Doodles and Drafts – How to Get to Rio with Julie Fison

The choices kids are offered in life are often not worth writing about, at least not in their books. ‘Eat your brussel sprouts or go to bed hungry.’ Hardly welcome decision making. Yet understanding action and consequence is vital for building character, strengthening confidence and learning that ‘choice, not chance, determines ones future. Opportunities might come our way by chance, but it’s what we choose to do with them that is important,’ so believes author, Julie Fison.Julie Fison

This sentiment is the crux of a new series of choose-your-own-adventure books providing tween-aged girls with the heady liberation of ‘choice’. I remember books like these from my youth; the thrill of remaining within the book for up to eight stories and the omnipotent joy of choosing my own endings. Happily, they are making a powerful resurgence. This contemporary series is aimed selectively for girls aged 10 – 14 who are farewelling simple chapter books in favour of more complicated life themes about boys, crushes, and friendships.

Today we welcome versatile writer, Julie Fison to the draft table to uncover more about her and her newest release from the Choose Your Own Ever After series, How to Get to Rio.

How to get to Rio from coverKitty MacLean is crushing hopelessly on possibly the cutest boy in the world, Rio Sanchez. She is torn between camping with her besties or pursuing a friendship with popular-girl Persephone at a swanky beachside resort. What she decides to do and whether she ever manages to link up with Rio is all up to the reader!

This story bore all the buzz of a pick-your-own-path book that I expected (and previously enjoyed), but with more modern girlie-smartphone threads woven through it. I especially appreciated the descriptive arrows at the bottom of each page reminding readers which path they are currently following. Without these, I’m not sure where I would have ended up with Kitty! Let’s see how Julie managed it.

Q. Who is Julie Fison? Describe your writerly-self.

I am the author of nine books for children and young adults. These include the Hazard River series – fast-paced adventure stories with an environmental twist, two titles in the Smitten series for teens, and How To Get To Rio – part of the new Choose Your Own Ever After series. I also write travel and parenting stories and offer copious amounts of unsolicited advice to my two teenage sons.

Q. What is the most appealing aspect about writing for children for you?

Blood Money coverI started writing fiction for my own children. We were on holidays on the Noosa River and they teamed up with friends and spent their time exploring sandbanks, dodging stingrays, building bush camps and avoiding snakes. I turned their adventures into the Hazard River series. My sons loved the stories – probably because they were in them! It was very rewarding to have the boys involved in the writing process. They didn’t just inspire me; they also helped with the editing and gave me encouragement along the way. I still borrow snippets of their lives for my stories and value their editorial input.

Q. You’ve covered a variety of genres in kids’ writing. Which one (if any) did you least enjoy writing? Why?

!cid_14F12706-950E-49D5-938C-C08D95DED070I really enjoy the variety of writing for different age groups. A 10,000-word adventure story for 10 year olds, like Shark Frenzy (Hazard River series), and a 50,000-word young adult romance like Tall, Dark and Distant, are very different projects – in terms of plotting, character development, voice and themes. But there is definitely a common thread in my work. They are all essentially a fun read. The characters face danger, but the stories ultimately all end happily. Holiday adventures feature heavily in my stories, and there is a boat scene in virtually everything I write. I spent a lot of time on boats when I was a girl, so they just seem to be an integral part of a story to me.

Q. Do you have any favourites from the titles you’ve written, if so which ones?

That’s a tough question. I like them all for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I’d say Blood Money from the Hazard River series, the young adult romance, Lust and Found, and How To Get To Rio from the Choose Your Own Ever After series.

Blood Money is about a gang of kids who discover a bag of money in the mangroves at Hazard River and have to decide what to do with the cash – leave it where it is, keep it, or take it to the police. I particularly like this one because it’s a fun adventure and a great moral dilemma for the characters. It was inspired by a story I spotted in the newspaper. Two boys found a bag of money while fishing in a quiet creek in northern NSW. They handed the money to the police and when no one claimed it, they got to keep it! When I talk to students about this story the room always goes crazy with excitement. It’s a story that really engages kids.

