges, and the traditions make you feel part of something much larger.
After I finished at Oxford, I spent three months travelling before returning to Australia. I particularly loved my week in Vienna, it is a beautiful city and definite on my list to return to. I spent 11 days in St. Petersburg with friends. I don't think I would enjoy travelling around Russia by myself, but with friends to guide the way it was amazing. We spent a day wandering around the autumn grounds of Catherine's Palace which are just incredible.
I've been to a lot more places, and each has a dear memory, but I would take up pages describing it all.

Your favorite time of the day?

Early morning, with the sun just rising. That is when there is the most potential in the day. I love long, warm summer evenings too but there is always a tinge of sadness of another day gone.

Your favorite color and why?

Green, partly because my eyes are green, and I suppose my name as well, but it is the colour of life and freshness.

Your favorite book and why?

No way I can choose just one! It depends on what I'm feeling at the time, but it comes down to books that can change my mood just by entering into them.

Your favorite celebrity and why?

Hmmm… it used to be the actor Gerard Butler, and I was so excited when I learnt that he was to play Leonidas in 300, because Thermoplyae had always been my favourite battle in history. But he has done other movies that I don't like as much.
I generally like different people's works, but that's not the same as liking the actual person. If you get the two confused, it can damage your appreciation of great work by their weak human nature.

Your favorite food?

Chocolate. In almost any form.

Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation, Water or Fire, Air or Earth, Mars or Jupiter, Moon or Sun, Tulip or Rose, Red or Blue, Left or Right, Glance or Stare

Moon, laughter, morning, tea, anyplace that has mountain and sea, long drive, silence, fire, air, Jupiter, (are you trying to trick me?) rose, red, right, glance.

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

'The world doesn't need Christian writers, it needs good writers who are Christian'. C. S. Lewis.

The last line of your autobiography would be…

And then my adventures really began.