Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Jacqueline Harvey

MEET THE AUTHOR

Jacqueline Harvey (credit Jenni Bradley)

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of the popular Alice-Miranda series, Clementine Rose series, and Kensy and Max series. Her books have sold over one million copies in Australia alone.

Jacqueline speaks to thousands of young people at schools and festivals around the world, and says the characters in her books are often made up of the best bits of children she’s met over the years. While she is not a twin, like Kensy and Max she does have excellent powers of observation and has always thought she’d make a great spy.

Jacqueline’s latest book is Alice-Miranda in the Outback (book 19 in the series).

From the publisher:

Alice-Miranda and her friends are off to the Australian Outback! They’re going to help an old family friend who’s found himself short staffed during cattle mustering season. The landscape is like nothing else – wide open and dusty red as far as the eye can see. It’s also full of quirky characters, like eccentric opal miner Sprocket McGinty and the enigmatic Taipan Dan.

As the gang settles in at Hope Springs Station, mysteries start piling up. A strange map is discovered indicating treasure beneath the paddocks, a young girl is missing and there are unexplained water shortages. Can Alice-Miranda get to the bottom of this desert dilemma?

Alice Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey


Alice-Miranda is a well-travelled girl! Have you been everywhere Alice-Miranda has been?
Yes Alice-Miranda has travelled a lot. I’ve been to most of the places she’s been, although I haven’t ever travelled to Spain and that’s where Alice-Miranda at Sea begins. I had to do a lot of research about Barcelona particularly and in that instance I find Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Streetview invaluable. I have been to a few places in the Australian outback but Coober Pedy isn’t one of them (and part of the new book takes place there) so I have had to do a lot of research on the town and the landscape and the mines before and while I was writing the story. I find it easier to use places I’ve travelled to as it helps create the atmosphere but as I said – you can do your homework too.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback is the latest book in the series. How long did it take you to write Book 19, from first draft to final draft?
I spent a few weeks plotting and planning over the Christmas New Year period then sat down with a goal of having the draft finished in 6 weeks. I basically wrote just over 10,000 words a week for that time and achieved the goal. There would have been about another six weeks of rewriting, editing and proofreading after that. I knew that I would have to write quite quickly to meet the deadline but I found it such a fun story that it was a joy to work on each day.

When you wrote Book 1, did you write it as Book 1 in a series?
I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book. How wrong I was. Once I started to write the first book as a novel I thought it would be a series – I had ideas for about five books when I initially submitted it.

How do you keep track of all the characters across multiple books in the series?
Spreadsheets! I have a spreadsheet with the characters in all of the series so that I don’t accidentally give someone the same name. It’s a very helpful reference.

What’s your next writing project?
At the moment I am writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which will be out in October 2020. It’s set in London and Switzerland and takes the children back to the days when their parents worked in ski resorts all over the world. I’ve wanted to write a book where they can exhibit their extraordinary skiing and snowboarding skills and this is it. I have also just finished a short story Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads campaign which will be out at the beginning of November. I have been working on a couple of side projects as well but they’re still top secret so unfortunately I can’t share just yet. Suffice to say I’ve been keeping busy in lockdown.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback is available from bookshops and libraries!


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Alice Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes for the Alice-Miranda series

Click here for Jacqueline Harvey’s writing tips

Visit Jacqueline Harvey’s website for more about Alice-Miranda, colouring-in sheets & activities

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Penny Tangey

MEET THE AUTHOR

Penny TangeyPenny Tangey writes humorous books for young people. She has studied Chemistry and Indonesian, and is currently studying information management to become a librarian. Penny works as a researcher for television quiz shows, and has performed stand-up comedy. Her latest book is As Fast as I Can. 

From the publisher:

Ten-year-old Vivian is determined to win a medal at the Olympic Games one day. Problem is, she hasn’t found a sport she’s any good at yet. But everyone says if you work hard enough you can achieve anything, right? So when Vivian discovers she has a talent for cross country running, finally, her Olympic dream might actually come true.

