If you've followed this blog long enough, you will know that I am sometimes able to offer our English students the opportunity to interview some of the wonderful authors of books they read for Literature Circles. We've come a long way from the old style book report and the days when it was really exciting if you could make a book cover. This year's interview is with Jenny Mounfield, author of the very exciting thriller for teens, The Ice-Cream Man. In it, three very silly boys have a go at an ice cream man on a hot summer afternoon, when he doesn't stop for them, and spend the rest of the novel regretting it. But things aren't always what they seem...
Thank you very much, Jenny, for taking time to speak with our students. Because our school is in Sunshine, Victoria, Jenny has kindly added a couple of pictures from her childhood, when she lived there.
The Ice-Cream Man—Q&A
How did you come up with the idea of The Ice-Cream Man?
The idea came from my eldest son, Dan, who was around 13 at the time. We’d recently moved house and Dan had a friend over. The boys decided to go for a walk one lazy Saturday afternoon to check out the neighbourhood. When they came home they told me how they’d played a game of cat and mouse with the ice-cream man: following him from street to street, waving him down and then running off etc. The poor man was quite irate by the end of it, which Dan and Tom thought hilarious – as boys do! I, on the other hand, was horrified, imagining all sorts of dire consequences: What if the ice-cream man had seen where Dan lived and wanted revenge? The next morning I had the plot for The Ice-cream Man firmly fixed in my mind.
Note: The ice-cream man (thankfully) never sought revenge on Dan and Tom.
We heard of Marty in the wheelchair and how that character was based on your son. Can you tell us anything about that?
Since Dan inspired the story, I felt it only fitting one of the characters should be based on him. Like Marty, Dan used to get up to all sorts of mischief in his wheelchair. There was nothing he couldn’t do in that chair. It was only after I’d written the first draft of the story that it occurred to me how important it is to have characters like Marty in books.
Dan, who is now 24, has cerebral palsy. He’s been in a wheelchair since the age of 10 when surgery on his Achilles tendons didn’t go to plan. Rather than make him more ‘disabled’, the wheelchair gave him a freedom he’d never had before. I hope that Marty changes a few people’s view of what disability is – and isn’t.
What was your favourite part of the book and why?
The climax, of course! I love it when a story comes together.
4. Was The Ice-cream Man based on a true story?
5.Are your characters based on real people?
Apart from the connection between Marty and Dan, Aaron is loosely based on a boy Dan went to school with (no names).
6. How many other books have you written and can you tell us a little bit about them?
I’ve had three other books for younger kids published: Storm Born, The Black Bandit and Haunted Beach. To varying degrees these three involve supernatural elements. Storm Born features a horse that is made from storm clouds; The Black Bandit is about a crow seeking revenge on a car, and Haunted Beach is about ghosts and spells.
7. What other genre do you like besides thriller?
I love SF - but not too techie – and some fantasy (I’m over swords and dragons). I’m rather partial to a good mystery, too, and anything that can be classified as ‘weird’.
8. What would you say to someone if they wanted to be an author?
Only do it if you love it. Don’t do it because you think it’ll make you rich because odds are it won’t.
9. Do any other authors inspire you, or used to?
Stephen King and Paul Jennings – both for their incredible imaginations.
10. Are you currently working on any books?
I’m taking a break at the moment. Over the past couple of years I’ve become bogged down with all the technicalities of writing and publication that I lost touch with the magic of simply creating. I’m taking time out this year to paint, which I’m enjoying very much. When I’m ready to write again, I have about a dozen stories at various stages of completion – as well as many new ideas. New story ideas never stop flowing!
11. What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always LOVED books, but never seriously considered trying to write one until my youngest son was starting school. I felt I needed something to fill my newly empty days and read an ad for a children’s story writing course. It took me awhile to sign up because I was afraid I’d suck at it. But I had a wonderful tutor who encouraged me to keep going until I found success.
I should note that even if I had never had a story published signing up for that course would still be one of the best decisions I ever made. When we create, whether it’s stories or pictures or cakes, we can’t fail. The act of creation is what matters, not the result.
12. How old were you when you became an author?
I’m living proof that it’s never too late to try something new! I was 39 when I enrolled in the writing course and 44 when my first book, Storm Born was published.
Jenny Mounfield lives north of Brisbane with her husband, two of her three grown children and assorted pets. She spent most of her childhood travelling around Australia, living everywhere from Lord Howe Island to Darwin.
Jenny has published four novels for young readers—Storm Born, The Black Bandit, The Ice-cream Man and Haunted Beach—and had a number of short stories included in Pearson and Ford St anthologies.
Jenny at primary school in Sunshine.
And here's the Ford Street link if you want to buy this book!