Tag Archives: writing

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!

Getting creative on the Scenic Rim

I’ve read the research: hanging out in nature reduces stress levels, enhances creativity,  improves intelligence and even makes you a nicer person. So after three days of stomping through muddy gullies, tramping up mountain tracks and following black cockatoos on Queensland’s spectacular Scenic Rim, my latest story should basically write itself.

As for the impact of all of that delicious food I consumed while enjoying nature – I’m still looking for appropriate research to support my theory, but I’d say: it’s got to be a bonus.

I’ll let you know!

Walking, eating and snapping the view at Spicers Peak Lodge, Scenic Rim.

 

Halcyon Daze

Sumptuously decorated walls have never been on my list of must-haves for a beach holiday hotel, but after a night at Halcyon House on the Tweed Coast, I’m thinking I might need to rewrite my list.

Halcyon House
The 21-room boutique hotel is a white and indigo gem nestled among the pandanus palms, midway between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, forged from a 60s surf-side motel and oozing laid-back luxury. With its dreamy fabrics, eclectic art collection and retro charm, it is the most instagramable hotel in Australia, and proof that Besser bricks can be beautiful. Who knew?
I’m smitten the moment I see it. We arrive at the Cabarita Beach hotel after an afternoon competing with the crowds at Byron Bay. Halcyon House is a welcome oasis. The white façade is vivid against the bright blue sky – chic without being imposing or pretentious. The vibe continues throughout the hotel with décor by Anna Spiro that’s stunningly stylish, but relaxed.

The hotel also makes the most of its location – on the doorstep of the Tweed Coast’s most beautiful beach. Cabarita still has an old-fashioned feel about it and has mostly avoided the attention of developers and hipsters, making it a favourite of mine.

If you want a view of the beach, you need to be on the top floor as the hotel sits behind the sand dune, and the view is obscured by pandanus palms. Our room looks across the perfect point break to Norries Headland – a great place for a morning shuffle. I’m so in love with everything in the room as well as the view that I want to move in and finish my latest novel here. (I won’t be a bother, I promise).

And then there’s the food.

Halcyon HouseMy first taste of what is to come from the kitchen arrives in a waffle cone. The hotel serves ice creams at 4pm every afternoon. I wait patiently along with a few kids for my promised treat, naively expecting a Magnum. What is delivered is a tiny piece of heaven – home made goat’s milk ice cream topped with a hot lemon meringue. Divine.

Cabarita Beach, Tweed CoastThe delights continue with dinner at Paper Daisy – soft shell bay lobster in its own sauce, followed by coal-roasted fish with finger lime dressing. I opt for the signature dish for my main meal – paper bark grilled fish with onion, seaweed and beach plants. Chef Ben Devlin is a genius. Everything is extraordinary.

There’s no space for dessert (because I’ve already had an ice cream) but I’ll make sure I leave some room on my next visit.

Halcyon days, indeed.

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.

 

Happy New Year!

Skateboarders at Venice Beach
Skateboarders at Venice Beach

I hope you’ve had a great start to the year. I’ve been flat out working all summer. My friends and family would probably say otherwise, that I’ve been lazing around on holidays, that I’ve barely had my laptop open. But that’s just the point.

Viceroy Hotel library, Santa Monica
The hippest library in Santa Monica – at the Viceroy Hotel
Paradise, New Zealand
The road to Paradise, on New Zealand’s South Island

I’ve been travelling, gazing out of plane windows, eavesdropping at restaurants, chatting with strangers, reading books, watching movies, gathering characters, uncovering settings, and generally getting inspired.

Yes, I know – research is tough, but someone has to do it.

And now comes the time when I have to do something with all of those snippets of life – pictures, notes, plane tickets, maps, memories. I can’t wait to get started.

Good luck with your projects for 2015.

Julie

Without words

It’s not often the internet can be accused of underselling anything, but no amount of online browsing prepared me for my recent visit to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the finalists of the Archibald Prize.

Penelope Seidler, by Fiona Lowry, Archibald Prize 2014
Penelope Seidler, by Fiona Lowry, Archibald Prize 2014

The winner – Fiona Lowry’s portrait of architect Penelope Seidler, blew me away. You have to stand in the same room as this incredible work to see Lowry’s genius. An online image of this painting just doesn’t do it justice.

Lowry captures an ethereal quality in her work with airbrushed paint. The result is unlike anything else in the exhibition. But having said that – the whole exhibition is stunning – a celebration of great artists and great Australian people.

As someone who has spent a lifetime writing stories, it’s inspiring to see how much can be said without words.

Julie Fison, Archibald 2014 finalist Alan Jones and Archibald 2014 winner Fiona Lowry with Jones' portrait fo Adam Goodes
Julie Fison, Archibald 2014 finalist Alan Jones and Archibald 2014 winner Fiona Lowry with Jones’ portrait of Adam Goodes

Rubbing shoulders with Archibald winner, Fiona Lowry, and finalist, Alan Jones,  who painted Australian of the Year and AFL star –   Adam Goodes.

