Present Tense – Happy Book Day!

Natalie Conyer was born and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. She lives in Sydney with Henry, the world’s most affable cat; and she gave up a perfectly respectable career to write crime fiction.

Her short stories have won several awards in the annual Scarlet Stiletto competition run by Sisters in Crime Australia.

Present Tense is Natalie’s first novel. It was the Pick of the Week in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, in January this year.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Present Tense is a police procedural crime fiction published by Clan Destine Press. It takes you to Cape Town, to the thrilling and dangerous new South Africa.

Veteran cop Schalk Lourens wants a quiet life. Like the rest of the country, he’s trying to put the past behind him. But the past has a way of hanging on, and when Schalk’s old boss, retired police captain Piet Pieterse is murdered, Schalk must confront old demons.

Pieterse has been necklaced. A tyre was placed over his head, doused in petrol, and set alight. Necklacing is a throwback to apartheid, an execution generally reserved for collaborators. Who would target Pieterse this way, and why now, 25 years after apartheid ended?

Meanwhile, it’s an election year and people are pinning their hopes on charismatic candidate Gideon Radebe. But there’s opposition, and this volatile country’s on a knife edge. A wrong move could generate a catastrophe.

Schalk is drawn in to a world he no longer knows, where shadowy forces call the shots. He must tread a path between the new regime and the old, the personal and the professional, justice and revenge.

The investigation will change his life, and could alter his country’s future.

THE INSPIRATION FOR PRESENT TENSE

when I left Cape Town many years ago, the terrible apartheid regime was in place. When I returned, apartheid had gone and everything had changed. I wondered how people felt about their new society and decided to explore this by writing a crime novel. My central character, policeman Schalk Lourens, is an ordinary citizen trying to reconcile the past with the present.

NATALIE’S FABULOUS WRITING TIPS

  • Write every day, and at the same time if possible (wish I practiced this more rigorously)
  • Ignore the voice in your head that says it’s terrible. Just keep going.
  • Get feedback: friends whose opinion you trust, your writing workshop. You need someone to point out what you’ve missed.
  • Read, read, read. The more you read, the better you write
  • Reading drafts out loud helps show you what works and what doesn’t.

WHERE TO FIND NATALIE

You can find Natalie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Congratulations Natalie and Happy Book Day!

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share this post on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

 

Oleanders are Poisonous – Happy Book Day!

AJ Collins is a Melbourne-based fiction author. A recipient of first prize and several commendations for the Monash WordFest awards, AJ has been published in various short story anthologies and magazines, and was awarded a place at Hardcopy 2018, a national professional development program for writers.

Her work has also been read on Radio Queensland. AJ graduated from RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing Associate Degree in 2014 and has since established a successful editing and publishing business, AJC Publishing. Previous to this, AJ had an eclectic career from managing commercial mortgages, to working in a legal tribunal, to fronting her own function band for over twenty years. A one-time devotee of adrenaline sports, including bungee, skydiving, parasailing, sky-walking, sky-jumping, and volcano climbing, AJ is now happy to be settled at home with her hubby and two fur-kids, writing her adventures instead of living them.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Oleanders are Poisonous was published by AJC Publishing in March this year and is a great read for mature YA and adult readers.

It’s bad enough sixteen-year-old Lauren is losing her mum to a horrible disease and that her best friend is leaving town, but now the only person she thought she could trust is about to betray her in the worst possible way. A complex, mature YA coming-of-age story, filled with heartbreak, laughter and poignancy.

AJ’S FABULOUS WRITING TIPS

  1. Be honest; readers know when you’re phoning it in.
  2. If the writing moves you, it will move your audience
  3. Write everything, even the fearsome, brutal stuff. You can edit later.
  4. Know your genre conventions
  5. Take your time to make it shine

WHERE THE INSPIRATION CAME FROM

‘They’ say everyone has a book in them. This is mine. It’s drawn from personal experience. I grew up in the outback, red soil everywhere, a small community, and no-one talked about things that brought shame; you just got on with life.

WHERE TO FIND AJ COLLINS ONLINE

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJCollinsAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ajcollinsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajcollinsauthor/ 

Congratulations and Happy Book Day, AJ!

