The Tales of Jahani

Leopard PrincessRosanne Hawke is writing The Tales of Jahani, beginning with  Daughter of Nomads & continuing with The Leopard Princess (UQP).

Reading Daughter of Nomads feels like being inside a rich nomad tent surrounded by colours, textures and the scent of spices.

Could you tell us about the setting?

The setting is based on where we lived when we were aid workers in Pakistan in the 1980s and early 1990s. We lived in Abbottabad which I’ve used as inspiration for Sherwan (in 1662) where Jahani was brought up. The beautiful alpine lakes with paries (fairies), rushing rivers, dangerous bridges and fairy fields are all places we took our children to visit. Even the air view from Azhar’s carpet of the Karakorams and Himalayas came from personal experience when we had to take a rather old and small plane from Chitral to Peshawar to escape the blocked snow passes.

What exotic elements, talismans or motifs have you included in the series?

I have an ancient taveez which I bought in Peshawar and it became the inspiration for Jahani’s taveez. I also have a nomad dress and a pouch (similar to the one that Jahani’s nomad mother gives her). The idea of pari power in the story comes from the folklore of Hunza (Hahayul in The Tales of Jahani). I haven’t been to Hunza but my husband has and I have some lovely photos of the area that a friend, Catherine Wood, took for me.

Where did the stories woven into the main narrative that seem to be like Tales from the Arabian Nights come from – traditional or your creation? Arabian

Most of these come from the Shahnameh: the Persian Book of Kings. The evil King Zahhak appears quite early in the Shahnameh as does that of Feraydun who slays him. The famous heroes Rostam, Sohrab and Gordafarid come later on. Even Kaveh one of the horses’ names comes from this mythology. The stories about the beginnings of the kingdoms I gleaned from Pakistani travel books. These are stories that people there know and these naturally fed into the fantasy aspect of the books.

How does the character of Jahani change?

Jahani wakes up one morning believing she is a poor girl who may not amount to much, maybe never be able to be married, and then finds she is someone else entirely. Due to a tragic event she suddenly has no idea who she is. Throughout the story she learns to trust and grows into a young woman who is able to take charge of her own destiny.

How have you subverted the traditional role of women?

In the Mughal Empire women did not rule on their own. If they were called Empress it was because their husband was an emperor. Yet the intrigue and deals that went on in the royal harems are fascinating to read about. One emperor was drugged half the time and his favourite wife made most of the decisions. He just had to sign the papers.

The women I met in Pakistan weren’t downtrodden as they are often depicted in the west. Once a girl gets educated she can do anything, wearing a scarf or not. I guess that’s why the Taliban shot Malala. She knew the truth: educate a girl and you change the world. Jahani wanted to change the world even before she knew who she was. She had to fight for the privilege to do so. I hope she will be a role model to show the unlimited potential all women have.

Are these stories for entertainment or to express issues? Or both?

After writing some stories with heavy topics like forced marriage, trafficking, war orphans and blasphemy, I wanted to write something lighter, fun, adventurous and epic. A story to show the beauty and the best of Pakistan. To celebrate the life we had there with our children. It was my eldest daughter who encouraged me to write about Jahani as this was a story she remembered from her childhood. When I look back on the story and also read some of the reviews I can see there is more to her character. It’s true I did want to portray a strong female character which I hope I have done with Jahani.

Daughter of NomadsHow have you segued book 1 into book 2? (unless this is a spoiler)

Daughter of Nomads segues into The Leopard Princess by Jahani having her recurring dream of fire; it is a pivotal scene for the second book as she finally learns what the dream means. When Jahani wakes from the dream only a few days have passed since the end of book one and then the action carries on with the nomads being attacked. Readers can read the first chapter of The Leopard Princess at the end of Daughter of Nomads.

How involved were you in the conception of the illustrations by D.M. Cornish? What is most appealing about them to you?

