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PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week we’ve featured a book creator who answered one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) This is our last Pass the Book Baton post for 2016 but — after a summer break — we’ll be continuing with the series in 2017.

 

Today the book baton is passed to author Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song. (You can read an excerpt if you go to the publisher’s site.)

Here are some of Wendy Orr’s book covers:

Last week Anna Ciddor asked:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?

Wendy answers:
I agree with Anna Ciddor that it’s fascinating to find out how other authors work! It always seems to bear out the Somerset Maugham quote that there are three rules for writing a novel, but nobody knows what they are. I’m also intrigued — or depressed, depending on the day — that as soon as I figure out my own rules, I start a new book and the rules change. However, I always need to know several things before I start the book — the first scene and first line, a climactic scene, and the ending. Details about the ending sometimes change, but I have to know where it’s heading. And in general, I seem to be planning more now than I used to. For Dragonfly Song, when my editor asked if the first deadline was achievable, I made a list of all the scenes from where I was till the end. It was amazingly helpful (who knew!). Of course there were still surprises and aha! moments of insight, but I stuck to it fairly closely. Admittedly the book had been freewheeling in my head for the previous year.

As for speed — how I envy those fast writers! I’m very slow. It’s true I’ve got a huge list of books, but I’ve been writing for 30 years, and many of my early books were small. Dragonfly Song took 22 months, (ignoring several false starts over the previous 5 years) without working on anything else. I rewrite obsessively — and oh yes, the research! The two main problems are that I don’t always know what I need till I find it, and conversely, sometimes some little fact really has to be clarified before I can continue with the story. Then down the rabbit hole I go … And then have to rewrite again because there was too much research showing, and sometimes obscure facts have to be bent to suit the story! But what a feeling when I work something out to suit the story, thinking I’ve purely made it up — and then find the research that says my theory is right!

But all I really care about once a book finished is that the reader enjoys it and believes in it while they’re reading.

Happy reading!

Wendy

www.wendyorr.com


ERIC VALE OFF THE RAILSAnd now Wendy Orr passes the baton to the next visitor — Michael Gerard Bauer. Michael is an award-winning author who writes humorous books for children and young adults.

Wendy asks:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’   that started the process.) Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

The series will be taking a break over the summer school holidays. We’ll leave Michael Gerard Bauer with some thinking music while he considers Wendy’s question …

And Pass the Book Baton will resume in 2017 with his answer.

See you next year! (While you’re waiting, you can check out all the book creators who have had the baton so far.)

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator 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.)

Today the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Anna Ciddor. Anna has written and illustrated over fifty books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Australia, goldfish, and tournaments. Her most recent book is The Family with Two Front Doors — a true story about a family of nine children who lived in Poland in the 1920s.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Meg McKinlay asked:
You’re a writer and an illustrator — good grief! Do you feel equally comfortable doing both, or does one come more naturally to you?

Anna answers:
Well, to tell the truth, even though I have been a full-time author and illustrator for nearly thirty years, I don’t find either writing or illustrating quick and easy! For me, they both need lots and LOTS of drafts and research and planning. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how I wrote and illustrated The Family with Two Front Doors so you can see what I mean.

Step 1 Planning and research
The Family with Two Front Doors is based on stories my late Nana told me about her childhood. I planned each chapter of the book, including the ending, then sat down to bring the first scene to life in my head. I quickly discovered I had a problem. Nana never told me what clothes she wore as a child and, sadly, she was no longer around to help. If I can’t picture a scene, I can’t write it, so I had to stop and research the types of clothes worn by religious Jewish children in 1920s Poland. All through the book there were delays while I researched details before I could picture each scene.

Step 2 The Writing
When I write, I constantly ask myself, ‘Does this word give the best picture of what I am trying to say?’ For example, in one sentence I wrote ‘Yakov ran through the door,’ but then I realised I needed a more descriptive word than ran. Maybe burst would be better? Or scampered? Which word gave the best picture of what Yakov was doing? As you can imagine, this makes the writing process extremely slow. It took me four years to research and write The Family with Two Front Doors!

Step 3 The editing
When I deliver a book to the publishers, it is very exciting and scary, waiting to find out if they like it. Luckily, they loved The Family with Two Front Doors but it took me a few months to write the few changes they suggested because I am so slow!

Step 4 Illustrating
For me, this is the last step. Even though The Family with Two Front Doors was going to have tiny black and white illustrations, I wanted them to be perfect. I drew them over and over again. The faces of the characters had to be exactly the way I imagined them, and their clothes, and details, such as the sewing machine, had to be historically accurate. Those few tiny illustrations took me months!

Visit Anna Ciddor’s site for more about her and her books!


Dragonfly SongAnd now Anna Ciddor passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song.

Anna asks:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?
..
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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Meg McKinlay -- photo courtesy Fremantle PressPass the Book BatonIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator 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.)

Today the book baton is passed to writer Meg McKinlay. She writes picture books, novels and poetry, and lives near the ocean in Western Australia.  Meg’s most recent books are Bella and the Wandering House and A Single Stone (which won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award in the young adult category).

You might recognise some of these books:


Last week Norman Jorgensen asked:
A single stoneHaving 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?

Meg answers:
What is it that politicians love to say: I reject the premise of the question? 🙂 It’s true that I’ve been very fortunate with A Single Stone, but my dear friend Norman is stretching the truth just a little with his “just about every other award in Australia” line.

Now that we’ve cleared that up … the answer is i) yes and also ii) yes.

