Whoo Hoo! It’s Doctor Who Literary Week & here’s a guest post from George Ivanoff

This week I’m hosting my very own Doctor Who Literary Week.

I’ve invited several Australian YA authors to contribute guest posts about how the Doctor Who series influenced them as writers. And to kick-off, here’s George Ivanoff writing about …

My little fan-boy moment

I’ve had over 40 books published as well as lots of short stories and articles. My latest novel, Gamers’ Quest, is currently in bookstores. These days, writing is actually my career. 

What publication have I been most excited by? A short story called ‘Machine Time’. It appeared in Short Trips: Defining Patterns, a Doctor Who anthology edited by Ian Farrington and published in 2008. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for over 30 years, so the publication of this story was a fan-boy’s dream come true. And to top things off, the story got the thumbs up from Doctor Who Magazine:

… a compelling and creepy story of a universe threatened by voracious machines…

 But how did it happen?

Well, opportunity came knocking in the form of a friend of mine who had been writing regularly for the Short Trips anthologies that Big Finish Productions in the UK was licensed to publish. He sent his editor an email recommending me as a writer. I was invited to submit a story proposal for an upcoming anthology. I was so excited, I submitted three proposals … all of which were rejected. Opportunity went flying out the window. End of story …

The cover for Doctor Who: Short Trips

The cover for Doctor Who, Short Trips: Defining Patterns


But I don’t give up that easily. When Big Finish announced a short story competition, the winner to be published in the next anthology, I decided to submit an entry. Then I read the rules … the competition was only open to amateur, unpublished writers. Did I let that stop me? No! I wrote a story anyway, and emailed it off with a cover letter asking them to treat it as an unsolicited professional submission rather than a competition entry.

Success! Editor Ian Farrington emailed to say that he liked the story … but that they couldn’t use it, as they only needed one story on the competition’s theme … but he asked if I’d like to write a new story. Would I? You bet! So I got a brief asking me to write a 2,000-ish word story dealing with destiny or chance. The story had to be complete in its own right, but had to also give the impression of being part of something larger. The result was ‘Machine Time’. I’m very proud of it! It’s my little fan-boy moment.

Unfortunately it’s my only fan-boy moment, as shortly after, Big Finish ceased publication of its Short Trips anthologies. But I have my eagle-eyes trolling the Internet for any other Doctor Who opportunities that may come along in the future. You never know … I may one day get a second fan-boy moment!

Cover for Gamers' Quest

The cover for Gamers' Quest


George’s Bio

George Ivanoff is a Melbourne based author, stay-at-home-dad and nerdy Doctor Who fan. Two of his books (Life, Death and Detention and Real Si-Fi) have been on the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge booklist since its inception in 2005.

George’s latest book, a science fiction adventure for young teens called Gamers’ Quest, includes a small Doctor Who reference within its pages. George hopes to pepper more of his writings with Doctor Who references in the future.

Click here to check out George’s website.

And click here to check out the official Gamers’ Quest website.

Here’s Short Trips: Defining Patterns on amazon.

And here’s the online catalogue for Big Finish Productions’ current book list.

Did you know … the EJ Brady Competition accepts YA fiction?

I don’t normally bother with short story competitions (I’ve always had better luck getting work published than winning anything). However I notice that the EJ Brady Short Story Comp allows work ‘in any genre in adult or young adult literature‘.

Is this a chance for the likes of me?

The question is, can I write the sort of story that will impress the judges enough to win the $1500 first prize?

Personally, I’d prefer an all-expenses paid holiday in Mallacoota, possibly the most beautiful spot in Victoria, and the home of the EJ Brady competition.

Click here for more info on the competition.

Click here to ‘visit’ Mallacoota.

And if you’ve any tips on how to write competition-winning short stories, I’ve love to hear them!

Head hopping, dialogue tag adverbs & ‘said’ bookisms: Technical errors that turn off publishers

Today I’m posting a guest blog from YA historical fiction author, Richard Blackburn. Richard shares his remedies for mistakes that novice writers often make.

