Ep 198 What writing for children can teach you about writing fiction. And Jacqueline Harvey, author of the Alice-Miranda series.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 198 of So you want to be a writer: Useful writing tips from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and how to balance freelancing with creative writing. Freelance writing skills you can use to write your novel and Google’s most-searched “how-to” questions capture all the magic and struggle of being human. What writing for children can teach you about writing fiction. Discover how you could win signed copies of Allison Tait’s books. And meet Jacqueline Harvey, author of the Alice-Miranda series.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Listener shout 0uts

From Jordan

I love this podcast! I feel like I’m sitting in a cafe, talking to a few friends about writing—instead of driving to work, and I’m so stoked on it.

Thanks, Jordan!

Congratulations to Tania Blanchard‎, an AWC graduate whose debut novel, The Girl from Munich, was just released!

Links 

Community feedback on ‘So you want to be a writer’

7 Incredibly Useful Writing Tips From a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

You Can Do Both! 3 Ways to Balance Creative Writing and Freelancing

Writing a Novel: 6 Lessons I Learned From Freelance Writing

Google’s most-searched “how-to” questions capture all the magic and struggle of being human

What Writing For Children Can Teach You About Writing Fiction

WIN: Signed books plus money-can’t-buy Mapmaker cap

Writer in Residence

Jacqueline Harvey

Jacqueline Harvey has sold more than a million books in Australia and New Zealand, mostly through her best-selling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series, which are also available in the US, the UK, Indonesia, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and a whole range of other places. And they’ve been short-listed for children’s book awards in Australia.

Jacqueline has spent most of her working life teaching in girls’ boarding schools, and is a passionate ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities and Room to Read.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter

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Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

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@valeriekhoo

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Interview Transcript 

Allison

Jacqueline Harvey has sold more than a million books in Australia and New Zealand, mostly through her best-selling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series, which are also available in the US, the UK, Indonesia, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and a whole range of other places. And they’ve been short-listed for children’s book awards in Australia. Jacqueline has spent most of her working life teaching in girls’ boarding schools, and is a passionate ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities and Room to Read. So welcome to the program Jacqueline Harvey.

Jacqueline

Thank you very much for having me, Allison.

Allison

All right, now let’s go all the way back to the beginning, back to the mists of time. How did all this begin? How did this amazing million selling book thing that you’ve done, how did that all start?

Jacqueline

Well, I suppose it started, even before I was a teacher, I always loved the idea of stories. And I was a really passionate reader as a child. I was one of those lucky kids who from the time I was about four I had a library card. My mum would take me to the library every week and it was something I looked forward to immensely.

So the idea of stories and books was always something that ticked away in the back of my mind. But, as a kid, I never met any authors. And I had this really, I suppose, mysterious view of who all these wonderful children’s authors were, and how did they work? And did they all live in cottages in the woods in England somewhere?

And so the idea of actually being a writer was, I suppose, out of reach for a very long time. And it wasn’t until I started working as a teacher, which is something I wanted to do from the age of about nine, that I was working as a teacher and met some authors and thought, oh wow, maybe this could happen to me one day. You know, if I find out more about it, and work out how to do it, perhaps it could happen.

So I wrote a lot for my classes to begin with, and wrote a lot of plays and poems and stories. And it wasn’t until I was, I suppose, about 30 years old that my husband said to me, you know you talk about wanting to be an author for kids all the time. And I said, yeah, I know. And he said, no, no, you don’t understand. You talk about it nonstop. And he threw me a challenge. He said, you know, are you ever going to do anything about it? Or are you going to talk about it for the rest of your life? And I thought, you know what? I’m going to give this a red hot go.

And I had a job that I loved and I really enjoyed being in school and teaching, and so I suppose for me it was more about throwing myself out there and seeing if I could do it. And as I say to kids all the time when I meet them, what would have been worse than if I’d tried and it hadn’t worked out? And kids generally work out that it would have been much worse if I’d never tried at all. And so that’s kind of the decision that I made.

