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.



  1. Grace
    March 17, 2015 / 7:16 am

    Hey Tristan!
    I have a question. Are you allowed to completely make up a story for the 'My Life' writing competition? My life isn't nearly as interesting as Tom Weekly's, so my story wouldn't be very interesting at all.

  2. March 24, 2015 / 10:56 am

    Hey Grace. Yes, you can totally make up a story but remember that a story is always more honest and interesting if it has true details, so have a think about how you could grab details from the real world and mash them into your story. Look forward to reading your entry. T

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