But then a family illness is uncovered and all of Vivian’s plans begin to unravel. Can she keep her dream alive? Or will she be stopped in her tracks?

As Fast as I can by Penny Tangey


As Fast as I Can is a humorous read, but involves a family learning about a serious medical condition. How much research did you need to do to write the book?
I already knew a little about the medical condition in the book because it’s an illness in my family. I needed a lot more detail to write As Fast as I Can. I read medical papers but also found first-hand stories from people with the condition. Both of these were really important.

After I wrote a draft a medical professional read it to check I had the details right. I also got feedback from my cousin who has the condition to make sure she thought the book was accurate and helpful.

Writing the book: a sprint or a marathon?
It was a marathon that I thought would be 5km. I kept telling myself the finish was just around the corner, gave up a few times, but then started again. It wasn’t a personal best time, but I’m glad I kept going.

In a parallel universe you can become an Olympic Athlete and choose your event which event would you choose?
This question is so exciting and quite tricky. I would definitely choose athletics because competing in the big stadium is the ultimate goal. I think I would have to choose running because it’s the simplest and purest sport. Sprinting is over too quickly so I think 800m would be good.

Vivian (your main character) faces down several challenges. Are you a competitive person yourself?
I am, but I’m also not a perfectionist and very happy to settle for second or third.

Can you tell us something about your next project? 
I’m writing a story for adults, mainly just for fun. It’s about a woman who starts investigating a crime while she’s on maternity leave.

Do you have a tip for young writers?
Keep a diary. It’s great practise for writing and lots of fun to read back later.

For example, in Grade 5 I wrote in my diary: “I have a dream to get to the Olympics not as a spectator but as a competitor. I am turning 11 next week, my days of being ten are numbered.”

I didn’t get to go to the Olympics as a competitor, but I’m really glad I have my diary to help me remember the dream.

As Fast as I Can is available from bookshops, libraries and the publisher’s website.


As Fast as I can by Penny TangeyAWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes

Click here to visit Penny Tangey’s website and find out more about her and her books.

Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Meet the author: Sally Murphy

Sally MurphyMEET THE AUTHOR

Sally Murphy is an author, poet, speaker and educator based in the South West of Western Australia. Sally has published more than 40 books, and her latest book is a verse novel for upper primary readers: Worse Things, with illustrations by Sarah Davis.

From the publisher:

After a devastating football injury, Blake struggles to cope with life on the sideline. Jolene, a gifted but conflicted hockey player, wants nothing more than for her dad to come home. And soccer-loving refugee, Amed, wants to belong. On the surface, it seems they have nothing in common. Except sport …

Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis


Worse Things is your fourth verse novel. Your first verse novel was published in 2009. Has the way you go about writing your verse novels changed since then?
I think so. When I wrote the first one, Pearl Verses the World, I didn’t really plan – a character started speaking to me and I started writing. Pearl’s voice came in verse, and the plot emerged as I wrote. When I wrote Toppling and Roses are Blue the process was similar, though Roses are Blue took longer to get right.  When I wrote Worse Things I really wanted to do something different. I still loved verse novels but I wanted to see if I could write in multiple voices and with slightly older characters. This dictated that I needed to write more self-contained poems. I also played around more with poetic form – so there are, for example,  little definition poems scattered throughout which define key words from the  story or the themes being explored.

Worse Things includes characters who play various sports (hockey, soccer & AFL). Do you play these sports yourself?
I loved hockey and played in primary and high school and a couple of seasons as an adult. I actually wish I had kept playing for longer. I got busy as a mother and now that I have more time I am probably not fit enough. I loved soccer as a sport at school, but never played it away from school – when I was growing up there was no soccer for girls where I lived. The other sport in the novel is AFL (football) and again I didn’t have the opportunity to play, but my kids did, and so I spent a lot of time at junior matches, as well as being a mad keen Fremantle Dockers fan.