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

The Girl With the Gold Bikini – Happy Book Day

Lisa Walker writes novels for adults and young adults. She has also written an ABC Radio National play and been published in the AgeGriffith ReviewBig Issue and the Review of Australian Fiction. Her recent novels include a young adult coming-of-age story, Paris Syndrome (HarperCollins, 2018), and a climate change comedy, Melt (Lacuna, 2018). She has worked in environmental communication and as a wilderness guide, and recently spent six months in a Kmart tent in outback Australia. Lisa lives, surfs and writes on the north coast of New South Wales. The Girl with the Gold Bikini is her sixth novel.

The Girl with the Gold Bikini was published by February 2020 but we think it’s never too late to say, ‘Happy Book Day’!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Eighteen-year-old Olivia Grace has deferred her law degree and ducked out of her friends’ gap-year tour of Asia. Instead, she’s fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a private investigator, following in the footsteps of Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars – who taught her everything she knows, including a solid line in quick-quipping repartee, the importance of a handbag full of disguises, and a way of mixing business with inconvenient chemistry.

Playing Watson to the Sherlock of her childhood friend, detective agency owner Rosco (once the Han Solo to her Princess Leia), Olivia pursues a routine cheating husband case from the glitzy Gold Coast to Insta-perfect Byron Bay, where she faces yoga wars, dirty whale activism, and a guru who’s kind of a creep.

WHERE THE INSPIRATION FOR THE GIRL WITH THE GOLD BIKINI CAME FROM

I have always liked a gutsy, fast-talking Private Investigator heroine who gets herself into and out of messes with panache. ‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ was particularly inspired by the teen PIs Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars. Nancy Drew has been an institution since 1930. She has style and chutzpah, not to mention a snazzy sports car. My protagonist, Olivia, only has one of these – hint, it’s not style or sportscar – but there’s nothing to stop her trying. Veronica Mars, who first aired on TV in 2004, is a sassy smart-mouthed teen, who was also an inspiration

LISA’S FABULOUS WRITING TIPS

  1. Tip One – put your book away for a while, then come back to it. I started writing this book in 2005, then put it away for about 13 years, which is probably a bit extreme! But, I can vouch for the fact that a fresh perspective works wonders.
  2. Tip Two – when writing young adult, I don’t try to copy the latest teen-speak words. Words go out of fashion, so I think it’s more important to capture the emotional intensity of being a teenager.
  3. Tip Three – for YA fiction, I always try to keep the chapters short and end each with a cliff-hanger if possible.
  4. Tip Four – I read as much YA fiction as possible. It’s important to be aware of what else is out there so that you can avoid over-used or cliched storylines.
  5. Tip Five – for me, finding the right protagonist for the story I want to tell is central. Once I have a three-dimensional protagonist who I love, writing the story becomes so much easier.

WHERE TO FIND LISA ONLINE

Website: https://www.lisawalker.com.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisawalkerhome/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LisaWalkerTweet
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisawalkerwriter/?hl=en
Blog: https://lisawalkerwriter.wordpress.com/

Congratulations and Happy Book Day, Lisa!

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

No Small Shame – Happy Book Day

Christine Bell is a Melbourne fiction writer. Her debut historical novel No Small Shame was published by Ventura Press (Impact) April 2020.

In October 2019, Christine was awarded the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) Colleen McCullough Residency for an Established Writer. She is a Varuna fellow and holds a Master of Creative Writing (RMIT). Christine has had 35 short fiction works published for children. No Small Shame is her first adult novel.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published by Ventura Press on 1 April, No Small Shame is the story of a young Catholic immigrant torn between love and duty at a time when there were high expectations but little agency for women.

Australia, 1914. The world is erupting in war. Jobs are scarce and immigrants unwelcome. For young Catholic Mary O’Donnell, this is not the new life she imagined. When one foolish night of passion leads to an unexpected pregnancy and a loveless marriage, Mary’s reluctant husband Liam escapes to the trenches. With her overbearing mother attempting to control her every decision, Mary flees to Melbourne determined to build a life for herself and her child. There, she forms an unlikely friendship with Protestant army reject Tom Robbins.

But as a shattering betrayal is revealed, Mary must make an impossible choice. Does she embrace the path fate has set for her, or follow the one she longs to take? From the harshness of a pit village in Scotland to the upheaval of wartime Australia, No Small Shame tells the moving story of love and duty, loyalty and betrayal, and confronting the past before you can seek a future.

