Posts tagged New Zealand

Star Author: Barbara Else – How is The Volume of Possible Endings different from the first two Tales?

This third Tale of Fontania is another stand-alone novel. Some of the characters from the first two come back into it. But the main character, Dorrity, is new. So is the other important character, Metalboy. I like to have new main characters each time because that means there is an interesting (I hope) new story to be told even though it is set in the same fantasy world.

This time, there is another difference too. In The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy the characters left home and went on an adventure. With this third one, I wanted to explore the place the novel started. It’s set mostly in Owl Town on the edges of the Beastly Dark, a great forest in the south-west of Fontania. It seems a fairly ordinary place at first, where life always goes on in the same sort of way. But there is only one child in the whole town. That’s odd. And there is a lot more going on than the child, Dorrity, realises. I wanted to find out what lived in the Beastly Dark.

I also wanted to figure out what King Jasper might have invented next. In The Queen and the Nobody Boy, he has only recently invented message birds. But that is five years before the story of Dorrity and Metalboy. What would Jasper have invented by now?

Though I’d had great fun writing the travel adventure stories of the first two novels, this time it was a change to ‘stay put’ and make the story a different sort of adventure that happens exploring pretty much one place.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How cool are maps?

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for the Tales of Fontania.

What are the best things about Sam? He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds in his own little details.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s pretty disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How things happen to surprise you when you’re writing

At the back of The Volume of Possible Endings you’ll find the Anarchists’ Marching Song – words and music.  Anarchists are people who don’t believe in having rules, so the very idea of them marching in step is kind’a ridiculous. But these particular anarchists are rather ridiculous. They’re the guys on the motorbikes on the cover.

I didn’t set out to give them a song, but when I was rewriting the novel I thought – hmm, people camping out in the wild often sing around their camp fire in the evenings. So I could give the anarchists a guitar or a piano accordion just for some extra detail. I also find it very funny when people yawn so loudly that it sounds like shouting and gives you a fright. So I put those ideas together. Now, in the finished novel, the anarchists start yawning and it turns into their marching song.

By the time I’d written the words for the song, a tune had come into my head. I can’t write down music but I sang it into the recording programme on my laptop and emailed it to Jane Arthur, the very clever Assistant Publisher at Gecko Press.  She was able to write the tune down. She even, very nicely, said my singing was all right. But I know she was fibbing.

If you happen to be a musician you’ll be able to play the Anarchists’ Marching Song for yourself. If you want to try singing, it will help if you have a very deep gruff voice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Where do the ideas for stories come from?

Answer: ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. The first idea for The Volume of Possible Endings came from a fairy tale. It isn’t one of the best known ones, but I’d been interested by it since I was about ten or eleven. It’s a story of a girl who has either six, seven or twenty-one brothers depending on which version of the story it is. A wicked witch changes all the brothers into swans and the spell can only be broken if the girl sews shirts for them all. I remember thinking what a lot of work that would have been – especially if it was twenty-one brothers. She didn’t have a sewing machine, either. It all had to be done with a needle and thread. Yikes. What really grabbed my interest was how much she must have loved her brothers.

But of course, it would have been hard work for me as well to manage twenty-one brothers in a story. I decided that three brothers would be plenty for my story, thanks. And – this isn’t a spoiler – the brothers in this novel don’t get turned into swans. But there is magic involved, and magical wickedness.

Anyway, maybe there’s an idea here that you could use for writing one of your own stories. In fairy stories you never get a lot of information about how the characters feel. They just do things, or things just happen to them. So why not start thinking about why the characters in a fairy story come to do whatever it might be. How do they actually feel? Choose a fairy tale you especially like, say, Red Riding Hood. Why would a mother could send her precious child into a forest all by herself? Does Red Riding Hood really want to go into the forest? Or, think about how the wolf feels. For instance, how long is it since he had a good dinner? Or is he just a greedy-guts? Or a bully and a show-off? Could you tell the story from his point of view? That might be fun.

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Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

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Pick Your Winner and Win Books

The winners of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are announced in just one week, at the awards ceremony in Auckland on Monday 23 June.  There are some fantastic finalist books this year that we highly recommend.  Some of them will take you to new, exciting places, and some of them are set in our own backyard.  You can learn how to create a piece of wearable art or how to hunt and stew up a possum.

We want to know who you think will win.  We’ve got some copies of the junior fiction finalists to give away and a couple of Subway vouchers.  Just enter your winning book in the form below, along with your name and we’ll draw 5 winners next week.  Competition closes Friday 20 June (Canterbury residents only).

This competition has now closed.  Thanks to those who entered.

 

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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