MEET THE AUTHOR
Gabrielle Wang writes and illustrates picture books and novels. Her award-winning novel A Ghost in My Suitcase was adapted as a play. Gabrielle’s latest novel is the sequel — Ting Ting the Ghosthunter. From the publisher:
Thirteen-year-old Ting Ting has learned the ancient skills and art of ghost hunting from her adopted grandmother, Por Por, a famous ghost hunter. But Ting Ting is sick of capturing harmless ‘fat belly’ ghosts, and when a desperate plea for help comes for Por Por, Ting Ting decides to take matters into her own hands and prove that she is a true ghost hunter. But what Ting Ting discovers is much more dangerous than she had thought. Can Ting Ting conquer her own pride to save Por Por and the villagers before it’s too late?
Ting Ting the Ghosthunter is the sequel to A Ghost in my Suitcase. Do you find anything different about writing a sequel than a standalone story?
I found it much easier and quicker to write the sequel as I already knew my characters and the world they inhabited. However Ting Ting the Ghosthunter did differ from most traditional sequels because I used a different protagonist. Instead of following the adventures of Celeste, the main character from A Ghost in My Suitcase, I used Ting Ting who was the antagonist in that first novel.
A Ghost in my Suitcase has been adapted for the stage and performed around Australia. Did seeing those performances influence how you wrote the character of Ting Ting in the sequel?
I wrote Ting Ting the Ghosthunter before I saw the play. But the inspiration to write this sequel did come out of the very first meeting I had with Barking Gecko, the Western Australian theatre company who adapted the novel for the stage. It was during these two days of creative development with the creative directors, the playwright and the set designer that I realised how strong a character Ting Ting was. She had a lot of issues to work through which is, as you probably know, perfect for any main character.
There’s a strong sense of place in these two books. Do you visit a place before you set a book there?
Setting is the first thing I consider when I begin a novel. I’m a highly visual person so as I write, I imagine the landscape my characters are living in. In fact for me, setting is a major character in all of my books. A place can be dark and brooding, angry, joyful or sad. It can be a perfect vehicle to reflect your character’s mood. One of my favourite series as a child was My Friend Flicka, The Green Grass of Wyoming and Thunderhead written by Mary O’Hara. I loved reading books about horses. The setting in these novels was so strong to me, evoking in my young mind wide-open grasslands and endless summer days. The Silver Brumby has that same sense of place evoking the Australian mountains.
Now that you have me thinking on the subject of setting, listed below is where my novels take place.
The Garden of Empress Cassia in a suburban city. I had Melbourne in the forefront of my mind with this one. Even though I don’t name the city, trams rattle up and down the streets.
The Pearl of Tiger Bay in a seaside town. I pictured the coastal towns along the Great Ocean Road while I wrote it.
The Hidden Monastery in the rainforests of Queensland.
The Lion Drummer in Little Bourke Street Chinatown.
A Ghost in My Suitcase in Shanghai and in a watertown like Wuzhen, China.
The Poppy Stories in Wahgunyah, Beechworth and surrounding areas.
The Pearlie Stories in Darwin, Adelaide and Perth.
The Wishbird in the far northwest China.
The Beast of Hushing Wood in the woods of North America.
Ting Ting the Ghosthunter in Shanghai, and the countryside.
I need to visit these places so that I can get a sense of them. When I wrote the first draft of The Beast of Hushing Wood, my publisher Jane Godwin said that she didn’t get a true sense of the woods. That was because I had never been to the woods in North America. I knew then that I had to go. I needed to walk them, to listen and smell and look. I had to let them show me what to write.
Pen and paper? Or straight onto the computer?
I do a combination of both. Each novel dictates to me how it wants to be written.
Can you tell us something about your next project?
My current work in progress has the working title of The Story Magician. It is set in Melbourne during the 1950s and is about a 12-year-old girl called Sparrow and a dog called Jupiter. This will be part graphic novel, part fairytale, part first person narrative.
In writing and illustrating The Story Magician, I want to explore this post-war era of Australian history. It was an important time for Australia when people were finally looking towards a brighter future. All wars leave scars. What are the legacies of war? Is everything war leaves behind bad? What is the power of stories to help heal wounds? I also want to explore the different types of love — the love between parent and child, child and grandparent, between a dog and its human, between siblings, between best friends. And the unfulfilled love of a birth mother to her child.
I was lucky enough to receive an Australia Council Literature Grant to write The Story Magician. I have a long way to go and need to do a lot of experimenting, as this novel is more challenging than any of my other books. Still, I am enjoying the challenge. That’s what writing (and illustrating) is all about — breaking through our own self imposed boundaries and stretching our creativity.
Click here to read a sample chapter of Ting Ting the Ghosthunter
Click here for Teachers’ Notes (PDF)
Read about the journey of A Ghost in My Suitcase from book to play
Our earlier interviews with Gabrielle Wang:
- writing junior novels
- writing and illustrating The Wishbird
- writing books in the Our Australian Girl series
Find out more about Gabrielle Wang and her books on her website: gabriellewang.com
You’ll find Gabrielle Wang’s books in bookstores and libraries!