CHRISTINE’S FIVE FABULOUS WRITING TIPS

  1. Track your research on a spreadsheet, every single fact, resource, book, website and contact. It will prove invaluable when it comes time to double check that obscure bit of information that you’ve long forgotten its origins.
  2. Walk the ground of your story whenever possible. Though one of my settings, a pit village in Scotland, had long been demolished, I was able to visit the site, see the light, feel the breeze, smell the local foliage. I travelled down a disused coal mine capturing that degree of darkness and sulphury smell as well as visited a reconstructed tenement row replicating the miner’s housing of 1910. Invaluable fodder, detail and inspiration for my story.
  3. Explore primary resources. I found the original design specifications and floor plans of the miners cottages in Wonthaggi. The descriptions, dimensions and specific detail helped me to reconstruct another of my character’s houses. I found these gems in the correspondence files of the State Coal Mine in the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV)
  4. Once your characters are fully formed and living on the page, let them make natural choices in keeping with their character. They can lead the way to the inevitable conclusion of your story.
  5. Give your story air time between drafts. It’s amazing the insights and revelations a break can reveal when you return to your manuscript with fresh eyes. I had a break of over two years between the first fully edited draft and the complete rewrite.

No Small Shame began as a passion project after I visited the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi (Victoria) to explore my family history. My great-grandparents’ journey to Australia from a tiny pit village in Scotland cried out as a backdrop in need of a story; and so began a love affair that has taken me to my ancestors’ birthplace, down a Lanarkshire coal mine and onto the battlefields of France.

WHERE TO FIND CHRISTINE ONLINE

Website:             https://christinebell.com.au
Twitter:                https://twitter.com/chrisbellwrites
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/chris.bell.77377
Instagram:           https://www.instagram.com/christinembell

The Swing Tree is available where all good books are sold.

Congratulations Christine and Happy Book Day.

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

The Philosopher’s Daughters – Happy Book Day

Today we’re celebrating Alison Booth’s Happy Book Day with her adult historical fiction, The Philosopher’s Daughters.

Alison was born in Melbourne, brought up in Sydney and lives in Canberra. She has worked in the UK and in Australia as a professor as well as a novelist.

Her new novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, is set in the 1890s in London and Australia. Her previous novels include A Perfect Marriage, a work of contemporary fiction, while her first three novels (Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky, and A Distant Land) are historical fiction spanning the decades 1950s through to the early 1970s.

Alison’s work has been translated into French and has also been published by Reader’s Digest Select Editions in both Asia and Europe. Stillwater Creek was Highly Commended in the ACT Book of the Year Award in 2011 and A Perfect Marriage was Highly Commended in the 2019 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards.

The Philosopher’s Daughters is published by RedDoor Press and paperback and e-book editions are available from today. April 2020.  The large print edition and the audiobook will be available form early July.

ABOUT THE PHILOSOPHER’S DAUGHTERS

London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting.

When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life. Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.

ALISON’S FABULOUS TIPS ON WRITING

To understand history, we rely on the reports of others. And when we read those words we might ask ourselves whose stories are missing. Typically, it will be the stories of those who were losers, of those who had no power at the time; for example. the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the defeated.  And this is where writers of historical fiction can present different perspectives of the past to those that are found in standard straight historical texts. The fiction writer can tell a story that includes the marginal voices that history left aside. This was one of my goals.

As with all my novels, at the first-draft stage I try to work consistently every day on the manuscript. Not for long, maybe an hour or so each day. Once the draft is complete, I put it away for a while, and return later for further drafting. At the redraft stage I try to set aside weeks to work on it, until it drives me mad and I put it to one side again. The Philosopher’s Daughters took many years to write, not only because of the research required but also because my thinking evolved over its writing.

My plotting is largely done at the start. This might seem very constraining to some people, but it allows me to keep track of where I am. And while much of this detailed preplanning goes out the door as the novel proceeds, it’s very helpful at the beginning.

Before beginning a novel, I also decide whose viewpoint I want to write from, and if there will be one or multiple viewpoints. As the sisters in The Philosopher’s Daughters are very different in spite of their common upbringing, I chose to tell the story from each of their viewpoints. This allowed the narrative to be more nuanced than if I’d been writing from the perspective of one of the sisters.

