A lot of what I write is based on something that actually happened. My YA novel Street Racer was written after I read an article in the paper about someone involved in a street racing accident.

Hope for Hanna is based on real events that happened to a number of people and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure (coming out August 2010) has a factual setting, but the story is purely fictional.

My YA novel Letters to Leonardo, started with a story that was told to me by a friend, and one of the book’s characters is a person that I actually know.


If you’re writing a biography or an autobiography there is no need to turn fact into fiction – in this instance, it’s best to stick to the facts.

When I wrote A Duel of Words, I had to be creative about the way I told Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson’s story, but I had to be meticulous about the factual detail.

But if you’re writing a novel and making things up about your characters, you need to change the facts because:

  • What you make up could offend or hurt someone if you name a real person.
  • Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and people wont’ believe it. In high school I had to write a love story so I wrote about how my parents first met. The teacher’s comment was that the story was well written but ‘not credible’. (Even though it was all true).


To me there are two steps you need to take to disguise the true bits in your story.

  1. Make the physical changes to the detail.
  2. Make the emotional changes inside you.


Letters to Leonardo is based on some real people, real events and real places. I spent a lot of time creating new scenarios, places, people and events so that I could disguise the things and people that could be recognised. Here are some of the steps you can take to hide the ‘true bits’.

  • Change names of characters and places
  • Add or remove people from the event
  • Change the setting
  • Change the time/era in which the story took place
  • Combine real events from different sources
  • Change the details of the actual event – eg a cat stuck up a tree could become a dog stuck in a drain pipe.

It’s all about using your imagination. Look at it as a challenge. How could you tell someone’s story without them recognising it? How could you tell your own story and people not know it’s you? Think of your facts as being treasure that you have to bury beneath ‘creative’ detail.

Sometimes it can help to draw up a two column table with the real events/people/names etc in one column, and the second column devoted to the ‘made up’ bits.


I find I’m only able to fictionalise ‘true events’ in my life once I have been able to emotionally distance myself from them.

Maybe this is the same for you – maybe you need time to allow something to become a story in your mind rather than a traumatic event.

Fact can be a great basis for fiction – it’s just how you handle it.

I hope that you have found these tips helpful.

Happy writing



Today Suzanne Lieurance is visiting from the United States. Suzanne is a freelance writer, children’s author, writing coach and speaker.

Today, Suzanne is going to talk to us about how she writes historical fiction for young readers.

1. Can you tell us about how you became a children’s writer?

Many years ago, I was a classroom teacher during the day, and in my spare time I started submitting short stories and nonfiction articles to a variety of children’s magazines. I also joined SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Books Authors and Illustrators – and became very active in my region. In fact, it wasn’t long before I became the SCBWI advisor for my region. Not long after that, I was offered a contract for my first children’s book, a travel guide for kids called Kidding Around Kansas City. A year or so after that book was released I quit my teaching job so I could become a full time children’s author, freelance writer, and eventually a writing coach.

2. The Lucky Baseball is set in 1941 – how did you go about doing your research for this book?

Well, the first thing I always do when I get a contract for a new book is to go to the library and find every book I CAN about the subject or time period that I’ll be writing about. In this case, I found every book I could about the Japanese-Amercian internment camps of WWII. Once I did some preliminary research, I searched more extensively for all sorts of primary source documents and other materials including photos, books, journals or diaries, videos, etc.

3. Why do you think this book resonates with readers?

I hope young readers identify with Harry, the main character, who faces discrimination and racial prejudice, yet doesn’t let it stop him from working toward his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. I think Harry’s deep connection to his family and his relationships with his friends also resonate with young readers.

4. The Locket is about a young girl fighting for the rights of factory workers. Why do you think her story is so important for today’s readers?

Well, for one thing, sweatshops are still around today. And people are still often treated unfairly because of their race, religion, income level, and background. Plus, I think it’s always important to show young readers they are never too young to stick up for themselves to do whatever it takes to stay safe at home and at work or school.

5. With the World Wide Web, we have access to all sorts of information with a touch of a button. Your writing seems to take you to various parts of the world. Do you visit these places or do you base your writing on research?

Sometimes I visit the places I write about. For example, I wrote a book about Mexico and another book about the ancient Maya. I did travel to Mexico a couple of times–specifically to the Yucatan Peninsula–and I was able to use information from my travels for these books. I also wrote a book about the Philippines, and although I have never been there, at one time I lived on Guam, which has a large filipino population. I used some of what I learned about filipino culture on Guam in my book about the Philippines.

Many times, though, I base my books solely on research done via the Internet, at local libraries, museums, and through primary sources whenever possible.

