A lovely new review for Wanderer on Read Plus!

We are delighted to see this fabulous review by Carolyn Hull, of Victor Kelleher’s gorgeous novel Wanderer, published today on the excellent Read Plus site.

Here’s a short extract:

I loved this! It is a wonderful adventure in a world that is damaged. Wanderer is a compelling tale, scary and often thought-provoking……This book is powerfully written, there is tension and drama all the way through the wandering, and moments of violence are ever present and pervasive. In some ways I reflected that this book is like a strange mating of the Brotherband series by John Flanagan and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It explores the adventure of a quest, with the drama of a world that has lost its connection to literature. Along the way there are references to other ‘stories’ and other books, with a reference to Golding’s Lord of the Flies as a notable connection to the thematic exploration of brutality in society, and The Hobbit as a literature example of a quest to protect something precious. 

You can read the whole review here.

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Interview with Victor Kelleher in Buzz Words

There’s a great interview with Victor Kelleher in the latest issue of the digital magazine Buzz Words, and with their kind permission, we are republishing it here. Enjoy! And do consider subscribing to Buzz Words, it’s a great mag, filled with news, views and reviews from the Australian children’s book world!

INTERVIEW

With Victor Kelleher

My life began in a poor part of London where I had, at best, a scanty education. In my mid-teens, I went to Central Africa. At sixteen I was working on the mines in Zambia, on the old Congo border. At twenty I was at university, and there I stayed (at various unis in fact) for most of my twenties. I accumulated five degrees, including a doctorate in English Literature, and finished up as a uni lecturer.

In my mid-thirties my wife and I left Africa – reluctantly – mainly to protect our young son from war and violence. I took up an academic post in New Zealand, then moved to Australia, where I taught for some years at the University of New England. It was in New Zealand that I began to write, motivated at first by home sickness for Africa. In my mid- forties I gave up my associate professorship and devoted myself full time to writing fiction.

That decision left me free to live and travel wherever I pleased, and although my wife and I kept a base here in Oz, we roamed all over the place. (As a former uni teacher, and sculptor/painter, my wife was as free as I was.) I must admit that our kids (we’d adopted a baby girl by then) tagged along and took their chances. As they’ve both gone on to get multiple degrees and make successful careers, I don’t think we did them any great harm!

In my mid-sixties my life changed again. I gave up writing and went back to my very first love, which was the study of philosophy. I concentrated on the philosophy of science. The gypsy life continued, of course, but with the addition of a Kindle full of technical books!

Then, early in my eighties, I was hit by a yearning to write fiction again. My upcoming novel, Wanderer, (Eagle Books) is the very first fruit of this shift. Inevitably, other books must follow, because I suddenly find myself beset by a wealth of things I simply MUST write about. Now, settled (kind of!) in Battery Point in old Hobart, my wife and I work on. We do so very happily.

How many books have you published during your writing career?

Which was the best-selling for you? How many book awards did you pick up?

More than a dozen adult novels, over 20 YA novels, two novellas, a few picture books, and 15 books for littlies. These last really tested me but were great fun. (I’d still like to write a concluding story for my Gibblewort series, for instance.) There are also many books I contributed stories to.

My bestselling book here in Australia is Taronga (Penguin). Other books, like Master of the Grove (Penguin) and Del-Del (Walker Books/Random House) may have outsold it worldwide.

I’m not sure because I don’t keep count.

I’ve picked up lots of awards over the years: Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award, two Australian Children’s Honour Awards, the Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award, the Australian Peace Prize, and so on; plus, plenty of state awards, especially from Western Australia, where they’ve been very kind to me; some children’s choice awards; and then there are all the short listings, including one for the Carnegie Medal. Again, I just don’t keep a record of these things.

Were all your books published by the same company? Did you have a particular editor who was very helpful?

I’ve been published by many companies, but by Penguin/Random most of all. Others include Faber and Faber, Heinemann, Walker Books, University of Queensland Press, Hachette, Allen and Unwin, Harper Collins, Lothian Books, Word Weavers Press, etc. Again, I don’t keep records of these things.

