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


  1. Thanks very much, Catriona. I'm only too happy to answer anyone's questions.

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