May 12, 2012

Interview with Author Diana Lawrenson

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I remember saying in grade 2 I’d like to write a book – but that was looking to the future and way before I had any understanding of all that would be involved. Something must have been there, though, because I always enjoyed writing letters.

What was your journey to publication like?
My first pieces were published when I was a child in the children’s page of one of Melbourne’s daily newspapers. When I was pregnant with my second child I attended writing classes with my two-year-old on my knee – to stop him from distracting everyone by screaming blue murder in the crèche across the hall. For a number of years I wrote travel pieces, profiles, general articles and features for various newspapers and magazines that are always hungry for material. My son and daughter had both left school before I turned to writing books for children.


Can you please tell us about where you got the idea for your picture book, Crocodile River?

In the years before crocodiles were protected, my uncle hunted them in Papua New Guinea, selling their skins to the fashion houses of Paris. When I was small he would come down on leave to Melbourne and tell exciting tales of his night hunts on the rivers, so from early on I became fascinated by crocodiles. 

Tell us about your other books.

The seed for Pickle the perfectly awful pig was sown when a friend told me how she’d had a pet piglet that squealed with delight when she came home from school. She used to rub its back with suncream to prevent sunburn and pork crackling before taking it for a walk through suburban streets on a dog’s lead. Similarly, when I saw how my sister’s children loved their chooks, the idea of Paraphernalia’s Present began. I like adding facts to the end of stories about animals because they provide extensions for discussion as well as being a quick reference for questions children might have.

Inside the Australian Ballet had its beginnings in a behind-the-scenes tour I was given at the Company, and Guide Dogs From Puppies to Partners was prompted because for ten years my family had a dog that had guided for four years and was retired early. When burning chops set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen, Felix would butt me away from the griller, so of course I wondered what and how he’d learned during his training.

The two It’s True! titles: It’s True! Your Hair Grows 15 Kilometres a Year and It’s True! Your Bones are Stronger than Concrete were both a lot of fun to write. Yes, it’s true! Serious subjects can be given corny slants that make you laugh while remaining factual. 

How do you develop your ideas?

 I do a lot of research to find out if there’s anything quirky that might be a surprise and therefore useful to include; I go for walks and ask myself ‘What if xyz happened?’ in various scenarios; and if any bright idea occurs to me in the middle of the night I have a pen with a built-in light plus a notepad by the bed to jot down the idea ‒ because if I don’t I know it will have flown for good by morning.

When and where are you most inspired to write?
Inspiration can happen anywhere at any time, so I always carry a pen and pad. But I also make time every day to sit down and write something.

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