There’s a fabulous new interview with Jenny Blackford on the Murder Monday series presented by the Sisters in Crime You Tube channel. In it, host Karina Kilmore interviews Jenny about writing crime fiction for children, her writing process, and more.
There’s a lovely new review of our Davitt Award-winning title, Jenny Blackford’s The Girl in the Mirror, on writer Jonathan Shaw’s blog. Here’s a short extract:
In what seems another lifetime, I was professionally immersed for something like 15 years in literature for children of primary school age – the brilliant range of writing arrayed between little children’s picture books and beginners’ chapter books at one end and YA fiction at the other. I haven’t read a lot of it since. The Girl in the Mirror reminds me of what I’m missing.
You can read the whole review here.
At the 2020 Davitt Awards ceremony the other day, presenter Sue Turnbull read out the judges’ great comments on Jenny Blackford’s prize-winning book, The Girl in the Mirror, after Val McDermid announced her win. That was followed by a short speech by Jenny herself. We thought readers might be interested to see the transcript, which follows, courtesy of Sisters in Crime Australia. And remember, you can watch the whole thing here.
DAVITT AWARDS CEREMONY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.
SUE TURNBULL: This year 12 crime books competed for the Davitt for Best Children’s Crime Novel. 4 were shortlisted.
VAL MCDERMID: And the Davitt for the Best Children’s Crime Novel goes to JENNY BLACKFORD for The Girl in the Mirror (Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press)
JENNY BLACKFORD is an award-winning Australian writer and poet. Her poems and stories for adults and children have appeared in Asimov’s, Westerly, The School Magazine and many more Australian and international journals and anthologies. She won two prizes in the Sisters in Crime Australia Scarlet Stiletto awards 2016 for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, with water nymphs. Eagle Books published her spidery, ghostly middle-grade novel The Girl in the Mirror in October 2019. It’s based on a story that originally appeared in The School Magazine. Pitt Street Poetry published her third poetry collection, The Alpaca Cantos, in April 2020.
SUE TURNBULL: This is what the judges had to say:
“Separated by more than a hundred years, and brought together through a mysterious mirror, Maddie and Clarissa provide comfort and wisdom at a time when they feel desperately alone. The girls band together to defeat a creeping evil that threatens the lives of their families. The Girl in the Mirror is a refreshingly contemporary time-slip mystery. Maddie and Clarissa are intensely relatable with their shared frustrations at the way in which they are dismissed by the adults in their lives. Jenny Blackford has captured the pains of early adolescence – loneliness, fear, uncertainty – in a gripping mystery that is perfectly pitched to the middle readers who will love it.”
Over to you JENNY.
“I’m so delighted! The Sisters in Crime do an amazing job of encouraging and supporting Australian crime readers and writers. In 2016 I won two prizes in the Scarlet Stiletto awards, run by the Sisters in Crime, for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, and that has certainly encouraged me to write more crime fiction and poetry. And now this, the Children’s Crime Novel Davitt for The Girl in the Mirror. Thank you, Sisters!
“I must thank Christmas Press Commissioning Editor Beattie Alvarez, who pulled my submission out of the slush and turned it into a real book. Eagle Books is the adventure story imprint of Christmas Press, based in Armidale and run by Sophie Masson, Fiona McDonald and David Allan. Huge thanks to them all. They were the perfect publishers for my mix of crime, ghost story and mystery, with added spiders. The design of the book is amazing, thanks to Beattie and Fiona – there are tiny redback spiders on every page, and gloriously creepy black and white illustrations sprinkled through it. And thanks to illustrator Liz Anelli, who launched it at MacLean’s Booksellers and at Maitland Library.
“My friends and family have been admirably patient whenever I’ve stopped doing whatever I was halfway through and looked blankly into space. Many of them have also helped with proofreading and editing for many drafts of the manuscript – especially my husband Russell.”
September 27, 2020
Christmas Press is absolutely delighted to announce that Jenny Blackford’s fabulous middle-grade novel, The Girl in the Mirror, which we published in our Eagle Books imprint in 2019, is the winner of the Best Children’s Crime Novel category in the 2020 Davitt Awards.
The Awards, which were presented by legendary Scottish crime writer Val McDermid in a virtual ceremony yesterday, Saturday September 26, featured a shortlist of 24 books across six categories. You can find the video of the ceremony here.
Prestigious annual awards with a 20-year history, the Davitts are run by the Sisters in Crime Australia literary organisation and showcase the best crime novels by Australian women writers.
The Girl in the Mirror, an enthralling mix of murder mystery, time slip and ghost story, is the debut middle-grade novel of acclaimed poet and short story writer Jenny Blackford. Illustrated with atmospheric black and white pictures by Fiona McDonald, the novel has received wide acclaim, with reviewers praising its ‘clever storytelling’ (Buzz Words), ‘silky smooth prose’ (Compulsive Reader) and its ‘enjoyable and revelatory’ qualities (ReadPlus). As Geoffrey McSkimming writes in the back cover quote, it is truly a ‘spine-tingling winner.’