You write picture books, poetry, chapter books, and verse novels. How do you know the sort of book you’ll start writing when you have a creative idea?
Mostly the story or character presents itself and I just kind of know what is right for that story. It’s about how the story feels, although sometimes I also push myself to try a particular form, or I’m asked to. My two historical novels – 1915 and Bushfire, were both written because the publisher asked for them, and so that dictated that they would be novel-length.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write a verse novel?
Read lots of verse novels to get a feel for how they work. As well as mine, there are some other excellent Australian verse novelists whose work you will love: Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Kat Apel, for starters. The other thing to do is to start by writing single free verse poems, to practice things like poetic technique, line length and portraying emotion or themes in poetic form.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I usually have a few things on the go, and right now is no exception. I have two junior novels which need redrafting – one is set in Vietnam, and I started it when I went there for a residency. I am also doing some research for a historical idea I am interested in. And there is a voice talking to me at the moment and telling me that her story needs telling. I have a feeling she may win.

Worse Things is out now in bookstores and libraries.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis

Watch Sally Murphy read the first chapter of Worse Things (YouTube)

Take a sneak peek at some Definition Poems from the book

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes

Visit Sally Murphy’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the author: Gavin Aung Than

Gavin Aung Than with some of his charactersMEET THE AUTHOR

Gavin Aung Than is a New York Times bestselling cartoonist. His current project Super Sidekicks is a fun-filled action adventure series. Book 3 in the series, Trial of Heroes hit bookstores in April 2020.

From the publisher:

The Super Sidekicks just saved the world and now they’ve been invited to join H.E.R.O. – the Heroic Earth Righteousness Organisation – an exclusive club for the planet’s most famous superheroes. But before they can become members, the team must pass the hardest challenge in the universe, a test so scary and difficult only the truly heroic can survive.

The Super Sidekicks are back! Prepare for another amazing adventure from New York Times bestselling Australian author, Gavin Aung Than.


Did Super Sidekicks Book 1 start out as a standalone book or did you plan the series before you started?
I always planned it to be a series. So No Adults Allowed is all about how the sidekicks meet each other and become a team. Ocean’s Revenge (Book 2) is their first big adventure together, and Trial of Heroes (Book 3) is another big and exciting challenge for the heroes.

How do you create your comics? Do you draw by hand, or onto a computer?
I use both methods. So I draw all the pictures in black and white on paper first. Then I scan those drawings into my computer and add all the grey colour and words. You can see my full process on my website here: https://aungthan.com/ssprocess

Do you have a favourite sidekick to draw?
Wow that’s a hard question! I love drawing all of them, they’re like my kids. If I had to pick just one, then i’ll say Goo is my favourite. He’s so lovable and can literally be drawn into any shape or size which is always fun!

Trial of Heroes is the latest book in the series. How long did it take you from first draft to final draft?
Each book takes about 6–8 months to complete. It’s a lot of work but I absolutely love it!

Do you have a tip for young comic creators?
Practice, practice, practice! The only way to get good at drawing or making comics is to practice all the time. Start making your own mini-comics. It’s also okay to copy your favourite artists, even to trace their work when you’re just starting. The great cartoonist Chuck Jones said that every artist has 100,000 bad drawings in them, so the quicker you get those done and out of the way, the better!

Three books in the Super Side Kicks series are out now – ask at your bookshop or library.


Super Side Kicks Book 3AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to peek inside Book 1

Click here to peek inside Book 2

Click here to peek inside Book 3

Click here to watch Gavin at work in his studio as part of Paper Bird Books Home Club (1/2 hour YouTube video)

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the illustrator: Karen Blair

Karen BlairMEET THE ILLUSTRATOR

Karen Blair is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books. She loves to draw characters that are young, old and in between, as well as Australian wildlife – in the bush, the sea, the outback, or at home. She has a background in painting landscapes and loves incorporating this into her illustrations. You might recognise her work from Baby Animal FarmWhen Billy was a Dog (written by Kirsty Murrray), the Lemonade Jones books (by Davina Bell), Hello from Nowhere (by Raewyn Ciasley), and many more. Her latest book is Meet Eve in the Outback (text by Raewyn Caisley), which is part of the new Aussie Kids series. Raewyn visited Alphabet Soup recently to talk about writing the text. And now it’s time to hear from Karen about the illustrations!

