Claudia Chan Shaw - Author Q & A

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5 minutes with Claudia Chan Shaw

Claudia Chan Shaw - June 2013

ABC TV presenter and face of The Collectors, Claudia Chan Shaw is a self-confessed ‘collectomaniac’ who has amassed an enviable set of tin robots and snow domes in the house she shares with her equally obsessed husband, Stuart. She lives in Sydney.

Who is your favourite author?

Raymond Chandler. I love crime and Raymond Chandler was the master. His hard boiled, world weary private eye walked the mean streets, delicately treading the fine line between the right and wrong side of the law. His dialogue was snappy and insolent. And his women were as dangerous as they come. This passage from The Big Sleep is classic Chandler: "She lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain. I was to get to know that trick. That was supposed to make me roll over on my back with all four paws in the air."

Where was your most memorable holiday?

My husband and I try to visit Paris as often as possible. I used to attend the Prêt à Porter every year for business, but now we go to Paris for pure pleasure. We last visited Paris in September 2012 and it was the most wonderful Parisian experience of all. Sometimes when you visit another city, it’s hard to scratch beneath the surface and get to know the real stories behind the people you see during the day. But this time, everything clicked. We seemed to engage with people on a deeper level than on previous trips. Maybe we asked the right questions. Maybe we were just that little more inquisitive. Maybe we had more focus. Whatever it was, it was just perfect. We found a gentleman at the Porte de Vanves flea market selling original movie posters from Jacques Tati films. He told us stories of his life as a young assistant to the great Jacques Tati in the 1950s. As a reward for his work he was given some of the original film posters. We picked up a wonderful poster from 1955 for Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, a French classic. Gold! We spent a lot of time at the Marches aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt (flea markets) digging around, looking for treasures. 1960s sunglasses, a post-war wind up toy, an Art Deco bracelet made from cherry amber. Paris is truly a city for the collector. This trip there was no urgency, no schedule and no deadlines. It was all about living the life and engaging with people. Listening to their stories. Looks like those years of French lessons paid off!

Do you have any hot writing tips for beginners?

It took me quite a while to get into a writing rhythm. Once I found it, it was as if the clouds had parted and my fingers would literally dance across the key board. My advice is to be disciplined. Religiously devote a set period for your writing. Create targets, lists and deadlines. I found yellow post-it notes to be a wonderful tool. Collectomania covers many different topics and my little sticky notes covered the walls as a visual checklist. Your book or short story is an extension of you. Find your own voice.

If you could replay a moment of your life over and over again, what would it be?

I would replay my wedding day from 1993. If I could turn the wedding into Groundhog Day our bridal Cha Cha would be just perfect! Such a happy day! In twenty years so much has happened. Some close family and friends are no longer with us. To see them all again and share that experience would be so special. Bring on Groundhog Day!

What was the best thing about writing Collectomania?

Collectors are very passionate, dedicated people. I loved delving into the obsessions of the collectors featured in the book. Sharing war stories about the objects that got away! Remembering the crazes and interests we had as kids, and how they shaped the things we collect as adults. I can honestly say that writing Collectomania was fun. I loved the research and the sense of discovery. The way one piece of research would lead me on a different trail and a whole amazing history would evolve. I learnt so much. And at the end of it all, I felt compelled to learn more and to continue my collecting adventure. This is just the beginning!

Want to know more about Collectomania?

Collectomania - June 2013

Tin robots, classic cars, letters from celebrities and US presidents. Snow domes, first edition books, vintage fashion, contemporary art, Bakelite radios and wine. Claudia Chan Shaw admits to a fondness for all of the above and more. She admits to buying, collecting, displaying and falling in love, often, with objects from markets, shops, garage sales and auctions. She admits to having collectomania!

Come with Claudia as she navigates the world of collectors and their obsessions, celebrates collections both strange and beautiful and shares secrets about her own love affair with everything from Humphrey Bogart memorabilia to Astro Boy.

Information provided by ABC Books Australia