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

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Interview: Author David Harris

Who is this person? David Harris

What does he do? He's an author

Where can you take a squiz at his stuff? davidharris.com.au

What's his story? I’m a mad keen writer/historian who fell in love with Mummies (the stinky wrapped in bandages 4000 year old sort – ooops, does that sound like someone you know?) when I saw my first one in a museum coffin when I was about seven or eight.

I grew up in country towns of South Australia where enormous skies, mountains and the sea made me homesick for places I longed to discover.

I live in the Adelaide Hills with my amazing wife (the fabulous author Christine Harris), who’s written the Audrey of the Outback series and the Spy Girl series which has been translated into so many languages, and lots and lots of other books. christineharris.com

How long has he been a writer? Since I was failing English at school, but my teacher asked me to write my stories for him in a special notebook which he gave back to me after I’d failed the exams and said, ‘I enjoyed these.’ The first one was about a drunk parrot on Mars, so you can see why exams were an alien world to me.

What genres has he written in? I love real life stories, like the Time Raiders series, where I tell the stories inspired by famous archaeologists. I’ve also written for newspapers, TV and film. All of these genres have taught me so much about writing.

How did you come up with your Cliffhanger series? The Cliffhangers were tremendous fun because I could pretend they were fiction. In fact, the places and the people were from my childhood. Fiction gave me the chance to really tell the truth. Why did I write them? Because I’d just done some histories and biographies and was so fed up with all the lies I was told.

Why does he write? Because there is so much more to discover about the world and writing. And because it gives me an excuse to climb volcanoes, crawl about in tombs and find bones, get lost in deserts, freeze in blizzards and call it Work.

What made him decide to write children’s books? A publisher asked me to write my first book - a long-forgotten text book for schools. It did okay, so the publisher asked me to write a collection of short stories. Drunk parrots on Mars? I can do that. So I made up a ghost and people believed it because it was in a book and they conduct ghost tours there now.

Really, my childhood brain had been deranged by all sorts of wonderful characters in books: pirates, mummies again, evil villains, astronauts, young heroes with amazing courage and imagination. I wanted to write like that.

What does he love most about producing books for children? Writing stories which give children so much room to imagine things that they are my co-authors. I hope that everybody who reads one of my books reads their own story.

How has the children’s literary scene in Australia changed in the past decade and where is it headed? It’s become more corporate. Once upon a time, an editor would like my story and give it to the money-counters. It was a nasty shock when one of my manuscripts went to the accountants first, to make sure there was enough profit in it.

Hey ho, nobody has the faintest idea where literature is headed. Market researchers least of all. That is wonderful. One of my heroes is Prince Serendip, who set out on grand quests and always ended up somewhere completely unexpected.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles he has experienced on his writing journey? Making the time to dream and write.

What advice does he have for those interested in writing children’s stories? Do it. Think of something impossibly difficult and go out and do it. Don’t just write what you’re good at. That makes you a one-trick pony. Write about what you don’t know.

Does he remember the first story he ever wrote? See above. The drunk parrot.

If he couldn’t be a writer, what would he be? An artist, a glass-blower, a musician, an explorer, a vague sort of wanderer who’d blunder into fantastic adventures.

What books did he read as a child? Classics: Kidnapped, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, King Solomon’s Mines, Sherlock Holmes, Ray Bradbury’s SF novels... lots of cartoon books.

What are some of his favourite children’s books of all time? Arthur Mee’s Encyclopoedia, Wind in the Willows, Coles Funny Picture Book, Treasure Island, The Mystery of the Mews.

What else does he have interest in, other than writing? My psycho family, food, swimming, dreaming, the unknown.

What would be his perfect day? This one. Coffee and toast in the garden with Christine. Writing a chapter of my next book (the fifth draft), then a friend called in so we had lunch of homemade soup, then chunky bread with olives, roasted almonds and fresh pineapple cut up. Then a walk down the street to do the shopping. Now writing this. Bliss.

What five words best sum him up? One of my heroes is Scrat from Ice Age because he never gives up on the agonised striving for his acorn. I know that's more than five words, but that says it all.

What’s next for David Harris? New, exciting ideas that will drag me over the horizon and off the edge of the world.

Any last words? If there’s somebody reading this who dreams of being a writer or any sort of creative person, then do it, or you’ll join those sad ones who sit in a dark wardrobe and moan, ‘If only, I’d tried... If only.’

See more of David's amazing and super exciting adventures at davidharris.com.au, where you'll also find tips on writing and literary information for parents and teachers.