In the second half of the 19th century, my ancestors sailed from England and Scotland to the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria. It’s always struck me how brave they were, and I grew up fascinated by the thought that Australia once comprised such small colonies teetering on the edge of a vast continent. In this novel I wanted to travel back in time to view it through the eyes of two well-educated young women.

WHERE THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PHILOSOPHER’S DAUGHTERS CAME FROM

For years the idea for my new novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, just wouldn’t let me alone. I kept imagining 1890s London and two strong young women, the daughters of a moral philosopher. Someone like John Stuart Mill, a great advocate for the emancipation of women. Someone who gives the girls a relatively modern upbringing. Then I thought of altering the sisters’ circumstances so that they separately choose to journey into remote and wild Australia. What might happen to them?  How might they see life at the ‘frontier’ once they are confronted with the brutal dispossession of the Indigenous population? How would their characters develop as they faced danger?

See also https://www.alisonbooth.net/

You can find out more about Alison and her work at her website, www.alisonbooth.net and her Facebook page iat  www.facebook.com/AlisonBoothAuthor/ . Her Twitter handle is @booth_alison and her Instagram account name is alisonboothauthor9723

Her Facebook page is at https:// www.facebook.com/AlisonBoothAuthor/ . Her Twitter handle is @booth_alison and her Instagram account name is alisonboothauthor9723

Congratulations and Happy Book Day, Alison!

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

 

The Brisbane Line – Happy Book Day

Judith Powell lives out of Brisbane and today we’re celebrating the Book Day for her new adult historical crime fiction, the Brisbane Line.

It’s not surprising that Judith writes in this genre. She’s an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia.

The Brisbane Line is her first work of fiction. Previously she has written school textbooks, academic publications, government reports and a biography of the first person to teach archaeology in Australia (Love’s Obsession. The lives and archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart. Wakefield Press. 2013). In 2017 she was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II.

ABOUT THE BRISBANE LINE

As WWII ravages the world and the Japanese Empire has set its sights on Australia, the Americans have come to save us. But not all soldiers are heroes and not all heroes are soldiers.

Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police, loves music and photography but spends his days delving into the sordid and petty crimes committed by the thousands of American troops passing through town.

While trying to find stolen gasoline stores, he is sent to investigate the body of an American soldier found dumped in a cemetery. Suddenly Joe is up against notorious detective Frank Bischof.

Although ordered to leave the investigation alone, Joe fears that Bischof is protecting the most likely suspect while trying to pin the crime on an innocent – and intriguing – young woman, Rose. A woman who seems to walk between the parallel worlds of black market deals and Brisbane’s high society.

Praise for J.P. Powell ‘Beautifully textured, thoughtful and satisfying.’ Emily Maguire

JUDITH’S TIPS ON WRITING

• Listen
• Learn
• Experiment
• Don’t be a prima donna

• Just sit and write

“Crime fiction is brilliant at portraying place (think Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh, Peter Carey’s Sydney or Donna Leon’s Venice) and historical period (think Lindsay Davis’s ancient Rome, Sulari Gentil’s 1930s Sydney). I love research and will happily pore over old newspapers and documents for hours. This research helps create an authentic atmosphere, but atmosphere is not story.

One of the lessons I had to learn was how to craft a story from all my research. As a member of the Queensland Writers Centre I attended numerous writing workshops and you always learn something. One of the most important things you learn is that you’re not alone. You’re seldom the worst writer in the group and seldom the best. You need to develop a degree of courage and confidence, but ego can be the enemy if it stops you from learning from others. ”

Judith’s inspiration for ’The Brisbane Line’ came from a lifelong love of crime fiction, a fascination with life in wartime Brisbane AND the discovery of a series of crime files kept by an American Military Policeman based in Brisbane during World War Two. How could she not write this?

You can find Judith online at https://jppowellauthor.wixsite.com/website

WHERE TO BUY THE BRISBANE LINE

You can buy The Brisbane Line here:

In Qld at AVID Readerhttps://avidreader.com.au/products/the-brisbane-line

Elsewhere
Booktopia 
Dymocks

Happy Book Day Judith and congratulations on the release of The Brisbane Line.

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

The Shifting Landscape – Happy Book Day to Katherine Kovacic

The landscape is certainly shifting all over the world at the moment. I hope you’re safe and well out there.

Everyone is struggling with the devastating effects of Covid-19 so now’s the time to band together and help each other.

