Works by this Author-
Hi Patricia, tell us about yourself
Hi, Jo, I’m a wife, mum and a nanna and I volunteer for a wildlife rescue. I also write children’s books from our house in a coastal village in Australia.
What inspired you to start writing?
Well, I’ve always wanted to write and publish children’s books but never found the time until I was in my early fifties. Trouble was I left school at fourteen and never learned to write properly so I had to start from scratch.
My grammar was terrible so I went on a couple of online critique groups to learn. The writers on these groups were fabulous and after four years of critiquing and writing I felt confident enough to publish my first children’s book Star-Crossed Rascals.
Why did you decide to write for children?
I was a very mischievous and adventurous child and quite weird too. I wrote the silly things that I did on scraps of paper and I often read them to my children when they were small. They used to laugh their heads off and so did other people when I told them my stories.
Mind, my kids used to beg me not to tell their friends that they were true tales, especially the one where my best friend and I collected used bubble-gum from the pavement to see who could make the biggest ball. My mother hated it whenever I brought that one up because she banned me from playing with that girl, ever again.
I also accidently broke the bathroom wall in the girl’s toilets at school, and then stunk out the classroom by hanging my wet underwear behind the radiator to dry.
When I was learning to write, I uploaded these chapters for critiquing. The other writers thought they were funny and encouraged me to keep going with them. That gave me confidence so as soon as I had learned enough about grammar, I published my first children’s book.
Star-Crossed Rascals seems to be popular with reluctant readers because of the slap-stick humour in it and also pensioners love it. I’ve sold many to middle-aged and older women as well as to children and even a couple of teenage boys. Now that surprised me.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
That’s easy, fan mail of course. I love it when children write to me and tell me how much they love my books or a particular character.
What or who inspires you to write?
Things that happen to me or my family, or they come from my surroundings, and I always get inspired by something when I go for my daily bush walk.
Many things inspire me. Humour mostly, and also sadness. I’m inspired by the antics of my children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and animals. I love all animals and get inspired by all their different personalities.
I’m also a klutz sometimes and funny things have always happened to me, so I guess I inspire myself sometimes. I was inspired to write my second published book, Velvet Ball and The Broken Fairy, by a weird-looking fairy doll I found in a curiosity shop in our local village.
From reading about your life, it sounds like you have had to learn a lot about writing from scratch, what has been the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging thing for me was learning grammar and spelling. I missed school a lot when I was young because I was hospitalised for a while due to childhood illnesses. I never caught up after that and so I became the class clown.
I spent many hours either outside the classroom or in the principal’s office. It’s weird because I bought books on grammar and even did a small course, but I still couldn’t grasp it until I joined a critique group. I learned more from other writers correcting my mistakes and me critiquing there stories and also reading hundred’s of children’s books.
After four years, it gradually sunk in, though I’m still learning. I have read books all my life, but I never learned how to write properly and when I was working in offices I was often teased about my bad spelling and grammar, especially when I had a job in the Advertising Department in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Actually, I couldn’t believe they gave me that job in the first place, but they had given me an IQ test and picked me out. Haha, they sure got a shock when I started work and sent adds down to the print room. The men down there weren’t allowed to change anything and my bad spelling went to print. One day the boss came into the office and threw a newspaper on my desk. Then he barked at me about all the misspellings. LOL. I shrugged and told him it was his own fault for not giving me a spelling test before he hired me.
After that he sent me up into the script room to search for a long-lost document. I found it pretty quickly and gave it to him. He was shocked and said he’d been looking for that for ages. I think he’d been looking for another excuse to fire me, but he didn’t. He actually promoted me to an assistant to a fellow who did the advertisements for the cinema’s and theatres. That was a great job and I didn’t need to spell, just to be a little artistic and charm the clients.
Who does the photography for your books?
I mainly do the photography for my books. I photograph wildlife, domestic pets, people. That is for the Molly Gumnut series. But I also get a bit of help from one of my sisters.
I used her granddaughter for the face of Molly on the front cover. I added my photos of the bandicoot and photos of my niece to fit my story.
I’d written the story when I cared for an injured baby bandicoot that was attacked by a cat. I didn’t want to release it back to its own territory because the cat was still living there as well as three others. But that’s the rules when looking after wildlife. They have to go back to their own territory.
