HAYWIRE by Claire Saxby + Some Writing Secrets

Today, the wonderful and talented Claire Saxby is visiting DeeScribe Writing to talk about her first historical fiction, Haywire, published by Scholastic Australia and she’s sharing some secrets about her writing process.

Claire  writes award-winning fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children. Her books include ‘Bird to Bird’ and ‘Dingo’, ‘Seadog’ and ‘There Was an Old Sailor’. Her books and poetry are published in Australia and internationally.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ HAYWIRE

In 1939, 14-year-old Tom lives in Hay where his family runs the local bakery. Max Gruber is nearly fourteen-years-old. He is sent to his Uncle Ferdy in London, but is then interred and shipped to Australia aboard the Dunera. He arrives in Hay and meets Tom. The two boys become friends and find their lives and their friendship influenced by a far-away conflict in Europe. (from the publisher – Scholastic Australia)

Born on opposite sides of the world, Tom and Max live very different lives that both long to escape. In this compelling tale of an unlikely friendship, the two boys have been brought together by war.

Max’s frightening voyage on the Dunera keeps us spell bound and even once he arrives in Australia, life doesn’t get much easier for him after he finds himself in the Hay internment camp, shunned by most of the outside world as an ‘enemy alien’.

In her novel, HAYWIRE, Claire Saxby documents a little known passage of the Australian WW11 experience.

Tom and Max are both well crafted and relatable characters and readers can connect with their vulnerabilities and the fear and uncertainty that war brings.

Tom’s family life is authentically Australian and rich in the detail and experiences of the time in which the story is set.

Although HAYWIRE is set in a time of great tragedy and fear, we are left with hope and a belief that life for both Tom and Max will turn out okay in spite of the situation and war that their countries have thrust them into.

This well researched work of historical fiction is for readers aged 9 to 12 and has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Young People’s History Prize. Congratulations Claire.

HAYWIRE – THE WRITING PROCESS

  1. What inspired you to write this book?

I knew about the Dunera, the ship that brought so many internees to Australia in 1940, but I didn’t know much. I did know that a substantial number of the internees elected to stay in Australia rather than return to England once the British government acknowledged their wrongful internment. I did know that this was an extraordinary group of men, who contributed enormously to Australia. But I knew nothing about how they came to be in Hay and what the locals thought. And I wanted to.

  1. Who/what inspired the characters of Tom and Max?

Max came first. I had this sense of a teenage boy picked up by a tidal wave and swept from his world to the world of war, where he is judged purely by his heritage, his accent. No one asked how he felt, what he wanted. And the size of the wave that carried him on allowed little time for him to even consider more than surviving. Until he reaches Hay. Tom’s life looks simple in comparison, but he too is caught up in the war at home and it tears at his life, his security too. He, like Max, has little time to really process what’s going on, and what he really wants. I wanted to show that the quiet ones are as ripped apart by war as those who shout loudly.

  1. Can you talk us through the research process?

Research took a very long time and continued throughout writing and redrafting! There were two main reasons for this. The first is that it’s all fascinating and it’s so easy to disappear down paths that may well lead to more interesting information, but which don’t necessarily contribute directly to the novel. The second reason is because in order to represent both 1939/1940 Europe and Hay, NSW accurately I needed to know so much! I needed the timeline to WWII in Germany and England, in Australia in general, and Hay in particular. Then I needed to know what life was like in Hay at the time (and that involved spending a lot – A LOT – of time on Trove, reading the twice-weekly regional newspaper.

Each reading exposed holes in my knowledge and let to more research. I thought I’d done enough research and was somewhere in the middle of drafting (tenth draft?) when I had the chance to visit Hay (It’s on the way from Melbourne to Canberra, right?). Much of what I’d researched was right, but there were several fundamental errors on my part – and each of those meant that if I wanted the story to be as close to real as I could make it, I needed to rewrite a number of key scenes. Aggh! But ultimately it was worth it.

  1. What Surprising Things Did you discover through the research process?

So many. There were so many things that I just hadn’t thought about, eg why did they chose Hay for the internment camps? (criteria included being far from the coast, having transport access, being built on sand to prevent escape attempts). Surprises were big and small and ranged from fathers being rounded up for internment in England, even when sons were employed by the army (and vice versa) to the camp having their own currency.

I met a man who had been a child at the time the internees arrived and he told me that there’d been Gatling guns set up inside the station, trained on the disembarking men. The same man told me about his father setting up on the chimney of their house, armed with several weapons and prepared to shoot if any of the men appeared on the street. Another surprise was that around 20 % of the internees were under 20 years-old.

  1. Writing tips

Claire’s latest release, Kookaburra

I use an A4 workbook for my research, in addition to online research. I write notes in it, on only one side of the page, with reference notes (reference book details and page number or online reference details etc). Sometimes I print out pages too, glue them in and highlight relevant information.

Don’t have too many characters. After writing mostly picture books, I thought, here is my chance to have lots of characters, and it is, but beware of having so many that it becomes confusing. Tom had many more siblings, reflecting family sizes of the time, but not all of them had enough of a role to justify their existence. Some had to go.

