Tag Archives: Hazard River

What’s your story?

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

Books by Julie FisonI 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?

IMG_7907I 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.

Hazard River series by JE Fison
The Hazard River series – for young adventure lovers.

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.

The Call of the Wild (Choose Your Own Ever After)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 Counterfeit Lovestories 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.

IMG_4180There’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?

IMG_4007I 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?

Voices on the Coast 2016: The full line-up for Voices on the Coast 2016:  (Some didn't make the photo but I'll let you work out who was there and who wasn't!) Deborah Abela, Christine Bongers, Janeen Brian, Peter Carnavas, Gary Crew, Shelley Davidow, Gregg Dreise, Kirsty Eagar, Brain Falker, Fleur Ferris, Julie Fison, Serena Geddes, Leigh Hobbs, Dean Jacobs, Andrew King, Sarah Kinsella, Russell Fletcher, Jan Latta, Rebecca Lim, Lynette Noni, James Phelan, Darrell Pitt, Leila Rudge, Katryna Starks, Ellen van Neervan, Nova Weetman, Samantha Wheeler, Philip Wilcox, Lesley Williams, Tammy Williams and Kelly Dunham (Festival Coordinator).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!

WA visit: May 15-19

Hello WA!

I will be winging my way to your side of the country soon – visiting schools in the Perth area from May 15-19, 2017. If you would like me to spend the day at your school – talking about story ideas, characters, the Choose Your Own Ever After series, Hazard River, orang-utans and more, please contact me directly or you can book a visit through Speakers Ink or Creative Net. I run workshops and talks for students in primary and secondary schools.

The Call of the Wild has been shortlisted in the WA Young Readers’ Book Awards. 

IMG_1414“Thank you for such a great day. The girls and teachers thoroughly enjoyed your sessions, it was wonderful to hear them speak so positively about the tips and drafting skills you shared.” St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School

Hope to see you in May!

Julie xx

Happy 2016!

Noosa River at dawnYou know you’re on holidays when you relish the chance to get out of bed at daybreak. With the Noosa River calling, and a paddleboard with my name on it, who has got time to sleep.

Sting rays are flitting across the river bed, pelicans are sailing past, early-rising fishermen head for the bar, and a sea eagle is keeping an eye on proceedings from the top of an old gum as the sun peeps through the clouds.

Noosa North ShoreThe Noosa River inspired my  first adventure series for kids – Hazard River, published five years ago, and I still can’t get enough of the place.

My resolution for 2016: to come here more often!

Hazard River series by JE FisonHappy New Year to you. Hope you’ve got lots of great adventures ahead.

 

Book Week stories

Celebrating Book Week with Uber Librarian Alison Findlay and Picture Book Queen Juliette Maclver
Celebrating Book Week with Uber Librarian Alison Findlay and Picture Book Queen Juliette Maclver

A massive round of applause to all of the school librarians who made Book Week rock. Far from being the buttoned-up noise-Nazis that we’ve come to expect, the librarians I’ve encountered love to see kids excited about reading, and they’ll happily put on a costume, throw a parade and lure authors away from their desks to get things going.

Holidays are normally fun – right? But when Jack Wilde, his brother Ben and their friends Lachlan and Mimi visit Hazard River nothing is normal. The gang comes up agaist rogue fishermen, smugglers and dodgy developers as they explore the River. How will they survive the summer?
Holidays are normally fun – right? But when Jack Wilde, his brother Ben and their friends Lachlan and Mimi visit Hazard River nothing is normal. The gang comes up agaist rogue fishermen, smugglers and dodgy developers as they explore the River. How will they survive the summer?

I spent Book Week with students from John Paul College and Churchie, in Brisbane, sharing the inspiration for the Hazard River series.

Things started for me with a holiday on the Noosa River. My sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer exploring sand banks, dodging sting rays and snakes. I had to write about it.

Hazard River student picI’m delighted to see Shark Frenzy, Bat Attack, Snake Surprise, Tiger Terror, Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge still entertaining kids five years after the first book in the series was published.

The stories are fast-paced and action-packed with a subtle message about the environment. Even though there are very angry animals on the covers (thanks to Illustrator Extraordinaire – Marc McBride), the baddies are rogue fishermen, dodgy developers and smugglers.

Hazard River student picsOne class I worked with came up with some very creative answers to the big mystery in Shark Frenzy. Why did a dead shark wash up on the bank of Hazard River? Perhaps it was killed by a zombie diver. Or maybe it was  a rogue chicken.