Yes, I do have a favourite editor: Rosie Fitzgibbon at UQP. She was great at her job, and a truly lovely person. She’s dead now, alas, and I miss her still.

It seems a long time since you last had a YA or children’s book published: what was that book? Why has there been such a delay in publication?

I’m not sure about my last publication. It was either a long short story-cum-novella published in Tales from the Tower (Allen and Unwin), or an adult novel, The Other (Harper Collins). As I explained earlier, I took a long break from writing to concentrate on other important aspects of my life.

Your latest book will be published by Christmas Press in 2022: can you tell us about it?

At its simplest, Wanderer involves two young people, Dane, and Lana, who wander the sea world in a kayak. Their quest is to save books from extinction. The world they travel through is my version of how the future might look once our planet starts the slow process of healing itself. It’s a place where the animal kingdom has finally turned against us, following generations of maltreatment; where the worst kinds of human beings persist, despite all that’s happened; where books and the power of story have been horribly devalued; and where goodness and truth remain in peril. There is an upside to all of this though: my two young heroes demonstrate how trust, honesty, and courage are still amongst our greatest treasures; and the novel holds true to the idea that the world itself, in its re-emerging beauty, is still worth fighting for.

How did you get it picked up by Sophie Masson?

My agent offered it to Sophie, and I’m glad to say she took it straight away.

Can you name five children’s books which you would recommend to Buzz Word readers? Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson. (An oldie, but a goodie)

Lord of the Flies, William Golding (Faber and Faber) (A wonderful book for all ages. Timeless.) The Mouse and His Child, Russell Hoban (Allen and Unwin) (An amazing book. Nothing else quite like it.) Red Shift, Alan Garner (Collins) (In my view, the best book yet on the mysterious disappearance of the ninth Roman Legion. Oh, and see if you can crack the code on the flyleaf.) The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Gallimard was the original French publisher. Don’t know who published the translation.) (I had to include this, because it was the first book I read in French, and it taught me more about the language than any other.)

You’ll have noticed that these are all fairly old titles. I’ve allowed them to squeeze out recent titles because these are some of the texts that inspired me when I started and was struggling to write well.

Can you tell us some interesting things about yourself?

Here are two things, one sad, one not so: When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a great long- distance runner. I duly trained and trained, but it didn’t happen. So, I upped my distances until I was running well over 100 kms a week. I thought that would make me super fit and strong, the way it has many other runners. Wrong! I just became super tired. The truth? I didn’t have the inbuilt strength and stamina and sheer talent for a great distance runner. A real sadness for me at the time.

On a happier note, (!), I enjoy playing blues harmonica. I even took lessons in it years ago, and there was a time when I practised hard. These days, one of my favourite things is to open YouTube and accompany some of the great blues musicians. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be famous to play with the best!

How can readers learn more about you?

Google me, I suppose. The horrid truth is, I’m quite a private person.

Fabulous first review of Children of the Wild!

Michael Grey’s amazing novel, Children of the Wild, has just received its first review, and it’s fabulous! It’s on the influential book site Read Plus, and the reviewer is Carolyn Hull. Here’s a short extract:

This is an exciting and impressive first novel. There are waves of dramatic moments within a dystopian or speculative-style fantasy set in an unidentified world that has declined beyond imagination. Sometimes it has the feel of a ‘Hunger Games’ survival tale with bows and arrows, set within a world-gone-wrong, and sometimes it is more Sci-fi with coming-of-age overtones.

You can read the full review here.

Exciting news for writers of children’s/YA historical fiction!

Here at Eagle Books, we love historical novels for young readers, and we’ve published quite a few in the last few years. And now we have some exciting news for writers: on Tuesday February 1 we will be opening for submissions of original unpublished historical novels for children and young adults! Historical fiction sub-genres such as historical fantasy, historical mystery, alternative history, timeslip etc, are also eligible.

Submissions will be open for the month of February only, and only for Australian and New Zealand writers(sorry, we can’t take submissions from other countries). Read all about it on our submissions page here: and remember, please follow the guidelines exactly, including not submitting till February 1 and checking your ms fits the definition of historical fiction as detailed on our submissions page.

