Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Writer’s Studio: Jesse Blackadder


Jesse Blackadder is the adventurous author of many adult novels including Chasing the Light and The Raven’s Heart. For children, she has written Stay, The Last Dog in Antarctica, Paruku The Desert Brumby and the just-released Dexter, the Courageous Koala. She has recently earned her Doctorate in Creative Arts from the University of Western Sydney. She also has the best surname of any author ever. Here, she takes us inside her creative space and process.

Where do you create?
My studio is an old billiards room, so it has a shelf that runs the whole way around the walls just the right height for standing up and leaning against. I use it to store bits and pieces – shells, snakeskins, plants, feathers, rocks, my big year planner, a jar of sand from the Sahara desert and lots of other junk. Outside the door right now there are two big pythons living in the rock garden. When I say outside the door I mean RIGHT outside. Like six steps away. Plus there is a family of water dragons that run up to the glass door and try to attack their reflections. There is a pool out there too. It’s all very interesting just outside the door and sometimes it is hard to stay inside at the desk.

Jesse Blackadder writing in the Kimberley (safer than writing at home with all those pythons and dragons on the loose.)

How important to you is the space in which you create?
VERY important. I wish I was the groovy kind of person who liked to write with noise and excitement and music around, but actually I really like to write in total silence, with peace and quiet, and preferably with the room being pretty tidy (though that’s usually not the reality). My favourite place for writing is in bed in my pyjamas with a cup of tea. But most of the real work gets done sitting at the desk.

Do you transform your space in any way for each project?
Sometimes I stick up pictures that relate to the book I’m working on, but in the end it comes down to staring at the computer screen. But I did just buy myself a huge velvet patchwork armchair for reading in, or when I’m talking on the phone.

The main thing I do to get a different perspective is going on writing retreats – and I LOVE that. I’ve written on a ship sailing to Antarctica, in the Kimberley desert in a camping chair, in a big old house in the Blue Mountains, and in a tiny wooden boatshed in Alaska with waves lapping underneath. 

Jesse Blackadder writing in Alaska.
What time of day are you most creative?
Morning. Definitely. Or when I have a deadline. Definitely. In fact if I have a deadline, I can be creative no matter what time of day it is.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Well, I have to have a cup of tea. That’s pretty non-negotiable. A bit later I have to have a cup of coffee. That’s totally non-negotiable. I sit at my desk and then I usually find some bit of personal grooming that simply MUST be done immediately – like nail clipping or teeth cleaning. So I get up and do that. Then I have to check out Facebook, and usually think what a time waster it is, while I waste some time looking at cat videos and signing online petitions. Then I remember that my website urgently needs updating, so I do that. I read back over what I wrote the day before (if I did write the day before) and start deleting it. Eventually I start writing. The water dragons and the snakes outside are all primed to attack me if I haven’t written 1000 words by the time I finish, so fear usually keeps me going. And I torture myself with thoughts about where I will end up if I don’t get this book written. Just the usual writerly routine I guess. As far as I can see, it’s the same for most of us.


The Writer’s Studio is part of an ongoing series of interviews with children’s and young adult authors. Check out 50+ other authors here. Up next, Samantha  Turnbull, author of Allen & Unwin's upcoming Anti-Princess Diaries.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Casting Call


Are you aged 65+, living near Byron Bay and wanting to become famous beyond your wildest dreams?!

Well, you may be best moving to a big city. But, before you make the move, here's another opportunity! We're looking for funny mature aged men and women (65+) in the Byron region to star in my latest video book trailer. The trailer is based on 'The Great Escape', a story in My Life & Other Massive Mistakes (Random House, March 2015), about Cliff Weekly's daring escape from Kings Bay Nursing Home with the assistance of his loyal grandson Tom Weekly.

Filming: Tuesday 20 January, 10am-12pm

Send an email if you fit the bill (or know someone who does!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Meet Tom Weekly


Author Kate Gordon (Writing Clementine) has tagged me to be part of a character blog hop. That's where an author writes a blog post about their character and passes the baton to another author. See Kate's post and meet Clementine here.

I want to introduce you to my character Tom Weekly who has a massive year ahead with his third book of semi-true, weird-funny-gross stories out in March. It's called My Life & Other Massive Mistakes and features 'CDS', a story about a terrible disease suffered by fathers everywhere – Cranky Dad Syndrome. The story was written by Tom Weekly, myself and kids around Australia who helped brainstorm really annoying ways to test their dads for CDS.

All illustrations by the magnificent Gus Gordon.

So, he-e-e-e-e-re's Tommy.

1/ What is your character’s name?

Tom Weekly

2/ Is your character fictional or historical?

Both. Tom is part me and part illustrator Gus Gordon. The stories are often based on things that happened to me as a kid, but Tom and I have difficulty working out where reality ends and fantasy begins.

One morning, Tom wakes to find that everything hovers. Everything. (Pic by Gus Gordon. You can download and print it as a colouring page here.)

