The Reluctant Jillaroo, by Kaz Delaney

9781925266061.jpgThe side of my head stung and I winced silently. But even if I’d cried out it would have been drowned out in the sea of cheers that flooded the little bus. We’d arrived, and it seemed everybody but me was delirious with excitement.
I would have sighed, but that would have meant talking a big gulp of the stale air: the way my stomach was churning, there was no way I could risk that. I needed every bit of inner calm I could muster. I was about to give the performance of my life.
And this from the kid who’d never, ever been picked for any school play.

Harper and Heidi might be identical twins but their interests are very different: Heidi loves sun, skating and surfing, while Harper is into horses and all things agricultural. But, when Heidi causes the accident that leaves Harper unable to attend jillaroo camp, the sisters decide the best course of action is for Heidi to go in her place. It’s up to Heidi to pretend to be Harper, and impress the teachers enough that Harper can win a place at her dream school.

While Harper recovers at home Heidi readies herself for ten days or horse riding, fencing, and handling cattle. And ten days of pretending not to be herself. She doesn’t count on meeting the handsome Chaz, or on one of the campers being Trent Weston – who knows the real Harper. Keeping her secret is not going to be easy.

The Reluctant Jillaroo uses the idea of a twin-swap as the premise for a satisfying blend of romance, mystery and adventure, set in rural Australia. Heidi’s attempts to fit into farm life lend lots of humour, and the growing relationship with the affable Chaz adds interest, as does a mystery about a series of mishaps and missing items.

With horses, romance and mystery, The Reluctant Jillaroo is likely to appeal to teen readers.

The Reluctant Jillaroo, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781925266061

Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney

What I learned today:
1. It’s never wise to run in ten-centimetre platforms, no matter how well you think you can handle them.
2. My knowledge of the great outdoors is sadly lacking. Tents, for example, have ropes and things that can trip you up. Very easily.
3. My image of psychics wearing too much cheap jewellery and draped in floaty scarves may be way off but, like, since when did psychics look like surfer gods?

Macey sees dead people. This would be disturbing enough, but when she realises the ghost-boy who’s visiting her isn’t actually dead yet, she has no idea what she’s supposed to do. If she doesn’t figure out how to help Nick she’s going to go crazy.

Soon though, she realises that Nick isn’t her only problem. Her mother has walked out and her dad has come home with a whole other family for her to adapt to. The surfer god who’s masquerading as a psychic keeps popping up in her world. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, somebody is trying to kill her.

Almost Dead is a wonderful mix of so many things: romance, humour, mystery, teenage angst, the supernatural, and more. So many elements could be overwhelming, but instead it is delightful. Macey is an engaging, quirky character who is likeable, strong and, at times, frustratingly independent. What happens t her is pretty scary but it’s also told with humour, in a satisfying mix.

Suitable for teen readers, Almost Dead can be read as a sequel to Dead, Actually, but equally well stands alone.


Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743313268

Available from good bookstores and online.

You can see an interview with Kaz Delaney here.

Meet My Book: Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney

A guest! We have a guest! It’s always wonderful when an author drops by to chat, and today I’m happy to welcome Kaz Delaney, here to talk about Almost Dead, her latest book-baby. Welcome Kaz!


Hi Sally! Thank you for having me here – I’ve been really looking forward to it!

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

Oooh I love an easy question first…

Title: Almost Dead

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Released: January 2nd, 2014.

So, as you can see, it’s still a newborn! And typically I’m still clucking and oohing and ahhing over it. And stroking it and telling it how beautiful it is…

 2. Why did you write the book?

It was my publisher’s suggestion. She thought Macey’s story would be a great one to tell, because in her words, “Everybody Loves Macey.” (Macey, if your readers don’t know, was the witty, fast-talking side-kick from ‘Dead, Actually’.) I was keen to get onto the next project, but it took a little bit of soul-searching on my part to take that particular step.

3. How long from idea to publication?

Over two and a half years. Maybe more. A long time.  But it couldn’t be helped, and I’ll be forever grateful for sympathetic publishers who could see clearly when I couldn’t.  You see, my beautiful Mum became ill and subsequently passed away during the creation of this book. Initially, I was upset when my agent told me the pub date had been pushed back. Because of what was happening with Mum, I was distressed and hurting and to my befuddled brain it seems like a vote of no confidence.  I’ve always been diligent about deadlines and I was convinced I could still make this one.  But they were right and I was wrong. The structural edits were due back a week after my mum passed away. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to get them done and in fact I couldn’t look at them for three months afterwards.   So, it was much longer than was probably ideal. Allen & Unwin, though, were brilliant and supported me though in not just being so understanding, but by re-releasing Dead, Actually to coincide with the new release: Almost Dead.  Happy dancing!

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Aside from the obvious above, the hardest part was my fear of losing the essence of Macey.  That was my initial concern. You see, Macey is a big personality, she takes no prisoners and says what many of us would (sometimes) like to say but aren’t quite able to.  But, are those the traits of a character the reader can relate to and cheer for? I wasn’t sure. Yet, I knew there was a whole lot more to Macey than met the eye. To make her more sympathetic, I knew we were going to have to dig deep, to rattle her self-assured cage and take away the few visible support systems she allowed herself. And I had to do all that without losing the quintessential essence that was Macey. That uniqueness that made her awesome (in the true sense of the word ). So the tricky bit was to have her evolve and yet remain true to who she really is. Phew. Lots of deletions and rewrites! (But I was delighted with the result, and so far the reviews are agreeing so it’s making it a teeny bit easier to sleep at night. Double phew...)  