Following is what Richard has to say about:

  • dialogue-tag adverbs
  • ‘said’ bookisms
  • head hopping
  • third-person filtering

There are a few common mistakes that writers make without ever knowing they are wrong. I know. I used to do all of them until my editor at Lachesis (a Canadian publisher) refused to allow them in my book. This was a shock because I was already published in Australia! 

I realized that my previous submissions to major publishers could have been rejected because of these mistakes. Since then I’ve passed on this information to scores of writers. I hope they help readers of this blog.

1. Dialogue-tag adverbs

An adverb is a word that, among other things, qualifies or describes a verb. “I ran fast” is an example. Ran is the verb, fast is the adverb. 

A dialogue-tag is a verb that links a piece of dialogue to the rest of the writing.

In the following example, shouted is the verb, and angrily is the dialogue-tag adverb: 

“You absolute idiots,” Andrew shouted angrily. 

The reason the word angrily is not good is because it tells you a fact, rather than showing you. A better way to write the sentence is:

‘Andrew stormed into the room and looked around angrily.

“You absolute idiots,” he shouted.’

2. ‘Said’ Bookisms

In the 1930s there was a book published called The Said Book. This gave writers a huge number of verbs to use instead of the word said. These days publishers prefer writers to keep it simple and use said.

A major mistake is to use verbs that don’t have anything to do with uttering sounds.

‘ “Oh my darling,” she sighed.’

You cannot sigh words. It’s the same with roar, squeak, growl and hiss.

A hint: 

I try to give my main characters and character groups a distinctive sound. So the Lords and Ladies in the year 1347 might say:

“I do believe he will be apprehended and they shall hang him.”

My main character, the modern-day, time-travelling Jenny, and people in the middle classes would say:

“If they catch him, I’m pretty sure they’ll hang him.”

And the peasants would say:

“If they get ‘im, it’s ‘anged e’ll be fer sure.”

In this way I can have a long section of dialogue, say between Jenny and Blind Bob, the peasant, and I’ll only have to use “Jenny said” and “Bob said” for the first two sentences then it’s obvious who is speaking and I don’t have to use a dialogue tag at all.

A note from Cathryn

If you’re interested in reading further about ‘said’ bookisms, try Uncle Orson’s Writing Class (by Orson Scott Card). 

3. Third Person Head Hopping

When you write in the limited third person, it is important that you keep everything in that person’s POV and not switch around.

Say I’m writing in Jenny’s point of view. I can say what Jenny does and says, and also what she thinks and feels. I can say what anyone else does and says but not what they think or feel.

‘Jenny suddenly saw the enemy horsemen in the valley in front of her. She caught her breath sharply. She felt sick. She was horrified.’

That’s alright but in following example doesn’t work:

‘Jenny suddenly saw the enemy horsemen in the valley in front of her. She caught her breath sharply. She felt sick. She looked at John. He was horrified as well.’

Here I’m hopping from Jenny’s head into John’s. I could say that he looked horrified, that he was obviously horrified, or have him say that he is horrified. 

But I can’t say what he feels, because I am writing from Jenny’s perspective.

4. Filtering

When writing in the third person, there is another mistake that is easy to make. Look at the following sentence:

‘Jenny lay patiently on the floor of the hut, peering at the silent village before her. After what seemed like an eternity she saw a slight movement from among the dark trees to her right.’

I should not have included she saw. This is called filtering. It is unnecessary and removes immediacy between the POV and the action.

Another comment from Cathryn:

Orson Scott Card’s book, Characters and Viewpoint, has a visual description of the different types of third-person perspective (pp. 163-169 in the 1988 edn, Writers’ Digest Books).

Have you made these mistakes in your writing? Are there other craft errors that your writing group members have alerted you to? I’m curious to know.

I know I was taught to put ‘interesting’ adverbs in my stories when I was at secondary  school.

Here’s some info about Richard Blackburn and his books:

Richard is Zeus Publication’s bestselling author. He has written a historical fiction trilogy: The GatekeeperRudigor’s Revenge (both listed in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge) and The RegimentRichard lives in Queensland and travels extensively to do book signings.

Click here to visit Richard’s website.

Richard Blackburn’s tips for successful book signings

I recently chatted to author Richard Blackburn about book signings. The conventional wisdom is, unless you’re a bestselling author, don’t do them.