Research broadly, from multiple sources. Trove was a … treasure trove! It allowed me access to several regional newspapers, each with their own focus. All were helpful. The internet is wonderful and so are books. Each provides some of the same information, which is useful for corroboration, but each also provides different information, which helps to flesh out the historical world I was entering.

You can find out more about Claire and her work at https://clairesaxby.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

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.

K9 Heroes – It takes more than one person to create a book

Today my books K9 Heroes (published by Scholastic Australia) was released into the wild.

K9 Heroes is inspired by four true stories from France, Canada, USA and Australia about dogs who have saved people’s lives.

There are so many books about people who have rescued dogs, but I wanted to pay tribute to the amazing K9s who have rescued people. The K9 Heroes I have written about saved humans from fire, drowning, cougar attack and homelessness.

The idea first came to me when I was on a retreat near Santa Cruz with my writing sisters, Laura Elliott and Edna Hokunaauao Cabcabin Moran. Every writer needs people to inspire and encourage them like these dear friends.

They encouraged me to develop the idea. They shared their tips and suggestions … and so 10,000 miles from home, my new book baby was conceived.

This book has had so much support from start to finish. When I wanted to create a book trailer, my local community got behind me and volunteered their dogs.

Here’s the end result: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jeRNf2CFkA&feature=youtu.be

And of course there has been the enthusiasm of Clare Halifax, my publisher at Scholastic who seemed to love my doggy tales right from the start.

As authors, we are the ones who put the words on paper, but there are so many wonderful people who join us on the journey.

Thanks to everyone who has helped K9 Heroes on the road to publication.

And if you’re looking for a Christmas present for a dog lover … well K9 Heroes is a perfect stocking sized book 🙂

Dee

Nurture Your Creative Dreams

When I was seven years-old I decided to become a writer.

I had written a poem for arbor day (tree planting day) that I was asked to read at school assembly.

Little oak tree by the mill
standing there so quiet and still
stretch your branches up to the sky
up to the birds flying by.

And when the wind oh how it blows
It blows the leaves down to my toes
With little acorns yellow and brown
“Folks gather them all over town.

Oak tree I like you when you’re small
and I like you when you’re tall
But I like it best of all
When the coloured leaves fall from the trees
Look at the things that the butterfly sees.

Not a literary masterpiece and that last stanza is pretty random I know, but I was only seven 🙂

Reading my poem out at assembly and seeing how people reacted to it was amazing, I think it was the first time I realised the power of written words, that what we write can have an impact on people.

Of course I didn’t realise at that time what being a writer actually meant. All I knew was that I loved to write.

English and writing were the only subjects where I shone,  but there was nobody at high school to advise me  how you become a writer.

So I wrote. I thought that seemed the best way to follow my passion. Then I went to Vic Uni and did their Professional Writing and Editing Diploma, and I wrote some more. I wrote because it’s who I am … a writer.

I battled self doubt often … and the judgements of friends and family who didn’t think that writing was a ‘proper job’.

And after a while I started to see things their way. What other profession would you face constant rejection … constant letters/emails from people saying that your work was not what they wanted? What other profession would you devote hundreds of hours to a project with no guarantee of any financial reward?

I took a job in insurance because it enabled me to eat, but still I wrote. It was a compulsion with me. It was who I was … a writer.

Eventually I went from insurance to marketing to advertising to copywriting … and finally I was a writer.

From there, it was a short step to being an author … or so I thought.

But getting a novel published isn’t easy. You have to find someone that loves your book, loves the story idea and the writing so much that they are willing to publish it.

So began the long road of rejections.

As the years went by, the rejection letters got better … if you can use such a word for rejection. I started receiving letters that weren’t the standard rejection. Editors and agents began to offer feedback on my work … offered suggestions on how to make it more ‘publication ready’, and I embraced all their suggestions.

But still I wasn’t published. And I have to say I became more desperate. I submitted to publishers I might not normally have sent work to. If I’d had the money I think I would have been open to all kinds of publishers offering to publish my work for a ‘not so small’ fee.

The reason I’m sharing this is because writing is hard. No matter how patient we are, how hard we work, sometimes it feels like it’s never going to happen.

My new book out this year with Scholastic Australia

But if you have talent and dedication and lots of ideas i firmly believe that you will find someone who will love and believe in your work as much as you do.

So take heart, don’t give up, but don’t sell yourself short either. Don’t fall victim to scammers and companies seeking to make a lot of money from your desire to be published.

Have faith in yourself and wait for the right opportunity, wait for the publisher who wants to pay to publish your work rather than the company who wants you to pay hundreds or thousands to see your work in print,

Out 1st September with EK books. Loved working with illustrator Tracie Grimwood on this one 🙂

Be patient (although I know how hard that can be). Keep writing, take courses and get better at your craft.

Anyone who values your writing as much as you do will be prepared to pay for it.

Feed and nurture your creative dreams until they bear fruit.

Good luck, keep going and happy writing 🙂

Dee

Here’s a link to a page I’ve set up about some of the traps you can face as an author: https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/authors-beware/