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

Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 Book Tour Highlights


Children's Book Week, Writers Fests, school visits. 2017 has been a big year of touring with two new books out, My Life and The Fall. Here are the best pics from my Instagram over the past few months,  giving you a wrap on the adventures and a glimpse into the more interesting parts of life on the road. 

Seeing kids excited about reading and creating their own stories is one of the biggest rewards of visiting schools.

An assembly to acknowledge the work of young writers after a writer-in-residence stint at Brisbane's 'Churchie'.

Late night Book Week dinner with authors James Phelan (The Last Thirteen) and Gus Gordon (My Life series, Somewhere Else) at an amazing hidden-away Thai place in Melbourne.

Recording the Two Wolves audiobook has been one of the highlights of my travels. It'll be out through Penguin Random House in coming months.

Kids' WB

And spending some quality time on an inflatable swan with Kids' WB host Shane Crawford. (You can see the segment we shot here.)

Launching The Fall. (Only just made it out alive.)

Better Reading Kids Facebook Live

A quick behind-the-scenes chat about The Fall and our 2017 Room to Read World Change Challenge with Better Reading Kids, who are such great advocates for children's literacy in Australia.

Filming Juiced TV at Brisbane's Lady Cilento Children's Hospital. It's a show hosted by kids for kids.

Nice having a new book to talk about and trying to bring it to life in interesting ways. I'm working on turning my talk into more of a 'show' next year and beyond. Ideas swirling. Stay tuned.

My mum gave me a lovely present - the six metal staples I had inserted into my right knee from age 13-16 to slow down the growth of my leg. It's the same operation that I gave to Sam in The Fall.


Hanging With... Disney Channel

Fun hanging with Ash and Adam on Disney Channel's Hanging With. This was just prior to a disgusting egg challenge.
A box of old ideas found in the shed! And, yes, that is cockroach poo.


ABC Me

Playing statues with Pip on ABC Me.

Byron StoryBoard Bus

Visiting lots of small schools on Byron Writers Festival's amazing StoryBoard Bus.


Children's Book Week

And dinner with a pretty extraordinary bunch of creative humans. Author Morris Gleitzman, Penguin Random House editor Katrina Lehman and publicity maestros Kate Sheahan and Tina Gumnior, author / illustrator Gus Gordon, author Oliver Phommavanh and the lovely Isobelle Carmody

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE FALL Student-Made Book Trailer


I'm so impressed by this book trailer for my new novel The Fall made by year 7/8 students at Xavier College in Queensland's Wide Bay area. It won the Reader's Cup State Final book trailer comp against some tough competitors.

It captures the tone of the book and the production values are high. It hints at the story without needing to relay the entire plot. It makes me want to read the book. ;)

I hope you enjoy it, too. Let me know what you think and give them a thumbs-up on YouTube if you like it.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Making of an International Bestseller Event


I'm looking forward to this! For writers, readers and Jack Reacher fans. Hope you can make it along if you happen to be in Northern NSW / SE QLD.
--

Cambridge lecturer Dr Andy Martin spent a year with multi-million-selling crime / thriller author Lee Child as he wrote his Jack Reacher novel, Make Me. The result is Reacher Said Nothing, a unique and intimate account of the creative process in which Lee Child shares the inner workings of the author and the making of a bestselling novel.

Join Andy Martin and author Tristan Bancks, as they discuss the genius of Lee Child, the enduring appeal of Jack Reacher, and give a glimpse into the thriller-writing process. The free session is suitable for writers, those fascinated by creativity and Jack Reacher fans. The session will see the screening of exclusive documentary footage of Lee Child at work in New York, giving insight into the life of one of the world’s most successful authors.


5:45pm-7pm Tues 12 September, FREE, Mary Ryan’s Bookshop, 27-31 Fletcher St, Byron Bay.

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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.


You might also be interested in:

FREE CHAPTER SAMPLER OF THE FALL

THE FALL INTERVIEW ON ABC RADIO NATIONAL BOOKS & ARTS

BEHIND-THE-SCENES ON THE WRITING PROCESS

The Fall Vision Board

Two-Minute Video Introduction to The Fall

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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.




Photography by Amber Melody.


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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!

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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



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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.



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