Contrary to this, Richard does well with signings. He sent me this piece with his suggestions.

Here’s what Richard has to say about book signings.

I usually have six signings per month. Having written a trilogy this is very important. People coming back to buy the second and third book is the best proof that my books are being enjoyed.

The reason I was moved to write on this subject is that I’ve seen authors sitting at tables with piles of their books in front of them … and nobody to talk to. They look like losers. They look self conscious. They don’t look worth a second glance unless out of pity.

I give a big smile and say, ‘this is my first book’.

I sell an average of 20 books each signing and I believe there are a number of reasons for this.

When’s the best time for a book signing?

I usually sign on Thursdays (for the late night shopping) or Saturdays. Managers of the stores I visit confirm that these are the best days. Otherwise I sign during school holidays or just before Mothers’ Day and important occasions like that. I ask the manager about possible problems.

I once made a mistake of being at Mt Ommaney store on the Saturday of the Amberly Airforce Base’s annual show. The shopping mall was deserted.

What’s the best way to promote the signing?

I email the newspapers in the area of the signing a couple of weeks in advance. People who have bought the first book will make a special trip to buy a signed copy of the second one.

How to set up

I like to arrive at the store early, so I have time to set up. My genre is Historical Fiction so I have a suitable cloth for the table – rich blue velvet. On this I place my chain-mail vest and Norman helmet.

My books’ covers are distinctive so I have a couple of big plastic posters of the cover art, one to face each way the shoppers are walking. So people will see me well in advance and have a good idea of my books’ genre. That means people not interested will just walk past. I’m happy with that. I like to have a high strike rate when people stop to talk to me. That means they are almost converted!

How to engage customers

I always stand up. I look at the passing shoppers in the eye and smile. I say ‘Good Day’ and watch for signs of interest. Some people walk straight up and ask what the book is about. I have a well-rehearsed, 1.45 minute spiel to tantalize them. Others barely glance – I still smile. Some show a bit of interest. I give a big smile and tell them ‘this is my first book’. This usually brings them over. If people don’t come to hear about the book, there’s little chance they’ll buy it.

 I like to have a high strike rate when people stop to talk to me.

Another ploy is best used when parents have collected students from school and are shopping on the way home. Youngsters look longingly at the helmet and I invite them to try it on. While they are marveling at the weight of the head gear and the amount of work in the chain mail, I explain to the parent what my book is about.I’ve had so many sales to kids who badger their parents for a copy.

If they don’t have enough money for the purchase, I hand over a business card so the student can ask the school librarian to get the trilogy into the school library.

If other writers come over…

I also take my copies of The Australian Writers’ MarketPlace and A Decent Proposal (by Rhonda Whitton and Sheila Hollingworth). Most signings I’m approached by a writer who wants to ask questions. These two books give them lots of ideas, such as where to find out about publishers and how to write a proposal when approaching them.

A final note

I really like helping people because I made a lot of mistakes at first and wish someone had helped me out. I don’t think of other writers as competition. We are all striving to get Australian writing respected world wide.

Cover for Richard Blackburn's 'The Regiment'

Cover for Richard's novel, 'The Regiment'


Richard is Zeus Publication’s bestselling author. He has written a historical fiction trilogy: The GatekeeperRudigor’s Revenge (both listed in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge) and The Regiment. Richard lives in Queensland and travels extensively to do book signings.

Click here to visit Richard’s website.

If you’re in the area, Richard will be giving a talk as part of Caboolture Library’s ‘Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea’ fundraiser. For a gold-coin donation you can help yourself to a platter of home-made sweets and treats and hear from Richard Blackburn. Richard will speak about the ups, downs and interesting facts about writing historical fiction.
Caboolture Library Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea for Cancer Council Queensland will be held on Thursday May 27 from 10am–11am. 
To book or for more information, phone (07) 5433 2000.

Announcing … Fiona Trembath at the Emerging Writers’ Festival


'Crackpot' author Fiona Trembath

'Crackpot' author Fiona Trembath


Fiona Trembath will be appearing at 7pm this evening (Wednesday 26th May) at the Emerging Writers’ Festival for her ’15 Minutes of Fame’. The venue is the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne.

