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

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Guest Post: Janeen Brian on The Fix-It Princess

Today we welcome the award-winning indescribably talented, Janeen Brian on hers and Princess Shona's quest to publication realisation, showing us how patience and persistence pay off!

My latest book, The Fix-it Princess, began life over twenty years ago, as a short story. Which was rejected. It went the way of other rejections and was sent to a secluded place in a manila folder, under a pile of other manila folders, with barely a whiff of a filing system.

And so, the story became somewhat forgotten.

But in a way, it wasn’t. Because on occasions, I’d remember this rather feisty, reckless girl and her haphazard meeting of a dragon with a sore tooth. However, remembering didn’t actualise into doing anything about it because I was always writing something else. Or, not writing anything at all. And so years passed.

Somewhere along my writing journey, I’d heard the axiom, never throw anything away and so one day, perhaps when I was desperate for a new idea, I trawled through the folders and came across this particular story.

It was spare and it became clear to me then that the story had all the hallmarks of a first draft. In other words it was a story that hadn’t been fleshed out. It wasn’t strong enough. We didn’t care too much about the characters. The name of the main character, which I’d called Princess Shaz, now jarred, and altogether it was a bit dismal. Yet, there was something there. Perhaps it was an element of fun. Perhaps it was the element that this princess, ever enthusiastic, jumped into situations willy-nilly and the results were often chaotic. What could happen to change that situation around?

Recently, I was considering the girl characters in many of my books, and it occurred to me that they all possessed in their DNA an element of my favourite girl character ever – Pippi Longstocking.

Pippi loved adventures, would give anything a go, was creative and daring, and caring. And so was this princess, although she had other characteristics dissimilar to Pippi, for example, her love of singing.

Draft then followed draft as the work morphed into a new, longer story with title changes from What is the Plan? The Princess and the Plan and finally, The Fix-it Princess.

Personally, I was a fix-it kind of kid who loved to fossick in Dad’s shed, fiddling with wire and wood and paint, or making things from random, discarded bits and pieces. And so, I could invest a certain amount of emotional memory into the story.

The first major rewrite of this title was dated July, 2006. More drafts and more rejections followed. It seemed as if my princess and the dragon were to be forever trapped in a manila folder or in the bowels of my computer.

Yet, still the idea persisted. And so did I. I began to question the princess’s motives, make her more fallible, yet still caring, introduce more problems for her to deal with and hopefully tighten the story generally.

In 2020, three days before Christmas, after a long, terrible year of Covid, came the good news that Walker Books had accepted The Fix-it Princess. Princess Shona was to live after all. The news that the talented author and editor, Sue Whiting, was to take over as Project Manager gave me a wonderful feeling, a safe harbour, because Sue and I had worked together previously on another title, Yong: and the journey of an unworthy son, and her suggestions and editing then had been kind, warm, supportive and clear-sighted. 

Because the story leans more towards the younger age-group of a mid-grade novel, it was felt there was room for several illustrations. Sue was also involved in the choice of an illustrator and Cherie Dignam was perfect. Cherie’s work had the fun and quirkiness the story needed.

And so, after many years, countless drafts, re-writing and editing, The Fix-it Princess is now finally fixed!

The Fix-It Princess is a twisty-turny fantasy romp, with heart, humour, do-it-yourself projects and a singing dragon.

Two days ago, Mum-Queen and Dad-King happily flew off in the Wing-Thing that Princess Shona, the Fix-it Princess, had made them. Shona hasn’t sighted them since. And that’s a worry. But Shona is a princess with a Can-Do attitude. After all, she isn’t called the Fix-it Princess for nothing. She is great at solving problems. Surely, the Fix-it Princess can work out a way to find a Wing-Thing and a pair of missing parents. Surely …

At age sixteen Janeen Brian trained as a primary teacher and at eighteen stood in front of her first class of year five students. Her teaching career saw her work in junior primary, primary, drama and as a teacher-librarian. While raising a family, she began a four year career with a professional children’s theatre company, both acting and writing. She has also been involved in over 100 television and radio commercials as well as dozens of voiceovers for radio and video. She began dabbling in writing in her thirties. Since then she has written over 100 books both in trade and education, and in genres ranging from picture books to poetry, short fiction, nonfiction and novels. Janeen is an award-winning author and poet and many of her books have been translated and published overseas.

For more information about the author, please visit her website: janeenbrian.com or connect with her via Instagram