Meet My Book: 1915, by Sally Murphy

Today is the release day for my new book: 1915. So, I thought I’d celebrate by asking myself the same 10 questions I usually as visiting authors. They say talking to yourself is the first sign of madness  – but hey, you have to be a bit crazy to be a children’s author, so I’m fine with that.

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

1915, published by Scholastic Australia, on February 1. 1915 (Australia's Great War)

2.  Why did you write the book?

 Usually I write a book because there’s an idea that won’t leave me alone. This time was a little different – because I was approached by Claire Hallifax at Scholastic to see if I might be interested in writing for this series (Australia’s Great War). I love a challenge, so I said yes. My brief was to create a fictional story set in the midst of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 in the year 1915 (other books in the series deal with the other years of the war). It was up to me to find a way to bring those events to life, through a character young readers could connect with. I decided on a school teacher, because I was interested in how the war affected children back home, and I thought perhaps having a teacher at the war would connect a class of children more closely.  One day I was looking at the very famous photo of the 11th Battalion posed on the Cheops pyramid, and I realised I had a starting point for my story. My character, Stanley, was there posing for a photograph. I started writing, and found that having him there on that pyramid really got me into Stanley’s head ready to tell his story.

 3. How long from idea to publication?

About two years.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Finding a way to explore really difficult events in a way that is both realistic but also appealing to children. I cried writing this book, many times, but needed to be sure to somehow offer hope. The other difficult things is fictionalising history. It is important not to alter facts too much though occasionally some poetic license is needed. For example, there are a few characters in the book who were real people. In order to write about Charles Bean, the war correspondent. I had him befriend Stanley, and get Stanley’s help on compiling the Anzac Book. This didn’t happen, of course, because Stanley is fictional. So it was important to do this only when and as necessary for the story to come alive, but not to alter what really happened.

 5. Coolest thing about your book?

My name on the cover? Seriously, though, I think the fact that it highlights the creation of The Anzac Book is pretty cool, and the photo on the pyramid too. It’s good to be able to bring pieces of history alive.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

That a deadline is a pretty good way to overcome self doubt. I had never written historical fiction of his length before – and kept wondering if I could really do it. But the contract had been signed, and there were deadlines, so I had to get over that and just work work work till I got it right. My editor, Claire, was a  great support.  I also learnt many many things about the Gallipoli campaign, about war, about some of the famous and less famous men and women who served, and about life back at home at the time.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

 I’m having a virtual launch over on my website today and am planning a physical launch as well. There may even be a glass of bubbles tonight  . 🙂

 8. And how will you promote the book?

 I’ll be  visiting lots of blogs, and talking at schools and festivals throughout the year, as well as my usual twitter, facebook and so on. And telling anyone who will listen!

 9. What are you working on next?

Lots of things. I’m currently a PhD candidate, with my project focussing on children’s poetry. As part of this I am working on a verse novel and a collection of poetry.  I’ve also got a new picture book, Fly In Fly Out Dad, coming out later in the year.

 10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

At my author site:

Or my Facebook page.

Or on Twitter.

I’ll post links to any other interviews and publicity on one or all of these.

Oh, and today I’m having a virtual launch over on my blog. Drop by and join in the fun, If you leave a comment you will be in the draw for a free copy of the book.

And, of course, you can buy the book through good brick and mortar bookstores, or online.


Meet My Book: That Stranger Next Door, by Goldie Alexander

Today’s visitor is Goldie Alexander, here to answer the ten questions which allow us to meet her new book. Over to you, Goldie.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.  cover image for That Stranger Next Door

“That Stranger Next Door” is published by

ISBN 9780992492434 (eBook) 978-0-9924924-4-1

  This book can be bought from reputable bookstores. RRP  $18.00


2. Why did you write the book?

What triggered me was the plight of our asylum seekers and the ‘Children Overboard’ incident, a situation John Howard used to regain his position as our prime minister. The similarity to the events of 1954 was overpowering.

“That Stranger next Door” is set at the height of the ‘Cold War’. In the United States, Senator McCarthy was using anti-communist laws to force academics, film makers and other intellectuals to a senate hearing to ask if they ever belonged to the Communist Party and to name anyone who had gone to their meetings. Many people lost their jobs and their families. Some even committed suicide.