I asked Fiona what she’s planning to do for her talk.

I’ll probably burst a few bubbles when I talk about the 10 year journey it’s taken for my 22,000 word junior fiction novel to be published… But I also want to talk about the up-side, and the sense of achievement and fulfillment I’ve received at the end – and a lot of the time during – the past ten years. 

A little about Fiona’s book, Crackpot:

All Phoebe wants is a normal family. But with a dad who keeps running away to the circus, an annoying younger brother who thinks he’s a vampire, and a crackpot mum who reckons she’s a comedian, ‘normal’ is a long way off.

Fiona’s book is published by Avant Press. Click here to find out more at Fiona’s website.

Spotlight on … author for young adults, Ebony McKenna

Cover for Ondine (UK & Canada)

The cover for Ebony's novel, Ondine: The Summer of Shambles (UK/Canadian version)

Today I’m speaking to Ebony McKenna. Ebony is one of the writers to be featured this evening (Tuesday 25th of May) in the ’15 minutes of fame’ section of the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne.

Ebony will appear at 7pm at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street. (It’s free to attend.)

Ebony, how did you first come to be published?

I tried for about 13 years writing in many genres including science fiction and category romance, then I finally wrote something worth publishing! With Ondine, I got the book in the best shape I could, approached a literary agency in the UK – and followed their submission guidelines to the letter – and they took me on. The agent secured a publishing deal for me with Egmont, who have Commonwealth rights, which is why my book is also available in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The Australian & New Zealand cover of Ondine

The cover for Ondine: The Summer of Shambles (Australian/NZ version)

Tell me about the process of completing Ondine.

It’s easy starting a novel, very hard to actually finish it properly. I write just about every day (and when I don’t I get sooooo grumpy!) I found I’d written way past the ending and had pretty much started the next book – so my editor at Egmont pointed out we could cut the last two chapters and have a proper ending earlier on. (Smart woman, my editor!) I then worked really hard to create an ending that gave a satisfying conclusion yet left readers wanting more. We did several rounds of edits where my editors sent me pages and pages of notes, and then I worked like crazy to impress them. It was brain-breaking work, but incredibly satisfying because everything they suggested was sympathetic to the book so it all worked.

There were several rounds of edits – story edits, copy edits, line edits and then the proof copies. It’s a very long process, but I’m really satisfied with the results.

Author, Ebony McKenna

Author, Ebony McKenna

What are you planning for your ’15 Minutes of Fame’ at the Emerging Writers’ Festival?

I plan to be thoroughly entertaining and inspiring. Failing that, I’ll smile a lot.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

I’d tell myself to get the second book finished pronto! It turned out Egmont wanted a sequel but at that point I hadn’t even started one!

I would also tell myself not to be scared of reviews, because they’ve all been fabulous.

Click here to visit Ebony’s website.

Jackie’s recommended resources for beginning writers

Here are Jackie Hosking’s recommendations for beginning writers – particularly those interested in writing for children. The list was compiled with the assistance of Pass It On subscribers.

1. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. Maass gives many examples of each technique he addresses then finishes each chapter with a number of exercises. Not aimed at children’s writers but applicable to chapter books. 

2. Mem Fox’s website talks about creating picture books.

3. On Writing Books for Children by Jenny Wagner, published by Allen & Unwin.

4. Professional organizations such as: the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Australian Society of Authors (ASA), The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), Local Writers’ Centres. There’s a list on Jackie’s blog of these types of organisations, under ‘Useful Links’.

5. Richard Harland has put together a website of writing tips – also available as downloadable PDF. (I notice that he’s got some tips specific to writing steampunk fiction.)

6. Lightning Bug website.

7. Hazel Edwards’ website has lots of useful information for new writers.

8. Jill McDougall has a terrific e-book that can be downloaded from her website called Become a Children’s Writer.

9. Andrea Shavick has also written a book called Get your picture book published – there’s a link on Jackie’s blog to it.

10. Nancy I. Sanders’ award-winning book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, published in 2009 by E & E Publishing.

11. Rachel Burk’s blog has 27 different categories of writing info listed, with new stuff added all the time.

12. Writing for children by Pamela Cleaver.

13. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

14. How to Become a Children’s Writer by Bren MacDibble, published by Australian Associated Publishing House, ISBN 0-9758004-4-2.

