Sunday, April 28, 2013

Autumn travels

I have just recently returned from two weeks of school visits in Singapore and Malaysia where I was thrilled to discover that the Billie and Jack books have already found themselves a little following over there! This was partly due to the brilliant preparation put in by the librarians who booked me to visit their schools, but also because, luckily for me, the books were already available to buy in both these places. Often international schools have to order my books in from overseas so this was a lovely and unexpected surprise. One delightful children's bookstore in Singapore had even put them in her shop window! Of course I HAD to take a photo.

I love visiting South-East Asia, not only because I spent a big part of my childhood there, but also because my mother now lives in Kuala Lumpur, so my week in schools there was a great chance to get to spend some time with her, too. I love the hot humid weather, the food, the people, and I love speaking in international schools where the kids come from so many different backgrounds and have already lived such fascinating lives at such a young age. My last three days in Kuala Lumpur were in a really lovely smaller international school, where there were turtles in the gardens and the girls wore quite possibly the most adorable school uniform I have ever seen.

The students were wonderful, so engaged and switched on and SO enthusiastic about my visit. Every lunch time I was visited by dozens of students in the library who wanted to chat with me or have me sign autographs. I had been instructed by the librarian, as I often am in schools, not to sign scraps of paper, only autograph books, so one little girl who was determined not to miss out on my signature, dashed off and came back in a few minutes with this.

I thought she deserved extra points for her creative genius and told her so.

Now I am back home and back at work. My latest Hey Jack! has arrived in the mail and I'm about to start the next draft of book four of my Our Australian Girl series, before I have to head off to Sydney in a few weeks for the writers festival and another book tour. I am also working on something very new and exciting for any Billie B Brown fans, but I can't say yet as it is all still Top Secret! Hopefully I will be able to give you some clues in my next blog post.

Until then, I will dream of spicy Indian-Malay breakfasts while I eat my very boring muesli back in Autumnal Melbourne, where the leaves of my young mulberry tree are just starting to fall and I am happy to be home.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hey Jack - the risk taker.

I realise I have neglected Jack a little on this blog, forgetting to mention when a new book appears on the shelves like this one on the left, which has been out in bookstores since the start of February. Perhaps this is because Jack is a harder character for me to write.

Jack was originally designed as Billie's side-kick, and he is quiet and calm to balance out her impulsive, fiery nature. But a quiet, introspective character is much harder to write than someone who constantly creates conflict, as most stories require conflict to create momentum.

As a child I was much more like Billie, so finding the right emotions to flesh out her character comes easily to me, whereas Jack comes from my more rational and wary side, which isn't always as fun to write. However, the more I write Jack, especially now that I have taken a break from writing Billie, the more I am becoming interested in his complexity.

I am finding that while Jack can be wary he can also be brave. While he is sometimes shy and often dominated by Billie, he also has a quiet confidence that appears when he needs it most. I have enjoyed finding moments where Jack can stand up for himself, or discover something new about himself, and this happened while writing this story, The Circus Lesson.

I remember as a child how exciting, but also frightening it could be when adults didn't act the way I thought they should. Yet, it was these adults, the ones who lived differently, took risks and didn't feel the need to conform that ended up being the ones who inspired me the most and who, just by being themselves, encouraged me to to do the same. Without them, I am pretty certain I never would have been brave enough to follow my dreams.