Books! Books! Everywhere there are books and stories.
Today, welcome to J. E. Fison, author of the Hazard River series from Ford St Publishing. These two new titles, ‘Toads’ Revenge’ and ‘Blood Money’ are the fifth and sixth in the Hazard River series.
Why children’s books? How did you begin?
The idea of writing children’s fiction crept up on me during a family holiday on the Noosa River a few years ago. My sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer exploring the river, building secret bases, finding useful stuff, dodging snakes and avoiding stingrays. I was inspired. My children liked the first story I wrote – Shark Frenzy, so I kept writing. I am happy to say my sons don’t get into as much trouble as the gang at Hazard River does – finding themselves up against smugglers, dodgy developers and rogue fishermen. Although there are scary animals on the front covers of the Hazard River books (thanks to the very talented Marc McBride), the animals are the good guys. The mutant cane toads on the cover of Toads’ Revenge are the exception to that.
How did your previous jobs prepare you for writing for children?
I have been writing professionally, I suppose, since my first job in 1986. I started out as a television news reporter in regional New South Wales, then worked in news in Hong Kong and London, before returning to Australia and writing freelance business and travel pieces as well as doing marketing. News is great training for writing concisely and simply – both good assets for writing for children. But in television news, the pictures carry a lot of information – you don’t have to describe something that the viewers can see for themselves. So, I’ve had to work at building detail into my stories and making things up! The other job that’s very useful for writing for children is motherhood. I am a mother of two boys – extremely valuable training for writing children’s fiction.
Did you plan for Jack and his friends to be part of a series at the start? Or did you set it up for a single story? If series, how many did you plot?
I had a series in mind from the start. My own children love a series, so I thought that was a good enough reason to write one. I also felt that Jack Wilde, his brother Ben and their friends Mimi and Lachlan had a lot of adventures still in them after the first story – Shark Frenzy. I wrote four stories initially, so when I pitched to Ford Street Publishing, I had a series all ready to go, which appealed to them.
Toad’s Revenge crosses over into almost spec fiction, whereas the first two books in the Hazard River series, although wild adventures, were more grounded in reality. How has the series changed over its evolution?
There wasn’t anything conscious about moving Toads’ Revenge to the future, but I was looking for a new place at Hazard River for the kids to explore. And the future is where I found it. I have retained the environmental theme with the two new stories Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money, and they are still fun and action-packed, but I’m trying not to go over old ground – which I guess is the danger in a series that is set in one place.
Will Jack, Ben, Mimi and Lachlan stay the same age? Was that a conscious decision?
There are six stories in the series so far and they are all set over one summer holiday, so the kids don’t age more than a few weeks. I think when you’re young Christmas holidays just seem to go on and on and that’s what happens at Hazard River. It’s an action-packed summer!
List Jack Wilde’s five favourite foods. Does Ben like the same ones?
Jack Wilde is a bit of a foodie. He’s very keen on pancakes (with all the toppings) and likes custard pies, apples pie, blueberry pie, in fact any kind of pie. Having spent a bit of time in China town, he’s also a big fan of BBQ pork buns, but draws the line at chickens’ feet. Ben is happy to try anything once!
Are there more adventures on the way? Others stories?
I think there’s still time on the summer holiday for one or two more adventures at Hazard River. I am also working on a trilogy for teenage girls. I want them to be fun – I think there’s space in the market for more laughs for girls. Why should boys have all of the fun!
The Hazard River series is published by Ford Street Publishing. Covers are by Marc McBride.
Thanks for visiting, Julie