Archive for February, 2009


    I am so excited to have Tiffany Mandrake here today. Tiffany writes bad fairy tales. I don’t mean her tales are bad (they are actually extremely good), but after living in the grounds of the Abadamy of Badness for some years, Tiffany has rubbed noses with some ‘not quite good’ fairies, and we are so lucky that she has decided to share her experiences with the world.


1.       Tiffany, you have such a magical sounding name. Were you named after anyone from the fairy realm?

Not exactly, Dee. (And isn’t Dee Scribe a magic name? Your magical talent is, perhaps, describing, just as Nan’s was in “Witch Week”?)

My first name is redolent of fancy pretties and timeless elegance, not to say breakfast, while my last name hints at a darker persona who enjoys growing and harvesting dodgy herbs.

2.       Is the Abadamy of Badness like any school you ever attended?

Oh yes! Like any good school (and I use the word “good” in a relative sense, meaning, “suitable for the pupils’ wellbeing”) the Hags’ Abademy of Badness is dedicated to giving youngsters the mixture of independence and nurturing they need. My closet cousin in Tasmania, who will deny to her last breath that we are in any way related, remembers some of her teachers with real gratitude and retrospective affection. Without Mrs Martin, Mrs Ting, Mrs Collis and Mr Tucker, she would have been a less-educated person, and so less-able to write for a living. She wishes they were still alive so she could still be sending them Christmas cards.

3.       You live in a cottage on the grounds of the Abadamy of Badness. Is it difficult to write with so much happening around you? Or is this a good thing because it gives you something to write about?

Having plenty happening around one is important to some writers. If one simply shuts oneself off in a peaceful room and writes, one runs the risk of navel-gazing and losing touch with the real world. On the other hand, there are times when one must retreat from the hurly burly if one is to get any work done.

4.       Each book in Your Little Horrors series seems to feature a main character who is naughty but nice? Do you think readers get sick of goody two shoes characters that never even spill chocolate down their white shirt when they’re slurping on a milkshake?

Perhaps, but it is FAR more difficult for a writer to make a goody-goody character interesting.  It is a bit like writing about a super-strong or super-intelligent character. Unless that character has major flaws or weaknesses, there is no drama. Who would read about Superman if he wasn’t affected by kryptonite? The challenge with the Little Horrors is to present them as they really are. They are bad fairies. That is their blood and their heritage. BUT, they are also little beings with the emotional development and moral sense of a human child of eight or so. They want their peers and families to love and accept them, but they have an emerging sense of who they are. They want to move on. There is much misconception about bad fairies. The truth is that they are generally not evil. They are the spice in the pudding, and the salt in the stew. They keep humankind from being smug and complacent. In fact, I have come to believe that the GOOD fairies, with their bland niceness and insistence on thinking the best of everyone… not to speak of their acceptance of the unacceptable… may do more harm than bad fairies. A lolly might make a crying child stop squalling, so that’s a sweet deed to a good fairy. But, I ask you, Dee – is it REALLY a good thing? A bad fairy would be more likely to show the squalling kid a flying critter-fae or to drop out of a tree and yell BOOOOO!

5.       Shhh! Promise I won’t tell, but who is your favourite main character and why? Is it Flax the Feral Fairy, Mal the Mischievous Mermaid, Tikki the Pixie or Nanda the Gnome?

Ooh, this is so difficult! They are all fascinating little creatures. Flax is an orphan, poor sweet, and she loves her friend the dog-fae, even if she can never say so. She has such poor little wings that the good fairies secretly despise her. I love Flax. Mal tries SO hard to keep up with her ineffably beautiful and bad family. With a perfectly bad sister like Sal, how can little Mal make a splash? I love Mal. Nanda is a sad case. She truly believes she is a GOOD fairy. How sad is that? It doesn’t help that she is tall and pretty for a gnome, and has bigger wings than most gnomes have. This still leaves her FAR short of the height, beauty and ‘wingfulness’ of the good fairies, so she’s stuck in the middle. I love Nanda. And Tikki, oh, Tikki Flicker is such fun to be around. She flickers about, plays tag and disrupts everyone. Her Uncle Sedge, who is a GOOD pixie has had to come to terms with what she is. I hope that one day he will be able to admit his affection for her, just as I can. I love Tikki.

