Friday, February 7, 2014

From Australia With Love Blog Hop: Interview with Jacqueline Harvey

Australian writers rock. We know it, and we love them. But it’s not always easy to discover the Australian talent that is right under our noses.

From Australia With Love Blog Hop introduces you to 18 Aussie authors across a variety of categories and genres. Each author is hosting three of their fellow blog hop participants between now and Valentine’s Day to let you find out more about them. So follow them on twitter, like their Facebook page and visit their blogs during the blog hop period to discover more great Australian writers.

And to show how much these Aussie authors love their readers, they’ve donated some great prizes for you to win!

Today we have much beloved Aussie MG writer Jacqueline Harvey stopping by.

 What drew you to write Middle Grade?

I studied children’s literature as part of my primary education degree and then when I was working as a teacher I wrote a lot for the children in my classes.  There were poems, stories and lots of plays, which we always enjoyed sharing with the rest of the school.  I thought a lot about writing for children and I talked about it a lot too but it wasn’t until my husband asked me if I was ever going to stop talking about it and do something, that I really thought, ‘well, I’m not going to die wondering!’

What are the key elements to make an entertaining MG?

Interesting characters who you know the writer really feels something for, great adventures with the kids taking charge, settings that the children either can identify with or aspire to visit, fun and mayhem and properly evil baddies who get their come-uppance in the end.

Tell us a bit about your characters and how you came up with them?

I have two series which I’m writing at the moment.  Alice-Miranda is the main character of the first and her adventures began being published in February 2010.  There are now nine books out in the series, with Alice-Miranda in Japan releasing 1 February 2014.

Alice-Miranda is young but seems much older.  She’s incredibly kind and wise beyond her years and has that wonderful ability to be able to make friends with just about everyone, no matter whether they are eight or eighty – despite there being numerous times when her kindnesses are initially rebuked.  She will always look for the reason why people are behaving badly and is very good at solving mysteries.  She lives in a world of extraordinary privilege but never shows off or makes a fuss about it.  She knows she’s fortunate and at the same time she just lives her life.  I have asked lots of children what it is that they like about her and invariably it’s her kindness and courage that seem to shine through. 

Clementine Rose is the heroine of my second series.  She’s younger than Alice-Miranda and is far less worldly wise.  She lives in a tumbledown mansion with her adoptive mother, Lady Clarissa Appleby, the long standing butler, Digby Pertwhistle and Great Aunt Violet – who is revolting and fantastically fun to write at the same time.  Their house is a hotel which offers great scope to have interesting guests and interactions.  Clementine has a pet teacup pig called Lavender.  She loves fashion and learning poems to recite aloud to her long deceased grandparents whose portraits adorn the walls of Penberthy House.  She wants to be helpful but things don’t always work out the way she plans.

I’ve just written books in both series where the two characters meet.  I hope that they can have an adventure together further down the track. 

Which author(s) inspire you?

Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Robin Klein, Colin Thiele, Andy Griffiths, Markus Zusak and Kate Morton are some of the authors who inspire me but for very different reasons. I admire Enid Blyton’s work ethic and her ability to create stories that children still love today.  Seriously 700 books is amazing and I recently visited the Enid Blyton Archive at Seven Stories in Newcastle Upon Tyne and I’ve seen the clunking great typewriter she bashed them out on – her arms muscles must have been impressive.  Roald Dahl makes me laugh and I love his over the top characters and plots.  Robin Klein wrote about children I knew as I was growing up.  She was one of the first Australian writers I saw kids really fall in love with when I was working as a young teacher. Colin Thiele wrote fabulous imagery and made you feel as if you were there in all those beautiful Australian locations.  Andy Griffiths is quite simply a rock star.  He taps into what kids want.  Markus Zusak gave me some great advice and he’s a superstar whose writing is like poetry and Kate Morton writes stories that completely sweep me up – her endings always make me sigh with satisfaction.

How do you get over writer's block?

It depends at what stage of the process this is happening.  If I’m stuck on something part way through the story, a walk tends to help, if it’s at the beginning when the plot is still forming, I throw myself into research and write lots of handwritten notes in my journal and all over the white board in my office.  I also find that it helps to go back and re-read some earlier books in the series.

What projects are you working on that you're excited about?

I’m currently working on Alice-Miranda’s tenth adventure which is really just starting to take shape.  I’ve also written a short story for an anthology and have been putting together ideas for the next Alice-Miranda Diary and a Clementine Rose activity book for which we’re still coming up with a good name.  I’ll be writing another Clementine Rose story a little later in the year.  This year there are seven books coming out altogether.  Two Alice-Miranda’s, three Clementine Rose’s, the diary and the activity book.  I’ve just signed another two Alice-Miranda books taking that total to 14 and another two Clementine Rose’s taking them to ten over the next few years.  It’s great to know what I’m doing a way into the future.

I’m also planning lots of touring in Australia throughout the year and an extended trip to Singapore and the UK starting in October.   I’m hoping to include a trip to the US on the way home early 2015.

Jacqueline Harvey is a born storyteller.  A highly experienced former teacher and Deputy Head of Junior School, she is the author of 16 novels for younger readers and a CBCA award winning picture book. Her bestselling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series’ are published internationally and have garnered various short listings and awards.  Jacqueline travels widely, speaking and teaching in Australia and overseas. She is a passionate advocate for literacy with a particular love of reading aloud.  Her latest titles are Alice-Miranda in Japan, Alice-Miranda Shines Bright and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco.  You can find out more at

Find her on her website, blog and Alice-Miranda blog.

Alice-Miranda in Japan

When Alice-Miranda, Millie and Jacinta travel to Japan during the school holidays they are in for a fascinating treat.  Dolly Oliver, the family cook, has been invited to speak at a conference in Tokyo on her Just Add Water food creation – but she is even more interested in her newest invention and vows to try it out while overseas.

Alice-Miranda becomes embroiled in an elaborate missing persons hunt when a gift from her father confuses the authorities.  Things come to a head when Alice-Miranda and her friends are invited to dinner at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and the plans of a jealous sister begin to unravel, with startling consequences.

Read a excerpt here!

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