A resplendent marble ballroom is alive with the sound of champagne-enhanced chatter. Tuxes and gowns adorn the invited A-listers from among the Australian Children’s Writers’ fraternity who are attending the gala event.
Andy Griffith brushes past the press line on the way to sampling another piece of coconut-stuffed naan bread from the buffet table. Paul Jennings is working the room like a politician up for re-election. Jacqueline Harvey is rocking it in a figure-hugging sorbet green dress with matching drop earrings while pretending not to notice Morris Gleitzman doing silly poses behind her. And Matt Potter holds court under the light of the pineapple shaped crystal chandelier before making a beeline for someone he thinks is Stephen King only to realise he’s now engaged in conversation with the head of catering.
And then the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives. A woman from the publicity department appears at the top of the staircase and announces the star is finally about to make an appearance. All conversation stops and the orchestra begins to play. Every eye is directed to the top of the stairs.
Deborah Abela is standing there. She looks down at the expectant faces and they look back. As she begins her graceful descent with one white-gloved hand all the time clutching the banister rail, the crowd realise that soon this literary god made flesh will be among them and a collective sigh echoes throughout the room.
As one of the teeming mass gathered, I have been allowed to talk to the famous author. What does it matter if she won’t remember my name a moment later? I must think of something meaningful to say. Wish me luck and break a leg. Here I go…
Deborah, you’re the author of more than 20 novels for children. Could you tell us what you’re working on at present?
The third book in the Grimsdon series. Grimsdon is about kids who survive in a flooded city and after that I wrote New City because readers emailed demanding to know more. And now I’m writing the third book because I had even more emails. This will definitely be the final. It comes out in 2019. I’m also working on a new picture book about a bear who doesn’t fit in.
How do you select the names of your characters?
A name has to be like the character…so sometimes it’s easy….like Xavier Stone who is a very confident hero in Grimsdon or India Wimple who is a shy girl in The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, but other times it’s harder. I usually have to try a few different names before I find the one that’s just right.
Do you think someone can be a fiction writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Oh that’s a fascinating question! All writing is about getting inside a character’s head….so if you can’t feel emotions, how can you know what a character is thinking and feeling? It’d be tough!
Have you ever written under a pseudonym or been tempted to adopt the credibility boosting ‘initials- for-name’ moniker favoured by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, J.R. Tolkien etc?
No pseudonym but the Max Remy series was published in the UK under my initials D. Abela. I wanted my whole name but the publisher thought it would be better that the readers didn’t know whether I was a male or female. I still think it’s a strange decision.
What other authors are you friends with?
Oh my! Most of my friends are authors and illustrators….like Oliver Phommavanh, Andy Griffiths, Sarah Davis, Susanne Gervay, Jules Faber, Tristan Bancks, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, Gus Gordon, Jackie French, Ben Wood, James Foley, Jacquie Harvey….there are so many lovely people who make kids books!
The novels listed below all concern themselves in some way with the writing life and feature central characters who are authors. Have you read any of them?
Oh no but they look interesting.
If you could enjoy a GNI (girls night in) playing CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY (HERE) while sipping literary-inspired cocktails and eating gourmet popcorn and chocolate fondu with any TWO of these famous female authors, who would you invite –
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)
Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)
Flannery O’Connor (1933 -2004)
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)
Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)
Agatha Christie (1890 -1976)
Mary Shelly (1797 – 1851)
Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968)
Oh so hard….but I’d have to go with Mary Shelly and Jane Austen. Monsters and feisty women…perfect!
They’re the writerly questions out-of-the-way Deborah. Now for a few rapid-fire, crazy randoms from the lucky dip box –
Favourite TV show of all-time?
If you were gifted a yacht what would you name it?
Hope We Make It
How often do you Google yourself?
Mind, once a year, for someone with your kudos, could be considered an act of restraint.
Once a month would be perfectly acceptable and within the ‘normal’ range.
Once a week – mildly excessive.
Daily – a red flag for acute boredom or something more serious.
About once every few months. I’m not a fan of seeing myself in pics or videos and I rarely read reviews.
You can live any year of your life over again. Which year do you choose and why?
2016….I went on a big adventuring holiday to celebrate a big birthday….there were hikes, friends and parties and I loved every minute.
And to finish off Deb, just because I know we’re both born in the same year – so I’m quite certain you’ll remember them – which ONE of these back-in-the-day chart-toppers gives you a ‘pinch yourself’ nostalgic fandango boost (a description lifted straight from my eight-year-old daughter’s favourite cartoon SLUGTERRA) above the others?
None sorry……I was obviously listening to different radio stations….I’m not sure JJJ would ever play any of these groups.
** Since that final question ended up going down like a novice rollerbladder suffering inner ear balance disorder, it was out with the dictionary and time for me to regroup, refresh and reword with a timely def (definition) –