New children’s book releases from Pan Macmillan – March 2009

Mascot Madness! (Schooling Around Book 3)
Andy Griffiths
$14.99 B-format paperback

The Mascot Madness! Test:

1. Northwest Southeast Central School have never beaten Northwest West Academy at their annual track and field challenge because A: they’re better at knitting than they are at sport. B: they are losers. C: Northwest West Academy will stop at nothing to win.

2. Mr Brainfright dresses up in a banana suit and dances around because A: he’s bored. B: he goes bananas. C: he thinks it will inspire the students of Northwest Southeast Central School and lead them to victory.

3. When Henry McThrottle attempts the triple jump, instead of a hop, step and a jump he does A: a burp, a dribble and a sneeze. B: a twirl, a spin and the splits. C: a stumble, a trip and a fall.

4. Mascot Madness is A: a new type of dance. B: when a mascot gets angry. C: a very funny book about running, jumping, throwing, winning, losing, cheating, chasing, biting and really hard squeezing.

The answers to these questions – and many more – are contained between the covers of this very funny book about running, jumping, throwing, winning, losing, cheating, chasing, biting and really hard squeezing.

The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures
Sam Bowring
$14.99 B-format paperback

An imaginative and hilarious fantasy from an exciting new voice in children’s literature.

Twelve-year-old Zackary is the seventh son of the King and Queen of Solaris, and a most reluctant knight. He would rather put anchovies in the knights helmets or use his sword to cut sandwiches than learn courtly ways. In despair, the King and Queen assign him to the castle administrator, Barnabas, who sends him on an errand to the Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures, established by Zackary’s grandfather.

Mistaken for a job applicant, Zackary starts working at the zoo with the resident sorcerer, Acacia. Powerful magic is needed to control some of the extraordinary creatures in the zoo: from the Stymphalian birds of Greek mythology and the nine-headed hydra, to manticores from India and the squonks – Drufflefuster, Gobblesnocks, Snivelsnork and Grimelgrout. These are the ugliest, most endearing, little creatures that will be encountered in a children’s book in 2009.

But just as Zackary is settling in to his double life, a shadow is cast across the entire kingdom with the news that a strange creature is expected at the zoo-a creature which spreads evil and destruction in its path.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls 3: Best Friends and Drama Queens
Meg Cabot
$14.99 B-format paperback

The third fabulous book in bestselling author Meg Cabot’s funny and sassy series for tweens!

Allie is excited when Cheyenne joins her class-now she won’t have to be the “new girl” any more! But Cheyenne wears zip-up boots, likes boys, thinks imaginary games are for “big babies” and tells everyone what to do. Still, Allie won’t be bossed around – it’s time to teach the “new girl” some tough rules! Such as…

1) Friendly people don’t tell other people that their games are babyish;

2) Snowboots may not look as good as high-heeled zip-up boots, but they will never let you down; and

3) Friends are all you need.

Interview with William Kostakis – author of Loathing Lola

Jack: What’s the best thing you’ve ever missed out on because you couldn’t stop writing? Sleep? A sibling’s wedding? Boston Legal?
Will: I’ve missed a few birthday parties, I know that. The angry, drunken “THAT’S IT . . . WE’RE OVER! O-V-A-H!” text messages/phone calls are never fun, but I always make sure their pressie is twice as good to make up for it. Oh, and sleep. Half of Loathing Lola was written in a sleep-deprived haze. Granted, most of the stuff I wrote at 3am was cut at 10am the next morning when I realised that making up words like “gjdhfdscdas” wasn’t so much me being inventive and postmodern so much as it was me falling asleep on top of the keyboard. I’ve yet to find the balance between having a life and writing, but I’m still young. I’ve got heaps of time to find it.

Jack: Indeed. Are any of the characters based on or inspired by people you know? And if so, did you reveal anything embarrassing about them?
Will: I’m sure some characters inherited something from people I know, but on the whole, I tried to keep my real-life friends and family separate from Courtney’s friends and family. Well, except the grandmother character. I don’t think I even attempted to disguise that inspiration. Yiayia Susie is mannerism-for-mannerism, word-for-word, an identical replica of my grandmother, Yiayia Susie (see what I said before about not even attempting to disguise it?). And she loves it. She’s got her copy of the book, and every time someone comes over, she flicks it open to one of the ear-marked pages Yiayia Susie’s featured on and forces people to read to her, one, because she’s insanely proud, and two, because she can’t read. As for revealing anything embarrassing about her, I wouldn’t dare . . . she’s a deceptively strong woman. But yeah, I’m considering just sending her around to do all my publicity. She’s a riot and plus, get her started on the “My grandson . . . ” tangent and she won’t stop.

Jack: Been there. Which do you spend more time daydreaming about – the plot of your next book, or the glory when it’s published?
Will: There’s something so exciting about plotting another book. I guess that’s the most important thing to daydream about, without the good plot, there’s no glory. But, I’m guilty of thinking about the glory WAY more than the next plot. My bad.

Jack: It’s cool, I do that too. If someone totally ripped off your idea and wrote a book just like Loathing Lola, would you be flattered, or would you come down on them with the fury of a thousand suns?
Will: I’d send Yiayia Susie after them.