The photos of Molly took ages to get the right ones. Also I was inspired to add the adventure she went on with the bandicoot after finding a derelict cottage in the forest not far from where I live.
I went in there and photographed the rooms, then I tried to imagine what a child would do if they were trapped in there. Would she sleep on the old wooden bed frame? Would she be scared there all by herself?
Molly Gumnut was the second story I wrote, but I published Velvet first because Molly needed more pictured and more editing. I’m writing the sequel to that one at the moment as well as the sequel to Velvet. With The Rascals Series, I draw my own illustrations. I learned to draw when I wasn’t paying attention to my lessons, so I guess I learned something at school after all.
Who has been your favourite character to work with?
Um, I love all my characters but I guess I’d have to say Pollyweena Grubble. She is me as a child. For her character I used my own memories.
The Rascals Series is sort of an autobiography of me as a seven-year-olds and the memories of my adventures with my best friend. Though the endings to Star-Crossed Rascals and Rascals Sing at The Opera House are fictitious and so is Great Aunt Mabel.
I was advised by another published writer to add a mean adult to make the MC more endearing and less like a brat. That must have worked because this book sells better than the others and seems to be the children’s favourite.
Do you base your characters on anyone in particular? (the cheeky Molly Gumnut springs to mind)
Molly is based on my character with the animal rescue and how I think about animals, but she’s a little more outspoken than I was as a child, though I’m quite outspoken now as an adult, especiall when it comes to animal safety.
I do actually confront people if I think it will save the life of an animal. Only a few days ago, I had to confront some neighbours who were letting their large dogs chase kangaroos through the woods. Two dead joeys were found mauled and it boiled my blood that they didn’t keep their dogs from getting out of their own yard. Plus I was wild that their dogs could get killed by cars as there have been many dogs in our estate that have been killed by cars, one just a few days ago. I hate it when people are carless with animals
Polly (Pollyweena) is based on me as a child and her best friend, Gertie is based on my childhood best friend.
Velvet Ball is nine and has alopecia, (no hair). She is bullied at school until she rescues a dysfunctional fairy called Roseberry. Both Velvet and Roseberry are totally fictitious and I have no idea where their characters came from. They just popped into my head. I’m writing the sequel to that story at the moment.
Is there anything you have learnt from your first book that you have carried into your others?
Yes, I learned to follow my instincts and my heart. I wanted to publish Star-Crossed Rascals with an agent and regular publisher, but after submitting to agents and publishers for two years and nearly getting a publisher for Molly Gumnut, they changed their mind at the last minute and they’d had my manuscript for over six months. After that, I decided to self-publish Star-Crossed Rascals after only submitting it to three agents.
I’m glad Idid because so far, it’s received all five star reviews and is loved by children and adults.
I wrote Molly at the same time as Star-Crossed Rascals, but it’s a much thicker book and with more pictures. I do wish I had edited Molly a bit better like I did with Star-Crossed because I did make a few typos and as it’s a paperback as well as an eBook, it’s too late to change it now. Though I could do a second edition, I would lose all the great reviews I’ve received for Molly so far. So I guess I’ve learned not to rush things.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all of my books, but Star Crossed Rascals and Rascals sing at The Opera House the most I guess. That’s because I drew all the illustrations too. Plus I taught myself to draw.
Do you have any upcoming works that you would like to share?
Yes, I’m working on the sequel to Molly Gumnut. The second in the series is nearly finished. In this story, Molly rescues more animals and there will also be plenty of drama as Gretchen will be back to cause more trouble for Molly.
(I actually had a girl like Gretchen in my class at school. She used to pinch and bite me, but always under the desk. LOL)
Is there anything that you would like to add?
Just to thank you very much, Jo, for inviting me to your blog with this interview. I’d love to do one for you in return. How about it?
Where can we find you and your books?
You can find me and my books on my Blog:http://trish-mollygumnut.blogspot.com.au/
My website: http://childrens-books-author-p-puddle.com/
You can also follow Pollyweena on Twitter:
Thank you once again Jo. It’s been a pleasure.
Available as ebooks and paperbacks