The Writers’ Clubhouse: Q & A With Jacqueline Harvey
Welcome to the Writers’ Clubhouse. Join us behind the scenes in the book industry as we talk to prominent authors and illustrators about the process of creating great books for kids. Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Get inspired here!
Jacqueline Harvey is one of Australia’s most popular authors, with her books published all over the world and into many languages. Her very loved Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series’ have sold over a million copies of in Australia and New Zealand.
Jacqueline’s work has been highly praised, Alice-Miranda at School won the YABBA for Younger Readers in 2012 and Jacqueline has had an Alice-Miranda title on the REAL awards shortlist every from 2012-2017. She has recorded the first five titles as audio books for Audible and the series is now in production as an animated television movie in partnership with SLR Productions, ZDF Enterprises and the Nine Network (Australia).
Jacqueline is an ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities and Room to Read and is passionate about improving literacy outcomes for all children. She lives in Sydney with her husband Ian and Balthazar. Jacqueline is currently working on more Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose and Kensy and Max adventures. In her spare time, Jacqueline likes to play golf in exotic locations.
Library For All increases literacy globally by bringing a unique digital library to readers without access to books. We work with writers all around the world who want to share their cultural stories and see their words in print.
Q. You have written some amazing books for children, but what was your professional background before you became an author?
A. I was a primary school teacher and Deputy Head of Junior School for many years. I wanted to teach from the age of nine and a half, inspired by my then Year 4 teacher (who I also had in Year 5). She was such a creative force of nature – as well as being incredibly kind and calm, she taught me that above all else every day at school should be fun. We all learn better when we’re enjoying ourselves. My favourite part of the day was when she would read to us and I still remember the magic of those books even today. Being an author was something that scratched at the back of my mind for a long time – although I do remember telling one of my colleagues at school when I was 24 that one day I wanted to be a published author. It took a while to work out how to do that but I’ve been writing full time now since the end of 2012. My last role at school was as Director of Development. That involved overseeing publications, communications, parent groups, and events – it was actually great training for being a writer considering the myriad other things you have to do in addition to the writing.
Q. What is the best thing for you about being a published author?
A. Meeting the readers and hearing from children or parents who have been impacted by my books. There is nothing as rewarding as hearing that it was one of my books that turned a child onto reading – those messages never fail to make me teary. I love touring and getting back into schools to talk to kids – I think being in school is in my bones and without that, writing would be a lonely job. That said, I do love the days and weeks when I can just ponder and create. Those times when the ideas flow and you become completely in tune with the story and your characters are magical.
Q. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?
A. Don’t talk down to them – kids are clever and they can see when you’re preaching or trying too hard. Fall in love with your characters – the good guys and the baddies. Write from the heart and with honesty.
Q. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a writer?
A. Write what you love – don’t try to be the next (insert name of superstar author), Just be yourself and find your own voice. Think about the story you would have wanted to read as a child – and write that. But the truth is, that it will take time and huge amounts of effort – there is no substitute for hard work in this business and it can take years to be an overnight sensation.
Q. What is your next big creative project?
A. I have just this week released the 18th book in the Alice-Miranda series, Alice-Miranda Keeps the Beat and I am currently working on Kensy and Max: Out of Sight which will be released in September.