From ABL: To celebrate Australia Reads and the Australian Reading Hour, we’ve put together an audio extravaganza of truly spectacular Aussie authors reading from one of their amazing stories! So tune up the ears and ready the imagination for the following wonderful audio treasures –
Jordan Bell is a psychologist and educator with a passion for helping children and parents learn about science. She also has a not-so-secret super-hero identity: she is Aunt Jodie of Aunt Jodie’s Guides to (just about) Everything!
Jordan’s first book, Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Evolution, gives kids a fun and fascinating understanding of the key concepts underlying the theory of evolution, using REAL science. It’s perfect for parents who want to inspire a love of science in children (7-11 year olds) or to start a child’s science education early. It’s especially useful for parents who would like their kids to have more female role models in science.
Definitely on board with that, I say (tucking my B App Sci into my back pocket with a happy sigh).
Welcome, Jordan, and thanks for speaking with me on this episode of Last Word of the Week. Can you tell us a bit more about you and your books?
Jordan: As a nerdy mama to a curious primary-schooler who always wants to understand the “why?” of life, I have had lots of experience in putting complicated ideas into words that little brains can understand.
It’s not just another boring bedtime story! It’s a science adventure into the ancient past that makes learning about the basics of evolution fun and engaging, and uses words and concepts that are right for kids in middle and upper primary school. For anyone new to science, my Aunt Jodie’s Guides also include an easy-to-read glossary, explaining the scientific terms used in the book and how to pronounce them.
Sounds great. Now let’s find out a bit more about you. What was your favourite book as a child?
My favourite book as a child was The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Not only is it an amazing tale about the power of stories, but also such a spell-binding title to a child who constantly begged for yet another trip to the library – a book that never ended? Sign me up! My dad bought me a really beautiful hardback edition when it was first released in English, which was printed in red and green ink with illustrated chapter initials. That exact copy was lost to the mists of time but my husband tracked down a copy for me a few years ago and I treasure it. I’ll be reading it to my daughter this year!
A book that deserves to be a lifetime favourite! Do you have a go-to routine for writing?
I’m most productive when I have a morning to myself and I can take my laptop to my favourite café, fuel up on french toast and tea, and write for 3-4 hours. They are used to me doing this now and top up my teapot without asking. I can write anywhere as long as I have half an hour and a computer, but that’s my preferred routine.
That sounds like the perfect writing space, and writers should always have a ready supply of French toast and tea. How do you feel about reviews?
I love them! I would really like some more! Having said that, if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t appreciated my book, they haven’t chosen to share those thoughts with me, so my experiences have all been positive at this stage. I might feel differently after some critical feedback!
What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?
The greatest review I ever got was from the son of a friend:
“I thought the book was fantastic. I learnt lots, I never got bored and never wanted to stop reading it, it was very clear and it’s also a very fun way to put it. I would rate this book 5 stars and I normally pick out every single fault.”
But I’ve had lots of people excited about the idea of a book about evolution for children, it seems like a book that is needed out there in the world!
Yes indeed! What kind of reader would like your books?
I write Aunt Jodie’s Guides for primary-school aged kids, to help them get their heads around big scientific ideas that will have an impact on their life. I started with explaining evolution, because I think that’s the kind of idea that — if you can understand it as you are growing and learning — will change the way you view the world. We desperately need future citizens who are well-informed about the science that underpins our natural and technological worlds, and I think kids are a capable of understanding a lot more than we give them credit for, if we explain it properly.
Hear, hear! Is it easy for readers to find your book/s?
Anyone who searches Aunt Jodie’s Guide should find my online store pretty easily, and the bookshops that have stocked me so far have been very generous about displaying my book face out so hopefully a few people have stumbled across it that way!
That’s great, let’s hope for more stumbles. What would be a dream come true for you?
I’d love to have my book picked up as a series by a publisher with the scope to share these ideas worldwide and maybe even in other languages! I’m currently working on Aunt Jodie’s Guide to Climate Change, and I have strong ideas for more books in the series as Aunt Jodie explains the human body, space science, and computers!
All books that I think need to be in the world as soon as possible. Please keep writing! And thank you so much for sharing with me today.
Author Paula Boerlives in the Snowy Mountains of eastern Australia. Her lifelong love of horses began when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada, aged 7.
