When I was in primary school, I wanted to be an astronomer. Being a writer never occurred to me, despite my love of reading. I loved reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and my neighbour and I were always trying to find mysteries to solve. Once we decided that a family in our street were actually spies and we spent months spying on them in order to collect evidence. (Yes, we were pretty dumb.)
I grew up in French’s Forest in Sydney and our house backed on to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. There I played imaginary games with the other kids in my street. Fairies needed beds, we thought, so we’d make beds for them out of moss. But it wasn’t all fairies, we liked war as well. We would divide into two groups and have wars using red berries as ammunition. We would make different coloured sandstone powders by rubbing pieces of sandstone together and we would call the powder ‘gold’ and think we were rich. So like most kids, I had a good imagination.
Tragically, during high school, my love of reading left me. Also, I wasn’t good enough at Science and Maths to be an astronomer. So what to do? Temporary insanity took hold and I went to university to study politics and law. That led to working as a corporate lawyer. (The lesson is not to lose your love of reading.)
After having my second son, I did a writing course. Once I began Writing for Children, I decided that writing children’s stories was for me.
My sons, Josh and Nic, have been a source of inspiration for me. Josh is responsible, logical, studious, considerate, grateful and even makes his bed. Nic is only interested in having fun - lots of it. And, except for his teachers, he makes everyone laugh. Their antics have inspired many of my stories.
I live in Melbourne, Australia with my family and our dogs - Pebbles, who is sensible, and Jade, who just wants to have fun.
Question & Answer
What was the inspiration behind Dead Scary?
My young son used to wake up screaming and terrified of ghosts. Being the perfect mother, I’d comfort him with, “There’s no such thing as ghosts.” The exact words my mother said to me when I was little and would wake up screaming because I was terrified of the ghost in my wardrobe. But his terror was so real and his stories so consistent that I did some research. I went to my local Borders bookshop (the global chain store that existed before ebooks took over the world) and bought a bunch of books on the topic. Then I read them. Then I realized once again why there is a saying that Our children are our greatest teachers. By this time, Nic had fought the ghost and banished him from his bedroom (no joke) and I had a story idea.
What was the inspiration behind The Max Books?
The Max Books are written from Max’s point of view. My youngest son, Nic (the ghost-slayer) is funny, crazy and has always got up to mischief, like Max. The competitiveness between Max and his older brother, Charlie, is inspired by my sons. What is it with boys? Someone has to win and someone has to lose or they’re not happy. And Nic used to try his hardest to convince me that Josh was an alien, but we all knew it was actually he who was the alien. Of course, some events in the Max Books were inspired by other people. It was my brother-in-law who ate the dog food. It’s me who is truly terrified of crocodiles and, in my family, only my husband and I have climbed Uluru (I’m not a total wimp).
What was the inspiration behind Race You?
When my sons, Josh and Nic, were young they raced each other everywhere and raced each other to do everything. Who cares who touched the car first, eats breakfast first, cleans their teeth first and gets dressed first? They did. I took them to the family doctor who diagnosed them as having a serious disorder where they needed to be FIRST at everything. Now my sons are older and they’re completely cured. If they don’t get anywhere on time, if they don’t eat, don’t clean their teeth or don’t remember to get dressed - they don’t care.
What is your favourite children's book?
'Holes' by Louis Sachar is a favourite. Who would imagine that a story about a bunch of naughty boys digging holes out in the middle of nowhere could be a masterpiece.
When did you first start writing?
When my sons were at school, I noticed an alarming trend. Other mothers went back to work. My view was I’d given birth and after that effort, I shouldn’t have to work hard ever again. It seemed like a problem, so I enrolled in a writing course. I’d never been interested in writing, I’d only loved reading. Then I noticed people consider writers to be busy and interesting. That was good. I called myself a writer. Then I sold a picture book and then I sold a few more books and before I knew it I was a children’s author. Problem solved.