Books for Older Readers

    The Willow Tree's Daughter
    Windrider
    The Centre of Magic
    Hair of the Skeleton
    Scum of the Earth
    Trick of the Light
    Shipborn

The Floramonde Books


The Willow Tree's Daughter

When Betony was a baby, the court wizard made a prophecy: she will be friends with strange creatures; she will face danger many times; she will find love in unexpected places; and she will become a great queen.

Betony is brought up to be a proper princess, but she hates all the fuss about dancing, embroidery and the right way to talk to a viscount. She'd rather work in the garden or explore the world outside the palace. So she runs away, and through her adventures she discovers that it takes courage and the help of good friends - including a certain gardener's boy - to find her true path in life.

The Willow Tree's Daughter is the first book in the Floramonde series, and it started as a short story, Betony's Sunflower, which was published in the NSW School Magazine. After I wrote that story, I found I was still interested in the characters, so I started to write other stories about Betony's earlier life.

I realised after a while that I had a book-length collection of short stories, so I found myself a wonderful agent and she helped me find a publisher. The book was rejected twice before Allen & Unwin decided they liked it - but the editor thought that it wasn't really a collection of short stories, it was a novel, and would I mind writing the bits that linked up all the stories, please? So I did, plus a couple of extra chapters at the start to get Betony born, and there it was - my first book.

It was very exciting when the parcel arrived with the first copies. I wanted to rush around and show all my friends and family, but for some reason that night everyone was out! I ended up going up onto the cliffs at The Gap near Watson's Bay in Sydney, where it was very windy and the waves were walloping onto the rocks, and let the wind blow all my excitement up into the sky. Otherwise, I don't think I would have got to sleep at all that night!




 

Windrider

The eye of the wind-dragon is bewitchingly blue, with patterns of silver like clouds in the wind or foam on the sea. One glance, and it will steal a human's heart for ever.

Princess Betony is only part-human, so she can look Windrider in the eye, but her father falls under the mighty dragon's spell. Through the Dark Forest of Nevermore and into the dangerous high country Betony must go, to confront the dragon and rescue the king. But who will save Betony when the Wild Magic calls her?

Windrider is the second book in the Floramonde series and was written after The Willow Tree's Daughter was published and while I was also writing All for Love. There were two challenges in writing this book: firstly, I had two separate storylines following Betony, and then Basil and Clover, through the forest. I had to make sure they went through the same number of days/hours so that when I brought them together at the end it would all fit. Secondly, I had to really develop the character of the dragon.

Dragons are very powerful figures in human stories all over the world, but how they are depicted varies widely from culture to culture. I had decided in The Willow Tree's Daughter that Windrider was like a Chinese dragon (although Tracy Grimwood didn't draw her like that, because I didn't put enough detail in my description!). That is, she would not breathe fire, she would be light and cool and of the air rather than of the earth or of fire. Chinese dragons are very wise and also quite puzzling, so I tried to give Windrider some of those characteristics. I felt very strongly that we should never be too sure of her, never really feel that we understood her, because although she is intelligent and can talk she is a radically different species and must therefore think differently from humans.




 

The Centre of Magic

A power hungry wizard has let loose the Wild Magic, and every creature on its path is transformed. An earl becomes a cat, a coachman turns into a ferret, the chancellor is suddenly a hobgoblin, even King Max begins to change. Will Floramonde ever be the same again?

Princess Betony and Prince Basil are determined to find the wizard and rescue their country, braving wolves, giants and other dangers along the way. But they need help and it comes from a surprising source...

The Centre of Magic is the third book in the Floramonde series and introduces the character of Jo, Rosie's new assistant. Originally, I intended it to be another book about Betony, but found that, now she and Basil were married, it was harder to write about her. Traditionally, getting married is the end of the story, and I think I felt that Betony's main story had already been told: she had made the most important choice of her life (see Windrider) and anything after that was an anti-climax. So I needed someone else, because what happens in a book must really matter to the main character. Enter Jo.

