Thursday, 5 September 2019

Meet Our Members: Brian Maunder

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today's interview: Brian Maunder

Firstly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. I have been a part of the CWD online community for many years now, and it has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.


1.      Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I was born and still live in Adelaide, South Australia.  I am just nigh over 50 winters of age, married with two children, and work on a casual basis for Torrens Transit Adelaide as a bus driver, sometimes driving the O-Bahn circuit. Most of my time is devoted to home-schooling my two children and to the myriad of tasks involved with family life. I am a keen musician and like to busk when I can (guitar and singing), though my main instrument is piano.  I had a conversion experience when I was about 20 years old and my early Christian years were within the Salvos. Sailing the turbulences of life, I was a pilgrim for a while, traversing various Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.  I now call my local Anglican Church home, and have been a part of the community there for over ten years.  I also love to attend Catholic services whenever I get the chance. 

2.      Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

My journey into writing is all due to a painting, which I created abstractly about 12 years ago. At that time, after sploshing colours upon a canvas, then crazily attacking it with obscure brush mayhem, I created something that looked, to me, like large ocean waves. To stimulate surrealist ideals, I thought to paint an image in the sky. Initially, I intended to draw flowers, but then changed my mind and drew a kite instead. This was all done just prior to Easter.

True to the season, and with the thoughts of Christ’s Passion upon my mind, I noticed that the kite was essentially built upon the framework of a cross. Whilst I gazed at the painting, questions crossed paths with my imaginings and meditations. I asked myself: “What would it be like to fly over that turbulent sea? Who created the kite? Did the kite know it was held together by a cross?” Suddenly, an idea of a story popped into my mind, and believing it to be too important to ignore, I set to work. What resulted was a children’s picture book which was published seven years ago (2012).
During the crafting of that simple book, whilst contemplating the theology hidden within the narrative, I realised that there was far more to this story than most people would perceive at a quick first glance. At some point I thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to read this as a novel. Maybe I should try and write it out in words.” Crazy me then went ahead and tried to actually do this… and I am still at the plough.  Since then, this has been the sole aim of writing: to try and complete a novel based on my picture book. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

3.      Who has read your work? Who would like to read it?

“Polly’s Little Kite” was distributed internationally from the US publishers, and it only takes five minutes to read, so I presume many people have read it. It has been used in church services, especially during Easter, as a way to teach the message of the cross. It is also available in many libraries across SA.

My new story, the one still being pummelled upon the anvil of intention, hasn’t been published yet, so no one, except my editor Nola Passmore, has read it. Who will read it when it is? Well, that’s something that still perplexes me. It’s not aimed at a genre, so I’m not actually sure. It is in fact three stories, layered one upon another. The first story, set in England 1919, involves a boy who, after making a tree-house with his dad, loses both his dad and family home to the war. The second story, involves an Australian father, who after losing his son in the same war, can’t make sense of life and faith. These two stories merge 20 years later when the Australian receives a letter from his deceased son, couriering knowledge of the English boy’s tree-house, and the special treasure within it. Woven through and around these two stories, intertwines the tale of the kite. All three stories combine and resolve at the end.

Though the narrative is for young readers, it isn’t really a book for children, as it is too complex. However, mature readers may not like the childish elements of the kite, and the innocence of the main characters.  So, it’s not for kids and not for adults… (sigh). I know my own children love the story, even though they don’t fully understand every nuance of language and idea within it. I suppose I live in hope that it will be prove to be accessible to young and old alike. When it is published I want to dedicate it to “Fathers and Sons”.

4.      Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

This book has mostly been written at 2am, as this is when I would wake up with that inspirational spark that just has to be fanned into written flame. I always write things with pen onto paper first, and those scribbles and scratches are then deciphered and typed onto the PC. 

My greatest challenge is that I am untrained and unskilled at writing. I would have the idea, and it would burst forth, but whilst inking down the words, I would fail to write in such a way as to incorporate the new idea into the larger narrative. This is one reason why editing has taken so painstakingly long. The story is complete, but it has been written with too many varying “points of view”.   Now, in this final drafting, all this editing seems to be taking the life out of the original manuscript. After all the efforts, I believe there is a danger it could become like an overworked mosaic of ideas. I’m hoping and praying this won’t be the case when viewed from fresh eyes.