When an insignificant Russian diplomat called Vladimir Petrov defected to Australia, promising to provide information about a Russian spy-ring, he forgot or avoided mentioning this to his wife. As Evdokia was pulled onto a plane in Darwin, she was rescued at the last minute by ASIO and hidden in a ‘safe house’. At the time PM Menzies was also trying to bring in similar anti-communist legislation to the US, and thankfully, in this he was unsuccessful.

3. How long from idea to publication?

From idea to actual publication took about three years. But between times I had a bad accident and that slowed things down.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Finding the right publisher. Too many young submissions editors didn’t know anything about the Petrov Affair, or they didn’t see any relevance to the present by exploring the 1950’s, or they didn’t think young readers would be interested in that affair.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

The relationship between Jewish Ruth and Catholic Patrick, a strictly Romeo and Juliet affair. Also, how restrictive it was to be a teen back in the fifties.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Careful research. How important it is to have convincing characters. How stories develop almost on their own from the character’s personalities, and the times they live in. How important it is to write several drafts before submitting a novel to a publisher. I could go on and on as every book I do can feel like starting all over again.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

Though I rarely launch my latest books in bookshops or festivals, a wonderful opportunity came up to launch ‘That Stranger Next Door’ at a the Melbourne Jewish Writer’s Festival. Many of my writing and other friends turned up to help me celebrate.

8. And how will you promote the book?

Through Twitter and Facebook, my own blog, and other blogs such as this. Also, a blog tour featuring other well known authors such as Kate Forsythe, Hazel Edwards, George Ivanoff,  Jane Yolen, Pauline Luke, Julia Lawrenson, Errol Broome and Felicity Pulman. These blogs will turn up on Clan Destine and my own blog. These very respected authors talk about their own work.

 9. What are you working on next?

I have just had “In Hades” come out and will have to use the time promote it. As ‘In Hades’ is a verse novel, I expect some ‘different’ responses.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

There is lots of material on my website and more on my blog

All my books for young readers have Teacher Notes.

Finally, thank you Sally for allowing me to visit your blog.

Meet My Book: The Gobbling Tree, by Mark Carthew

I’m happy to welcome Mark Carthew to the blog today. Mark is here to introduce us to his latest book, The Gobbling Tree, which has just been rereleased.

Welcome Mark.

1.       Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

The Gobbling Tree

New Frontier Publishing

By Mark Carthew, illustrated by Susy Boyer

Release Feb 1 2014

2.       Why did you write the book?

The idea came from a real life experience as a primary teacher, seeing a student kick a football up into a tree and the efforts of everyone around (including me) try to get it back down!  It was very funny.

3.       How long from idea to publication?

About 4 … or 40 years; depending how you define the ‘idea’ germ – as I suspect the idea  really started in my childhood when lots of the toys and objects  my brother and I played  with such as kites, Frisbees and balls sometimes got caught up in trees.

4.       What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Making sure the rhyming text rolled off the tongue with both logic and energy, while still allowing the text and visual narrative some space. It was also important to me to build up some tension to the resolution – along with the ‘teasers’ of predicted outcomes in each stanza.

5.       Coolest thing about your book?

Winning the Speech Pathology Australia Book of Year Award. (… and Susy’s great illustrations. I love her use of shadows and the fun element of the little dog in every picture)

6.       Something you learnt through writing the book?

That working with illustrators is one of the greatest things about being a children’s author. I loved working with Susy and the way she enjoyed all discussions about text and illustration placement.

7.       What did you do celebrate the release?

We had an exhibition and book launch event at the wonderful Mark’s and Gardner Galley & café in  Tamborine Mountain, Qld. They placed full sized objects from the story in a grand old oak tree in their beautiful open garden. The locals still call it The Gobbling Tree!

8.       And how will you promote the book?

I present at lots of festivals, libraries, events and schools and provide bookmarks, posters and activity sheets and notes for teachers and children.

9.       What are you working on next?

Like most authors I normally have lots of projects and ideas bubbling away!  I have written a sequel to my latest book The Moose is Loose! and I have also written a follow up title to Five Little Owls (Six Little Ducks) which will also have a matching CD / song.  I’m also working on a graphic novel for older children and a number of other picture books.