Allison

All right, so what was the first novel you wrote? When you were like, okay, I’ve decided, I’m going to be a children’s author. What was the first thing that you did? What was the first manuscript that you produced?

Jacqueline

Well, the very first story that I ever wrote actually it became an award-winning picture book called The Sound of the Sea. And my husband and I were living at Byron Bay at the time. And I’d had a series of experiences with kids that I’d been teaching, really sad things that had happened, where four kids that I’d been working with in the space of about three years each lost a parent. And it was a really tragic horrible time.

And I don’t know why, for some reason I was standing on South Golden Beach one afternoon, fishing with my parents, and I thought about these children and the tragedy of their young lives. And I went home and I wrote this book. And I know it sounds terrible, but I literally wrote it in probably a couple of hours. And never thought I would get it published, never thought anybody would read it. Really wrote it, I suppose I wrote it as a bit of a catharsis for myself. And I ended up entering it in a competition called, at the time it was called The Frustrated Writer’s Mentoring Competition with the Children’s Book Council of NSW. A more apt name I don’t think ever existed.

And so I entered it in that competition, thought nothing more of it. And set about writing a funny book. So a completely different, writing a humorous, the idea was to write a humorous series about a little girl who lives near the sea. And her mum and dad were divorced, and she was worried that her mum was going to be lonely forever. So she decided that she’d try and set mum up on a few dates. So you know, the disastrous things that happen.

Anyway, I ended up moving back to Sydney and hadn’t thought anything more of the competition. And within about a week of moving down to Sydney found out that I’d won that competition with the CBCA. And that for me really opened… It didn’t end up seeing the book get published very quickly. It still took – that was in 2001, and that book was eventually published in 2005.

Allison

Wow.

Jacqueline

So it took forever. But in the meantime what it did do for me, was that I had sent the funny book manuscript out to several publishers, and I had also sent the manuscript of The Sound of the Sea. And because The Sound of the Sea had been picked up and won the competition, it was ironic that Random House was actually sponsoring the competition at the time and they had first right of refusal on the manuscript. So I had to ring around to any publishers I had sent it to and ask for it back. And when I did, instead of being stopped at the receptionist, I ended up being able to speak to a couple of publishers. And that to me really just got me my little tiny little toe in the door.

And in the end, so I ended up getting the funny series, I wrote three books in that series, it was called The Code Name Series, and it was published by Lothian Books in Melbourne. And The Sound of the Sea ended up being published by them as well, eventually.

And then ironically, after all of that, I like to say that I took a walk in the wilderness for nearly five years. I didn’t have anything come out. And I was a bit confused, I think, about who I wanted to be as a writer. Whether I wanted to do picture books or whether I wanted to do YA or middle grade. And I was dabbling with all sorts of different things.

And it was at that time that I hit on the idea of Alice-Miranda. And Alice-Miranda was rejected by several publishers before Random House picked it up. And ironically, Random House never ever saw that manuscript for The Sound of the Sea, but then they’ve been my publisher for Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose. And yeah, so in 2010 the Alice-Miranda journey began and it’s just been amazing since then, I have to say.

Allison

Yeah, I was going to say, I didn’t realise that Alice-Miranda wasn’t the first series character that you created.

Jacqueline

No.

Allison

And also, really, that’s a relatively short time in publishing, 2010 for the first book, for the series to have just taken off the way that it has. Did that surprise you?

Jacqueline

Oh yes, absolutely. You know, you dream about that as an author. You dream that maybe you’ll write something that is well-loved by many kids.

But for me, when I wrote Alice-Miranda, it was interesting because I had no contract, I had no expectations. And I really did, I think the first book took me about two and a half years to write it. Because I just wanted to write the best book I could have written at the time, and the book that I would have loved if I was nine, ten, eleven years old. And so for me, it was about really focusing and concentrating on what would make this book the best book it could be.

And I actually sat down before I even started it, and I thought about what were the ingredients of the stories that I had loved the best when I was a child? And why did I love them the best? And then I looked at books that had stood the test of time, and why had they had stood the test of time? And what is it that makes Pippi Longstocking still stand out, or Anne of Green Gables, or Matilda?

