Paris Hunting – Introducing Cara Jamieson – An Emerging New Character

There’s something really exciting about delving into the minds and lives of fictional characters.

My good author friend, Sheryl Gwyther was invited to participate in a Character Blog Hop by fabulous author, Wendy Orr whose post explores her famous character, Nim.

On Sheryl’s blog, she shares wonderful insights about her compelling character, Adversity McAlpine. I love Addie and her story set in NSW during the depression.

Now Sheryl has asked me to lift the lid on one of my characters so I’ve chosen to talk about a new character from my current work in progress, Paris Hunting.

Paris Hunting is a Young Adult adventure/suspense set in Paris in the present day.

IMG_0048My main character, Cara Jamieson is living in my head at the moment, but I’m looking forward to finding out more about her and her life when I spend time in Paris in April.

What is your character’s name?

Cara Jamieson

Is this character based on you?

Not consciously, but I guess parts of her are. She’s inquisitive like me. She’s quite headstrong and she’s adventurous.

I have never lived the kind of life Cara lives, but maybe a part of me always wanted to.

How old is the character?

Cara is 17 years-old.

What should we know about the character?

If you met Cara it wouldn’t take you long to get to know her. She’s an outgoing, honest kind of girl.

Cara is living in Paris because her father has a diplomatic posting there. She’s an only child so her friends are important to her.

She has just discovered that her Great grandfather, Phillipe Gautier was an important member of the French Resistance in World War 2. Her Great grandfather was a taxidermist (the research on this character has been interesting to say the least) and there’s a rumour that he concealed something important inside one of the animals he stuffed. Cara is determined to find out what it was and where it is now, but the only clue she has is a letter written by Phillipe just before he was murdered.

imagesCara has travelled a lot because of her parents’ work and her friends are the kids of other diplomats. She is someone who likes to learn about and immerse herself in other cultures and traditions.

Cara is a daredevil, and is always challenging her friends to something extreme. Her latest dare involves breaking into the Paris Museum of Hunting to take a selfie with a unicorn horn.

What she doesn’t know is that the Museum holds a clue to her family’s past, and finding out about it could put her life and the lives of her friends at risk.

Cara is very determined and single minded and is hard to talk out of a course of action, even if it’s dangerous

What are your character’s personal goals? 

Cara wants to find this thing that was so important to her Great Grandfather that it probably got him killed. Cara also wants to fulfil her need for adventure.

Where can we find out more about the book?

Paris Hunting is still a work in progress but I’ll be sharing more news about it on this blog as the story develops.

My good writer friends, Alison Reynolds and Sally Murphy have some great new books coming out this year so I’m tagging them to share their character’s stories.

Be watching their blogs at Alison Reynolds and Sally Murphy to find out more.


Sally Murphy – Researching Historical Fiction

SallyMurphyToday I’m very pleased to welcome writerly friend and author of many fabulous books, Sally Murphy. Sally’s latest book, 1915 has just been released and she’s here to share her tips on researching historical fiction.

1915, is my first foray into novel-length historical fiction. Historical fiction uses real events, but blends them with fiction. Even when we write about real people, we can’t always know exactly what they said, and certainly not what they were thinking. And, of course, often historical fiction uses fictional characters, set amongst real events and/or time periods. This presents a different set of challenges than writing contemporary fiction, or fantasy. The writer of historical fiction must also be a researcher.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for researching historical fiction.

