It's a special privilege to host a fellow author's blog tour- my congratulations to both Sally and Sonia on a great addition to our understanding of the First World war and this particular connection to France.
Recently on my travels into NSW, I saw an early copy of the book at a Bowral bookshop- there's nothing sweeter than catching sight on one's book on display for the world to see.
Now to pose some questions to Sally about historical fiction.
What attracts you to writing about a part of Australia's history for children and in picture book format?
I have always loved historical fiction, and feel it is a wonderful way to bring history to life for children. The visual element helps to make it more real. I feel it is really important that we teach our children about as many different parts of our past as we can, as the past shapes the present.
Does the Anzac story itself have a personal connection for you?
My grandfather served in the first world war, though not in Villers-Bretonneux, where this story is set. My son visited Villers-Bretonneux in 2008, and it was this visit which ignited my interest in the story.
Sonia Kretschmar is a talented illustrator how does her work contribute to the overall historical viewpoint of your book?
Yes, she is very talented! I am just in awe of her work and delighted that she agreed to illustrate the story. She has worked to recreate the era and the settings of the book, and her colour palette also adds to that historical feel.
The title is very poignant, was it easy to decide on a title?
Yes. I don’t always find titles so easily, but in this case, the whole story came from the sign, saying ‘Do Not Forget Australia’ which hangs in a schoolyard in Villers-Bretonneux, France. With the sign featuring so prominently in the story, there was no other title!
Research seems to be synonymous with historical fiction- what shape and time-span did your research take?
I started researching months before I started writing , and I’m still reading and learning! Only recently I visited the Trove archive on the National Library site to read news articles about Villers-Bretonneux.
I know only too well what family and work commitments can do to your writing time, how do you manage that time commodity? Any hints for other writers always juggling time?
I find I have to make time for writing – otherwise no writing will happen. I would love to write for hours every day, but am afraid that’s unrealistic for someone with four children still at home and a day job. So instead, I make sure that I write as often a possible – even if it’s just a few lines. I always carry a notebook, and my laptop goes wherever it can, so that I can write when I do get time.
For aspiring writers I would say don’t bemoan the lack of time – instead make use of whatever time you DO have. And snatch the time by making writing a priority.
What new perspective has this genre given your writing do you think?
Because I was writing about historical events, I had to be careful to be true to the times. Whilst credibility is important in any story, I think when you are working from history, you have to be careful – but in picture book format you have a limited number of words and so do need to stick to only the really key bits.
Will you write in this genre again?
Yes. I have a couple of other ideas for historical stories. When the time is right I will write them and, hopefully, get to share them with the world.
Any other comment you'd like to make?
Yep. I’d just like to mention that a picture book is a real team effort. I might have written the initial story, but Sonia’s illustrations brought it to life, and the work of editors, designers, publicity, marketing, distribution – so many people – is what makes a book complete. So a huge thank you to Sonia and to everyone at Walker Books for making it happen.
My pleasure Sally and now there's the last chance to win a copy of 'Do not forget Australia'. Can you comment on this post with another part of history that we shouldn't forget, or ask Sally or Sonia a question that hasn't been answered in the previous stops on the tour? Winner notified Saturday 17th March.