Tiffiny Hall: an intimate interview

Tiffany Hall

Tiffiny Hall

Not too long ago I got back into my workshop swing and presented a bullying workshop to a bunch of teenagers. It was awesome! It was so much fun to be up there, centre stage, shaking a little all while trying to inspire them about bullying, the effects and what they can do individually to make a difference. I have always said if I can inspire just one person, just one, then I feel like I have done my job.

And while I was at this conference (I was’t the only speaker), I was privileged to listen to Tiffiny Hall give her keynote speech. Call me a little star-struck, but I was super excited to hear her talk, even getting to the conference hours early just to hear her.

Most of Australia would have heard or seen Tiff in some small way. Probably best known for her appearance on The Biggest Loser back in 2011 as one of the trainers, it is actually Tiffiny’s writing career that has given her many other fabulous titles under her belt. She has had an incredible career, with her first health book, How to create the Ultimate Body being published in 2008 followed by Weightless Warrior in 2011, Fatloss for Good – the secret weapon and Lighten Up cookbook 2012. But while Tiffiny is passionate about health, there is another side to her writing – she’s a book Ninja; a fiction writer. She released her debut novel White Ninja, the first book in the Roxy Ran series in 2012 followed by Red Samurai and Black Warrior, which will be realised in 2014 along with her first Young Adult novel.

As I heard her speak at this conference, to an audience twice as big as mine, I felt instantly inspired and captivated by her. She came out in her white takwando “ninja” gear, all pumped up, grabbed the audience in a second. Her message; follow your dreams. I didn’t know, but Tiff had always had a passion for writing, especially for fiction novels. She is now living her dream, currently completing her soon to be published third book of her Ninja series. This is a lady that has made things happen for herself, pushed herself and believed in herself.

What I find most admirable about Tiff is her determination and passion to push herself to the next limit. She is always doing something new! Whether it is a TV gig, travel or writing, she is immersing herself in absolutely everything around her and grabbing moments and opportunities when they are presented to her. You would think after a highly public, successful and world famous TV series like The Biggest Loser, she would grab another opportunity to do another session! Not Tiff! Writing is her passion, writing is what she wants to do. So she said No. For now, maybe?

I can’t tell you how fabulous this interview is! Such a truely inspiring story by one of Australia’s best Ninja’s, up and coming fiction writers and driven young businesswoman. I can’t thank Tiff enough for giving me the opportunity to chat with her and sharing her immense wisdom with us today. I am looking forward to my coffee catch up with her soon.

Tiffiny, we are missing you on the current season of The Biggest Loser. What are you up to these days?

I’m writing pretty much full-time at the moment. I speak a lot in schools about my novels as well as run anti-bullying programs and motivational seminars on health. I’m in 3-4 schools a week and really love connecting with my readers.

What is it that you enjoy most about writing? Do you ever have ‘writer’s block’?

I love writing, creating, imagining. I enjoy the solitude and freedom to go anywhere without leaving my chair. But I also love to connect with readers, to speak to the kids and visit schools NINJA STYLE. The best moments in life are always when you are true to yourself. I’ve always had a thirst and passion for creative writing but it took many years to have the courage to share it. Now I love talking about Roxy Ran with kids. Writing is such a luxury and it’s a privilege to be published. I really respect that and want to give back as much as I can by inspiring kids to read and use their imaginations.

Sure I get writer’s block. Every writer experiences frustration because frustration means you are pushing boundaries, growing your work, stepping outside of your comfort zone. Writer’s block stems from, I think, not knowing exactly what you want to say as a writer. So I always take an hour, a day if need be to really think about what I’m trying to say in the scene. Sometimes I’ll set myself some small writing exercises and if anything surprising comes from them I’ll expand and develop the idea. Creativity can be a science. You can exhaust your creativity and it is at those moments I go out into the world, have a new experience, meet people, travel and fill up again. I find writing is a delicate balance of solitude and being extraverted.

Whenever I’m really stuck, I remind myself of the really hard jobs people do, and then keyboard wrangling seems pretty easy and I go back to my writing.

Tiffany teaches Taekwondo Ninja style to kids

When I have spoken to teenagers in the past, I am constantly reminded of the pressure many feel. What would you tell kids about following their passions and living their dreams?

Similar to my characters Roxy Ran, Jackson Axe and Elecktra, I grew up ninja. I’m a 5th dan black belt with 25 years of training in the Art of Taekwondo. My parents are the original White Ninjas. I was born into a family of black belts. My parents still operate Hall’s Taekwondo schools in Melbourne. My dad was an Olympic coach for the sport and my mum was one of the first chicks to earn her black belt in Australia.