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)


You illustrated Meet Eve in the Outback, written by Raewyn Caisley. How is illustrating a junior fiction book different from illustrating a picture book?
This was my first junior fiction book, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. In a picture book, I have almost unlimited space on the page to do my visual story-telling, and the words usually fit in around the images. In a junior fiction book, it’s the opposite, with a higher word count, smaller pages and much less space. It makes you really crystallise what you want to add with the illustrations, and it comes down to how can I show an interesting part of the story – the action, the emotion, or even some visual information. That might be showing some of the Nullarbor setting, and the characters’ reaction to being in that part of the story. The shape of the illustration is also more limited, and needs to be varied throughout. It was an interesting process.

What are your favourite art tools/mediums?
I love illustrating with line, and I felt brave enough to try the very traditional dip pen and ink for this book for the first time. It’s slightly unpredictable and does some great things with a big brush and just a little water. I also love drawing with charcoal, it has a life of its own, I think because it used to be twigs it is not a uniform material and can also be a bit unpredictable. I like how you can get a line that will move from delicate to strong with the slightest change in pressure.

How long did it take you to do the illustrations for Meet Eve in the Outback?
I think it was about 3 months, but I work part time. It was a 2 part process – I had to do ‘spot colour’ digitally, which I had never done before. Also nerve-wracking and I was very grateful that my friend, and brilliant author-illustrator James Foley, helped me. His knowledge of digital illustration is phenomenal. Mine is not!

Do you have a tip for budding illustrators?
So much of illustrating is about process. Find a process that you enjoy. In the beginning I would do every part of the process – character sketches (hundreds), visual research (how DO you draw a car graveyard, or a truck, a camel etc), storyboard, dummy, roughs, colour roughs, and final artwork. I still do most of those for each book. You really have to love the process, which also includes getting feedback from the publisher, or it all might be torture. It’s a bit of torture, here and there but worth it. I would also recommend playing a lot with style and materials.

Can you tell us a bit about your next creative project?
I have started writing again, which I haven’t done properly since I had children. I’m working on a book called Train Party which will be published with Penguin next year. It’s set at the miniature railway, and is a rhyming text. It was inspired by some toddler birthday parties I went to last year, including the son of my friend Briony Stewart, another incredible author-illustrator, and incredible train-cake maker! It’s such a fun experience that I think many generations of Australians have enjoyed, and I love the community aspect of the train-drivers sharing their trains with children. There’s heaps of visual research for this one, I am realising that I don’t know much about trains …

Meet Eve in the Outback is out now! Available from book stores and libraries. 


Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download an Aussie Kids series activity pack

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Meet Eve in the Outback.

Read our Q&A with Raewyn Caisley, the author of Meet Eve in the Outback

Watch Karen sketching & talking about her book creation (YouTube)

Visit Karen Blair’s website for more about her and her books. 

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Raewyn Caisley

MEET THE AUTHOR

Raewyn Caisley photoRaewyn Caisley was born in New Zealand but has lived in Western Australia for more than half her life. She’s the author of many, many books. You’ve probably read some of her books from the Aussie Bites and Nibbles titles, or perhaps her picture books Hello From Nowhere and Something Wonderful. Raewyn has two new books out in 2020 — Rocky and Louie (co-written with Phil Walleystack and illustrated by Dub Leffler), and Meet Eve in the Outback (illustrated by Karen Blair).

Today we’re chatting to Raewyn about Meet Eve in the Outback, part of  the new Aussie Kids junior fiction series.

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)

Hi! I’m Eve.
I live at a roadhouse in the Nullarbor. We don’t get many visitors. But today my cousin Will is coming. We’ll have so much fun!


Hello from Nowhere (cover)Eve is a character readers might remember from the picture book Hello from Nowhere. What was different writing about her for a junior fiction book?
Her personality had to change a tiny bit. Younger Eve wouldn’t have worried about Will not seeing the magic. She just assumed Nan would, (and of course she did), but older Eve knows a little bit more about the world. She knows Will has dolphins where he lives for example. Little Eve’s experience was only her own immediate surroundings.