My Writing Process

Julie Fison and Krista Bell
Hanging out with Krista Bell in Rockie

Thank you to the wonderfully talented, and all-round gorgeous, children’s author Krista Bell, for inviting me to be part of My Writing Process Blog Tour. I first met Krista on a visit to Central Queensland. I shared an apartment and many laughs with Krista and another inspirational author, Susanne Gervay.

Michael Gerard Bauer, Elaine Ouston, Krista Bell, Julie Fison, Meredith Costain, Judith Rossell, Royce Bond, (front) Susanne Gervay, Paul Collins and Kevin Burgemeestre
Michael Gerard Bauer, Elaine Ouston, Krista Bell, Julie Fison, Meredith Costain, Judith Rossell, Royce Bond, (front) Susanne Gervay, Paul Collins and Kevin Burgemeestre

We were part of a great gang of illustrators and authors at the Capricorn Literary Festival – a fantastic week of school visits, socializing and snorkeling that I won’t forget in a hurry!

What am I working on?

How to get to Rio front coverI have two books in a new Choose Your Own Ever After series, (Hardie Grant Egmont) that lets the reader decide how the story goes. The fun kicks off in April with How to Get to Rio. In this story, Schoolgirl Kitty McLean is faced with a tough decision over where to spend the holidays. Her best friends have asked her to go camping, while popular-girl, Persephone has invited her to the exclusive beach resort of Paradise Point. She’d like to be with her besties, but she really wants to get to know Persephone. And Paradise Point has an added attraction. A cute guy called Rio Sanchez is going to be holidaying there too!

Counterfeit LoveMeanwhile in Hong Kong … there’s intrigue, deadlines and romance in my new book for young adults – Counterfeit Love (Hardie Grant Egmont), which comes out in July. TV reporter, Lucy Yang, gets a whole lot more than she bargains for when she tries to uncover the origins of an unexpected parcel. But will her hot new friend Byron Lloyd help or hinder her investigation?

Counterfeit Love is my third novel for teens and I had so much fun writing it, that I’m already working on another.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Angkor Wat at sunset
Angkor Wat, Cambodia at sunset

Choose Your Own Ever After  is a very positive series for girls aged 10+. The reader has several choices to make throughout the story, and with every decision, there’s a consequence. There are no nasty endings in this series, but the message is clear – choice, not chance, determines our future. Opportunities might come our way by chance, but it’s what we choose to do with them, that is important.

The stories in the series were a challenge to write because I had to come up with so many different endings. But it was exciting to see where the characters’ decisions led them. And even though I did a lot of planning before I started writing the stories, I really didn’t know what would happen until the stories unfolded. That’s one thing I love about writing. Characters have the power to surprise – even their creator!

I also enjoy the idea of having two equally appealing choices and finding out where they lead. I’d love to backtrack on my own life and work out where I would have ended up if I had decided to stay at my job, instead of  leaving Australia at the age of 21 looking for adventure!

Why do I write what I do?

Blood Money coverI was a television news reporter for many years, but the idea of writing fiction crept up on me during a family holiday on the Noosa River, in Queensland. My sons teamed up with friends and spent the holidays exploring sandbanks, dodging stingrays, building camps, avoiding snakes and generally having a boys’ own adventure. I had to write about it. The result was a series of adventure stories for young readers called Hazard River (Ford Street Publishing). The books are fast-paced and fun with an environmental twist.

Tall, Dark and DistantNoosa was also the inspiration for the first of my books for young adults – Tall Dark and Distant. The nextLust and Found – is set in Cambodia, another of my favourite destinations, while Hong Kong is the setting for my most recent YA novel, Counterfeit Love. The Chinese city is special to me because I spent five exciting years there, working as a reporter. I like to capture the essence of a place in my stories, so I choose a setting that I know well. I supplement my own experiences with lots of internet research, and chat with friends if I need expert knowledge on a place or a subject area.

How does your writing process work?

Hazard River seriesI always feel like I’m in a rush when I write. Once I have an idea in my head, I just want to get the story down before I lose it. I tend to spend a solid six weeks working on a first draft, furiously bashing away at my keyboard, forgetting to pick up my children from school, neglecting the washing and ignoring questions about dinner. If I ever get stuck for ideas, I take the dog for a walk. A nap is also a great antidote to a writer’s block. But I’ve never been struck by a great idea while I was sitting staring at a blank screen. I need to get away from my desk and let my subconscious take over. My editors are hugely helpful, too. I really admire the way they can see exactly where a plot should be heading when I am convinced it should be going somewhere else entirely. They are always spot on!

Coming up next week on My Writing Process Blog Tour are two fantastic authors.

Sheryl Gwyther is a popular Australian children’s author who writes novels, school plays, chapter books and short stories. See her post here.

Sherryl Caulfield is a wonderfully talented Australian writer. Her debut  novel – Seldom Come By is a beautiful and haunting love story and the first book in the Iceberg Trilogy. See her post here.

Take it away ladies!