Paula’s writing career started at school where she wrote a story from the horse’s perspective for her final English exam. Combining her love of horses with her passion for travel, she has raced the native horses in Mongolia, climbed the heights of Colombia on horseback, and competed in Endurance rides around Australia. She claims the best way to experience a country is from the back of a horse.
Although not always on horseback, Paula has travelled in sixty countries on six continents. Her wonderful five-book Brumbies series was created from her experiences and love of our high country wild horses. The first Brumbies book became an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012. The final in the series, Brumbies in the Mountains, was published in January 2015. But there are exciting things coming! I’m pleased to interview Paula in this edition of Last Word of the Week.
LWOTW: Welcome, Paula. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Paula: I have been ‘horse mad’ since I was 9 years old and have ridden in many horse disciplines since then. My favourite has been endurance, as it has enabled me to see amazing places in Australia from horseback which I would never have experienced otherwise.
I also love dogs, and lesser liked creatures such as spiders and snakes.
I knew we had a lot in common. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
In the Brumbies series, my favourite scene is in book 5, Brumbies in the Mountains, where Ben rides his stallion up a mountain and sees an eagle flying high – below where he is riding. All the adventures in my stories are based on my own experiences and seeing an eagle flying below where I rode will always stick with me as a magical moment.
In my upcoming horse fantasy trilogy, The Equinora Chronicles, one of my favourite scenes (and there are many) is in the prologue, where the unicorn goddess creates tiny dragons from sea horses.
That sounds wonderful – I can’t wait. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Shock! Of course they are real! To me anyway – they follow me around the house all day, chatting to me. When I finish writing a series, I experience grief at their loss, until I bond with the characters in my next work.
Of course they are, my humble apologies. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Easy! Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series. Not only did she inspire my writing, but I believe that subconsciously that is why I moved to Australia. As a 10 year old, I dreamed of being a flying vet in Australia (like the flying doctors but for animals). My family and friends told me that was unrealistic as no such thing was needed, but I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting the first female flying vet, Dr Jan Hills, when my husband and I looked after her Northern Territory property.
What a wonderful backstory! Now take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago I had just signed my first book contract (for The Okapi Promise, my debut novel which is based on my experiences in Africa where I spent five months travelling in an old Bedford truck). I would tell ‘that me’ to find a niche for my writing that spoke of who I was. I thought at the time it was travel to wilderness areas, but I now know that my brand is based on animals, predominantly horses.
Animals. I do so love them. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
The first of The Equinora Chronicles, The Bloodwolf War, will be launched at Conflux in Canberra, Australia, early October 2019. The other two books in the trilogy, which are written, will follow a year apart. Meanwhile, I am working on a sequel trilogy in the same world, with new and exciting characters such as a goat god and griffins.
So exciting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Interesting question. I guess I AM whichever character whose point of view I am writing at the time. To pick someone else’s character, I’d love to be Nighteyes, the wolf in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy.
Dear Nighteyes! Such a wise and resilient creature. He’s helped me through many a dark place.
Thank you so much Paula for sharing with me today.
Author Alex Marchant is first and foremost a Ricardian – yes, read on for more information. Alex also has a background in archaeology and publishing. When she’s not writing, she strides about the moors devising ways to help the rest of us learn about the real Richard III – not the maligned chap of Shakespeare’s telling, but the actual king whose skeleton was recently discovered under a carpark in Leicester.
Lovely to meet you Alex. Can you talk a bit about when you first realised that you are a writer?
That’s quite a difficult question, but there were probably two main occasions – the first at the age of about seven or eight when I began to write my first ‘book’ (I was convinced that I could do as well as C. S. Lewis, who was my favourite author at the time – the main differences being that I had a horse-emperor rather than a lion and a magic fireplace for the children to go through instead of a wardrobe!). The second I guess was when I published my first book, The Order of the White Boar, and the first five-star reviews came rolling in. I have to admit to being rather older on the second occasion than on the first…
But dreams do come true, as we see! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Good grief – and there was me, thinking it was perhaps odd for writing to be regularly inspired by dreams, but you’ve placed it first in your question! I wouldn’t say I rely on them, but dreams have fed into my writing at important times. Particularly those ‘between sleeping and waking’ types of dreams. Often an issue that’s been bothering me for a while is resolved in that way – just as I surface from sleep in the morning, or perhaps during the night. I don’t imagine I’m the only writer who always has to have a notebook and pen by the bed to catch ideas, just in case. Otherwise a large proportion of my ideas come while I’m on autopilot in the shower or walking the dog on a familiar path across the moors. Nowadays I do plan more than I used to, to ensure a decent structure for the ideas that come at odd moments like that.
