Friday, 18 November 2016

Bill Condon and 'All of Us Together'

All of  Us Together

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Bill Condon to 'Promote Me Please' to talk about his new book, 'All of Us Together'. To find out more, I asked Bill five curly questions

Q: All of Us Together is an evocative title, giving a feeling of family loyalty and warmth. Does this relate to the content of the book and if so, how?

A: It’s rare for me to come up with a title before finishing a book, but this time I had the title in my head right from the start. It very much sums up what the book is about. The O’Casey family faces all manner of trials but they overcome them by sticking together, and tackling them head-on. I had the great good fortune of having loving and kind parents. They are the models I used when creating the mum and dad of this story.

Q: What was the original inspiration behind the book All of Us Together?

A: As with many of my ideas that eventually become books, this one lay dormant in my subconscious for more than fifty years before I acted on it.
Most of what I write is constructed, at least in part, on events from my own life. I hadn’t written anything substantial for four years and thought I’d run out of material, but then I remembered the stories my parents used to tell me regarding their lives in the Great Depression. The more I thought about setting a story in that period, the more it appealed to me. My previous novel for younger readers, The Simple Things, was also born out of events from long ago. I based it on things that happened to me when I was thirteen.

Q: All of Us Together is set in our past. How do you think modern children relate to stories set in this period?

A: I don’t know for sure, but I hope that if the story is well written, they will like it. One outstanding example of a well-written story set in another time is Morris Gleitzman’s Soon, which takes place in WW2. It was awarded CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers this year. There are four other titles in the series, with one more to come, so obviously the books are highly successful and kids enjoy them.

I think the same rules apply no matter when you set your story. In no particular order, I think the writing has to be stimulating, easy to understand, exciting, funny, and for me, as honest as possible. You can never be boring or repetitive. The words a writer chooses must make the reader think and feel, and leave them wanting more.

Q: How much extra explanation did you need to do to support readers of a time that was not their own?

A: In the case of my book there was no support needed – at least I hope that turns out to be the case. The O’Caseys aren’t very far removed from any family living in Australia today. Occasionally they talk a little differently, and of course, they don’t have mobile phones or computers, but to me that doesn’t matter. This is first and foremost a family story. I’m sure the children of 2016 and beyond will readily relate to it.

Q: If you pretend you are an enthusiastic reader who has just found this book, what would you write to a friend when urging him/her to read it?

A: I’d tell my friend that I liked this book because it was funny in places, as well as being a bit sad sometimes – the way real life can be. I’d say it was exciting and interesting, and it taught me a little bit about the Great Depression of the 1930s, without it being any kind of boring lecture. Finally, I’d tell my friend he should read it because it would make the author really, really happy.

Thanks Bill! Now, to get hold of a copy, click this link

Bill Condon
To follow the blog tour...

18 November Clancy Tucker 
19 November Sally Odgers 
20 November Sandy Fussell
23 November Elaine Ousten
24 November Melissa Wray
25 November Susan Whelan
26 November Romi Sharp

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It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Sharyn Bajerai and An Elephant in the House

Today we welcome Sharyn Bajerai to Promote Me Please. Sharyn came along to answer five curious questions about her new book; An Elephant Living in the House and other pet stories.

Q.1. An Elephant Living in the House! That sounds intriguing. Please tell us a bit about the inspiration for this story.

A.1. The inspiration for the story came about when I was watching an advertisement on TV that showed an elephant being squashed in the back of a station wagon. The idea grew from there. What would happen if that elephant was taken home by a child? How could you hide an elephant in a house? Anything is possible in a child’s imaginary world.

 Q.2. Did you initially write the stories as one-offs, or were they intended to be a collection from the beginning?

 A.2. I initially wrote the three stories at different times. Years later, when it was suggested to me that I turn my stories into an eBook it was an obvious choice to make a themed “pets” collection. The stories were short, so therefore it would be better value for readers.

Q.3.  What age group do you envisage for this book?

 A.3. I typically imagine an eight to nine year old sitting down and reading the stories. But children as young as six and as old as 10 would be suitable too.

 Q.4. Are the stories thematically linked?

 A.4. As I mentioned, when choosing to put together the collection, I chose stories that are themed around owning a pet. Every child dreams about having a pet.  So why not write stories about owning unusual ones?

 Q.5. Pretend you’re a reader and you’ve just read this wonderful book. Write a 50 word pitch for a friend, explaining why s/he MUST read it too.

 A.5. What a wonderful collection of pet stories! It spikes a child’s imagination with some of the more unusual animals and their not so typical habitat. Whether it’s trying to keep a dog for a best friend, secretly keeping an elephant in their room or for the brave caring for an exotic tarantula.

Thanks, Sharyn! 

Promote Me Please blog is associated with Affordable Manuscript Assessments

It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Simon Cup's Box by A.B. Syed

Review of Simon Cup’s Box

Written by: A. B. Syed
Narrated by: Mark Topping
Length: 1 hr and 5 mins 

Briefly: Simon Cup, accident prone schoolboy and the bane of the woodwork teacher’s career, startles everyone by not only completing a project in class, but in doing it in one hour and producing something of magical beauty: the box.
Simon Cup is a year eight boy in a British school. I’m not sure what age he would be, as I think British schools run on slightly different terminology from what I’m used to, but my best guess is around 12. I’m assuming the high school setting was necessary to support the plot’s need to have the main characters dealing with different teachers for different subjects. Other than that, the story would have fitted perfectly well in a primary school setting. In tune with the mid-grade readership, Simon and his schoolmates are children rather than teenagers in their speech and behaviour.

