Sally Gould’s new novel, Dead Certain is a hilarious new addition to Walker Books’ Lightning Strikes series and although it has a funeral setting there is plenty to laugh about.

Max’s Uncle Jack has died from a heart condition and Max is the only person who knows Jack’s last wish was to be buried next to his father, not cremated. It’s a race against time for Max to convince people this is what Jack really wanted.

Max is determined to help his uncle out one last time,  even if that means he has to steal the body to stop the cremation from happening.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect to laugh so much over a story set at a funeral. But Max’s dilemma is so real and his antics are so desperate that they make for complete chaos that readers 9-13 will love.

Max is a great character with a strong voice and readers will easily engage with him and his predicament.

This fast-paced story will keep readers entertained. In a non confronting way, it also encourages discussion on what happens to you after you die, as well as issues of burial and cremation.

There’s also room for discussion about the generations and the dynamics of families and events that affect them.


Author, Sally Gould says that the inspiration for this story came from the real life story of a relative who died.

He was a great bloke and loved by everyone who knew him. Earlier I’d arranged for Andy Griffiths to come and speak to my writing class. While I was at the funeral I thought, I wonder what Andy would do with this setting. The story idea followed. Max and Charlie are based on my sons. The oldest is logical and responsible like Charlie and the youngest is mischievous like Max.

Max is based on Sally’s youngest son when he was that age, so she says. “Of course I love everything about him.”

Particularly at that age he was determined that the world should be fair and the right thing should be done. What I like most about the character of Max is that I captured my son’s unique voice.

At the time I wrote this story, I’d take chapters to my writing class and the writers in my workshop group would be laughing themselves silly about Max’s antics and the things he’d think and say.

Sally says that the hardest part about writing the book was the editing process.

Max had many more crazy thoughts and lines, but of course my editor pared them down so the action wasn’t held up. Having to delete lines I loved was hard.

Teacher notes for Dead Certain are available from  www.walkerbooks.com.au/teachers. There is also a dedicated Walker Books Lightning Strikes website coming soon.


A funeral is an unusual setting for a children’s book, but Sally Gould has turned it into a riot that kids will find hilarious in her new novel, Dead Certain published by Walker Books Australia as part of their Lightning Strikes series.

Sally is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about her writing and her new book. Before she became a writer, Sally was a corporate lawyer. She says,

Strangely, I see a similarity between taking complex areas of law and making them understandable and accessible to, for example, company directors and taking complex ideas and making them accessible to readers though a story.

After she decided to focus on her writing, Sally enrolled in a Professional Writing & Editing Class and took Rachel Flynn’s writing for Children subjects. Sally was the first of Rachel’s students in eleven years to have a picture book published (Charlotte and Me – Windy Hollow Books).

Sally says that her favourite part of writing is starting a new story.

I love when the seed of a story idea drops down from the heavens and into my head. Especially when I’m not looking for an idea and it’s a wonderful unexpected surprise.

But she finds the first draft hard.

While I love nurturing the initial story idea into a fully formed plan, I find writing the first draft hard. I know I shouldn’t self edit as I’m writing, but I often do and so I don’t enjoy the process of the first draft. The last set of drafts make up for it though.

At the moment she is working on a paranormal series for 9-13 year olds and it’s the first time she has attempted this genre.


I think one of the most important things to do is to form a writing group where you read and critique each other’s work. The feedback needs to be honest and constructive and I think a group works best if the members are at about the same level.


Jumping to conclusions is a favourite theme of mine, probably because I have a tendency to do just that. Two educational books I’ve written contain that theme. And I have written a number of stories in locations where we’ve been on family holidays. Chase through Venice is a picture book I have coming out in April with Windy Hollow Books. While we were in Venice, I wanted to buy a picture book that showed off the sights, but I couldn’t find one so I wrote that story.

Join us back here on Wednesday when Sally will be talking about how she wrote Dead Certain and we’ll be reviewing this hilarious new book.