Jack: (laughs) Now that you’re a huge success, are you going to drop out of uni? Or does education have some value other than procrastinating while you wait for your real life to start?

Will: Huge success? *William feels his head inflate so much that his nose is now in proportion with it.* Honestly, I love uni. Not the workload so much as everything else. All my friends are there, the bar is cheap, latenight assignmenting can actually be fun on account of said cheap bar.

Jack: Ever get good marks on those late-night cheap-bar assignments?
Will: Actually yeah, not bad.

Jack: If you ever had to write an autobiography, what bits would you exaggerate? And what bits would you leave out entirely?
Will: See, I’d never trust myself with my own autobiography. I have this idea where, if a publishing house is really desperate for a biography, I’ll round up ten friends and ten people who can’t stand the sight of me, and have them each write a chapter about me. That stops me from being a revisionist about the whole thing and smoothing over the bumps in the road, and I think it’s the only way it can be a truly honest representation of my life.

Jack: Do you ever live vicariously through your characters? Make them say things you wish you’d said, and so forth?
Will: I have this horrible habit of shooting straight from the lip, so sometimes, characters are just repeating some of the inappropriate things I’ve said. Or at least, that’s what they used to do, but the more I wrote Loathing Lola, the characters developed further . . . into people who weren’t me, and they developed different mannerisms and speech patterns, and they weren’t just mouthpieces for me to say whatever I wanted through them.
I like to think that they say whatever they want through me.

Jack: Okay. Harry Potter – so good, or no good?
Will: Azkaban is brilliant. Also a great movie. The rest are a little hit-and-miss. I mean, they’re all great the first time through, but Azkaban stands the test of re-reading. Pheonix . . . not so much. As a whole though, the series is great. I hated the epilogue though.

Jack: I thought it was okay. But I’m a sentimental old fool. So who’s your favourite writer? Is it you? Better yet, is it me?
Will: Sorry, Jack, but at the moment, it’s Terry Pratchett. The man can do no wrong. He mixes magic with side-splittingly funny innuendo. ‘Nuf said. But you ain’t too bad yourself . . .

Will: If you had to describe yourself, without alluding to the fact that you are both an author and freakishly young to have three books out, what would you say?
Jack: At parties I often lie about my occupation and say that I’m a concrete mixer or an etiquette consultant or a zoo enclosure analyst. But if I was being truthful, without mentioning the books, I’d say I’m just a somewhat shy uni drop-out with a lot of ideas but very little follow-through. Ironically, it’s likely no-one would believe me.

Will:The Lab and Remote Control – both action-packed, adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster rides with strong characters – which do you prefer writing . . . the mindless explosions or the character-building high-browy stuff?
Jack: Ooh, that’s a tough one. It’s hard to separate the two – the explosions are boring if the characters aren’t developed, but even well developed characters are boring if they never explode. Or nothing explodes near them, or whatever. Since you’ve forced my hand, I’d have to say I enjoy writing the action scenes most. Because I can read them again and really feel the excitement. Whereas when I read my own character-development passages, I’m just getting told things I already know.

Will:Is Money Run more of the same, genre-wise and stylistically? If not, what’s in it for fans of Agent Six of Hearts?
Jack: Money Run has the same core goals – exciting action, intricate characters, nail-biting dilemmas. But the sci-fi angle has been replaced by gritty realism, and there’s more focus on the villains. The language is more experimental, as well, and the story is told from several points of view, which is something I’ve never done before. So yeah, it’s different. Agent Six fans will just have to trust me.

Will: We all know that you spent a long time writing and perfecting The Lab . . . what was the process of writing Money Run? Were you working on it while you developed the others, or is it a fairly recent project?
Jack: I actually started Money Run when I was 17, before The Lab was published. When I was offered a contract, I put the project on hold while I edited The Lab and wrote Remote Control. That was good, because Money Run is more complex than the other books, so the break gave me time to plan. It helped the ideas mature, like a fine wine, or like a bottle of milk left out in the Sun.

Will: How do you write? Do you set time for writing, lock yourself in the attic with a bottle of wine, a pen and a stack of lined pages, or do you just wait for the bursts of creativity – usually resulting in frantic note-taking on napkins / limbs?
Jack: I set some time, and then I switch on my laptop and unplug it. It has a 90 minute battery, and I don’t get up until it shuts itself down. If I have no ideas, I do push-ups or go jogging to chase some down, and that usually gets the job done. Every now and again I wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, and so I get out of bed, find a pen and scribble it on myself before going back to sleep. Unfortunately, in the morning, these midnight gems are usually either incomprehensible or crap.

Will: If you had to rewrite one well-known book or movie . . . which one would you choose, and what would you do?
Jack: I’d love to do a novelisation of a video game, like Portal or Metal Gear Solid. In the former I’d give the mute main character a back story; in the latter, I’d get some of the overly talkative minor characters and take their back stories away. As for movies, I’d like to rewrite something that had a good story but a bad script, like Swordfish, or Silent Hill.

