Briefly tell us about your book.
The January Stars is the story of two sisters who accidentally kidnap their grandfather from an aged care facility, then go on a road trip to try to find him a better home. It’s a gentle adventure with a touch of magic.
What inspired the idea behind this book?
A few years ago, my own father, my children’s grandfather, had a severe stroke, like Clancy and Tash’s Pa in the book. My father was left with paralysis on his right side and now uses a wheelchair. He also has aphasia, which means that he can no longer talk (apart from yes, no and one swear word!), and he lost the ability to write and spell, though he can still read. Before the stroke, my dad was very active, and his sudden disability really turned our family upside down. I wanted to explore the ways that families can be hit hard by an event like this, and also the ways they can pull together and adjust to a new reality.
What were the children’s books that made an impact on you when you were growing up?
I was lucky to grow up in a small town in PNG that was blessed with a really well-stocked library. I still don’t know exactly how that library landed in Mt Hagen, but it was such a gift for me. I read my way through it and I’ve been trying to recreate it on my own bookshelves ever since! Some books I especially loved were Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston, Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge, and When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson – which I’ve just realised are all gentle adventure stories with a touch of magic…
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
I try to work at my writing for three or four hours a day. If I go any longer than that, I start to go slightly delirious. Currently I’m working on another middle grade novel, which is a time slip story about a lost sister, a magical necklace and the history of a single house.
The Green Knowe books I mentioned above are all set in one very old haunted house in England, and even though I’ve never lived in a house as old as that, I’ve always wondered about the people who lived in my houses before I did, who knew their rooms and the view from their windows as well as I do. Even a relatively young Australian house, say a hundred years old, has lived through a lot of history, and many people might have lived within its walls. I loved Nadia Wheatley’s book, My Place, which explored the same idea, but my version includes magic and time travel!
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
I always give the same answer to this question – read, read, read. Reading was the way I learned to write. Reading taught me to hear sentences inside my head and tell if they flowed smoothly or fell clunkily onto the page. Reading opened so many worlds to me, and it still does. I can’t imagine a life without reading.