Meet My Book: Meet Mary MacKillop, by Sally Murphy

Introducing a new series of posts, where I invite authors to drop in and tell us about their new books. To get the ball rolling, I thought I’d post about my own new release. I look forward to sharing lots of new books this way in the coming months.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
Meet Mary Mackillop, illustrated by Sonia Martinez, published by Random House Australia May 1 2013.

Meet Mary Mackillop

2. Why did you write the book?
Two reasons. Firstly, because I was asked to by Jeanmarie, the commissioning editor of Random House’s new Meet… series, a series focusing on great Australians. Secondly, because even before I was asked I had long admired Mary MacKillop as a woman who saw a need and set about filling it, even in difficult circumstances. It was a real honour being asked to bring her story to life for young readers.

3. How long from idea to publication?
I was approached about writing the story in March 2012, so just over a year. This is really quick for a picture book – my longest was about 8 years.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
Finding a balance between the history and a story suitable for primary school aged readers. There was so much I wanted to share, and only a few words in which to get it across. For this reason I chose to focus on one year in Mary’s life, and chose the year in which she set up her first school.

5. Coolest thing about your book?
The wonderful illustrations by the incredible Sonia Martinez. I was delighted when Jeanmarie told me that she had commissioned Sonia, as I have long admired her work.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

To trust myself. I actually experienced a bit of self doubt when writing this book. I had done all this research and become so close to the story that I got a bit panicky about getting it right. As a result I found there was a period where I couldn’t work. In the end I had to give myself a good talking to and just get words down on the page. As any writer knows you can’t write a book without actually doing some rewriting – and it’s easier to fix a story that’s on the page than one that’s in your head. Once I sat down and wrote and experimented and rewrote and rewrote some more I had a story which worked.
I also learnt a lot about Mary MacKillop and the obstacles she faced to take education to children who wouldn’t have otherwise have had access to school.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?
In the midst of a busy week, I blogged, tweeted and also Facebooked about the release, put the book on display in my office at my day job, and also smiled a lot. There may have also been a quiet glass of red and some dark chocolate. I am hoping to have a launch a bit later on.

8. And how will you promote the book?
I do a lot of online promotion – on my blog, on other people’s blogs when I’m invited, and on Twitter and my Facebook author page. I also do school, festival and conference appearances (am off to the state ALEA mini-conference next weekend). On a smaller scale, I always have my latest book cover in my email signature line, and I also have an author website, which I am in the process of having redesigned to better promote my works.

9. What are you working on next?
A few things. I always have several projects at different stages of completion. At present I have two picture books for younger readers awaiting edits, a verse novel waiting for feedback, a collection of poetry I’m trying to pull together and a longer historical story which I’m researching. Not to mention several other stories which are ‘resting’ till I get back to them for rewrites, and a bazillion ideas waiting for me to write them.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
At my website, and at the Random House website where you can also preview some of the book’s pages. And Meet Mary MacKillop is available from good bookstores or if you’d like to order online you can do so here

Enjoyed this post? Stay tuned for more Meet My Book posts in coming weeks. And if you’re in Aussie author who’d like to take part and introduce us to your book, drop me a line.

The Amber Amulet, by Craig Silvey

Dear Sir/Ma’am,
Please find enclosed this AMBER AMULET. That must sound unusual to a citizen, but you will have to trust me on this count because the science is too detailed for me to outline here. All you need to know is that the AMBER AMULET will eliminate your unhappiness by counter-acting it with POSITIVE ENERGY. This should see you straight. Fear not, you are in safe hands now.
Take care,
The Masked Avenger.

The Amber Amulet

By day Liam McKenzie is an average twelve year old schoolboy. At night he patrols his neighbourhood as the Masked Avenger – a superhero with powers so potent not even he comprehends their extent. His sidekick is his dog, Richie the Power Beagle. Together they keep peace in the neighborhood. Squeaky gate? No problem for the Masked Avenger. Forgotten rubbish bins? Yep – he can fix that too. A flat tyre? He can’t fix it but he can alert the owner of the vehicle without compromising his identity. But the lady at the end of the street is a challenging case. She is, he senses, deeply sad. He will have to dig deep into his reserves of power to fix this one.

The Amber Amulet is a gem. In small format hard cover, with a delightful cover, it is a treasure just to hold and to look at. The story is short and simple, but very clever. Blending the feel of a comic book with the reality of a story about a kid who is a bit lonely himself, yet manages to tackle this with his generosity and his imagination. Internal illustrations by Sonia Martinez (who also illustrated Silvey’s picture book The World According to Warren) are a combination of collage and sketches, also reminiscent of classic comic book advertising and design.

Suitable for any age – from children through to adult – The Amber Amulet is a delight.

The Amber Amulet, by Craig Silvey
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742379982

Available in good bookstores or online.

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, by Michelle Gillespie & Sonia Martinez

In a fictionalised retelling of the events, Gillespie shares the story in accessible language and detail, capturing both the excitement and the terror of the day.

The kitchen door bursts open. A gust of wind lashes about the room and Sam enters, panting….
‘A ship’s hit the rocks down Calgardup, Mrs Bussell. The swell’s all strong there today, an’ people in the water – I can take the horse to help.’
‘Sam, saddle Smiler for me.’ Grace shakes the cake mixture from her hands. ‘I’ll ride with him,’ she says to her mother.

In 1876, sixteen year old Grace Bussell helped to rescue the passengers of the shipwrecked Georgette and was rightly labelled a hero. But her fellow rescuer, Sam Isaacs, an Aboriginal stockman, was all but forgotten in spite of his important role in saving the lives of passengers and crew. Now, in Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, new author Michelle Gillespie hopes to right that wrong by celebrating the role both rescuers, and their horses, played in saving those aboard the Georgettefrom drowning.

In a fictionalised retelling of the events, Gillespie shares the story in accessible language and detail, capturing both the excitement and the terror of the day. The dark tone of the illustrations, by Sonia Martinez, provide an excellent complement to the dramatic nature, and seriousness, of the text. the endpapers are especially stunning – the opening one showing the ship steaming ahead of foreboding storm clouds, and the back of book showing the hip sinking beneath the waves. Back of book notes provide information about the sinking and rescue.

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, provides a wonderful glimpse at this little known piece of Western Australia’s maritime history.

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, by Michelle Gillespie, illustrated by Sonia Martinez
Fremantle Press, 2011
ISBN 9781921696008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.