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

Saturday 8 February 2014

Interview: Jacquie Harvey Takes Alice-Miranda to Japan

KBR warmly welcomes friend and authorly talent Jacquie Harvey, who is celebrating her latest Alice-Miranda release--this time in Japan!

Welcome, Jacquie! We're so excited to learn Alice-Miranda is off to Japan in her latest adventure. What took your young charge to this fabulous country?
Alice-Miranda heads off to Japan because the family cook, Mrs Oliver, has been invited to present at a conference on her Just Add Water (JAW) freeze dried foods. As well as being the Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones’ cook, Dolly Oliver is also a brilliant food technology scientist.

The timing was perfect as Alice-Miranda was on her long school break and had just returned from a trip to the seaside with her friend Millie and her family. Alice-Miranda’s mother Cecelia was eager to go to Japan to track down some new suppliers for their department store, Highton’s, as well.
In the end, it was a family and friends affair with Alice-Miranda and her parents, Jacinta and her mother, Millie and Mrs Oliver all going along. Alice-Miranda’s Aunt Charlotte, her husband Lawrence Ridley and Lawrence’s son Lucas joined them after a few days too.

Did you go with her? How much fun was that?

The first time I left Australia in 1994, it was to accompany a school excursion to Japan for ten days. I was one of eight adults (four teachers, two parents and two older teenagers) looking after 34 Year 5 and 6 students. The school I worked at in the Southern Highlands of NSW had a sister school in Kanazawa on the West Coast of Japan, so as a 24-year-old with no international travel experience, it was a very exciting and slightly daunting adventure.

But I took no time at all to fall in love with Japan. I adore how organised everything is and the fascination for blonde haired Westerners never failed to make me laugh. At the time, my hair was quite long and I’d often have women, particularly in small villages, coming up and touching it (and the children’s hair, too).

My husband and I have been back to Japan twice in more recent years and I would go again in a heartbeat. The food is fabulous and I love the little things like the incredible attention to detail that Japanese shop assistants will put into wrapping even the smallest purchase. It’s a very safe place and although the crowds can be overwhelming at times, I really wanted Alice-Miranda to go there, too.

What does Alice-Miranda get up to in this new tale? I hear there is a missing person’s hunt?

The story centres on a young runaway, but Alice-Miranda doesn’t meet her for a while. Early on, Hugh Kennington-Jones buys the three girls some beautiful necklaces in a local antique shop - the perfect memento of the trip; however, Alice-Miranda’s chrysanthemum locket contains more than just a photograph of a beautiful woman.

The locket, which was unintentionally lost by its owner, is worn constantly by Alice-Miranda. She has no idea that she’s leading a pair of bumbling henchmen on a strange chase. Eventually, Alice-Miranda realises exactly who the young ‘boy’ in the house next door really is and sets a train of events in motion to rescue him (or it is her) in the nick of time.

How was Dolly’s fabulous Just Add Water (JAW) food creation received in Tokyo?
Dolly was thrilled to be invited to the conference but even more excited to try out a new invention she’s secretly been working on for a long time. She does encounter a very rude professor who questions her lack of formal training and there is a serious problem with her new discovery, but in the end it plays a pivotal role in Alice-Miranda and her friends’ ability to save the day.

Did Alice-Miranda really go to dinner at the Imperial Palace? How did she score that invitation?

Yes, she did. When the family went to support Dolly during her conference presentation, the Grand Chamberlain of Japan was attending as the Emperor’s official representative. As he left the auditorium, he spotted Hugh Kennington-Jones and it turned out the two of them had gone to University together. They had afternoon tea and Kenzo invited the family and friends over to his private palace apartments for dinner.

Where is Alice-Miranda off to next? Do you travel to all her intended destinations?

Her next adventure sees her back at school to begin with, then on school camp with a twist. That’s a setting I certainly have an abundance of experience with.

I have lots of other destinations planned, too, including a skiing adventure and a visit to Aunty Gee’s Palace. I try to get to the places she’s going and so far, that’s been possible with the exception of a cruise and visit to Barcelona. I’m fortunate that I have been travelling a lot in the past couple of years to promote the books in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia, so there are quite a few places I think I’d like Alice-Miranda to visit.

Are you working on any other books series right now?

Clementine Rose is my other series. It’s about a very sweet little girl who lives in a tumbledown mansion that her mother runs as a country hotel. They have a gorgeous old butler called Digby Pertwhistle who is more like a beloved uncle than a servant, and Clementine has a pet tea cup pig called Lavender.

Her Great Aunt Violet has also come to live with them and she’s quite crusty most of the time. You know when she arrives, that life at Penberthy House will never quite be the same again.

I’ve just finished the fifth adventure in the series - Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape which will be out on the 1st of April this year. There will be another five books at least with number six and seven out in July and October.

Clementine and Alice-Miranda have recently met each other in their latest books. The village of Penberthy Floss where Clemmie lives is right next to the village of Highton Mill where Alice-Miranda’s family estate is located. They have lots of friends in common, too. I liked the idea of writing two different stand-alone series but having cross-over characters. It opens up a world of interesting possibilities.

What other exciting news do you have?

I’ve just signed contracts for Alice-Miranda books 13 and 14 and Clementine Rose, books 9 and 10 as well as another Alice-Miranda diary and a Clementine Rose activity book for 2015.

I have some new translation deals, too, and am planning some fantastic touring throughout the year, visiting places around Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK. I was delighted to see that Alice-Miranda in Paris has been nominated for the WAYRBAs in Western Australia last week, too.

But the most thrilling news is that SLR Productions have optioned the rights to make Alice-Miranda into a television series. It’s early days yet and these things always take time (and sometimes don’t happen at all) but, fingers crossed that we get to see my little girl on the small screen sometime in the future.

Learn more about Jacquie's fabulous books at jacquelineharvey.com.au.