And I did quite a big analysis of the list before I even started. And I thought, well, you’ve got to have a quirk. You’ve got to have points of difference. And interestingly for me, Alice-Miranda, her point of difference I think in many respects is that she is so perpetually positive. She is so on all the time and up all the time. And I think that came about from the fact that she was inspired by three little girls that I had taught in the beginning, and they were all very positive kids. One never had a smile off her face. One was actually a boarder that I taught when she was only nine, and anyway her situation was, I thought it was pretty tricky. But she was incredibly positive about the situation. And she said to me one day, well, you know, I’m just a kid and I couldn’t change it even if I wanted to. So I could be happy or I could be sad and I’d much rather be happy.

Allison

Oh bless!

Jacqueline

And thinking about these things that she said to me over the years, you know, that Alice-Miranda sort of started off inspired by these three little girls, two of whom I still see very regularly and they’re not little girls anymore! And they love the fact that she was inspired by them. And actually, funnily enough, both of them have said to me, oh she’s so much nicer than we ever were when we were kids. But she kind of grew into, I like to think that she became the best bits of lots of kids, boys and girls, that I’ve taught over the years.

So for me, Alice-Miranda, I don’t know. I had no expectations of out there in the world, but I had very high expectations of myself and what I could maybe do.

Allison

Did you get a sense that she would be a series right from the beginning? Did you set out to create a series character?

Jacqueline

Would you believe, I actually first thought I would write her as a picture book.

Allison

Oh!

Jacqueline

I had this crazy idea that she would be this really sweet little girl, who goes to boarding school, it would be a picture book, happy days, wrap that up. And when I started really thinking about it and looking at the sort of characters that I was developing, I thought no. This deserves – this needs, not deserves, this needs more than a picture book.

And then when it came down to it, by the time I was probably a quarter of the way in, I was thinking, oh I know what I could do in the next one! Oh, she could do this in the next one! And so I ended up pitching it as a series. And I kind of knew from not very long in that that’s where we were headed. But I had no idea that we would be on the cusp now of launching book number sixteen in the series. So who knew that it would go for this long?

Allison

So do you think that point of difference that you were talking about there, when you were doing your analysis and looking at the books with longevity, is that point of difference the key to creating a character that will carry a series, do you think?

Jacqueline

I think so. I think your characters have to be so engaging. And we talk, well certainly as writers there’s a school of thought that if your character doesn’t grow and change then it’s not interesting. And I find it’s been interesting for me with Alice-Miranda because she doesn’t really change that much, but people around her do. So that’s another interesting thing.

The other thing is, the lessons that we’re taught is that kids won’t engage with a character who is younger than themselves. Well, Alice-Miranda when it first starts, she’s seven and a quarter. But all her friends are much older than she is. Her best friend Millie is already ten.

Now I’ve been gobsmacked by the fact that I’ve got kids who come to events still, who are seventeen and sixteen years old. Even at the weekend I did an event, and I had a boy who has read every Alice-Miranda and he’s now eleven, and he adores her.

Allison

Oh bless.

Jacqueline

So that whole thing of what are the rules, I feel like I’ve broken all the rules with Alice-Miranda. And Clementine Rose, too. And yet it hasn’t seemed to impact negatively on the readership. So, I don’t know.

Finding a point of difference. But how do you find a point of difference and make it work? I mean, that’s obviously some sort of strange magic that I really can’t put my finger on.

Allison

It’s funny. There is a kind of alchemy involved in it in some ways, isn’t there?

Jacqueline

I think so. I think sometimes you just don’t know what it is, but it just works.

Allison

So with both of your series, do you approach, as you said, you’re up to book sixteen with Alice-Miranda. And how many are now in the Clementine Rose series?

Jacqueline

Thirteen. Thirteen in Clementine Rose.

Allison

Thirteen? Okay. So do you approach each book separately? Or have you got a grand plan in mind of where the narrative arc of these series… I mean, how can you plan a series arc when you don’t actually know how many you’re writing?

