Please join me as I answer questions in The Next Big Thing blog trail.
What is the working title of your next book?
That boy, Jack. (published by Walker Books, Australia)
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea developed over a long period of time and mainly from reoccurring visits to a place called Moonta in Yorke Peninsular, in South Australia. I’d visited this place as a child and as an adult, and it always intrigued me because of the little tiny, Cornish cottages dotted about the area, which had once been a thriving copper mining district. I always felt a strong pull to the place and when I discovered that I, like thousands of South Australians and indeed, Australians, were descendants of the Cornish who left Cornwall and the tin mines for a better life in Australia (and also in USA), I became more interested.
Suddenly, I had a heritage that I’d known nothing about.
As a child I had also read about the 19th century British reformer, Lord Shaftsbury, who argued in parliament for laws to stop children under the age of 10 from working underground in coalmines. Yet, in the Cornish Museum in Moonta, I saw a photo of young boys working as picky boys for long hours each day, sorting ore hauled up from the mines.
Another totally different aspect was added to these memories and images. Having spent many years as a Junior Primary and Primary teacher, I was horrified to discover the cruel treatment handed out in bygone days to children in schools who used their left-hand, their dominant hand. The children were punished, often caned and many had their left hand tied or strapped, to prevent it being used, thus forcing the child to write with his/her right or proper hand.
After more research into the Cornish social history, I penned a short story, incorporating those earlier thoughts and newfound knowledge, and sent it to an educational publisher, hoping it would suit their brief. When it was rejected, the story lay low for many years. However, I later rewrote it as a novel, and in 2003, Penguin Books Australia showed initial interest. But the concept of novel writing eluded me. I was more used to writing smaller works. After more than 20 complete rewrites and countless drafts, Walker Books finally accepted it in 2012!
What genre does your book fall under?
Children’s historical fiction, age 9 - 13
What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
In the early copper mining township of Moonta, South Australia, 11-year-old Jack struggles with decisions; to stay at school or follow his friend to the mines, but whatever way he turns there’s both adventure and conflict, with family, friends and his own real fears.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be published by Walker Books, Australia in May, 2013, and represented by my agent, Jacinta di Mase.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
As I said, the book’s grown from a short story and it was more than ten years, with over 20 re-writes and dozens more drafts, before being accepted.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Our Australian Girl (Penguin)
My Australian Story (Scholastic)
The wind is silver by Thurley Fowler
Boy of the Mines by Trish Stringer
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I once read a book, set in the early mining days of Moonta. It was called Not only in stone by Phyllis Somerville and it described the life and times of an early, Cornish mining family. It was so rich and evocative, both in characterisation and emotion, that it had an enduring effect on me. I think that’s probably what opened my heart to writing about this era and this place.
What else might pique a reader’s interest?
*How much children in earlier times were required to work in adult industries and the changes that have come about in Western countries. Child labour still prevails in 3rd World countries.
* How values and language of another immigrant group can be melded into a country’s own culture, enriching it and making it unique.