Cameron Macintosh: a writer and editor based in Melbourne, has worked in educational publishing since 2001, editing primary literacy books and teaching materials, and author of more than 80 primary titles.
In 2017 he dived into the world of trade publishing with the release of the first book in his Max Booth Future Sleuth series — a humour-filled sci-fi series for 7 to 10-year-olds. Previous titles in the series include Tape Escape (read our conversation here) and Selfie Search, with the latest, Stamp Safari released in August 2018 (illustrated by Dave Atze, published by Big Sky Publishing).
Megan: I love how you’ve set the Max Booth series 400 years into the future. Have you thought a lot about how we are treating our planet and what the planet may look like in 400 years? Or was it just fun to dream up whatever you wanted and readers just having to accept what you say?
Cameron: That’s a great question. I can definitely say that I’ve had all of that in mind from the beginning. The fun side of it came first, narrowly, but it was apparent pretty quickly that a series about future people looking back at our present-day lifestyles could offer some opportunities to examine how we’re looking after the planet.
These thoughts play out fairly subtly in the Max stories but they’re definitely an important layer, given that Max lives in a very crowded, polluted city. Max’s hometown, Bluggsville, is also very sharply divided by class, so I hope the series might also spark discussions about social inequality, and things we might be able to do now to prevent our society from fracturing further in the coming decades and centuries.
Megan: Wow! I love the layers you’ve included in these stories. I’m sure it will generate great classroom discussions.
Max often seems to get himself into scrapes and situations where he must overcome various fears. How does Max approach these situations? And how do you face your fears?
Cameron: Max tends to face his fears by confronting them head-on, with cheekiness and bravado. But there are definitely times when he doesn’t feel so confident. When these times come along, his robo-dog Oscar can usually supply the boost he needs. They’re pretty good at supporting each other when one is feeling frightened or discouraged.
As for me, when I’m facing a fearful situation, I try to ask myself ‘How scary is this, really? What’s the worst that could come of this?’ Usually, the worst-case scenario isn’t nearly as bad as the feeling of fear makes it out to be.
Megan: I love how Max has Oscar to give him that boost when he needs it. And you have said something I believe in whole-heartedly. Often, fear makes things appear way worse than the situation really is.
Do you get fan mail? If so, what has been your favourite so far?
Cameron: I have had a few messages from happy readers – it’s a huge buzz when the readership you’re writing for responds to your stories in the way you were hoping they would. One particularly nice message actually suggested a really good plot for a future Max story. Who knows, that one might become a co-write!
Megan: That must be exciting.
Will Max and Oscar be having more adventures?
Cameron: There’s definitely more to come. Book 4 is written and in production as we speak. I won’t give too much away about that one, except to say that it deals with the discovery of some very old-school photographic gear, and more grave danger for Max and Oscar!
Megan: Sounds intriguing.
What are your favourite ways to feed your creativity?
Cameron: Apart from consuming as many good books and films as possible, at the moment I’m finding meditation to be really helpful. I don’t know whether it’s actually feeding the creativity or just giving it space to seep out – a bit of both, I suspect. There are so many demands on our attention these days, but even just a few minutes of stillness seems to help me filter out some of the white noise and hear my own thoughts more clearly.
I also find abstract visual art to be a useful trigger for story ideas, perhaps because it generally gives you permission to interpret it in a very personal way that can spark all sorts of creative associations in your head.
These things won’t work for everyone but I love hearing how other people answer this question. It’s always interesting to know what sparks ideas in other people’s heads.
'... just a few minutes of stillness seems to help me filter out some of the white noise and hear my own thoughts more clearly.'
Megan: Sparks of ideas can come from all sorts of places. Conversations, books, poetry, something I see…
Your YA manuscript, The Ascension of Saint Jay, was shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize in 2017. What has become of that story? Are you still working on it?
Cameron: I’m a huge fan of the Ampersand Prize – a competition dedicated to first-time YA and middle grade novelists. Being shortlisted was a huge thrill, as well as a much-needed confidence boost. That particular story has been with me for quite a long time, and I’ve redrafted it so many times that I’ve had to take a long break from it to look at it again with any clarity. I think I’ve finally reached that point in the last month or two. I’m pretty happy with the voice and the feel of it, but the plot needs some pretty major renovations, so I’m bracing myself for the inevitable slash-and burn. It definitely needs doing, but it’s gonna hurt!
Megan: Ahhh! Yes! The re-write. Or as you say, the ‘slash and burn’.
What’s next for you?
Cameron: I’m currently working on Max’s fifth adventure, and having a lot of fun with it. As soon as that’s done I’ll start the Saint Jay rewrite in earnest – hopefully the 600th draft will be the last! In the midst of all of that, I’ll be writing some levelled readers too, for one of my educational publishers. It’s a lot to juggle in this modest brain of mine but I’ll always be grateful that this is what I actually get to do for a living.
Megan: Sounds like a busy and exciting time ahead.
And as always … 3 Fun Facts:
1. As a kid, I was obsessed with the Smurfs, and built up a sizeable collection of little blue figurines. I sold them all for pocket money as a teenager but now I want them back! These days I’m slowly restoring the collection with visits to collectible shops and junk markets.
2. I’m crazy about dogs. Maybe when I grow up I’ll get one of my own!
3. I only buy socks with loud colours or unusual pictures on them. They’re so much easier to pair up after they come off the clothesline! (Today’s pair: skull and crossbones. Tomorrow: pineapples)
Title: Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari
Author: Cameron Macintosh
Illustrator: Dave Atze
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade Chapter Book
Age Range: 6-12
“This is a fun and fast-moving series packed with action.” – KBR
“A fun and futuristic junior fiction series kids will love.” – Just Write for Kids
Max is back. And in the third instalment of the action-packed Max Booth Future Sleuth series, Max and his robosidekick, Oscar, are ready to sharpen their super-sleuthing skills yet again.
MAX BOOTH FUTURE SLEUTH: STAMP SAFARI
A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.
Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…
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