10.   Where we can find out more about you and your book?

My website  is a good place. I put lots of fun free songs, activities, book links, interviews and resources up there for parents, teachers and students … and I’m adding things all the time!


Thanks heaps for visiting Mark. You can see a review of The Gobbling Tree here

Meet My Book: Jonathan! by Peter Carnavas & Amanda Francey

Today Peter Carnavas is here to share the news of his new picture book, Jonathan, which was released on February 1. Welcome Peter!


  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.


Written by Peter Carnavas

Illustrated by Amanda Francey

New Frontier Publishing – February 2014

 2. Why did you write the book?

I remember walking my dog and thinking about the sorts of books my children really enjoyed.  At the time, they were about three and five years old, and they loved simple, funny and playful stories, with little bits of repetitive suspense throughout the book.  I initially thought of two sibling characters that always tried to scare each other, then decided to keep it to one child character who tries to scare his family.  It’s one of the first stories I have written with my children’s tastes in mind.  They quite like it, so I hope other kids do, too.

 3. How long from idea to publication?

I had sent Jonathan! to my publisher quite a while ago, along with some other stories.  At the time, we decided to go ahead with another story and work on Jonathan! later, as it targeted a slightly younger audience, compared to my usual stories.  I’m glad we waited, as I met Amanda Francey the following year and she agreed to illustrate the book.  So it was probably over two years from idea to publication.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

This is the first picture book I have written in rhyme, so that was a challenge.  I have always been reluctant to use rhyme, as I always felt it would be harder than it seemed.  I was right!

 5. Coolest thing about your book?

For kids, I think the coolest thing about the book is when Jonathan meets the thing that will help him REALLY scare his family.

For me, the coolest thing about the book was having another illustrator bring my ideas to life.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

I learnt that being an author is much easier than being an author/illustrator!

 7. What did you do celebrate the release?

The same thing I do whenever I celebrate anything – I had a nice cup of tea.

 8. And how will you promote the book?

We will launch the book in March, in Brisbane.  I believe Amanda has organised some costumes for the event, which will be loads of fun.  I’ll also be visiting lots of schools throughout the year, getting kids involved in the Jonathan! story and inspiring them to make their own books.

 9. What are you working on next?

I have illustrated an hilarious book called My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young, which comes out very soon.  I’ve also just finished working on another book of my own, called Oliver and George, about a cheeky boy trying desperately to get his big bear friend’s nose out of a book.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

You can visit my site or my publisher’s site


Thanks so much for visiting, Peter.

Jonathan! is available now in good bookstores.

The Verse Novel Form: How and Why, with guest blogger Lorraine Marwood

When her second verse novel, Star Jumps, was released, Iasked author Lorraine Marwood to guest blog on a  blog I’d just started, focussing on the verse novel form. That particular blog is now defunct (I came to realise I really didn’t have time to devote to multiple blogs)  but I came across the interview today and thought it was well worth publishing here. Since the interview was published, Lorraine has had more poetry collections published, as well as prose, and has won the prestigious Prime Minister’s Literary Award  for Star Jumps. Anyway, here’s the original post.

I am delighted to welcome children’s author and poet Lorraine Marwood to my blog today. Lorraine’s second verse novel for children, Star Jumps has just been released (you can see my review of it here), so I asked Lorraine to drop in and talk about why she chooses to use the verse novel form This is what she had to say:

Why use this genre as a way of story telling?

Years ago when I finally gave into my life long desire to write, I could only snatch a few morning moments before the cowshed work, before getting the six kids ready for school, or after the evening meal; to write down lines. I trained myself to write quickly- poems- maybe three a day about details that happened, words spoken, emotion expressed through the rural landscape. Poems were attainable, satisfying and I began sending them out into the literary world of journals.

Many were published. But I still wanted to write for children. I began to write poems specifically for children and many of these poems found their way into the journals of School Magazine New South Wales.

After gathering a collection of poems together, Five Islands Press published one volume ( Redback Mansion) and then later a second ( that downhill yelling).