Older Eve has had more experience of her own place too. She’s helped Doug with the chores on the sheep station and she is friends with Wally now. She knows about the space station and about telegraphs. It was important to include details bigger kids would be interested in.

Oh, and another thing! With junior fiction the words have to carry more of the story because there aren’t illustrations on every page but that meant I could really have fun describing all those new places, thoughts and people.

Were you in contact with the illustrator (Karen Blair) while you were writing Meet Eve in the Outback?
I wasn’t in contact with Karen while I was writing it and if she’d said ‘no’ or been too busy I would have been up the creek without a paddle. But I knew she’d love Wally …

Meet Eve in the Outback is part of a junior fiction series. Were you asked to write a particular story in the series, or did you come up with your own story ideas?
My publisher and I came up with the idea for the whole series together. I sent them this story. The original title was ‘Next to Nowhere’. They responded with, ‘What if we do a whole series of these set in all the different states and territories of Australia?’

It was a little bit of a bummer because I had five ideas for five books set out in the Nullarbor and starring Eve and Will, but being part of the Aussie Kids series has turned out really well. It’s the right series for the right time. When kids can’t get out and see Australia for themselves at least they can read about how other Aussie kids live and see our beautiful country on the pages of a book.

Do you have a tip for young writers about creating story characters?
My tip for creating characters is, decide what they’d have for breakfast! Would they cook? Would they grab a bowl of cereal? Would they spill the milk? Would there be any milk?! Would they gulp it down or would they set the table? Is there any cutlery? Has anyone done the washing up? Would they eat alone or with someone else? What time of day would they have it?

Once you know what your character would have for breakfast you probably know them well enough to start writing a story about them.

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?
My next writing project? I still want to do my own junior fiction series and I’ve got ideas for the first three. One is set in a doctor’s surgery, one is in a school, and one is set in an isolated community in the outback. More than that I cannot say … Watch this space …

Meet Eve in the Outback is out now! Available from book stores and libraries. 


AWESOME EXTRAS!

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)

Click here to download an Aussie Kids series activity pack

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Meet Eve in the Outback (PDF)

Visit Raewyn Caisley’s website for more about her and her books.

Read an earlier blogpost about the settings in Raewyn’s books.

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Sharon Giltrow

Sharon GiltrowMEET THE AUTHOR

Sharon Giltrow writes humorous picture books and adventure-filled chapter books. She lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children, a tom cat and a miniature dog.

Sharon’s debut picture book is available in May 2020. Today we’re chatting to Sharon about Bedtime, Daddy!, which is illustrated by Katrin Dreiling.

From the publisher:

Bedtime Daddy by Sharon Giltrow and Katrin DreilingHave you ever tried to put Daddy to bed? It can be hard work! Full of heart and humour, Bedtime, Daddy! is for anyone who wants to try putting their grown-up to bed.


You wrote the text for Bedtime, Daddy! and Katrin Dreiling is the illustrator. Do the illustrations match the story you had in your head when you were writing the book?
Katrin Dreiling has done a fantastic job. I was very happy and excited when I saw her first sketches.
EK Books (the publisher) asked her to do sketches of people and bears. When I first wrote Bedtime, Daddy! I pictured the characters as people, so I was very surprised when the publisher suggested bears. However, when Anouska – the editor – explained that bears would make a more universal family, I agreed. The rest of the illustrations match the story perfectly. Placing Daddy Bear in the office for the first page spread was Katrin’s idea. 😊 I only had one illustration note which was for the last page … but I don’t want to spoil the ending.

Favourite pyjamas to wear today vs favourite pyjamas to wear when you were a kid?
My favourite pyjamas as a kid were actually nighties and I used to keep them in a zippered pyjama bag which was a bit like this one. Puppy pyjama caseNow as Mummy Bear (aka: Bedtime Mummy!), my favourite pyjamas are my new dinosaur pyjamas. They are also Daddy Bear’s favourite pyjamas and my children have dinosaur pyjamas too.