You’ll just have to read the book and find out!

Hazard River student picBook Julie for a school visit.

See the Hazard River teachers’ notes.

Strengthening your voice

This week I’ve been working with school children on developing their writing voice. I know plenty of adults who would have a hard time defining this concept, so it might seem like a mature topic for kids. But the reality is – students are marked on their voice in NAPLAN tests, so, it’s an aspect of writing that has to be considered.

So, what is VOICE?

The Call of the Wild I would define a writing voice as a writer’s style. Just as singers all have a different style, writers also have different ways of telling their stories. A strong voice makes a story interesting and should touch the reader.

As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, the key to writing with an authentic and unique voice is writing from the heart, but that might not make a lot of sense if you’re eight years old.

So, here are some tips to help you tell a good story and strengthen your writing voice.

 

Set your story in a place you know well

A classroom or a bedroom might sound like a dull place for a story, but a lot of exciting things can happen there. You can only give your reader a clear idea of the setting for your story if you have a good picture of it in your own mind. If you’ve spent every day there, you’ll know it really well! Places you have visited on holidays might also work well as a setting for your story. Keep a map and some pictures as a reminder of how everything looks. If you are writing about a completely fictitious place, you will need to work out in your mind how it looks, sounds and smells. Find some pictures that resemble your made-up world and draw a map. The more details you have before you start, the better.

Write about things that you care about

BAT ATTACK by JE FisonWriting a story that touches your reader will be easier if you write about something that moves you. If you care, you can convince your reader to care, too. Endangered wildlife feature in a lot of my stories because that’s an issue I care about. In the Hazard River series, a gang of kids comes up against rogue developers, dodgy fishermen and smugglers while holidaying on Hazard River. It’s action packed adventure, but each story also has an environmental twist. My most recent story for girls – The Call of the Wild (part of the Choose Your Own Ever After series) also features endangered animals – orangutans. The main character – a nature-loving school girl, has to decide whether to go to a save-the-orangutan fundraiser or go to a party with her besties, in this pick-a-path story.

Get inside you characters’ heads

Work out what type of person your main character is – his or her strengths and weaknesses. You could even interview them to get a complete picture. Think about how your characters will react in different situations. Don’t tell your reader that your character is mean, or greedy. Show them. Demonstrate your character’s personality through how they behave, what they say and what they think.

Write with all of your senses

Don’t forget to include smells and sounds in your story. These help to create a picture in the reader’s mind. Also include how your characters are feeling. Once again, don’t just tell the reader that your character is scared, show them – with a droplet of sweat running down his forehead, or a shiver running down her spine.

Good luck!

BOOK Julie FISON for a school visit. 

A visit to Hazard River

Noosa North Shore
A bush track on the Noosa North Shore

It’s hard not to be inspired by this place – a little corner of bushland between the Noosa River and the North Shore beach. There are no chic shops or must-do restaurants on this side of the river. It’s all about dirt tracks, deserted beaches, boats, bikes and  unexpected encounters – kangaroos boxing on the neighbour’s lawn, trees growing out of abandoned trucks and snakes turning up in odd places. One joined me on my deck chair while I was engrossed in a novel. I’ve never got out of a chair so fast before! Hazard River series by JE Fison

The North Shore was the setting for my first series for young readers – Hazard River (Ford Street Publishing, 2010). It also found its way into my most recent book for tweens – the Choose Your Own Ever After story – How To Get To Rio (HGE, 2014).

Now, those tea tree swamps are getting into my head again. And who knows where they’ll take me.

Descriptive writing

My son is studying descriptive writing at high school. For homework he was asked to write a paragraph on the view from his window. It’s a tough call when there’s not much going on out there.   But that, of course,  is the whole point of the exercise – to note what generally goes unnoticed, and to convey a complete and original picture  of the view from the window, using all of the senses. It’s amazing what you can see, hear, smell, touch and feel when you put your mind to it.

IMG_0764As a writer I do that all the time. But it’s a skill I’ve had to develop, too.  I started my career as a television news reporter. Being a news reporter means turning a lot of complicated information into a short package so the audience can easily understand what is going on.

In television, the pictures help tell the story. The words back up the television footage. Writing fiction works the other way round – you need to use words to describe the images in your head. Good description helps to draw in the reader and helps to make the story more exciting.