Lust and Found is another one of my favourites. It’s the story of a uni student, who goes on a physical and personal journey as she travels through Cambodia looking for her lost brother. Sienna is a bit of a princess, and can’t stand Cambodia when she first arrives. But she warms to the place as she explores it with her brother’s flatmate, the maddeningly cute Guillaume. I had a lot of fun writing the story. Sienna’s personality meant there was plenty of scope for tantrums, misadventure and transformation.

My other favourite has to be my newest story, How To Get To Rio. I love the whole premise of this pick-a-path series – that every decision has consequences, and that choice not chance determines our future. In this story, Kitty’s first choice is between going camping with her best friends or going to a beach resort with popular-girl Persephone. Kitty is really torn and I would be too!

Q. Choose Your Own Ever After books have a Ctrl Z / Reset quality about them. Do you think this adds to their likeability or befuddles readers? How does the format enhance the story and characters?

I think kids will love having the chance to make choices throughout the story. It definitely adds to the books’ appeal. I often read a story and think – I’m not sure I would have done that. In the Choose Your Own Ever After series, the reader gets to decide every time there’s an important decision to be made.

Q. Did you find writing Rio, more difficult than writing a straightforward, beginning to ending story?

How To Get To Rio definitely had its challenges. I am not a great planner, but I spent a lot of time working on the pathways and endings with my editor, before I got started on this story. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to come up with enough different threads to offer the reader genuine choices. But once I got writing, the characters took over (as they always do). Pathways evolved, choices emerged and the story came together.

Q. Discuss your approach and process used when writing a-choose-your-own-path adventure.

The key to writing a choose-your-own-path story is getting the set-up chapters right. The threads for all of the pathways start from here. That means the characters have to be established very early – their motivations and the potential for conflict have to be revealed right from the beginning. It’s what I would try to do in any story, but the challenge in How To Get To Rio was to get the threads of seven different stories into the opening chapter! From there I wrote the pathways as I would read them – taking one thread all the way to the end and then going back to the last choice and writing another ending. As there are a series of choices to be made throughout the book, I kept going back to the previous choice and following that to its conclusion. (It was actually easier to write than to explain!) There was a big advantage to writing this style of book. When I got stuck on one storyline, I just moved on to another one.

Q. What’s on the draft table for Julie?

I am working on another book in the Choose Your Own Ever After series that comes out in July. In The Call of The Wild, the main character, nature-loving Phoebe has to choose between going to a party with her best friends or helping at a save-the-orang-utan fundraiser. I am very concerned about the plight of orang-utans in the wild, so that story is close to my heart.

Counterfeit LoveThe other story on my desk is a young adult novel – Counterfeit Love. Lucy Yang is an ambitious television reporter, who gets more than she bargains for as she hunts down a big story in Hong Kong. That book comes out in July, too.

I have a head full of ideas for other stories all fighting for attention, including a travel memoir. But that’s something for the future when I have more time to travel!

Just for fun Q. If you could Ctrl Z one thing in your writing career thus far, what would it be?

I wish I had started writing fiction earlier. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. On the other hand, I don’t produce my best work when I try to force a story. So, I am glad I had that holiday on the Noosa River when I did, otherwise I might still be wondering if I should write a book!

Thank you for having me, Dimity. I look forward to visiting again soon.

Always a pleasure Julie! Stick around and help us trek down more interesting facts on Rio.

Hardie Grant Egmont Books April 2014

Follow Julie’s Blog Tour on How to Get to Rio, here.

Book tour details:

1 April: Sherryl Caulfield http://www.sherrylcaulfield.com/

9 April: Kids’ Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

15 April: DeeScribewriting http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

23 April: Cereal Readers http://www.cerealreaders.blogspot.com.au/

28 April: Boomerang Blog with Dimity Powell

Bug in a Book http://buginabook.org/

Buzz Words http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

The Book Chook http://www.thebookchook.com/

 

NEW HAZARD RIVER ADVENTURES

The Hazard River series, by J.E. Fison continues with two new action-packed stories, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money. Julie started the series after a family holiday on the Noosa River, but she looked to another waterway, a little further south for inspiration for one of her latest adventures.

