Recently, I reviewed the children’s book Freaky on the Aussiereviews site. Today, I am delighted to have the author of Freaky, Sue Whiting, drop in for an interview.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
I was sitting in the staffroom at the school I used to teach at, when the school secretary came in with an email she received from a friend. The email told how a “friend of the friend” had bought a rare cactus from Mexico and planted it in his garden. Everything was fine until the day the cactus exploded and revealed huge spiders nesting inside it. Being arachnophobic, I was horrified – aghast! When I discovered the story was a hoax, an urban myth, I felt rather foolish – I had been totally sucked in by it – but I also had a rather delicious idea for a new story …
I’m not best fond of spiders, and recently had a scary encounter with a huntsman. Do you have a spider story of your own you can share?
I’m not particularly fond of spiders either – so it is kind of weird that I have written about gigantic tarantulas. I have many spider stories to tell, including the one where I totally freaked out when a spider walked across my windscreen when driving on the freeway. Screaming your lungs out and taking your hands off the wheel to wave them wildly around like a loon is not recommended when cruising at 110kph. Luckily my husband took control of the steering wheel and that is probably why I am here today to tell the story. I also have the huntsman down the front of my blouse story and the huntsman sitting on my head one and …
The Lightning Strikes series is a great format, especially for reluctant readers. Can you explain the series for those readers who might not have come across it yet?
Lightning Strikes is a series of high-interest, fast-paced short novels for kids 9+ who haven’t yet been struck by the reading bug. They are fun, quirky stories that reflect the interests and concerns of Australian pre-teens. They have great cover effects, so they look really cool too. They are published by Walker Books Australia. To date, there are twelve books in the series, with more planned for the future.
Was Freaky written especially for the series? If so, was it difficult to write a story specifically for a series?
I actually wrote Freaky several years ago and adapted it to the series brief. This wasn’t too difficult as it was already the right word length and pitched to the Lightning Strikes readership. I merely polished it up, added some informal text types (posters, signs, notes, internet articles) and ramped up the action and humour.
What advice can you give other writers about writing or shaping stories for existing series?
· Read as many books as possible already in that particular series to get a feel for the types of stories that work and to also know what has already been covered.
· Follow the guidelines / brief as closely as possible, taking care to keep to suggested word length and to pitch to the intended age group.