Jacqueline Harvey – Interview with CKT

Jacqueline Harvey

Q. What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?

Encouraging children to read, meeting children all over the world and spending a lot of time daydreaming and making things up are all great parts of the job. I adore the days I can stay home and write but equally I love to tour as well.

Q. What was your favourite book as a child?

Heidi  was a firm favourite. I also loved Black Beauty,  Paddington Bear  and anything and everything by Enid Blyton.

Q. How do you come up with your story ideas?

Ideas spring from all over the place. When it comes to the Alice-Miranda  and Clementine Rose  series, sometimes it’s a concept about an activity that might happen at school – for example a pet day, other times it could be a location that I’d like the characters to travel to. It varies for each book. The mysteries dance around in my head for a while and then I write an outline. I plan the ‘big ideas’ and the ending but leave plenty of room to surprise myself too.

Q. Tell us something nobody knows about you?

This is a hard one. I’m a big sharer. Maybe that I do a pretty mean Thunderbirds impersonation – not many people have seen that.

Q. Tell us a little about your writing journey. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

I’ve been published for ten years this year, which I find hard to believe. My journey was slow to begin with; although I had four books published in the first three years, I then experienced a patch where I wondered if I’d ever have anything published again. During that time Alice-Miranda  sprang to life. I worked for about two years developing the first book and the idea for the series but because I was working as the Deputy Head of a large school for girls in Sydney, my writing time was limited to holidays and weekends. My life has changed enormously since Alice-Miranda’s first book was published by Random House in February 2010. Since then there have been another six books in the series released, with at least three more to come. I’ve also launched the Clementine Rose  series which now has three titles out with another five to come. Both are published internationally.

At the end of last year I made the difficult decision to leave my job (as Director of Development of the same girls’ school) and write full time. Thank goodness I did, because Alice-Miranda  and Clementine Rose  are demanding little girls. I’ve been on a book tour in the UK and Singapore this year and travelled to Melbourne and Perth as well as meeting lots of readers in Sydney. It’s been an incredible time.

I always wanted to write. But never having met an author as a child, it seemed a pretty mysterious career choice and I wondered for a long time how you’d go about it. I loved teaching and I wrote a lot for the children in my classes – but about 13 years ago my husband said ‘you talk about wanting to write for children a lot,’ which was very true. He then asked if I was ever going to do anything about it, or just talk about it forever. It was the best question I’ve ever been asked because deep down I didn’t want to look back and regret not having given it a proper go – so my personal motto became, ‘don’t die wondering’ and since then I’ve written almost constantly.

Q. If you could have any job in the world, author excluded what would it be?

If I wasn’t writing, I suspect I would probably be a Headmistress these days. I still love working in schools and it’s fantastic when I have opportunities to be a writer in residence. I’ve also harboured dreams of being a voice over artist and if Alice-Miranda  or Clementine Rose  were ever made into talking books, I’d love to have the opportunity to read them.

Q. What are your top 5 favourite books?

Another hard question. These are my favourites at the moment:

  • The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton.
  • The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak.
  • Cloudstreet  by Tim Winton.
  • Matilda  by Roald Dahl.
  • On Chesil Beach  by Ian McEwan.

Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?

That’s an easy one. I’d love to be Alice-Miranda  for a day. She has such an interesting life, full of friends and family and of course there’s the odd mystery or two to solve. She was described to me by a highly respected New York literary agent as ‘the best version of who you’d want to be’ so that’s good enough for me!

Q. What’s next from Jacqueline Harvey?

2013 has been a big year. I’ve had three books released already; Clementine Rose and the Pet Day Disaster  in January, Alice-Miranda In Paris  in March and Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present  in May. There are another three books still to come. Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco  will be out in August and Alice-Miranda Shines Bright  and the Alice-Miranda Diary for 2014  will be out together in September. Those books are all written and in the editing stage, so I’ve just started working on Alice-Miranda’s eighth adventure and after that I’ll be straight onto Clementine Rose’s fifth.

I’m heading off to Alice-Springs on a book tour in June, then I’ll be in Adelaide on a May Gibbs Residency in July. After that I’m looking forward to Book Week and the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and in late October I’m heading back to Perth and Singapore and then to England to launch the Clementine Rose  series. I’ll be home for Christmas but back on the road in Australia, the UK, US and New Zealand in 2014. If someone had told me a year ago that this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed them. I feel so fortunate to be doing something that I love.

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