My Little Story Corner

For the love of picture books

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

received_m_mid_1408443449328_c66032bcbb1d9cf649_0Awesome Author Interview: Adam Wallace
August 2014

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting funny man and children’s book author, Adam Wallace, creator of titles including Mac O’Beasty, The Negatees, The Pete McGee series, Jamie Brown is Not Rich, and Better Out Than In. I am even more fortunate that he has agreed to answer some of my questions!

Firstly, congratulations on being shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2014 for Better Out Than In Number Twos!
Thanks heaps, Romi! It was definitely a shock and a thrill. I am in very esteemed company too, nominated among names like Griffiths, Jennings and Marsden. I mean, I’ve never heard of these wannabee authors, but someone tells me they’re pretty good. I might check them out sometime.

9780987463531Considering the nature of this series, I’m a bit wary to ask… how did the idea for these come about?
Well, they’re all based on my wife, Andrea … haha, just kidding. Actually, there is one story based on something she did once but I won’t tell you which one it was. It was Bob’s Burp. I wrote the very first story, Whoops, because I had been writing stories with messages. They were still funny, but I wanted to write something that was just funny. So I wrote it, read it to some kids at the After Care I was working at, and they loved it and asked for more stories on similar topics and I just went from there.

Do you have plans to write Better Out Than In Number Threes? Fours? Fives?
Haha, I wasn’t going to, but then a kid at a school said that if I did a third one I should call it Better Out Than In the Turd. I was gobsmacked. I thought it was genius, pure genius. So now I am slightly tempted to give it a go, but only after I have finished the projects I am currently working on. Better Out Than In the Turd. Hahahaha. Genius.

See the full interview here.
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received_m_mid_1410051759905_5c43322ee50d132d52_0 Player Profile: Kaylene Hobson, author of Isaac’s Dragon
September 2014

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Kaylene Hobson decided at the age of ten that she wanted to be a writer. But it took her till she was ”much older” to act on it, she claims. Writing was always just for pleasure.

Now she has released her first chapter book, Isaac’s Dragon, an amusing and captivating story about a boy who hatches a wonderfully clever and imaginative plan to catch his own dragon (Review here).

received_m_mid_1409371748082_1b95137c0d750e2993_0Isaac’s Dragon is based on Hobson’s son Isaac, who has autism.  ”It is meant to be the world from his perspective. He spends a lot of his time in a wonderfully magical place that the rest of us don’t understand. It was originally meant as a way for him to know that I understand him, but now it can help the world to understand him and other kids like him better too…..while reading an entertaining tale at the same time.”

See the full interview here.
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Di alone bwInterview with Dianne Bates, author of A Game of Keeps
September 2014

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Dianne (Di) Bates makes a living from full-time writing. She has worked as a children’s magazine and newspaper editor, manuscript assessor, book-seller, and writing teacher. Di has a wealth of publishing experience and is a recipient of The Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children’s literature. She has written over 120 books, mostly for young people, with a couple more contracted and many manuscripts awaiting review at publishing houses. I feel privileged to have such an expert in the field answering my questions about her experiences in the world of literature, and celebrating the release of her new book, A Game of Keeps.

A+Game+of+KeepsDoes this story have a personal significance to you? How?
My husband Bill and I never had children together, but we have fostered full-time and also informally ‘adopted’ children. One of the children was in the same situation as Ashley in A Game of Keeps. She was a truly special, talented child with a wonderful outlook on life. We took her in under a program called Aunts and Uncles wherein adults take a child in their family for a weekend once a month for a minimum 12 months. With our Ashley, we saw her more often than that because her mother had huge personal problems. We grew to love Ashley and were a positive influence on her life. (I have also published Nobody’s Boy with Celapene Press, a verse novel based on a boy we fostered for some years).

See the full interview here.
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peter carnavas pictureReady to Play: Peter Carnavas bears all on ‘Oliver and George’
October 2014

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Peter Carnavas is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, some of his titles including The Children Who Loved Books, Last Tree in the City, The Great Expedition, The Boy on the Page, The Important Things and Jonathan!

Peter’s books consistently provide both children and adults with heartwarming, humorous and thought-provoking experiences that leave a lasting impression. His illustrations always showcase his talent in portraying beautiful expression and sensitivity. He also balances a perfect mix between detail and playfulness, and spreads that make a simple yet dramatic statement.

oliverToday I present you with Peter’s latest adorable read-aloud story, Oliver and George, and I am lucky enough to have had the talented author / illustrator himself answer some behind-the-scenes questions!

How did the idea for Oliver and George come about?
I was on the plane to Perth, scribbling away in my sketchbook.  I had been thinking about a bear character for a while – I guess almost every children’s author has done it – and finally thought of creating a bear character that really didn’t behave the way in which the reader expected or wanted.  I think I had the wonderful No Bears (Meg McKinlay/Leila Rudge) floating around my head as inspiration.  I decided to add the cheeky Oliver character and, together with George, the two of them form a bit of a sibling relationship or, more likely, a parent-child relationship – the child bugging the parent to play, but the parent is always too busy.

Have you ever broken someone’s chair?
I have!  When I was ten, I remember drawing a picture that didn’t meet my expectations and I kicked one of our dining chairs out of frustration.  I was a quiet kid but very occasionally I snapped – much like George.  Dad made me pay for the chair out of my pocket money.
I also punched a boy in Grade One for snatching a book from me. My teacher smacked me and I never punched anyone again (apart from my brother).