Aren’t they gorgeous? He is so talented. I loved the way they echo the gold and minarets of the Mughal Empire. I was asked for some ideas of what could go into the cover and the internal pictures but I wanted him to use his own ideas as I thought the best work would come out that way and so it did. I did want one of the illustrations in each book to include the leopard and one to include the carpet in the first book. Other than that D.M. worked his own magic.

Describe your dream magic carpet.

One that grows in feelings as Azhar’s does. Rich colours: red and green, maybe some animals as found on Persian carpets. One that can save your life if you fall off!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to mention the great job my son Michael Hawke did of Jahani’s poems. He’d read the manuscript and I told him Jahani liked Rumi’s poems but other than that inspiration, the work was all his own. Even at the end, close to typesetting, when my editor Kristy Bushnell and I realised we needed a song for the people to sing, Michael delivered. He is amazing.

Thank you very much for your generous responses, Rosanne and all the best with this series.

Books & Christmas with Rosanne Hawke

Rosanne Hawke writes hard-hitting yet compassionate novels about young people in difficult, often dire, situations. Her most recent novel for young adults is The Truth About Peacock Blue (Allen & Unwin), about a young girl accused of blasphemy. It’s an inordinately powerful and topical story, which is also well balanced.Truth about Peacock Blue

Thanks for speaking with Boomerang Books, Rosanne.

Thanks for asking me.

Where are you based and how involved are you in the YA and children’s lit world?

I live in the mid north of South Australia near Kapunda. Besides writing I’m involved with YA & Children’s Lit by visiting schools, teaching Writing for Children and Writing for YA at Tabor Adelaide (an independent tertiary institution), by belonging to Ekidnas (SA’s Children’s and YA book creators support group) and SCWBI.

Why did you live in Pakistan and what do you love about the country and its people?

We lived in the Middle East for ten years and about seven of those years in Pakistan. We went as aid workers with a Christian mission agency, and I taught ESL and trained teachers to teach English in a school set up for under privileged girls in a mountain area. We lived in Khyber Puktunkhwa (formerly the NW Frontier) in a town called Abbottabad. The scenery was beautiful and we took our children for their summer holidays to places like Swat, Chitral and Kaghan. The mountains are majestic and we saw snow for the first time.

Hawke, Roseanne on Karakorum Hwy

We found the Pakistani people to be very hospitable and family orientated. In a positive sense family members support each other and work together. Children are taught that what is best for all is best for one. Once during the Gulf War when we were confined to the school compound a poor family brought us curry they had cooked. We found that the less people had the more they shared.

As someone who has lived in Pakistan and knows firsthand about people from different cultures and faiths, what do you see as a way forward to peace between peoples?

Peace between people groups grows from knowledge, understanding and learning to care for each other. This occurs when we make a friend with someone from a culture different from our own. As soon as we become friends (i.e. know them, their fears, sorrows and joys) it is impossible to think of that person as ‘other’ or to demonise them. My daughter Lenore says it all starts with a smile. I suggest that people who are frightened of certain refugee groups do not have a friend from that group. Another thing I have noticed is that people who are secure in their own identity and culture are able to embrace other different identities and cultures.

What inspired you to write The Truth About Peacock Blue?Asia Bibi

I wrote The Truth about Peacock Blue (TTAPB) because of a news article I read online about a fourteen-year-old girl accused of blasphemy. Also I had been following the story of Asia Bibi, a mother of five accused of blasphemy and on death row in Pakistan. First I wrote a short story called ‘Only a School Girl’ for the UNICEF anthology, Reaching Out: Stories of Hope edited by Mariah Kennedy (2013). This was Aster’s story and the agent/publisher suggested I write it as a novel.

Where does the title come from?

The main character, Aster likes peacocks and peacock blue is her favourite colour so she used this as her Facebook profile name instead of her real name.

The main character, Aster, has a new teacher who seems to hate her. Where does this hatred come from?

By the end Aster does feel the teacher hated her. In reality the teacher is so intent on converting Aster that she loses focus of Aster as a person. A loving person wouldn’t try to coerce another to convert. The teacher’s brother put pressure on her also. Plus she has a belief that anyone who is not Muslim is kafir (a pagan or unbeliever ) and needs to change.

