Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Calamitous Queen!

Hi ! Thanks for visiting...

Today I'm hosting Australian author, Ian Irvine.
Ian Irvine is a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia's national guidelines for the protection of the oceanic environment, and still works in this field. He has written 27 novels to date, including the international bestselling 11-book fantasy sequence, The Three Worlds, an eco-thriller trilogy about catastrophic climate change, and 12 books for children and young adults. He writes lots of a picture book writer, I'm in awe!

Welcome to my blog Ian, thanks for dropping by to chat about your latest book. 'The Calamitous Queen,' is the latest in your Grim and Grimmer series ... could you sum up the story line for the series?

Thanks, Catriona, here we go –

Awkward Ike, who’s hopeless at sport, bottom of the class and useless at everything except drawing, has just been expelled from school. He finds a magnificent pen, hears a girl crying out for help, draws a door on the wall with it and finds himself in the land of Wychwold.

Within ten minutes he’s accidentally betrayed Princess Aurora to the wicked Fey Queen, Emajicka. Then Ike is caught and chained to a guard imp called Nuckl who wants to eat his liver. With the aid of a clever but reckless thief girl, Mellie, Ike escapes and they set out to rescue the princess …

But the Fey Queen is stealing the children of Grimmery for her Collection. She bathes in their nightmares to relieve her own, and there is one nightmare she wants most of all - Ike's.

The book, covers, reviews, blurbs and first chapters can all be found here:

Who reads the Grim and Grimmer series ... and do you get any interesting fan mail?

I aimed the series at kids between 10 and 14, though just last night I had an email from a girl who was 8 who loved the first book (The Headless Highwayman), and I’ve also had nice comments from people in their 30’s and 40’s who found the books an exciting read. The Grim and Grimmer books have engagingly flawed boy and girl protagonists, Ike and Mellie, who fight constantly but care deeply for each other. Adding in a host of quirky, different, weird, disgusting and sometimes insane minor characters, and I think these books appeal to many younger readers. But they also pose difficult problems and deal with conflicts where there may not be any right answer, and for this reason I think the books also appeal to more mature readers.

Not to mention all the bum humour!

What triggered the idea for the Grim and Grimmer series?

Basically, it was the urge and the need to completely escape from the books I’d been writing previously. One of the biggest problems an established writer has is becoming typecast – after a while, publishers expect a certain kind of book from you, and are reluctant to publish anything different. Yet most writers crave variety and want to write all kinds of books for different kinds of readers.

I mainly write epic fantasy for the adult market – my Three Worlds sequence of 11 books begins with A Shadow on the Glass and ends, 2.3 million words later, with The Destiny of the Dead. For these books I created a vast, original fantasy setting. They’ve been very successful and have been published all over the world, and I love them. If you’re interested, you can find more here

But writing such big series is creatively and physically exhausting, and at the end of each series I have to get away from that gigantic world, and recharge my creative batteries, by writing something completely different. In recent years I’ve mainly been writing children’s books, the Grim and Grimmer quartet being the latest of these. And with this series I wanted to write something I’d never tried before, humorous adventure fantasy.

The series began as simply as that – a complete escape from a gigantic fantasy series. I brainstormed the background for the quartet, came up with the overall title, Grim and Grimmer, and the titles of the books, and began from there.

When I first opened a Grim and Grimmer story, the first word I saw was 'bum'. The tone of this series is quite different from some of your other works, was this a conscious choice?

Yes, definitely. I’m constantly looking for new ways to tell my stories (new to me, at any rate, lol) and with each new series I try to get right away from how I’ve written previous books. With Grim and Grimmer, I let go and indulged the zany side of me that can’t really be evident in my more serious books.

It’s a long time since I was a child, or even since my 4 children were kids. They’re grown up and all have left home some years ago. And books were different then, certainly not as earthy as kids’ books are these days. So my only guide was the things the inner child in me found funny.

Do you have to work at the humour, or does it come naturally?

Sit down to afternoon tea with me and you probably wouldn’t chuckle all that often, though I do tend to make people laugh around the dinner table. But that kind of spontaneous, self-deprecating humour doesn’t translate well to the page. Yes, I do have to work at it, by digging deep into the kinds of basic, earthy situations that would have made me laugh as a child, and sometimes still do. It’s not easy, and I know I’m a novice at it.

But ah, what a pleasure it is when you can make people laugh!

