Player Profile: Jacqueline Harvey, author of Alice-Miranda Shines Bright

harvey, jacquelineJacqueline Harvey, author of Alice-Miranda Shines Bright

Tell us about your latest creation:

Alice-Miranda Shines Bright (#8 in the series).  Alice-Miranda and Millie make an accidental but dazzling discovery in the woods near school but it seems they are not the only ones looking.  Throw in a missing villager, a ruthless property developer and a hapless Mayor and there is another adventure in the offing.  The Alice-Miranda Diary for 2014 is a gorgeous diary full of fun activities, recipes, places to write secret thoughts and events; Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco (#4 in the series) sees Clementine and her friends on their first school excursion to a farm.  When her great Aunt Violet stands in for her mother as a parent helper, fireworks will be sure to fly with Clemmie’s teacher Mrs Bottomley. There’s a cranky goose and a crazy ram for good measure.

Alice-Miranda Shines Brigh Hi ResWhere are you from / where do you call home?:

I grew up in Ingleburn and Camden and now call the Upper North Shore of Sydney home.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I wanted to be a primary school teacher from the age of 9. I’ve worked in schools for all of my career until the end of last year when I took the giant step to become a full time writer.  I still get to visit schools all the time which I love.

Alice-Miranda Diary 2014What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

It’s still to come!  As a writer you’re always wanting to improve.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

Ordered.  I can’t stand when things get out of control – that tends to happen to my desk sometimes and I find that I can’t work until it’s back to being neat and tidy.

Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco Hi Res 1When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I love Kate Morton, Tim Winton, Ian McEwan and Markus Zusak; I adore Belinda Murrell’s time slip adventures, historical fiction and newspapers – from all over the place.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

As a small child I loved Richard Scarry and Dr Seuss, then graduated to Paddington Bear, Heidi, Black Beauty and anything by Enid Blyton.  As a teen I adored To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby as well as Pastures of the Blue Crane by Hesba Brinsmead.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Miss Honey from Matilda.  I love her patience, bravery and kindness.  Having spent a large part of my adult life as a teacher, you hope that there are some children out there for whom you were their own version of Miss Honey.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

Not really surprising here.  I love to eat out, travel, read and play golf.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

In the everyday world, I am more than happy with lamb chops, mashed potato, carrots, zucchini and green beans with gravy, and a chilled glass of diet lime cordial; on special occasions I love soft cheeses, smoked salmon, Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm pate and French Champagne. Weekends are frequently considered special occasions in our house.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Booksellers, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and anyone who encourages children to read and fall in love with books and stories.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Competing with everything else that there is out there to entertain children and adults.  I think though that stories will be part of humanity forever; we just need to stay on top of the best way that people want to receive them.

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Interview – Bookish Adventures with Alice-Miranda

Welcome Alice-Miranda, it’s so lovely to e-meet you!

I hear you are just seven and one-quarter years old yet you get up to some mighty adventures. Would you call yourself a brave kid?

Good morning Tania, it’s lovely to e-meet you too.  I’m very excited because I’m almost eight now – this year has just flown by.  No I don’t think I’m especially brave but I do love adventures.

What’s life like at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies?

School is always very busy and I absolutely adore it.  My favourite class is definitely English with Miss Reedy – she’s as mad about books and reading as I am.

Our cook Mrs Smith makes the most delicious food – my favourite dinner is rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, carrots, zucchini and lashings of thick gravy and her chocolate brownies are scrumptious. I like them for afternoon tea with a lovely glass of ice cold milk.

I think we’re especially fortunate to have so many great teachers and people who work at the school.  Mr Charles has a wonderful garden and Mrs Howard is the sweetest housemistress and of course Miss Grimm and Mr Grump make it feel like one big family.

What was it like to have a book series written about you?

It’s a bit strange really but lots of fun.  My best grown up friend Jacqueline Harvey writes them.

You’ve already had some awesome adventures through four spectacular books. Which adventure has been your very favourite and why?

Mmm, that’s a very difficult question because every one of my adventures has been special.

You know that when I first came to school Miss Grimm hadn’t been out of her study for rather a long time and so it was lovely that we became such good friends in the end. On holidays we had so many mysteries to solve and I was very glad that Aunty Gee wasn’t hurt by those terrible kidnappers, who were actually after Mrs Oliver (but the two ladies look so alike that they took the wrong person).

