Janeen Brian, author of Meet Ned Kelly
Tell us about your latest creation…
‘Meet Ned Kelly’ is a look at the Australian bushranger who lived in the early days. His story is told in rhyme and tracks Ned’s life from boyhood to his death at age twenty-five. Was Ned Kelly a Robin Hood type hero or was he, as he maintained, forced to become an outlaw? Matt Adams’ illustrations are stunning and quirky and bring to life a feeling of the times and the countryside. There’s a fascinating and factual Time Line at the back.
Where are you from / where do you call home?
I’m from Glenelg, which is a seaside town, just twenty minutes from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher.
To date, I think it might be my picture book, Where does Thursday go? because I love the basic premise of Splodge, a bear character heading out to look for Thursday in order to say goodbye to it. He wanted to do that because his birthday had been on Thursday and he asked his friend, Humbug, ‘Where does Thursday go before Friday comes?’ I love the poetic simplicity and word image that I was able to create, and the characters which the illustrator, Stephen Michael King brought to life in an aura of soft blues.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?
My office, NOW, is big, but it used to be a desk in my bedroom. The room has large windows that look out onto a lovely backyard. Along that wall are benches on which are set my computer, printer, phone and various other equipment and containers for files, books and stationery. I have a large library shelf and a big red cupboard with glass doors to display my own published books, other cupboards and filing cabinets. In the centre is a nice table where I can spread out stuff – or sit and have a cup of tea with a friend!
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?
I love Australian fiction, both adult and children’s. I like biographies of people who are in the Arts and I love reading picture books and poetry.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?
My parents gave me an Omnibus (a large book with stories, article and poems in it) when I was twelve, because I’d done well in Year 7. They didn’t usually do things like that,so the book was special. I read and re-read that book till I almost knew it backwards.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?
Someone like Elsie, who is a girl in my forthcoming children’s historical novel called, That boy, Jack. Elsie is brave or forthright, funny and caring. I’d liked to have been as strong and as outspoken as her when I was a girl.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?
I make mosaics. I love the look of broken crockery, and recycled tiles and found objects, like shells or bits of old jewellery, put together to create something beautiful out of things that’ve had a life and been discarded. I read, of course. I knit about a dozen scarves each year for homeless people. I garden and walk, swim and go to Yoga and Keep Fit classes. I love going to films and the theatre. And I’m sing in a choir called Sing Australia. I love laughing, looking for colour and eavesdropping on people’s conversations.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?
I drink tea. And I love seafood.
Who is your hero? Why?
My sister. She is the biggest-hearted, warmest, most caring person you could ever meet. She’s funny and has been the most wonderful friend to so many people. She’s passionate about food and the
growing of it, and the environment, and lives for the minute.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?
Helping children have time to read. I think it’s vital for them to experience the joy of being elsewhere in their mind and their imagination and to realise that they choose to enjoy a book no matter how
easy other ‘distractions’ are – because reading needs concentration. I’m concerned about reducing our sensory needs and so books, as we know them now, will still have a place. I use an E-book reader for convenience when I travel, but I still like to read a book. Parents need to have one night a week where everyone sits and reads together.