Book People: Lian Tanner

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The Rouges trilogy by Lian Tanner is showing all the signs of being as popular as her previous trilogy, The Keepers, and is rarely on the shelves in the school library. The melding of high risk adventure and magic works brilliantly in the hands of a skilled writer, such as Tanner, and readers from 9+ will fall into the world she has created. I first came across the writing of Lian Tanner many years ago now when ‘The Keepers’ series kept being requested as a ‘must buy’ for the library by students – this series has been around for around 10 years now but is a failsafe one for me to fall back on when I want to either introduce children to the fantasy genre or need another to recommend! The Keepers has won two Aurealis Awards for Best Australian Children’s Fantasy and has now been translated into eleven languages.

I absolutely love Tanners ‘advice to writers’ in this interview…“go out and live your life with curiosity and passion. Have adventures, big and small. Notice things”. Wise words indeed…

Author Lian Tanner

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TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LIAN TANNER

1. Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Haunted Warriors’, the third and final book in The Rogues trilogy. Duckling, Pummel, Sooli and Otte have escaped from the salt mines and headed back to the Stronghold, along with the cat and the chicken (who is really an ancient wise woman fallen victim to her own curse).

They’re trying to find out who raised the terrible Harshman from his grave, and how they can stop him before he kills Otte and becomes invincible. But he’s far closer behind them than they realise, and soon they are driven into hiding, with no one to help them but Lord Rump (who can’t be trusted) and the ghost of Otte’s mother. 

This final book in the trilogy was such fun to write. There’s ghost ink and secret tunnels; there’s burglary and treachery and magical dreams. There’s even a talking cat, and a frantic chase into the long distant past. And through it all runs the question, ‘How can four children, a chicken and a cat beat someone as powerful as the Harshman?’ (I didn’t actually know the answer to this question until I’d written most of the book. Then, just as I was beginning to despair, it came to me!)

‘Haunted Warriors’

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2. How did you get started as a writer?

I’ve written stories and plays and poems since I was a small child. But I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was almost 40 and working as an actor with a small professional theatre company that toured around schools.

I started writing plays for the company, and got such good feedback that I moved on to short stories, radio plays, freelance journalism and travel writing. The short stories for children were the thing I had most success with, plus they were the thing I enjoyed most. So I started focusing on them, and one day one of them turned into a novel!

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

Wake up at 6 AM, feed Harry (my cat) who has been mewing outside my bedroom door for the last ten minutes, walk around the garden to see if the slugs have destroyed anything overnight, eat breakfast, check email but don’t actually reply to any of it, then start work no later than 7 AM. Write for a minimum of three hours (2000 words), with short breaks and absolutely no social media allowed in that time. (I find that if I check my email even once during writing time, the dam breaks and I can’t get my focus back.) 

When I’ve done a solid morning’s work, I put it aside and deal with emails. Then I have lunch, and in the afternoon I do business stuff – prepare workshops, write talks, send invoices, that sort of thing, with bits of gardening and reading in between. Sometimes I’ll do a bit more writing at 4 PM, depending on deadlines. 

4. Can you describe your workspace for us?

My current workspace is on my sofa in my living room. Sometimes I sit, sometimes I lie down, but my teapot is always there on a stool beside me, and my cat Harry is either sitting next to me or draped across my legs. Cat and teapot seem to be the two essential items.

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

The usual stuff about read read read and write write write. But also, go out and live your life with curiosity and passion. Have adventures, big and small. Notice things. When you see someone who is very different from you, try to imagine being them. (Do your feet hurt? Are you worried about your wayward daughter?) Get used to drawing on your life for your material.

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

Right now my favourite character is a chook called Clara, who is the hero of my new middle grade novel coming out in August next year. Clara desperately wants to be a detective, and although she’s small and scruffy, she’s also intelligent, resourceful – and a whizz at Morse code. I always love the characters in my books, but I love Clara more than most.

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

Maybe a dog trainer. Or a forensic pathologist. I really like the idea of working with animals, but I also love puzzling things out and trying to work out how and why they happened.

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

I don’t listen to music while I’m working – I find it too distracting. Food is another matter entirely! Probably my favourite dish of all time is home-made summer pudding, with raspberries and blackcurrants, and lots of cream. It gets even better after it’s been in the fridge for a couple of days.

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

Huge amounts of myself. One of the things I love about writing villains is that I can throw all the nasty parts of myself into them. But there are parts of me in the nice people, too. I give my fear of heights to one character; my love of animals to another.

As for other people, my three brothers often turn up in various disguises, and so do my neighbours, though the latter tend to appear as villains. I always hope they won’t recognise themselves!

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

That we will be able to reverse climate change, and reverse our war on other species, so that the children of the future will know the rich and amazing world that past generations have known.


You can shop ALL of Lian’s books on Booktopia here or check out other two titles in The Rogues trilogy below.

‘Accidental Heroes’

Buy from Apple Books

‘Secret Guardians’

Buy from Apple Books


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