Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

5 Books That Influenced the Writing of THE FALL

All stories are influenced by other stories. 

Many writers say they don't read fiction while they are writing a book because they don't want another book to impact the story they're working on. But I'm always writing, which would mean I could never read, and that would be very sad.

Here are five books that had a clear impact on the writing of my new crime-mystery novel for ages 10+, The Fall.

1. The Body by Stephen King.

The book was turned into the movie Stand By Me. Possibly my favourite book and my favourite movie of all time. I read this in high school. It's for an older reader than The Fall. It's a powerful story, well told. On the opening page is the line 'I was twelve going on thirteen when I first saw a dead human being'. I was reflecting on this line, one of my favourites from any book, wondering if I had ever seen a dead human being, when I remembered a crime scene I had visited on work experience with a news crew in high school. This was the beginning of my journey on The Fall.

2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. 

One of my favourite books. I love the cinematic references, the illustrations, the Paris location, the characters, the unusual format and I love Martin Scorsese's film adaptation Hugo. Like Hugo, Sam in The Fall is reaching out to his father, yearning for connection, trying to understand him. (Hugo's dad has passed away.) Hugo Cabret is set mostly in one location, the train station, just as The Fall is set mostly in one apartment building. And while The Fall is not illustrated and there are no explicit cinematic references, the unfolding of the story feels very visual to me.

3. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. 

One of my favourite Roald Dahl books. I love the father-son relationship. I love that there is mystery and darkness. Danny idolises his dad, but his father makes some questionable choices. The Fall is a very different book but I can see all of these threads in my story.

4. Alfred Hitchcock's Movie-Making Masterclass by Tony Lee Moral

I picked this up a couple of years ago. Hitchcock's thriller Rear Window was an early influence and I had decided to set The Fall mostly in one location over twenty-four hours. I did this partly as a writing challenge to see if I could use the contained location and time to ramp up the suspense in the story while never letting the audience become bored with the setting. This book became my masterclass with the greatest suspense / thriller storyteller of all-time.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I think this is the best realistic fictional 'detective' story around. It has narrative drive and the hallmarks of a good mystery and the central character, Christopher, is human, authentic and intriguing. He has issues with his parents who have made some poor choices. He suspects his father of grave wrongdoing and he is trying to navigate the complexities of the adult world but is  determined to find his own solutions. Re-reading 'Curious Incident' while writing my book showed me that kid mysteries can be realistic, somewhat dark and feature characters with true human foibles.

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The Fall Vision Board

Two-Minute Video Introduction to The Fall


Monday, August 7, 2017

Byron Bay Writers Festival Kids Big Day Out

Byron Writers Festival's Kids' Big Day Out was held on the weekend. Hundreds of kids and parents in a big, white marquee next to the beach in Byron Bay, listening to authors Lucas Proudfoot, Isobelle Carmody, Hilary Badger, Peter Helliar, myself, Sally Rippin and Richard Roxburgh.

The audience wants you to do well, they're excited about interacting, brainstorming stories, sharing their own jokes and ideas. It's one of the most enjoyable things you can do as a storyteller, a reward for the thousands of hours spent alone, inside your own mind, writing the books!

If you ever have the chance to make it along, you should.

Thanks Byron Writers Festival for an amazing week, topped off by the Kids' Day Out.

One of the treats for the kids (and adults) was having comedian Peter Helliar along for the ride.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Name the Next My Life Book and WIN a Signed Copy!

It's that time of year again. I've written ten new short stories for the next book in the My Life series starring Tom Weekly and I need a title. If you come up with the title, you'll win a signed copy when the new book hits shelves in March 2018 and you'll be the first person I thank in the acknowledgements at the back of the book!

My Life Series Book Titles

The series began with My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up and the titles have become weirder as they've gone along. The last two books were My Life & Other Exploding Chickens and My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.

Visual inspiration for Hostage, a psychological guinea pig thriller in the next My Life book.

Sneak Peek of My Life Book 6

To get you thinking, here's a sneak peek of some of the stories in the new book...

There’s a very tense guinea pig hostage situation and a story about a disastrous author visit to Tom Weekly’s school (no bearing on reality, of course). There's a story where Nan enlists Tom’s help to steal a fruitcake so she can win the Kings Bay Show Fruitcake Bake for the ninth year in a row. There's another where Tom decides to make his mark on the world by eating a car. Oh, and Tom's terrifying encounter with a very angry goose.

