Story behind the story: Alison Hart, author of School Rules Are Optional

Story behind the story: Alison Hart, author of School Rules Are Optional

We love this book! Debut author Alison Hart hits the nail on the head with her razor sharp descriptions of everyday dilemmas and worries, creating a laugh-out-loud experience for every reader. We ask Alison to share the story behind the story so we can understand what inspired her to write her first novel about school rules and why being compliant is not always the best policy.

“It was never my plan to write a book for children but I have always liked writing – essays, letters, stories and lists. I love writing lists. Sometimes when I’ve done a few things on the list I’ll redraft it and make a new list. I can get a good four lists out of one day. If I write a quick note to someone, I’ll redo it a few times until I’m happy with it. Even if it’s to let them know I’ve fed the dog or something.

I wrote a diary from the ages of 11 until about thirty and still use writing as a therapeutic tool. It’s like having a discussion with someone who thinks you’ve made a lot of mistakes but overall agrees with you. The diary-writing is probably where the seed was planted for writing School Rules.

When my daughter reached late primary school, I was transported back to a place I not only remembered but had no trouble expressing in words. I thought I’d write a character that appealed to me. Jesse started as a cheeky, naughty troublemaker that gradually morphed into an anxious over-thinker with every redraft. He is a marked improvement on me as a kid though. He’s smarter, more compassionate and he learns from his mistakes. That’s the best thing about writing fiction. It’s fiction – you get to make it up. Many of the storylines are taken from mine and my daughter’s experiences. The everyday can be the most entertaining and bizarre, depending on how it’s presented to you.

The other characters sort of developed in accordance with the stories. Peta is a nod to my father, Peter, who died in 2005. I wish I could say, ‘Hey, Dad! Look at my book!’  because you never grow out of wanting your parents to be proud of you.”


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Publisher details

School Rules Are Optional
Allen & Unwin
Children’s Fiction
03 November, 2020


Jesse is in his final year of primary school and should be living it up as one of the 'Kings', but he can't even get his Prep buddy to follow school rules. A hilarious story of being undervalued and over everything for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire.

It's the first day of school and I've already got three problems: 1) Mrs Leeman is my classroom teacher. She's so ancient she taught my dad. 2) I might have accidentally been voted school captain. I had an unusually popular day when the class voted last year. 3) Somehow I've lost my Grade Six jumper between receiving it and Mrs Leeman's lecture about being responsible.That's a lot to go wrong in half an hour. On top of that, it's a million degrees. So that's four problems. It's worse than I thought! At least things can only get better, right? Jesse will have you roaring with laughter as he navigates the rites and rituals of Grade Six including a disrespectful Prep buddy, a plumbing problem the size of Niagara Falls, not to mention the dreaded compulsory school camp.
Alison Hart
About the author

Alison Hart

Alison Hart lives at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges with her daughter and lots of animals, wild and domestic. The house block is so steep, you have to go down two sets of steps to get to the front door. It's nice and quiet for writing, but also a bit distracting because the view is really good. In her spare time, Alison likes reading, watching old movies, and opening and closing the door for the cat. Besides writing, Alison works in community aged care. School Rules Are Optional is her first novel.

Books by Alison Hart


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