No matter how much I prefer the independent bookshops, it's still sad to see the demise of Borders and Angus& Robertson. A friend phoned from Queensland the other day to ask if I could send her Raven's Mountain directly, as A&R is the only bookshop she can access (she doesn't have internet) and they didn't know if their suppliers would deliver the book to them. Sometimes a bad bookshop is better than none. (And yes, the chains are quite likely the reason that there isn't an independent there!)
We don't need one more blog on the multi reasons for their failure, or their generally poor service and lack of knowledge about books. (Another friend, searching Melbourne Borders for a biography of Miles Franklin, was asked what 'he was famous for.') But I also remember the first buzz of being surrounded by so many books - and the buzz of seeing the beautiful poster they produced for Nim's Island.
Very exciting to see your book displayed in the front window of a huge chain store, you'd think! And it would have been - except if you look closely, the posters are all of the movie. The book doesn't actually seem to be in sight (the ones in the children's book department were equally well hidden). As this was taken a few weeks before the movie came out, the DVD's would be about six months off, so it seemed a bit early to be advertising them.
Of course from an author's point of view, promotion of the movie of the book is still a promotion of the book. It's just a highly inefficient way to do it, and from something that was supposed to be a bookstore, doesn't make much sense at all.
Writing and publishing books is a business. It shouldn't be a surprise that selling them is too. I don't think the end of these stores means that books are dead.
My Mokie and Bik books have never really hit the mainstream (I'm guessing the problem starts with the title: no one is sure how to pronounce it - and the nonsense words inside get even scarier...) but the people who risk it seem to love it.
So you can see why this home schooling mom's blog made me smile!
I have to say that reading to my kids is always a neat adventure! We learn so many things within the words of a book, we also visit magical places, and faraway lands! Sometimes its a train, a castle, an old lady, or in this case the decks of a boat called Bullfrog!Mokie and Bik by Wendy Orr Illustrated by Jonathon Bean; I would by far say this is the BEST book we have read this year! It so neat and the words within it are so funny...Mokie and Bik are twins who live on a boat named bullfrog, they have all these adventures upon this boat and the sea they are in. They call a fish a fisk, their dad a parrot, and the small emergency row boat Tadpole! Its the cutest book, and I am not going to tell you a lot about it because I believe that if you have a child or children that are oh 5-10 years old you should read it to them, with them or let them read it!
This post is for Megan from Singapore, who wrote to me last week about doing Nim's Island in her book club. My email to her has bounced back, so just in case she checks here:
Thanks very much for our letter. I'm very glad you enjoyed Nim's Island, and that you're enjoying your book club! And since it's Valentine's Day in the northern hemisphere, I've added a Nim's Island Valentine's Day card.
Why did you write the book Nim's Island?
Nim’s Island was inspired partly by two letters from girls asking me to write a book about them. I said that I couldn’t do that, but I started playing the writer’s game of “What if?” (two very important words in finding stories). “What if a girl wrote to an author and said “Could you please write a book about me?” and the author said, “No, because I’m a very famous writer who writes very exciting books, and since you’re just a little girl your life would be much too boring.” But what if the girl’s life was more exciting than the author’s?
I then decided that the girl’s life was more exciting because she lived on an island, and write the book all in letters between the girl and the author – which was very boring. Finally I remembered a story I’d written when I was 9, about a little girl running away from an orphanage to life alone on an island – and finally Nim’s Island came to life.
So the inspiration was partly those letters, but the deeper inspiration was seeing a tiny little island when I was 9 and thinking that I’d like to live on it, because that’s why I wrote that first story.
What inspires you for your writing?
I just love stories, and sometimes I see something, hear something, or just think of something that makes me start thinking - I wonder what else might happen, or what if something was just a little bit different....
Where did you get your Ideas?
From everything I see, hear, do and think!
I live in Singapore but do you think that I can get my Ideas the same way you do?
Of course. Where we live doesn't make any difference to how we get the ideas; we'll just see different things to start us thinking. (And even when two people see exactly the same thing, it will probably give them both slightly different ideas.)
Why did you make the story the way you did?
That's how it seemed logical to me. I always try a few ways in my head before I start writing to figure out the best way to tell the story; often I have to completely rewrite it because the first way I thought doesn't work after all. Eventually I find the way that I think the story needs to be.
Do you have any connections to this story?
Do you mean is it true at all? Not really; the connection to me is that I love islands, and stories...
In the ending of the book Nim's Island, does Alexandra Rover move to Nim's Island?
Do Alexandra and Jack get married,
I think so.
or does Nim find the whale that her mom got eaten/trapped in and find her?
No; her mom really is dead and can't come back, so finding the whale wouldn't really solve anything.
Did you ever think about any of the questions that I just asked about the book?
Some of them but not all! They were good questions.
Fleur McDonald has a great guest series on her blog - I spent quite a while reading all the previous visiting writers!
But what I especially love about her hosting me is the description she gives of her daughter being caught up in my books. A child being too immersed to talk is the greatest compliment a writer can have!
As my daughter gets older, she seems to have an insatiable appetite for novels. To be very honest, I had heard of Nim’s Island, knew that Rochelle had adored, not only the book, but the Audio Book as well, but didn’t know who the author was.
It takes quite a bit, for an active ten year olds attention to be kept riveted, the way hers was, while listening to the CDs.
Wendy Orr, with her amazing book, was able to do this.
When Wendy so generously donated a copy of Raven’s Mountain, to the Authors for Queensland Flood Appeal, Rochelle noticed it there and begged me to buy it. Not being one for holding reading back, I did!