Like Roxy’s mum Akita, my parents would make juice every morning that they called Hulk Juice because it was green and made you strong (something my characters suffer in the novel). My parents would sometimes pick me up from school in their taekwondo uniforms and even run errands in their traditional doboks on the way home; a supermarket shop, drop off a late DVD or go to the bank. It wasn’t unusual to eat dinner in our white pyjamas and dad made a point of staying in his uniform and black belt after work to answer the door if I had a date. At the time I was very embarrassed by my parents ninjarism but in retrospect, it taught me that being passionate about something is important and my dad’s saying “the difference is in the difference and not the same,” now makes sense.

I always tell kids in my school talks that passion should be a compass in life that directs you in every choice and decision so you never lose yourself.

Growing up in a family of athletes, I could have been a good fighter, but I wanted to be a great writer instead. I was the first person in my family to go to University. I studied creative writing and journalism at Melboune University.

Every time I blew out the candles on my birthday cake I wished for the same thing – to be a published author. John Marsden was my English teacher at school. He inspired me and I knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to write. I began my writing career in non-fiction and published four health books How to create the Ultimate Body, Weightloss Warrior, Fatloss for Good and Lighten Up cookbook. My debut novel WHITE NINJA was published in 2012. Now I am so excited to launch book 2 in the Roxy Ran series RED SAMURAI. The third installment will be out next year as well as my first young adult novel. I love martial arts, I love kids, so writing a martial arts action adventure series for children is a dream come true.

Can you list us 5 specific resources across any media that you turn to when you need a good fresh dose of creative inspiration?

I always delve straight into books. Reading Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, David Sedaris, Beatrix Potter, A A Milne – great children authors or humourists reinvigorate me.

I follow some really inspiring authors on Twitter who tweet great writing tips. Simmone Howell is wonderful!

I also love to watch quality TV – great for learning about dialogue, creating jeopardy and character development. Favs are Louis CK, The Office, Arrested Development, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.

I’ll sometimes watch a random foreign film to push my creativity into a different direction. I recently watched a Danish comedy called Klown that was brilliant. It was so touching, funny and incredibly well written.

But that’s about it. When I really need a good fresh dose of creativity I go and teach my Taekwondo classes with the kids. Being in touch with your audience as an author is so important.

Tiffany Hall
What kind of setbacks and challenges have you had in your life, and how did you overcome them?

My dog is called Winston after Sir Winston Churchill to remind me of something he once said: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” It’s hard to live your dream and even harder to make a living from it. I was lucky I could support my writing through working in television. I’ve had plenty of rejection from the publishing industry. But I always remind myself that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected many times before it was published and she never gave up. The Beatles were rejected by Decca records because they thought groups of guitars were on their way out. Rejection builds resilience and in the end clarifies your message and what you are trying to say as a creative. I wrote many manuscripts that were rejected before my Roxy Ran series was commissioned. It wasn’t until I wrote something that was really true to me, something that coalesced the blood from my heart with the ink in the page that I had success. I think you overcome any challenge in life through perseverance and holding dear that passion. For me my passion was writing and martial arts. Lose the passion and the obstacle will always overshadow you. I kept the passion by continuing to read and absorb myself in books and learning. The greatest challenge for a writer is finding your authentic voice.

Do you think you would be where you are today without having experienced these challenges?

No. Rejection built my emotional fitness. I also appreciate how privileged I was to have a publishing contract for my fiction at the age of 27. The challenges have filled me with gratitude and an attitude of gratitude will take you a long way.

So basically you are saying that we learn and grow from our challenges and that although at the time they may seem impossible, in the end there is a positive.

Absolutely. You become more wise and your work becomes richer.

Tiffany Hall

Taking a little break while filming The Biggest Loser in Switzerland

Having fun in Switzerland

Having fun in Switzerland

What would you tell parents who have young kids that are struggling with their confidence and resilience? What are your tips to help kids build their confidence?

I think you really have to start with being a confident role model in health and positivity, heal your own emotional issues and know how to stand up for yourself and use your voice. Kids will mirror your sense of self-worth and confidence. Listening is really important and empowers kids to feel more confident.

Encourage passions, hobbies and interests. Through nurturing the child’s passions they will find confidence through their developing competence. Give kids opportunities to practice their skills and to make mistakes so they learn from them, and in doing so they will become more resilient. Resilience is so important to building self-esteem.

Children’s self-worth develops through responsibility so I’ve found giving kids duties help them to feel more valuable. I do this in my taekwondo classes from delegating kids to pack away equipment, electing a Class Captain, and also rewarding those who lead and volunteer for responsibility roles with coloured tape on their belts.

I really believe in the power of self defence to improve a child’s confidence immediately and their sense of personal-security.

