It was part of hotly contested auction in the US, and sold in a lucrative two-book deal to Simon and Schuster America.
Jude is the author of 11 books and illustrator of 80 more, and a colleague and friend, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to my blog to share her writing and illustrating tips, and more about her new book.
- It’s going to be difficult. That’s ok. Keep going.
- Ignore that voice in your head that tells you it’s too hard, or that you’re not good enough, or that you should be scrubbing out the shower instead. Whatever it’s saying, it’s not helping. But at the same time, be tough on yourself, and always look for ways to make your writing better. Keep going.
- If you’re mainly an illustrator, avoid writing scenes only because you want to illustrate them. The characters and the story should always come first! Also, I’ve found that making little drawings of characters and scenes along the way is helpful and inspiring. And keep going!
- Sometimes you’ll find you want to completely rewrite whole sections of your story, and you’re resisting because it took so long to write in the first place. Remember: if in doubt, chuck it out. Probably. And keep going.
- When you finally get to the end, you’ll want to send it off straight away. If you can make yourself wait for a few weeks (or a bit longer) and come back to the story, you’ll find heaps of things you want to change. And this will make your story better.
Eleven-year-old Stella Montgomery leads a miserable existence with her three awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance, living at the damp and dull Hotel Majestic.
But things become far from dull when Stella witnesses a murder.
This sets in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for.
What’s in the bottle that Mr Filbert hid before he was killed and why does the Professor want it so badly?
Will he find out that Stella now has it, and come after her?
Of course he will, and that’s where the action for Stella really starts.
There’s so much to love about Withering-by-Sea apart from the great tension and fast paced action.
Stella is a very likeable character. Readers will have sympathy for her circumstances, but will also admire the courage with which she tackles her unexpected adventure, and the fact that witnessing the murder and prior events, have put her life in danger.
She is a smart and very level-headed young woman who struggles to cope with her aunts’ attitude that ‘children should be seen and not heard.’
Withering-by-Sea is a dreary coastal town, but this story is far from dreary. The town provides a perfect setting for intrigue, adventure and betrayal.
Set in Victorian times, this book is full of atmosphere, enhanced by author/illustrator Jude Rossell’s gorgeously detailed pictures.
There are so many great characters for readers to connect with apart from Stella. There’s feisty Gert who is captured along with Stella, the evil Professor, and clever Mr Capelli and his singing cats.
Withering-by-Sea is an historical adventure with a hint of magic. There’s also gentle humour, and authentic and endearing relationships between Stella and Gert, and Stella and Mr Capelli and his cats.
I’d love to see these characters featured in future Stella Montgomery intrigues.
Withering-by-Sea is a book of substance – it’s entertaining and hard to put down but there is also some complex exploration of relationships, and the vulnerability of children and their openness to things that adults often close their minds to.
While this mystery comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the reader is left with unanswered questions that will make them want to pick up the next Stella Montgomery book. For instance, who was Stella’s mother and what really happened to her, and how did Stella end up living with the dreadful aunts? Stella also has a special ability that she must have inherited from someone.
I can’t wait to read what Stella does next.
It’s easy to see why Withering-by-Sea was so sought after when it went to auction in the US.
It is published in Australia by ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.