Jacqueline

Well, in fact, it’s been interesting. Because Alice-Miranda, every book stands alone. Even, there’s obviously, it’s helpful to read them in order in that you get a sense of who the characters are that are coming in. But we have a cast of characters at the back of the book. So if you’re joining the series at number seven or whatever you can go to the back and work out who’s who in the zoo, if you like. But so with Alice-Miranda, no, there was no sort of plan to write a grand arc, an over-arching story arc.

With Clemmy, that’s been really interesting, because with Clemmy, there’s been an enduring mystery from the beginning. So Clementine Rose is an orphan when we first meet her. She is delivered in the back of the baker’s van in a basket of dinner rolls, and has a note attached to her blanket and is adopted by Lady Clarissa Appleby who becomes her mum. And so right from the start I had in mind that eventually I would let the readers know about her heritage, who she is, where she came from.

So right from the beginning, I did have it in my mind that at some stage there would be some big reveal about Clemmy and her family. So in her family there is Clarissa Appleby, who is her adopted mum. And then Clarissa has an aunt Violet, effectively Clementine’s great-aunt Violet. And right from the time Clemmy meets her there’s really similar things about them. So their eyes are exactly the same colour, and there’s other things, they both love fashion, this sort of thing. And so in book number thirteen, Clementine’s mother is actually getting married to a fellow called Drew, and Drew has a little boy called Will. So Clemmy’s about to become a member of a blended family. And I thought that was the perfect time to reveal who her real parents were, and how she’s actually related by blood to Clarissa. And so it’s funny because kids have said to me, oh is that the end? But no, it’s not.

Allison

Oh!

Jacqueline

Even though I’ve done that reveal, there’s still more Clemmys to come.

Allison

All right. So obviously as the author you’ve known her full back story the whole time?

Jacqueline

Yes.

Allison

Or this has revealed itself as you… Okay, cool. So you went into that with a plan?

Jacqueline

Yeah, I went into Clemmy, I mean not completely organised with it. But certainly I always knew what her relationship would really be to Aunt Violet. And I had that sort of in my head right from the start. But other things reveal themselves. I thought, I didn’t really know about the dad until I thought that out when I was about to write this book. So it’s still nice to be able to surprise yourself and have things just pop into your head.

Allison

Yeah, it’s fascinating isn’t it, how that works? It’s just sort of like, oh, there you go, that’s what that meant. Excellent!

Jacqueline

Oh I know. It never ceases to amaze me that sometimes I’ll get quite close to the end of the book and I’ll change my mind completely about who the bad guys are.

Allison

So, Alice-Miranda came out, the first one in 2010. So we’re now 2017. You’ve got sixteen Alice-Mirandas and thirteen Clementine Roses. You’ve been really busy.

Jacqueline

I have. Yeah. I have. I’ve been writing about, I think I’ve worked out that I’ve been writing about a quarter of a million words a year for the last six or seven years. And I was working fulltime as well until the end of 2012.

Allison

Yeah, that was my next question: how long have you been writing full time? So you were working full time for the first two years of this. How many books did you produce in that time?

Jacqueline

By the time I left my job, I was working in a school, I’d actually been the Deputy Head at this school, and then I moved to become the Director of Development – would you believe, madly in the school’s 125th year, so I was in charge of about a gazillion events that year.

So I was, I think by the time I’d finished that I’d done that for nearly three years. And I’d written, I must have written about six Alice-Miranda books and the first Clemmy had just come out when I was leaving. But I’d already written the next one. So I was pretty much for… People ask me how I did it. And I’m not overstretching it to say I don’t think I had a weekend off for two maybe three years. Because I would work every weekend on the books.

And it got to the point where I was really, you know, I had a great job at school and I loved school. But I got to the point where I heard some, actually a child asked me the other day do you have a motto or a philosophy that you live by? And I said, yeah, I do actually. And I said, don’t waste a minute and don’t die wondering. And it got to the point where I thought, well, I’m not going to die wondering whether I can do this fulltime or not.

