Book People: Jen Storer
Book People: Jen Storer
The children’s book industry in Australia is a beautiful place to inhabit. I have been incredibly fortunate to work and play in this industry over many, many years now and to have meet some of my children’s book idols. One of these has been Jen Storer…who I met a few years back when she was touring with a book I adored called, ‘The Accidental Princess’. She then went on to write the ‘Truly Tan’ series and…honestly if you have an 7-11 year old reader in your house…CHRISTMAS PRESENTS DONE. Thank me later.
There is nothing better than female book characters who are great role models for young girls and Tan is just that: fabulously quirky; strong-willed; warm; fair-minded; witty and sharp. Young readers will see elements of themselves, their family and their friends in the ‘Truly Tan’ series and they will spend hour upon hour laughing and adventuring through the books. The ‘Truly Tan’ books contain just enough suspense to be an edge-of-your-seat read without being scary for young devotees of mystery fiction.
Jen Storer’s writing is sharp and the stories are engaging and the illustrations and covers by Claire Robertson are modern but with a very cool retro feel. The latest one, ‘Truly Tan: Freaked’ is just fab and Jen is joining us today to tell us a little about it.
Ten Things You Need to Know About Jen Storer
1. Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is Truly Tan: Freaked! It’s the fourth book in the Truly Tan series, it’s longer than the others, it has a map and it has a real ghost. I love this book.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I began as a children’s book editor at black dog books in Melbourne. I wrote many, many books for the children’s education market and edited a string of series. In 2002 I sent an unsolicited manuscript to Penguin. It was picked up off the slush pile and published in 2003 as an Aussie Chomp. It was called I Hate Sport and was clearly autobiographical…
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
500 words. That’s my day. Every day, Monday to Friday. Morning or afternoon or evening. It doesn’t matter when I manage it but that’s my quota. If I exceed it I’m on cloud nine. If I fail to reach it I turn into a toad.
4. Can you describe your workspace for us?
Shambolic. But I’m getting better at tidying up. I do believe I function better in a tidy workspace, it’s serene and calms down my brain. But I find tidiness almost impossible to maintain especially as I work on multiple projects at one time. (Well, that’s my excuse.)
5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Read everything you can get your hands on but especially read what you love.
If you want to read something repeatedly then do so, don’t feel guilty, don’t feel as if you should always be reading something else.
No-one is ever too old for picture books.
When writing for school there might be rules but when writing for your own pleasure there are no rules. Go wild, have fun, experiment. We only learn by pushing boundaries.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
Today my favourite book is Great Expectations. But that changes with my mood… However, I must say Miss Havisham never fails to fire my imagination (no pun intended). She is so full of mystery and contradictions and there is so much pathos in her characterisation.
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
An actor or a film-maker. I love film, love, love, love.
8. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
Mint Patties. I never tire of them. I use them as part of my reward system eg, Hey Jen, if you write 100 more words this afternoon you can have a Mint Pattie. Guilt free, no questions asked.
No music, it’s too distracting. Although having said that, I could not stop listening to the soundtrack from The Shipping News while I was writing my new fantasy novel (due for release with HarperCollins in 2015). It put me in the zone every time. But even then I had to turn off the music once I started writing. I could only enjoy it while I was editing or moodling.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
I never consciously write about myself or people I know but in retrospect my books are littered with people from my life (and romanticised versions of myself aka Tan Callahan). Even Matron Pluckrose from Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children is based on a real person. Although, to be honest, I was well aware of that while I was writing the book. Oops…
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
That we valued kindness towards each other and the planet over all else. I think that would be a good place to start the clean-up.