MEET THE AUTHOR
Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese Australian, living in Perth, Western Australia. Shirley describes herself as having a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart and writes in the middle where both collide. She writes books for children and teenagers and today we’re thrilled to chat to her about Little Jiang, illustrated by Katy Jiang.
From the publisher:
Mei Ling Pang was born at an inauspicious time on an inauspicious day, so wherever she goes, misfortune follows. When Little Jiang hops out of his grave and into Mei’s life, fangs and all, her luck goes from bad to worse. But in trying to help Little Jiang, Mei might just make her own future brighter.
We have to ask – is your favourite food Kung Pow chicken?
Yes it actually is! I believe in putting bits of myself in my writing. The best meal I ever had was Kung Pow chicken at a restaurant called Augusta Moon (as opposed to The August Moon restaurant in the novel). It wasn’t a fancy restaurant and it wasn’t a fancy dish, but it was special. So that memory made itself into my writing!
Katy Jiang’s grayscale illustrations are sprinkled throughout Little Jiang. Did you meet the illustrator during the book’s production?
My editor Cate from Fremantle Press acted as the coordinator during the illustration process. She started by asking me questions about what my characters looked like and which scenes I wanted illustrated and passed this information along to Katy. I would then receive the initial draft sketches back from Katy for my opinion. I didn’t want to interfere too much with Katy’s process, I wanted her to be free to be as creative as she liked! I wanted her to feel like she had the space. It was after all the beautiful illustrations were complete that I really wanted to know more about the wonderful artist! That is when I met Katy for lunch and coffee and we have been friends since!
Your previous novels have been for young adult readers. How did you come to write Little Jiang, a novel for younger readers?
After I had my son (he’s six years old now), I really had a think about what type of stories I was writing. Books for young adults can be a little serious and angsty at times! I really wanted to write something adventurous and funny that I could read to him. And at the same time I wanted to honour the Chinese folk stories my own mum told me when I was little. I had never written a book for younger readers before, but I put my heart and my mind to it. Little Jiang was the result. It was so much fun!
Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to try writing their own spooky tales?
I would like to see writers take an old spooky creature (vampires, zombies, ghosts) and give them a funny and modern-day twist! See how creative they can be!
Can you tell us something about your next writing project?
I have another middle grade book out this month called A Glasshouse of Stars. It is my heart story, based on my immigration experience to Australia as a child. This one might make you cry instead of laugh. Right now, I am writing another book for younger readers based on my family history. I am always onto my next project!
Little Jiang is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library, or buy it direct from the publisher.
Read a sample chapter of Little Jiang
Read a review of the book by Kobe, age 9
Visit Shirley Marr’s website for more about her and her books