Lord Monty woke with a farty yawn that smelled worse than the cornicle's armpit.

I've chortled out loud when reading some of your imagery ... do you have laugh out loud moments?

Actually, and this really surprised me, when proofreading these manuscripts I did get quite a few laughs, which was gratifying. I particularly enjoy the sequence in Book 3, The Desperate Dwarf, when Mellie’s failed spell has blown Ike’s bottom up to the size of a small airship and he’s bobbing around the ceilings of Delf, being mocked by a host of angry dwarves. Ike can see the where he has to get to, to find the Book of Grimmery he needs to fulfil his quest, but he simply he can’t get down to ground level. I had a lot of fun with that.

It's not all humour though, your book has some evil characters and a nightmare queen. My worst nightmare is when I dream I'm back being a checkout chick at Safeways (my after-school job). What's your worst nightmare?

Having to live in the environmental future we’ve left our children.

Being unable to live as a writer and being forced back to a real job.

Running out of ideas and writing the same book over and over, like some famous authors I could name.

Forgetting to back up the final drafts of my latest book and having the computer crash.

Writers have a lot of nightmares, and a lot of paranoia. And serves us right, ha, ha!

My writing contains parts of my own life ... are there parts of your life in your stories?

The funny thing is, I’ve worked in a dozen countries, done all kinds of jobs and worked with an amazing variety of people, and yet there really isn’t a lot of my own life in my stories. I’m blessed with a large extended family, on my wife’s side and my own, but as far as I know there aren’t a lot of dramatic and terrible tales there. We’re ordinary people with ordinary lives.

Which makes it all the more fun to make things up.

Finally, how do you keep track of all those worlds you've created!

I keep copious notes, make maps – there’s a whole section of them on my website: – and spreadsheets, and I also do an incredible number of drafts of each of my books. But in the end, the main way I keep my worlds consistent is by re-reading my drafts over and over.

And for my greatest work, if I ever falter, there’s the 339 page Three Worlds Wiki, created by fans of my books, where I can look up the details of the world I’ve created.

And if you want to pop by to say hello, or ask a question, or tell me what you disliked about my latest book (we offer unlimited after-sales service here at Ian Irvine Inc.), or enter my weekly book giveaways, here’s where to go:

Thanks for visiting Ian, I'm looking forward to reading more of Grim and Grimmer and seeing how everything pans out in the end. If you'd like to follow Ian's Blog Tour, the dates are listed below.



May 27, 2011  Gabrielle Wang How writers work

May 30, 2011 Onyabus, Omnibus Books

June 6, 2011    Ian Irvine        Introducing the Calamitous Queen blog tour
June 7, 2011 Nords Wharf Public School  Questions from students

June 8, 2011 Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook  Literacy and writing

June 9, 2011 Catriona Hoy Humour and writing

June 10, 2011 Kid’s Book Capers – Dee White    Review of book and interview

June 11, 2011 Sally Murphy The exciting (or otherwise) life of a writer

June 12, 2001 Claire Saxby   FFF(fun, fantasy, fiction): mix and stire (or how it all comes together)

June 13, 2011 Alison Reynolds   Why Ian wrote this book

June 14, 2011 Dee White (deescribewriting blog)Tuesday Writing Tips  Tips on how to finish a series

15 June 2011 St Joseph’s Primary School Questions from students

16 June 2011 Sheryl Gwyther  The 10 Best Things about writing 'Grim and Grimmer' + Things that Almost Drove You Nuts!

17 June 2011 Braemar College,Christine Wilson Questions from students

18 June, 2011 Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie The How-to's of Writing a Series

19 June 2011 Angela Sunde Where Ian's ideas for the series came from and how he knew there would be four books in it

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

STAV: Primary Science Teachers Conference.

It seemed like a good idea at the time....

Way back at the beginning of the year I had the bright idea of promoting George and Ghost to primary science teachers, so I registered as a presenter. In the middle of writing a year 10 exam, a year 11 SAC and trying to do my tax return last week, it didn't seem like such a great idea!

I've had to write my own teacher's  notes for George and Ghost, which I've posted on my website and tried to link it to both the new National Curriculum and the UK Curriulum. To me, it's a nice little way to introduce Science Inquiry and Science as Human Endeavour.

I wanted to look at picture books in particular and how they could relate to science themes. I quized my writer friends and primary school teachers and came up with their list. During my session, I asked the teachers attending to contribute further.

