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Friday, December 01, 2017

An Interview With Deborah Abela

Today's guest is Deborah Abela, a hugely popular and prolific children's writer. She has written novels, short stories and picture books and the one time we met, at a signing table, she must have gotten cramps from all the books she was signing for her young fans. 

Deborah started her writing career writing for children's TV. She has won about a million awards, including some for which children voted. She lives in Sydney, but has travelled the world and had some adventures that would not be out of place in a novel! If you want to read about them, check out her web site or her Facebook page(links supplied below)

Deborah has kindly agreed to answer some questions, beginning with her contribution to Laugh Your Head Off Again And Again, the collection of funny children's stories recently published by Macmillan.

In "A perfectly Normal Thursday", we have such quirky elements as a young orphan girl turning up at the home of a bereaved couple with a box and staying, elaborate cakes, the Queen of England turning up in the local woods with one of her corgis and then wandering in with her book club for afternoon tea. Would you please tell us about it - how did you get the idea?

A lot of my stories start with the idea of, ‘I wonder what would happen if….’ I was between novel writing and I wanted to play with an idea of a parcel arriving one day on the doorstep of two people who had shut themselves away from the world and are faced with the dilemma of opening the door or keeping it firmly shut. They decide to open it and what they find, changes their lives.

There is something oddly Roald Dahl about the style of the story - is he one of your influences?

What’s not to love about Roald Dahl!? Dahl is quoted as having said: ‘I find that the only way to make my characters really interesting to children is to exaggerate all their good or bad qualities, and so if a person is nasty or bad or cruel, you make them very nasty, very bad, very cruel.’ I think my story is softer and gentler and not as over-the-top as Dahl, but it is a lovely comparison. Thank you!

The heroine, Skylar, is very fond of the novel Charlotte's Web - and that turns out to be the book being read by the royal book club - what is it about this book that made it turn up twice in your story? Is it, perhaps, a childhood favourite?

I LOVE Charlotte’s Web and remember being entranced by the book and film when I was a kid….I love how it moved me to laughter but also tears. This is a classic story and I love to give nods to the classics in my work. In my novel Grimsdon, the kids are reading The Wizard of Oz to each other and the excerpts included reflect what is happening in my story. In New City it is Oliver Twist. In my picture book Wolfie An Unlikely Hero there are lots of tributes to fairytales.

Do you have a favourite kind of fiction to write?

Mmmm…that’s tricky in that the books I like to write are character driven….but I don’t mind a bit of adventure and comedy ..oh and feisty female heroes. I also have written my first historical fiction about post war migration to Australia after the devastation of Malta during WW2 in Teresa A New Australian, but that has its share of feisty girls and action.

 You have done many series books, most notably the Max Remy Superspy ones - do you find series easier or harder to write than stand-alone books? Why?

This depends on the story. Some books are stand alones, after which the story is finished, but sometimes I get inundated with emails from kids asking me to write the sequel….this has happened with Grimsdon and the sequel New City and The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee and the sequel The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery.

What are you working on now?

I am about to dive into the third draft of The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery.

Tell us about your writing process - plotter or pantser?

Plotter. I tried once to be a pantser and I ended up going down the wrong path so many times I threw out about 20 000 words. I find plotting keeps me on track and ensures I have key crucial moments in the story to work towards and look forward to.

When is your next book coming out - and what is it?

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery will be released in April 2018.

Thanks for visiting The Great Raven today, Deborah! 

Deborah's books are available at all good bookshops and on line.  

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