Off the Page
Jacqueline Harvey’s books are something to treasure. From Alice Miranda, to Clementine Rose, to Kensy and Max, Jacqueline has a way of transporting her readers to exotic locations and into the lives of fun-loving characters.
This Book Week Kidzone caught up with Jacqueline to discover what inspires her writing.
Who was your favourite author growing up?
Colin Thiele had a big impact on me as a child. He wrote Storm Boy and February Dragon and many other Australian tales—his books were very relatable, especially the landscape and the weather.
What do you love about writing children’s books?
There are lots of days when I get to stay home in my study and let my imagination go wild but I also love touring and meeting the readers. We’ve done heaps of fabulous events all around Australia and overseas.How do you turn your ideas into a story?I usually start with the characters and try to know as much about them as possible before I think about the setting. The plot and the trouble the characters are going to get into is really important too.
Do you have any quirky habits that help you get in the writing mood?
When I’m thinking about a new story I like to go and have a long lunch with my husband and I take a notebook with me and talk to him about all the ideas. He asks lots of good ‘what if?’ questions that get me thinking. You have created a number of very memorable characters.
What do you think it is about them that children like?
Children tell me they love Alice-Miranda’s kindness and Clemmie’s quirkiness—the fact that she makes mistakes and says what’s on her mind. Aunt Violet is a favourite among readers too because although she comes across as quite mean there are glimmers of a much better person beneath her crusty exterior.
What kind of feedback have you had from your readers?
I get lots of emails and letters asking me to keep writing, so that’s a good sign. I recently met a little girl in Melbourne and she’d changed schools part way through the year. She was having a hard time and she told me that on the days that things were really tricky she would ask herself, "What would Alice-Miranda do?" and that always helped. I love that and yes it made me cry (I do that quite a bit!).
What was the inspiration behind your new series Kensy and Max? And how is it different from your other projects?
Kensy and Max is an action-packed, fast- paced spy series. It was inspired by my travels to London and some funny stories I’d heard about the Mi6 [Secret Intelligence Service] building. Kensy and Max are twins. They’re typical brother and sister in that they get on well except on the occasions they don’t like each other at all (but they usually get over that fairly quickly).
What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your books?
Enjoyment! There are lots of life lessons in the stories (and true facts—especially geographical) but I don’t write the books with that in mind. It’s often the readers who tell me things they learned–something that I didn’t even think about at the time. I want my readers to get a sense that there are adventures to be had—whether you travel the world or stay at home–and that books and stories can take you anywhere.
As Jacqueline Harvey tells us, books are a great way of discovering and learning many different things. They teach us about people, events, countries, history, animals etc. According to Guinness World Records, "The world's best-selling and most widely distributed book" is the Bible—it has more than 40 authors and contains lots of songs, proverbs, stories and adventures.
We all have a story to tell—we can talk about it, show it by our actions or write it down like Jacqueline and the authors of the Bible did. You could even write your own life story—what you like, what you do, good and bad times etc.—try it! You're unique and special and have a story that's important to tell!