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!

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

I Would Dangle the Moon: an interview with Amber Moffat

Amber MoffattMEET THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR

Amber Moffatt is a writer and visual artist based in Perth, Western Australia. If you live in WA and you’ve been to the AH Bracks library in Melville you might have been lucky enough to see her illustrations decorating the windows for Book Week 2019! Amber recently launched her first picture book, I Would Dangle the Moon, in Western Australia and in New Zealand. She regularly runs art workshops for children inspired by the artwork from the book.

What would you do if you could pluck the moon from the sky? Would you scoop it up in an ice cream cone, or ride it like a snail shell across the night sky? This picture book will spark your imagination. 

Today Amber Moffat stops by to chat to Alphabet Soup about creating I Would Dangle the Moon.


I would dangle the moon by Amber MoffatYou’re an author AND an illustrator. When you were creating I Would Dangle the Moon, which came first – the words or the illustrations?
The words came first, but I did have a sense of the images in my mind too. The idea of a snail taking the moon for its shell and slithering across the night sky was the seed the story grew from.

How long did it take you to go from the story idea to the published book?
It took a really long time – three years! The initial text was developed quite quickly but it took a much longer time to develop the storyboard and find the right style of illutstration. I was really lucky to have author and illustrator Briony Stewart as my mentor for a year, and that helped me get the concept ready to submit to publishers. From when my publisher, MidnightSun Publishing, contracted me, it took nine months to complete the final artwork for the illustrations.

What have you been reading recently?
I’ve been enjoying Trouble in the Surf, written by Stephanie Owen Reeder and illustrated by Briony Stewart. The way Briony has used colour in the illustrations is really beautiful, and I keep going back to it to admire her technique.

When you’re doing illustration work, what’s your favourite medium?
Acrylic paint is definitely my preferred medium. I like the way it dries fast and you can paint over it easily. I also like to be able to scan images and alter them digitally. I often use computer editing to piece different paintings together and play with scale and composition.

Are you able to tell us something about your next writing project?
The picture book I’m currently working on explores the science of light, and it’s been a new experience for me to convey scientific ideas in the form of a picture book. I am also working on a novel for young adults, in which medical science is important to the story, so that seems to be a theme for me at the moment.

Amber reading with some helpers at the book launch
Amber Moffat (with some helpers) at the book launch.

I would dangle the moon by Amber MoffatAwesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

Click here for a little peek at some of the illustrations from the book.

Click here to read a review of I Would Dangle the Moon (review by Anishka, age 9)

Click here to visit Amber Moffat’s website.

I Would Dangle the Moon is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.

Posted in illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Aśka

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

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 Aśka.

Aśka in a purple shirt pressing a big red NO button

Aśka is an illustrator and science communicator. She has a degree in Arts and Quantum Physics and works at Scitech in Perth — as well as working with kids’ product design, graphic novels, animation, graphic design and e-publishing. Phew!

Last week Sian Turner asked:

Wow! You have travelled to some amazingly diverse and interesting places, Aśka.

I understand that these experiences have been a rich source of inspiration for your art. Can you elaborate on some of your favourite travel destinations? How have you found that these places have influenced your creativity?


Aśka answers:

I’ve never really thought about how different places I’ve travelled to and lived in have influenced my work. It is an interesting thing to ponder.

I have had a go at studying different forms of art in different places. For example, when I was staying in Thailand I learned Chinese painting. It is an art form where no pencils are allowed, and there is no erasing or undoing what you have done. You make marks with a chunky paintbrush on the thin rice paper to create an image and if you make a mistake you need to start all over again! Even though I don’t paint so much anymore, I still find this practice very useful as it requires commitment and confidence when drawing, which I believe shows up in your work as an illustrator, no matter what technique you use.

But it’s not just learning local techniques which can change the way you draw. It’s also observation. Certainly every location looks different and this isn’t just in art, but in the most everyday situations. For example, the way a yoghurt aisle looks in the supermarket, or the image of the green and red person for pedestrians at traffic lights. It quickly becomes apparent that each place in the world uses images in a slightly different way. Like the cute and perfectly made mascots of uniformed woman and man in front of a Tokyo police station, to the playful and roughly hand painted shopfronts of Accra.

So through travel and seeing so many different ways in which people live, I started to think about how important these visual elements are when creating my own characters and settings.

After all, every new adventure we have, big or small, expands our way of seeing the details in our world a little more. And the details are where I believe the true magic of the world lies.

Check out Aśka’s website where you can find artwork, mini comics, download free ebooks, teachers’ notes and more! www.askaillustration.com/


Swimming on the lawn by Yasmin HamidAnd now Aśka passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Yasmin Hamid. Yasmin grew up in East Africa and now lives in Western Australia. Her book — Swimming on the Lawn — was published in 2017.

Aśka asks:

To someone like me, who grew up among grey blocks of flats in Eastern Europe, your childhood sounds absolutely fearless. Was there ever anything that you were afraid of? How did you overcome that fear?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

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Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Jen Storer

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

Our Pass the Book Baton series took a break for the spring school holidays … and now it’s back! Every Friday we’ll feature a book creator who answers one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) You can see earlier interviews in the series here.

You might remember that we left Tamsin Janu with the book baton in September. Today she passes the baton to Jen Storer. Welcome, Jen!

Jen Storer

Jen Storer writes … she illustrates … and she has so many novels and picture books behind her! Her writing features humour, adventure, and sometimes horror.

Here are just some of her books:

Last month Tamsin Janu asked:

What is the absolute best thing about being a children’s author? What aspects of writing do you find the most challenging?


Jen answers:

The best thing about writing for kids is meeting my readers! I love chatting to them in real life or via the post or email. I love seeing them dressed up as my characters, too, or when they use phrases my characters use.