I trust that answer is sufficient? Hmm! (Did she actually answer that question?)

6.       Obviously, there are fairies at the bottom of your garden at the Abadamy of Badness, how can I get them to come to mine? I’ve tried putting out fish and chips, and honey comb (my favourite foods) but that just seems to attract feral cats and drop bears. Any suggestions?

If you want to attract good fairies, put out bland, sweet white-flour goodies. If you want bad fairies, put out something interesting and mark it with a big KEEP OFF sign! You should also make sure you have moss, nettles and feral flowers.  

7.       I have a young friend called Eva Brick who wants to write a book about the icky things you find at the bottom of the garden (I think it’s a recycling guide). Can you give her any tips on how to start her story?

She should start by mentioning ickiness as quickly as possible. Once this has focussed attention (children are like bad fairies, they LOVE to explore ickiness), then she can hit ‘em with the good stuff about worms, compost and recycled food.

8.      Can you please give me a list of all the published and ‘coming out’ books in your Little Horrors series so that I can work out how to get my badge at the Abadamy of Badness?

        Flax the Feral Fairy (already out)
        Mal the Mischievous Mermaid (already out)
        Nanda the Naughty Gnome (coming soonish)
        Tikki the Tricky Pixie (coming laterish)

If Tiffany was in the habit of thanking people, she would thank Dee. As it is, she will merely send her cat Speedwell to wee on Dee’s lawn.

The ineffable Tiff!

finalmal1Thanks Tiff (and my lawn thanks you too – we’re in drought here).  So lovely of you to visit! I can’t wait to meet Nanda and Tikki when they emerge. Hope you’ll flit past again.


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Tiffany Mandrake, the GOOD author of books about BAD fairies is coming to visit tomorrow. Yay!

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brenton1I’m totally in awe of our guest today. 12 year old Brenton Cullen has been writing for over seven years and has already published 2 novels, a collection of plays and a collection of biographies.


His latest achievement, The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies was written for all the kids like him who love reading books by Aussie writers and want to know more about them and how they write.


1.    Brenton, Your book, The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies includes many of my favourites too; like Dianne Bates, Libby Hathorn, Duncan Ball, Bill Condon and Hazel Edwards. Can you tell me what it was like to interview and write about these great Aussie kids writers?

The feeling of what it was like to interview these childrens’ book writing veterans was completely indescribable – Hazel Edwards has been writing for 33 years! It was excellent to be able to interview them, and communicate with them, even.

2.    How did you come up with the idea for writing the book?

I was very disappointed that my favourite author’s websites had little information about them REALLY! So I had a sparkly idea: why not write their bios myself? I emailed them (these authors in the book were my favourite Aussie writers at the time) and it just snowballed from there!

3.       How long did this amazing book take to complete from initial research to final editing?

About four months.

4.       How did you fit in school work and a social life while you were working on the book? What do your friends think about you being an author?

Luckily, as I am in only my fourth week of Grade 8 at my high school in Kingaroy, we do not receive much homework other  than write a chapter summary for this book in English, or finish those five questions for Maths. With no assignments yet, at all, I am very lucky to have enough time for writing. My friends think it’s “cool, dude!!” and my best friend, who also writes, thinks it’s wonderful.

5.       Can you describe how you felt when you saw the finished book in front of you after all that hard work?

I finished the book on February 13, 2008, at 11:56 PM. Yes, I recorded it. I sat back from the computer, and breathed deeply.

6.       I wanted to be an author when I was seven, but it took me a lot longer than five years to get there. Have you got any tips for other kids who want to write?