15.Robyn Opie’s website: How to Write a Great Children’s Book. Also available as a published book from Magellan Books.

16. As well as being an annual publication, The Australian Writers’ Marketplace is online.

17. Open Office is free and good alternative to Microsoft Office; it has an inbuilt PDF creation feature. 

18. Aviary is a desktop publishing program which is now free . It’s a good alternative to InDesign and Quark Xpress if you also illustrate your work. 

19. John Marsden’s book, Everything I know about writing

20. Tom Chiarella’s Writing dialogue

21. Tracey Dils’ You can write children’s books

22. Jean Karl’s How to write and sell children’s picture books

23. Joan Aiken’s The way to write for children.

24. Hazel Edwards’ The business of writing for young people.

25. Celia Warren’s How to write stories.

At the book launch for Adam Stiles’ The Uniques


Author Adam Stiles and Kate Stiles

Author Adam Stiles and his mother, Kate at the book launch

Back at the beginning of May, I interviewed emerging author Adam Stiles. Last week, Adam launched his new book, The Uniques at St Edmund’s College in Ipswich. Here’s what Adam had to say about the event:

I started off by gathering the crowd around me (it was a very informal setup) and explaining to them how the book came to be, where the ideas came from, what it took to become published. I explained that it is a series, and took them through the basic premise of Act I.

My mate Odin (the first person to read the manuscript) gave a short, impromptu speech, and then I did a full reading of the prologue.

Afterwards, I took a couple of questions and then we had afternoon tea while I went around chatting to the guests, which included the school principal, several teachers, and handful of students who waited around after school, and of course my friends/family.

Eager crowd at the launch of The Uniques

An eager crowd listens to first public reading of The Uniques

I finished by setting up a table to sell and sign copies. Nearly everyone who was there now has one. Overall it was an excellent launch!


Congratulations Adam!

How will you promote your book? Pt 3 of an interview with author, Chrissie Michaels

This is part 3 of my interview with author, Chrissie Michaels. Today she explains how she is promoting her new book, In Lonnie’s Shadow.

Chrissie, how do you market yourself to teachers and librarians?

Rachel at the Australian Education Union has just interviewed me for the teacher’s union newsletter and I recently did an interview with Judith at SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) for their Bright Ideas blog.

Will there be teachers’ notes for In Lonnie’s Shadow?

There are teachers’ notes on Ford Street’s website and also on mine. I do plan to add more. I have put on an FAQ section on my site as there have been a few questions about which items from the dig are real or imagined. I should reinforce at this point that Lonnie is a work of historical fiction.

Do you or you publisher have any plans to sell your book overseas?

Paul Collins (publisher at Ford Street Publishing) has mentioned that it went to Bologna. We won’t know for a few months. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

How did you decide what content to put on your website?

I am a novice at this. I only set up the website over the summer holidays and haven’t got a domain name yet. Sophie Masson gave some good advice, which I took up about using the Google site. I wanted the focus to be on Lonnie and to make the book trailer more available. I also wanted it to be a focus for teachers. That’s why I am putting up some additional classroom activities. I have just included some work on the language in the novel, clarifying terms such as: duck shoving, on the wallaby etc. 

Who is the audience for your website?

I guess I have made it more for teachers at this point. I am a real novice at this at the moment. I haven’t even faced Facebook or Twitter yet!

Why did you do a book trailer? How did you decide what to do for it?

Paul Collins suggested we have a book trailer. This was over the last summer holidays. Hopefully it provides an entry point for some to read Lonnie.

My partner Michael produced the trailer. Between us we came up with the ideas for the script. It was a matter of what we could do and what we could work with. Michael is fabulous at using MovieMaker.

We had some photos of Little Lon from my research. They feature buildings that appear in the novel which is set in Little Lon in 1891. There is the Leitrim where Daisy lives and the Governor, one of Pearl’s haunts. The Royal Exhibition Buildings, the fountain and the Carlton gardens are central to the illegal horse race through the streets. The knife relates to Slasher Jack; the bottles (the bottle for medicine or poison and the Glass and Bottle gang); the fob watch (the cause of some of Lonnie’s unhappiness); these all appear in the novel. The trapdoor and the traditonal nursery rhyme ‘Around the rick’ are also key links. 

