Interview with Libby Gleeson, about Eleanor Elizabeth

Libby GleesonIt’s the official release week for our new edition of Libby Gleeson’s wonderful first novel, Eleanor Elizabeth!

To celebrate, we spoke to the author about the novel and what’s it like seeing it back in print.

First of all, Libby, congratulations on the release of the new edition of Eleanor Elizabeth! We are so thrilled to be bringing this wonderful novel back to a new generation of readers. In your new introduction to the book, you wrote about how the book came about. How does it feel like, revisiting your first novel?
It’s a strange experience. I feel so proud to see it back in print. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, I didn’t know if it would ever be published and so revisiting it brings back all the pleasures of creating it while at the same time fearing it would never see the light of day.
One of the striking things about this novel is the sense the reader gets of the natural environment, which has a real role to play in the story. How did you build up that vivid background?
I wrote the book while I was living in Europe so I was missing my homeland at the same time as wanting to place my characters there. I spent a lot of time focusing on my own memories of landscape and the difference between where the story starts and where the family moves and lives. The new environment helps shape the main character. It’s almost a character in the story.
Elizabeth’s diary is almost like a kind of time-travel device, plunging Eleanor back into the past. How did you recreate Elizabeth’s world?
I knew enough about rural life in the late nineteenth century – that’s the story of my mother’s family.  I had to spend time looking at the kind of language Elizabeth would use. Diaries were a great help – especially Ethel Turner’s, despite it being about twenty years later.Eleanor Elizabeth final cover
You have gone on to become one of Australia’s most acclaimed and popular authors. What role do you think Eleanor, Elizabeth played in that?
The success of Eleanor, Elizabeth gave me confidence to keep going. I had written it while I was a member of a writing group in London and that group was very demanding in terms of finding the right image and language and sentiment. It encouraged experimentation. I still have that in my head as I write. I think I have also been lucky.

 

The Second Look edition of Eleanor Elizabeth is available in all good bookshops.  ISBN: 9780994234070, RRp $18.99.

Interview with Duncan Ball

Duncan Ball author picIn this interview, we talk to Duncan Ball, author of our fabulous launch title, This School is Driving Me Nuts and Other Funny Plays for Kids.

First of all, Duncan, congratulations on the publication of This School is Driving Me Nuts! We are delighted that it’s the launch title of our Second Look imprint. Can you tell us something about the process you went through, updating and revising the original plays from Comedies for Kids?

Authors rarely get to re-write their work after it’s published. It’s all set in stone once it’s a book. After Comedies for Kids was published I read and re-read the shorter plays out loud in schools.  I could see that some of the jokes needed changing because either the kids didn’t get them or they just needed little changes to get bigger laughs. And when I saw some of the plays performed I could see how they could be improved. When Second Look agreed to re-publish the plays I had lots of notes about how to make the plays better and that’s exactly what I did.

You wrote a new play, ‘The Teeth of a Vampire’, for the new edition. What was that like, going back into the spirit and atmosphere of the collection to create something new?

I really enjoyed it. All I had to do was to re-read the other plays and I was back in the groove again. Writing comedy is very challenging but, when it works, it’s the best.

Class performance of Perils of Prince Percy Australia 2009

Class performance of Perils of Prince Percy Australia 2009

Plays suitable for children to perform–especially funny plays!–are not easy to find. Why do you think that is?

Kids love to read plays. I discovered this when I worked at the School Magazine at the NSW Department of Education. I think the reason for this is because plays don’t have all the (sometimes boring) description that other writing has. They also like the novelty of having the story all in dialogue. I think that many publishers avoid publishing plays for kids is that they’re afraid that parents won’t buy them. They’re wrong, of course.

What are your top tips for writing plays kids will enjoy?

It’s important to write what you enjoy reading. If you enjoy it there’s a good chance that others will too. When it comes to writing for kids an adult (like me) has to try to become a kid again. When I sit down to write I become the twelve year old I was many

Performance Perils of Prince Percy Canadian northern Drama Festival 2010

Performance Perils of Prince Percy Canadian northern Drama Festival 2010

many years ago.

Tell us about some of your favourite anecdotes regarding these plays.

There are so many things that have happened regarding these plays. Here are a couple of them that spring to mind:

Three of these plays were performed by First Nations kids (Cree Indian high school students) in Northern Saskatchewan in Canada. They took their productions to provincial and national competitions and won themselves a number of prizes. I was sent videos of the plays but I wish I could have been there to see the actual performances.

Recently, a woman contacted me to say that when she was in primary school she and her cousin acted out one of the plays, “Yak Attack” for their grandmother. Last month her grandmother was having her 90th birthday and said that she loved the play so much she wanted the women to act it out again—which they did.

Performance Murder at Muckup Mansion Canadian Northern Drama Festival 2009

Performance Murder at Muckup Mansion Canadian Northern Drama Festival 2009

Performance Waiting for John Doe Canadian Northern Drama Festival 2012

Performance Waiting for John Doe Canadian Northern Drama Festival 2012