  1. Once you have an idea, start with the easy sources. In my case, I wanted to write about Australian soldiers in 1915. The first two things I did were visit my library and use the internet. At the library I borrowed every book they had on Gallipoli and World War One. Some of these dealt with the topic in depth, others were short and focussed only on a few key points. Online I searched key terms such as “Gallipoli’, “AIF” and “Australian Soldiers’. Really basic terms that gave me way too much information. But from browsing the books and the websites I started to see recurring themes and also learnt lots of little pieces of information, which helped me to refine what it was I wanted to write about. These ‘easy’ sources are only a beginning – you will need to go further and further and further, but they will give you a very productive starting point.
  2. Deepen your search by looking at primary and secondary sources. These are things that come directly from the time, or from recollection of the time. In my case, I realised I wanted to write about someone from the 11th Battalion of the AIF, because I’m from Western Australia, and so were these men. So I went and read their unit diary, which outlined key events – where they were and when, what key battles they took place in, and so on. Other sources I read included the diaries of Captain Bean, who was Australia’s official war correspondent, and who I wanted to include as a character in my book. One of my favourite sources was Trove, the National Library’s digitised collection of newspapers, which allowed me to see what was being reported about the war as it happened.
  3. Create a timeline, and find a way of organising all the information you collect. I started with a basic timeline of the main events of the Gallipoli campaign. Then, as I learned about the 11th, I added their dates in. Later, when I started to think about what was happening on the home front (back in Australia), I added more events. I printed and photocopied lots of information and notes that I’d made, and I set up a file, with a divider for each month of the year. This meant that as I wrote, I could look up what was happening to my character as well as what was happening elsewhere.
  4. Don’t just look for key events. Remember that this is fiction. It needs to be like real life. In between big events like landings and battles, there are small events like cooking dinner, or writing a letter. Although you might make these up for your character, you’ll find lots of mention of these in your research, which will help you understand, for example, what writing a letter was like in the mud and chaos of Gallipoli. Then, when you’re writing, your story will be both interesting and believable. I would have loved to give Stanley, my character, a nice chair to sit in, and the time to write long letters home. Instead, I had to remember he would be snatching time in a dugout, maybe even scrabbling for paper.
  5. Remember you can’t put everything into one story. If you have a viewpoint character, it is hard to recount the events that he or she couldn’t have witnessed. I couldn’t put my soldier, Stanley, in the midst of every battle. At the same time, the point of the series is to explore Australia’s experiences in World War 1. So, I had to consider what Stanley might have seen or done himself, and how he might learn about other events. He does hear about things outside his own experience, particularly through letters from his sister Elizabeth, and by meeting Charles Bean, but it isn’t a complete history of Gallipoli. So as you research, focus on the events which will build the story you are trying to tell.

1915Overall, writing historical fiction can be really rewarding. Once I’d started researching I found it difficult to stop. In fact, even though the story is finished and published, I am still learning new things about the war. Along the way I also discovered that I quite like the challenge of this novel form, so perhaps 1915 won’t be only historical novel.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Dee.

My pleasure, Sally. I must admit, Trove is a favourite of mine too:)


When Australia throws its support behind Britain in its fight against Germany, young teacher Stan Moore is one of the first to join up, swapping the classroom for adventure in Europe. But the 11th Battalion is sent with the newly formed Anzac Corp to Gallipoli, where Stan is confronted by the hard lessons of war. Though conditions are dismal and death is everywhere, so is the humour and bravery that is the true spirit of Anzac.

Part of the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic Australia, 1915 was released in time to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the landing of the first ANZACs at Gallipoli.

You can learn more about 1915 at Sally’s website or her Facebook page.


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.02.18 amToday, I’m very excited to welcome writerly friend and award winning verse novelist, Sally Murphy. I’m going to be talking about Sally’s latest wonderful book, Roses Are Blue, and Sally will share some great writing tips.


Roses Are Blue by award winning, Sally Murphy is another deeply moving verse novel about a real life family dilemma that a young child, in this case Amber Rose, must face.

Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and change. But sometimes hope blooms suddenly.

I have not got used to my new mum.

Even though I love her

(I absolutely love her),

I miss my happy,




smiling mum.

Something terrible has happened to Amber’s mum. After a serious car accident, she looks different and she can’t do many of the things she used to.

She’s still the same person inside, but will the kids at Amber’s new school understand that when they meet her at the Mother’s Day High Tea?

Amber is a beautiful, sensitive, and totally believable character learning to cope with massive changes in her life.  Her emotions of fear, embarrassment and love are so authentic.

She is vulnerable and flawed and  Sally Murphy skillfully draws the reader into Amber’s world and heart.

I love the way Amber changes and grows through the story with the truths she learns about families and friendship, and the things that are really important. She also learns a lot about herself.

Sally MurphyThe writing in this story is beautiful and tender, full of imagery and symbolism that present difficult issues in a way that young children won’t find confronting.

There are so many parallels to be drawn in this story and I love the way Amber expresses herself through her art, and it provides a strong connection to her mother, and to the past and the future.

This is a heartwarming story about compassion, understanding and trust.

I can see Roses are Blue being read by many just for its sheer beauty, but it will also be a valuable classroom book to be read and discussed.


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.09.11 amMy love of verse novels developed when I discovered those written by Margaret Wild (Jinxed and One Night). I decided then that I wanted to write in the form one day, and that infatuation continued to grow when I discovered works by Steven Herrick, Catherine Bateson, Lorraine Marwood and more. It took a while to find the right story for a verse novel, but when a girl called Pearl started telling me her tale, I wrote my first verse novel, Pearl Verses the World. Later, I met (in my imagination) a boy named John who similarly wanted his tale told that way, in Toppling. Most recently, Amber Rose was intent on sharing her journey to coming to terms with big changes, also in verse.

