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- author Jackie French

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Guest Post: The Hazard River series with J E Fison

KBR is delighted to welcome the lovely J E Fison, author of the popular Hazard River series, on how the Noosa River inspired her action-packed fiction journey.
I’m a big fan Noosa. I always have been – it’s a perfect confluence of beaches, rainforest and restaurants. I love it so much I got married there – on a flat rock overlooking the ocean. 

But a few years ago, I discovered another side to Noosa. Across the river, and accessible only by car ferry is a largely unspoiled wilderness, known as the North Shore. 

I spent a month there with my family. My two sons joined up with friends and spent the holiday much the same way as I used to spend my summer holidays – exploring sands banks at the river mouth, building bush camps, making rafts, riding along dirt tracks to the beach, dodging snakes and avoiding sting rays. It was one big Boys Versus Wild adventure. 

I was inspired. And by the end of the holiday I had written the first installment in the Hazard River series.  

In the series, a gang of kids – Jack Wilde the narrator, his brother Ben, the Stink Collector, their neighbour Lachlan Master, the Master of Disaster and Professor Bigbrains, Mimi Fairweather, the resident yachtie, come up against dodgy developers, smugglers, rogue fishermen and even mutant cane toads. It’s an action-packed summer holiday!

I am pleased to say that my sons don’t normally get into as much trouble as the characters at Hazard River, but not for lack of trying. My boys have fallen in quick sand, fallen off bikes, discovered abandoned house boats, dead sharks, an absurd number of rubber thongs and laid claim to sand banks, only to lose them when the tide came in. They normally manage to get home in time for dinner, with another tale of another adventure that I can use for my series.

There are now six stories in the Hazard River series, all very much inspired by real life, which I find much more interesting than anything that I could make up. Here are a few examples:

I made a deal with sharks. I don’t swim near them and they don’t play cricket.
(Hazard River: Shark Frenzy. Chapter 1)

I really do have a friend who is so phobic about sharks, he won’t even swim in a pool. He made a deal with sharks – he won’t swim, if they don’t go into pubs. (It’s working really well for him.)

It could have been my mother’s screaming that frightened the cat. It’s just a guess. No one knows for sure why a cat fell from a tenth storey window and landed on my head.
(Hazard River: Tiger Terror. Chapter 1)

I remember hearing on the radio a few years ago about a cat falling from a high rise apartment block in China and landing on someone’s head. It prompted calls for a ban on pets.

The bag is bulging. It must be packed with money. I let go of the rope and fly through the air towards the mangroves. ‘Weee!’ I shout. ‘Money does grow on trees!’
(Hazard River: Blood Money. Chapter 2)

Two brothers who were fishing in a quiet creek in northern New South Wales found $100,000 in an old plastic bag in the bush. I couldn’t resist using that story!

Using facts as the basis of a story is what comes naturally for me because I was a news reporter for many years. I started my career as a television reporter with a regional station in New South Wales, then went on to work for Asia Television in Hong Kong and Worldwide Television News in London.

When I moved back to Australia, I got into marketing and freelance travel writing. But having said that, writing fiction wasn’t nearly as natural as I hoped it would be. I prefer to keep things concise – I can sum up pretty much anything in less than one minute thirty seconds (the length of the average television news report).

Writing 10,000 words (the length of the average Hazard River story) was a bit of a stretch for me in the beginning. I’ve had to work at building details into my stories to draw in the reader. And I’ve had to reluctantly leave facts in the background, not the foreground of the story. I have pretty much had to retrain to write fiction. With a bit of practice, I’ve managed to get the hang of making things up, and if I ever let the facts get in the way of a good story, my children let me know.

The Hazard River series is published by Ford Street Publishing. Blood Money and Toads' Revenge are out this month (front covers by Mac McBride). Don't miss the Hazard River website www.hazardriver.com and for more on Julie, see her blog Write Now www.juliefisonwriter.wordpress.com.