See the full interview here.
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jo emery photoInterview with Jo Emery, author of My Dad is a FIFO Dad
October 2014

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My Dad is a FIFO Dad, an uplifting story that has already touched the hearts of many families, has beautifully encapsulated the highs and lows of the life of a child with a father who ‘flies in and flies out’ for work. (Review here). But let’s not forget the strength, courage and perseverance of the mother who wrote the book, who is raising three children on her own for three weeks in every month. Today we talk with author, Jo Emery, about her moments of heartbreak and joy, her achievements, family life and plans for the future.

my_dad_is_a_fifo_dad_coverWhy you were inspired to write ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’?
The story, My Dad is a FIFO Dad was born out of the raw emotion of our last drop off of Daddy to the airport. We were late for the plane and had to leave Steve in the ‘drop off zone’, rather than park the car. The children were devastated that Daddy was heading back to work and it was the first time that Ahnika, two at the time, had realized that Daddy was going away for a long time. My eldest daughter Sahskia, was incredibly sad as she felt the angst of her sister also. (Needless to say this was our last drop off and my husband now catches the shuttle bus J) It was incredibly heartbreaking to see and to feel and so, as I have often done in many situations, that night I went home and put pen to paper to debrief. The initial draft of my story was penned some 18 months ago. The story is told through the eyes of Sahskia. I tried to capture what I knew she was feeling on that day and mix it with what I hoped she would be strong enough to feel in times to come.

What do you hope this book achieves for its readers and the general public?
I hope that our story resonates with others in a FIFO/DIDO situation and that kids that are able to feel ‘OK when Dad’s Away’. I hope the story reassures children that despite distance, fathers can be present in heart, mind and spirit in many situations and those families can work towards building and maintaining strength, resilience and unity. While the platform for this story is FIFO I really think that anyone who believes in the unity of family will enjoy it and take some important messages from it.

See the full interview here.
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tmp_Ursula_Dubosarsky_publicity_photo_A_2011-1019229623The Highlights of a Professional Life: An Interview with Ursula Dubosarsky
October 2014

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Ursula Dubosarsky has written over 40 books for children and young adults. Some of which include The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants in This House, Tim and Ed, The Carousel, The Word Spy series, and The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta . She is a multi-award winner of many national and international literary prizes including The Premier’s and State Literary Awards, The Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, The Children’s Choice Awards, The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and The Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

Ursula’s books have been characterised as timeless classics with universal accessibility, always heartwarming, funny and indelible. Her picture books, in particular, emanate energy and delight, wit and ingenuity. She has worked with some legendary illustrators who have brought Ursula’s playful words to life, including Terry Denton, Tohby Riddle and Andrew Joyner.

tmp_Cover_01676093386What is your working relationship like with illustrator, Andrew Joyner? Do you or the publisher choose to pair you together?
Oh I love working with Andrew.The pairing came about quite naturally. At the time I was working for the NSW Department of Education’s School Magazine, which is a monthly literary magazine for primary school children. I was doing some editing there, and Andrew happened to send in some illustrations. I just so responded to his work, immediately. Anyway then when I had written the text for “The Terrible Plop” he was a natural person to suggest to Penguin, the publisher, as an illustrator for the book.

What was your reaction when ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ was selected for this year’s ALIA’s National Simultaneous Storytime? How were you involved in the lead up and on the day?
That was truly the most thrilling and touching experience. We were just delighted to hear it had been chosen, and I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to see children (and adults!) all over Australia reading our book. ALIA did a brilliant job of organising and promoting the event – we hardly had to do a thing. On the actual day Andrew and I read the book aloud at the Customs House branch of the City of Sydney library down at Circular Quay. I can truly say the National Simultaneous Storytime was one of the great highlights of my professional life.

See the full interview here.
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tmp_Lesley+Gibbes-1019229623 It’s No Mystery That Lesley Gibbes Loves All Things Scary
October 2014

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Today I shiver (with delight) to conjure some spellbinding details behind Scary Night and what makes Lesley Gibbes tick.

9781921504631 What was the inspiration behind the story?
As I child I loved exploring. My family home at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches was bushy and led onto a cliff top reserve. It was a great place to explore and go on exciting and sometimes scary journeys. So I wanted a story that had an exciting journey for my SCARY NIGHT characters. I also love scary! So setting the story at night when anything can happen was a must.
My own children had a role to play too. The refrain ‘It’s a mystery!’ was all theirs. They had loads of fun answering my questions like ‘Where are your socks?’ with the answer ‘It’s a mystery!’, so I absolutely had to use this phrase.
But there’s another less creative and more academic side to the construction of SCARY NIGHT. You see I’m a primary teacher and I wanted certain elements in the text to encourage and support reading. So you’ll find rhyme to support reading, refrains for repetition, question and answers to encourage participation and loads of opportunities for parents and teachers to ham it up for dramatic play. So all up SCARY NIGHT was quite a compilation of thoughts, ideas and inspirations.

See the full interview and book review here.
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Kim_Fleming_2010Kim Fleming Draws on her Experience as Illustrator of ‘Mummy, You’re Special To Me’
November 2014

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I’ve had the pleasure to be able to unearth a background perspective on being an illustrator; from the talented artist behind Mummy, You’re Special To Me – Kim Fleming.

You have illustrated many texts from picture books to chapter books, as well as educational resources. What do you love about illustrating children’s books? Which book type do you find the most rewarding, and why?
The majority of the books I have illustrated are picture books, which I definitely find the most rewarding as an illustrator. Whereas in chapter books or educational books the illustrations are adding to the story, in picture books the illustrations ARE the story. Building a visual narrative which augments the text, or subverts the text, or adds in a sub story not even mentioned in the text is incredibly fun and exciting to conceptualise. I love it when I can really sink my teeth into a project.