So now, Rochelle is holed up in her room, barely speaking to me or the dog (and definitely not to her brother, although that isn’t unusual!) reading. I love watching her been swept away into another world.
Thank you so much, Wendy.
Here’s a bit about how Raven’s Mountain was written – welcome, Wendy!
I started writing Raven’s Mountain soon after I got back from a trip back to the USA and Canada for the Nim’s Island film premiere. I was ready to jump into something new, and the more I thought about this story, the more it excited me – so that I may have started writing a month or so before I should have. Of course this meant even more redrafting than I normally do (something I didn’t think was possible!) Whatever the reason, it took nearly two and a half years of writing, rather than the eighteen months I’d hoped for.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the fact that I had just been visiting family in Canada must have influenced the story that was choosing to be born. One of the first things I knew about my protagonist was that she had to break into an empty ranch house (something I’ve never done, if you were wondering – or at least not till I was about to write the scene. Even then I decided to open the window rather than smash it. Probably just as well: the neighbour who drove up as I was sliding into the sink was shocked enough as it was.)
I also knew that she was climbing a mountain with her father (who by the time I started writing had become a stepfather) and so I began to tap into a significant event when I was 12: climbing Pikes Peak (14,115 feet (4,302 m) in Colorado, with my younger sister, my dad and a group of his friends. It was a safe climb, but somewhere above the tree line we’d run into a hail storm and sheltered under an overhanging rock. And so the writer’s mind begins to play ‘what if’…
One of the other preoccupations of my life around that time was another ‘what if’ – what if our horse went on refusing to get into the horse trailer, or float, when we moved from Colorado Springs to Toronto? (I don’t know how far it is – a long way. Several days’ drive.) The mare was actually my mother’s, and it would have broken her heart to sell it, but for a while it didn’t look as if there was going to be much choice. So I developed a cunning plan: I would run away on the horse, and ride to Toronto – just head northeast a few thousand km, how hard could it be? Luckily the horse agreed to get into the float before I had finished packing my backpack.
But what I see now is a child wanting to test herself, to pit herself against the odds; against nature; to become a hero. I doubt that I knew the word resilience at that age, but it obviously interested me. I wanted to know how far I could go to save myself or my family (or my horse, which for a twelve or thirteen year-old girl can be pretty much the same thing.) The narrative of the trek continued long after the drama of the trailer-refusing horse had been settled.
Raven, however, isn’t someone who’s ever really wanted to test herself in extremes. She’s the middle one in a triangular friendship; the calm one, the lynchpin – the one whose attention the other friends vie for. The one I sometimes wanted to be but never was, because I was too busy and bossy, writing plays and inventing games that I bullied the others into playing.
And why did I name her Raven? The simple answer is that I can’t remember when she wasn’t called that; it was her name right from the start. I chose her mother’s name by checking lists of the most common names for her age. I figured that Jenny had got such a shock when she went to school and met lots of other girls named Jenny, that she wanted to make sure her daughters didn’t suffer the same fate. But as usual, there’s something deeper. Years ago, when I was struggling to recover from a broken neck and assorted other injuries, having been given a long list of everyday things I would never do again – including going for a walk – and very little hope that I would ever be pain free, I went to Canada and started on a course of therapy that has led to my living a normal and productive life again. The therapist had rescued a raven nestling called Lola, who stared intently through the window at each treatment session. Even though I know her interest was simply a reminder that she wanted dinner, I’ve felt a secret bond with ravens ever since.
My parents gave me this little jade Inukshuk to celebrate Raven's Mountain - isn't it a gorgeous gift!
The ones that Raven builds in the book aren't quite so neat and regular. I went out to build one by our pond while I was writing – I had a lovely mental image of how it would look there, quirky but still organic to our very different bushland – but soon realised that I couldn't lift the rocks I wanted. That's why it's a good idea to try things physically when your characters do them!
But after opening this gift, I went back to the photo albums for the Inukshuks that inspired Raven's efforts, seen while my sister and I were walking on a Vancouver beach a few years ago. Quite beautiful - and a bit more achievable. Maybe I'll try again...
I love the weekend morning feeling of sitting in the midst of the paper, coffee in hand, pondering whether I should read news or arts first... but it reaches another level of happiness on finding a review of my brand new book. And though I've heard of people who say they don't care about reviews... well, I won't say I don't believe them - but personally, I'm happy to admit to being very happy about glowing ones.
So here is part of what Michelle Hamer says in the "Under Age" section of Sunday Age's M magazine:
"Orr ... jumps right into the action, demonstrating her strong story writing skills and confident economy with words. ...
Raven, an encouragingly strong and resilient female protagonist, sporadically shares her long, difficult journey with a family of bears and a sleek black raven, and imagines her friends, her mum and her absent father encouraging her through the darkness and pain. Orr has interwoven a gentle sub-plot to the race-for-help scenario, with vignettes of memories and Raven’s internal monologue which show the young girl grappling with some big real-life issues. A wonderful read."
Here's the first online review that I've seen for Raven's Mountain, on the "Love that Book" blog. I still haven't read 'Hatchet' - somehow I'd missed it before I wrote the book, and decided against reading it while I was writing. I finally bought it last week - and feel much happier about reading it now that the first comparison has been favourable. ( Always daunting to be halfway through working on a book when people start telling you about how similar it is to something they've loved...)
This reminded me so much of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, that exciting survival story that so many have loved. A family has a weekend together hiking and camping in the mountains. It is supposed to be a time of bonding and healing but a freak accident has the young girl Raven trying to get help. She can speak to her sister through a crack in the rocks but has to leave her there. She has no compass, no food or water and there are bears around.
Very very exciting. Chris