Today I welcome Felicity Banks to the blog. Felicity is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books.
The Monster Apprentice is the first in a new series you’re writing. What is the story behind this story/ what inspired it?
I think the story behind The Monster Apprentice might be longer than the book itself but here goes! When I was eighteen years old, I lived in Indonesia for six months. One day, while listening to a sermon (obviously not very attentively) I had the idea of inventing my own fantasy world—something that was different to the overwhelming majority of fantasy novels (ie written by white men and set in a place somewhat like Great Britain). I invented Rahana that day: a tropical archipelago like Indonesia, with a wide range of different cultures and traditions (so I could set all kinds of different books there), and with a magical system that made physical strength irrelevant.
I wrote a book set in that world, then turned that book into a trilogy. Years later, after writing the entire young adult trilogy, I went to New Zealand to travel on the Young Endeavour sail training vessel. Who says research isn’t fun?
While staying in Christchurch before the voyage, I ran out of sightseeing money and decided to stay where I was and write a kids’ book set in Rahana. The first draft of The Monster Apprentice was written by hand in ten days. I was staying in a backpacker within sight of the famous Christchurch Cathedral (this was more than ten years ago, before the earthquake), and I’d walk down to the Botanic Gardens and write there. I asked for a discount at the backpacker in exchange for a future book dedication—and they said yes.
The book has changed a lot since then. Captain Sol didn’t even exist until after I’d gone on a tall ship myself.
Naturally, The Monster Apprentice turned into a trilogy too. The Princess and the Pirate will be released in early 2019, and Waking Dead Mountain in 2020.
Is it illustrated? If so, who by?
Yes! My publisher, Odyssey Books, has an imprint specifically for beautiful novelty books for adults, and one of those books is Makeshift Galaxy, which is stunning. When I asked to have Tash Turgoose illustrate my kids’ trilogy, the publisher said, ‘Yes!’ and the rest is history! She does amazing pencil drawings. It actually looks like my magical world has been photographed.
What age group is this series aimed at?
It’s middle grade, meaning it’s written for 10-14 year olds—but having said that, it’s a story that I’d enjoy reading as a 36-year old. I asked the amazing Australian children’s author, Sandy Fussell, to write a cover quote for me, and was stunned when she said yes. I enjoy reading her children’s books for my own pleasure, and I like to think mine are also in that class of being an excellent book for any age.
What drew you to writing for this age? Or was it just that the story you wrote fit that age group?
Ooh, good question! I usually write young adult books, because they tend to be faster-moving and more optimistic than “adult” books. Children’s books share those qualities, and are also gentler on the emotions (usually!) so that appealed. At the time I’d been thinking about writing for Penguin’s “Aussie Chomps” series. That, plus knowing I was due to set sail in ten days, meant a shorter book made sense for me at the time.
Why do you enjoy writing for that age group?
I’m fascinated by coming-of-age stories, and the idea of deciding who you and and/or who you want to be. It’s a classic theme for non-adult books, but I think we’re all constantly figuring out who we are, and that’s a great thing to write about.
How will you be celebrating the release of your book?
With a free pirate ball! Here in Canberra there’s an amazing dance group called the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy that runs a themed ball every month. I contacted them asking for a pirate-themed ball in February, with a free half hour at the beginning. They said yes, and the rest is history!
Three Fun Facts:
Blurb about The Monster Apprentice:
The only weapon Dance has is her name.
When pirates threaten the tiny hidden island of Luar, Dance knows her home has only one hope of survival: the magical monsters that killed her twin sister.
Dance loses her friends one by one as she attempts to prepare her strange apprentices for the showdown between monsters and pirates. Can she do it alone?
The Monster’s Apprentice is a powerful story of looking at the world differently and finding an answer in an unexpected place.
Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” at Interactive Fiction Data Base (IFDB): Felicity Banks and most of her interactive fiction can be read via an app.
Where to find Felicity Banks:
Facebook: Felicity Banks Books
Book Launch Event Page: Free Mini-ball and book launch
Illustrator: Tash Turgoose
Book Trailer: The Monster Apprentice
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The writing life can be confusing, hard work, amazing, exciting, and not for everyone. How can a writer live a genuine writing life? Is it possible to keep up with the quickly changing publishing scene, as well as learn new technology? Who better to ask then someone who has been around the publishing scene for a long time, Hazel Edwards.
I met Hazel in Gippsland in 2015, when she re-visited the area where she had lived as a teenager and talked with a few of the people mentioned in her just released memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake’ Being an Author’. I wasn’t in the memoir, but I read and reviewed it, and blogged about my meeting with Hazel. We’ve kept in touch since.