9781742839813Your illustrations are simply beautiful. Do you have a specific style or subjects that you prefer? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
First of all, thank you so much! I’d have to say that I most enjoy illustrating animals and themes stemming from nature and our surrounds. I also really enjoy travel in my own life so illustrations of different cultures where I need to do some “research” into different environments is always stimulating. Inspiration comes from all over – my collection of ephemera from travels and magazine flipping, a particular collage paper, an interesting billboard, a unique window display, and of course fellow artists and illustrators. Pinterest is dangerous!

See the full interview and book review here.
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meRenée Treml Reveals Answers About Her Picture Book, The Great Garden Mystery
November 2014

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Renée Treml is a talented artist and author, originally from the States, now residing in Melbourne. She creates her stunning illustrations primarily using the scratchboard technique, setting her work apart with its unique qualities. Renée has three equally delightful picture books published with Random House Australia; One Very Tired Wombat, Colour for Curlews, and her most recent, The Great Garden Mystery.

thegreatgardenmystery9780857984166Your books all include a common theme featuring the adorable, sleepy wombat, a range of native birds and other creatures. What is the appeal of these Australian animals?
I grew up in the States where I commonly saw little songbirds, woodpeckers, squirrels and deer – animals which probably sound very interesting to someone who is not from North America.  When we moved to Australia at the end of 2007, I was immediately smitten with the wildlife – here we have huge noisy parrots, sleepy koalas hiding in gum trees, teeny little pademelons and big bouncy kangaroos.     The wombat that is featured in all of my stories is based on the very first wombat I ever encountered.  He was at a wildlife sanctuary in Brisbane and managed to sleep soundly despite being surrounded by noisy children, adults, cockatoos and kookaburras. Every time I went to visit the sanctuary, that wombat was having a good snooze.  I only wish I could sleep like that too.

What was your favourite part of The Great Garden Mystery to illustrate?
My favourite scene to illustrate is where koala accuses the fox of stealing the beetroots.  I loved that koala – he was so sassy and never once thought he could be a suspect.  Trying to capture his brashness, the fox’s slyness and the roo’s discomfort was just good fun.

See the full interview and review here.
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1330-20120419211614-sophiaAlex Field’s ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ is a Real Treat
November 2014

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Alex Field’s talents as an author, publisher and speaker, her love of Christmas pudding, and her overt enthusiasm for Jane Austen all cleverly amalgamate in the latest of her series, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding (illus. Peter Carnavas).

856-20141023120845-Cover_Mr-Darcy-and-the-Christmas-Pudding_R What challenges have you found referencing Pride and Prejudice in your Mr Darcy books when considering suitability for children?
The language was a little tricky. I wanted to ensure that Mr Darcy’s pompous manner came across in the story. He is a very polite duck. The challenge I set myself for Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding was to create a Christmas scene true to the Regency era. This meant doing away with the usual trappings of Christmas such as a Christmas tree and Santa. However the Christmas pudding was around in Regency times as was mistletoe so both these make an appearance.

The story includes the characters coming together to celebrate the tradition of Stir-up Sunday. How is this event meaningful to you?
My sister and I always used to celebrate Stir-up Sunday with our nan. She lived in the countryside in Hampshire, very close to Jane Austen’s home. Every year we made the puddings with Nan and she then used to give them out to all the family to share on Christmas Day.

See the full interview and review here.

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Hey Baby Christmas Launch Filed Image 4Hey Corinne Fenton, What’s Your Christmas Wish?
November 2014

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Corinne Fenton is established as one of Australia’s treasured authors of beautiful picture books. They often contain an element of social history, and her knowledge and passion for writing is regularly shared in schools, libraries and workshops.
This Christmas, there are TWO Corinne Fenton picture books that are unmissable and will have children from birth to eight feeling enriched and cherished for all of the holiday season; Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and Hey Baby, it’s Christmas! Let’s find out a little more about Corinne Fenton and her books!

little-dog-and-the-christmas-wishWhat do you love about writing children’s books?
I love being taken away with the words, those times when in my head I’m spinning and flying on a carousel horse, but really I’m at my desk staring into space.

Much of your writing involves a great significance to social history. Is there an element of personal meaning when incorporating these topics?
Yes, in a way I believe I write about animals whose stories must be told – for me there’s a certain responsibility to tell them. When I visit students in schools it gives me a great feeling to share information with them through my stories. I strongly believe that children are learning this information in an enjoyable and almost effortless way. This is another reason why I feel so strongly about picture books.

See the full interview and review here.
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debra tidball‘When I see Grandma’; A Compelling Account with Author, Debra Tidball
November 2014

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I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. It is the perfect book to share with young and old, and what better time to do so than Christmas time.

high resAll the royalties of ‘When I see Grandma’ will be donated to the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care fund, which is amazing. What does this connection mean to you personally?  
My mum had dementia and the book is dedicated to her: it is based on visiting her with my two daughters when she was in an aged care home – so it seemed appropriate to donate my royalties to an organisation working in the dementia area. Hazel Hawke was a courageous and warmly regarded public personality and this fund seemed to be the right fit. The fund is administered via Alzheimer’s Australia who have been very supportive.