It was great to have a positive response to George and Ghost and I even sold a few books....and got a free umbrella for being a presenter.

Was I nervous? Pooping myself as usual. It's a whole different ball game, presenting to other teachers as opposed to teaching a class, or talking to other writers. I also spoke about recent books by other writers, including Glenda Millard's 'Isabella's Garden' and Claire Saxby's 'There Was an Old Sailor.' I was also able to point them in the direction of teacher's surprised me that some teachers weren't aware that many publisher's produce curriculum notes and ideas for their books.  I certainly didn't feel like an expert but the audience was kind and indulged me. Perhaps it was a light relief from talks on the National Curriculum and Inquiry Learning.

After attenting two sessions on those topics, my head was frazzled and again, I find it amazing that teachers manage to cope with all the information overload, curriculum changes and...still be passionate about picture books.

I'll be compiling my list over the next few weeks...either here or on my website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And the winners are...

Winning entries will receive free copies of Our Gags soon....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Copies Of 'Our Gags.'

I had planned to run this post on Friday, in conjunction with Dee White's review of 'Our Gags.' However, Blogger was down and hockey matches, basketball and other family commitments have intervened; including digging our new community garden vegetable patch!

'Our Gags,' is broadly based on our family and in particular my Mum, Rita.
It's a story of sock washing that litters the hallways, dishes that haven't been done, tired mums, new babies and toddlers that are feeling a little neglected.

Annabelle Josse's fun illustrations are a wonderfully warm accompaniment to this collection of three short stories for early readers. Our Gags is part of the Walker Stories series.

Gags is the name we call my mum, rather than Grandma, or Gran. It's one of those childhood names that stuck.

I've shared lots of stories about my mum in this book, how she was a great troll in Billy Goats Gruff, how she zoomed into the house and left it smelling of baking and cleaning...

So if you would like to win a copy of 'Our Gags,' all you need to do is share a story about your own mother, it can be funny, sad or can be about how she helped out with children, or something else. I'll ask my daughter to help me choose the best three stories...or maybe I'll ask Gags to help.

Due to the problems with Blogger last week, I'll extend the deadline till 8pm Tuesday AEST.

Hope to hear from some of you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'Our Gags' is officially launched.

A bag at the signing...and me.
 A lovely time was had by all on Saturday, when 'Our Gags,' my Walker Story early reader was officially launched.

I can't thank Julie McInnes from Matilda's Books in Mt Waverley enough, for the effort she put into hosting the event. Matildas books is one of those lovely bookshops, independently owned, where the staff are passionate about books and are full of great advice. Julie herself is an ex-librarian and devoted to literacy and literature.

Julie arranged a great window display with a range of all my books, organised all the catering and even provided each mum with a beautiful orchid. My mum and I received a bouquet of flowers each. Mum is still raving about the sausage rolls and wants me to find out where Julie got them. Plenty of champagne and bubbles and almost a couple of tears.

A big thankyou to Walker Books, who generously contributed to the costs of hosting the event. It's been a pleasure to work with the team at Walker who are dedicated to producing quality works.

Cr. Greg Male, Julie McInnes et moi.
Another thankyou to Cr. Greg Male, the mayor of Waverley. It was nice to meet my local mayor and have a chat. Cr. Male took time out from his busy schedule to pop in, say some nice words and even cut an official ribbon to launch 'Our Gags.'

For me, personally, it was a lovely way to thank my mum, who is the 'Gags' in the story for all the things she has done to help over the years . If you want an insight into the chaos that is the Hoy'll just have to read the book. Or better still, encourage an early reader to read it.

On Friday, I'll be giving away three copies of 'Our Gags' on my blog. Make sure you pop back then!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Time For A Blog Tour: George and Ghost

Phew, think I'm nearly there and ready for my blog tour, starting next week. There will be give aways, so stick with it!

Help me to celebrate the release of George and Ghost in Australia.
Delightfully illustrated by Cassia Thomas, George and Ghost is the heart-warming story of a little boy re-evaluating his friendship and his understanding of the world. George and Ghost are friends, but George isn't sure if he believes in Ghost anymore. Join Ghost as he tries to prove that there's more to being real than just weighing something.
For those who want to take it further and don't mind a bit of science and semantics, there are classroom notes on my website.

Here the blog tour stops and dates...hope some of you can make it and please, remember to leave a comment so I know someone is out there!