The background music to the clip was a birthday present from my brother who plays the classical guitar and composed the piece,which he called Lonnie’s Lick. He says he is available to compose music for any other clips. 

My daughter and her boyfriend were most put out that their words weren’t used, as they spent at least an hour one afternoon rehearsing lines, as Lonnie and Pearl. My daughter does appear as Pearl though in the news clipping section of the clip!

How are you integrating your online promotions with your ‘real world’ promotions?

I don’t think I really live in the ‘real world’. That internal landscape keeps building fences. This is the first time I have been involved in any online promotions’ venture. There have been quite a few interviews for blogspots (such as yours) and we are all certainly grateful for the opportunity to talk about our books and writing. Networks are so important for writers. It can be quite isolating otherwise. But there has to be a balance. 

Are you a full-time writer? How do you structure the days that you write? 

I do have a part-time teaching job at the local secondary school, three days a week, which is quite time consuming.

Writing at home is relaxation time, done purely when I feel like doing it, which turns out to at least a few hours a day, mostly on my days off, and during weekends or holidays. I do have spells where I do more, especially when an idea is ripening or a deadline is due. 

How does your background inform your writing?

I’m an avid reader with a love of literature and history. I have a curious (and at times, a troubling) mind.  When I was 17 and in my first year at uni, where I was studying French, I was introduced to the French authors, Zola and Balzac. They still stay with me now. 

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author?

I think I will end up being tagged as a writer of historical fiction. If I could live my life again, I would have been an archaeologist or historian and I guess I would have ended up in the same place. (Then again I would like to be Doctor Who’s assistant and I have written a sc-fi novel for Scholastic Press…) 

I just consider myself a writer who is lucky enough to be published sometimes.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

Never send a handwritten manuscript. Accept any criticism as constructive advice. 

Always be polite – remember that the commissioning editor who refuses your manuscript today will probably move on to another publishing house and you may meet up again soon. 

In Lonnie’s Shadow
The discovered artefacts from an archaeological dig in Melbourne become the backdrop for this story about a group of teenagers in 1891 who are struggling to make their way in a world that seems to be conspiring against them whichever way they turn. Lonnie McGuinness knows only one thing for sure – there doesn’t seem to be any fairness in life for him or his mates. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. 
But when does a favour turn into a crime? 
And when should a secret no longer be kept?

Chrissie’s bio

Chrissie’s published work includes junior fiction, poetry and short stories, as well as a series of primary school texts. In Lonnie’s Shadow is her debut YA novel and is published by Ford Street Publishing.

She will appear at Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival, at 7 pm on Thursday 27 May 2010 at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. 

Click here to visit Chrissie’s website.

View the trailer for In Lonnie’s Shadow here. (Scroll down approx. 4 screen lengths to find it.)

How did you get published? Part 2 of an interview with author, Chrissie Michaels

In part 2 of my interview with author Chrissie Michaels, Chrissie explains how she does historical research and how she plans to promote In Lonnie’s Shadow to schools.

Do you ever encounter obstacles when writing for publication? 

Time is my greatest enemy. Where does the time go when you are on a computer? You look up and several hours have passed. I become obsessive and bossy to the extreme—‘Who took the Do Not Disturb sign?!’ When the computer crashes; the printer runs dry; the internet won’t work; there’s a paragraph to finish but I just can’t get it right; ‘Who’s taken the Macquarie?’… 

At this point I take a break—a walk on the beach, do some gardening, go on a short holiday…

Cover for In Lonnie's Shadow

Cover for In Lonnie's Shadow

How do you tackle historical research?

I really enjoy the thrill of discovery in historical research. In Lonnie’s Shadow is the second of my published historical novels, although it is my first novel for young adults pitched at the more mature reader.  The other novel is On Board the Boussole, the diary of Julienne Fulbert, written for the 12+ age group and based on the French explorer, Lapérouse’s tragic voyage in the 18th century. This is part of the Australian, My Story series by Scholastic Australia. 