Do your best writing, and read, read, READ! JK Rowling became an author and she always read books!

7.       Can you tell us about what you are working on now?

I can’t reveal much yet, but it is the first book in a fantasy trilogy and a very top-secret manuscript that is non-fiction and will have something to do with some of the writers on the Yahoo! Group, Aussie Blog Tours. Most definitely.

8.       Where can people buy a copy of your book, The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies?

Check out  http://www.lulu.com/content/2377107

Brenton is currently working on a series of play scripts, a kids’ health book and a YA novel, and is looking for a publisher. He can be contacted at



You can also discover more about Brenton by checking out the other blogs he visited on this tour:

Saturday, February 21sthttp://www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 22ndhttp://www.spinningpearls.blogspot.com



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Monday 23rd Feb – awesome 12yo author, Brenton Cullen will tell us all about how he wrote his latest book, The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies.

Wednesday 25th Feb – Tiffany Mandrake, writer of GOOD books about BAD fairies is coming to visit. Find out about how she wrote her Little Horrors series and get some great writing tips.

I can’t wait to meet these two great Aussie writers.

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Kid’s author Sally Murphy is touring cyberspace and has buzzed in to tell us about her ‘wild’ new book, The Big Blowie.


1.           Sally, I had a dream about a giant blowie once. It landed on me and hatched a massive maggot. Is that where your idea for The Big Blowie came from? (I mean a nightmare you had, not me).

Umm – no, my nightmares are usually more about things like discovering I’m in public with no clothes on – and I can’t write a children’s book about that, now can I? No, the idea came from my brainstorming as many Australian things as I could that I thought would fit into this series. The series guide requested Australian subject matter and Australian issues, so I came up with a ‘Big Thing’ being built in the Outback to draw tourists in during the drought. Australians love ‘Big Things’, and what could be more Australian than a big blowfly – they are everywhere!

2.           In your book, The Big Blowie is made from all sorts of things including a car body. Have you ever owned a car that you would like to have made into a Blowie or any other insect parts?

Can’t say that I have! I’ve had a very eclectic mix of vehicles, starting from my first car which was a 1972 VW Superbug, which I wish I still owned and including Holdens, Mazdas, Fords, Toyotas and Mitsubishis.

I did always wish I could have a really useful insect like Evinrude the dragonfly from The Adventurers, who acted as the outboard motor for their little boat. That was way cool.


3.           Why are you touring by blog and not by car? Is it a) because of the cost of petrol? b) because your car has been made into a giant Blowie to get people to come and visit your town? c) Other? (please explain)

It’s because I’m too scared to leave my house in case I meet a giant blowie, of course!

But really, touring by blog makes so much sense. I live in rural Western Australia. It is two and a half hours to Perth, and a week’s drive from, say, Sydney. So, to try to get out and talk to lots of people about my book would take weeks and weeks and, of course, lots of petrol. (which is ridiculously expensive). But when I tour by blog I can do it from the comfort of my home and, if I wished, I could do it while I ate breakfast in bed wearing my purple polka dot pyjamas! Actually, I am much more sedately dressed and sitting in my office, but who would know if I wasn’t?

A blog tour allows me to reach readers, parents, teachers, other authors and more, all around Australia and even around the world. That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to travel. I love going into schools and sharing my books, and also love doing festival appearances, so if anyone reading this has a need for a crazy, but enthusiastic, speaker, they should drop me a line. A blog tour isn’t a replacement for other touring – it’s simply another way of doing it.


4.           I read somewhere that you grew up in a hotel. Is that where you met your first ‘Big Blowie’?

Yes, I did grow up in a hotel – a country ‘pub’ in rural Western Australia. There were lots of blowies in my town – but of course, I’d hasten to add (in case any health inspectors are reading this), NEVER in the hotel kitchen (lol). Growing up in such a different setting – we didn’t live in a house like everyone I knew, but in bedrooms which were the same as the guest bedrooms, on the top floor of the hotel, with our kitchen downstairs and through the guest dining room – was probably an interesting way of living, but I didn’t know anything different until I was in my teens when we moved into a real house. I would love to write a story with pub kids in it one day, but it hasn’t finished brewing yet.