Monday March 7
Claire Saxby: Let’s Have Words
Topic: Art vs Science

Tuesday March 8
Rebecca Newman: Alphabet Soup Magazine’s Soup Blog
Topic: Does a picture book need editing?

Wednesday March 9
Trevor Cairney : Literacy, Families and Learning
Topic: The Writing Journey

Thursday March 10 (Official Release Day!)
Robyn Opie: Writing Children’s Books With Robyn Opie
Topic:  Writing George and Ghost

Friday March 11 (Free Giveaways!)
Dee White: Boomerang Books : Kid's Book Capers
Topic: Ghosts…Do You Believe? And…a review!

Saturday March 12
Chris Bell: From Hook To Book
Topic: Picture books: Here and Overseas.

Monday March 14
Lorraine Marwood: Words into Writing
Topic: What’s real anyway?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Creating Publicity For Your Book

Ah, what a naughty blogger I am. Especially when I'm just trying to organise a blog tour for my new book, George and Ghost.

It is released on March 10th and suddenly I'm in that mad time when publicity is crucial. It's been an extra long wait for me, as it was released in the UK in November but was held over in Australia until the start of the school year.

In the past, a book launch has been one of my primary focii (that word never seems right to me!). However, it involves some amount of personal anxiety, a lot of organisation and an over reliance on my friends to purchase books. I usually treat my launches as a celebration of something long awaited, like the birth of a new baby. I'm still not sure if I want to do one???@$#@%

Last year was my first experience with blog touring when Puggle was released. I went into the exercise with some hesitation as I wasn't sure who would be reading them if anyone...and would it be a case of navel gazing amongst fellow children's authors. Puggle has gone on to be a great success and I hope that some of that was due to the blog tour. The kind blog hosts I visited were so generous and asked some great questions. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would and the information remains on the web for those who want to find out more about Puggle, or puggles in general.

So what is my plan this year?

These days, authors are expected to put a great deal of effort into promotion and have an on-line presence. Being a picture book author, my publicity budget is probably $10 and the publicist only looks at you for the month your book is releaed so I have to be pro-active.

I'm a bit scatterbrained at times, especially at the start of a new school year when I'm also getting my head around new classes. Maybe if I write it down I'll remember. Maybe some other people will get some ideas.

1. Schedule blog tour for dates around release date:

Done...scheduled for 7-12 th of March through aussieblogtours and with some other invitees.
Have asked publisher to provide review copies and this has been agreed to.

2. Advertise blog tour.
Last year, I wasn't as pro-active in this regard as I should have been, so I'll be making sure I put posts in PIO and twitter.

3. Contact book stores regarding signing opportunities.

Not sure how successful that will be. You have to be a big name. I'm just a little wee name, writing books for little wee ones. Last year Jeffrey's books in Malvern supported my book launch and this year they have asked me to visit. Shall follow this up.

Have dropped off a copy at Tim's Bookstore in Maling Rd...wonder if they'll like it?

4. Think about where I will be on holidays, and whether I can do library visits.
I'll be around Mansfield at Easter...maybe I can pop in there? I popped in during the summer break and the staff were really welcoming and asked me to come back if I was ever in the area.

5. Book promotions and Give Aways.
Contacting magazines. Have contacted a magazine I write regularly for ...haven't heard back.

Have contacted teaching magazine and they are interested in a giveaway for back page...yay! Maybe it'll even lead to an article.

Think about contacting local newspapers??

6. Look for opportunities to show book to primary teachers and highlight curriculum links to science.

Selling a picture book to schools is really important. They are so expensive that most sales go through schools and libraries rather than the local bookstore.

I've put my name down as a presenter at the STAV primary school science teachers conference. Will they accept me? Who knows. Am already thinking in my head the types of activieties I could do, including measuring volume by water displacement and trying to weigh music!

I've already written a set of curriculum notes which I've posted on my website, trying to show links between both the UK and Australian primary science curricula.

7. Investigate home schooling?

My twitter page seems to be followed by many home schoolers...perhaps this is because My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day is so popular. Are there any avenues to show curriculum links there?

8. Gifted and Talented.

Since George and Ghost offers the launching pad for an almost limitless discussion on the nature of reality... What opportunities exist there?

Let me know if anyone else has any good ideas.

And then...I have to do it all again in April when Our Gags is released!!! Arrgh.

Sometimes I wish writing books was about....WRITING BOOKS.