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

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Guest Post: Author Lian Tanner

Kids Book Review is thrilled to welcome Lian Tanner, author of The Keepers Trilogy, to give us an insight into the amazing world she has created. Sit down and have a well-deserved break and read about how the brizzlehounds came about and the magical 'What If?'. Over to you Lian.

There’s a wonderfully unusual beast in the Keepers trilogy called a brizzlehound, and one of the questions I am often asked is ‘Where did you get the idea for such a creature?’

I remember very clearly how the brizzlehound came about. It was right back at the beginning, when I had just finished the very first draft of the first book in the trilogy – Museum of Thieves. The animals in that first draft were not particularly unusual; there was a small Jack Russell terrier called Blind Jimmy, and a very large and very dangerous bear called Crackbone.
The trouble was, when I read through the manuscript, I realised that – among other problems – I had too many characters. It was pretty easy to get rid of some of the humans, but when I came to Blind Jimmy and Crackbone, I was stumped. I loved both of them. I loved their personalities, I loved the part they played in the story. I didn’t want to lose either of them.
But one of them had to go. And this is where the magical ‘what if?’ comes in.
There are a number of useful tools that writers can draw on when they are stuck, or need new ideas. One of the best is the question ‘What if?’ I use it all the time in all sorts of situations. Sometimes it can spark a whole novel.
For example …
Some years ago, in my street, there was a small boy who was barely allowed outside the front gate. Now I should explain that my street is very quiet – it’s a dead-end with only twelve houses, and has hardly any traffic. It’s the sort of street where kids play cricket in the middle of the road, and football, and chases.
But not this boy. His parents were nervous people and he was hardly ever allowed out to play with the other kids. And after a while I noticed that, on the few occasions when he did get out, he didn’t know how to do things. Quite ordinary things like climbing fences and trees, that the other kids did without thinking, were beyond him. Not only that, but he didn’t seem to have any sort of instinct for danger, or any traffic sense. He’d been protected so carefully that he had never had the chance to learn proper survival skills.
And I started to ask myself – What if all parents were so fearful of what might happen to their children, and so over-protective?
That question sparked off a series of new questions. What if you had a whole city full of frightened parents; what would it look like? What lengths would these parents go to, to protect their children? How might someone try to exploit their fear? What if a naturally bold child was born into such a city – how would she react to this over-protection?
And that, of course, was where the Keepers trilogy and the adventures of Goldie Roth began.
‘What if?’ is one of the most powerful tools I know. And when I applied it to the puzzle of Blind Jimmy and Crackbone, it gave me an immediate answer:
What if, instead of getting rid of one of them, I joined the dog and the bear into a single character?
I tried it out. And what did I get when I combined a small dog with a very large bear? Why, I got a brizzlehound, a creature which is sometimes small and white and cute, and sometimes huge and black and very very scary.
The brizzlehound went on to become a major character, and a favourite among readers. He’s one of my big favourites too – all thanks to the power of ‘What if?’

Learn more about Lian at http://liantanner.com.au.