Cover reveal for The Secret Battle!

We are delighted to reveal the stunning cover for our forthcoming title, Pamela Rushby’s The Secret Battle, a fabulous middle-grade historical novel set in Brisbane in 1942. The cover is designed by Authors’ Elves. Isn’t it stunning!

The book will be published on October 4th.

Here’s a bit about the story:

Nine-year-old city newspaper seller Roddy becomes involved in the infamous Battle of Brisbane in 1942, when American and Australian servicemen fought against each other, rioting in the streets of the city for two days.

When Roddy helps an American serviceman who’s been involved in the fighting, he never expects that the battle will become covered up – a wartime secret. Never to be reported in the newspapers he sells. Or that his actions will result in a new life for him after the war – all the way to the USA.

A fast-moving historical novel for middle-grade readers by multi-award-winning author Pamela Rushby.

Phoebe McArthur on writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

Next Monday will see the official release of the new Eagle Books title, Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, a gripping contemporary mystery set in the picturesque country town of Gulgong in central west NSW. And today, as we wait for the big day, author Phoebe McArthur tells us something about how the book came to be, the influences on the story, and the research that had to be done…Enjoy!

Writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

So, Phoebe McArthur is the nom-de-plume for a mother-daughter writing team. Generally one of us writes the initial draft of the story and then sends it to the other one for editing/adding/rewriting.  In the case of Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, the daughter (me) of the  team, wrote  the  story  and  the mother (hereafter known as ‘Mum’) was the one doing the edits and additions. Whenever we’ve got a completed manuscript we can’t tell who wrote what!

I can’t remember if I started with Nancy Drew or The Famous Five, but I’ve always loved mystery stories. Recently, I came across one that I’d started writing when I was about 8. It’s very embarrassing and the punctuation is atrocious.

A little while ago, I was given inside information that a publisher was after a ‘Trixie Belden’ style middle-grade novel. Yay! This was right up my alley! Originally, with Charlie (whose name was Meg for the first few drafts) was moving into a tiny house with her mother. It changed to an old post office when I realised that so many of Australia’s original post offices were now something else.

After a meeting with the publisher (who was encouragingly excited) I headed off to Gulgong to check out the Pioneers’ Museum (her suggestion). And yes, it was perfect! I took a lot of photos, which ended up being perfect for Mum to use as the basis for her illustrations, ate a LOT of food and didn’t write a single word. However, plot was bubbling away in my mind.

I grew up in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It is rumoured that there are tunnels under the main street between one of the pubs, the big hotel and the bank. Apparently these were for visiting royalty to be able to move around and not be bombarded by the masses. While in Gulgong, I almost fell down a hole in the main street. It turns out that it is used to deliver barrels of beer to the pub. How boring! So, for the story that hole became an entry point to a labyrinth of secret tunnels that run under the town of Gulgong. To the best of my knowledge this is something I’ve made up, but I’d love it to be true! Almost all the Famous Five stories have secret passages and tunnels, so I simply had to add them into Charlie Chaplin.

I also have a memory of Mum telling me that we’re secretly descendants of Queen Victoria. Something about one of her sons and a maid and someone being sent out to Australia to avoid a scandal. How true that (or my memory) is, I have no idea, but it made its way into the book, nonetheless.

One thing I was determined not to have in the book was romance. One thing that I love about Enid Blyton mysteries is the lack of mushy stuff that gets in the way of solving the mystery. I get very annoyed when the main characters get distracted by their feelings and end up in a lot more trouble because of it. I put up with it in the Nancy Drew books, because (most of the time!) the romantic aspects didn’t encroach on the overall storyline, whereas in the Trixie Belden books I found it to be forced. Thankfully Mum fully agreed with that decision and we now have a book that we are very proud of!

We are working on our next few projects together — concurrently, of course! Life isn’t as fun if it’s not as full and busy as humanly possible!

Great new review of The Girl in the Mirror

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.

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