What other jobs have you had? I’ve worked as a window dresser, secretary, sub-editor on various magazines, waitress (fired after the first night!) and a DJ for 2 MBS classical music station.
What influenced you to start writing? I started writing stories as a child because I just loved stories but I kept running out of books to read. Writing was just something I did – I didn’t consider it a career option until much, MUCH later!
What’s the hardest part of your job? Finding time to retreat into ‘my cave’ to focus on my characters and the story they’re telling me. Finding the courage and the confidence to keep on going in spite of rejections from publishers and, sometimes, bad reviews.
What’s the best part of your job? Solving the problems you’ve created for your characters in a credible and meaningful way is always a joy (I always like to know what happens next!) and it’s always wonderful to hold your new book in your hand. A bonus is when you get fan mail from readers and you know that your story has found a good home.
How did you get involved with writing this book? The Little Penguins of Manly is a bit different from the fiction I usually write, and it was written for a different reason. I was asked by NPWS to write about the little penguin colony in Manly because it’s unique – it’s the only mainland colony in Australia – and because the penguins are so vulnerable (they nest right under Manly wharf.) The book was written to tie in with Project Penguin, run by Taronga Zoo in schools every year, but also to inform everyone about these cute creatures and how best to protect and care for them.
What was the best thing about writing this book? Talking to everyone concerned in looking after the penguins – from the penguin wardens to personnel at Taronga Zoo, NPWS, Manly Environment Centre, scientists doing research into the colony, etc. It was all so interesting. One of the wardens, Angelika Treichlar, told me about all these cute characters and their adventures (as well as some of their disasters and lucky escapes). It was fun finding out about Mr Sticky Beak, Mrs Silverwing, Hopalong, Lucky and others, and you can read their stories in the book.
What do you think is the most endearing quality of Fairy Penguins? Angelika says of Mr Sticky Beak: ‘he sings the loudest and dances the best.’ They’re lots of fun to watch – and they can certainly ‘sing’ very loudly! And they do look like little fairies when they ‘dance’ in the moonlight!
Have you seen any other colonies of penguins in the wild? My husband and I were lucky enough to visit Antarctica and see all the different penguins there. South Georgia was particularly interesting, with king penguins crowding the beach as far as the eye could see. Their babies look like fluffy brown feather balls – very cute.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? People locally have become much more aware of the penguin colony and how best to look after these special little creatures. Students are finding all the information in my book really helpful while doing Project Penguin.
What are you working on next? I’m writing a sequel to ‘I, Morgana’ (adult fiction) and also reworking the Janna Mysteries for adult readers, plus helping to adapt my novel Ghost Boy for a movie.
Read my review of ‘The Little Penguins of Manly Wharf’ here.