Most people have been toucbed by cancer in one way or another. Today author, Susanne Gervay is here to give us tips on how she wrote her incredible brave and powerful new novel, Always Jack.

When  Jack’s  mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, he realises that the things that bothered him about being part of a blended family aren’t so important after all.

Always Jack is an extraordinary story about ordinary people going through a difficult time in their lives – about an illness that puts their family unit to the test.

Author Susanne Gervay, draws on her own experiences of surviving cancer and Always Jack is a story told from the heart.

Susanne is on the board of the NSW Writers Centre holding the youth portfolio, Chair of The Sydney Children’s Writers & Illustrators Network at The Hughenden, co-head of Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Australia & New Zealand,  and has been awarded The Lady Cutler Award for Distinguished Services to Children’s Literature and aProfessional Achievement Award for Literature from University of Technology Sydney


1. Know your characters:-

Writing Always Jack, I began with the wonderful characters from I AM JACK & SUPER JACK.  I know them so well and love them. They jump onto the page with all their particular characteristics.

2. Write about what you know and feel:-

I assessed my own experiences going through breast cancer and they drove Always Jack.

3. Research:-

Research is important to give credibility to what you are writing. The Cancer Council and the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre contributed their medical advice and this was essential for the integrity of Always Jack.

4. The theme needs to mean something to you:-

Always Jack is about giving kids and community a voice when a parent faces cancer, to support, celebrate and commemorate.

5. I let the story surprise me:-

Life intervenes and slots into Always Jack. I just came back from speaking at the World Burn Congress and was on the faculty with Kim Phoc – the 9 year old Vietnamese girl running from napalm in Nick ut;s 1972 photo. Kim Phoc and the Vietnamese War experience slipped into Always Jack with Christopher the Vientamese boy becoming Jack’s great friend..

6. Laugh and Cry:-

I laughed and cried as I wrote Always Jack, exposing the emotional ride of life and myself.

Thanks so much Susanne for visiting DeeScribe writing with your fabulous tips. I know that so many people’s hearts and lives will be touched by your wonderful new book, Always Jack, just as i was.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has other tips to share about writing from real life experiences. Please feel free to leave your tips, questions and responses in the comments section of this post.



  1. Real life always impacts on my writing. Even when you are writing fantasy, the characters need to have authenticity.

    Dee Scribe is such a wonderful writer’s ezine.

  2. I think “know your characters” can’t be stressed enough. We can develop character profiles etc but until our characters start talking to us, nudging their way into our hearts and lives, they don’t drive our writing. And in my opinion, character-driven writing is the way to go.

    I think you’ve both proved that for me, Dee and Susanne!

  3. Thanks BookChook

    I totally agree that our characters have to really ‘speak’ to us. It’s not enough to just know them on paper. We have to have them in our hearts as well.


  4. I think real life always has an impact on what one is writing and its the passion for the topic and the characters that wins the reader over. It sounds like Susanne does just this in her Jack books. Thanks Susanne and Dee.

  5. ‘Always Jack’ is a significant book, partly because it can be offered as a gift of the imagination to any family facing cancer. Fiction can sometimes ‘explain’ challenging situations even more effectively than non fiction. In a fictional story, for a few hours we are that character…Jack. However ‘Always Jack’ is also a ‘good read’, which is vital. Susanne Gervay is to be commended on her writing and her generosity of spirit in sharing.

  6. Thanks for dropping in, Hazel,

    I agree that ‘Always Jack’ is a fantastic book for family’s facing cancer and for kids who might have friends in this situation. ‘Toppling’ by Sally Murphy is also a great book for kids going through this sort of crisis. Susanne has certainly been generous in sharing her experience with readers. She is going to be talking more about her inspiration and her work today at my Kids’ Book Capers blog


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