Book People: Susannah McFarlane

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There would be few parents of small people out there who did not know the EJ Girl Hero and EJ Spy School books – we’ve even had an EJ Disco Party. Author Susannah McFarlane has now turned her considerable talent for writing about girls with sass to her new book, ‘Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls’, which is the current bedtime fav at home.

feisty: typically describes one who is relatively small, lively, determined and courageous

McFarlane has kept the essence and magic of the tales of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Thumbelina but also added a good dash of feisty so that the female protagonists work alongside the males to problem-solve their way out of their tricky situations…just the way it probably should always have been!

Each of the four stories are illustrated by a different illustrator, a technique seen in books like ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ andShout Out to the Girls’, allowing each illustrator to add their unique (and feisty perhaps?) spin to each tale. Utterly giftable with it’s gorgeous black and gold hardcover, this is one to be enjoyed by all little people!

Susannah McFarlane joins us on the blog today to share a bit about her work!

Author Susannah McFarlane

Click on title or cover links to read more about books by Susannah McFarlane or to purchase.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Susannah McFarlane 

  1. Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls’, a collection of tilted tales, reimagining the girls of fairy tales as quite capable of rescuing themselves. I was always fairly sure that, with all that time on her hands in the tower, Rapunzel would be able to get herself down from the tower, which she does by cutting her own hair and using it to zip-line down …

Cinderella image on Susannah McFarlane’s desk, from ‘Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls’

 2. How did you get started as a writer?

I actually started in book publishing, with over twenty years in Australia and London, working in marketing, publishing and then management.

I had conceived the idea of the Zac Power series (a world that owes a lot to my watching too much Get Smart when I was a child) and I really enjoyed imagining that world. So when I had my next book series idea, I thought I would try writing it myself. That series was EJ12 Girl Hero’ and I have never felt so nervous as when I sent in my first manuscript nor the relief when the editor came back saying it was okay! Even 21 EJ books later, I still get that feeling in my tummy as I hit the send button!

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

Gosh, I’m not sure there is one! Up early before anyone else, except the dogs, for the some quiet time and then breakfast with my family.

I try to impose the discipline of daily writing but confess I struggle and if it’s not done by 12 noon, it’s probably a fail.I thrive on the adrenalin rush of a looming deadline – perhaps I should have been a journalist …

 The day depends on which hat is on: author writing, author doing school visits, publisher, or mother, wife, daughter.

 4. Can you describe your workspace for us?

Not really, my weakness as a writer is that I really struggle with physical description – give me a hot mess of a mind storm and I’m there but ask me to describe a flower and you would not be able to pick the one I was talking about. But, okay, I’ll try …

I have a wide and long wooden trestle desk and with lovely big Apple iMac in the centre surrounded by rotating piles of stuff that I’m currently wandering in – books, illustrations, sketches and pictures (at the moment it’s the joyful Beth Norling sketch of Rapunzel zip-lining from her tower and a postcard from the ABBA Museum in Stockholm), some succulents (the only plants I can grow) in glass jars and a huge beaker full of black artline pens.

5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?

Read, read, read. The best way to learn words and they words together is to see them in action.

And just write, even if it’s terrible, keep writing. You can fix bad writing but there’s nothing you can do with a blank page.

Writing is like running – you really should jog a bit each day if you want to get any good at it.

5. Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?

Elizabeth Allen, from Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl in the School’. I loved, or perhaps just identified with her fiery temper, passion for social justice (including her own) and her tendency to rush headlong into things which often got her into trouble.

I was almost a little sorry when in the final book of the trilogy she became a monitor …

My favourite character that I have created has to be Emma Jacks from the EJ Girl Hero’ series. After 21 books, she is very much in my heart and head. She is a lot like my daughter, Emma (for whom the EJ series was first written), a bit like me, and, actually a bit like Elizabeth Allen…

  1. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?

A back-up singer in a band. Sadly, though, you actually need to be able to sing and while I have been pragmatic in only wanting to be a back up rather than lead, I think best to stick to words. In the realm of the more possible, I would go back to publishing, which I sometimes do. Still want that singing gig though …

  1. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?

I can’t listen to music when I write because it pulls me away from my story (sadly very easily done) and into the story of the music.

Similarly I can get much too distracted by food so I have to treat myself like a well-trained sheep dog and only eat when work is done! So, if I need to wrangle a tricky section or work through an edited chapter, I will set myself a reward – no coffee and raisin toast (I write best in the mornings) until that pesky character has been pulled into line!

  1. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?

Lots, almost all just not in the same combinations as real life!

10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?

As a Christian, it would be a prayer and one that everyone might meet Jesus and have their own, divine happily ever after.

Thanks Susannah!

If you enjoyed this post, you can find loads more ‘Book People’ interviews here

Books in the EJ Girl Hero Series

  1. ‘Hot and Cold’
  2.  ‘Jump Start’
  3. ‘In the Dark’  
  4. ‘Rocky Road’
  5. ‘Choc Shock’
  6. ‘On the Ball’
  7. ‘Making Waves’
  8. ‘Drama Queen’
  9. ‘Out of this World’
  10. ‘Pyramid Puzzle’
  11. ‘Diamond Disguise’
  12. ‘Secret Safari’ 
  13. ‘Fashion Fraud’
  14. ‘Kimono Code’
  15. ‘Big Brother’
  16. ‘Time to Shine’
  17. ‘Spooked’
  18. ‘Ciao EJ!’
  19. ‘False Note’
  20. ‘True Light’
  21. ‘EJ Shines!’

The Body Shop

The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.

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