'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 17 April 2009

Author Interview: Jackie French

Kids Book Review is thrilled to welcome esteemed Australian author Jackie French to inaugurate our first ever author interview! Read on to see why Jackie’s talent has seriously fabulous repercussions on the Australian literary scene.

Who is this author? Jackie French

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.jackiefrench.com

What is this talented author’s story? I live in a deep valley, surrounded by wilderness on three sides. I’ve worked as a cook, farmer and echidna milker (I’m not joking).

How long has she been writing? Ever since I was six.

Does she remember the first story she ever wrote? ‘Tresses and the Unghostly Ghost’ about a haunted horse. I was six. The headmistress had a copy printed for all the kids in the school.


What inspired her to write for children? When I was 15, my English teacher asked us to write a children's story. I wrote one about a wombat poet, Wagram Woad, his human secretary Manta and the arrival of Uncle Albert, retired post office official, and his niece who preferred to be called ‘James the Brave' instead of Amelia. When I'd finished I thought “This is fun!” I'm still having fun decades later.

How did she get her first book published? I was broke, living in a shed with a wombat, wallaby, red bellied black snake and my baby son Edward. I sent my first book off to try to get money to register the car.

Three weeks later they sent me what I regarded as a large cheque to publish it, and I've been a full time writer ever since.

But I was lucky. My manuscript was pulled out of the pile because it was the messiest they'd ever seen - badly spelled (I'm dyslexic) and with all the 'e's written in biro. My wombat had been leaving his droppings on the keyboard and the letter 'e' no longer worked.

If it hadn't been for the wombat, I might not be a writer now.

What other genres has she written in? Everything except Westerns.

What interests her? Friends, family, the bush, wombats, history, books, chocolate… did I add wombats?

What does she do when she’s not writing? Cook, feed the wombat, find the family’s odd socks. The usual. But everything gets turned into books eventually. (But doubt that the taxation department would classify good food or laughing with friends as tax deducatble professional expenses.)

What books did she read as a child? Everything from the phone book to the Great Dialogues of Socrates and the magic Pudding.

Why does she write? I don’t know. I write if I’m bored, I write if I’m happy, I write if I’m sad. Stories can be more vivid that real life. They can also teach you how to cope with real life, too.

What advice would she have for kids (or adults) on writing children’s stories? Daydream. I think daydreaming is one of the best things you can do - not just daydreaming stories, but ideas for boats or houses... or even what Australia might be like in twenty years time when you become Prime Minister.

As for writing stories ... anyone who can daydream can create a story - because that is what you are doing every time you daydream. The hard part, of course, is learning how to put them down on paper - or getting the confidence to know that something you have dreamed up yourself is good.

Subscribe to Jackie’s montly newsletter by clicking on the wombat below. It features news about Jackie’s latest books, awards, recipes and even information on wombats.

For an incredibly eye-popping list of Jackie's published works, click on her cute wombat below...