I love writing in verse, but when I started writing verse novels I did it instinctively. I didn’t know how to do it, I just had a go. Having now written three, I still work largely by instinct, but when I reflect there are some things I do which work well for me, and may help you if you choose to try the form. Here, then, are my five tips for writing a verse novel:

  1. Love the form. Don’t try to write a verse novel unless you love verse novels. This may sound obvious, but lots of writers are tempted to try a new form because it features in awards list, or because another writer is doing it. Be true to yourself as a writer and write what you love. That passion shines through in your writing.
  2. Read lots of verse novels, but don’t try to copy them. I have been influenced by the work of Australian verse novelists like Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Sherryl Clark and also those from further afield including Sharon Creech. But it is important that my work has its own style, a point of difference. Reading widely assures that I see lots of different techniques and encourages me to try different things. I don’t want to write like any of those writers – though I do wish to be as good as them, one day.
  3. When you decide to write a verse novel, decide whether the story you have in mind is likely to work in this way. Most verse novels are written in first person voice (though they may have multiple voices rather than just one) and the form seems best suited to topics with a high level of emotion or conflict. If you prefer lots of description, lots of narration, or even lots of dialogue, you may find prose is a better fit.
  4. TopplingBe clear on your story arc. Yes, this is a series of poems – or perhaps one very long poem – but it is also a narrative. Is there a clear conflict and resolution? Are there twists and turns? Does the tension build? Other story elements such as character development and dialogue are also really vital.
  5. Consider whether your verse novel works as poetry. Although I write in poetry, I usually do so instinctively at the draft stage, and then during the revision process I focus more on the poetic techniques, looking for layers of meaning, considering line lengths and also reworking my use of techniques such as rhythm, repetition, onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, imagery, and rhyme.

Thanks for these great tips, Sally.

I look forward to reading more of your wonderful verse novels.


P.S. Next week we’re looking at a different form of poetry – Bush Poetry – and resident expert, Stephen Whiteside will be here to share his tips with us.



Toppling, the new illustrated verse novel from Sally Murphy tackles some big issues, but handles the difficult content with gentleness and humour.

John is a normal boy with a strong friendship group, and a slightly unusual fascination for Dominos.

John’s world is shaken by fear and uncertainty when his best friend, Dominic is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, adults are keeping things from him, and his best friend seems to have disappeared.

Author, Sally Murphy handles this difficult issue of childhood cancer with hope and sensitivity.

Toppling is  wonderfully illustrated, and despite the pared down format, Sally manages to set vivid and powerful scenes.

She establishes strong characters; each with a clear voice and a story of their own.

Toppling is a beautiful book that will have you laughing and crying; possibly at the same time. It’s a story of loyalty and friendship, delightfully illustrated by the very talented Rhian Nest James

Another great read for 8-12yo from the author of the award-winning Pearl Verses the World.

Toppling was released by Walker Books Australia this month (March 2010).

ISBN: 9781921529429

Congratulations Sally and Rhian on a your new book.



This month, talented author, Sally Murphy is celebrating the release of her beautiful new verse novel, Toppling. Readers who loved Pearl Verses the World won’t be able to put this one down.

To celebrate the release of Sally’s new book, I’m off to visit her today out west to talk about what I love about Children’s Poetry.

Hope you can drop into Sally’s place and say, “Hi”. She’s at

See you there.



Constable Wombat - a wonderful illustration by David Murphy
Constable Wombat – a wonderful illustration by David Murphy
Snowy's Christmas cover
Snowy’s Christmas cover

Today is a very special day for me. I have NEVER had an illustrator visit my blog…until NOW!

Talented and modest Dave Murphy is here to talk about being an illustrator, working on “Snowy’s Christmas” with author, Sally Murphy, and some of the personal stuff that’s always interesting to know.

David, seeing as “Snowy’s Christmas” is such a beautiful and unique story, I thought I’d start with some Christmasy questions.

What is your favourite part of Christmas?

Sharing it with my family.

What was your favourite Christmas story when you were a child?

As a child, and even now, my favourite Christmas story is The Night Before Christmas. I read it to my boys every Christmas Eve.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

Lying awake on hot summer evenings the night before Christmas; listening for the bells of Santa’s sleigh through the noise of the cidadas and crickets.

Dave at work
Dave at work

What was the best present you ever got for Christmas?

Books. My favourite presents were always books. My father once gave me a collection of Henry Lawson stories, which is still pretty special.

I just happen to be a fan of Henry Lawson too (even wrote a book about him), so I can understand exactly how you feel. I have to confess at this point that I’m totally in awe of illustrators, so I’d really like to know how you do it

David, can you tell me what your favourite part about being an illustrator is?