Autopilot times are very important, I find. Especially dog-walking. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
A single highlight is difficult to pinpoint. Having come rather late to writing seriously, I’ve been enjoying almost every part of the process of independent publishing. The enthusiastic reception of my books – among both people already interested in my lead character, Richard III, and people who previously had barely given him a thought – has been fantastic, and meeting readers at various events is always a buzz, particularly children, as the books are primarily aimed at young people aged 10 and above.
One of the best was when a young student remembered me from a school author visit, and came up to my stall at an event months later and in a completely different county, a big grin on her face, asking me to sign the sequel. Another highlight was being asked to King Richard’s 566th birthday party at Middleham Castle as special guest to cut his cake, while a very early confidence boost came when I was notified that my first completed manuscript, Time out of Time, had won the Chapter One Children’s Novel Award.
No wonder you have trouble choosing one highlight! What a great collection of fabulous happenings. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I sell a lot of my books at events and I’m again attending a range of medieval festivals over the summer, including Bosworth and Tewkesbury – sites of two iconic battles in King Richard’s life. Only one of them features in my books – and last year it was very emotional to be able to read an excerpt from The King’s Man only yards from the site of the king’s death. I’m also looking forward to reading all the entries for the new anthology I’m editing which will be sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK – a follow-up to last year’s collection of Richard III-inspired fiction, Grant Me the Carving of My Name, which has proved so popular. (Details of how to submit can be found at https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/call-for-submissions-to-new-richardiii-anthology/, deadline 19 May)
Thanks for the tip!If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Never give up! Keep reading, keep writing, believe in yourself, tap into all the positive energy flowing from fellow authors, and don’t take no for an answer from agents or publishers.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Will Stanton, lead character of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising – the original boy who wakes up on his eleventh birthday to discover he’s not ordinary after all. We all need that sort of magic in our lives. (J. K. Rowling is apparently also a fan…)
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Alex. It’s been an absoloute pleasure to meet you.
Voyage of the Dogsis a delightful space adventure that has many of the ingredients to ensure success. The cast of Barkonauts is varied in personality and physical attributes, but they all retain the most essential quality that dogs can offer – undying loyalty, selflessness, and love. We may be in the 22nd century, where both humans and dogs have been fitted with modifications to improve their inter-species communication, but the fundametal nobility of the dog shines through.
There are interesting comments on life and the interaction between humans and animals as we learn a bit of backstory from each of the space pups. Their ability to think independently is prized in this situation, but their pack love is strong. We also learn some interesting facts about space – sufficient to carry the plot without making us scratch our chins about how possible/impossible certain events would be. And anyway, it’s the 22nd century. Who can say?
This is a bit of a tear jerker, though not quite as dire as I feared when I realised that their spaceship is called the ‘Laika’.
Middle grade readers who love dogs OR space – but especially those who love dogs AND space – will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful book.
Those of us who are adults and still love dogs AND space love it too.
I love animal stories as you may know – but not just any animal stories – they have to be well-thought out, and not rely on easy cliches about animals, and not turn animals into furry-four-footed humans, plus they have to evoke the natural world convincingly. With love, care, intelligence and compassion.
Aimed at middle grade readers but definitely able to be njoyed by older readers, June Molloy’s Guardian of Giria does exactly that. All of it. And well.
The story is immediately immersive and completely believable (no spoilers here). The differing perspectives of the animal characters in this story all make sense and offer unique insights. There is a lot to learn, a lot to wonder about, but especially a lot to love. I would read more about these characters any time – more books in the same world please!
The interactions between the creatures in their own groups and between groups of other animals is fascinating. Although I have said that these characters are not pseudo-humans, the clever representation of their widely varied world-views does give the reader some cause to reflect on the differences between humans – why they fight – why they go to war – why they love each other.
Felix is probably the most rounded character, though it was Indigo who won my heart. What can I say? I’m a sucker for wolves.
Many readers of fantasy and other speculative fiction will love this book just as much as I did. Similar authors – Kathryn Lasky, Michelle Paver.