The joy I have when I contemplate some of the ideas within the story, is one of my greatest motivations. I often look up at some grand old tree and imagine the climb to the top, (a critical element of the narrative) and sense again the freedoms and exhilarations of those wonderful experiences that I had when I was a boy, which included moments of fun activities like tree climbing and cubby-house making. This reliving and imagining is so refreshing it just keeps me alive to want to tell of it. Occasionally someone will ask how the writing is going, and that’s a real encouragement as well. What helps me the most, is that spiritual desire to “climb into that sanctuary” and experience that wonderful purity and freedom, that childhood innocence, to be myself as I spend “time with the Father” who loves me as far as the East is from the West, and farther than the heavens are above the Earth.

5.      What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and Why?

I have two books that I regularly refer to.
“Grammar Rules”, by Craig Shrives, actually makes learning and reading about Grammar enjoyable.  Written by a man with years of experience penning and compiling papers and reports for military use, this brilliant book is concise, easy to understand, thorough and full of witty and thoughtful quotes to keep you happy.

“Writing Tools”, by Roy Peter Clark, lists 55 strategies, or tools, to equip and assist writers. Just reading a chapter now and then, can help ignite inspiration, hone skills, cultivate motivations and spur you forward, not just in what you write, but as a person passionate about writing.  From developing “useful habits” to adding pizazz and special effects to your work, the book offers solid useful ideas, though it does sometimes take some mental effort to think through what is being discussed. 

6.      If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer,  editor or illustrator – who would that be and why.

There’s no doubt that Nola Passmore (through her business “The Write Flourish”) would be at the top of my “shout-out” list. She was willing to edit my first draft, green as I was, and helped me see things from her experienced and trained eyes. Her honest (and gracious) critique, though crushing at times, was exactly what I needed. She counselled me through the numerous things my first draft lacked (and there were many) whilst at the same time, encouraged and praised those things she deemed laudable. The main thing for me, was that she was not trying to tickle the truth. I needed thoughtful, honest and guiding feedback… and this is what she offered.

Consequently, when I approached her again with my second draft, I knew I was dealing with someone whose work had integrity. Her final evaluation rang as sweet music to my ears when she wrote, “I think you have a really good story now and I encourage you to pursue publication.”

Other “shout-outs” for CWD people who have helped and encouraged me include; Rhonda Pooley, Marilyn Simpson, Anusha Atukarola, Mazzy Adams, Morton Benning,  Paula Vince, Karina Hudson, Melinda Jensen, Rosanne Hawke and Lesley Turner.  Also Jo’Anne Griffiths, Jeanette O’Hagan and Adam Collins, who were also fellow Nano-Wrimo camp mates. 

7.      What are your writing goals for 2019/20. How will you achieve them?

Along with lighting a candle, kneeling and reading, writing has become a practice that accompanies my devotional times. It helps me focus and stops my mind from wandering. Often, I like to write a scripture or meditation, word-for-word verbatim, into my diary. Like music appearing upon a page, the letters curve and twist and camber into words and thoughts and themes, and as I watch my pen, and follow the flow of the ink, I slow down, and pause and pray. I listen. The act of writing becomes an act of worship. I am not skimming over things. I perceive and hear with greater clarity. So, with this in mind, my number one goal for writing is to make it help me pursue the Lord.

I do have ideas for other stories, but honestly, after the efforts required for “Little Kite and the Compass Tree”, I’m not sure if I have the resources to write another novel. I have too much happening within family life and work… and time is of the essence.  My writing goal for 2018 is to finish this penultimate draft and then send it for editing again. This process will probably happen a few times, as I will only commit to publishing until a number of people are happy. I will also send the manuscript to students and some church leaders, for their thoughts (and hopefully blessings) as well. Since the search for a publisher is, for me, a complete waste of time, and I am wearied of “knocking on doors” and “filling out forms”, I intend to publish this work myself. I don’t care about literary success. I just want to finish the job as best I can, so I can share the story with others.

8.      How does your faith impact and shape your writing.

To answer this question I will quote from Henri Nouwen’s classic book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.  He writes: “I have a new vocation now. It is the vocation to speak and write from that place... I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully, and very gently what I hear.”

