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

Sunday 14 November 2021

Guest Post: Monica McInerney

Monica McInerney is an internationally bestselling author of novels for adults, who has just released her first book for children. We're thrilled to be able to ask her about it.

Welcome to Kids’ Book Review, Monica!

You’re known as the bestselling author of 12 novels for adults. What prompted you to write Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat, your first book for children? 

I have 18 nieces and nephews and all the while I was writing my adult novels, I was also writing short stories for and about them – fun, magical and adventure tales with them in starring roles. More than 8 years ago, one of those family stories planted the seed for Marcie Gill. It became a real labour of love. I worked on it in between my novels for adults. I discussed it with my nieces and nephews. Finally, 3 years ago, I seriously began to write it.

What did you find different and the same when writing for children as an audience compared to writing for adults? 

In many ways, the process was similar. I like to fill my adult novels with family comedy drama, characters of all ages, and lots of twists and turns. I tried to do the same with Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat. It was a shorter word count, but I still did many drafts. I also had the great benefit of Mary Verney, my editor at Puffin Books, generously sharing her great knowledge of children’s writing.

Tell us about your inspiration for your star character, Marcie Gill, and her story? 

My husband actually thinks Marcie Gill is the most autobiographical of all my novels! She is a middle child, like me. She loves lists, like me. She likes to try to fix everything, like me. She also loves to ask questions – my first school report my teacher said, “Monica is extremely interested in everything.” I gave Marcie that character trait too.

George the cat is an important character, too. What can you share with us about him? 

He is one of the most fun characters I’ve ever written. I love George. Funnily enough, COVID conspired to bring a cat identical to George into my life just as I was doing the final edits to Marcie Gill. Last Feb 2020 I found myself COVID-stranded in Australia, my husband back home in Dublin. I lived with my very patient mother for 9 months, and we adopted a rescue kitten. He was the only cat left that day, and he was the image of George. A great omen, I decided. As I was editing, he did a lot of walking across my desk, standing on the manuscript and even sleeping on it too. 

You grew up with a father who was a railway station master. How do you think that compares to having a family who runs a caravan park? 

Indirectly, I have the fact my dad was a railway station master to thank for the caravan park setting. As kids, the nine of us McInerneys would have summer holidays in railway houses around SA. They were often quite near caravan parks and I remember enviously looking in as we all marched down to the sea. (A caravan holiday was impossible when there were so many of us, caravans don’t come big enough.) But I also loved visiting my dad in his workplace. We lived next to the railway station and thought of the trains and the station buildings as ours. Marcie feels the same way about her family’s caravan park. She is very involved in all that goes on there. 

Marcie loves lists. How much fun was it creating her lists for the story? 

So much fun. It was also a great way of getting lots of information across in a quick and clear way.

What are your favourite childhood memories of Christmas? Were they as topsy turvy as Marcie’s? 

My Christmas memories also involve the railway station. Every year a Railway Father Christmas would arrive on the train into the Clare station. All the McInerneys and the other kids of railway staff would gather on the platform, leaping in excitement as Father Christmas emerged, hot and sweaty in full costume, off the train, handing out presents to us all (each labelled in handwriting remarkably like my mother’s).

This book comes with wonderful illustrations, something you don’t have in your adult books. Tell us what that means to you as an author. 

It has been the icing on the cake for me with this book. I loved Danny Snell’s work at first sight. It has been so special, and quite magical actually, to see my characters and settings through his eyes. 

Do you have more children’s books in your creative future? Can you tell us anything about them? 

I certainly do – I’m working on the second Marcie Gill book at the moment and have ideas ready to go for the third. 

What were your favourite books as a child? 

I loved Enid Blyton. I must have read every single Enid Blyton book in the local library a dozen times each. I loved the look, feel and smell of them – all hardbacks – as much as I loved the stories inside. As kids, we also used to get books sent up to Clare from the State Library in Adelaide and I never knew what would be in the book parcels. I read everything that was sent my way, from Biggles books to non-fiction books about raising newts or sailing yachts (even though Clare had no newts and only a dry creek).

Which contemporary children’s books do you love and why? Do you have any other reading recommendations? 

I love Roald Dahl (of course) and was lucky enough to have met him while I was working as a publicist on his Australian tour in the 1990s. I was even given a chocolate by him – the creator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Unfortunately I ate it – I should have kept it and framed it. I love Kate DiCamillo’s books too, and also got to briefly meet her after she gave a talk in Dublin and was signing my books. I also love reading books by Mem Fox, Jacqueline Harvey, Andy Griffiths, Margaret Mahy, Sally Rippin, Oliver Phommavanh among many others. I’m about to start Pony by R.J. Palacio, author of the beautiful Wonder.

Thanks, Monica for sharing your experience with Kids’ Book Review.