authors, interviews

Deb Fitzpatrick and Ajay Rane: Global crusader for women’s health

Deb Fitzpatrick writes for adults, young adults and children. She loves using stories from real life in her novels and regularly teaches creative writing to people of all ages. Deb lived in a shack in Costa Rica for four years where she became accustomed – well, almost – to orange-kneed tarantulas walking through her house, and sloths and spider-monkeys swinging in the trees outside.

Today we’re chatting about her latest book – Ajay Rane.

From the publisher:

Professor Ajay Rane is the Director of Urogynaecology at Townsville University Hospital and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at James Cook University (JCU). Ajay has devoted his research and practice to treating women with severe childbirth injuries in the some of the world’s poorest countries.


How did you go about your research for the book?

First, I found every single article, interview and photo of Professor Rane online and printed it all out. As I read, I highlighted everything of interest. I had a big A4 notebook with me, which I filled with the most important information, best quotes and snippets from his life, and I tried to arrange the information in sensible ‘batches’, so that I could keep the huge amount of info manageable and sort-of orderly!

Then, once I felt I was across everything that was available about him in the public realm, I phoned Ajay and we had a lovely chat. I was SO nervous. He was SO lovely. And I asked him if I could start sending him questions about his life via email. Each email had about ten questions for him, and in asking these questions I was trying to fill in the gaps and ‘colour in’ the bits I didn’t know much about.

Despite being one of the busiest humans on the planet, Ajay was so patient and answered every single question, every time. He was an absolute champion to work with. 

Was writing a biography/nonfiction book very different compared to writing your fiction novels?

Writing Ajay’s story was certainly different in some ways to writing one of my novels, because there was an existing storyline I had to follow. And frankly, that was a relief!! As a fiction author, I’m used to having to make everything up, and that can be exhausting! So this was wonderful. Having said that, because Ajay Rane is a narrative non-fiction, there are many scenes in the book which I essentially did make up. The books are designed to read like novels, even though they are about a real person’s life, so all the dialogue, for example, is made up, based on what I understood about Ajay and his life. And, of course, Ajay read every single word and  I asked him to tell me if he felt anything wasn’t right. We were very careful to make sure everything felt true to life.

When you’re writing a nonfiction book requiring research, how do you know when it’s time to stop researching and begin writing?

Ha ha, well, deadlines help in that regard! I had four months to write this book and I can tell you it’s the quickest I have ever written any book! But once I had read everything I could lay my hands on, and chatted with Ajay, and seen photos of him as a child with his family, then I felt it was time to begin actually writing. And that was fun. Because, by that point, I realised how incredible this story was, and I was itching to share it with readers.

Ajay Rane is part of the Aussie STEM Stars series. What’s your favourite subject area when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths?

I would have to say science, particularly conservation biology. This is an area I’ve long been interested in and is very close to my heart. Did you know that feral cats eat about two billion animals a year in Australia? Reptiles, birds, frogs, mammals … it’s heartbreaking. It’s an incomprehensible number. The work that conservation biologists do to protect our native fauna is critical. We have seen animals literally brought back from the brink of extinction due to their incredible work.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?

I always have a few manuscripts on the go! I have a children’s picture book text that I’ve been working on for a while and a junior fiction novel that I’m just editing at the moment before my agent sends it out. Of course, I hope very much that I’ll be able to talk to you about one or both of those books sometime in the near future!

Ajay Rane is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Image shows the cover of a children's book: Ajay Rane, Global Crusader for Women's health by Deb Fitzpatrick. The cover illustration shows a hand drawn illustration of Prof Ajay Rane standing in blue hospital scrubs with hands on his hips and a stethoscope around his neck. Ajay has brown skin, short dark hair and wears glasses. Around him are doodle style drawings of the symbol for woman, a pelvis from a skeleton, and a glowing light bulb.

Find out more about the Aussie STEM Stars series here.

Find out more about Deb Fitzpatrick and her books: visit her website!

Book reviews by Joshua, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Eddie Woo, Superstar Maths Teacher

REVIEWED BY JOSHUA, 12, NSW

Eddie Woo Superstar Maths Teacher story told by Rebecca Lim

Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher by Rebecca Lim, Wild Dingo Press, ISBN 9781925893403

Wild Dingo Press provided a review copy of this book.

Eddie Woo, the award winning mathematics teacher, has an intriguing past with lots of surprises. 

But was he always a superstar mathematician when he was young?

‘Catch you later,’ one of the boys hissed over his shoulder at where Eddie lay face down on the ground.

‘Drop you later, you mean!’ another one hooted over Eddie’s head.

Eddie Woo was one of the few Asian kids in his primary school. He was bullied for his short stature. Being known for studying didn’t help either. He had a lot of allergies and eczema which caused him to itch, only to be seen as a distraction in class by his teachers, who sent him to the principal’s office. He felt like no-one cared about him and he was neglected at school. He knew he was left out and overlooked, especially by his teachers. However, he always got high marks in English and History. 

What happened to Eddie that changed him from a victim of bullying to becoming a superstar mathematics teacher? Find out in Rebecca Lim’s captivating biography of Eddie Woo’s life. 

This is one of the most engaging biographies I’ve read because it is filled with surprises. Eddie shows his achievements and also his times of trouble. Throughout the book, you learn about Eddie’s emotions, feelings, thoughts and faith in God. Not only that, Eddie shows a few mathematical diagrams in the back of his book that emphasises how mathematics is everywhere in nature.

I rate this book 5 out of 5.

