Libby Hathorn – Interview with CKT

Libby Hathorn

What five words best describe you?

Busy, sociable, thoughtful, poetic, imaginative

What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making stories or poems. My stories come from living in a family of four kids, reading everything I could get my hands on and dreaming about become in a writer one day. I began writing poems and short stories. My first published story was written when I was a teacher-librarian and wanted to have more Australia stories to read to kids. It was about a gum tree! (Stephen’s Tree). And the second about Bondi Beach! (The Tram to Bondi Beach which discovered the art of Julie Vivas!)

If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?

A children’s author would be Australian May Gibbs, as I loved the bush world she created for me when I was a kid living in the city.

An adult author, (if I couldn’t get a date with William Shakespeare), would be Australian author Shirley Hazzard for her lyrical way with words.

Is there any part of the creative process you don’t like?

I like every detail of the creative process and watching a work, once a lone idea, become a finished piece is always miraculous to me. Ideas tend to fly together much like a kaleidoscope pieces slide together. Things interlink sometimes in a fascinating way and that’s why it’s important to keep notebooks and jottings. You can be surprised by an idea for a story that seizes your imagination, and how this idea can link to things you’ve been thinking about and may not have realised were story-worthy. In other words there’s always an idea lurking somewhere deep that will be right for you. The bush inspired Thunderwith (my first YA novel)  that became a Hallmark movie, whereas the service record of a relative, an Anzac, inspired my YA novel, Eventual Poppy Day. And then a picture book A Soldier a Dog and a Boy. My controversial picture book Way Home was from a poem I wrote about a homeless boy.

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)

More a panster with my novels, though at some stage, as pieces come together, a story begins to emerge that you can loosely plot though for me there are always diversion and suprises along the way. I can begin a book somewhere in the middle and build around it if the incident is absorbing and dramatic enough.

For my picturebook text , say the latest Incredibilia, I usually have an overall theme or idea but I take ages getting the words just right. I write and rewrite and edit like mad and then I leave it to simmer for a while. That can take months. And when I return to the text anew that’s the time I can actually finalise it. 

What excites you about the future of children’s books?

That surprises still lie ahead for all of us- and delight; that no matter how many words are written by no matter how many authors, there will always be one who will offer something original and inspiring to make readers marvel at it, to wonder about it. And that I am at least a small part of it, always hatching new ideas, plotting and planning for the next book, as exciting a process as for my very first.

What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during one of your presentations/talks?

After giving my best talk – well I thought it was- to a group of 15 year old girls, about Thunderwith becoming the movie The Echo of Thunder,  I asked for questions. No one put up a hand which was unusual after this talk. So I insisted surely there must be a question someone would really like to ask. Slowly a hand was raised and in relief I smiled my acknowledgement, glad that at least one student was showing interest. Alas! not in my talk. ‘Miss, what colour nail polish are you wearing?’ she asked. I did laugh. And answer her.

What’s next from Libby Hathorn?

Several projects are on the go. A new book Butterfly We’re Expecting You to be launched , another picturebook in the hands of the artist at present, a novel to be completed for young adults, some poetry documentaries to be launched later in the year at the State Library of NSW and poetry to be written.

Libby’s website:


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