5.           Have any of your six children ever owned a pet Blowie? What advice would you have for a kid who wants to keep a Blowie as a pet?

No, none of my kids has ever had a pet blowie, but my daughter once kept pet butterflies in a shoebox in her wardrobe. She used to close her bedroom door then let them out to fly around the room. I didn’t know about this at the time, buts he recently confessed (she is 17 now).

My advice for any kid who wants to keep a pet blowie is – don’t. Blowflies are pretty gross, really, and don’t live long. Before they die they have this terrible tendency to lay big fat juicy maggots. Eeewww.


6.           What advice would you have for a parent of a child who wants to own a pet Blowie?

Two words – ‘say no’. I may have written about a blowie, but that doesn’t mean I like them. Not at all. Though I did buy myself a little fly brooch to celebrate the release of this book.


7.           I’ve heard that writers can become pretty involved in what they’re writing. When you were writing The Big Blowie, did you ever accidentally put flies in your fruit cake instead of currants?

No, but only because I don’t make fruit cakes (I leave that to my mum, who makes the best fruitcakes ever).

But I do become very involved in my stories, and definitely take on the personalities of my main characters which wasn’t so bad when I was working on The Big Blowie because Syd is a human child, but more worrying when I wrote Pemberthy Bear and The Floatingest Frog. It isn’t easy having the personality of a frog or a bear. And when I wrote Pearl Verses the World, which is about a little girl whose grandmother dies, I cried and cried as if it was my own grandmother.


8.           In your book, Syd can say ‘hello’ in ten different languages. Can you speak any other languages besides English and Australian?

Yes. I speak fluent teenager. Well, that’s a lie, but I do know what it means when my son says ‘yo, Mum dude’ and can even interpret various grunts, eyebrow raises and withering stares directed at me by the various teenagers in my life.

I spent a year in Papua New Guinea, and can understand Pigeon English passably, but speak very little. I was an English teacher so tried to always talk English.

When I wrote this book I wanted to show that Syd likes to connect with the tourists who come to visit, and I thought learning to say hello would be a good way of doing so. I used the internet to find out how to say hello, and also to find names for the two tourists that appear in the book – I used Mr. Yen and Mr. Krona because they are the currencies in their respective countries (Japan and Sweden)

9.           What is your favourite ‘big’ thing in Australia? Why?

Oh – all of them. I saw several in my recent travels across Australia. I think especially liked the Big Lobster, because it was so very big, but I also liked the Big Galah, the big Ned Kelly…oh, there are so many.

10.       With his Mum and Dad, Syd builds the Big Blowie over the school holidays. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the school holidays?

I usually use the school holidays to clear my desk. This might not sound very weird, but when you see how my desk is today, a week after the school holidays, you might wonder why I bothered to spend so much time tidying. It always has a pile of books to be reviewed, a pile of stories to be rewritten, at least two lists of things to do, a pile of bills to be paid and forms to be filled out, even a pile of things to move into other piles.  It’s sad, really.

Just before Christmas, I did take an extended holiday with my family. Some would say it was weird (or just plain crazy) to cross the Nullarbor with my husband and five of our kids, staying in a small caravan and spending so much time together. But we had a lot of fun – and plenty of experiences worth writing about!

11.       Finally, there may be some animal activists present. Were any fly swats used in the writing of this book?

No fly swats! And not even a can of fly spray. It’s a very eco friendly book. No animals were harmed in the making of this book. I promise.   


Sorry cyberites, but Sally has to ‘fly’ now. 


The Big Blowie is part of the Aussie Aussie Aussie series published by Aussie School Books and distributed by Blake. http://www.blake.com.au/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=9781921255366&Show=TechSpecs




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