‘When I see Grandma’ is a lovely tribute to all Grandparents, but also fosters an appreciation for family connectedness. What message do you hope for readers, young and old, to gain from reading your story?  
I hope that readers get a sense that people are so much more than they seem at any one point in time, that everyone has a history and personal stories that are rich and vibrant and make up who they are – even when they are handicapped by age or illness. I hope, too that readers understand the importance for everyone to include children in an aged care community, and that a sense of connection can be made across generations despite apparent barriers.

See the full interview and review here.
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renee price head shotMission Accomplished! Renee Price Launches ‘Digby’s Moon Mission’
December 2014

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New and local indie author, Renee Price, has recently released the growingly popular Digby’s Moon Mission, just in time for Christmas. Fostering children’s natural curiosity and their young imaginations are key elements to creating a successful picture book, and ones that Renee elicits in her picture book.

Bza6SorCYAAMLHqWhere did you get your inspiration for this story?
My eldest child. He is always enlightening me with his take on the world. One night, we were looking up at the sky and he noticed that the moon was only a ”little” moon. We talked about why the moon may appear this way, and his theories had me fascinated. So, I wrote them down and turned them into a book. I have a long list of notes taken from our wonderful conversations.

What was your favourite part of the story to create?
The ending. I’m such a kid at heart, and humour is how I roll so yes, definately the ending.

See the full interview and review here.
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Author-pic-in-tree-close-upKylie Westaway Makes a Big Splash With Her Debut Picture Book, ‘Whale in the Bath’
December 2014

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Kylie Westaway is the author of the popular picture book, Whale in the Bath. She has literally travelled far and wide, worked in foreign schools, events and in theatre. But there’s one thing that has remained constant in her life; her love of writing. Here, I’ll give you the brief run-down of her captivating tale, Whale in the Bath, then we’ll find out more from Kylie Westaway about how it’s all come together.

whale-in-the-bathWhere did the inspiration for this story come from?
It actually came from a drawing I found in a market a few years ago. It was a cartoon-style drawing of a whale in a metal tub, floating on the ocean. The whole story popped into my head at once. I’ve put the original drawing up on my website.

I love the final surprise on the last page of the book! How much illustrative detail did you provide, and how much was left to Tom’s imagination?
It was almost all Tom’s imagination. The only illustrative detail I provided was that the whale shot a bath load of water into the air on the page that says “whoosh”, otherwise it was all Tom! That page was actually the most difficult to get right, and from memory we went through about 10 different roughs before Tom hit on the aerial view, and we all agreed that was perfect. One of my favourite illustrative details was Tom’s inclusion of the krill, which snuck into almost every page with the whale on it. In fact, when Tom provided the final page, which happened to be the imprint page with our dedications on it, he had added more krill to the page with a note saying “hope this isn’t overkrill.” He is completely brilliant.

See the full interview and review here.
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author pic jul 14 WEB”A Tapestry of Experiences Folded into Fiction”; Victoria Lane Talks About ‘Celia and Nonna’
December 2014

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Victoria Lane has made a successful career from writing; as an award-winning financial journalist for many years, editor and correspondent for many leading media publications, and of course, as a picture and chapter book writer for children. Today, we delve into Victoria’s writerly mind as she shares her inspirations behind her touching picture book, Celia and Nonna.

9781925000603Have you always wanted to be a writer? What do you love about writing children’s books?
It’s true, I started writing stories when I was a kid, mainly mash-ups of fairytales inspired by my older brother’s satirical Mad magazines. And I’ve been lucky enough to have made a career out of writing and editing, as a journalist and foreign correspondent. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve had the time to devote to writing fiction again and I love it. What appeals to me the most about writing for children is the need to condense meaning into a picture book of limited word count. It is a challenge and a delight.

‘Celia and Nonna’ is a warm story of togetherness across the generations, and adapting to change. What special message would you like your audience to gain from reading your story?
It’s so important to keep children involved and informed, whatever changes are happening in the family. If a grandparent is in an aged care home, make sure the grandkids still get to visit rather than leaving them at home. Kids are very adaptable and accepting of change; we should give them credit for it. There are many ways to adapt to these changes, and Celia finds her own delightful way to navigate this confusing time. I hope that Celia and Nonna will help to start a conversation with children when a loved one is affected by dementia, old age, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

See the full interview and review here.
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Helene Magisson Helene Magisson’s Labour of Love: The Velveteen Rabbit
March 2015

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Please tell us a bit about your illustrating journey. Did you always love to draw as a child?
For sure, I have always been very attracted to everything related to art. As far as I can remember, I think that I have always drawn! In my early career as an artist, I was a painting restorer and loved that job but there was no place for creativity. It is only when we settled down here in Australia 3 years ago, that I decided to be a children’s book illustrator. It was an old dream which I had never taken the opportunity to fulfil. So I tried, worked hard to move from art restoration to illustration and then one day, timidly, I attend the CYA conference. I was very surprised to get the first prize and to be offered my first contract with New Frontier to illustrate The Velveteen Rabbit. I could not imagine a better start.

896-20150213142152-Cover_The-Velveteen-Rabbit_LR-1What do you love about illustrating children’s books?
I love every step of that work from the research of the characters till the final colouring. The stories created for children can be so charming, surprising, touching. Discovering a children’s book is like a door opened to incredible worlds. And it is amazing to be a part of these worlds by illustrating them. When I first discover the story I will illustrate, there are so many images coming through my mind, it is a very exciting feeling, with no limit to the imagination. It is a work of passion and it makes me happy.

