Book People: Judith Rossell

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Book People: Judith Rossell

My husband, #backboy, has been in hospital for a week and ‘Withering-by-Sea’ by Judith Rossell has been the best, best thing to take me to another place. I love that the very best books take you out of yourself and transport you to the most wonderful of places. ‘Withering-by-Sea’ does just that – slightly dark and very mysterious, this Victorian fantasy-adventure is the first in a new series and I can’t wait for the next instalment. Stella Montgomery is an 11 year old orphan, living with three horrid aunts in the ‘Hotel Majestic’…a quite beautiful but very damp hotel by the sea. Stella is the most wonderful of main characters – she is interesting, quirky and plucky…and she reads an atlas. Got to love a child who reads an atlas.


If you have 9-12 year olds who have enjoyed books such as ‘Teensy Farlow’, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, ‘The Sisters Grimm’, ‘Ruby Redfort’, ‘The Grimstones’ or ‘Verity Sparks’…then ‘Withering by the Sea’ will be their new favourite series and a perfect Christmas present.

I’m so pleased today to be featuring author/illustrator Judith Rossell here, as part of my Book People series.Thank you for joining us here today Judith!

Ten Things You Need to Know About Judith Rossell

1. Tell us about your latest book.

Withering-by-Sea is a novel, set in Victorian England. Stella Montgomery lives in the Hotel Majestic with her three dreadful Aunts. One day, she sees something she shouldn’t have, and is plunged into an adventure.  In the story, she encounters a mysterious stage magician and his gang of thugs, a hand-of-glory, a military pudding, a group of singing cats, a clockwork beetle, dancing girls, mutton-in-aspic and an enormous, ghostly sea serpent. It’s a lovely hardback book with a ribbon and heaps of pictures.



2. How did you get started as a writer?

I originally studied science at uni, and I worked for CSIRO as an experimental scientist. Then I had a change, and became an illustrator.  To start with, I illustrated other people’s stories. Then I wrote a few puzzle books, and then picture books. And then I thought I’d try to write something a bit longer. I did a TAFE course on creative writing, and wrote my first children’s novel, Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse. Withering-by-Sea is my third novel.

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

It depends a bit what I’m working on. If I’m illustrating, and I have a deadline, I work in my studio (which is in my house). I like working in the evenings until quite late. If I’m writing, I turn off the internet straight after breakfast and go back to bed with my laptop. I don’t let myself get up again until I’ve written at least a page. Sometimes it takes hours.

4. Can you describe your workspace for us?

I work in the front room of my house. The window looks out at the street, so I can watch people going past. I like pinboards and I pin a lot of pictures up.  I have a huge bookshelf that takes up a whole wall.

Judith Rossell Workspace

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

For readers, Read, read, read. Read new books, old books and challenge yourself. Ask a friendly librarian to recommend books for you try. There are so many brilliant books around. For writers, keep practicing. Don’t give up. Keep getting better.

6. Do you have a favourite book or character?

I’ve always been a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

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

Perhaps I might still be a scientist. I did like wearing that white coat. And now I wear glasses too, so I’d look super clever.

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

I love lollies, especially in the afternoon when it’s hard to stay awake. I like jellybeans and clinkers.  When I’m illustrating, I listen to audiobooks, and watch lots of DVDs. When I’m writing, I need things to be a bit quiet.

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

I put my cat Fidel into Withering-by-Sea. In the story, he’s called Alfredo, and he’s one of the singing cats.

Singing Cats

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

I’d wish for more fairness for everyone, and more kindness, generally.

picture four

withering by the sea

Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

Check out my mini ebook, 'What to Read Next' or sign up for my FREE webinar, '3 Tips to Start the Best Book Club Ever'.

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