What are Aster’s links with Australia?

Aster has a cousin in Adelaide called Maryam Yusef who is in first year uni. Maryam sets up a blog and petition to help Aster. This is an integral part of the story as Aster doesn’t know that the world is interested in her, but Maryam tells the world about Peacock Blue. We also hear what a lot of people think about freedom of speech and religion, and human rights.

MockingbirdWhat is the importance of To Kill a Mockingbird in the novel?

This is Aster’s English text. The English teacher chose it because as a work of art it did more to change racist views in America than any other book. The novel has similar events to Aster’s story and it is a novel/movie most readers would be familiar with.

How have you linked Malala’s story into the book?

I think Malala is a hero. In TTAPB a guard wanted to demoralise Aster by showing her an article of Malala being shot by the Taliban etc. But it did the opposite for Aster: Malala inspired her. After reading about Malala, Aster grew stronger, made a calendar and decided to keep hoping.Malala

Aster is a Christian girl who is imprisoned for blasphemy (along with Muslims and others) in line with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. What do we need to know about the plight of Christians and other minority groups in countries like Pakistan and Syria? Why is this happening, why don’t we hear about it in the news and how can we help?

At the moment Christians are the most persecuted religion. At one time it was Muslims or Hindus; mostly it has been Jews (thinking of WW2). The journalist in TTAPB likens extremists, who have closed minds, to the Klu Klux Klan, a group who believed in white supremacy, and who took steps to remove non-whites from their communities. Some extremist groups will remove people they see as sub-people because they are not Muslim. The Christians had a period in history called the inquisition which acted in a similar way, fueled by power and corruption. I’m sure most Christians were horrified by the inquisition as most Muslims are today by extremists groups who use violence. Our own indigenous people were persecuted too.

We can help persecuted religious minorities through groups such as Open Doors, Barnabas Fund. Agencies like World Vision are also helping minority groups during their humanitarian work. Amnesty also keeps an eye on such issues as well as human rights injustices.

Why don’t we hear about it? We heard about Paris. And we heard about the twin towers. But many more are killed in Africa and other places that we don’t hear about because they are not ‘western’ and the media may not feel we’ll be interested, and so won’t run the story. Maybe there are no journalists where some atrocities happen. Some governments may ban journalists so they can run their country without interference. SBS tries to give a balanced view of world news. Groups like Barnabas give online updates on persecuted minorities.

SorayaAs well as child imprisonment, The Truth About Peacock Blue also challenges the imprisonment of asylum seeker children in Australia. How do you or your characters think this could be resolved?

I was appalled when I returned to Australia from Pakistan and found children in detention centres. I didn’t see Pakistan doing that to asylum seekers. It’s why I wrote Soraya the Storyteller to try to make sense of it for myself. Again the way to resolve it is by making friends. I have met intelligent and nice people who say negative things about a cultural group and I believe it is born of fear. In TTAPB Maryam believes children shouldn’t be in detention, and families should be housed in communities until they can be assessed. Assessment shouldn’t take four or five years as it did with a family I met in a detention centre. They need assessors who understand certain cultural groups.    

What else have you written?Mountain Wolf

TTAPB is my 24th book and I have written picture books, junior novels and other YA novels. Kerenza: A New Australian is about a Cornish immigrant family settling in the Mallee farmlands in 1911. Mustara is about a boy Taj and his camel, released this week in Paperback. The Keeper series are three adventurous and thrilling books about Joel Billings who lives by the sea on Yorke Peninsula. Shahana; Through My Eyes shows orphans living in a war zone in Kashmir. Marrying Ameera and Mountain Wolf (15 plus) deal with forced marriage and trafficking.

What awards have your books won?

This year I won the Nance Donkin award for my work. Last year my YA novel about grief with Cornish themes, The Messenger Bird, won the Cornish Holyer an Gof award for YA literature and the inaugural Ann Trevenen Jenkin Cup. In 2012 Taj and the Great Camel Trek won the Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature. My younger readers’ fantasy, Across the Creek, won the Holyer an Gof award for children’s literature in 2005. Others have been shortlisted, commended or Notable.Messenger Bird

What are you writing at the moment?