That’s why I’m using my blog to share the love … and some great books. All over the world author events and book launches are being cancelled, but we’re the lucky ones because we still have online forums to share our art … to tell people about our books … books that can provide a great source of entertainment and comfort in these difficult times.

Today, let’s say Happy Book Day to Katherine Kovaci and her amazing new release, The Shifting Landscape.

Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who works with a wide variety of museums, galleries and historic houses. She lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. The Shifting Landscape is the third book in the Alex Clayton art mystery series. This adult crime fiction is being released into the world today, 31 March, by Echo Publishing.

Here’s what The Shifting Landscape is about:

Art dealer Alex Clayton travels to Victoria’s Western District to value the McMillan family’s collection. At their historic sheep station, she finds an important and previously unknown colonial painting – and a family fraught with tension. There are arguments about the future of the property and its place in an ancient and highly significant indigenous landscape.

 When the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the painting is stolen, Alex decides to leave; then a toddler disappears and Alex’s faithful dog Hogarth goes missing. With fears rising for the safety of both child and hound, Alex and her best friend John, who has been drawn into the mystery, join searchers scouring the countryside. But her attempts to unravel the McMillan family secrets have put Alex in danger, and she’s not the only one.
Sounds fascinating doesn’t it? You might like to check our her other Alex Clayton art mysteries too.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Katherine says that her inspiration for The Shifting Landscape  came from a number of places.
“Foremost was the country itself (Victoria’s Western District) and it’s rich Indigenous, and colonial pastoral histories. Then, I’m always inspired by all those wonderful books from the golden age of crime, and in this instance, it was the idea of the classic English manor house mystery transported to modern-day Australia. Finally, art is part of all the books in the series, so paintings — both of the Western District and of other things that resonate for my protagonist, Alex Clayton — are always a source of inspiration.”
KATHERINE’S WRITING TIPS

If you fancy writing this kind of book, Katherine has some great tips that she’s sharing here:

  1. Do a lot of research then file most of it away in the back of your mind. The reader doesn’t need every detail (no matter how awesome it is) just a few nuggets to fire the imagination.
  2. Look at pictures relating to the setting of the book (or how you imagine the setting to be). Colours, light and tiny details can be a spark of inspiration.
  3. If you can, spend time wandering around the place where your book is set (or the place it is based on). Focus on sensations (smells, wind, the ground under your feet, sounds…)
  4. Sometimes my characters don’t do what I expect them to. Mostly, if I go along for the ride it turns out better than anything I had planned.
  5. If something in the draft doesn’t feel right, read it out loud.

Thanks so much for visiting, Katherine and Happy Book Day! You can buy The Shifting Landscape at

You can find out more about Katherine and her books by following her here:
Facebook: Katherine_Kovacic
Twitter: @KathKov1Instagram: katherine.kovacic

And buy The Shifting Landscape where all good books are sold.

Congratulations and Happy Book Day, Katherine.

WIN A COPY OF THIS FABULOUS BOOK 

Only open to Australia residents.

All you have to do is:

  1. In the comments section on this post, tell us why you’d like to win the book.
  2. Share it on social media and tag ‘Dee White Author’

Good luck!

FAUNA: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures – Tania McCartney shares creative secrets

One of the things I love most about being Australian is the amazing fauna we have in our country. Tania McCartney has captured all my favourites and more in her gorgeous new book, Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures.

“Did you know that platypus have retractable webbing on their hind feet to enable an easy transition from swimming to digging? That kangaroos can’t sweat and that the cassowary has no tongue?”

You’ll discover so many amazing facts about our incredible fauna in Tania’s new book.

As with all of her work, Tania is so detailed in her research that she uncovers the unknown and quirky details that I love.

This is not just a stunning book about Australian fauna, it’s also a book about conservation with Tania flagging species that are vulnerable and endangered; some of these will surprise you.

From koalas to crocodiles, and dugongs to Tasmanian devils there are so many fun and fascinating facts to devour.

There’s a lot to absorb, but kids will also enjoy the fun way in which these facts are presented with sections on drop bears, crocodile nosh, and the aerial acrobatics of the Sugar Glider, just to name a few.

I loved delving into all this amazing information, and poring over the gorgeous full colour, often humorous illustrations that add a whole new layer for readers to enjoy.

Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures is the kind of book you can take on holidays with the family to try and spot some curious fauna. It’s also a great classroom tool for talking about the fauna treasures we have in our country, and environment and species conservation.

It’s a book that takes the reader on an amazing journey of discovery, and inspires them to share what they have learned. Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures is published by the National Library of Australia and available where all good books are sold.

We’re so lucky that Tania’s joining us today to talk about how she created her beautiful new book.

Tania McCartney is an author, illustrator and editor of children’s books, with a particular passion for picture books. She has over 50 books in print or production, and recent books include Mamie(HarperCollins), Ivy Bird (Windy Hollow), I Heart the World (Hardie Grant Travel, Feb 2020), and junior fiction series Evie and Pog (HarperCollins, Feb 2020). The founder of Kids’ Book Review and The Happy Book podcast, Tania’s awards include several CBCA Notable books, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and the CBCA Laurie Copping Award for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature. An ambassador for the Chief Minister’s Reading Challenge, Tania has lived in France, England and China, and currently lives in Canberra with her family, a forest of artwork and a mountain of books. 

TANIA’S TIPS AND INSPIRATION

1. What was the inspiration behind Fauna?
An animal book has been on my bucket list for a while, and during research for some of my other books, I found myself incessantly marvelling at the curiosities of our native fauna. I mean, we all know there’s lots of quirk when it comes to Australian animals, but I was finding more and more super cool facts I was pretty sure many kids (and adults) had not yet heard of.

I was also keen to produce a book that wasn’t a ‘typical’, traditional animal book. I wanted to create a book high on design and laid out in pockets of text that would enchant a broad range of kids—even reluctant readers and younger readers who are ready for ‘more’.

2. As an author/illustrator, did you write the text first and then do the illustrations or did you work on them simultaneously as you were doing the research?
I’m so lucky with the National Library. My publisher Susan Hall entrusts me with creating books in an organic way that fits my style of working. I find text and image a seamless dance, so I put most parts of Fauna together simultaneously.

I would research, write, sketch and play with shapes and form all at the same time. This meant I could create really balanced spreads. If I needed to fill a certain section, I could choose to create a new image or seek out another little fact or chart of diagram.

The book was edited from fully designed and laid-out spreads. Scientific editor Jeannette Birtles was a real trooper. She went through several rounds of spreads in this way and it worked out really well, as image was so tightly correlated with text, and both could be edited in tandem.

3. There is so much amazing detail in this book. Are you able to estimate how many hours you spent on researching and creating it?
That’s a hard question! I tend to work on several books at the same time, but Faunawas one of the rarities where I had to really focus. I’d say it took about 8 months of work in the proper sense—in that I was actively working in a solid way. But there were many times outside that active phase where I’d do further research, read, tweak, re-check, seek illustration inspiration, take photographs, make textures, etc. So perhaps the entire process was a year in the making.

4. Who is your favourite curious creature?
I have a bit of a soft spot for the dugong. Researching this beautiful creature was strangely calming, and I was particularly taken with how bonded babies and mums are. They’re just the sweetest of animals and have an extraordinary evolutionary history. I love monotremes, too—the echidna and the platypus. They have that special something—when you see one in the wild, you can’t breathe, they’re so beautiful. And both are living relics from our dinosaur past.

5. What was the hardest part about creating this book?
Creating Fauna was a joy, but probably the hardest thing was the toll on my body. The hours put into creating these illustrations … graphic design-style imagery may appear relatively ‘easy’ but it’s not. It’s a massive amount of detailed work, complete with many layers of texture and filters. The other challenging thing was the many (and necessary) rounds of edits with Jeannette. For a book like this, multiple rounds are vital. We want to get our facts straight, and science comes up with new facts almost daily! So, this was a laborious process, especially the cladogram at the end of the book. Worth it, though.

6. What did you enjoy most about creating it?
Discovering glorious facts. Learning more about our beautiful and unique fauna. Falling in love with animals all over again. Designing and laying out the book, and having the creative freedom to do so. That meant the world to me.

7. Fauna is fun, funny and fascinating, but there’s also a strong conservation thread. Why did you include this theme in your book?
As Earth’s ecosystems continue to falter, and as most of the world’s leaders continue to put profit and power before planet, we must seize any opportunity to further educate our children on conservation. These kids hold the planet’s future in their hands, and the love and care and concern they already show for nature is heartening. I hope Fauna can help impassion and inspire them further, in even the smallest way. That is, after all, what books are for.