All this meant that I wrote The Centre of Magic without really knowing what was going to happen. I had a lovely plot when the main character was Betony, but once the main character became Jo that plot didn't work and I had to throw it out. And I had a deadline, because I was leaving the country for an extended study tour and had to finish the book before I left. So, unlike all my other books, I didn't know where this one was going. I found it a very nerve-wracking way of working. Interestingly, after I finished the book I had no idea if it was any good. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award, so I guess it can't be too bad, but I just can't tell. Very odd.


 

The Network Mysteries

The Network Mysteries:high tech stake-outs and problem-solving are the keynotes of these fast-paced stories...

Hair of the Skeleton

Why is a ghost wailing outside Mr Callan's window every Friday? Jake, Peter and Ruby set up a high-tech stakeout to find out...

Then the ghost turns out to be the heir of the skeleton...

Hair of the Skeleton is the first book in the Network Mysteries series, which is set in a place called Tiger Beach and follows the adventures of three kids: Jake, his friend Peter and Peter's sister Ruby. Each story is told by a different character.

Hair of the Skeleton is told by Jake. Jake's character is based on one of my older brother's friends, Kevin, who was really competent and knew everyone.

To make this plausible, I have Jake living in a retirement village where his father is the caretaker. His mother is the community nurse. In a small town like Tiger Beach, that means that Jake gets to know just about everyone in the area - or at least be told about their doings by their proud grandparents in the retirement village.

I also wanted to have a lot of high-tech stuff in the stories (just because I like it) so I made Peter and Ruby's parents roboticists who have lots of scientist friends.


 

Scum of the Earth

Who is dumping toxic chemicals in the Tiger Beach creek? Ruby, Peter and Jake use biosensors, remote cameras and good old-fashioned detecting to find out.

Then they discover more than they bargained for...

Scum of the Earth is the second book in the Network Mysteries series, and is told by Ruby. It won the Environment Prize from the Wilderness Society, which was great, as I had really wanted to emphasise the importance of protecting our environment from chemicals.

I enjoyed writing from a different characters' point of view in this second book. It lets me rethink my other characters and the way they saw things. Makes everything fresh again, which is good in a series. But I would like to know if readers like it, or if they prefer having just one character telling all the stories. What do you think? (Email me with your answer. Click here.)


 

Trick of the Light

When Tiger Beach High School is vandalised, Ruby's friend Kas is a suspect. She's determined to clear his name.

But Ruby, Peter and Jake find there are more disturbing things than teenage vandalism...

Trick of the Light is the third book in the Network Mysteries series and my personal favourite, as it deals with issues about racism against Asian people which I think need to be discussed. I was interested in this topic because my own father was in World War II and fought against the Japanese.

It was interesting to look at racism against an Asian people when some of my characters are Chinese or part-Chinese. It let me explore the idea that racism comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected places.

 

Other Books


Shipborn

For Katie, exploring the far reaches of the Solar System in her family spaceship is just ordinary life - but living on Earth, now THAT would be exciting!

There seems no way she and her brother Sam, will ever see Earth, until they accidentally end up on the fastest ship in the System, on its way to the Moon.

But will they ever get there? Space Station security, smugglers, hijackers - not to mention their parents - all seem ready to stop them.

Kate and Sam aren't going to be pushed around. Neither is their gran...

Shipborn is actually the very first book I ever wrote, even before The Willow Tree's Daughter. I was asked to write it by a publisher after she had read a story of mine which was broadcast on ABC TV on a program called Watch! Your Language. The story was very short and ended with Katie, the main character telling her parents, 'I want to live on a planet. I want to live on Earth.'

I wrote the book but then that publisher decided that they weren't going to publish children's books any more, so I just put it away in a drawer. I wasn't really happy with it anyway, and by that time I had started writing the stories that eventually turned into The Willow Tree's Daughter. I was much more interested in them. So I thought it would never be published. Then, after the birth of my son, when I didn't have the energy to write anything new, I thought I might revise it.

The day after I took the printout from the archive box in the study, where it had been sitting for years, my editor Cathie Tasker came to visit me to see the baby and said, 'I've been wanting to talk to you about doing a science fiction book for us.' I dumped the printout in her lap and said, 'There you go!' I revised the book (another two drafts) and finally my first ever book was published in 2002, 11 years after it had been written!