And I think the catalyst for me was I went on long service leave, and instead of doing what most normal people would do on long service leave and maybe take a bit of a holiday or go somewhere interesting – I did go somewhere interesting, but I organised a nearly-twelve-week book tour across the United States and in the UK and to France and to Hong Kong. And in doing that it was really about could I do this for the rest of my life? Would I love this as much as I think I’m going to love this?

And I came back to work and much to horror of my wonderful boss who I loved and adored, and still do, I resigned about two weeks after I got back. And after… she was incredibly happy for me and has been a huge supporter the whole time.

But for me, it really was about having a strategy, too. Because we all know how hard it is to make a living as a writer in Australia, or anywhere in the world. And for me it was strategic. I knew how much I had to do before I could probably make that step.

Allison

So is there a rhythm to your life as an author now? In the sense of, how many books are you writing each year? And do you set aside different times for writing, and different times for events, and all of that sort of stuff?

Jacqueline

Look, I’m sort of finding after nearly five years now that I’m getting myself into a better rhythm. This year I’m not touring overseas. I’ve been to the UK about seven times since 2012, I think. And that’s been a huge thing to do every year. Especially because I’ve organised those tours myself. And this year I’ve decided to take a year off from doing that.

And so it’s really about… I plan probably almost two years ahead in terms of what I’m going to be writing. I had a meeting yesterday with my publisher and we sat down and we looked at the schedule for the next year and a half, and what was going to come out when and when they would be due. And so what that does is it helps me to look at, well, how many days do I have to write this book? How many days will there be until its published after it goes in? And so we are very planned in that regard.

But I am still writing about five books a year. But I’m working on something new at the moment. At the moment, that’s kind of in a sense taking a lot of my focus. But still there will be more Alice-Mirandas and Clementine Roses, as well.

Allison

Gosh. So do you have a daily routine when you’re writing? To produce five books a year, there’s some serious discipline involved in getting those words done.

Jacqueline

Definitely. For me, I’m usually up at the computer by about 7:30, 8:00 in the morning. And this year, because I’ve been home more and I haven’t been touring as much, it’s been great. I’ve been going off at about 9:15 I go off to do, we have these great exercise classes in the park just up the road from me. So I’ve been going with my neighbour and we’ve been doing a bit of cross-training and boxing and yoga which has been good. So I sort of have that I guess about an hour and a quarter out in the morning, which has been really nice, on the days obviously that I can do that. And then I come home and I usually work through until about six.

But it depends, you know. Like, two days ago I had a deadline on an edit for the new book, and I worked from 7:00 in the morning until 10:30 that night just to get it done. So it also hinges on what’s due, what do you have to get done.

And obviously it’s coming up, Book Week is next week, so I’m full on out every day from tomorrow until the end of next week.

But I look at my schedule and I plan. So I don’t just plan with my publisher, I also plan with the publicist as well. And so we look at when are the optimal touring times? When are we going to go on tour? And I pretty much know a year ahead when I’ll be touring as well. So that’s really helpful, being able to work out okay, you’ve got a run of six weeks here you’re not touring, but then you’re going flat stick touring for four weeks. So it is quite planned in that respect. So I can usually know roughly what I’m doing six months ahead of time.

Allison

How long does it actually take you to write a book? In a sense of, are you one of those people that tries to blast out a draft? Or are you measured and you edit as you go? How do you actually, how long does it take you?

Jacqueline

I do edit. I edit as I go. So as I said, the first Alice-Miranda took me two and half years because I had no pressure, no deadlines, no expectations except on myself. Now, with Alice-Miranda, I always go over. I’m terrible at sticking to the word limit. And Alice-Miranda has grown from being – you know, the first book was 45,000 words. Well, the books after about book number four they’re roughly anywhere between 60,000 and 65,000 words. So they’re quite long.