Sharon and her two kids in pyjamas
Did you like to try to delay bedtime when you were a kid?
Most definitely! I was the youngest of eight children so my parents were a little more relaxed about bedtime. So, I used to fall asleep on the couch and my dad would carry me to bed. SShhhh!!! Don’t tell my children.

Can you tell us a bit about the book you’re working on next?
Well, my next book, which I hope will be published soon is called … Get Ready, Mummy! A sequel to Bedtime, Daddy! and you guessed it, it’s about how to get a mummy ready for the day. It starts with the line: ‘When you see your mummy roll over and open her eyes, announce, ‘Get Ready, Mummy!’

Do you have a tip for kids who would like to try writing a picture book themselves?
Be open to ideas. Ideas are all around you. Keep a notebook to write your ideas in. Once you have an idea, brainstorm it and then start writing. Don’t try and get it perfect the first time. Writing is like any skill it just takes practice. You can do it! Also, read lots of books!


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Bedtime Daddy a picture book by Sharon Giltrow with illustrations by Katrin Dreiling

Watch the book trailer for Bedtime, Daddy!

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Click here for a sneak peek inside the book

Visit Sharon Giltrow’s website to learn more about her and her books.

***WIN a copy of Bedtime, Daddy! ***

This competition has now closed and the winner has been contacted by email. 

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Elaine Forrestal

MEET THE AUTHOR

Elaine Forrestal is a Western Australian author who grew up in Australian country towns and now travels all over the world. Her award-winning books have been published internationally and translated into other languages.

Elaine Forrestal
Elaine Forrestal, author of Goldfields Girl

Elaine’s latest book is Goldfields Girl, set during the Gold Rush in Coolgardie, Western Australia.

From the publisher:

Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal (book cover)It’s 1892. Amid a fevered gold rush, 14-year-old Clara Saunders is in search of adventure in the new outback town of Coolgardie.

A friendship with cheeky young water carter Jack is a promising start, but the goldfields are a harsh place, where water is scarce, disease is common and where many men will never find the fortune they’ve come to seek.

With unforeseen tragedies on the horizon, Clara’s time in the dusty town will truly test the limits of her fierceness and determination.

How did you first hear of Clara Saunders and decide to write a story based on her life? Was Clara a relative?
We were almost at the end of the editing stage of the book before I knew that my sister-in-law’s husband is Clara Saunder’s grandson! So that’s obviously not why I chose to write about her. I was researching ‘children on the goldfields’ because I wanted to write a goldfields story, but felt that so many stories had already been written about it that I needed a new angle. Clara was the only child I found. Because of the harsh conditions —like lack of water and food, only tents to live in, heat, dust and flies — the women and children mostly stayed at home.

How did you go about your research for Goldfields Girl?
I tried Google first. Then I went to the Battye Library (on the 3rd floor of the State Library of WA). I felt like a detective because she wasn’t easy to find. And when I found the transcript of her ‘Memories’ I was so excited I virtually danced around the Library Reading Room. The librarian was a bit shocked.

How long did it take you to write the book?
It took about two years to write the book, then another two years to find the right publisher and go through all the usual editing and rewriting stages.

Did you have to leave anything out of the book?
I have only told the story of Clara’s life from 1892 to 1894, so I have left a lot out. but I didn’t change any of the facts — just added some dialogue to make the story more interesting to read.

How do you come up with the titles for your books?
I am hopeless with titles. I’ve lost count of how many Goldfields Girl had. I usually change them myself a couple of times, then the marketing team doesn’t like the one I have come up with so we work on it together. They know a whole lot more about what works for readers and bookshops, so I’m usually happy to go with what they suggest in the end.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write stories based on real-life events?
You do need to do a lot of careful research when you base your story on real events. But I love doing the research. It’s fascinating to read about how people lived back then. I usually find out a lot more than I need to know, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get to use some of it in another book down the track.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to read a sample chapter Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal (book cover)(thanks to Fremantle Press)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Click here for a Goldfield’s Girl crossword activity

Click here to see two 1894 photos of Clara Saunders (in a blog post by Elaine Forrestal)

Visit Elaine Forrestal’s website to find out more about her and her books: www.elaineforrestal.com.au/

Goldfields Girl is out now in bookstores and libraries!