Thanks for dropping by, Tania.

I loved your new book. I can see Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures making a great Christmas present for animal lovers of all ages.

Dee

Blabbermouth – books for anyone who has ever been in trouble for talking

I remember being in trouble for talking at school, often; especially in classes that didn’t involve creating stories or drawing.

That’s why I could relate so well to Chrissy Perry’s latest series for 7+ readers, Blabbermouth, published by Scholastic Australia.

I’m so thrilled that Chrissy is visiting my blog today to talk about how she wrote these fun and very entertaining books.

But first … about the books!

THE BLABBERMOUTH BOOKS

Amelie is the kind of kid you’d love to have in your friendship group. She’s funny, kind and wise. But like everyone, Amelie has her problems too. Amelie is bubbly, very bubbly, and sometimes things fly out her mouth without meaning to. The words are never meant to cause trouble but they do.

Nobody, even Amelie’s friends believe that she can keep her mouth shut, but Amelie is out to prove them wrong.

To do this, she takes on a secret identity requiring her to keep the darkest secrets and solve other kid’s problems in a thoughtful and unique way.

In the first book, ‘Blabbermouth – Oops, I’ve done it again!’ Amelie is ‘trying to help’ and accidentally divulges a friend’s secret. Her mouth also gets her into trouble when she’s seconded to the A-Grade netball team and involved in their strategy meetings.

In book two, Blabbermouth – Oops, I’ve told a little lie, Amelie has the most adorable thing to show the class, but she accidentally leads them to believe that it belongs to her.

Three of the girls in Amelie’s friendship group love her unconditionally, in spite of the messes her mouth gets her into. But one of them, Paris is Amelie’s frenemy – her friend one minute and turning on her the next. And if Amelie is caught out in her lie about the adorable thing, it could destroy their relationship forever.

There is so much to love about Amelie. She has many endearing qualities, and the trait the gets her into trouble the most is something that many kids her age would experience at some point – accidentally divulging a secret.

There’s so much to love about these books. They’re full of humour and cute and quirky drawings by Pete Petrovic, and Amelie is a problem solver with a mature self-awareness for a girl in Grade 5.

I really liked that her friendships are not smooth sailing because they are realistic and her experiences are very relatable.

The Blabbermouth Books are fast-faced fun with deeper underlying themes for readers aged 8+ and will help kids of all genders navigate the difficult road of friendship. The first two books in the series left me wanting more.

ABOUT CHRISSIE

Chrissie Perry (who also writes as Chrissie Keighery) is the author of thirty-five books for Children and Young Adults, including thirteen in the popular Go Girl series and the award winning YA novel, Whisper.

Find out more about Chrissie at her website: https://chrissieperry.com/

HOW CHRISSE WROTE THESE FABULOUS BLABBERMOUTH BOOKS

  1. Where did the inspiration for Amelie’s character come from?

I had an idea that it could be fun to write about a clueless kid who has been given an Advice Column to run. Initially, I thought it might be called ‘Just Ask Ava’. As I developed her character, though, it became clear that her clunkiness is largely due to her lack of filter. It’s true for a lot of kids (and quite a few adults too!).  I really wanted this to be a fun, light hearted series, and Amelie Anderson seemed just the ticket.

  1. Did you have a frenemy at school? Does writing about them help?

Yes, in Primary School I totally did – thanks for asking! Her name was Melinda BLEEPand she gave me a very hard time. I think her biggest problem was that THE most popular girl liked to hang out with me. Melinda BLEEPwould belittle and humiliate me at every opportunity. I definitely thought about her when I was writing Paris Sheridan. The techniques she used to put me down finally came in handy! It was cathartic having Amelie stand in my place, as she’s so resilient and refuses to let Paris keep her down for long.

  1. Have you planned out the whole series or do you write each book as a new idea comes to you?

 A bit of both. There is a narrative arc that rides across the whole series, but each book can be read as a standalone. So, when ideas for a particular book became too congested, I’d keep some for another book. In general, though, each book is driven by a couple of threads with a strong relationship to the title.

  1. What did you love most about writing these books?

Amelie made me laugh. She’s very unlike me. I’m pretty sensitive, but our dear gal is resilient. So, through all her trials and tribulations, I knew she would be okay. I love the subsidiary characters too (except Paris, but even she has reasons why she is who she is) and whenever I got to see Pete’s renditions of them I felt utterly delighted.

