Susanne Gervay talks series and ALWAYS JACK

I’ve already attested to the brilliance of Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack, so I thought, to spare you another post of flowing praise, I’d invite Susanne around to talk about her ten-year journey to complete the trilogy of Jack books. The first book in the series, I Am Jack, spawned a successful stage adaptation by MonkeyBaa, which toured NSW regional, rural and Sydney centres in 2008, and expanded to conquer Australia in 2009. In September, 2011, the play will feature as part of the Ipswich Children’s Literature Festival and then complete a season at the Seymour Centre, Sydney. Now, Always Jack has launched out of the gates, garnering a wealth of critical praise.

On Series

Why do young people wait in long queues for each new book in series such as Lemony Snicket books… Harry Potter books… Twilight?

Trademark fantasy book series by writers like Isabelle Carmody, Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Tolkien; crime series with authors such as James Patterson, Harlen Coben, Ian Rankin, Phillip Pulman, Alexander McCall Smith; science, romance, historical series and especially children’s series can have huge readerships.

Series are sometimes commercially manufactured of course. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has led to an array of copycat Vampire and paranormal series.

I remember the madness and millions of dollars for the R.L.Stine Goosebumps series for kids, spawning many other horror kids’ series. It always felt like I was reading the same story. 

So have I written a series? A trilogy? I actually nearly fell off my chair (apologies for the cliché) when my Jack books were called a series/trilogy – I Am Jack, Super Jack and Always Jack.  Maybe I have.

It’s been a 10 year journey writing my Jack books for young people. I’ve written a series when not writing a series. I wrote I Am Jack for my son after he was bullied at school, published in 2000 by HarperCollins when bullying wasn’t seriously acknowledged. I wrote it for my son and  kids, the bully, bullied, onlookers, parents, teachers community because bullying ruins your life. I Am Jack is funny, got plenty of jokes, has a wobbly Nanna and even a girl interest.

It was written as a stand alone title. Four years later, due to the success of I Am Jack, I wrote a companion book, Super Jack. Like the first book, it is funny, warm, real, giving a voice to kids and families. This time it’s about blending families as well as lots of other things from bush fires to mateship.

Always Jack carries the Cancer Council’s precious yellow daffodil and like all my Jacks it’s funny, real and jumps into everything from cancer to the Vietnam War to Jack’s first love.

All the Jack books link, but are also stand alone. They have been defined as a series because Jack and his family, their loves and lives are central to each book. However this has to be the longest ‘series’ ever – ten years in the making.

Now that I’ve finished this ‘series’, I think I get it. Readers care about the characters in the first book. They want to know what happens to them. They become fans, even when there is ten years between the first and third book.

What do you think about series? Do you find some of them compulsory reading? Is it the characters? The plots? What is the X-factor of a series you love?

What series do you want to read? Have you a single title that you are desperate to have another book or two follow?

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William Kostakis

Blogger William Kostakis is an award-winning, twenty-year-old young adult fiction author. His debut title, Loathing Lola, was released in 2008.

5 thoughts on “Susanne Gervay talks series and ALWAYS JACK”

  1. Often the ‘unintentional series’ are the most loved and long lasting because they have grown out of a single character in one book which subsequently has a life beyond the single edition. Nowadays a character is likely to cross from page to stage or to screen, but kids still enjoy the collectable aspect of a group of books. There’s the security of returning and re-reading, often adding more from the experience of the young reader, since the last reading. And it’s such a compliment when an author is asked ‘What happens to him AFTER the last book, or BEFORE the first one?” Maybe the Jack Trilogy will become a Quartet or a Decade Collection?

  2. I loved Always Jack and I’m so glad you wrote it, Susanne. It’s a special story, one that is shared by many of us. I can relate to people caring about Jack and his family. He’s cute and funny and REAL. Perhaps as Hazel suggests, the trilogy may grow yet. Kids love to keep characters close to their hearts and will follow them through many books. It’s hard to let go when you love someone…

  3. Susanne, I have seen you do plenty of school talks and I always get a kick out of the response from the kids. They totally GET Jack. It is brilliant to watch. They laugh at his jokes, they understand why he is sometimes sad and they like that he goes through things that are relevant and important to them. Everyone needs a Jack in their corner!

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