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

Sunday 22 November 2020

Guest Post: George Ivanoff Part Two

Here is Part Two of a scintillating and revealing interview with George Ivanoff, one of Australia's most-loved children' authors.

I believe you were a reluctant reader as a child. How did your metamorphosis come about?
Yes, I spent a large chunk of primary school as a reluctant reader. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say it was due to not having the right reading material. It was not until I read a science fiction book for the first time The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron that I began to take an interest in reading.

And it was the discovery of Doctor Who books that turned me in to an avid reader. I was (and still am) quite obsessed with the television series, so when I discovered that there were dozens and dozens of books based on the series, I just had to read them all. Once I became a reader, my interests widened and I started to read more broadly.

Do you have a writing genre preference?
Science fiction. It was the genre that sparked my interest in reading and writing. While I enjoy playing in a variety of genres, I always love returning to science fiction.

Many writers plan their novels from the end. Others plan from the beginning. Where do you start and why?
Sometimes it is the ending, sometimes the beginning, and sometimes a random point in between that gets me brainstorming. I’ll make copious story notes, with little thought to where those elements will fit into the structure. But once I sit down to plan out the story properly, I will go from beginning to end, as I need to get that progression clear in my mind.

You are flexible in your choices of themes and genres. What advice can you give to budding writers about the importance of being so?
I’m not sure that a flexible range is all that important. There are many successful authors with a narrow, specialised focus. What matters most is that you’re interested in your topic. There is little point in writing about something that doesn’t interest you. If you’re not interested in what you are writing, how can you possibly expect anyone to be interested in reading it? I’m just lucky in that I have a wide range of interests, as well as a general curiosity about everything and anything. I adore doing research and learning new things.

Do you read many children’s books? If so, who is your favourite writer if you have one, and why?
I read A LOT of books aimed at young people. I do read grown-up books as well, but I definitely lean towards children’s and YA titles. As a teen, my favourite author was John Christopher and my favourite of his books were the Tripods trilogy. They were science fiction books, but his heroes were always ordinary boys that I often felt a connection to. These days, I can’t say that I’ve got one favourite author. But I can give you a few examples.

I love EVERYTHING by Carole Wilkinson. She is best known for her DragonKeeper books, which are fantasy stories set in ancient China. But my favourite of hers is Sugar, Sugar, about a teenage girl travelling the hippy trail in 1970s. Carole has an extraordinary talent for effortlessly creating a sense of time and place in her books.

I am also seriously impressed with Amie Kaufman. The Illuminae series she co-wrote with Jay Kristoff is a YA game-changer. Extraordinary for the way in which it tells a narrative though a series of seemingly disparate documents. Her middle-grade Elementals trilogy is gorgeous — a cracking story, with cooperation and acceptance at its core. I love how diversity is present in this series, without ever calling attention to it. One of the characters, for instance, is non-binary. No one ever comments on it… the other characters simply use they/them pronouns for that character.

Goodness…. I could go on and on. Other Aussie authors whose work I’ve loved recently include Michael Pryor's Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town, Alison Evans' Euphoria KidsThe Grimsdon trilogy by Deborah Abela, Tim Harris' Mr Bambuckles series and The Peski Kids by RA Spratt.

Is there anything that you would like to add?
I recently finished my first grown-up novel, Fear Frequency. It’s for the Lethbridge-Stewart range of books, a spin-off from the Doctor Who television series, published by Candy Jar Books in the UK. The book is currently in editing and the cover artist has just been commissioned. It will be released next year. This is a bit of a fanboy dream come true for me, as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart is one of my favourite supporting characters from the original series of Doctor Who. Writing this book has been so much fun and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands.

But fear not… I’m not giving up on writing for kids. In fact, I’m in the process of writing an outline for my next Puffin book.