5. Coolest thing about your book?

Wow – great question. Hmmnnn… Maybe the gorgeous, warm, semi-tropical setting would be one very cool factor? But probably it’s Macey. She’s very cool and very sharp – in the witty, quick-thinking-on-her-feet sense. She makes me laugh and wish I could be her. I know she’s the lead character, and so she should take the limelight, but this is definitely her book in every sense. Also, the interaction between her and Flick, the unhappy surprise who falls into her life, is such fun.  And not one, but two, cute guys?  Oh but wait! The mystery! The stalker!  Not sure if this is something I’d term ‘cool’, but it is very engaging and sometimes downright scary. I loved creating the mystery – it’s one of my genre first-loves. So, is it the humour or the mystery? Maybe it’s both…

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Another great question. I think we learn, or have something reinforced with every book we write. With Almost Dead is was: To not get carried away with plot; to maintain control of the story.  I got so caught up in the drama that I took the story to a place that was completely out of left field. It was shocking (in the sense that no one would ever have seen it coming) and it was big. But it was wrong for this story. It was a complete story on its own, really. It was a novice mistake I shouldn’t have made and cost me a lot of unnecessary wasted time.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

The release was just eight days after Christmas, and kind of crept up on us. We had family staying and I was knee deep in looking after them and frantic plans for the launch which happened on the 11th, so it was almost a non event! Amazingly we had a big family get together that night (2nd),  but with my attention elsewhere, we forgot to even toast the release until there just the hub and I still up and awake late into the night. The launch however was amazing and I was humbled and grateful to all those who came out to help us celebrate and give this baby a great welcome. There are some photos of that day on my blog The Ditzy Diva if anyone would like to take a peek.  Scroll down to the January 17th entry.

8. And how will you promote the book?

As much and as often as I can until people scream at me to stop or maybe until the death threats start arriving. J Seriously, promoting is such a big, and important, part of being an author these days, and with the dearth of bookshops it’s getting harder and harder for people to find our books, let along buy.  I’m in the midst of an amazing blog tour now with fabulous hosts – thank you very much Ms Sally! J – and fingers crossed that’s helping to spread the word. I have several appearances scheduled for throughout the year and we’re the early stages of planning mini launches in Brisbane and on the South Coast and Sydney.  It’s going to be a big, busy year where I hope to connect with as many readers as I possibly can.

9. What are you working on next?

I’ve just completed a mid grade novel that I hope will turn into a series. Not even my agent has seen it yet – through she’s about to –  so I’m at that very nervous stage.  Is it good? Does it work? Is the pacing right for that age bracket? From there I will go back to the next YA in what I loosely term my Dead Series. After that, I hope to have another two YA’s written by the end of 2014 and perhaps I’ll get to that series for boys that keeps screaming at me. Well, that’s the plan, right? Reality will probably deliver something entirely different, just to remind me I’m not in charge J, but until then, that’s what I’m working towards.

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

I’d love people to meander along to my website:

It will list all the places you’re likely to find me this year – so far!

My blog –   –  has been a bit sadly neglected, but I’m trying to rectify that so there’ll usually be the latest happenings and always photos.  I’ve made a concerted effort this year. So come along and visit and keep me honest! J The latest is the exciting news about my book being immortalised in clay which is totally one of the most exciting things to happen in a long time – besides having a new book out, of course. 

And the book itself?  Almost Dead is available at and Bookworld –or through your local bricks and mortar bookshop. If they don’t have it yet, order it! Actually puleese order it! J

Thank you so much Sally! You’ve been a gracious hostess and it’s been loads of fun chatting to you about Almost Dead. xxx


And thank you for coming, Kaz. Enjoy that new baby 🙂

Dead, Actually, by Kaz Delaney

Contrary to popular belief, the air in hell is freezing – because surely that’s where I’d somehow landed. My breath caught; my heart jerked…
My body froze.
My brain shut down.
I clutched at the doorframe.
But still she stared at me.
Her…A dead person. In my room.
Let me clarify: not a body, a dead person.
An already-buried, dead person.

Willow’s having a bad week. A very bad week. Her parents have told her they’re heading off to start a church in Africa. The guys she has a crush on treats her like a little sister. And then there’s the matter of JoJo Grayson, a rich girl who inconveniently visited the drive through where willow was working – and then went and died, making Willow the last person to see her alive. This means that Willow is the one that JoJo is haunting, and JoJo isn’t any nicer dead than she was alive. She’s going to make Willow’s life very difficult until Willow can figure out what happened in the lead-up to JoJo’s death.

In the meantime, Willow is suddenly popular. All of JoJo’s friends, the ‘in’ crowd, want to spend time with Willow, ostensibly to learn more about their dear departed friend. But Willow soon realises there are ulterior motives ta play. these people think Willow knows something – and they’re pretty keen to find out what it is.

Dead, Actually is a tragi-comic story of life, death, and life after death – and of friendship and family, too. There’s a lot happening in Willow’s life apart from the haunting, with her woefully inadequate parents having invited a shyster evangelist into their home and her feelings for her best friend’s brother, Seth. This could be a lot to deal with in one story, but Delaney does it well with the story unfolding over just a few days and the characters delightfully drawn. Willow is an endearing first person narrator, outwardly strong but with her vulnerability helping to make her believable, and JoJo is the girl you love to hate (even after she’s dead) but who you come to understand just a bit better.

Suitable for teen readers, Dead, Actually is a delightful blend of mystery, romance and the supernatural all wrapped up with comedy fiction.

Dead, Actually

Dead, Actually, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742378183

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.