Probably, one reason why it has taken me so long to complete a written work, is that life gets so extremely busy for me. Chores and tasks, obligations and responsibilities can crowd in and seemingly take over. Consequently, to my shame, I can neglect the call to intimacy that God invites me to. Prayer and meditation is put on hold, and I cease to drink from those beautiful “streams of living water”. I literally cannot write, nor do I want to write, if my heart is far from the Lord. The first port of call for any creative manuscript, for me, is always prayer and confession, which then merges and moves into meditation and contemplation. When I feel that I can hear and sense the heartbeat of God, it is then that I want to pick up the pen.

Nola Passmore’s website:
Blog detailing my conversion:


  1. Well done on your published children's book and a hearty thanks, Brian, for a terrific interview, and for the shout out. It's a privilege to be able to encourage fellow writers and creatives in their journey. I love your turns of phrase: 'Sailing the turbulences of life'; 'sploshing colours upon a canvas, then crazily attacking it with obscure brush mayhem' and 'the one still being pummelled upon the anvil of intention'. If that's a taste of your writing, I'm hungry for more. I'm also intrigued by your comment that your book is for children and adults alike - and your sigh that traditional publishers seem reluctant to consider something that crosses boundaries or targets niche audiences (or at least, that's what we're told). As my novel targets New Adult readers (though it will also interest YA and Adult readers) I'm braving the Indie Publishing route and likewise feeling 'pummeled on the anvil of intention' while the unpredictable nuances of life blow the embers of the forge into a raging distraction. As well as three more NA novels in the ideas stage, I have a number of short stories simmering that I hope to turn into a collection perhaps. I think of them as 'Stories for children to read to grown-ups' because they have something for young and old alike, and even more treasure to be discovered in the sharing of prompted memories and questions, I hope, between younger and older generations - which is one reason why the name we've registered for the Indie Publishing arm of our business is Zest N Zenith Creative & Academic Group. Keep on keeping on, Brian. Drive the writing bus through its twists and turns to the end of the route, then start another route. Like Nola Passmore and Sue Jeffery who both admit to being genre butterflies, I think there is good reason to persevere with the stories God has prompted us to write and press forward to the goal of blessing and encouraging readers from all ages and life's stages.

    1. Thanks so much Mazzy. I definitely will be approaching your Indie Publishing business. And I love the idea you have of “Stories for children to read to grown-ups”: that’s classic… that is more than classic… it’s (for want of a better word)… awesome. Love that idea. Thanks also for the encouragement. Writing is definitely like that bus route, with all those twists and turns you were talking about.

  2. Thanks Brian for sharing your writing journey - your process, the wins and the struggles. Novel writing is not for whimps.

    I am intrigued by premise of your "Little Kite and the Compass Tree" and look forward to when it's published. I also second your shoutout for Nola -she is a brilliant editor - and the others in your list of encouraging people.

    God bless and prosper you in your writing and artistic journey & in your faithfulness to your family.

  3. LOL... Yep. Writing is definitely "Not for whimps". Thanks also for your interest in the story. When it has jumped a few more hurdles, I'll probably make it available for perusal prior to publishing in electronic form to those who are interested at CWD. That way it's free... (free for them to read, and also i get free feedback yaaaay). And thanks also for your encouragement re. the family. Home-schooling seems to fill all the available brain space (and there's not too much of that) I have. It's a wonderful, yet demanding privilege. Cheers.

  4. Hi Brian, what an encouraging and refreshing interview, and thanks for the shout out :) I love your description of how inspiration has come to you. Your books are for adults and children alike, and those are some of the best types! I so understand what you mean by the joy of contemplation, and the pulling commitments of everyday life too. What a great thing to have pulled off even a few books. Take it from a fellow Adelaidean and homeschooling parent, which has just ended for me this year, so enjoy every challenging moment of that too.

  5. Thanks Paula. It's tough balancing the homeschooling with creative goals (as you indeed do know), but i believe they both complement each other (what you learn through writing helps the home schooling and visa versa). But time is the big issue for me (as again... you indeed would know LOL). But i wouldn't have it any other way. Home-schooling wont last forever so i really do treasure every moment
    My pleasure on the shout out. Your journey and what you have achieved has been an inspiration for me. :-)