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- author Jackie French

Sunday 9 June 2019

Guest Post: Q & A with Candice Lemon-Scott

SE Queensland is home to some pretty amazing animals and, happily, children's authors who love writing about them, too!

Today, we are delighted to welcome Candice Lemon-Scott, author of the hugely popular junior fiction, Jake in Space series, to talk about her brand new eco-inspired series, Eco Rangers.

Welcome, Candice!

Eco Rangers: Microbat Mayhem is the second book in this chapter book series. What was your inspiration for the series?
My stories usually come from my experiences and from things that I care about. I love animals and nature, and I often feature animals in my stories, which made me want to write this series.

My own experience of rescuing a koala gave me the initial idea of the Eco Rangers - kids who work with their local conservation centre. As I was witnessing the rapid destruction of our environment and the alarming rate at which animals are becoming threatened, endangered and extinct, I felt I needed to write about caring for wildlife in an empowering way for children. I wanted the stories to be fun and exciting first and foremost though, which is where the idea for them to be environmental mysteries came from.

How did you come up with the Eco Rangers characters, Ebony and Jay?

When I was first writing the series, I thought about whom the main character would be and I couldn’t decide whether it should be a boy or a girl. In the end, I realised I was having trouble because when I go visit kids in school as a guest author I ask who loves animals and all the students put up their hands. I realised on this reflection that this shouldn’t be a book for boys or girls, but one that all children can love and enjoy. I also think that being nurturing towards animals is something both boys and girls can engage with. The characters of Ebony and Jay are very much inspired by my own two children, who love animals and nature.

The first book features a pelican. How did you come up with the second book idea for Microbat Mayhem?
The idea for Microbat Mayhem came from a true story. My husband was working for a theme park at the time, and a colony of microbats was found in an old ride that was going to be pulled down there. Luckily, the real theme park is nothing like the one in the book, and they took steps to rehome the microbats safely, but it did give me the idea for this story! From there I undertook a wildlife carer course at my local wildlife centre, and I learned a great deal about the care and rehabilitation of microbats.

This is your second chapter book series for children, and you have also done some standalone chapter books as part of other series. Why did you decide to write in this genre?
I love writing about kids of this age. It’s a lot of fun because they are becoming more knowledgeable, and independent, but they are also open to the fantastical. I love writing for emerging readers because it’s such an important stage of development, and it’s a special time for kids as they discover the thrill of reading to themselves. I tend to write fast-paced adventures too, so I think this appeals to that particular age group, and it’s fun to play with the techniques for getting new readers turning the pages.

Your background is as a Media Manager, can you discuss the influence your experience had on your writing?
Going back a step, I first enrolled to do my Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing & Editing) because I wanted to learn more about creative writing, and I then went on to complete my Bachelor of Communication. While I was still studying, I was offered a full-time position as a Media Reporter and I was later promoted to Media Manager.

In that way, I still learned the greatest amount about creative writing through the diploma, and creative writing remained my true love, but the media work also influenced my writing for children. I learned self-discipline, to stick to deadlines, to write concisely, to distil information, to type really fast (believe me, this is very useful when your ideas come faster than your fingers can move) and to edit. It also taught me about finding the essence of a story and of the human element that’s important to every story.

What are your top five favourite reads of all time?
I have so many books that I have loved but as a child my favourites were anything by Enid Blyton, the Trixie Belden books and Sherlock Holmes stories. Can you see a theme here? I loved mysteries, and still do. As a teen I loved anything by Stephen King and thrillers like Silence of the Lambs.

My favourite reads as an adult are hard to narrow down but five books I loved recently are, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

What book couldn’t you put down this year?
Two books I couldn’t put down this year so far are Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Who has been your greatest influence as an author, and why?

Authors of the early books I read that took me away to faraway lands like The Magic Faraway Tree, The Secret Garden and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe influenced me as a child. These are the books that inspired my love of reading, and subsequent love of writing. Later, the teachers who encouraged me to write in school and in my professional writing diploma course, influenced me the most.

As well as having a family, you also run a book exchange. What advice would you give to other people juggling parenthood (and running a business), about writing a book?
I actually have my children to thank for becoming an author. I gained my full-time position as a Media Reporter, and then Manager, while I was still studying, so I didn’t have any time for creative writing. When my first baby was born, I left my position, but I felt I needed to keep my brain active so in nap times I started to write creatively again. I loved it so much, I knew this was what I truly wanted to do.

When baby two came along, I didn’t have a nap time to write during any more, as I had an active three-year-old as well by then. So, I hired a babysitter for three hours a week and I would use that time to write at the library. It was my sanity break! Even now, with family and my business, I have one day of the week that is devoted to writing. If you truly want to write, you need to create that pocket of time that is for writing only, no matter how small it is.

Now that you have published two books in the Eco Rangers series, what’s next?

I’m currently completing edits on the third book, Wildfire Rescue, about a possum that’s injured in a wildfire, that will be released later this year. I’m also writing about my recent trip around Australia with my family, and some YA and middle grade fiction. I have so many ideas, it’s just a matter of finding time to write all these stories that fill my head.
Candice is an Australian author, editor and presenter. She has published 13 books for children, and written one for adults.

Candice loves wildlife and animals and has always been surrounded by a range of pets throughout her life, including dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, birds (including a duck) and various lizards. She was first moved to write her latest series,
Eco Rangers, after helping with a couple of koala rescues from her own backyard.

The first book in this series was Pelican in Peril. Look out for the third, Wildlife Rescue, later this year.

Visit Candice at www.candicelemonscott.com