See the full interview and review here.
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996029_10151963055537069_1799375660_nAdam Wallace Is ‘Accidentally Awesome!’
March 2015

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Adam Wallace is back again with some more ‘awesomeness’ and side-splitting comedy for us! Introducing his brand-spanking-new junior fiction chapter book (which is the first in the planned series, and of which he self published, by the way), ‘Accidentally Awesome!’

accidentally+awesome Congratulations on the release of ‘Accidentally Awesome!’. How have you felt about your self publishing journey?
Well, it’s been a long one. The first book I ever published was a self-published book, way back in 2004. So it is like I have sort of gone full-circle now, going back to full self-publishing. Now though I have a chunk of experience to fall back on, and also a fan base I have built up over the years. So I am heading in with a stronger starting point, and hopefully that will be a bonus!

What was your favourite part of the story to write?
There are two parts really. I loved writing the conversation between Jackson and his nan. Doing dialogue like that is really fun, especially making Jackson kinda dopey in it. But I also really liked writing the slapstick humour, trying to get across the physicality of what was happening and keeping it sharp and funny.

What is your best ‘accidentally awesome’ moment of all time?
Oooooh, good question … now it needs a good answer! I think it was the time I tried to put money on 19 at the casino and the chip slipped onto 20 and I was too shy to let them know it was the wrong number but then 20 came up!!! Totally accidental, totally awesome!

See the full interview and review here.
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photo-on-26-02-14-at-9-53-am Katrina Germein Dances Up A Thunderstorm
March 2015

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Congratulations on the release of your newest title, ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’! What was the inspiration behind this story?
This story has been a long time becoming a book but the text was written in a frenzy over a couple of days. The rhythm grew in my head and verse by verse I scribbled down the pages as they came to me. I remember writing some of it at the service station and some of it on a café napkin. I’m not sure of the exact inspiration but as I wrote it, I was holding a memory of music classes at primary school. Our teacher, Mrs Vaughn, used to play the piano and call out a story while we romped around the room and danced our own actions.

thunderstorm-dancing-cover-lores-1 You’ve written Thunderstorm Dancing’ in exuberant poetic prose, different to the jokes and funny phrases seen in ‘My Mum Says the Strangest Things’ and ‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny’. Did you find one style more challenging than the other? Do you have a preferred style of writing?
Different stories lend themselves to different styles. I enjoy experimenting with various approaches within the picture book genre. Thunderstorm Dancing is my third rhyming book and I love rhyme. I also like simple prose.

Somebody’s House’, ‘Littledog’ and ‘Big Rain Coming’ have all been featured on Play School. How did the producers approach you and what was your reaction to the news?
Having books read on Play School is the absolute best. The show is well respected because it is created with children in mind – it’s about the kids. Early childhood professionals choose the books and consideration is given to what children will enjoy and engage with. So it’s about as good as an endorsement as any children’s author can hope for. (It also means people send you lovely exciting messages every time the episode is repeated and they catch it with their children.)

See the full interview and review here.
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Libby Gleeson Photo Stories Behind the Stories; Interview with Acclaimed Author Libby Gleeson
April 2015

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Please tell us a bit about your writing journey. What have been your biggest obstacles, and greatest personal achievements?
I was trained as a teacher but wanted to be a writer and so began that transformation while living and working in Italy in the nineteen seventies. I then went to London and joined a writers’ workshop which was formative in teaching me about editing my own work. Subsequently, back in Australia I read my work with other writers and that helped me to refine the work to make it publishable. Obstacles are just life and family commitments, and getting published many times is always a great achievement.

You’ve been winning Literary and service awards, in Australia and internationally, for over 30 years. What do these honours mean to you? Are there any that stand out as most significant for you?
All awards make you feel affirmed and so I am very grateful when successful. I know how hard the judging process is so I also know; intellectually that not winning is not necessarily a judging that the work is no good. The Bologna Ragazzi for The Great Bear is one highlight, as is the PM’s award for Red. All CBCA awards are important and make you feel pretty excited. The highlight was also receiving an AM, a Member of the Order of Australia.

mum-goes-to-work‘Mum Goes to Work’ (illustrated by Leila Rudge, see review) is a groundbreaking and reassuring story about adapting to the realities of working parents, and how children can positively manage this lifestyle. The original version was published in 1992. Why has it been re-released? How do you feel the impact of the message will compare nowadays with what it did 23 years ago?
The original version went out of print some years ago but Sarah Foster, the former publisher at Walker Books felt it should be brought back. I’m very glad she did. I think working mothers are much more of an ordinary part of life that they were back then, but I think children are very unaware of what that means in their mother’s daily life. And I think many parents aren’t really aware of what their child does during a day at childcare, although a lot more information is now provided.

What brought about the inspiration to write ‘Mum Goes to Work’ all those years ago?
I had kids in Child Care and discovered that the 4 year olds knew what their dads did but described their mums only as cooks, dishwashers, etc – housework. All the mums would have been workers or students because that was the only way you could get a place at the centre. So I interviewed the mothers at our centre and built the book around that.

See the full interview and review here.

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Ann-marie finnAnn-Marie Finn’s Sweet New Release; Gus the Asparagus
April 2015

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I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about Ann-Marie Finn’s fascinating journey to creating her books, including the scrumptious ‘Gus, the Asparagus’.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book with Kaylene Hobson, ‘Gus, the Asparagus’! Can you tell us a bit about how you and Kaylene collaborated and what you hope the readers will gain from this book?
The reason Kaylene and I met was through a group that Kaylene set up to help kids on the spectrum to interact with each other. Once she found out I was an illustrator and I found out that she was an author we started talking about a collaboration. We completed Kaylene’s first book in July last year and haven’t stopped thinking up ideas since. When I first had the idea to make Gus the Asparagus a character I sent her a message. I knew she would either laugh and think I was crazy or decide it was a good idea and we should run with it!(She did both). The idea behind the book was to create a character that kids with autism could connect with and understand, a book for them to understand themselves rather than for adults. We also hoped it would be fun for any kids, not just those on the spectrum.