I most definitely have a new book in mind. The problem is that by now it should be well and truly out of my mind and onto the page. I’m working on a novel set in 1979 when the world’s first space station — Skylab — was falling to earth. It’s the story of a girl named Frankie who lives in the Southwest of WA, and her science-obsessed little brother Newt, who becomes fixated on Skylab for spoilferific reasons I must not divulge at this time. This book is fully formed in my brain and just needs to make it to my typing fingers. I’m hoping to have it done very soon.

And I am also creating several other projects. I have three picture books in various stages of the production line:

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros, which I am gleeful about, will be out in August next year. It’s about a small rhinoceros who sets out to sail the world, and will be illustrated by Leila Rudge.

Drawn Onward, which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before — a book about perception and optimism which relies on an unusual structure and will be aimed at older readers — is being illustrated by Bunbury artist Andrew Frazer, and will be out in October-ish.

And finally … Duck! (because everyone knows the world can never have too many books about ducks) is in the early stages of illustration by Nathaniel Eckstrom. This is going to be a barrel of fun and I can’t wait to read it to kids.

Stop by Meg McKinlay’s website for more about her and her books.


The family with two front doorsAnd now Meg McKinlay passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Anna Ciddor. Anna is the author of 56 books and is the illustrator for most of them, too. Her most recent book is The Family with Two Front Doors.

Meg asks:
You’re a writer and an illustrator — good grief! Do you feel equally comfortable doing both, or does one come more naturally to you?
..
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

 

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,

Norman

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!

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

Catherine CarvellIt’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.)

Catherine Carvell takes the book baton today. Catherine is an Australian author living in Singapore (but soon heading back to WA!). Her first book is Darcy Moon and the Deep-Fried Frogs, a humorous adventure story about a girl with a mission to save the swamp.

If you like the sound of Darcy Moon you can read a sample chapter of the book.

 

Last week Oliver Phommavanh asked:
What is one thing you’d like kids to walk away with after they’ve read your book?

Catherine answers:
I tried to make Darcy Moon and the Deep-fried Frogs as funny as possible, with lots of disgusting and embarrassing situations to make kids cringe and laugh. So the one thing I’d like kids to walk away with after reading this book is … a smile!

Darcy Moon and the deep fried frogs.


The Smugger's CurseAnd now Catherine Carvell passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Norman Jorgensen. Norman is the author of many books including The Last Viking, and The Last Viking Returns. His latest book is The Smuggler’s Curse.

Catherine asks:
Your latest book 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?
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

Oliver PhommavanhIt’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.)

We’re pleased to feature author Oliver Phommavanh as he takes the baton today. Oliver writes funny novels and short stories, he’s also a comedian and primary school teacher. Oliver’s first book — Thai-riffic — was published in 2010.

Here are some of his book covers:

Last week Deborah Abela left a question for Oliver to answer.

Deborah asks:
In your writing, you have this wonderful ability to create characters that feel real and who I very quickly feel I know and like. Do you know your characters really well before you write or do they come to life as you rewrite each draft?
 xx
Oliver Phommavanh:
It depends on each story that I write. Sometimes it comes to me straight away like in Thai-riffic or Con-nerd and then I just write the draft with the voices of each character fully in my head. Other books, I have a faint voice of what the characters could be like and then I write the draft to build that voice. A lot of my characters are drawn from my own childhood friends and family, but more recently just from observing kids in schools when I visit them. I have a fair idea of what my characters will sound like, so I let them roam around in my head awhile, but some shout louder than others, haha!

Darcy Moon and the deep fried frogs.


And now Oliver passes the book baton to the next author — Catherine Carvell. Catherine is the author of Darcy Moon and the Deep Fried Frogs.

Oliver asks Catherine Carvell:
What is one thing you’d like kids to walk away with after they’ve read your book?

Check in every Friday for a Q&A with children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!

For other posts featuring Oliver Phommavanh at Alphabet Soup check out:

What’s Funny?

3 Quick Questions and

Meet Oliver Phommavanh

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

Deborah AbelaIt’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.)

Award-winning author Deborah Abela takes the baton today. Deborah Abela’s recent book, Teresa: A New Australian, was inspired by her dad who was born in a cave in Malta during one of the heaviest bombing raids of WW2. Her latest book is The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee.

You might recognise some of these book covers:

Last week James Foley asked a question:
Do you find that your characters reflect different aspects of your personality? So the heroic characters might reflect your good side, the villains might reflect your naughty side, the protagonists might share your strengths and weaknesses, etc?
 xx
Deborah’s answer:
Dear James,
That’s a great question. My characters are often small versions of people I know or of me … or the me I’d like to be.
In my series, Max Remy Superspy, Max is a young feisty but very clumsy girl who loves adventure … that is pretty much how I was as a kid.
In Grimsdon — my novel about kids living in a flooded city — the hero is a girl called Isabella Charm. She is brave and courageous and very good with swords … she is someone I would very much like to be.
In The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, India Wimple is a brilliant speller but is terribly shy and lacking confidence … I was also a bit shy as a kid.
 xx

The Other ChristyAnd now Deborah Abela passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Oliver Phommavanh. Oliver is a comedien and the author of many humorous books. His latest book is The Other Christy.
 xx
Deborah asks:
In your writing, you have this wonderful ability to create characters that feel real and who I very quickly feel I know and like. Do you know your characters really well before you write or do they come to life as you rewrite each draft?
 xx
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!

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