Now, I wanted to evolve a longer piece of writing. I wrote a short prose verse poem about a picnic in a paddock. I loved the intensity of feeling and atmosphere and setting that prose poetry could give. I wanted to write a novel. But how to take the plunge?

Of course I’d read Sharon Creech’s novels and Karen Hesse’s novels and always enjoyed Steven Herrick’s work. How could I find my own voice in the verse novel?

I researched my topic: I researched human accounts of gold finding and the turmoil and untold stories that were humped across the gold fields. Then I found a voice, an entry, an immediate creation of suspense and atmosphere that I wanted. The striking of atmosphere in the first few words of Ratwhiskers and Me’ was the steering of the story trail.

‘Boy, they call me boy.’

Yes! I was on my way to the exploration of theme and plot and voice. I could use what is kinda instinctive in my writing: my poetics.

The verse novel became an atmospheric device in itself. It is very conducive to the playing out of sensory detail, and the propelling of the bare bones of the story. And while it is shorter in words than an ordinary novel, it strips back the verbiage and puts the reader right there emotionally.

Recently two students from Latrobe Uni were researching the editing process and came to ask me a few questions. They highlighted the way I make a narrative of the verse novel rather than individual poems, and for me that was a point to ponder. I make this distinction because I do naturally write so much poetry. I wanted to experiment with form. And my version of the verse novel is one long poem.

Because my writing is always evolving, the subject matter of the verse novel itself dictates the way a book is written.

Star Jumps, my recently released novel allowed a more poetic vista of details like the ghostling breath of the cows on a cold frosty night. I wanted to convey to non- farming children, as much as possible; a real life snapshot of a farm at its most busy period- the calving season. I wanted to show the drought in action and the decisions that are constantly being made in many rural communities.

My words made flesh and blood of Ruby as she took us through her farm life and showed us hope played out. Only the genre of the verse novel allowed me to recreate the emotion of farming without the didactic and sentimental picture so often stereotyped as farming.

Thanks so much for sharing, Lorraine. You can visit Lorraine Marwood online at

Meet My Book: The Disappearance of Ember Crow, by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Delighted today to welcome Ambelin Kwaymullina to the blog to chat about her latest book, the second in the Tribe series. Over to you, Ambelin.

1.         Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow, Walker Books, released 1 November 2013.

2.         Why did you write the book?

The same reason I write any of my books. Because I have to. In the times when I do not write the stories build up and up beneath my skin; they begin to whisper in my ear and demand to be told. If I do not write I fear I will explode. Or possibly go crazy.

3.         How long from idea to publication?

About a year, all in.

4.         What was the hardest thing about writing it?

I feel what my characters feel when I am writing; that makes the tough moments for them even tougher to write for me.

There’s this very quiet moment for Ember, when she’s on the road heading into Fern City. It’s the scene that ends ‘There was no one to witness my foolishness now, except perhaps for the crows, and crows kept each other’s secrets…I let myself smile.’

That’s not a particularly dramatic moment, but it was difficult to write because I was conscious when I was doing so of how very vulnerable Ember is. She’s hiding what she feels from Jules at this point; she doesn’t believe it’s possible for him – or for anyone – to truly care about her. I felt so sad for her, my Em; I could feel her isolation, there on the road in the dark.

5.       Coolest thing about your book?

The big revelation moments – and I can’t say anything about them without giving something away! But there’s lots of ‘wow I didn’t see that coming!’ or ‘I can’t believe it!’ moments in Ember Crow.

6.         Something you learnt through writing the book?

Second books are not easier to write than first books. I retain the hope that the third book will be easier than the first two. Not happening so far…

7.       What did you do celebrate the release?

Scrabble tournament with my family. It was a draw between me and my brother Blaze.

8.       And how will you promote the book?

Well – this blog tour, for a start! And I’m in the process of putting my own author website together which is very exciting. If there’s any fans out there who are reading this, once my website is done you’ll be able to go onto it and work out what animal you’d be bonded with in the Firstwood. Pretty cool, huh? (I think it is anyway).

9.       What are you working on next?

Third book in the Tribe series – The Foretelling of Georgie Spider.

10.   Where we can find out more about you and your book?

Thanks for visiting Ambelin. You can visit the next stop on Ambelin’s blog tour tomorrow at