So I hate when I do this, and I always find I do it if I haven’t planned it enough, but this Alice-Miranda in Hollywood, which is coming out officially in September, when I handed that in it was 74,000 words long. And I knew we had to get it to about 60, I think it’s actually about 63,000 words. But I wrote 74,000 words in 39 days because I knew I had to, it was the most pressured I’ve ever had to. Because I just had this, just the way things had sort of worked, I knew that this was going to be the most time-pressured one that I’d done. But I got it out and I’m really happy with it. I love the story, love the crazy characters in it.

So ideally, it would be nice to have, I can probably optimally do about 50 – 60,000 words in two months. And then of course you’ve got all that editing that goes, you know, I edit back and forth numerous, numerous, many times with my editor Katrina. And I’m really fortunate. My editor, I think she’s absolutely brilliant. And we have huge trust in each other as far as the writing goes.

But for a Clemmy, Clemmy is around about 18,000 words. And I can probably knock one of them out in about three weeks. Perhaps less if I have to.

Allison

Do you think that’s because –

Jacqueline

But the thing is, I’m a planner.

Allison

I was going to say. Is that partly because you’re working in a world that you’re totally familiar with and you know where the stories are going.

Jacqueline

Yeah. I think a lot of has got to do with the fact that you know the characters so intimately. But I do sit and I plan out the big ideas for the story. So I know the major plot twists and turns. And I always start with a good idea of the ending. Because I don’t like surging towards nothing.

And for me, because I can tend to overwrite 10,000 words, I’d rather not if I don’t have to. And it’s been really interesting with the new book – this new book has been in my head for, I would say, eight years or so, these characters have been percolating in the back of my head. And about probably a year ago I really started sitting down and, in between Alice-Miranda or Clemmy, plotting it out about these characters and who they are. So I’ve spent probably a year already working on this – not quite a year – probably about nine months already working on the story.

And really the draft that I’ve just finished and handed in, I was determined not to go over 50,000 words, and I think I handed it in at about maybe 51,000. So I was really happy that I’d planned it so tightly, that I kind of knew that I wasn’t going to run a million miles over the limit.

Allison

So we just talked about the fact that you do a lot of touring. You’re doing a lot of events, you do a lot of author visits. Is that because you think face-to-face visits are the best way for children’s authors to really get their books out into the market? Is that why you do so much face-to-face stuff?

Jacqueline

I think for kids, you know, for me it’s a lot to do about the fact that I was a teacher. And I never met an author when I was growing up. So I think, I want kids to understand that this is not a pie in the sky kind of a career. That if you really want it, you can do it. And I’m living proof that that can happen.

And I think for kids it’s very inspiring to meet an author and to get to know how the process has all happened for them. And also to know that there’s a lot of perseverance and a lot of resilience required to do this job. So I think that there’s that element for me.

For me, it’s also about just getting back into schools. Because I love the whole being in school thing. And oftentimes things will happen when I’m in schools and I think, oh, that would make a funny anecdote in the story. Or you can often pick, for me, I pick funny things up. There’s a character in the new story who is completely inspired by a character that I meant in England, a teacher that I met in England. And he will be very excited about that. So for me, a lot of it is research as well.

And I think kids, you know, the best way for kids to find out about great kids’ books is word of mouth. So if kids meet you and they love the story, then they’re going to tell their friends. And kids are a really powerful audience.

Allison

So I assume that your teaching background obviously helps a lot with author visits. Because I know a lot of authors who’ve never been in a classroom. It’s quite a confronting thing to go along and do your first author visits and things like that. I’m sure you probably were just like, yeah whatever, here I am. But what are your tips for a successful author visit? As far as you’re concerned, what do you think is the key to making it go well?

Jacqueline

Be really well-prepared. It helps if you can send information to the schools beforehand so that they know a bit about you and that they are getting excited about the fact that you’re coming.

I think in actually doing the event, you need to be really engaging. It’s a show. Essentially, you’ve got to be funny. And you’ve got to know when to take it, how far to take things before you pull it back. Because the other thing is you don’t want your audience descending into chaos, especially if you’re not a teacher. I mean, I can still tend to silence a group of kids with a bit of a hairy eyeball look.