Gus the asparagus picWe’ve seen a mixture of amazing artistic techniques across your books, including pencil sketching, collage and digital media. Do you have a particular style or type of medium that you tend to prefer over others? Describe the illustrative process you used for creating ‘Gus’.
When I see a manuscript or think up a character I can usually see it in my head before I start to work on it. I knew Gus needed to be a very simple but bright character, without fussy backgrounds. It didn’t take me long to get him right. The characters were created from painted colours on textured paper.

See the full review and interview here.

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image Tania McCartney’s Passionate Spirit Shines
June 2015

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One such individual who is truly one of a kind is the multi-talented, all-round exceptional lady; author, illustrator, editor, presenter and Kids’ Book Review founder, Tania McCartney. It has been an absolute pleasure learning more about her writerly life, exciting upcoming events and inspiration behind her latest striking release, Peas in a Pod (see review).

What was the inspiration behind this story?
I tend to write my books intuitively, without overt inspiration. Characters pop onto my head and a story quickly follows; I just write it down! But if I think about it, the Peas story is perhaps a subconscious desire to promote diversity which is a hot topic in PBs worldwide at the moment. The movement was initiated in the United States, perhaps as a counterpoint to the myriad PBs that tell kids ‘we are all the same! everyone is equal! you’re all winners!’ The thing is, Real Life is not same-same and is certainly not equal. We need to teach kids they will sometimes win and sometimes lose and that being ourselves or standing out in any way as an individual is a fine thing indeed. I’m a strong advocate for teaching kids to never compromise their uniqueness … and to let no one dull their shine.

imageWhat is your favourite part of the story? Why?
My favourite part is the page with the girls on the swings. It’s just so poignant. It’s at a point in the story where the ‘sameness’ has clearly broken their spirits, and the image is so emotional for me. Swings are meant to be swung on, with little legs high in the air, but here, they are stationary. It’s a perfect image in terms of visual literacy. My other favourite part is the last page, but I can’t say what happens there because it will spoil the story!

What’s your most unique quality?
I love your questions! Probably my ability to ‘see’ words when I write. It’s hard to explain but I’m a visual writer in a literal sense—I see colours and shapes and characters and tones and patterns and themes that help shape the words that emerge. I’ll often storyboard or layout books I’m writing so I can ‘see’ how things are unfolding. This has made it a lot easier to transition into illustrating, too, which I’m doing for the first time this year.

See the full interview and review here.
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Georgie DonagheyGeorgie Donaghey in the Spotlight; Lulu Makes her Debut
July 2015

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Georgie’s new book, ‘Lulu’, gorgeously illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn, published by Dragon Tales Publishing, is simply scrumptious!

How does ‘Lulu’ resonate with you?
Lulu followed her dream no matter what obstacles were in her way.  I, like many other authors, have received too many rejections to count.  Instead of being discouraged I wear them like a badge of honor and continue to believe and follow my dreams.

Lulu‘Lulu’ is written with a graceful poetic rhythm, perfectly suiting your charming polar bear dancer. Do you often write in rhyme, and is this your preferred style of writing?
I’m not fond of rhyme only because you have to be spot on with it.  You can’t fool kids, the rhyme has to flow.  To publish a poorly written book is a disaster so I tried to fight the rhyme and just write Lulu as a story but clearly the rhyme won.  Would I do it again?  Well Lulu has a brother who has a story to tell and I am also working on another rhyming manuscript about an octopus.  Fingers crossed.

See the full interview and review here.

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imageIn a World of Imagination – Interview with Anna Walker
August 2015

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Equally as gentle, creative, genuine and profound as her delightful stories and pictures is the author / illustrator herself, with which I had the utmost pleasure in meeting recently at her Mr Huff Exhibition. I am honoured that the amazingly talented Anna Walker has agreed to shed some light on her enchanting book-creating world and her newest masterpiece, Mr Huff (review here).

Your trademark style of illustrating is always infallibly charming with its whimsical and multi-textured features. How did you develop this style and how did you come to illustrate books for children?

Ever since I was child I had wanted to illustrate children’s books. I developed my work with wanting to create an illustration that was hand crafted – a small piece of art. Perhaps this has contributed to my work looking textured as I use cut paper, watercolours, etching and woodblock. I look for different mediums to bring to life the picture I have in mind. Sometimes it reminds me of playing with my doll’s house as a child, making tiny cut flowers, blankets, and paintings to hang on the wall of the miniature rooms! The whimsy I don’t seem to be able to help, no matter what I try it is part of who I am, it seems my love of fairy tales and enchanted worlds pervades my world.

imageCongratulations on the launch of your latest picture book release, ‘Mr Huff’! Your recent exhibition beautifully showcased your work, including the book’s storyboard process, from inception to completion, original artworks, as well as your adorable models used in your stop-motion trailer. Can you tell us a bit about the response you’ve received so far. Any stand out moments? What was your most rewarding part of the process?

I couldn’t be happier with the way the Mr Huff exhibition went. In the lead up to the exhibition I wondered why I was having it. I felt like cancelling the whole thing. But on the opening night everyone was so lovely and said such kind things about the story.  During the exhibition it was particularly rewarding for me to see tiny children fascinated with the puppet I made of Mr Huff for the stop motion. A highlight for me was an email from a mum with two boys one of whom experienced Anxiety. The mum said the book was now part of their lives and that some days they described as ‘Huff Days’. When I read  these words they made every bit of the work that went into the story worth it.