Hi Hazel, and welcome to my blog. The first post for 2017. Yay! What a way to start an exciting new year.
Q. What are your writing projects for 2017?
A. Those writers, whom I’ve helped to finish their books, call themselves my ‘Hazelnuts’. I enjoy helping aspiring writers, so I’m offering a Non-Boring Finish Your Non-Fiction Book Project year long mentoring course with the Public Records Office. First Friday of each month 10-1pm and the aim is to FINISH each participant’s book by the December class.
It’s aimed at procrastinators doing family histories but can apply to anyone who benefits from having an opportunity to share book-length W.I.P. (work in progress), each month. (The PRO in North Melbourne also has free parking which is great for regional writers).
I’ve also switched to writing an adult murder series with a celebrant sleuth. So, I’m currently researching weddings, funerals and cross cultural celebrations. Interviewing florists, celebrants, retirement home staff and caterers. Plus, working on my plotting. Nothing quite like saying ‘My real son is getting married this year to a lovely girl and I’m working out how a murder might occur, in fiction, at a wedding’.
Our co-written ‘Hijabi Girl’ has been optioned for other media, so I will be involved in further stories for our feisty Melek in a hijab who may become Australia’s ‘Pippi Longstocking’ just like Astrid Lindgren’s Scandinavian girl, except our 8 year old Melek starts a girls’ footy team in a mainstream Australian school.
It is important for authors to ‘speak up’ about the ideas world they inhabit, as they are potential problem-solvers via their books suggesting more tolerant approaches to diversity. A book can take a reader into a different culture for the length of that story and maybe beyond. Compassionate humour is more effective than propaganda. And young readers become adults who think, then act. But they need the literacy skills to start.
Recently I was filmed in my study workplace by Channel 9 News and the Copyright Agency. A film clip which spreads around social media is a more strategic way of commenting on literacy or copyright issues for authors. But you do have to tidy up a bit and wear some makeup and a colourful ‘book’ jacket which looks ok on camera, even if you are NOT the glamorous type. Luckily, I have a wonderful author friend Krista Bell who picks out appropriate ‘camera’ jackets, as I have no dress sense and think in abstract.
Wow! That is a lot of exciting news. From mentoring aspiring writers, to starting to write adult murder mysteries, having Hijabi Girl’ be optioned for other media as well as working on further stories for Melek. You have a busy year ahead.
Q. What are your best hints for aspiring writers?
Try collaboration. Co-writing a project gives you an opportunity to learn new skills, a deadline and having fun together too. With technology, such as Skype, your co-writer can live anywhere. You can share the frustrations, rejections and the small triumphs as well as learn technology and new ways of sharing those stories.
Secondly, be businesslike. ‘Author’ is a brand. What are the words you’d like readers to associate with your name as an author, even if you write in different genres and formats? I’d like my author brand to be: Quirky humour, Issues based and Authorpreneurial.
Thirdly. Write. Don’t just talk about writing.
Great advice, Hazel.
"Write. Don’t just talk about writing."
Q. Could you share ‘behind the pages’ of your work?
My memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’ was my candid sharing of the real life of a longterm author who also has a family and community involvement. One of my aims in 2017 is for the memoir to be audio recorded, as many readers now listen on various devices in transit.
But sometimes books take on ‘another life’.
In 2017 & 2018, my ‘Sir Edward ‘Weary ‘ Dunlop” Aussie Heroes series book is included in the ANZAC ‘Behind the Pages’ exhibition touring Brisbane and other libraries. Instigated by New Zealander Maria Gill, these war -themed collections of children’s books focus on Australian and New Zealand problem-solvers. Lots of educational resources provided. Stories can have long term lives in new formats, once they are written.
And a themed touring libraries and galleries exhibition could be relevant for other book subjects.
So back to the computer to write.
Thank you so much for coming onto my blog today, Hazel, and sharing your experiences with us.
Check out Hazel's website. It's jam packed with wisdom and insights, and you can keep up to date on where she is at and her books that are available.
e-books such as ‘Authorpreneurship; The Business of Creativity’ or 'Writing a Non Boring Family History’ are available here.
‘Hijabi Girl’ is available from BookPOD
Memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake; Being an Author’ is available from Booktopia who carry most of Hazel’s print titles.
Check out: 'Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages'
And if you want to know more about Non-Boring Finish Your Non-Fiction Book Project year long mentoring course with the Public Records Office, check out: Finish Writing Your Book with Hazel Edwards
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