(Aside from being a dad) my favourite thing in the world is when my pencil moves across the page bringing a story to life.

What was your favourite part about illustrating “Snowy’s Christmas”?

Watching the characters spring to life and interact with each other – then watching others interpret my illustrations.

What is the thing you like most about Snowy, the character?

Snowy popped out of my brain and onto the page almost fully formed. Even so, he grew and developed as I led him around Sally’s story. As his character emerged, I saw the sense of joy he had discovered in his own uniqueness and strength.

What is your favourite part about turning a writer’s words into pictures?

Everyone imagines stories differently, no matter how descriptive the text. It is a privilege to be asked for your own particular vision. It is even more gratifying to be able to add to the world created by a brilliant writer like Sally.

Do you have a special tip for aspiring illustrators?

Another great Dave Murphy illustration - Kids from school
Another great Dave Murphy illustration – Kids from school

Bruce Whatley once challenged me to try using my left hand. The results were so amazing it completely changed the way I illustrate. I now do all my sketching exclusively with my left hand, and all my technical work with my right.

Thanks for some wonderful insights David into you and your work.

To find out more about David, visit

You can also catch David, and author of Snowy’s Christmas, Sally Murphy at these other great locations on their blog tour.

Week One – October 4 –

(That’s here!)

Week Two – October 11 –

Week Three – October 18 –

Week Four – October 25 –

Week Five – November 1 –

Week Six – November 8 –

Week Seven – November 15 –

Week Eight –

Week Nine –

Week Ten –

Week Eleven –

SALLY MURPHY SHARES CHRISTMAS SECRETS – And talks about her beautiful new book, Snowy’s Christmas

Sally MurphyTalented and prolific author, Sally Murphy is here today to talk about her ‘just released’ picture book, “Snowy’s Christmas”.

I am so pleased to welcome Sally back to my blog, and hear all about her wonderful new creation. Just for fun, I thought we’d focus today’s interview on “Favourite things”

Sally, what is your favourite part about Christmas?

Everything! I LOVE Christmas. I love seeing my kids emptying their sacks on Christmas morning, and spending quality time together. And singing Christmas carols, and reading Christmas books, and eating yummy Christmas food and the lights and the tree and….

What was your favourite Christmas story when you were a child?

Funnily, I don’t remember any specific Christmas stories, apart from versions of the biblical story – which I’m glad I was taught. I do remember receiving a Little Golden Book which was a Christmas story – I think a version of the Little Drummer boy. What I remember most significantly is that there were TWO copies of the same book in my stocking – one was apparently meant for my big sister. But I think perhaps there weren’t many picture book type offerings just about Christmas, certainly not on the scale they are now. And I have dozens of them now – a great collection which is packed away each year until December.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

As a child we had a lounge room door which closed and locked. The key was always in the door – except on Christmas morning. We all gathered at the door until Mum and Dad were up and everyone was there. Then the door would be unlocked and we would rush in and see what Father Christmas had left. It always seemed so magical!

What was your favourite Christmas present?

Ooh – not a physical present, but the joy of seeing my kids on Christmas morning.

What was your favourite part about writing this book?

Creating a very Australian offering. At the time I wrote the first draft (five or six years ago)  all the Christmas  books available featured snow and ice and were imported. I wanted to do something Australian. Of course, in the meantime, there have been several other Australian Christmas books published, which I think is wonderful.

What is your favourite part about working with an illustrator?

The surprise of seeing what they make of my words. I am not a visual person, so I don’t have preconceived ideas about how the tsory will appear. It is always fun to see the story brought to life.

What is  your favourite character trait in Snowy?

Snowy's Christmas cover

Snowy's Christmas cover

His vulnerability. He is different from the other roos, and feels this strongly He discovers that difference is good, with the help of his understanding mother and the wonderful Ash.

What is your favourite writing tip?

Read what you want to write. It’s amazing how many people want to write children’s books, for example, but don’t read children’s books. You need to love the genre you want to write in, and  read read read.

What is your favourite part about being a writer?

Acceptances – and, of course, eventually seeing my name on the cover. There’s nothing like it.

Thank you so much for visiting us, Sally. It has been wonderful talking with you about Snowy – and I’m sure he will become a Christmas favourite with lots of Aussie and overseas kids.

Later on today, (in about an hour’s time), Snowy’s Illustrator, David Murphy is visiting this blog and he’s going to talk about his favourite Christmassy things, and illustrating Sally’s picture book.

It’s a particularly exciting event for me because I have never had a real, live illustrator come to visit.

Hope you’ll drop back later to meet David.