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

Tuesday 28 August 2018

12 Curly Questions with author Penny Matthews

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I used to make most of my own clothes, and I was particularly proud of my buttonholes, which I sewed by hand.

2. What is your nickname? 
I don’t have one. But as my name is really Penelope, I’ve had a few strange versions of that. My favourite is ‘Penopele’.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
I am very afraid that greed and ignorance are slowly destroying our planet. Everything else is insignificant.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Vivid, insightful, largely character-driven stories that are realistic and believable.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Hardworking (because if I work hard, I know I’ll get there in the end). Happy (because writing is something I love to do). Patient (because for me writing takes time). Perfectionist (because I used to be a nit-picking book editor). And always hopeful.

6. What book character would you be, and why? 
Ever since I was very young, I’ve felt an empathy with Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Piglet. Piglet is small and timid and fearful, but he tries hard to be brave. He has a loving heart, and he is a loyal friend.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? 
I’d go back to 1849, the year my great-great-grandmother sailed from England, all alone, aged just 10, to make her life in Australia. She never saw her family again. I would love to talk to that little girl. I could tell her that she would have a long and happy life, and rear 13 children.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now? 
I can’t believe you write books! I always wanted to do that!

9. Who is your greatest influence? 
I am influenced by writers whose work I admire, writers both for adults and for children. There are far too many to list, but some of them are Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, and Kevin Crossley-Holland.

10. What/who made you start writing? 
I have always read a great deal, and probably that was the main reason I wanted to write. Then I was inspired by a ‘real’ writer, Carnegie medallist Pauline Clarke, who lived in England. I wrote her a fan letter when I was nine years old, and she wrote back to me. After that we wrote to each other for many years. She told me she was sure I’d write a book one day.

11. What is your favourite word and why? 
How about ‘celadon’? It’s a beautiful, soft word for a beautiful, soft colour. I also like ‘context’. It’s so sensible.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
I can’t do without a regular hit of Jane Austen’s novels. Her writing is so assured, so civilised, so wickedly perceptive. Times change, but people, essentially, don’t. Pride and Prejudice would probably be at the top of my list, but I’d cheat a bit and grab all her books. 


Penny Matthews has published more than 30 books for children and won several awards. She is best known for her much-loved picture book A Year on Our Farm, the Nellie and Ruby books in Penguin’s popular ‘Our Australian Girl’ series, and the Davitt-award winning YA novel A Girl Like Me. For more information, see www.pennymatthews.com.au.