Will: Say you cooked up the ideas for The Lab, Remote Control and Money Run, but were an absolutely horrible writer . . . and you could choose one writer to write them for you, who would you choose? Would they all be written by the same person?
Jack: Matthew Reilly, of course. No one else writes with that much raw energy. But I guess it would depend on which ideas I already had, because different writers are good at different things. If I’d planned out the action scenes but I needed someone to make the characters interesting, I’d choose Chuck Palahniuk. And if I had the characters already but wanted to make the book scarier, I’d pick Dean Koontz. And if I had pretty much everything but wanted to turn the books into comedies, I’d choose Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert. I think together we could make the funniest and most surreal sci-fi series in history.

Will: Something a little less mind-numbingly complicated . . . what were you doing right before this interview? Was it fun, and do you wish you were still doing it?
Jack: I was cooking. I have very little talent for it, but I make up for that with enthusiasm. Or at least, I think that makes up for it – but my friends don’t come over anymore. Not since I cooked them nachos made with cornflakes instead of corn chips.

Will: The Twilight series . . . what do you think?
Jack: I don’t like fantasy, or romance, or vampires (they’re just zombies for pansies. Diet-zombie. Zombie-lite.) As such, I’ve avoided reading Twilight – but enough people are talking about it now that maybe I should give it a chance. I liked Buffy, after all. So yeah, I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

Will: What’s next for you? Do you envision Money Run as a one-off thing? Are you interested in a sequel? Have fans of Agent Six of Hearts read the last of him?
Jack: I try to treat each book as a stand-alone thing. But the characters of Money Run all have good reason to be mad at one another by the end (those who survive, anyhow) and it’d be a shame to let that conflict go unexploited. Maybe they’ll have a chance to get even in a future book. And as for Agent Six, well, you can’t keep a good character down. I know this is a cliche, but he sometimes seems to have a life of his own – and if I stopped writing about him, he might reach out of the page and break my neck. (Never mess with a superhuman.) So I don’t think the City has heard the last of him.

A touch of magic

The magical world of Enid Blyton has been reimagined for a new generation with the ‘Enchanted World’ series (from February). Hardie Grant Egmont’s marketing manager, Natasha Besliev, says: ‘This is not just a new fairy series. The classic Blyton magic, solid storylines, well-rounded characters and strong elements of friendship are the perfect recipe for a new collectable series on which both parents and children can agree.’

A comic adventure story of a reluctant knight, a fantastical zoo, and a sorcerer’s assistant is The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring (Pan, March). Also in March from The Five Mile Press is a companion to the bestselling Dragonology called Dragon Diary (Dougald A Steer).

A&U is ‘very excited’ to welcome Justine Larbalestier with the ‘hilarious, original, enchanting’ How to Ditch your Fairy—‘urban teenage humour at its best’.

Maryann Ballytyne from Black Dog Books says ‘We have the beginnings of a fantasy trilogy—“The Strangers of Paragor”. The first book is Arrival (March). The trilogy is written by an extremely talented young woman Charlotte McConaghy and is really pushing all the fantasy genre buttons.’

William Kostakis on SKY NEWS Book Report – LOATHING LOLA

Fifteen-year-old Courtney Marlow didn’t exactly think it through. She thought the offer to have her life broadcast on national television was the perfect solution to her family’s financial troubles. She was wrong. Mackenzie Dahl, the show’s producer, promised to show Australia a real teenager. Courtney was going to be a positive role model, someone on television without a boob job and an eating disorder. But as events in her life are deviously manipulated to create drama, Courtney begins to realise that ‘ordinary’ does not translate to ‘entertaining’. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame via a little bit of Courtney – especially her conniving friend Katie, and her stepmother, Lola. But Courtney is not the pliant teenager everyone seems to think she is…A funny, edgy, completely compelling novel.

Here’s a free extract from the book:

A plea from the Brisbane Writers’ Festival team

The following message was just received from the Brisbane Writers’ Festival:

As 2009 rolls on and everyone here in the office is happily dreaming and planning for September, we spare a thought for all those who have experienced destruction and loss in North Queensland and Victoria.  In a time when so many feel heart ache we here at BWF have joined forces with our 2008 partners Clayton Utz Lawyers on a special project, and would greatly appreciate your help.

Together with Clayton Utz Lawyers we are currently collecting children’s books for an anonymous women’s refuge here in Brisbane.  In a secure location this organisation provides safe and nurturing accommodation for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence.  Women and children who arrive are traumatised and uncertain about their future.

With this in mind, at the beginning of March we are going to send the refuge as many as books for children aged 15 years and under. We seek your assistance in whatever hope and joy these books may bring into their lives. If you would like to help, please send any of your pre-loved or freshly purchased children/young adult books to the office (details below), by the 27th of February 2009.

Deliver books to:
 Brisbane Writers Festival
12 Merivale Street
South Brisbane QLD 4101
Post books to:
 Attn: Charis Holt
Brisbane Writers Festival
PO Box 3453
South Brisbane QLD 4101

BWF is happy and proud to be working with you, our supporters, and Clayton Utz Lawyers to bring hope and joy to the lives of others. 

From the bottom of our hearts we say thank you!

All the best,
the BWF Team.