Welcome to this week’s edition of Let’s Talk Books! Today’s guest is none other than Dr. Polly McGee, the author of Dogs of India.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, dharma do-er, mind explorer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, worked with hundreds of start-ups to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages.
Gender studies and women’s rights locally and globally feature strongly in her academic work, as does the expression of identity through story and narrative. She is a passionate believer in philanthropy and the power of giving, and strongly advocates wealth and skills distribution as part of a bhakti business model. Polly is a bowerbird for technology and innovation and co-founder founder of entrepreneur support organisation Start-up Tasmania. She loves crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and has been known to crowdsurf like no one is watching.
Polly emphatically believes that the answer to most of life’s question can be solved with meditation, yoga and patting retired greyhounds, in no particular order.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Bodhisattva Attitude: How To Dedicate Your Life to Others by Lama Zope Rinpoche and listening to Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Audible.
What was the last book you bought?
How To Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Do you prefer to read books in print or electronically?
I’m pretty much exclusively ebooks and audible, I love being able to have a massive stack of books in a little device so no matter where I am, my books are with me.
What do your bookshelves look like? Do you have an organisation system (genre, colour, author…) or are you just happy to go with the flow?
My bookshelves are electronic so they are lined up in order of purchase. Where I do have actual books, I do love a colour coded spine and also by shape and size.
How often do you read?
Every day. As you can tell from my current reading list, i’m doing a lot of Buddhist studies ahead of a month in retreat at Kopan Monastry in Nepal in November. I rarely read fiction, and have a deep love of learning so I read non fiction pretty exclusively and read every night for an hour or two before I go to sleep.
Describe what you would expect to find in your dream book?
A narrative that captures me and keeps me enthralled until the end. I want the story to linger in my mind, and pop up unexpectedly as I keep processing the ideas and learning new things. I want characters that are full of flaws and bursting with potential for redemption, and I want to love the people, place and words long after I’ve finished.
How do you choose what to read next?
I kind of follow my nose, and its usually related to what I’m studying and/or working on next. I’ve been in a sanskrit/yogic/buddhist rabbit hole for about 2 years now, and its showing no signs of light yet!
So you’ve started a book and discover it’s not for you. Are you more likely to discard it or finish it?
Discard it. I give it a good go, but if its not for me, there is plenty of other books to be getting on with.
If you could read any book again, for the first time, what book would you choose?
Gosh, that’s a hard one. The book that I think of that was one of the most memorable reading experiences was having my mum read me Watership Down as a child. I remember the characters and the emotion of that book so strongly, and so it would be to relive that discovery of the world of animals and their communities.
What is about books that appeals to you so much? What is your favourite part about reading?
I love learning, and books are a gateway to knowledge. I also love language and character and narrative, and books give me all these things. The exquisite joy of coming across a beautifully written sentence or description is my favorite part of reading. Like truffle hunting with words and ideas.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing style: are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you prefer to write in 1st or 3rd person? Are you an early riser writer or a late night owl writer?
As I originally came to writing novels from a screenwriting tradition I was a total plotter. Australian writer Danielle Wood taught me to simply write and let the story come out, and that was completely freeing for my writing. I wouldn’t describe it as pantser in that I am systematic in what I want to produce, so I will know where my story starts and where I think it will end, who are the characters and what I am wanting to say in a macro sense. Then I sit down and let the story flow, and I am always surprised where the characters and narrative takes me. I write early in the morning, and work to getting a minimum word count done, and in the afternoon I research or take naps or get creative and just let what is going on on the page percolate until I hit the laptop again the next day.I write the whole manuscript, then I edit end to end rather than as I go, so I don’t get stuck working over a sentence or a word, I do it in a linear way once the whole story is out. I write in the third person for fiction and I favor an omnisicient voice so I can have lots of different characters points of view. In non fiction I write in first and third, as I’m often describing my experience as well as the actual subject matter.
Was there any particular book that inspired you to start writing?
No, it was a situation that inspired me to start writing, when I came across the native Indian Pariah dogs in a park in New Delhi and was inspired to tell a story about their lives. I had planned at some point to write non fiction, but hadn’t gotten round to it, it was only once Dogs of India was finished and out, that I thought I might keep going as a writer.
Do you have any advice to other writers out there?
Just write. It is really easy to be put off by the constant negativity about how hard it is to get published and the competitiveness of the industry, but if you really want to write, keep going. Follow your curiosity and your stories and see where they go. The more the write, the better you get, like everything it is a practice, and you will see your skills get honed. Share your work and ask for critique. Learn how to give and receive feedback and apply it to your work, as it is critical to be able to see if what you think you are writing is how the readers are receiving it. And be fearless and happy about the process and where it might take you.
And lastly, what are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the manuscript for Bhakti Business: The Yoga of Business, this is a non fiction text for women who want to run heart centred businesses, that combines the ancient teachings of yoga and the Buddhadharma with lean start up principles. The intention here is to help women to be able to do what they love and build successful businesses that support ideas and outputs that are going to change the communities they live and or the world, or both. So its spirituality, and business and having a happy, contented life all in one. That book is coming out in March 2017, and once the MS is done with edits, I’m starting a new novel called Cellbound that will be coming out late next year. Lots of words on the go!
To learn more about Polly McGee, visit the following social media sites:
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