Melbourne’s State Library has been an invaluable resource for both novels. The Argus newspaper was an important reference for me when researching Lonnie. I trawled the microfiche at the Library, referred to academic papers about the archaeological digs, checked out the ephemera section. I also visited Museum Victoria and studied their exhibition on Melbourne. Many artefacts from the digs are part of this display. In fact this was the source of my inspiration for Lonnie.

While writing Boussole, the rare books section of the library was invaluable for research on Lapérouse.  I corresponded closely with Reece Discombe, who rediscovered the site of the shipwrecks near Vanikoro in the 1960s. Reece gave me some of his photographs, sent me photocopied material and gifts, such as a book signed by the French admiral who oversaw the French navy’s dives to the wrecks (which I now treasure). Pierre at Albi sent me a wonderful limited edition print of the Boussole (ship) commissioned by the French government, as well as one for the National Maritime Museum in Sydney which I sent on to them. Jean from the Association Salomon sent me copies of his own novels on the subject. I also visited the Lapérouse Museum in La Perouse, NSW. 

Without a doubt, I get carried away doing research. Here’s an example of what I mean—when researching the cost of an apple for Lonnie, I came across a reference to the gangs who roamed around Melbourne at that time. It was like falling into a vat of scrumpy in the form of my gang leaders, George Swiggins and Billy Bottle, who must have been fermenting somewhere in the back of my mind. Believe me, they poured out that day, packing a punch and set for a bottling. At the time, I forgot about the apple…

Do you do book proposals for your work?

I always try to follow the submission guidelines that a publisher has. If this calls for a book proposal then I will do it. I try to present manuscripts as professionally as I can and always include a return envelope with the required postage, unless stated otherwise. 

Why do you write under a pen name?

Really just because I can… it fits into where I am at this point in my life. If you do write under a pen name you should inform Public Lending Rights; Educational Lending Rights and Copyright Agency Limited. Also I always put my ‘real’ name along with my other details on a manuscript’s cover page.

Do you have an agent?

Because we do still have a range of markets here in Australia I have been happy to do it alone. However, I’ve just sent some material to a US agent. I saw an advertisement in one of my network newsletters. But this is the first time I’ve done so. 

For your latest book, what aspects of publicity and promotion will Ford Street handle? What do you plan to do?

Paul Collins my publisher at Ford Street is supersonic. He has sent off stickers, bookmarks, set up interviews and provided contact points. He provided the opportunity for my involvement in the cultural exchange of Australian books to the Shanghai and Nanjing Libraries. The exhibition is called ‘Finding Gold’ and is associated with the current Shanghai World Expo. I am very excited to be one of the featured writers. 

I am one of 16 writers selected to launch their book during the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. My timeslot is Thursday 27 May, 7–8pm. Estelle Tang is hosting these ‘15 Minutes of Fame’. There will be book sales and a book signing at the end. More details are available on the EWF website. Please come along if you can. A launch is a real celebration, like a birthday because our characters are like our own children (almost).

What do you plan to talk about to school groups?

I am happy to speak to school groups. Lonnie is for the more mature adolescent reader as it has some gritty and violent moments. Some of the characters are hard done by but they are resilient and determined and don’t give up. 

I have a Lonnie collection of my own to act as writing inspiration. My favourite is the phrenological head (chapter: ‘Skull’ from In Lonnie’s Shadow) which I picked up at a market over one summer holiday. I also have an old brown bottle with ‘not to be taken’ on it (‘Bottle for medicine or poison’). I’ve got some great old coins (‘Three coins and a token’). I have some great photos of the area around Little Lon as well.

There’s the book trailer to show and extracts to read, language to explore… 

There are also stories to tell. Just yesterday I had a phone call from a lady whose mother spent her early childhood in Cumberland Place (part of the setting in Lonnie). She told me how her mother wandered down to the nearby theatre and watched Pavlovna dance. I was so thrilled to hear from her and even more that she was really excited by my book. She is going to keep in contact by email and tell me some more stories. I can’t wait.

Tomorrow, Chrissie explains more about how she plans to promote In Lonnie’s Shadow.

In the meantime, take a look at the trailer for the book, along with Chrissie’s article about using book trailers in the classroom.