I also love hearing from the parents of readers. Sometimes the letters from parents make me cry. A parent wrote to thank me for The Accidental Princess, it had comforted her daughter while she was dangerously ill and in hospital for a long time. Another parent wrote to say Clarrie Pig’s Day Out was the only story that calmed down her little boy after he’d had a terrible fright and would not come out from under his doona. These letters always amaze me. They’re the unexpected rewards that I hold dear.

I find the actual writing the most challenging aspect of being an author. I always want to do other stuff instead of sitting down and doing the writing! I have to bribe myself with chocolate.

For more about Jen Storer and her books — check out her website: girlandduck.com


The Spectacular Spencer Gray by Deb Fitzpatrick

And now Jen passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Deb Fitzpatrick. Deb has published books for adults, teenagers, and children. Her latest book is The Spectacular Spencer Gray.

Jen asks:
“How long do you spend planning a book before you start writing it? Also, do you put people or animals you know into your stories? 

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (You can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Tom Jellett

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

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 we are extra excited about the book baton being passed to Tom Jellett. Instead of running with it … he started illustrating … keep reading for his illustrated answer (and question) below!

Tom has been the editorial illustrator for a number of Australian newspapers, is the illustrator of many wonderful picture books, and has also illustrated some of your favourite chapter books.

Here are just some of the books he has illustrated:

Last week Danny Parker asked:
If you could swap your skills as an illustrator for the skills of another art form — what would you want to swap with and why?
And who or what has been the biggest influence on your work — you have such a distinctive style — I’m looking at My Dad Thinks He’s Funny as i write this!

How did you come up with your ‘look’?


Tom Jellett replies:

Illustrations copyright Tom Jellett 2017. I love being an illustrator but if there was one other artform I love just as much ... it would be music. It means a lot to me and I listen to it all the time. But making music is a mystery to me. I would love to play in a band - if they needed a triangle player. I get influenced and inspired by a lot of stuff, a lot of the time, from every week in magazines like The New Yorker to contemporary picture books by new illustrators here and overseas as well as the classics I grew up with.

Check out Tom Jellett’s website for more about him and his books: tomjellett.com


Blossom by Tamsin JanuAnd now Tom Jellett passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Tamsin Janu. Tamsin is the author of Figgy in the World, its sequel — Figgy and the President, and a new book called Blossom.

Tom asks:
What comes first, story or characters? (Illustration copyright Tom Jellett 2017)

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators.

Happy Book Week!

Illustrations in this post are copyright Tom Jellett 2017.

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Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Peter Carnavas

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

Our Pass the Book Baton series took a break for the winter school holidays … and now it’s back! Every Friday we’ll feature a book creator who answers one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) You can see earlier interviews in the series here.

The Elephant

 

You might remember that we left Katrina Germein with the book baton in June. Today she passes the baton to Peter Carnavas.

Peter Carnavas is an award-winning author-illustrator. His picture books have been translated into German, Portuguese, Dutch, Korean, Slovenian, Arabic, Italian and more!

His latest book is a novel called  The Elephant.  It’s about a girl called Olive, and an unwelcome elephant that nobody else can see …

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You might recognise some of these books:

Back in Term 2, Katrina Germein asked:
Sometimes you write, sometimes you illustrate and sometimes you write and illustrate. What’s the hardest thing about being so talented?


Peter Carnavas photoPeter replies:
Thanks for the (slightly embarrassing) question, Katrina.

It’s true that I write and illustrate, sometimes making books by myself, sometimes working with another author or illustrator. The hardest thing about this is I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do! It takes a long time to make a book – months and months, sometimes over a year — and I have lots of little ideas that will never escape my head.

That’s not a very hard thing, though. There are lots of jobs that are much harder than making books. The most difficult thing, really, is trying to get my hand to draw the picture that I can see in my head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s also hard trying to finish a book on time. It’s just like handing a school project into your teacher, except I hand mine into a publisher. I often reach my deadline and have to write an email to the publisher begging for a little bit more time to finish the pictures!

For more about Peter Carnavas and his books — check out his website.


Secrets and Spells by Aleesah DarlisonAnd now Peter Carnavas passes the baton to the next visitor — Aleesah Darlison, author of picture books, novels and series.

Peter asks:
You have written many different types of stories: picture books, funny stories, adventure stories, and books about the importance of looking after animals. Which stories do you enjoy writing the most, and is there a type of story you haven’t tried, but would love to?”

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators.

See you next week!

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Posted in illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Gabriel Evans

PASS THE BOOK BATON

Gabriel EvansIt’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 Gabriel Evans. He has illustrated over twenty books and designed over a hundred greeting cards, painted large gallery artwork, and travelled across Australia presenting illustration workshops and seminars in schools and festivals.

Here are some of the books he’s illustrated:

Last week Sue Whiting asked:
What would you do differently in terms of the development of your career as an illustrator if you had your time over again?

Gabriel answers:
It has been an absolute pleasure working with Sue during her time at Walker Books.

If I was to have my time again I would definitely experiment more with my art. I was always trying to make perfect, beautiful pictures that limited my experimentation.

It’s only in recent years I take enormous pleasure and satisfaction from making risks and discovering new, creative systems. That means using BIG brushes, spray bottles, palette knives, goose feathers, cardboard, fingers, sticks and anything else I can think of.

It’s all about learning through creative, messy fun!

Find out more about Gabriel Evans and his books and art — visit his website!


Meet MarlyAnd now Gabriel passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Alice Pung. Alice writes books for a range of ages. You might have read her Marly books from the Our Australian Girl series.

Gabriel asks:
“You’re both a solicitor and author. How do you balance these two jobs? Is there a connection between the two?”

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. 

See you next week!