Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clowning Around

Today is another first for me. I've invited childrens author Sheryl Gwyther over to talk about, amongst other things, her new book Princess Clown.

This blog tour is to celebrate the launch of Princess Clown, Sheryl Gwyther’s latest book. Every day until the official book launch on Friday, 16th July, Princess Belle and Sheryl will be visiting a new blogsite. Check out the list below.

Welcome Sheryl, you're my firstest ever guest!
Can you briefly tell us about Princess Clown and what age group it is aimed at?

Thank you for having me on your blog, Cat. 
Princess Clown is a chapter book for 7-8 year olds. It's the funny story of Belle, a princess who wants more than anything to be a clown. But one thing stands in her way – she is the heir to the throne. Does that stop Princess Belle wanting to follow her dream? No way!

What age groups do you prefer to write for?

I usually write Junior Fiction – that's for ages 10-13 year olds, but last year I started writing this new genre – chapter books. I love them. They are faster to write, but require a lot of thought and consideration about the plot and the structure.
Chapter books are designed for young readers who have discovered the joys of reading stories. They have moved beyond the 'learning to read' readers. Now they're able to have a go at books that look like what the big kids read – with chapters. The stories usually have lots of illustrations, shorter sentences, strong plot lines and a likeable main character. Kids in this age bracket love humour and adventure especially.

Are there any teaching notes supplied for this and is it part of a series?

Yes, there are teaching notes and ideas to enhance the reading. They’re in the back of the book and kids can access them themselves. Princess Clown is part of Blake Publishing's Gigglers Blue Series 2. It is one of eight stories.
I've heard that some of the ideas for Princess Clown came when you put two words together that didn't seem to fit. Can you tell me how you developed your characters from there? Are they based on any real princesses or clowns?
I did start Princess Clown as a challenge to put to words together that didn't match – that's what provides conflict. Conflict is what pushes the story. The character of Belle tumbled out of my head quickly – she is a lot like me, I suspect. Not that I can somersault! The story came as I thought of obstacles for Belle – there are tons of things that can go wrong for a princess with a mind of her own. The only princesses and clowns I know live in my head!

Some of my students tell me they have a clown phobia and I'm always a little uncertain as to whether they are pulling my leg...any comments?

I can understand that very well – when adults dress up with painted white faces, huge red lips and frothy clown wigs, their real identity is masked. I think I’m still affected by that creepy, horror movie of Stephen King’s book called It. So freaky!
But I do applaud all those clowns who work hard at their jobs to make kids laugh – especially the Doctor Clowns who work in hospitals to make sick kids happier.

When I was interviewed by Kat Apel, we chatted about wearing different 'hats'. As well as being a talented children's author, you are also an ex teacher and literacy coordinator...can you tell us about your recent involvement in the fight to save Australian school libraries?

Yes, I have been outspoken in the current campaign to rescue Australian school libraries and the jobs of trained Teacher-Librarians, especially those in public state schools. They and the small Catholic schools are the ones that need help the most.

In the past you have been a strong campaigner against parallel importation of books into Australia. When you take on something like that, there is sometimes some negative backlash, especially personal comments in the media. How did you handle the pressure of being in the media spotlight?

Funny you should ask that, Cat. I was pushed into a bit of media spotlight in the fight against Parallel Importation of Books into this country. It was not something I was comfortable with, but practice makes perfect, as they say. I and many other children's authors felt so strongly about this issue, we set up a blog called SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS – if you want to see what we did, here is the link.
The fight was successful. During the campaign, my integrity was attacked by an anonymous source (I know who it was, of course). A journalist alerted me, and I refuted the comments. But it did show me how desperate the other side was – and I could understand it, they felt their profits were at risk by the Parallel Importation Restrictions. It didn't stop me speaking out – the cause to protect Australian children's books was too important to scare us off.

Well Done!
And a final question Sheryl, what's the book you want to write but haven't written yet?

I have started this book – it is one so important to me I sometimes dream about it. It's called Mountain. The story is set in far north Queensland where I was born. Place holds a significant part for me in many of my stories. It is the same with this one. The mountain in my story is a real mountain – and it is one that is embedded deep in my consciousness.
It is the place where a terrible tragedy happened in 1921 – a coal mine explosion where 75 miners were killed; a third of the small town's population. My uncle was the last stationmaster before the mining company finally shut down its town in 1959. I spent my school holidays there and have never forgotten the mountain, a spectacular sight of sandstone cliffs, red and raw against the startling blue skies of north Queensland.
I have travelled back there twice since starting writing my story. The mountain affects me every time, especially when I stand in the small graveyard of that ghost town and read the headstones of the dead miners. In 2008, I was awarded a May Gibbs Literature Trust Fellowship residency in Adelaide to work on the story. I will be ever grateful to them.
So yes, this story will get finished one day – I have to.

Thanks Sheryl for visitng and all the best for the launch of Princess Clown. And 'goodonya' for the hard work you put in on behalf of literacy and making reading accessable to children.

Join Sheryl on the rest of her blog tour at:

Blog Tour Dates:

06 July 2010
Dee White –
07 July 2010
Alphabet Soup magazine –

08 July 2010
Robyn Opie –

09 July 2010
Catriona Hoy –

10 July 2010
Kat Apel –

11 July 2010
Sheryl Gwyther –

12 July 2010
Sandy Fussell –

13 July 2010
Sally Murphy –

14 July 2010
Claire Saxby –

15 July 2010
Mabel Kaplan –


  1. Congratulations Cat on your first ever blog hosting.

    Thanks Cat and Sheryl for a fascinating interview. I enjoyed reading Princess Clown so it's interesting to hear about the creative process behind it.


  2. Well done Cat. You'd never know Sheryl was you're first blog guest. Very relaxed you both were. Great Qs too - led Sheryl nicely into new areas. :) Interesting.