Book People: James Moloney
Book People: James Moloney
James Moloney was my husband’s teacher librarian at a Catholic boys school in Brisbane. When Dan told me this many years ago, I was over-excited (I know. Hard to believe).
Me: “No waaaaaaaay?! James Moloney was your TL?!”; “was he amazing?!”; “did you get to read any of his manuscripts?!”.
Husband: “He was just Mr Moloney. He was nice”.
Nice? Whilst James is indeed ‘nice’, he is just a little bit more than this. James Moloney is one of Australia’s most acclaimed authors of middle primary – young adult literature in Australia, with a swagof awards to his name. He writes across multiple genres and has a particular passion for writing books which will appeal to boys – but let me assure you that they appeal equally to both genders.
I first came across James Moloney when my teacher librarian mother (did I mention we’re starting a dynasty of TL’s?) gave me ‘Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove’ to read after I’d finished the Cynthia Voigt’s ‘Homecoming’ series and needed something to go on with. I still count ‘Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove’ as one of the greatest reads of my young adult years. It was great for me to read (in his ‘Ten Things’ below) that James also loved the ‘Homecoming’ series.
James’ latest book is ‘Disappearing Act’ (just out a week ago) and aside from having a great cover it is also a fast paced, time-slip mystery which kept me up long into the night. Set in present day and half a century earlier, this is a tale of magic…but not the Harry Potter sort. Main character Matt Cooper is twelve, and spends quite a bit of his time honing his magic skills and tricks. He doesn’t realise that his great-grandfather, Mattheus Coperneau, was a professional magician whose career came to a disastrous end when a trick he performed backfired spectacularly. ‘Disappearing Act’ will greatly appeal to upper primary – secondary readers who like their adventure and magic with a good dose of realism. Moloney is a writer of the highest calibre who crafts books which engage and entertain their target without comprising the quality of the writing.
Let me introduce to James…a ‘nice’ man. And a fabulous author.
Books can be purchased by clicking on image or title links below. I have listed a selction of books by James in age order…’The Tower Mill’ is an adult novel – and a must read (great book club read!).
Ten Things You Need to Know About James Moloney
1. Tell us about your latest book.
‘Disappearing Act’ is about a young magician, but not of the Harry Potter kind. After finding a handwritten book of tricks in his grandfather’s junk box, Matt Cooper is learning stage magic and what’s more, he’s good at it. Soon he discovers a family connection to a notorious magician from a half a century earlier, a connection that takes Matt and his grandfather to Montilagus, a principality in Europe. Here, Matt becomes friendly with Princess Catine and together, they try to solve a stubborn mystery that has thwarted Catine’s royal family for generations. A tragic secret lies at the heart of this mystery and only Matt’s magical skills can help the wrongs of so long ago to be righted.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I first became interested in writing when I became a reader in my late teens – as a result of the fine novels we had to study at school, incidentally. I felt I had something to say and writing seemed the way to express my ideas and my presence in the world. When I became a teacher-librarian I focussed on writing for children and after some failed efforts, I wrote ‘Crossfire’ which was accepted by the first publisher who saw it. I was in my mid-thirties by then, with kids and a fulltime teaching job so writing was a passionate hobby, really. The breakthrough for writers comes gradually and only with persistence. I was forty-four before I could support myself as a fulltime writer.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I see my wife off to work about 7.30 and since I consider writing my fulltime job, I start work soon after. I continue working in two hour (more like 90 minute) bursts through the day until around 4.00 pm. Although it might not sound romantic, books get written by putting in the hours – perspiration, not inspiration. My day is also rather isolating personally as I often speak to no one until my wife returns in the late afternoon. When starting a new book, my day will be spent brainstorming ideas onto a computer, researching or walking up and down swearing at how little imagination I have. On days when I am well into the writing, I edit yesterday’s work first thing, check my overall plan, imagine my way through the next scene or chapter, map it out in dot points so I know exactly how it will go and then use those dot points as my guide to write the text. On such days, I aim at 2000 words. Some days I have to re-gig my plan or do further research, or completely re-write an earlier section because I’ve had a better idea – so no new words. The book builds gradually – it can seem like climbing Everest at the start, but if I stick at it I rise up the slope a little bit at the time until one day I look out and find I’m near the top.
4. Can you describe your workspace for us?
Messy. I have a 5 x 4 metre cabin, known as ‘Dad’s shed’ in the back garden where I do my writing. It has carpet, book cases, an IKEA desk with my computer on it and a million ants. At one end are three cork boards which I use for planning. Because I dabble with painting as a hobby these days, an easel, canvasses and jars with brushes in occupy one corner. I used to hang my literary awards on the wall to remind me I can write well if I’m patient and diligent, but they were fading so I keep them in a dark filing cabinet now.
5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Reading is the best way to learn how to write. Take the time to look beneath the story and ask yourself, how did the author arrange this story to make me feel so deeply for the characters, or be on the edge of my seat. Those things don’t happen by accident.
Ask other people to read stories you have written and listen to their reaction and advice. Be prepared to re-write what you have written to make it better.
For young readers, my advice is pester your school librarian and the local public librarian for good recommendations and to keep buying newly published books.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character?
I love ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar for its genius of imagination. I loved ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ by Michelle Magorian and ‘Homecoming’ by Cynthia Voigt for the strength of the main characters, which contributed to my own story ‘A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove’ about Carl Matt, a similar character who must find courage and determination in himself.
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
An artist. Unfortunately, I am utterly without talent, but that doesn’t stop me dabbling.
8. 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 while writing as it distracts me, even music without words. I would munch on mint slice biscuits all day while writing, except I’d end up like Jabba the Hutt.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
There is a little of me in most of my characters. They reflect my fears and deficiencies, plus my hopes and my image of myself when things go right. Some of my ‘villains’ are based on people I’ve met and didn’t like, but generally I mould them round to what I want.
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
That those who already have great wealth and power would stop being so greedy for more wealth and power.
The title and cover of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. If you live in the US or would prefer you can use Amazon. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here.
Sign up to the ‘Children’s Books Daily’ email list on the right hand side of the homepage to receive a weekly email containing all new blog posts and book reviews. Signing up also gives you exclusive access to an article and poster – ‘Top Ten Tips for Raising a Reader’.