Book Title Suggestions

Kids have so far suggested:

My Life & Other Unicorn Apocalypses

My Life & Other Radioactive Pickles

And I liked these from previous title brainstorms:

My Life – Disaster Zone

My Life & Other Catastrophes

Suggest Your Own Title

So, go to it. I need something funny that makes you want to pick up the book and starts with My Life & Other... 

Click 'Post a Comment' below and leave your name and your title idea. I'll be asking on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, too. The winner will be posted on this here post on 1 December at the latest. So check back in to see if you're the winner!


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Work on Your Story, Not Just in Your Story

In business they tell you to work on your business, not just in your business. In other words, don’t get stuck working the cash register when there’s planning and analysis to be done and systems to be put in place. There's something to be learnt here for writers and other creative people.

Sometimes, when you’re writing a draft, you get so lost in the story and characters, you can’t work out what’s wrong with it. But you know that something stinks. An outline is one way out but I prefer to dive in and write a few messy drafts before I become beholden to plot and outline.

Writing morning pages outdoors seems to provide even clearer insight on story problems.

Writing Morning Pages

I deal with this by writing daily morning pages (inspired by the work of writing gurus Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg) – three free-written pages early in the morning when I tell myself the story and poke around in the crevices that I might ignore when I'm in full-flight, writing a chapter. 

I wake up and put the date at the top of a page and complain for a bit about how cold it is and I describe where I'm sitting and the smells and sights and sounds and tastes, then I’ll write, ‘My story is about…’ and I’ll tell myself the story, even though I might’ve been working on it for three years. In that random, free-associating headspace I start to find solutions for some of my gnarliest challenges and by the end of three pages I have untangled one of those annoying story knots.

I started writing morning pages almost twenty years ago. Reviewing old notebooks can give fresh insights.

The Cost of Bypassing the Unconscious

Sometimes I try to skip my morning pages because I feel I should get down to the 'real' business of writing sooner. My writing days are always more troubled when I miss this vital step of letting my unconscious mind do its work.

Morning pages are a bridge between my life and the life of my characters. Detouring around that bridge can result in scenes and chapters that lack authenticity and emotional charge. I learnt most of this while writing my book Two Wolves and developed it further on The Fall. On these projects, morning pages would get me out of bed at 6am, or make me roll over, grab my notebook and begin.

Writing morning pages on the run.

Work on Your Story, Not Just in Your Story

So, creating an outline is one way of ironing out story (or life) challenges, but if you want to feel your way through the story and be led by instinct in early drafts, this free-written, daily, unconscious exploration can be your best friend.

Photography by Amber Melody.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Best Slime Recipe

Every kid (and adult) loves slime. I've been slimed a few times in recent years and I've experimented with different homemade recipes and this one is the best. We used it in the My Life & Other Stuff That Went Wrong book trailer (both of this post).

Slime TV

That time I was slimed by Grace on ABC3 / ABC Me.
This recipe is featured in the follow-up book My Life & Other Massive Mistakes. I hope it works for you. I'd love you to point me to your pics on Insta / FB etc if you happen to make a batch. ;))

Slime Recipe

Slime Video


Byron Writers Festival 2017

It's almost time for the amazing Byron Bay Writers Festival. I have been attending the festival for the past seventeen years, at first as a visitor and, in more recent years, as a participant.

It is one of my favourite events on the bookish calendar. I have amazing memories of wandering around the beachside festival site in the sunshine with coffee, dropping into marquees to hear extraordinary writers tell their stories and share their craft.

More recently, in Sunday's Kids Big Day Out tent I have been slimed, had my head covered in chocolate sauce and cream, been attached by exploding rubber chickens and, this year, is the year of the Weaponised Muffins!

I'll be joined at Kids Big Day Out by Morris Gleitzman, Sally Rippin, Hilary Badger (H.I. Larry), Lucas Proudfoot, Richard Roxburgh and Peter Helliar.

I believe that there are still some tickets available here.

Here's my schedule for the fest. I hope you can make it along. The full program is here.

Primary School Days

Tues 1 August: Murwillumbah Civic Centre, 10-12pm with Zac Power author Hilary Badger.

Wed 2 August:  Byron Bay Sports Complex, 9:30-11:30am with Zac Power author Hilary Badger.

Thurs 3 August: Ballina RSL, 10am-12pm, with Zac Power author Hilary Badger.

Literacy Session

Fri 4 August, Byron Writers Festival site, 4-5pm: Reach for the Stars: Literacy in Children, a panel discussion with Jesse Blackadder, Cosentino and Sally Rippin.

