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

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Guest Post: Jane Smith on Carly Mills: A Brave New World

Through gutsy determination, integrity and courage, trailblazing women such as Caroline Chisholm, Dr Lilian Cooper, Dame Nellie Melba, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Miles Franklin achieved remarkable things. 

Aussie author,Jane Smith shines a light on the writing process of her exciting, new historical fiction, time-travelling adventure series, with a focus on the first title; Carly Mills: A New World. In each adventure, Carly and her friends learn about the past and discover how to apply their examples of dignity, kindness and courage to modern life.

First, I research them all (the female trailblazers) by reading a few biographies of the subject. Then I write a timeline and choose some episodes in their lives to focus on in the book. That’s the hardest part. 

These women had such productive lives that it’s hard to pick out episodes to focus on. But the Carly Mills books are intended to be entertaining – and if they’re not entertaining, there’s no point. So, I’m really looking for episodes that are dramatic, or were turning points, or will lend themselves to action. I don’t want to include too many episodes, as these books are not intended to be biographies – they’re snapshots to show the subjects’ achievements and personalities. And they’re intended for primary school kids – even kids who might not normally be big readers – so I want to keep them short and to the point.

With the first book, A New World, I chose some events for which Caroline Chisholm was most famous. They centred around her establishment of the Female Immigrants’ Home in Sydney. It was during the wave of emigration from the UK to Australia in the 1840s, and Caroline saw that young, unskilled women were arriving in Sydney in droves and, unable to find jobs, were being preyed upon by unscrupulous men. She knew also that in rural areas, settlers were desperate for workers. The problem was the difficulty in connecting employers with potential employees. 

Caroline established a safe home in Sydney where she would house and train new female immigrants and then match them up with employers who she’d personally vetted out in the country. The site that Caroline wanted for the home was a derelict rat-infested government building, and Caroline spent a night in it to prove to the governor that it would suit her purpose. I thought that would make a perfect adventure for Carly Mills: to spend a scary night in a rat-infested old building with Caroline Chisholm!

The next thing I needed to work out was how Carly would go back to the past. She needed a magic prop that would send her there. I tossed up a few ideas before settling on a shawl. Each time she travels to and from the past, I need to come up with different ways or reasons for her to do so; surprisingly, that’s one of the tricky parts of planning the story!

Once I had settled on the episodes in the past, I needed to weave the contemporary story in around it – to figure out how Carly comes to be in Sydney, how she finds the shawl, and how her contemporary life is affected by her travels to the past.

I added a historical note at the end so that readers could learn more about the story and help them to distinguish the fact from the fiction. Then I added a mock interview with Caroline Chisholm, just to illustrate her character some more – and, of course, for a bit of fun.

Jane Smith is an award-winning author, who has children’s books shortlisted by the ABIA and longlisted by CBCA. Her Australian Bushranger non-fiction series, and the contemporary and original Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy fiction series, have delighted young readers, parents and educators. Jane is a talented author, librarian, editor and historical researcher with a passion for bringing history to young readers in an easily accessible way.

More information about Jane and her books can be found at her:
twitter: www.twitter.com/authorjanesmith

and the dedicated
Carly Mills website: www.carlymillspioneergirl.weebly.com