I hope you’ve had a great Easter break. I’ve been in Noosa – paddling, swimming, catching up with friends and doing some writing (I promise).
I’ve had some questions about my books over the holidays, so I thought it was a good chance to wrap up the story so far …
A QUICK SUMMARY
I have written eleven books for children and young adults. My books include the Hazard River series (Shark Frenzy, Tiger Terror, Bat Attack, Snake Surprise, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money.) for young adventure lovers, How to Get to Rio and The Call of the Wild (part of the Choose Your Own Ever After series) that let readers decide how the story goes. I’ve also written three books for young adults: Tall, Dark and Distant, Lust and Found and Counterfeit Love. The latest is about an ambitious young television reporter trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong and was inspired by my own time in Asia.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was born in Mackay, North Queensland and grew up in Brisbane. I loved swimming and nature. I spent a lot of time exploring my local creeks and poking around the rock pools on Moreton Bay’s many islands. I hoped one day to become a vet, but I realised somewhere along the way that I was too squeamish for that, so I studied Journalism at QUT and became a news reporter instead. I worked in Australia, Hong Kong and London, covering all sorts of stories and exploring the world, gathering ideas that would eventually turn into books.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH FICTION?
My first book was inspired by a family holiday on the Noosa River in Queensland. My two sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer dodging stingrays, exploring the bush and building secret camps. I had to write about it.
I had no experience in writing fiction for children, but I had spent a decade working as a television news reporter in Australia, Hong Kong and London. I rather naively thought that this would see me through, but it turned out I had a lot to learn. My children, who were five and eight at the time, set me straight when my writing got too newsy!
By the end of the summer I had written a series of books about a gang of kids holidaying on Hazard River, coming up against rogue fishermen, smugglers and dodgy developers. The stories were full of fun and adventure, with a subtle message about threatened wildlife. My kids loved them. I just hoped that I could find a publisher who felt the same way.
A year or so later I met Ford Street Publishing’s Paul Collins at a book launch. I used the opportunity to subtly sidle up to Paul and pitch my books. (Paul tells a different version – apparently I was rather pushy!) A month later I had a four-book contract. Less than two years later Ford Street Publishing had released six books in the Hazard River series – Shark Frenzy, Tiger Terror, Bat Attack, Snake Surprise, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST BOOKS.
My most recent books are for girls. I’ve written two stories for the Choose Your Own Ever After series – How to Get to Rio and The Call of the Wild. The books let the reader decide how the story goes – with girlfriend dramas, boy troubles, family fun and plenty of decisions along the way.
In How to Get to Rio – schoolgirl Kitty McLean has to decide whether to go camping with her old friends or spend the holidays at an exclusive beach resort with her new friend. The big decision for nature-loving Phoebe in The Call of the Wild is whether to go to a party with her besties or help out at the save-the-orangutan fundraiser. The emphasis is on fun, but the stories present realistic dilemmas for girls to consider. For every choice there’s a consequence. But unlike other stories in the choose-your-own-adventure genre, no one dies in this series when they make a bad choice!
My latest book for young adults is Counterfeit Love. Lucy Yang is an ambitious young television news reporter trying to get to the bottom of a murky story. It was inspired by my years as a reporter in Hong Kong, but Lucy gets into more trouble than I ever did!
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I get my ideas from everywhere – my own misadventures, things that happen to my children, stories I read in the paper, conversations I overhear. Everything! Places that I’ve visited also feature heavily in my stories. Noosa is the setting for my first YA novel – Tall Dark and Distant. The magical ruined temples of Angkor, in Cambodia, is the backdrop of Lust and Found, while Counterfeit Love takes place in my old stomping ground – Hong Kong.
There’s a little bit of me in all of my stories and a lot of me in some of them! Phoebe from The Call of the Wild is a wildlife lover just like I was when I was a girl. I devoured everything I could find on African wildlife and hoped one day to work on a nature reserve. My life didn’t quite turn out that way, but I did go on a safari in Africa, which was amazing. I was also inspired by a visit to Borneo to see Orangutans. They are truly incredible but sadly they face a bleak future due to the destruction of their habitat.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I write best when I’m sitting at my desk. I don’t like distractions of any kind – which is very strange after working in a noisy, smoky newsroom. I also like to write when I’m on holidays on the Noosa River, where there is no internet!
WHAT DOES YOUR WRITING DAY LOOK LIKE?
Once I have an idea in my head I write quickly. I settle myself in front of my computer and pound away for as much of the day as I can. I forget to pick up the kids from school, I ignore requests for dinner and Molly, the dog, looks on forlornly waiting for some attention. When I need a break to recharge my ideas I dash around getting things done and take Molly for a walk. I find walking, bike riding and napping extremely useful for getting through any kind of block.
DO YOU PLAN YOUR STORIES?
I always have an idea of where a story will start and finish before I begin writing. The details of the middle section get worked out as I go along. The Choose Your Own Ever After series was an exception. Each story has eight possible endings and various other choices along the way, so there were a lot of threads to tie in. I couldn’t just wing it with those stories, the plots had to be meticulously planned.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I write because I enjoy it. Also, it gives me an excuse to read a lot (to improve my writing), to travel (for inspiration) and to nap during the day (because it clears my head).
HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT WRITING?
I don’t think I was prepared for how much work goes into a book after it is published. Marketing is a vital aspect of writing, and school visits are an essential part of the job if you write for children. Anyone with a flair for stand-up comedy has an advantage in front of a group of school kids!
HOW ABOUT AWARDS?
I’ve been shortlisted for the West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards. That’s exciting! And I’m on the list of Australia’s Amazing Animal Attacks. (See section on Garfish.) That’s a list I didn’t want to be on!
Good luck with your projects!