Publishing director of Christmas Press, Sophie Masson, said, ‘Jenny initially submitted her novel to us some time ago in one of our open submissions period, and it immediately caught the eye of our commissioning editor Beattie Alvarez, for its haunting atmosphere, gripping narrative and sharp, evocative writing. We loved working with Jenny and are very proud to have published The Girl in the Mirror. We warmly congratulate Jenny on this very well-deserved win and thank the Davitt Awards judges and Sisters in Crime Australia for supporting the best in crime fiction by Australian women writers.’
How a book came to be is always an interesting subject, and in the case of The Phantasmic Detective Agency, those inspirations and influences were from a variety of richly creative sources. Here’s a piece Julian wrote for us, for the Teachers’ Notes of the book, which reveals the moment when the idea for the story came into view.
Over several years I wrote a series of spooky, supernatural short stories for young readers including ‘Shadow Wolf’ (about a wolf who escapes a shadow-puppet play to hunt down the good citizens of Edwardian London) and ‘The Man Who Didn’t Like Getting Wet’ (about a man who is granted a wish by a water-fairy with terrible unexpected results). I also worked on the lyrics and story for a musical play based on the well-known Jewish legend of the Golem.
All these ideas came together in a most surprising way when I was rereading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. I imagined a casebook of mysteries for a Holmes-like detective hired to solve crimes involving the supernatural: ghosts, werewolves, faeries. He would stand astride the Old World of superstition, magic and folk wisdom (that feared but respected the mysteries of Nature) and the New World of science and technology (that laid bare the secrets of Nature while taming it to humanity’s control and use).
The setting of Edwardian London seemed perfect for such a story; ever since the mid-Victorian period the pace of technological change and invention (electric lighting, telephones, cameras and cinema, iron ships, aeroplanes) had sped up rapidly. This gave me the idea of two brothers – Alfred, the spirit-detective and Edmund, the stage magician – one performing magic for entertainment, the other for crime-solving. The main characters would be Edmund’s children, Leopold and Lily, who dream of being modern-day heroes, a pilot and a detective respectively.
I enjoyed researching this book from many sources but particularly photos. Images of London were found in Getty Images 1910s: Decades of the 20th Century and Edwardian London by Felix Barker. Several locations in Paris were drawn from the beautiful images of photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927): the windows of Madame Fernier’s children’s clothing store in Chapter 12; Le Cour de Dragon where our heroes enter the catacombs; Le Pain Agile theatre (Chapter 15) based on the Cabaret de L’Enfer, boulevard de Clichy.
You can find the full Teachers’ Notes, which include some fascinating information on the historical and folklore background of the book, as well as discussion, research and creative activities, at the Teachers’ Notes page of this website, or at the United Publishers of Armidale website, here.
We are proud to announce the publication this week of Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful novel for middle-grade/YA readers, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, available now from all good bookshops around Australia.
Prepare to be swept into an amazing world….
London, Christmas Eve, 1911: the world is changing fast: giant warships, aeroplanes with bombs, spies and assassins, fear of war with Germany. And the cosy lives of teenagers Lily and Leo Keeler, who long for adventure, are about to be torn apart by secrets, espionage and monstrous creatures. When a shadow-puppet play unexpectedly releases the hungry spectre of Shadow Wolf, Lily and Leo get more adventure than they ever bargained for, as they battle the threat with their uncle Alfred, a brilliant, notorious Sherlock Holmes- like paranormal detective.
But that proves to be only the first mystery in a conspiracy that threatens the whole Keeler family, as Lily and Leo’s stage magician parents vanish for real in the middle of their latest spectacular magic act. From the Royal Naval dockyards of Plymouth to the bone-stacked catacombs of Paris, Lily and Leo and their uncle must confront eerie creatures and spine-tingling danger as they are chased by a ruthless spy-ring determined to harness the dark forces of Magick as weapons of war…
An exciting, inventive mix of adventure, fantasy, mystery and history, written with a light, sure touch, and featuring engaging characters, atmospheric settings and many twists and turns, this is a novel to enthrall readers and keep them on the edge of their seats. As Michael Pryor notes in his cover quote: With bucketloads of colourful history, all the magic of the theatre and excitement galore, The Phantasmic Detective Agency is a cavalcade of imaginative steampunk delight.
As we mark the publication of this fantastic book, we mourn the loss but celebrate the brilliant creative achievement of its lovely author, Julian Leatherdale, who died last week. It was Julian’s first novel for young readers, after three acclaimed historical novels for adults, and though we are sad that we will not see more fabulous adventures from his pen, we hope that many, many enthralled readers are swept away into the riches and wonders of a truly special novel.
We were very sad to hear the news of the death, on Wednesday this week (April 22), of Julian Leatherdale, author of our wonderful upcoming title, The Phantasmic Detective Agency.
Eagle Books is very pleased to say that our upcoming(May) title, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful historical fantasy adventure novel for middle-grade readers, is one of the Featured Books for the newly-launched United Publishers of Armidale website.