These are some of the things I find important:

1. Always start by brainstorming ideas

Dump down every word that comes to mind related to the scene you are describing. If you put down a noun (eg. river) put down as many adjectives as you can think of to go with that noun. (eg. gentle, raging, clear – depending on the type of river). From there you could develop metaphors and similes to go with the nouns.

2. Use all of your senses in the description

Mostly, we rely on our sight. But other senses help to build up a complete picture of what is going on. Draw in your readers by telling them what you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch and how it makes you feel. The reader should know something about you as well as the scene by your choice of words. Blood Money cover

Here’s an example from  Blood Money, one of the adventure stories in my series for young readers – Hazard River:

I’m thinking of money, not dangerous animals. That’s why I put my foot in the long grass without thinking at all. There’s a rustle just in front of my foot. I hear it before I see it. I scramble backwards. A long black body slithers out of the grass. It’s right in front of me. A tongue flickers. Then there’s a flash of red. ‘SNAKE!’ I scream. ‘Red-belly black snake!’(P.24)

3. Make your description as specific as possible.

There are lots of adjectives that sound cool to use, but they don’t always add  meaning to your story. Your house might be in “chaos”, but does that mean there are a few clothes scattered on your bedroom floor or does it mean aliens have invaded and set up camp in your kitchen? Make sure you don’t leave the reader to guess what you might mean. How about a man with a “creepy face”? What is it about his face that scares you? SNAKE SURPRISE! FRONT COVER

Here’s an example from my Hazard River series – Snake Surprise:

An ugly thing with a human body, ears like a rabbit and a face so grotesque it would make gladiators wet their pants, leaps off the roof of the houseboat. (P.19)

4. Use details that are relevant to the story.

If you are writing a book, rather than  just a paragraph for class, you need to choose which scenes to describe in detail and which details are needed. Rich detail adds to a story but irrelevant detail slows down the pacing. Make sure all the relevant details come out early in the story. Don’t surprise the reader in the climax by revealing your main character has supersonic vision. The reader will feel cheated. And be consistent. If your character has a broken leg at the beginning of the story, he won’t be carrying everyone to safety at the end of the story. shark-frenzy-front-cover.jpg

Here’s a snippet from another story in the Hazard River series – Shark Frenzy:

I made a deal with sharks. I don’t swim near them and they don’t play cricket. It may be a little unfair. I can swim, whereas they haven’t got a hope of hitting a six. (P.1)

4. Use description as part of the story.

Good detail advances the story. It doesn’t slow it down.

In this scene from the Hazard River story Tiger Terror, the description is part of the story.

Something wet hits me in the face. Cold, slimy fingers grab at my neck. I can feel them, even through the balaclava. Sharp talons scratch at my cheeks. I fight to get free. But I get more tangled. I gasp for breath. I’m going to be choked to death. (P. 51)

5. Detail should be original but resonate with the reader

No one wants to read a cliche (especially not your English teacher or publisher), so descriptions need to be original. Detail should offer a fresh view on something well known. When it comes to describing something unusual, metaphors and similes are a good way to compare something unknown to the reader with something they do know.

In another story from the bat attack coverHazard River series, Bat Attack, this is a  description of a ghost bat (which most readers wouldn’t be familiar with). I compare it to a character from Star Wars.

It has long ears and what looks like a piece of salad on the end of its nose. I’m being attacked by Master Yoda with wings! I’m in the middle of a Star Wars battle zone. (p. 40) I felt confident my readers would know Master Yoda, but it’s essential to avoid using similes and metaphors that add confusion  not clarification.

Here’s an example: Jodie was as lazy as my Aunty Hilly.  If the reader doesn’t know Aunty Hilly, then the simile doesn’t add anything to our understanding of Jodie.

6. Use detail to reveal how the character feels This is the one that often gets forgotten. Descriptive writing should tell us something about the character so we get to know them better and have a chance to identify with them.

In Shark Frenzy, Jack is forced to go into the water, where he thinks there might be sharks.

Panic rises inside me, like a battalion of hairy caterpillars, marching through my chest. (p. 25) Hopefully from this, the reader knows Jack is terrified of sharks. The information is revealed rather than directly stated. This is what some people call showing – not – telling.

Good luck with adding detail to your next story.

I leave you with this quote from best selling author, Stephen King:

“We’ve all heard someone say, ‘Man, it was so great (or so horrible/strange/funny) … I just can’t describe it!’ If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.”

BUY The Hazard River series