See the full interview and review here.

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Ellie lucas and jackEllie Royce makes History with ‘Lucas and Jack’
August 2015

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Along with a staunch group of Australian literary professionals, Ellie Royce is a strong advocate for promoting encouragement for families to connect with older generations, share love and facilitate the power of memory. Her latest picture book is one in a line up, not only involved in initiatives to create awareness of ageing people and dementia (Dementia Awareness Month), but also as a nominee for a prestigious award. Find out more about her gorgeous book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ and her significant contribution to the community in our captivating interview!

image‘Lucas and Jack’ emanates a beautiful message of celebrating and cherishing the ‘stories’ of elderly people and forming bonds with grandparents. What do you intend your readers to gain from engaging with your book?
I would love to see “Lucas and Jack” of course offering a good read, an enjoyable experience. But also I hope that the book will pave the way for the readers to share their own stories. I would love to think that after reading “Lucas and Jack” a young person will look at an older person, frown, wonder and ask the question “What did YOU do before you were old?” or “What was it like when you were a kid? Did you do the same stuff as me? What games did you like? What was school like?” and the floodgates of sharing, laughing, crying, remembering, honouring and connecting will open.
Because stories aren’t just stories are they? They’re bridges to things and ideas like empathy, literacy,  resilience, imagination and perhaps most important of all in today’s world they are bridges BETWEEN things and people who think they are too different to ever be able to connect.
There’s a great quote by Roslyn Bresnick-Perry “It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.”  I hope “Lucas and Jack” builds bridges between people.

World Dementia Awareness Month is held throughout September. Please explain the purpose of this initiative and how you are participating in raising its awareness to the public.
This year’s theme is “I Remember”. I’m excited to be collaborating with a fabulous group of Australian creators, both authors and illustrators to showcase their books about ageing and dementia for September’s World Dementia Month. The helplessness and confusion a growing number of children face when confronted with the decline of an elderly relative prompted these local literary professionals to create stories to provide encouragement and hope to families. Each of the unique and beautifully illustrated stories is based on personal experience and offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances. The power of memory and remembering as a way to sustain a loving connection is a common thread and ties in perfectly with the “I Remember” theme for 2015.
imageAlong with “Lucas and Jack” we have Celia and Nonna (Victoria Lane and Kayleen West, Ford Street Publishing), Do You Remember? (Kelly O’ Gara and Anna Mc Neil, Wombat Books), When I See Grandma (Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom, Wombat Books), and Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, (Karen Tyrrell and Aaron Pocock).
These stories are humorous, at times poignant and always heartfelt. Our hope is that they will inspire and encourage children and families who are grappling with change and illness in those they love.

See the full interview and review here.
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A Curious Tale: Interview with Longy Han
October 2015

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I spoke with Longy about how her ideas hatched and the plans set on her future horizon.

Congratulations on the release of your first picture book, Gusto & Gecko Travel to Kenya! Can you briefly explain your publishing process?

Gusto & Gecko was made possible through crowdfunding with the help of family, friends and the wider community. Elinor, my rockstar illustrator, was discovered through an online Facebook illustration competition that I ran. From the get go, I wanted to challenge the traditional publishing process, bend rules and engage with the end consumers. I ran an interactive campaign so I could involve the public from the beginning to the end -people got to vote on the illustration designs which directly impacted on the creative process as well as the outcome of the book. This way, the book is not just mine – it’s all of ours.

image‘Gusto and Gecko’ is a fun and lively story of discovery, friendship and shenanigans in the African wilderness. Who or what inspired you to write this story? What do you hope readers will gain from reading it?

I lived in remote Kenya for a month at an orphanage teaching kids mathematics and English (at least I tried)! At the end of my trip, I felt humbled and lucky to walk away with a really valuable life lesson: it doesn’t take much to be happy and kind to others. The animals I saw on my safari trip were also majestic. So I wanted to share my travel experiences and encourage readers to explore the world!

See the full interview and review here.

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A Breath of Fresh Air – Katrina McKelvey on ‘Dandelions’

October 2015

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Katrina McKelvey started life in a little country town in New South Wales, where she was fortunate to be able to soak up the charming facets of nature. Nowadays, Katrina is soaking up the well-deserved praise for her gorgeous debut picture book, ‘Dandelions’.

‘Dandelions’ is a sensitive and magical story of the beauty of nature and the loving relationship between father and daughter. What was the inspiration behind this story?

As my daughter and I used to walk to and from preschool, she would jump in gardens and gutters to pick dandelion seed heads. We found them growing everywhere. She enjoyed blowing them apart with me. After that, as my husband mowed the lawn, I used to get a little sad watching him destroy the dandelion plants that made those puff balls she loved so much and I wondered how she would feel if she ever found out.

I have loved watching the relationship develop between my husband and our daughter. It’s a very special relationship – one I hope they cherish forever.

imageKirrili Lonergan’s illustrations perfectly compliment the gentle, whimsical nature of the text. What do you like about Kirrili’s work, and how did you find the collaborative process with her?
I’ve had the privilege of watching Kirrili’s style develop first hand over the last several years. I love how she layers colours, her messy nature and her signature stripes. The first time I saw a completed dandelion seed head I cried. (Hint: Look at the endpapers)

Our friendship started many years earlier, but our collaboration for this book actually started back in 2011 – long before our contract – with a single dandelions illustration. That illustration travelling the country with my manuscript and accompanied many rejections all the way back home.