I am working on an historical fantasy set during seventeenth century Moghul India which is now northern Pakistan. It will be released as two books: Daughter of Nomads and The Leopard Princess in June & October 2016. It is something quite different for me, a breakout novel, UQP says. Next year I’m writing a companion to Kelsey with a male protagonist for 2017, and my YA Borderland series will be released during 2016-2017 as four totally rewritten and re-titled separate novels (including a new work) by Rhiza Press.

What have you enjoyed reading?

I’ve enjoyed many books this year; these are some of the children’s titles.

My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke & Robert Hannaford

Withering by the Sea by Judith Rossell

The Simple Things by Bill Condon

The Wishbird by Garielle Wang

Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu

Christmas is coming. How do you plan to celebrate and what books would you like as Christmas presents?

This year our family will all gather at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house and garden in the mid-north of SA. I’d like my own copy of My Gallipoli and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, something magical or mythical with beautiful writing and engaging plot.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers and all the best with your books, Rosanne.

Thank you for your kind support.

Kelsey(Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll was my best novel for younger readers for Australian Book Review in 2014 and I reviewed it here for Boomerang Books.)

Doodles and Drafts – On a Quest with Rosanne Hawke

9780702253317Tales of aid working in disaster-ravaged lands may not be the first thing young readers reach for. However, Rosanne Hawke’s junior novel, Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll is a captivating mixture of enchantment and adventure with the added bonus of being rich in cultural awareness and humanity, attributes Hawke is well known for.

Almost nine year-old Kelsey is plucked from her comfortable Australian existence and ‘stuck in Pakistan’ after her parents decide to help the flood victims there. She misses her friends and her Nanna Rose, and regards her temporary confinement within a remote country village as something of a jail-sentence.

Fortunately, first-world modern conventionality co-exists comfortably alongside third world simplicity and Kelsey is able to keep in touch with Nanna Rose through Skype and emails. Through these media, the two of them conjure up a whimsical tale about a beguiling porcelain doll called, Amy Jo who is searching for love and a place to call home. Amy Jo’s quest takes her through jungles, over waterways, and in and out of many hearts and hands until she finally discovers her true destiny and becomes intrinsically entwined with Kelsey’s own fate.

Rosanne HawkeFinding ones sense of place and belonging and feeling loved and appreciated are emotions every child will have little difficulty identifying with. Just how Rosanne Hawke manages to do that through the eyes of a doll is about to be revealed. Today, I welcome her to the draft table.

Q Who is Rosanne Hawke? Describe your writerly self.

I read a lot, think about things and love to write. If I don’t write I can become downhearted. I journal in order to work out who the characters are and what they are like. My research often goes in to the journal as well. Images help me with ideas and so I like to cut and paste (Always have since I could use scissors). Sometimes I draw (not very well). I like to go to a place which will be the setting of my story as it’s the fine detail like a flower or a certain animal that lives there which can bring a genuineness to the story, and it’s easier for me to visualise as I write. It isn’t always possible – I couldn’t go to Afghanistan when I wrote the Borderland series but I met many Afghans in Pakistan and poured over National Geographic issues and spoke to people who had been there.

Q You’ve written a varied collection of stories for children. Name some of your favourites. Why do you regard them as standouts?

Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll as it is my youngest novel in print and gives young readers a taste of culture and adventure with a link to Australia. Also Zenna Dare for YA as it explores reconciliation on many levels and is set in Kapunda. There is so much of my family and myself in the book as is in The Messenger Bird, which is actually set in my house.

Q You were partly inspired to write about Kelsey by stories about lost things and being found like, The Lost Coin, The Velveteen Rabbit and The Tin Soldier. How strongly did Amy Jo want to be heard and have her tale written about? What makes her story special?