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Cristy Burne

Cristy Burne disguisedMEET THE AUTHOR

Cristy Burne is a science writer and children’s author. You might have read her adventure novels To the Lighthouse and Off the Track. If you love reading nonfiction keep an eye out for Zeroes and Ones: The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history.

Cristy Burne’s brilliant award-winning Takeshita Demons series has recently been re-released as a series of e-books with new covers and a new series title: Hashimoto Monsters. Today we’re chatting with Cristy about the series! 


Your Hashimoto Monsters series is quite different in style from your other junior fiction novels. What sort of readers will love this series?
These books are full of supernatural monsters, creepy chills and Japanese culture. They are scary, but they’re also funny and a little bit strange. They’re popular with kids who love fantasy adventure stories.  I’d say if you’re aged between eight and twelve and you like the Goosebumps series, you’ll like to read these.

Hashimoto Monsters series by Cristy Burne

Why Japanese monsters? Did you read a lot of horror/scary books as a child?
I get scared VERY easily and I can’t watch scary movies, but I love action and adventure. And I *love* Japanese monsters. I lived for three years in Japan and studied Japanese monsters for even longer after that.

Japanese monsters aren’t always monstrous. Some are kind, some are sad, some are strange (like the one that sneaks up behind you to invisibly touch the back of your neck), some are insanely happy (like the Laughing Woman who just doesn’t stop laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing … which is a bit creepy, now that I think of it.)

Which is your favourite monster/demon? Why?
I love the aka-na-me, which translates directly to “Filth Licker”. This is the monster you really want for a friend. He’s loves to clean, so you don’t have to. In Japanese mythology, he comes out at night to lick dirty bathrooms till they sparkle … Seriously, could there be any better creature?

In my books, he also cleans laundries, kitchens, dirty faces, you name it. Plus his super-sensitive tongue can taste out clues. He’s like a detective in a frog’s skin.

I also love Betobeto-san, or “Mr Footsteps”. He’s Japan’s answer to that spooky feeling you sometimes get that you’re being followed. Because … drumroll … you ARE being followed. By Betobeto-san. The good news is Betobeto-san is a sort of oversized, invisible marshmallow on legs. He eats the sound of your footsteps (and then spits it out again), but he’s quite shy and not at all dangerous.

Cristy ... and headDo you have any tips for kids who want to write horror/scary stories?
Scary stories are scariest when you don’t let the reader know what’s coming next. So if there’s a zombie in the next room, don’t give away that information too early. Instead, drop little clues … Slow the action right down. Describe little details, so every creak and every moan, every scent and every sensation invades your reader’s mind. And let your character’s imagination run wild too… What we worry about and imagine might happen is often worse than what actually happens.

And most of all … have fun! Scary stories are so much fun to write because it’s fun to scare ourselves. Ghost story, anyone?

What is your current writing project (or what you might like to tackle next)? Can you tell us a bit about it?
I’m working on an authorised biography of Dr Fiona Wood, who is an incredibly inspiring person. She’s a doctor, a burns surgeon, the inventor of ‘spray-on skin’, and was Australian of the Year in 2005.

It is such an honour to work with Fiona on this book, and to learn about her life when she was a kid. Why did she decide to become a doctor? What was she like at school? What was it like to grow up on the coal mines of England and go on to become a famous Australian hero?

I’m also working on another adventure story for Fremantle Press (and this one’s going to have platypus, flash floods and lots and lots of LEECHES!), plus a fantasy-meets-science series I’m co-authoring with Denis Knight, called Wednesday Weeks.

So I’m super busy, but I try not to get overwhelmed. I just try to do little bits on each project each day.

Cristy Burne
Cristy Burne

AWESOME EXTRAS:

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the author: Gabrielle Wang

Gabrielle Wang, photo by Daniel Mahon
Gabrielle Wang

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.


Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter by Gabrielle WangAWESOME EXTRAS:

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:

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!