See the full interview and review here.

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Elise Hurst’s Incredible Narrative World

December 2015

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It’s no secret that Elise Hurst is a champion in the world of children’s literature, with over 55 published books to her name, ‘The Night Garden’ being shortlisted in the 2008 CBCA Awards, and her unequivocal skill in fine art, portraiture and landscape artistry. Her works, such as ‘My Boots in Season’ and ‘Imagine a City’, are full of energy, imagination and surrealism, and at the same time touch their audience with their intense, nostalgic and indelible, classic qualities. It is a great honour to have had the opportunity to discover more about Elise’s creative world, and her secrets behind ‘Adelaide’s Secret World’.

‘Adelaide’s Secret World’ is a touching tale full of imagination, reflection, serendipitous and courageous moments that empower change and finding one’s voice. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and how did it develop?

imageI understand Adelaide, and I think there is a little bit of her in many of us. She is that person who has a beautiful rich world within her but no one notices. She is wrapped up in loneliness and has turned it into a safe place. She is observant and thoughtful, creative and active but she simply doesn’t know how to reach out to those around her. She grew from the coming together of many things – a painting of a solitary rabbit in a cafe that I created some years ago, a character of a woman striding through a street in New York with a strange huge bird, the memory of being at university before I had made new friends and how lonely that was even though I was surrounded by people. And the movie Amelie was one that struck a chord too, in dealing with a similar character. The more I thought about the character and the source of her isolation, the more she developed into a real person for me.

Your range of books showcase a variety of illustrating styles, from ink and watercolours to oil paintings, whimsical to soul-stirring. Do you have a preference over which medium you like to use? What is your process in determining which style best suits the story?

I used to change all of the time because I had all of these styles and media at my disposal (because of the traditional art beginnings). Now I have my two favourite styles that I think are the best conduit for my imagination. One is highly detailed and precise drawings in black and white. The other is expressive oil painting. They are opposites, really. Oils are fast and expressive, emotional and dramatic. The drawings are slow and considered, evolving and detail-filled. They are great for expressing completely different stories and aspects of the world I love.

See the full interview here and review of ‘Adelaide’s Secret World’ here.

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A Pet is for Life – Sandy Fussell on ‘Sad, the Dog’

December 2015

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I look forward to sharing our interview with you as the talented, animal-loving Sandy Fussell talks about her career and her gorgeous new title, Sad, the Dog.

You’ve been successful with your middle grade fiction, and in particular your best-selling ‘Samurai Kids’ series. What made you venture into the world of picture books and how would you compare your processes between the different writing styles? Do you prefer one style over the other?

imageI never intended to write a picture book and if anyone had asked me, I would’ve insisted it would never happen because I don’t look at the world through “picture book eyes”. But one day, I accidentally looked that way, and the story of Sad the Dog appeared inside my head (450 words complete with a plot hole!).

My approach to middle grade and picture books is exactly the same. I let the story tell itself. When the sense of place and character is strong, the story always follows. While I don’t prefer one over the other, I find middle grade a lot easier to write (the picture book eyesight problem again).

What I did find very different and quite wonderful, was that with a picture book, I was never on my own. Whatever I was doing, Tull Suwannakit (who illustrated Sad) was keen to share and support and vice versa. When you write a picture book there is always another person who loves it exactly as much as you do.

image‘Sad, the Dog’ is loosely based on a true story of a neighbouring family in your past. What does this story mean to you? What significant messages do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?

This question of messages in books interests me – Are they really there? Do they matter? What if readers get them wrong? I’ve heard many authors (especially adult fiction) say they don’t write with books with a message. For me, that’s not possible. A writer brings many themes to a story – from their passions, beliefs and experiences – they’re story building blocks. And themes inherently contain a message. The reader may find completely different themes and messages depending on their life experience and perspective, and I’m fine with that too.

Sad the Dog, is about hope. Life can be very sad, but with a little help, it can be turned around. There’s other messages too. If we help others we make the world a happier place. Owning a pet involves an emotional responsibility as well as providing the physical needs of food, water and somewhere to sleep. I could probably find even more messages if I went looking. My world view seeps into all my stories, long or short.

See the full interview and review here.

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Caroline Magerl – A Journey of the Heart

January 2016

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‘Hasel and Rose’, also known as ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’; a story of hope, adventure, connection, magic, depth, and of love – these all intricately weaved into an exquisite story with powerful images that perfectly sums up some of Caroline’s most significant earlier years.

You’ve had such an interesting and rich history in terms of your upbringing and how you ventured into the illustrative and writing world. Can you tell us a bit about your journey from your beginnings to now?

As a young child, my family were migrants to Australia. My parents had come from the broken world of post war Germany. They arrived with an overbearing sense of grief, on many different levels. These impressions became a permanent presence that was not openly discussed. The old world had come along with us, baggage, as it were.

…I spoke about the two impressions of where my family had come from. The grey and grief stricken realities of my parent’s world were real, it was something I felt. I was also impelled to re-imagine my world and picture books showed me this could be done. Art and storytelling teach us to know that there are other ways to see things and if that is so, it encourages us to see for ourselves. That sustains like nothing I know.

  How did the story of ‘Hasel and Rose’ unfold? What was your process in bringing this book to life?

My creative method as an illustrator is to lie down. My best work is done that way. The text literally lives under my pillow for weeks with sketches completed at all hours. If I have to leave the hollowed log, the text goes with me. In a sense, my life is grafted onto and channeled into the story at hand.

See the full interview here.

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