Aurealis Award

June 2nd, 2024

My big news is that Spellhound won the 2024 Aurealis Award for Best Australian Children’s Fiction (fantasy and sf)! This was wildly exciting because the Aurealis is one of the few awards that don’t notify the winner beforehand, and it was a very strong shortlist so I honestly didn’t expect to win. I didn’t even check the website until the next morning.

And there was Spellhound! I squeaked a lot. 🙂

So now I have a very nice virtual sticker to put on the front cover, and soon I’ll have an even nicer trophy for my mantelpiece.

Writing stuff

I’m working on a secret project at the moment – not completely secret because the other members of my writer’s group know about it and so does my agent. It’s something I’ve been working on for years in the gaps between other books, and I decided at Christmas time that this year I was going to finish it.

I’ve done a couple of drafts already, and feel as if it’s going okay, but I was reminded the other day that no matter how interesting or clever your plot is, what keeps most people reading is the characters. The relationships between them, the way they change, the way they face life.

My first draft characters are usually pretty cartoonish, because at that stage I’m trying to figure out the story and get the broad brush strokes onto the page so I’ve got something to work with. My characters don’t start getting fleshed out until the second or third draft. So that’s what I’m doing at the moment, trying to figure out how these characters change and what makes it happen.

New picture book

This is a big year for me with two books coming out. First Fledgewitch, then the new picture book, When the Lights Went Out, which is coming at the beginning of July. I didn’t think I could love anything more than Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations for Ella and the Ocean, but what he has done for this book is just astonishing. Look at this beautiful cover!

Jonathan and I both going to be in Brisbane in July, so we are hoping to do a Brisbane launch on Thursday July 18 at Where the Wild Things Are. Nothing definite yet.

What I’m reading

Science fiction has always been one of my favourite genres. I read vast quantities of it in my teens, and Lois Bujold, Ann Leckie, Elizabeth Moon and SK Dunstall are all on my favourite rereads list. This month I have found some more favourites.

For middle grade: HM Waugh’s Mars Awakens and Mars Underground. I read the first book, Mars Awakens, several years ago, but have only just got round to the second one. It’s a gripping series based around two rival colonies that have long since been abandoned by Earth, and which are both struggling to survive. The adventure is high-stakes and exciting, but there are also some really interesting themes about the abuse of power and the use of paranoia about ‘the other’ to maintain that power.

For adults: Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space. This really hit the sweet spot for me – space opera with great characters, lots of skulduggery, and interesting aliens. There were quite a few techie bits, which I tend to skip over, but there was enough human stuff to satisfy me.

5 Writers 5 Minutes

On the podcast this last month we did a deep dive into Deborah Abela’s beautiful verse novel The Kindness Project, and talked about writing personal stories. And then – oops, we miscalculated and ran out of episodes. So we’re on hiatus for a couple of weeks while we record some more. But we will be back!

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