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Friday 25 November 2016

Blog Tour: All of Us Together by Bill Condon

Kids' Book Review is delighted to take part in the blog tour for the latest book by Australian children's author Bill Condon. All Together Now (About Kids Books, 2016) is a junior fiction novel set in the Great Depression in the 1930s. Read on to find out how Bill's life experience has influenced his writing.

I was first published as a children’s writer more than 30 years ago. Now I’m a fully-fledged dinosaur of 67, and I’m still getting away with it. I’m a very lucky bloke.

At school my best subject was staring dreamily out the window. As a consequence I didn’t do well in exams. The only subject I was remotely good at was English, so that left a lot of room for disappointment. After failing Year 10 I moved to a different school, repeated the year, and finally passed the School Certificate. And then, as quickly as I could, I left school. I never sat for the HSC. Never went to university. This made me a highly suitable for unskilled work, which I did until my mid 30s. During those years I mowed lawns, chopped down trees, delivered groceries and bread (until I smashed the bread truck), cleaned offices and toilets, and worked for a long time in factories.

However, my school days hadn’t been a complete dead loss, because when I was about 14 there was a teacher who praised me in front of the class for a story I’d written. Time distorts memories, so I can’t be sure if I’m right, but I think it’s likely that was the only praise I had from my teachers. Sadly, I don’t remember the teacher’s name. All I know is that directly because of her, from that time on, I began to dream about one day being a writer.

This in turn meant that my years of dead-end jobs had a purpose. In fact, now I realise that they were essential to me. The things I did and the people I met were all subconsciously filed away to use in stories. I’ve mined my life for material in nearly everything I’ve written. The first young adult novel I wrote was called Dogs, which was largely based on the years when I trained greyhounds. Then came another YA novel, No Worries, which was about a boy whose first job was on the night shift at a milk factory. I used my seven years at Dairy Farmers as a launching pad for the story.

Perhaps my most autobiographical book is Confessions of a Liar, Thief, and Failed Sex God. Much of this is based on my school days. I never could have imagined that all those years of torture would eventually be worth it. But in 2010 the book won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, proving once again that when you’re a writer nothing is wasted.

My latest book, All Of Us Together, is for junior readers. It’s set at the start of Australia’s Great Depression in the 1930s. I’m a painfully slow writer, and the critic on my shoulder is a giant. It had been four years since I’d written anything of substance. Four years when I had trouble coming up with a half-decent sentence. For a long time it seemed like All Of Us Together would be another lost cause. I’d spent months working on it last year only to give up.

I went back to it at the start of this year and followed Roger Miller’s advice – Knuckle down, buckle down – do it, do it, do it. And this time I didn’t give up. Once again, I stole incidents from my own life. Much of the trouble that the main character, Daniel, gets himself into, are things that I did. I find it makes the writing a little easier if I know the situation well, if I’ve actually lived it. And hopefully it comes across to the reader as something that is real, rather than contrived. Although it’s set in the 30s I don’t consider it a book about history. It’s a simple family story which I hope kids of today can relate to, and enjoy. I hope too, that it won’t be my last book.

All of Us Together is available from About Kids Books http://www.aboutkidsbooks.com/payment-methods or from any children's bookstore.

Bill Condon is an Australian author who has published books for children and teens as well as numerous humorous poems and plays. Four of his novels for children have been shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. His latest book, All of Us Together, is published by About Kids Books and is available from About Kids Books or from any children's bookstore. Visit Bill Condon's website for more information about his books and writing projects.