  1. What was the hardest thing about writing them?

Sometimes figuring out how the problems Amelie has to answer in her Advice Column could play into her life experiences and make her more emotionally intelligent were tricky to manoeuvre. Of course, the links had to appear seamless – and there’s often a lot of paddling below the surface to make that happen.

  1. What do you want readers to take away from them?

First and foremost, I want readers to have fun with this series. The take away is that they may start to consider notions of kindness, empathy and inclusiveness along the way. That’s quite a lofty goal – but I just mean baby steps towards these qualities.

Thanks for dropping in, Chrissie. It was so great to chat with you and read your books.

If you had a frenemy at school or was in trouble for talking a lot, we’d love to hear your stories in the comments section of this post. If you have a question for Chrissie about her books, you can include that in the comments too.

When and Where to find a literary agent

I honestly believe that the best way to find a literary agent is to go to a conference or somewhere you’ll have the opportunity to meet them in person. That way you can both use your instincts to decide whether you like each other and could work together.

Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-on-one assessments with an agent so you can get feedback on what you write.

Of course it’s not always possible to go to conferences or events to meet agents, but these days there are some great opportunities that exist online through places like:


TWITTER

  1. Twitter – If you type #MSWL in the search box, you’ll find a thread called Manuscript Wish List where publishers and agents post what kinds of manuscripts they are looking for.   Manuscript Wish List also has a website where opportunities are posted too, and they run Man
    uscript Wish List Academy.
  2. Type in the #MSWLMA hashtag on Twitter to find Manuscript Wish List Academy Manuscript Wish List Academy runs an online conference with opportunities to pitch to agents. They offer sessions like ‘10 minutes with an expert’, writing classes, writing critiques and writing consultations.
  3. #PitMad – ‘#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch.’
  4. Pitchfest – Savvy Authors – opportunities to pitch to agents and editors.

OTHER

  1. Query Tracker – https://querytracker.net- provides information to help you find a literary agent. They have over 1500 listings with information about each agent – and the opportunity to track your query. 
  2. Publishers Market Place https://www.publishersmarketplace.com is ‘the biggest and best dedicated marketplace for publishing professionals built on the foundation of Publishers Lunch, read by 40,000 industry insiders and considered “publishing’s essential daily read”.’

BOOKS, PUBLICATIONS AND OTHER RESOURCES

  1. Writers and Artists Yearbook UK https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/writers-artists-yearbook-2020-9781472947512/ ‘an up-to-date directory of thousands of contacts for the book publishing industry including almost 400 Literary agents.’
  2. Guide to Literary Agents 2019 –  by Robert Lee Brewer – ‘Guide to Literary Agents 2019 is your go-to resource for finding that literary agent and earning a contract from a reputable publisher. Along with listing information for more than 1,000 agents who represent writers and their book’ https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Brewer/e/B002GO21SC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
  3. SCBWI – https://www.scbwi.org The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children – Agents Directory – available to download f
  4. ree from SCBWI members.
  5. There are Facebook Groups like Sub it Club where authors and illustrators offer information and support to others who are looking for an agent. ‘Sub It Club is a support group for writers and illustrators who are submitting (or thinking about submitting) their work. Writers of any genre are welcome to join us. We talk submissions, critique query letters, help each other with pitches, share tips, and more.’  There’s also KidLit411 run by the founders of www.Kidlit411.com where they have an agent spotlight.
  6. Literary Rambles http://www.literaryrambles.com A blog spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents and Publishing. Does interviews with agents about what they are looking for and books they have represented.

WHEN TO LOOK FOR AN AGENT

Of course this is different for everyone, but I’ve found that it’s something that shouldn’t be rushed into. When your work sings, when your characters leap off the page, when you have an amazing story concept that you can sum up in a single paragraph, that’s when I would go looking for an agent.

You only get one chance. If you submit a manuscript that’s far from ready, an agent is unlikely to invite you to resubmit.  Revise, revise, wait, revise, revise, revise then submit. Don’t waste your opportunities!

This concludes the ‘Choosing an Agent’ series. I hope you’ve found these posts helpful.

Please feel free to share your experiences, tips and questions in the comments section of this post.

Good luck finding your dream agent.

Dee