Read our earlier interview with the author of this book, Rebecca Lim.


Joshua is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. Read his 2020 review of Worse Things here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by Gabriel, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Gisela Kaplan, bird and primate scientist

REVIEWED BY GABRIEL, 10, NSW

Gisela Kaplan Bird and primate scientist, story told by Emily Gale (book cover)

Gisela Kaplan, Bird and Primate Scientist by Emily Gale, Wild Dingo Press, ISBN 9781925893465

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

How did Gisela Kaplan, a young German survivor of WWII become a world-leading expert in the behaviour of animals?

This book is a biography of Gisela Kaplan written by Emily Gale. Gisela Kaplan had a hard life in Germany after the Second World War. Then after she immigrated to Australia, the book shows how other people helped her along in her career as she played a role in primate and bird science. In addition, there are notes to help explain words you don’t understand.

When she arrives in Australia what jobs could she take? How did she learn a second language, and how does she support her daughter? Read Aussie STEM Stars Gisela Kaplan to find out more and all the answers to these questions!

I like this book and for me, it is five-star rated because it shows an emotional story of immigration. It also shows how much practice has to go into work till you can fulfil your dream, as you can see how she consistently worked away from home, in the work field.   

This book would be for ages ten and up to read by themselves although most children from the age of six to ten can read with someone to help the children understand. Go grab a copy of this amazing book either online or hard copy.

Read a sample chapter from this book

Read our interview with the author


Gabriel is a regular book reviewer at Alphabet Soup. You can read more of his reviews here.

authors, interviews

Claire Saxby on Georgia Ward-Fear: Reptile biologist and explorer

Claire Saxby MEET THE AUTHOR

Claire Saxby writes novels, picture books, nonfiction and poetry for children. Her books are published all around the world. This month she launches a new nonfiction book Georgia Ward-Fear: Reptile biologist and explorer, which is Book 2 in the new Aussie STEM Stars series.

From the publisher:

 Georgia Ward-Fear’s conservation journey has seen her travel the world, empower young girls to become environmental leaders, and carry out trailblazing work to save native animals from the threat of cane toads.

An inspiring story of an adventurous spirit whose love of the natural world has made her a STEM superstar.   

Georgia Ward-Fear Reptile Biologist and Explorer

On with the questions!


You’ve written fiction and nonfiction books and poetry on a variety of subjects. Do you have a favourite nonfiction subject to write about?
It seems impossible to have a favourite when there is so many interesting things to explore. Sometimes I write what I’m in the mood to write (and I’m just the same when reading … sometimes serious, sometimes curious, sometimes silly), but mostly the idea dictates the form. I had a story I really wanted to write as a picture book but it JUST WOULDN’T FIT! So eventually I gave in and wrote it as a novel (and it took forever!), but it was right. I’ve learned to follow where the idea leads.

Your latest book is part of Aussie STEM Stars – a new series for kids celebrating Australia’s experts in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. Had you met Dr Georgia Ward-Fear before you began writing the book?
Georgia and I were paired by the publisher at Wild Dingo Press. We’d not met before. I’d never heard of her before. But she’s just fabulous, and was so generous with her time and her … life! I had to ask all sorts of questions and she trusted that I would know which bits to put in, which bits belonged just to our chats.

How did you go about your research for writing the book?
Firstly, I scoured the internet for information about Georgia. Fortunately, she’s done some things that make her interesting to newspapers and television so I could get to know her a little bit through them. Then I read many of her papers and articles. By then she was already my hero for teaching goannas NOT to eat cane toads. Then I emailed her and we started chatting. Every answer she gave me led to more questions. We met once in person and had some phone conversations. Once I started writing I had more questions! Curiosity was my friend.

What’s different about sitting down to write a fiction and sitting down to write nonfiction?
Georgia is a real person living a real life. She has real family and real friends. I have to be sure that I’m being true to her story. I can make up some things, for example I invented an encounter with a mob of wallabies behind her house, but although I couldn’t 100% be sure it DID happen, I knew enough about Georgia to know it COULD have happened. In a fiction story, I can follow any direction my imagination takes me, as long as I can convince my readers. But both need structure, clear language, and lots of rewrites!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
Next year is going to be a busy one. I have three picture books coming out early in the year and there could be another longer work, but I don’t have a firm date on that. The picture books are all related to the ocean. One is funny (Treasure), one is really cool (Iceberg), and the third is thrilling (Great White Shark). I love the ocean, can you tell?


Georgia Ward-Fear Reptile Biologist and ExplorerAWESOME EXTRAS

Visit Claire Saxby’s website for more about her and her books.

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Dungzilla

Dungzilla book cover by James FoleyREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

Dungzilla by James Foley, Fremantle Press,
ISBN 9781925164831

Matilda received a review copy from the publisher.

Sally has a new invention — a resizenator, which can make things smaller … or bigger. It seems like a great idea at first, but when her friend Charli’s dung beetle gets in the way, things get a bit more complicated.

Dungzilla is a quick-to-read, funny graphic novel, with a hilarious plot. Sally is a quirky girl with lots of passion for inventing, but somehow things always seem to go wrong. The illustrations really grab the reader (and I particularly like the diagram pages).

This is the second graphic novel James Foley has written about Sally Tinker (the first one was Brobot). I would recommend this book for lovers of graphic novels, budding inventors, and fans of toilet humour. It is great for ages 6+.

Read an earlier interview with the author-illustrator, James Foley.


Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. 

Happy reading!