6. If your research is web based, how do you verify your sources?

I try to use as many government sources as possible since those are usually reliable. I also look for the sites of legitimate organizations–like the Anti-Saloon League, for example. I used that as a source for my book about Prohibition.  I don’t rely on the sites of private individuals no matter how interesting they might be.

7. How do you make events that happened so long ago interesting to today’s readers?

Well, the best way to do that is to create characters readers today will care about. I try to give my characters qualities that today’s readers can identify with. For example, most young boys today can identify with Harry’s love of sports and his desire to become a professional athlete. They might also be able to identify with his family who wanted something different for Harry than what he wanted for himself. I think readers can also identify with Galena and the love she had for her older sister, Anna. I try to give my characters a combination of traits that make them admirable yet vulnerable and prone to making mistakes just like most people are today.

8. As well as your personal website, you have two other websites. Can you tell us why you set up the Working Writer’s Coach ?

As much as I love to write, I also still love to teach, and coaching is a lot like teaching. The Working Writer’s Coach gives me a chance to help other writers learn to write and reach their dreams of becoming published.

9. What advice can you give to writers interested in writing historical fiction?

Be sure you do enough research so you can bring the story to life in ways that are true to your characters and also true to the times in which these characters lived. But, above all else, make sure you have a compelling story.

More about Suzanne and her work is available at her website


Don’t miss tomorrow’s Tuesday Writing Tip at when Suzanne Lieurance will be visiting from the United States to talk about writing historical fiction for young readers.

Suzanne is a freelance writer, children’s author, writing coach and speaker.

Hope you can join us.



Author, Catriona Hoy is celebrating the launch of her fifth picture book, “Puggle”, which she says now qualifies her to call herself a children’s writer – personally, I think she was one way before then.

Catriona writes wonderful books about real things, but turns them into fiction. She’s here today to give us some tips on how she does it. Over to you, Catriona.


If there was one tip I could give about turning fact into fiction, it’s the obvious one. Research!

I regularly write non fiction for some childrens magazines. With non fiction I usually have a topic and a brief, so the shape of the writing is there so to speak. Once I have researched, collated and refined my material, the smaller subheadings begin to emerge; pretty much like writing an essay.

However, with fiction, it is more difficult. My new picture book, Puggle, began with an idea. My imagination was captured by a cute baby echidna that I met at the home of some wildlife carers. I loved the name and wanted to write a story but the shape wasn’t there yet. The idea sat around somewhere in the back of my head, brewing away.

I kept in touch with the wildlife carers and they told me of Puggle’s progress as he grew and began to learn the skills he would need to survive. While I waited for the shape of the story to come, I found out all I could about echidnas. I searched for photos online, compiled lists of interesting facts and made a timeline marking out the milestones in Puggle’s life.

I distilled all the information down to the essentials, what would be the most important points. Then the story began to take shape.

Puggle just getting spines

There was the beginning and introduction, then the explanation of how Puggle came to be with his carers. Then forward in time to trace Puggle as he grew up. Because the house was filled with other animals, I began to mark time passing with the exit of some of these animals as they became well and returned to the wild.

The challenge with turning fact into fiction is that it has to be a readable story, the language has to flow, the story must be interesting, we must love Puggle…otherwise it will sound like a piece of research that has been turned into a story and is more suited to a nonfiction book. So I think the key is …EMOTION.  You have to love your characters and they have to feel real to you and other people.

With Puggle, one of the obvious markets is the educational one; therefore I really had to resist the temptation to give Puggle human emotions. The nearest I came to it was ‘ milk smelt very, very good.’ I had to get into character and imagine I was a baby echidna.

Finally, for me, verifying the text is important.

As I write picture books, they are short and therefore not too onerous to read. I established contact with Dr Peggy Rismiller at the Pelican Lagoon Research Centre on Kangaroo Island. She generously read the text and advised on any areas that she thought needed tweaking. Likewise, the carers in the story also gave me their advice. (Including the fact that they would have euthanized the magpie with the broken leg …but I didn’t think that was appropriate to include!)

If anyone would like to see pictures of Puggles, there are some gorgeous ones on my website and some information about some of my other books.

Thanks so much for dropping in Catriona, and telling us your story and sharing your helpful tips. (Believe me, Catriona’s pictures are seriously cute, you will definitely want to see them).

Catriona is visiting us on her blog tour. Here’s where you can catch her in cyber space over the next couple of weeks.

Blog Tour Dates
April 12
April 13
April 14
April 15
April 16
April 17
April 18
April 19
April 20
April 21
April 22

Hope you enjoyed Catriona’s visit as much as I did.

Happy writing.