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

Friday, 16 September 2011

Guest Post: Fast-Tracked Junior Fiction with Simon Haynes

KBR warmly welcomes author Simon Haynes with this wonderful post on his incredible Hal Junior writing journey. We hope it inspires you!

There's an old saying that everyone has at least one book in them. Over the past few years I've sweated out four of the things, and after writing over a million words and polishing endless drafts I began to run out of steam. I truly believed I'd sucked the well dry.

There I was, working away on book five in my teen/adult Hal Spacejock series, when inspiration hit like a bolt of lightning. Unfortunately it wasn't inspiration for the book I was writing at the time. No, this was a whole new series. A junior series. Hal Junior!

Now I have two teenage daughters, and it's a long time since I was ten years old. What made me think I could hit the right note with a junior novel? I'll tell you ... my amazing childhood, and all the school and library visits I've done over the years.

Even though I write fiction for teens and adults, more often than not I do school visits for upper primary ages. Kids that age still think reading is cool, and authors have a certain mystique about them. I talk about writing, give them anecdotes from my childhood, and lay out the life of a typical author. (The limos, the VIP parties ... you know the deal.)

The anecdotes are the best part. Making kids laugh ... fantastic. I tell them about growing up in rural Spain: a string of bike crashes, an incident with an air rifle and a moving target, and nearly frying myself on an overhead power line. Building codes? Hah.

Now, this sort of thing is okay in a live speech because you can make fun of yourself and show them how silly you were. In a book you have to be more careful, so Hal Junior is toned down a few notches. The humour remains though - gotta make kids laugh.

The more I thought about this great new idea, the more I wanted to get started. My long-suffering wife had been telling me to write a kids' book for the best part of a decade, but now it was MY idea I wanted to write it immediately, if not yesterday.

With this shiny new bauble in my peripheral vision I found it impossible to continue with my adult novel. In the end I made myself a promise: I'd set aside a month to work on this new children’s book, and then I'd go back to my 'real' novel.

As it happens, every year I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers the world over pledge to write at least 50,000 words during November. NaNoWriMo is great if you have trouble bashing out a decent word count, which I do because I often get distracted by ... ooh! Shiny!

For one month a year your family understand you're *busy* and writing is your first priority. Many authors will know what I'm talking about. NaNoWriMo is a huge event, with organised meetings in cafes (laptop essential, coffee optional), icons and blog widgets showing your progress, a thriving forum and most importantly ... those little badges at the end of it.

I decided NaNoWriMo 2010 was going to be Hal Junior or bust. One small problem: I was planning a 25,000 word novel while the rules called for 50,000. Simple ... I'd write TWO Hal Junior novels in November, back to back!

There's nothing like an insane challenge to fire me up. I started typing on the 1st, and by the 12th day the first draft of book one was complete. From the 13th to the 22nd I wrote book two, and then from the 23rd to the end of the month I wrote half the third book for good measure.

I've edited and polished, polished and edited, and the first Hal Junior book will be released in October. That's good timing, because it means I can start on books four, five and six the moment we tick over to November ...

Hal Junior: The Secret Signal will be released by Bowman Press in October 2011. For more on Simon's fabulous books and to learn how you can order your copy, see www.spacejock.com.au/HalJunior.html


  1. I read Simon's first book (Hal Spacejock)on a plane flying to Canada in 2009. It kept me awake through most of the long non stop flight and most of the nearest passengers around me. The humour was refreshing (painful at times) and the continual rolling from one situation to the next just kept coming (so did the tears).
    As Simon said the Hal Spacejock series is mid teens to adult so it was with some caution that I read the first Hal Junior book some weeks ago.The entertaining pieces of humour are just right,the adventure unfolds without too much twisting or turning. The bad guys are not scary and at times just plain dumb such that the interest is maintained,but, the real gem is the way Simon has young Hal use simple basic science principles.He weaves them into the story so Hal Jnr becomes a teacher of simple science that I find some of my recent apprentices have not come across.Not that it's difficult,no, it's just that some of it is no longer taught in schools.
    I enjoyed this first edition so much that I finished it in one sitting and was transported back to the days when I was young and watching those black and white Cinema/TV series of Jet Jackson,Buck Rodgers and the classic Three Stooges in Space. Primary school days ,with my friend, designing hover craft then space ships and redesigning paper planes with curled wings for acrobatics,weighted tips for distance,plus many others.
    We need to keep the spark alive(maybe even light it) within our young people ,to ask,to explore and above all give them cause to be happy. I believe Hal Junior will be a good beginning for many a young future space explorer.
    Hal Jnr will be stored in hard copy and in the new electronic format at my place so that my 4 year old grandson has a chance to read it at his leisure in a few years time.
    I look forward to the next Hal Jnr edition/chapter and let's hope also the next Hal Spacejock ,No5 is not too far away.
    As a way of credentials,I have watched /seen nearly every Science Fiction film since the silent Era,though I was not watching them until the 50's and have read more books than I care to think of(a small number I have kept,about 300).I am not a writer nor do I work in journalism (as can be seen by my basic grammer faults).I am a parent and a Technician entering the last quarter of my life( as the doc's would make me believe)who loves a good book/story/movie/joke/yarn.

  2. Wonderful, Stephen. Would you be able to email me if you get this message? taniaATkids-bookreviewDOTcom

  3. Thanks Stephen - I appreciate the comments but I also feel for your fellow travellers ;-)
    I'm glad you picked up what I was trying to do with Hal Junior - to make science fun and interesting to younger readers (and for that matter, to make science fiction fun and interesting too!)

  4. Hi Simon, Just finished reading Hal Junior. It was a blast. There aren't enough simple to read but exciting books for reluctant readers. Hal Junior is definitely one of them. There is a list of kids waiting in line for the copy I donated to the school library. They are going to love it. My favourite kids at the school are the ones who have a little bit of Hal in them. They drive the teachers nuts but they are wonderful kids.



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