What five words best describe you?
Optimistic, Friendly, Angsty, Distractible, Funny
What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?
I started off as an illustrator, and like many illustrators, after a while I thought I’d have a go at writing the words as well. The first things I wrote were puzzle and maze books. I had ideas for longer stories, but I was not confident enough to actually write the words, so I did a TAFE course, (Writing for Children, my teacher was Hazel Edwards). Hazel was a great teacher, very practical, and she made us write every week. (I remember her saying, ‘Next week you’re starting your novels. I want everyone to come along with a title and the first chapter.’ I’m like ‘Oh no!!’). During that year I wrote a junior novel, Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse. It was easy and fun to write, because I had no idea that it would be published, and so I felt very little pressure.
If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?
How to choose? Perhaps I’d pick Joan Aiken, I think she was a brilliant writer for kids, and I found her book The Way to Write for Children really inspirational. I would have many, many questions for her. It is unlikely that she would come back for another meal, haha
Is there any part of the creative process you don’t like?
I don’t enjoy writing very much. I like drawing pictures, but I find writing very hard and I generally dislike what I write, until I get a chance to go back over it a hundred times. So I have to force myself do it, and when I reach a little milestone, I give myself a treat.
Are you a plotter or a panster? (Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)
I really dislike the word ‘Pantser’ and I would never ever use it, but that’s what I am. Sometimes I have a glimmer of an idea of what might happen towards the end of a story, but I have no idea how to get there. I write scene by scene, thinking all the time, ‘what could happen next’. It’s annoying because if you don’t know really what you’re aiming for, you find you go down a lot of dead ends.
When I was starting out, I understood that the best way to write was to make a good plan beforehand, and follow it along. I kept trying to plot out stories, and got nowhere. Who was the writer who described the process as driving a car along a dark road…?
I just looked it up. It was Stephen King (of course), and here is the quote: ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’
That’s exactly what writing is like for me. (thanks, Stephen).
What excites you about the future of children’s books?
So many, many great books out there, and exciting new authors being published all the time. There’s a lot to be optimistic about.
What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during one of your presentations/talks?
Once, I did a talk with a Prep class (5 year olds, the first year of school.) I started by asking ‘Who knows what the job of an illustrator is?’ All their hands went up. I picked a little girl, and she straightaway answered, ‘My Daddy won’t eat kiwi fruit because he says the black seeds are ants. But they’re not.’ It made me laugh. So random.
What’s next from Judith Rossell?
I’m busy drawing the pictures for a little book called A Garden of Lilies. In my novel Wormwood Mire, Stella is reading this book. It’s a depressing Victorian book of morals, a series of little stories where children do the wrong thing and meet with tragedy. The full title is A Garden of Lilies, Improving Tales for Young Minds, by Prudence A Goodchild. After that, I’ll be starting a new novel, which will be the third (and final) Stella Montgomery Intrigue. (The first two are Withering-by-Sea and Wormwood Mire).
Judith’s website: judithrossell.com