You wrote the 2nd story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, set in Perth in 1940, with Chester at 8 years old. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in your story?
Through the eyes of an eight year old, readers might gain a small insight into everyday life for a child in wartime suburban Australia. They’ll learn how Chester’s mother became an entrepeneur, how Chester has an unwitting brush with fame, and how he comes to witness something no child should have to see.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition, for stories 2000 – 4000 words, with a $2000 1st prize. What advice do you have for entrants?
The best writing comes from the heart, so write for yourself first, but keep your readers in mind. Leave out sentimentality but leave in sincerity.
Most of your fiction is for young readers and involves horses. What was the most notable difference between writing horse stories for young readers and writing your Chester Lewis story?
Of all the books I’ve written, the two horse series, Riding High and Pony Patch, have involved the least amount of reading research. That’s probably because my research comes from years of experience with horses and being around other people who have horses.
With Chester Lewis, I spent a good deal of time researching the setting and the time before I wrote a word. It was a different experience to write about a child, from the point of view of that child as an adult. When I write for children, the perspective is reversed.
You mentioned in a previous interview that Elynne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby series is a longstanding favourite of yours (also a favourite of Victorian rural novelist Jennifer Scoullar). What makes this series stand out for you as a reader?
I’m not sure I can define what it was about The Silver Brumby series that captured my imagination so strongly but I’ll try. It was quite dense in description, and left me with an enduring love of the Australian Alpine regions. Every time I opened one of those books, in an instant I was taken straight back to Crackenback Ridge or The Cascades. I think it was a combination of that and the sense of wild freedom that Elynne captured in her Brumby characters.
If you had to write a fiction book set before 1900, what time and place might you choose for the setting, and why?
I have a fascination for the people of the Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt so it would most likely be one of those.
What is one of your favourite fiction books you have read in the past year, and why?
Pan’s Whisper by Sue Lawson. Sue has a brilliant ability to tell her character’s story from the place they have come from to the place they are in. In Pan’s Whisper, Pan is angry and damaged. She trusts no one and seems to go out of her way to push people’s buttons in all the wrong ways. As in all of Sue’s books, the strength of the story is in the characters.
If you could bring one fiction author back from the dead for one day for the sole purpose of discussing writing fiction, who would you choose, and why?
That’s a hard one There are so many wonderful writers who have passed on, Elynne Mitchell included. However, if I had to choose just one, I think it would be Roald Dahl. What an opportunity it would be to learn from someone who has written such inspirational and funny stories as his!
What is next for your fiction writing?
I have a couple of completed projects and several works in progress. The ideas flow thick and fast, but historical fiction is definitely an area of current interest.
Bernadette Kelly author site: www.bernadettekelly.com.au
The Australian Literature Review