Lastly, through my fitness career I’ve seen the most devastating blows to self-esteem driven from poor health choices that have created negative body image. Help kids to learn about healthy eating at a young age, develop healthy habits in the home and a family culture that is anti-diet and pro nutrition, respect and appreciation for food. If children feel great about themselves, they will feel more confident, and feeling great starts with the positive energy that comes with eating healthy and enjoying fitness.

Health for you goes beyond just eating right and exercise. You have spoken about your mind and soul. Can you discuss that a little bit more about what healthy mind and body involves?

My approach to health is physical, mental and emotional. It’s as much about mental renovation and emotional fitness as physiological wellness. I approach health like a martial art, it’s about mastery. No one is a black belt over night, it takes years of practice and training, a journey of self-development. I believe that you first have to build your confidence and mental strength, then once you train the mind, the mind will train the body. You can’t come at health from the perspective of calorie crunching and deprivation because it’s not sustainable. We need to build a mindset, change the way we think in order to build healthy supportive habits long term. I love the term ‘feeding the soul’ because health does this, through nourishing the body and the spirit. The occasional dessert won’t take you off track, but a binge will. Health like Taekwondo is all about the art of balance. Your relationship with food and exercise comes from your relationship with yourself. You are more likely to make positive food choices if you feel confident about who you are.

What is the message you want to get across in your Roxy Ran series?

The Roxy Ran series is all about building confidence and self-esteem. If I could change one thing in this world it would be to stop bullying in schools, at work and self-bullying in our hearts. I would want to build a more confident generation of young people. I hope that kids come away from reading WHITE NINJA and RED SAMURAI with a true sense that they can achieve anything in life with hard work, determination and by standing up to the biggest bully of all, the little voice in all of us – Self-Doubt. I hope that the series encourages kids to embrace difference. It’s okay to be Gate Two.

A little personal touch about Tiff:

What does a typical day for Tiffany look like? How do you manage your time between your various projects and pursuits – from writing your books to running your workshops and of course your various television appearances. Do you still have time to have a personal workout session or ninja training time?

I love my life because there is no routine. The way I manage my different commitments is to block out writing days. I make sure I schedule three writing days a week and this includes weekends. Then days when I have schools I’ll edit around the sessions depending on how close I am to a deadline. When I have a TV contract it’s really hard to fit writing in. I wrote White Ninja whilst I was on The Biggest Loser and that was really challenging to write 60 000 words around 19hr days. But now that I’m doing TV bits here and there across different Networks it’s a lot easier. I love to write at night, later the better. Sometimes I’ll go to sleep at 8pm so I can wake up at 3am to write until morning. I know this isn’t the healthiest way to do it, but I think you have to be a slave to your creativity and when it hits, surrender. In terms of training, this is a priority for me. I can’t write well unless I’ve moved my body to balance my brain chemistry and boost my mood. I always go for a run before breakfast or meet with my trainer twice a week before 7am for boxing. I find if I don’t exercise before 7am it doesn’t happen – life gets in the way. And there is always time to get my ninja on! My black belt classes are at 7:30pm. There are no excuses at this time of night and I’m ready to kick out all my frustrations. I do black belt class twice a week.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Café Sweethearts in South Melbourne. Best blueberry buckwheat pancake stack I’ve ever had.
It’s not a secret but I love running around The Botanical gardens. The Tan track is awesome! There is a fantastic hill on Anderson Street that really tests your mental toughness and athletic prowess. I challenge anyone to sprint up it.

What would we see you doing on a Sunday morning? Or any other time for that matter that is ‘time off’?

I’m out having breakfast with my sister and my boyfriend. I’m at the movies LOVE! I’m playing my piano to chill out. I’m going down the coast with my dad for a surf. I’m catching up with girlfriends and their kids. I’m walking my dog. I’m writing in my journal. I’m daydreaming at the Botanical gardens. I’m in Melbourne CBD walking around absorbing the awesome vibes of the city.

And finally, how does one become a Ninja?

Being a NINJA is all about owning the super power of confidence and following your dream like a warrior.

Tiffany Hall

White Ninja session at Roxburgh Homestead, Vic. Photo by Amanda Karangelen

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  • Mrs BC

    What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing this, I hand’t heard of Tiffany Hall before and now I am a big fan.

  • Mrs BC

    What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing this, I hadn’t heard of Tiffany Hall before and now I am a big fan.

  • BossyMummy

    A pretty amazing lady! Did not realise she was an author as will. Very inspiring!

    Hello from #teamIBOT

  • Emily @ Have a laugh on me

    Wow that is a super amazing and inspiring interview and post – thanks for sharing!

  • EssentiallyJess

    I quite liked Tiff on TBL, but it’s so nice to hear this other side of her as well. Good on her for following her dreams.

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