Kids Big Day Out

Sun 6 August, Byron Writers Festival site: 12:10-12:40pm with lots of other authors speaking before and after me.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Fall Interview in Books+Publishing Magazine

A recent interview about my new crime-mystery novel The Fall in Junior Books+Publishing (B+P) magazine.

Just click on the image to read a sharper, high-resolution version.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Fall on Radio National Books & Arts

I was lucky enough to speak about my new thriller novel The Fall with Sarah Lestrange on ABC Radio National Books and Arts program. Here's the interview if you'd like to have a listen.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Book TV

I would love to see Australian children's and young adult books gain a higher profile in TV and the media, encouraging reading and bringing the books to life for a wide audience. I think it's really important for kids to see books brought to life in fun and exciting ways.

I've just been on a month-long tour with my new book The Fall and I thought I'd share two of the TV interviews, one with the hosts of Channel Seven's The Daily Edition and one with Shane Crawford on Saturday morning show Kids' WB (involving a fall from a very high diving tower).

Just click on the images to watch the clips.

Kids' WB Interview

Click above to watch the world's first ever interview between an AFL footy player and an author on a floating swan.

Kids' WB High-Dive Challenge with Shane Crawford

Click above to find out if it's Shane Crawford or me who has to leap from the 10-metre diving board at Melbourne Aquatic Centre on Kids' WB.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vision Boarding for Writers

I'm a very visual writer. To tell a story I have to see it as well as hear it and feel it. I need to find a personal way in to the story and I need to build the world which, in turn, provides story possibilities and detail to make the story feel real.

Before I wrote books I worked in film and TV for a few years and when you're making a film you gather lots of visual and aural references - images, video, music and maps. I do the same thing when I'm writing a book.

I developed a free transmedia brainstorming tool, Story Scrapbook, with my friend Ben Train, to make it easy to gather these references in one place. Anyone can use it for free at

Here are some of the key images I gathered during the writing of my new book The Fall and how they influenced the development of the Story, World and Characters.

My wife gave this book to me. We had spent some time travelling during the writing of the book. There is something so interesting about looking through rear windows of apartments and seeing glimpses of other lives, but you can never see the whole story. I wanted The Fall to feel like that. There's always something in the next line, paragraph or chapter that you need to know. I tried to create suspense this way.


One of my favourite films is Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. It creates great suspense with few characters in a single location. It was a big influence on the development of The Fall.
I watched the Harrison Ford film Frantic and also The Bourne Identity when I was developing the story. These films have a good balance of action, suspense, character, heart and ideas.

I also re-read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a strong story about a son's attempt to understand and connect with his father. It's set mostly in a single location. It has heart, mystery, suspense, and it's very visual and cinematic. These are all elements that I wanted to imbue The Fall with.

Sam Garner is a comic book creator. He's writing a comic book series called Harry Garner: Crime Reporter about his dad. But real-life Harry is finding it hard to live up to the idealised version. Reading these comic books helped me to develop the creative, imaginative side of Sam's personality.


I often use Google Maps and Street View to gather details and lock down the location for a story.

The second and third drafts of The Fall were set in the underground Paris catacombs and the story involved the French president. Most of those drafts never saw the light of day but I like to think that the flavour of them is still there in the finished book. Maybe those scenes will find their way into another book one day.

Boss Fight is an amazing site with lots of extraordinary royalty-free images that helped me capture the tone and feeling of my story
I stared out of many windows while writing The Fall. I love being at a great height but falling is one of my greatest fears. That fear helped to drive the story and make the writing feel taut and suspenseful. 
This is a window in Prague, Czech Republic. Author Isobelle Carmody was living there and was kind enough to show me and my family around town for a few days in 2013. I asked her about writing genre and if she thought you needed to know all the conventions of the genre you thought you might be writing in (crime, thriller etc) and she pushed me not to learn the conventions but to write the story that needed to be written and to let people categorise it later. That advice helped me to discover great humanity in the characters and to hopefully avoid predictability.
When writing, I tend to keep an eye on the news. Sometimes there'll be a story that resonates with what I'm writing and feeds the story with important real-life detail.


Music helps to capture the tone and emotional core of a story. Above is the Spotify soundtrack I listened to while writing the book.

You can buy a copy of The Fall from your local bookseller, a signed copy from my online store here or you can buy it direct from a range of online booksellers like Dymocks, Readings, Booktopia, Boomerang Books etc here.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Two Wolves Vision Board

Story Scrapbook - My Free Transmedia Brainstorming Tool

Story Starters: Vision Boarding

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