All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is Aleesah Darlison, author of many books including the Totally Twins series and new series, Unicorn Riders.
1. Where do you like to write?
I usually write in my study where it’s quiet and cosy and where I can display photos, posters and props, etc about what I’m writing about.
2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?
A book I read recently—The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths. Very funny.
3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?
Totally Twins is a new series for girls. The first book in the series, Musical Mayhem, was released in September 2010. The author, Aleesah Darlison, is taking Musical Mayhem on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of the book, and she arranged for us to interview a character from the series—Portia. You can get to know Portia’s twin, Persephone, on another stop on the tour.
But now, let’s meet Portia.
Your twin sister, Persephone, keeps a diary. Do you keep a diary too?
No. Not yet, but seeing Perse have so much fun with her diary sure makes me want one too! I’m usually kept pretty busy with school and ballet practice but maybe I’ll ask Mum to splurge on a new diary for me. I can’t let Perse have all the fun!
What’s the best thing about having a twin sister?
Having someone you can always, always rely on.
What’s the worst thing about having a twin sister?
Having to share a birthday—every year. But at least Mum lets us have our own cakes.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Fun, friendly, fabulous, fashionable and … FUNKY!
Perse is a sensible, sensitive, shy, serious and super sister! But don’t tell her I said that, it might go to her head.
If you found $20 lying on the ground, how would you spend it?
I’d buy some pink-iced cupcakes for Perse and me (chocolate for her, vanilla for me)—but don’t tell Mum because she’s dead against high sugar food. I’d also buy some new jewellery and magazines.
Today we welcome Aleesah Darlison to talk about her books, and what being a writer is like!
What do you like most about being a writer?
Sharing my stories with other people. Creating characters and scenes and settings, becoming lost in other worlds and playing make believe just to see where it can take me. And I just adore working with illustrators, having them bring my story to life in a way I never could because I can only draw stick figures.
Are there any downsides to being a writer?
Having to do everything on your own, like marketing your book, organising events and managing your money. As a writer, you’re basically running a business so you have to wear lots of different hats. It isn’t easy switching from one thing to another and it’s hard to find the time to do everything. Luckily, I don’t need much sleep and I’m super efficient!
What brought you to write your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and I wrote lots of books (that were never published) as an adult. I would work during the day and write at night. When I decided to make writing a proper career four years ago, I chose to write for children because I had two of my own. They gave me lots of ideas for stories and I also used memories and experiences from my own childhood to write other stories.
Was it easy to get your first book published?
The first novel for children that I wrote, Rodeo Brumby, was about a brumby horse named Racer, who is captured and sold into the rodeo. I really, really loved writing that story and I still believe in it with all of my heart, but it hasn’t been taken up by a publisher yet. Maybe one day.
Since then, I have had other books accepted for publication, though. The first one to come out is Puggle’s Problem, which is a picture book. I had to do lots of drafts of the story before it was ready to be sent off to publishers. After several years and several rejections, Wombat Books, said they wanted to publish it. More redrafting followed before the book was finally ready to be printed. So, I would have to say it isn’t easy getting any book published, but it’s certainly worth all the hard work.
Of your own books, which is your favourite?
I love them all! Each one is different and special in its own right. I believe in each character and story and theme or issue that I’m writing about. Every book has a story behind it and takes a long time to make just right. Puggle’s Problem is special to me because it’s about a gorgeous puggle, a baby echidna, and it’s my first ever picture book. My series for girls aged 9+, Totally Twins, which will be out in September, is special because it’s funny and quirky. It’s illustrated, too (by Serena Geddes), so it has a little added bonus for readers. Totally Twins is about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. I always wanted to have an identical twin when I was a kid, so writing Totally Twins was a way for me to live out a childhood fantasy – finally!
Are you working on a book/project at the moment?
I’m working on a few new projects, including a humorous picture book about an accidentally adventurous spider named Iggy.
Did you have a favourite children’s book when you were growing up?
I read loads of books when I was a kid. I actually used to get in trouble for reading so much! My favourite books were from the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Even now I’m older I read loads of kids’ books. One of my favourite authors is Victor Kelleher and one of my favourite picture book illustrators/authors is Bruce Whatley.
Do you have any advice for young writers?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Don’t be afraid to share your work with other people – how they react to your stories will teach you how to write better stories. Ask your parents to take you to see as many authors and illustrators as you can so you can learn what it’s like to be one.
Welcome to day 2 of the celebrations for the launch of the Undercover Readers Club! Today Aleesah Darlison is visiting to talk to us about reading undercover. She has two books due out in 2010 – a picture book, Puggle’s Problem (out July), and junior novel, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem (out September).
Lights Out – Aleesah Darlison
I have a bad habit, I confess. I love reading in bed. Some people read in bed to make themselves sleepy, to help them drift off into Dreamland. But I read in bed to stay awake, knowing that if I start a book, I won’t be able to stop until I’ve finished it.
As it gets later and later and I get further and further through the book, I just can’t put it down. I can’t bear the thought of waiting the next day or the next or worse – the next – to see what will happen. Even at the expense of getting huge, black bags under my eyes, I have to finish the book!
It’s always been this way, ever since I started reading at the age of four. Look in my photo album and you’ll see shots of me, very young, reading to kids in the neighbourhood. My kindergarten teacher used to get terrible migraines and would often have to lie down in the sick bay next to our classroom. I went to school in a tiny country town in the seventies. We weren’t big on substitute teachers back then and my teacher would leave me in charge of the classroom to read to everyone until she was feeling better. I remember this very clearly.
My favourite bedtime reading when I was very little were Golden Books. Stories like, The Poky Little Puppy, and The Most Beautiful Tree in the World, a tale about a huge pine tree that gets chopped down to become a Christmas tree. As I grew older, I loved C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Enid Blyton was another favourite, especially her Magic Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series. Older still, I fell in love with the English classics, like Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion) and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). But my all-time favourite classic novelist was Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby). Even today, my bookshelves are full of his works.
I grew up in the country, so we were expected to play and do chores outside a lot of the time. Being inside reading a book was seen as a luxury, as time-wasting, and I was often told to ‘Get your head out of that book!’.
I wrote a lot, too. Mostly silly, soppy poems that would be far too embarrassing to show to anyone. I wrote them on yellow note paper and kept them in a red folder. Reading and writing into the small hours was a regular past time of mine. In our tiny house, my parents knew exactly what I was up to and could tell if I had the light on too late, so I would wait until they had gone to sleep, then secretly read or write by torchlight under my covers.
I got caught a few times and was always told to turn the light off. Immediately, or else! Then I’d go to sleep, imagining all sorts of story developments and twists. Then, in the morning, as soon as it was light, my eyes would ping open, I’d pick up my book and, still in bed, I’d start reading where I left off. An early morning read snuggled up in bed is just as good as a late night one, after all.
If I had a lights out curfew today, I would still sneak books into bed. Especially in winter, when it’s so delightfully naughty to curl up in a toasty bed and read, read, read. The books I would read in bed these days are Kate Forsyth’s The Wildkin’s Curse, Jackie French’s Hitler’s Daughter, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Sandy Fussell’s Jaguar Warrior, and David Grimstone’s Gladiator Boy series. Just to name a few.
Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)! If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!