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Frequently Asked Questions

What are your main interests?

Wildlife, nature, sustainable living, organic gardening, pets, zoos, people, social justice, travel, Eastern philosophies, fantasy stories.


What is your earliest memory involving animals? 

It was not very auspicious.  I was about three years old when I was chased up a tree by a ferocious bantam rooster.  It seemed like I was stuck up that tree for hours before my mum came to rescue me.

When did you know you wanted to write?

In year 7 (the first year of secondary school) I won first prize in a school poetry competition. It gave me some valuable encouragement. The same year, my English teacher predicted that, one day, I might write a children's book. Thanks Miss Hatch!

What have been the nature-related highlights of your life?

I once assisted a Ph.D. student with her field work on an Australian Fur Seal colony in a restricted-access area on Kangaroo Island (South Australia).  We camped out for two weeks, braving the elements and living rough; just three young women and a few hundred seals.  It was magical.

Being a zookeeper had some perks, such as visiting a colleague at another zoo who was hand-raising a young lion. We "played" together (read that as me getting knocked over repeatedly!). I also got to help on endangered species recovery programs, which was very rewarding - helping to bring more Leadbeater's Possums, Mountain Pygmy Possums, Eastern-barred Bandicoots and Long-footed Potoroos in the world was fantastic. And I will never forget the fun and bedlam of hand-raising baby Common Wombats. Jackie French is spot on with her book, Diary of a Wombat!

Over the course of travels with my husband, I have been utterly privileged to see many wild and natural places. At the top of my list are staying in Etosha National Park in Africa, and visiting a Himba tribe in Namibia. Also, trekking through the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal (exhausting and exhilarating in equal shares!) and camping beside a glacier in southern Argentina.

And New Zealand was spectacular too! (see below)

NZ sheep

How can I become a zoologist or zookeeper (and what is the difference)? 

A zoologist is a university-trained scientist who studies animals, and carries out research in a laboratory, in nature, or both. Budding zoologists need good grades at high school to get into a Science course at University, and have lots of study ahead of them.

A zookeeper has usually studied a trade-level course through TAFE (that’s “Technical and Further Education” for you non-locals!).  A zookeeper is responsible for feeding the animals in a zoo, closely monitoring their health and wellbeing, and  making their environment a safe and positive one. Budding zookeepers are encouraged to volunteer at their local Zoo over holiday periods, or sometimes work experience can be organised through their school.  It is a great way to become familiar with the work involved (some of it is far from glamorous!) and to establish a good reputation in the industry.

What are your sources of inspiration as a writer?

Everyday life.  Of course, there are some days when inspiration definitely does not take hold.  On those days my writing time is spent on routine tasks such as revising, and writing submissions, queries and general emails. I think that this “nuts and bolts” work still counts as writing, and it certainly needs to be done! You can't force yourself to be creative, but it's amazing how sometimes a great idea or sentence comes along by surprise, in the midst of mundane work or a daily walk. I find it useful to jot down ideas  as they come along in a notebook that I always keep handy (ideas rarely arrive at a convenient time), and refer to the notebook when starting new projects or adding new points and ideas to a work-in-progress.

My main source of inspiration is my daughter. She gives me  ideas, and helps me keep in touch with my own inner child. We used to  read together a lot when she was younger, which I miss terribly. Now I embarass her on our library visits by borrowing a zillion Picture Books - for ME to study and enjoy (she keeps telling me she's WAY too old for those now, but I think you are never too old for them!).

My travels in nature also provide plenty of inspiration for my Non Fiction books and articles. These Atlantic Puffins in Scotland ended up in an article...

Atlantic Puffins in Scotland

Can you name some of your favourite children's picture books?

"Close Your Eyes" by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben, 2002, Frances Foster Books.

"Down by the Cool of the Pool" by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, 2001, Orchard Books.

"Pog and the Birdies" by  Jane Simmons, 2005, Orchard Books.

"Some Dogs Do" by Jez Alborough, 2003, Walker Books.

"Bobby Dazzler" by Margaret Wild & Janine Dawson, 2006, Working Title Press.

"The Quiet Book" by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

"Fire" by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, 2012, Scholastic Books

"The Boy on the Page" by Peter Carnavas, 2013, New Frontier Publishing

and many, many more.

And favourite novels (MG and YA)?

"The Scorpio Races" by Maggie Stiefvater, 2011, Scholastic Books

"The Raven Boys" by Maggie Stiefvater, 2012, Scholastic Books

"Holes" by Louis Sachar, 1998, Scholastic Books.

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, 2009, Scholastic Books

"Blood Song" by Anthony Ryan, 2011, Anthony Ryan

"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, 1977, Harper Collins

It is quite a personal thing, exposing your personal thoughts and feelings through writing.  Have you ever felt defensive at all about that? 

Why do you ask?

What advice can you give to other aspiring writers?

Read and write every day. Make time to write - even if it just 10 minutes a day. You will find a lot of very useful advice on other authors’ and writing organisations' web pages. See my Links section if you need a place to start.

What are my favourite words/expressions? 

Conundrum, bedlam, mayhem, dilemma...do I sense a theme emerging here?

What are my least favourite words/expressions? 

 take a decision, have a crack, at the end of the day, resonates, overarch, underpin, the bottom line (urgh!).

Favourite animals?

wombat, kookaburra, mountain pygmy possum, feathertail glider, eastern blue-tongue lizard, whale shark, and a few thousand others.

Has anyone ever really asked you any of these questions? 

My, is that the time?  I must dash.