3/ When and where is your story set?

The fictional town of Kings Bay, where many of my stories are set, including the Mac Slater books and part of Two Wolves. Kings Bay is inspired by Byron Bay, the eastern-most point of Australia.

4/ What should we know about Tom?

He's an everyday school kid doing every day school kid stuff, like helping his pop escape from a nursing home, mining his teeth to make tooth fairy money and using head lice as a biological weapon to shut down his school.


Tom writes down his stories and ideas in order to make sense of the world. In his first two books Tom was forced to eat Vegemite off his sister's big toe, he had a body part removed to get out of school detention and he was tricked into kissing the dreaded Stella Holling who's been in love with him since second-grade.

5/ What are Tom’s personal goals?

No matter what happens to him, Tom will not be broken. He's an optimist, always looks on the bright side, even when normal people would look at the signs and give up. Tom's personal goals are to survive primary school, defeat his evil-genius sister Tanya and to become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams through one of his harebrained schemes.

6/ What’s the name of the book, and can we read more about it?

My Life & Other Massive Mistakes. Read more here.

7/ When was it published?

    

1. My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up - May 2011
3. My Life & Other Massive Mistakes - coming March 2015
4. My Life & ...   - March 2016

Thanks for blog-hop tagging me, Kate. Happy 2015 to all!

Next up on the blog hop, I'll tag three authors I think are super-great. Michael Gerard Bauer (Eric Vail series), Oliver Phommavanh (Con-Nerd, Thai-Riffic) and Wendy Orr (Nim series). Check their blogs in the coming week to see if they take up the challenge!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Child Literacy



A short piece I wrote earlier in the year for the blog of extraordinary literacy charity Room to Read about why stories matter and how they have changed my life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On the Run


Here's the cover for On the Run (Farrar Straus Giroux, 17 November 2015), the US edition of my middle-grade mystery novel published in Australia as Two Wolves. What do you think?

I love the photographic Ben and the silhouette of his little sister Olive. I love the wolf in the moon and the italicised font for 'run'. Initially, I was unsure on the title change but it has an energy to it that I like.

'On the Run recalls the great adventure stories of Jack London but with the gritty realism of 21st-century story-telling. Gripping and unpredictable, with a hero you won't forget.’ 
– John Boyne, author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas


Synopsis
One afternoon, four police officers visit Ben Silver’s home. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. Which is weird, because Ben’s family never goes on holidays. 

Things aren’t right and Ben knows it. His parents are on the run. So Ben and Olive are running, too. 

Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’ because he asks so many questions. Now Ben gathers evidence, jots notes and tries to uncover what his parents have done. The trouble is, if he figures it out, what does he do next? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run?

What Reviewers, Bloggers & Educators Are Saying About the Australian Edition:
'This engrossing novel captures the reader with the skill and narrative power of the descriptive writing, its intriguing plot, believable dialogue, family tensions, and Ben’s emotional and physical growth . . . Highly recommended for secondary readers as a gripping read, and for class discussion on many levels." - ChloĆ© Mauger, Magpies

'It's such a great book: well written, gripping, psychologically true and ethically complex. Fantastic characterisation (especially Ben & Olive, who is wonderfully well-drawn) and a truly exciting story. Loved it. I hope it sells by the truckload!’ - Judith Ridge, Westwords.

'While keeping the narrative exciting and fast-paced, Bancks poses moral dilemmas and choices which increase the depth and literary worth of the novel... Ben [is] flawed, realistic but a positive role-model for teen readers. - Joy Lawn, Boomerang Books.

'I predict that this will become a set novel in many secondary English and Media classrooms. Its sense of place, the action, the moral issues, the connections with other literature, its filmic potential – the list goes on. There are twenty pages of excellent teaching notes on the Random House website here.' - Megan Daley, Teacher-Librarian / Blogger at Children's Books Daily.

'I’m a huge fan of Tristan Bancks’s Mac Slater books and was excited to read his new one – it doesn’t disappoint. Two Wolves is a fantastic, suspenseful novel for readers aged 11 and up, and a book that will keep them reading well into the night!' - Katherine Dretzke, Readings Books, Hawthorn

Sue Warren, TL / blogger: https://losangzopa.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/two-wolves-tristan-bancks/
Miffy Farquharson TL / blogger: http://miffyreviews.wordpress.com
Crew's Reviews: http://crewsreviews.edublogs.org/2014/01/22/loyalties-two-wolves/


'I loved reading Two Wolves! Thrilling, thought provoking & an adventure to boot. 
Well done - deserving of book cake.' 
- AJ Betts, author of Zac & Mia




‘A high stakes adventure that will keep you guessing and breathless until the very end. A moving family drama about the wild places of nature and the human heart, all rolled into one tense and powerful package.’ 
– Michael Gerard Bauer, author of Don't Call Me Ishmael

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