authors, interviews

Samantha Wheeler and Devils in Danger


Samantha Wheeler fell in love with animals when, at the age of six, she received a tortoise. She went on to study agriculture, work with dairy farmers and teach science, until writing her first children’s book, inspired by koalas, in 2011. We’re thrilled to be able to chat to Samantha about her latest book, Devils in Danger.

From the publisher:

Killarney discovers a wild Tasmanian devil, denning under the house! Killarney is excited, but many of the locals are terrified. When rumours about dangerous devils begin spreading, Killarney is determined to protect her precious visitor. But can she convince an entire town these wild creatures are worth saving?

Have you ever seen or heard a Tasmanian devil in the wild yourself?

You bet! I first had the idea for writing this story when I saw Tassie devil footprints and scats on a path I was walking on in the Tasmanian wilderness. I was so excited, but sadly didn’t get to see that particular devil. Once I’d started planning the book though, I went back to Tassie and watched wild devils eating a carcass in the dark. It wasn’t as disgusting as it sounds, it was amazing! Killarney gets to do this in Devils in Danger and I know just how excited she would have felt! They are beautiful creatures, especially their red ears.

How did you know when you’d done enough research to start writing Devils in Danger?

 I usually go and find out what the issues are for the particular animal first (Tassie devils in this case) and what my main character needs to do to help them. This gives me a rough idea of what the story might be. Then I begin to write but always find I need more details, like how big are the animals when they’re 3 months old, 6 months old, adults, what do they eat, what do they smell like, how many teeth do they have etc. So these details I usually have to google or go and see the animals, or ask an expert once I’m already writing the story. There’s always a lot of research to do, so luckily I love it.

Do you have a favourite Tasmanian devil fact?

Absolutely. I think the fact that they are creating their own immunity to facial tumours is simply incredible. They are saving themselves. So clever. But a funny fact is the pongy smell they emit when they’re frightened, kind of like a skunk. Who would have thought? They look too cute to be stinky.

How much do you find you need to change in a book, from first draft to final draft?

Oh my goodness. Nearly everything! My first few drafts are usually very bad and I have to change them a lot to make the story any good. One thing that happens with me is that I have too many ideas and can lose the central theme of the story by going off and getting distracted by little subplots. It’s often hard to know what I’m really trying to say. It can be a little frustrating but it’s worth it in the end.

Can you tell us about your next writing project?

I’m playing with a few ideas. I’d love to write another one like this about sharks (I feel really sorry for them, they need our help) and I’m also writing a junior fiction series about a family who inherit a farm but are useless at farming. It’s so cute. Then there’s a  story I’m working on about a boy who gets left behind on a tropical island. So many ideas!

Devils in Danger is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book shop or local library.


Read a sample chapter from Devils in Danger

Download the Teachers’ Notes for this book

Visit Samantha Wheeler’s website for more about her and her books

Devils in Danger by Samantha Wheeler