5 Aussie Authors Talk Writing, Childhood and Great Creative Advice

5 Aussie Authors Talk Writing, Childhood and Great Creative Advice

Today we take a peek into the minds of five amazing authors who just so happen to write books for children, enjoy.

When Dymocks approached CHILD to partner with them on their BOOKS FOR KIDS Campaign, we honestly couldn’t have been more excited – there are lots of cool reasons we love this campaign (and I’ll get to them in a second) but first…We got the chance to interview five of the children’s authors they have on board as ambassadors!!!

Exciting times for a website whose readers are totally obsessed with BOOKS, right?

The other great news is that for two weeks in August (12th-25th) each Dymocks store in Australia will donate money from every children’s book sold to support literacy programs in their area. And timing is all sorts of perfect as it encompasses Book Week!

But enough about that, let’s move onto the interviews!


Louise Park 

Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
I am the youngest of six children and we created our own fun. That meant making up our own games, putting on plays for the adults, writing stories, creating our own cards and wrapping paper, and loads and loads of treasure hunts with maps! We didn’t have a lot of money and my father worked two jobs. When I look back I think I was incredibly blessed not to have had so much material wealth around me. We didn’t even have a TV until I was about eight years old.

Creativity and inventiveness, making your own fun – these things were the backbone of our childhood and they’ve held me in good stead for a creative adult life.

Who was your favourite author as a child?
I had a lot! I really loved The Famous Five, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden — so no surprises that I write so much in the adventure genre! I also loved Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales, anything Roald Dahl and Seuss!

How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
I really want to ignite a passion and a love of reading, and to give children a concrete sense of reading success. At the same time, I want them to be so engaged with what they’re reading that they just can’t wait to get back to it, to be transported to amazing worlds and fabulous adventures. Tough goals! It’s a real juggle controlling the reading environment for reading success and delivering grand adventures. I really hope my work goes some way to achieving these goals.

What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
Firstly, I wish I’d kept everything that I wrote when I was young. I used to write story segments on paper planes and send them flying into the bedroom my four bothers shared. I wrote loads of plays and stories, letters, journals, you name it, but I only kept a few things. I often remember pieces of writing from my childhood that I wish I still had. A lot of ideas I had as a child have turned up in my books.

The creative mind of a child is something I’m in awe of.

I see it in the children I present to in schools. They are so inventive, spontaneous and spectacular, but somehow because they’re children, we don’t recognise the pure genius or value of those creative thoughts.

Write them all down! And keep them all! You never know when you’ll want to use them or wish you still had them.
Next, I would say, don’t worry about what anybody else is in to, or what anybody else is writing.

Write for you! Let your thoughts take you where you want to go and just let them all fall out on the page.

Lastly, don’t try to be perfect. Perfect is EXTREMELY overrated and completely gets in the way of EVERYTHING! Enjoy the ride, perfecting can come later.


What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d need pages and pages to get all the gems out there down on paper! Today, I say Wonder by J Palacio, tomorrow it might be something else. But oh, what a book is Wonder!


What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
This sounds cliché but it’s spot on, in my opinion: write what speaks to you and lives within you. It will show in your writing. And it’s what you will be naturally good at.


What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
The opportunities to spend time with my readers – kids! It never occurred to me when I began writing for children that a whole arm of this career would involve going into schools and working with kids. I love it so, so much! It inspires me to keep writing!


Jacqueline Harvey 

Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
Yes, very much so. My parents and grandparents were always telling me and my sisters to go outside and make our own fun (especially if we whined about being bored!). We were encouraged to play and daydream and although sadly I don’t remember her, my parents tell me I had an imaginary friend called Heaven when I was a toddler.

I was one of those children who loved to lay on the grass and imagine creatures in the clouds and I was always telling stories.

Who was your favourite author as a child?
I loved Enid Blyton, particularly The Famous Five and Secret Seven, I was a huge fan of Paddington Bear and I adored Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Black Beauty was another firm favourite. I didn’t really have a favourite author though – more favourite books.


How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
Intrigued, excited, hopeful – I want my stories to get readers’ heart rates up and to make them laugh too. I want them to fall in love with the characters as much as I do. It’s important that the stories have twists and turns and lots of surprises as well.


What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
It’s good to have a plan and make sure that you have an idea about how it’s going to end so you don’t resort to cliched conclusions like waking up from a terrible dream. Persistence pays off too!


What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein. It’s so quintessentially Australian. I grew up with Barry Hollis and the Eastside Boys, except the Barry in my life was Michael. I love Erica Yurken and her mad cap family. The book is funny and entertaining and there are some fabulous life lessons too.


What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Think about the obvious and write the opposite – don’t get bogged down in clichés. Hear the voices in your head and listen to what the characters are telling you.


What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
That my stories have reached such a broad audience – it never gets old seeing my books in the shops and being asked to sign them is a privilege. I was recently in New Zealand and a little girl and her mum approached me while we were having breakfast in the hotel. The mum asked if I was an author and said that her daughter was a huge fan. They made my day (who am I kidding – they made my year!).


Leigh Hobbs

Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
Yes. At home my parents knew I loved to draw and so there was always paper and pencils on hand. They just let me do it.

Who was your favourite author as a child?
Enid Blyton. I had a Noddy collection.


How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
I hope they enjoy them, that they get pleasure from the words and pictures and, maybe even a laugh or two.


What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
Write lots. Write about anything. Let your imagination run wild. I think my child-self did all that anyhow.


What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
Treasure Island.


What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep going. When you think the ideas have run out press on and keep drawing.


What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
I can’t think of anything surprising really. Maybe that I still get a kick when someone asks if I’ll sign their Leigh Hobbs book.


Aaron Blabey

Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
I grew up in rural footy town in the 70s and 80s so I think creativity was generally viewed with wariness and occasionally even suspicion. But my parents were always very supportive and I had a particularly excellent English teacher at high school who encouraged my more wayward creative impulses. I was lucky to have them.

Who was your favourite author as a child?
Herge (Tintin) and Murray Ball (Footrot Flats). In some strange way The Bad Guys is the offspring of those two disparate parents.

How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
I hope they’ll feel like reading the next instalment.

What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
Don’t be boring.

What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
One that speaks to them. It doesn’t matter what it is. As long as it triggers a positive feeling when they hear the word ‘books’.

What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be boring.

What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
That I get to be one.


Sally Rippin

Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
Yes, very much so. My mother had been a primary school teacher and also a children’s television presenter so she was very big in encouraging imagination, play and creativity and always made sure we had an endless supply of art materials and books.


Who was your favourite author as a child?
It’s hard to choose one and it depends on what age we are looking at but when I was little I loved Joyce Lankester Brisley’s Milly-Molly-Mandy series, the Dollhouse series by Rumer Godden and anything by Roald Dhal or Joan Aiken.

As a teenager I devoured anything by Judy Blume and Paul Zindel.


How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
Empathetic and less alone in the world.


What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
It won’t always be easy but it will be the most satisfying, challenging and important thing you will ever do – plus you will meet amazing people and travel to amazing places, so stick at it!


What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
My Girragundji by Boori Monty Pryor and Meme McDonald.


What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
It doesn’t just land in your lap, you have to keep turning up to your desk, even when you don’t feel like it.


What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
How many kids still love books with a passion – in the way I did. It’s wonderful.


This post was brought to you by Dymocks Books for Kids

Interview by Barbara O’Reilly

Barbara O'Reilly
Barbara O'Reilly
barbara.oreilly@childmags.com.au