But I guess it’s just about that level of engagement, and making sure that the kids are interested. To me, it’s a lot about, I tell lots of humorous anecdotes about my childhood. I’m not afraid of making a fool of myself, completely. But I also try and be educational as well. So I talk about what are the best ingredients and most important ingredients in stories. And I ask the kids questions. So there’s that interaction and engagement between myself and the kids.

And sometimes, depending on what I’m doing, when I was first talking about Clementine Rose, we do a little excerpt, an acting excerpt from the story. And so I have this thing where Clementine goes down into the sitting room and there’s a man, and his hair is sitting at a funny angle, and he’s asleep and he’s snoring very, very loudly. And so she looks at him and she thinks there’s something wrong with his hair, so she touches his hair, and as she does it flies off and falls on the floor. So I actually have a kid who dresses up to be the man in the sitting room, and I have a little girl – not necessarily always a girl, we’ve had boys be Clementine as well – we pop a bow in their hair, and I have just a little suite of props. And then in the background on the big screen I have a fireplace and an armchair. So the kids sit in the armchair. So being able to do something dramatic is really fun and really simple. So simple drama works, can work really, really well. So it’s about that engagement.

And I suppose, too, being aware that kids will say things that you’re not expecting, let me just say. I do recall a little boy, I was at a school in the Blue Mountains one day, and I had the whole school, so it was K to 6. And that’s always a challenging audience, when you’ve got the littlest to the biggest all in one group. And I was asking the kids, what do you like in stories? And kids are saying, I like mystery, I like adventure. And this five-year-old at the front puts up his hand and says, ‘sex’.

Allison

Oh!

Jacqueline

And you can imagine the rest of the group just fell about. And I looked at him, and I said, do you mean like romance? And he went, yeah, like when people love each other. And it brought the house down. But how do you respond to that so he wasn’t embarrassed? And I think I quite successfully saved the day in that scenario.

Allison

Wow. Because as you say, you have to expect the unexpected don’t you, when you go into a classroom environment? Do you do other kinds of promotional stuff at all? Are you conscious of what you’re doing online and all that sort of stuff as well?

Jacqueline

Yeah, definitely. So I have a website, and on the website I have a newsletter. And I send that newsletter out every month. And I have lots of people who subscribe to that. And it’s about writing engaging content, and making sure there’s always something interesting in there. And recently I’ve read some really great books by other friends of mine who are authors, and so I’ve written about those. I wrote about Belinda Murrell’s lovely new series.

Allison

Oh yeah.

Jacqueline

And I wrote a review about Felice Arena’s The Boy and the Spy. So I guess just being able to engage with your audience in that way is really great as well. I do events sometimes, I sometimes do conferences for adults as well. So being able to reach the adult audience, or aspiring writers, I think that’s really important. And often I’ll engage with people through email. People write to me in that way. And I write blogs, as well. I write a blog. And so people engage on the blog. So there’s lots of different ways that you can be talking to your audience, if you like.

Allison

And you can have a look at all of those things at Jacquelineharvey.com.au because that’s where you’ll find Jacqueline’s hub on the internet. Well, just to wrap up today, let’s have a look at the very important question of your three top tips for aspiring writers.

Jacqueline

Okay. My three top tips. I think well first of all, you need to be a reader. And you need to read and you need to know what’s about there in the world.

And I think you need to work out who you want to be as a writer. What sort of stories do you love the most? For me, it was about finding, realising that when I write a story, I’m nine years old. That’s my part of the world.

And I think the other thing is fall in love with your characters. If you don’t love them, then it’s going to be hard for your audience to love them. So for me, it’s about writing engaging characters, and really falling in love with them. So I think, is that three?

Allison

Sounds like three to me! Sorry, I was so busy listening, I wasn’t counting, because maths is really not my forte. But that sounds terrific. So, thank you very, very much for your time today, Jacqueline. It’s been lovely chatting to you. Particularly when I know how incredibly busy you are with your very successful writing and author business, because that’s essentially what’s going on over there. And best of luck with the new book, and with of course the new series which is coming next year and which I can’t wait to hear more about.

Jacqueline

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely to chat.

 

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