Amy Jo plaitsAmy Jo was lost and wanted to find someone to love her even while she was lost herself. What makes her story particularly special is that my daughter’s real doll is named after a person called Amy Jo who was my daughter’s friend. Years later Amy Jo died in childbirth and my daughter said how nice it would be to write the doll stories that I told her about Amy Jo when she was nine and to dedicate the book to the memory of the real Amy Jo.

Q I particularly enjoyed the way you dedicated different chapters to different characters depending on which part of Amy Jo’s adventure or Kelsey’s story we were in and who was telling it. How important was it for Amy Jo to have her own voice? Do you think this makes her quest more believable?

Yes, I think readers would want to know what Amy Jo was thinking and doing, so I put the storytelling in different chapters. Also I thought this may be less confusing for younger readers than having it all together in one chapter.

Q Your stories are often set in distant lands, introduce young readers to peoples and places, and food and customs they may not have encountered before or fully understand. How important is that for you as a storyteller? Why?

Firstly I loved stories set in diverse places when I was a child; secondly, because I lived in the Middle East I miss it and so tend to write about it. Also since I am interested in it I may hear or read of a topic like trafficking or a forced marriage and want to write to give a voice to children in the world who don’t seem to have one at the moment. In setting a story outside Australia I hope readers will be able to ‘see’ the characters and experience where they live, and discover that although the setting and problems are different the characters are not so different from themselves. In this way children may discover that knowledge dispels fear. I also write books set in Australia, especially with Cornish themes, as I am a fourth generation Cornish-Australian descendant.

Q Kelsey is an appealing character for 8 – 12 year-olds. Would you like to see her mature through further adventures or do you prefer to write stand-alone stories?

MustaraThank you, I usually write stand alone stories and because so much goes into them, they usually feel finished to me. When I wrote The Keeper I knew there was still unfinished business so when readers asked for a sequel I did so. There are three books now in The Keeper series. I had this same feeling about Mustara. The end papers show Taj and the explorers setting off which is a new beginning, so that’s why I wrote the novel: Taj and the Great Camel Trek.

Q What’s on the draft table for Rosanne?

I am finishing a children’s novel about an immigrant girl from Cornwall set in 1911 who comes with her family to farm in the South Australian Mallee. It’s a huge difference from Cornwall and she doesn’t like it. For YA I’m working on a novel about a high school girl in Pakistan who is accused of something dreadful.

Just for fun question: Have you ever encountered the Headless Nun whilst wondering around Kapunda?

No, I haven’t, but Kapunda has a ghostly reputation because of the mines and tunnels under the town. I live in a house with underground rooms too but so far it’s just us here.

Sounds thrilling nonetheless, thanks Rosanne!

Read a full review for Kelsey and the Quest for the Porcelain Doll here.

UQP June 2014

 

Review – Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson

9781409139027I am a huge Robert Wilson fan. From the dark and sweltering Bruce Medway series set in West Africa to the dark and bloody Javier Falcón series set in Seville, Wilson’s thrillers have always been a perfect blend of atmosphere, tension and dark secrets from the past. So for his new thriller he enters new territory; London.

Setting his book in a seemingly non-exotic location at first appears to signal a new direction for Robert Wilson but that allusion is quickly put to bed. Wilson immediately turns the tension meter to 11 as we dive straight into an intricate kidnap plot. London may not be an exotic location but it is the world’s hub and Wilson takes us to Lisbon, Mumbai and Pakistan as he constantly ramps up the stakes and keeps everyone guessing.

Frank de Cruz is an ex-Bollywood star turned successful and ruthless businessman. His list of enemies is long so when his daughter Alysia is kidnapped in London the motive is unclear and the list of potential suspects stretches far and wide. The police aren’t to be involved so Frank brings in a specialist kidnap “consultant”, Charles Boxer. But it soon becomes clear than this isn’t about money. This is about power, influence and secrets and the kidnappers will do anything to extract them as well as keep them.

Wilson blends psychological intensity, constant action with a brilliantly intricate plot that will leave you gasping after the final page.

Read an extract from the book

Buy the book here…