Author, J E Fison says,

Kids, adventure and money – it’s a heady combination, so I couldn’t help getting excited when I picked up the Sunday newspaper one weekend and found a story about two teenage brothers who were fishing in a quiet creek west of Lismore and found a bag containing one hundred thousand dollars! The bag of cash had apparently been washed into the creek during a flood. The boys agonized for two weeks about what to do with the cash before handing it in to police.

The news story went straight into my journal (which is more of a plastic folder than a journal) and emerged a year later on the banks of Hazard River, in the latest adventure, Blood Money.

Just like the boys in the real story, the kids at Hazard River find a bag of cash and just like the real boys they face a moral dilemma about what to do with the money. Add to this a few snakes, some troublesome meatballs and a nasty neighbour and everything is in place for a rough ride for the newly cashed-up kids of Hazard River.

In Toads’ Revenge the kids of Hazard River find themselves thrown into a dystopian toad-infested new world when they accidently fire themselves into the future. Although it’s a bit of a departure from the usual Hazard River story line, it’s not too far from the real world.

Cane toads, once confined to northern Queensland have advanced as far south as Sydney and into Western Australia, threatening native animals and fragile wilderness areas along the way. These super-resilient, poisonous reptiles are incredible breeders. Females lay up to 35,000 eggs at a time and the toads’ march across the continent is proving impossible to stop. Recent media coverage of the toads’ march inspired me to make them the bad guys of Toads’ Revenge.

For more information on J.E. Fison and the Hazard River series you can visit her website at www.hazardriver.com or read her blog at www.juliefisonwriter.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

The Hazard River blog tour

Brisbane author, J.E. Fison, launches two new books in the Hazard River series this month. Tiger Terror and Bat Attack follow the action-packed holiday adventures of Jack Wilde and his friends. As part of the blog tour to promote these books, J.E. is here at Literary Clutter to tell us a bit about the Hazard River covers…

Does my front cover look too scary in this?
By J.E. Fison

There’s a theory that book sales are proportional to the number of teeth on the front cover. With this theory in mind my publisher, Paul Collins, of Ford Street Publishing, enlisted the talented Marc McBride to do the artwork for the Hazard River series. Marc, who is famous for the Deltora Quest illustrations, is not known for his subtly. Rather, he’s notorious for adding the fear factor to everything he touches. The result for the Hazard River series is a collection of eye-catching front covers that ought to send my sales figures into space if the theory is correct.

The front cover of Shark Frenzy alone should set new records, with the gaping jaws of a monster shark poised ready to snap up a boat full of children. Then there’s the sinister snake on the cover of Snake Surprise, a tiger on the front of Tiger Terror and the gruesome gob of a bat on Bat Attack. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the next books in the series Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge.

Kids love all of the Hazard River front covers, but they really go for the toothy ones. A random sampling of my son’s Year 4 class found the Bat Attack front cover scored particularly well on the ‘awesome’ scale, which tends to support the theory.

But what do parents think? One friend can’t even look at the front cover of Snake Surprise because she’s so scared of snakes. Another is terrorized by the Bat Attack cover and I have to admit that even I am frightened by the front cover of Shark Frenzy and I know what happens. (No children actually got eaten in the writing of that book.) The truth is – the books are all action-packed fun with an environmental twist. The scary animals are all good guys in these books. The baddies are smugglers, dodgy developers, and unscrupulous fishermen. Shark Frenzy starts with a dead shark washed up on the bank of Hazard River. It has no fins. When Jack Wilde and his friends decide to investigate, they find fishermen are killing sharks for their fins.

Shark finning makes for an interesting theme, but a dead, finless shark doesn’t make a great front cover. A monster shark with its mouth open does. Sorry to any squeamish parents, the kids’ votes win on this one. Please avert your eyes the next time your son or daughter picks up a Hazard River book. Or maybe just grin and bear it, if you’ll pardon the pun.

George’s bit at the end

For more details on J.E. Fison’s Hazard River series check out the website and her blog. And check out the other stops on the Hazard River blog tour:

  • 14 March — Review of Tiger Terror and Bat Attack
  • 15 March — Inspiration – it’s all around us
  • 16 March — Interview
  • 17 March — Writing for kids helped me become a better parent

And tune in next time for some zombies and unicorns.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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