MEET THE AUTHOR
HM Waugh is an environmental scientist, writer and educator with a long-term love of wild places and high mountains. This has led to icy feet and sunburnt cheeks in magical countries like New Zealand, Nepal, Bolivia and Switzerland. She has studied dolphins in New Zealand and rare plants in the Wheatbelt, and worked in mining and construction projects across Western Australia.
When she’s not writing, she’s teaching school and community groups about science and the environment. This often involves working with children and animals concurrently, and Waugh loves being able to truthfully say she handles dragons for a job. HM Waugh’s new children’s novel is The Lost Stone of SkyCity:
Sunaya’s peaceful village life is turned upside down when a simple mountain mission turns into a death-defying quest for survival.
Winter treks to summer pastures, mythical Ice-People that are scarily real, avalanches, ice falls, power plays, mysterious magic and surprising friendships – it seems not everything in life is set in stone …
We are pleased to have HM Waugh visiting Alphabet Soup today.
You live in Western Australia. What inspired you to write a book set in the snow?
I absolutely love mountain landscapes, I love to travel to them and I love reading about them in books. For me, they’re both beautiful and dangerous. There are so many different challenges you have to face and issues to deal with when it comes to snow, and – honestly – I’m not always that good at them. I remember wearing gumboots sledding when I was a kid living in New Zealand, and the snow all got stuck down my boots, partially melted and then froze solid so I couldn’t get the boots off. Ouch.
So one day I was thinking – wouldn’t it be awesome if you could understand and read mountains as naturally as people who’ve grown up in those areas seem to be able to? And from that thought came the world and the magic of The Lost Stone of SkyCity.
How long did it take you to go from the story idea to the published book?
I like to let my ideas bubble away and pick up extra details and join with other ideas before I start to write them. I first thought of the idea for The Lost Stone of SkyCity in 2015 but there wasn’t enough for a story so I jotted it down in my notebook and left it. It wasn’t until late 2016 that I actually wrote the book, but then I basically forgot I’d written it. I found it again near the middle of 2018, did some serious editing and submitted it to my (now) publisher. And they loved it! Hooray! I signed the publishing contract at the start of 2019 and had a whirlwind nine months of preparation before it came out in October.
So, that’s a bit over four years from first thought to having the book on shelves.
What’s the most recent children’s book you’ve read?
Because I love these books (and books you love are like old friends) I’ve recently re-read Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman, which is the second book in the Elementals series for middle readers. (I’m being very patient waiting for the next instalment!)
Writing a book: pen and paper, or typing straight into the computer?
I plot and brainstorm with pen and paper, but then it’s absolutely writing on the computer. I can write much faster, and it’s so much easier for me to read what I’ve written!
What are you working on next?
I’ve just finished the first round of edits on a really fun middle-grade adventure set on a dying Mars of the future, where kids can basically fly and, in order to save their planet, have to team up with those they’ve always been taught to fear.
But I’m pushing my Mars story to the side at the moment, because [as I write this] it’s National Novel Writing Month time, and I’ve got a super-secret-squirrel story idea on the go. I love new ideas!
The Lost Stone of SkyCity is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookstore or library.