It was wonderful to meet Lucas and so exciting that Aunt Charlotte and Mr Ridley became engaged. I had a lot of fun back at school when we did the play with Fayle School for Boys and I met Miss Hephzibah who I simply adore and then when we went to sea for Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Lawrence’s wedding it was fantastic to meet Neville and be able to help him on his very special mission.  I really don’t think I couldn’t choose

Can you give us the dirt on WDAPYL Headmistress, Miss Grimm?

Miss Grimm is one of the most wonderful people I know. When I first met her she was rather cross and seemed quite upset, but I discovered that she had a badly broken heart, and when I met Mr Grump on my wilderness walk and convinced him he should come back to school and see her it was wonderful – and then they got married and Miss Grimm hasn’t stopped smiling since.

She’s very elegant and she always looks beautiful and she’s just made a decision (which I can’t tell you about just yet) which has made the girls and staff happier than they have ever been.

Ooh – how exciting. Can’t wait to hear more. I’ve been wondering . . . did you get seasick during Alice-Miranda at Sea?

No, I seem to have good sea legs.  I hadn’t been on The Octavia before but I have been on some other large boats.  My Mummy’s poor cousin Lady Sarah got very sick and so did her two daughters, Poppy and Annie.

You’ve certainly overcome some challenges. How important is it for kids to remain positive and determined?

I think being positive is one of the most important things of all.  No matter what happens, if you can try to find something good in every situation, then life just seems so much better.

It’s the same with people. Nobody’s perfect but everyone has strengths and I like to believe that people have good hearts. Sometimes they might not behave quite as well as you’d hope but there’s usually a reason behind it. Rather than looking for a person’s bad points it’s much better all-around if you can focus on the positive.

Determination will help you get through all sorts of situations. I think my friend Jacinta is one of the most determined people I know. She trains so hard and wants to get to the Olympics for gymnastics. I’m sure that she’ll get there and I can’t wait to go and see her.

Would you say that Jacinta Headlington-Bear is your very best friend?

My two best friends at school are Millicent Jane McLoughlin-McTavish-McNoughton-McGill, but she prefers to be called Millie, and Jacinta Headlington-Bear.

Millie is lots of fun and she’s quite straight to the point. Jacinta is too actually, and can be a little blunter than Millie. Jacinta has a hard time with her mother and father because they’re not around for her very often. But it was lovely when her mother came to Aunt Charlotte’s wedding and I really think there was a great change for the better between the two of them.

What’s author Jacquie Harvey really like?

Jacqueline Harvey is very busy. I don’t have nearly as much time with her as I would like. She’s been teaching me a few writing tricks of my own though (I love writing too and I’m planning to write some books with her help – stay tuned for more exciting news about this soon).

Were you named after anyone in particular?

Mummy always liked the name Miranda and Daddy liked Alice so they tried them out together, Alice-Miranda.  They said that it just worked.

What your favourite ice cream flavour and why?

My favourite ice cream is vanilla bean with chocolate topping. It’s scrumptious!

Describe yourself in five words.

Talkative, happy, positive, determined and friendly.

Can you give a sneak peek at your next adventure? I have a feeling it might be somewhere very special indeed!

I’ve just had the most wonderful time in New York City. I went to school there too for a month at Mrs Kimmel’s School for Girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I made some good friends, Lucinda, Ava and Quincy and would you believe I ran into an old friend from Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale (but you’ll have to wait and see who that was).

Mummy and Daddy were in New York to oversee the grand re-opening of Highton’s on Fifth which is a beautiful department store. We stayed in our apartment at the very top of the building overlooking Central Park. Daddy and I did lots of exploring in the city – poor Mummy had a few problems at the store so she wasn’t able to come out as often as she would have liked.

One of my favourite places was The Metropolitan Museum of Art – the locals call it The Met and we had our art lessons there. It was also where I met someone very special – but I’m not telling who that was either. You’ll have to wait and read all about it in February next year.

I can’t wait! Your wonderful escapades have recently been published in the USA and also in Indonesia – congratulations! Will you head over on holiday to visit everyone and celebrate?

Next year I am hoping to do lots of travelling to meet my friends all over the place. I think we’ll start in Australia and then head to the United States and also to England where my first adventure will be published in March. I might try to skip over to Turkey where the first book is due out before the end of this year and who knows, perhaps Indonesia on the way home. Jacqueline Harvey is also very keen to take me on a trip to New Zealand too.

Happy travels, Alice-Miranda, and do come visit us again soon!

Learn more about the lovely Alice-Miranda at her very own blog, and don’t forget to check out what author Jaqueline Harvey has been up to, at her website.