authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Norman Jorgensen



Norman Jorgensen in Northumberland. (Photo © Jan Nicholls.)It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Norman Jorgensen takes the book baton today. Norman is the award-winning author of many adventure-filled books. His books are inspired by travelling, old movies and old books. His latest book is The Smuggler’s Curse.

You might recognise some of these page-turners:

If you love a good swashbuckling adventure you can read a sample chapter of The Smuggler’s Curse thanks to Fremantle Press.

Last week Catherine Carvell asked Norman a question:

Your latest book The Smugglers Curse was released in October and what an adventure! My question to you is, have you based any of The Smugglers Curse on real life? And if so, which bits are real?

 Norman answers:

That’s an interesting question. The Smuggler’s Curse is high adventure, and a lot of the action is total fantasy, however, it is grounded in real history, and the locations are very real. I visited all the places mentioned in the story and then had to imagine what they would have been like back in 1895 when the story is set. Sometimes it was easy. The headhunters’ long house in Sumatra did not look like it had changed at all in 120 years. To my surprise and concern, there were still skulls hanging from the rafters.

Looking at old photographs, Broome and Albany and Cossack, and even Fremantle, were much the same now as back then, except for paved roads and cars, of course. I expect, too, they now smell a lot better, no longer having open sewers and outside dunnies, and no open drains in the streets, or mountains of horse manure that would have littered the roadways. Modern Singapore, on the other hand, bears no comparison with Colonial Singapore. It is a rich, bustling city where once it was a sleepy mosquito-infested outpost.

I set the book in first-person, pretending I was Red, the hero, and he is a bit like me in that he is scared of all sorts of things. We both hate heights, sharks, soldiers with bayonets trying to skewer him, and falling from the masthead, but Red tries to be brave no matter what the circumstances.

The skipper of the Black Dragon schooner — Captain Black Bowen, the notorious smuggler — I based on movie star called Errol Flynn who was a swashbuckling hero back in the days of black and white movies. I loved his movies Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and many others. Real life? Probably not, though he was a famous adventurer in real life.

The sailing scenes are definitely real. When I was about 12 years old, my father and I made a dinghy, and we used to go sailing together on the Swan River, and sometimes the Indian Ocean. Like the Black Dragon in the Andaman Sea, we were once caught in a fierce storm, washed way out to sea and nearly killed. The excitement and terror I wrote about Red feeling on the deck of the Dragon were based on that experience.

I hope you enjoy reading about Red’s adventures and imagining all the places he gets taken while on board the Black Dragon.

Happy reading,


You can read earlier interviews with Norman Jorgensen here and here.

a single stoneAnd now Norman Jorgensen passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Meg McKinlay. Meg is the author of many books including A Single Stone, Ten Tiny Things, and Duck for a Day.

Norman asks:
Having now won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, as well as just about every other award in Australia for A Single Stone, do you have a new book in mind … or are you creating several projects at the same time?
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!