Simon is one of those accident-prone but well-meaning boys who have problems concentrating and whose very presence can set off a chain reaction of comic disaster. This attribute of Simon’s is played up with relish by both author and narrator so it seems perfectly natural that boys who fall into a puddle of spilled glue should end up having to cut their trousers free of the floor. This slapstick comedy keeps the story bubbling along so the underlying themes, of friendship, solidarity and tolerance, never become overt.

The storyline is original and not too predictable but also manages to riff on a number of familiar fantasy ropes. There are wishes, rules, a grumpy psammead-like creature (the Mid Numph ), a mystery and some sleuthing, a rescue and a come-uppance. There was just one point at which I thought the author had possibly used the wrong item (for want of another word!) because its effectiveness was greater than I would have expected. On the other hand, maybe the British-made versions of these items are different from the ones I’ve used.

Simon Cup’s Box is a wonderfully entertaining mid-grade novel; a mix of fantasy and school story. I listened to the audio-book version and found the story well complemented and enhanced by the narrator, who has just the right matter-of-fact tones to match the style. This style is very British to my ears in that the characters are presented with all their quirks and the authorial voice is not afraid to give the odd comment. Although Simon is the main protagonist, Mr Joyce the woodwork teacher is also right in there with the action and both of them are seen somewhat from the outside. We know their thoughts and conclusions, but we also have observations from the author. This omniscient point of view is increasingly rare in modern children’s books and I found it a refreshing change from the “tight” POV in most stories at this level. The author’s decision to include Mr Joyce and his fellow teachers as characters in their own right (rather than simply as teachers seen through the kids’ eyes) was one of the features I liked best about this book. I also liked the attention to detail as in the description of the teachers’ huddle, and the Mid Numph itself.  I was somewhat reminded of one of my favourite author’s way with words. The late, great Diana Wynne Jones might well have imagined a teacher like Mr Joyce.

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It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Pauline Hosking and Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster

Today we welcome Pauline Hosking to Promote Me Please to talk about her new book Cinnamon Stevens - Crime Buster. 
Q. Cinnamon Stevens – Crime Buster is an enticing title.  Please give us a 25 word (or fewer) pitch for the story.

A.  Twelve year old Cinnamon dreams of being a super sleuth. Her chance comes when a class mate disappears during a school camp.

 Q.    What’s the story behind Cinnamon’s name? Is the in-story reason different from the author-choice reason?

A. In an English class years ago I taught a girl called Cinnamon. It’s such a great name it stayed with me (along with Tamsin, Demelza and a few others I haven’t used yet). Another reason for the name is that Cinnamon’s family (in the book) are foodies. Her father is a police sergeant and her mother’s a civil celebrant but their hobby is cooking. Cinnamon believes a good breakfast is the best start to a day. Some of her breakfast recipes appear on my website  Cinnamon’s name is also the source of a running joke. A boy tries to get her attention by calling her ‘Spice Girl’ and ‘Oregano’ and ‘Paprika’. Cinnamon mistakes this as an attempt to annoy her. It won’t be the last time she misses or misreads a vital clue.

Q.     Does Cinnamon have a sidekick? If so, how did you decide who/what to choose?

A.  The book begins with Cinnamon afraid she will be friendless in secondary school because her BFF, Cosette, has gone to study acting at the (imaginary) Academy of Performing Arts in Melbourne. To her surprise Cinnamon finds a second best friend in Meera Kyrzwicki, the rather eccentric brainiac of Year 7, who, she discovers, is an expert at reading body-language. Cinnamon, Cosette and Meera form an impressive triumvirate. They hunt for the missing girl, following the example of the penguins of Phillip Island (scene of the ill-fated school camp, see Question 1): ‘When danger looms remember the penguins. Don’t give up and stick together!’

Q.     What are five words that describe Cinnamon’s personality?

A.  Cinnamon stands on the anxious brink of adolescence. She is a funny, stead-fast, friend - who is often wrong-footed. Although nervous when faced with small problems, she discovers that under pressure she has a core of solid steel. If I have to use five words to describe Cinnamon they would be: anxious, adolescent, funny, determined, courageous. Kat Chadwick’s illustrations and book cover totally capture the spirit of Cinnamon and her feisty friends.

Q.     What’s next for Pauline Hosking? Is there a new Cinnamon Stevens story in the works?

A. I’ve written most of the first draft of Cinnamon’s next adventure, provisionally titled Dead Scared. It concerns the play Macbeth, a graveyard, the haunted (actual) goldmining town of Walhalla in Victoria’s Gippsland, and the ghost of an actress who died in 1910.

Thanks Pauline! 
You can find out more by visiting Pauline at 

The paperback is available from, The Book Depository and Booktopia, and the kindle edition is on Amazon.

Promote Me Please blog is associated with Affordable Manuscript Assessments

It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Hatching Big Chook by Mark Deguara

Today at Promote Me Please we have something a little different.  Author Mark Deguara has written three books about his lovable hero Big Chook. These stories stand out for me as a mix of rough-and-tumble Australian schooldays and deep friendship. Big Chook himself is a lovely character who battles from childhood to his teens with grace and good humour. At my request, Mark wrote an essay about his experience in writing the three Big Chook stories, and here is is.

Follow this link The Three Big Chook Books to check out the books themselves.

Hatching ‘The Adventures of Big Chook’

Although Big Chook is not about a chicken, the idea for him was hatched while making scrambled eggs for breakfast one morning. I had wanted to write a short, fast paced story for some time, but what was it going to be about?
That morning, while breaking eggs my daughter asked me some questions about my school days, and while I answered what I could, I remembered some of my old friends. I had well and truly lost contact with them, but still considered them as lifelong friends.
It all began with the thought of how we’d give each other nicknames and yet no matter how bad they sounded, if they came from our friends, we never minded. (Well, my group of friends didn’t seem to mind anyways.) Thus I began to formulate some cool sounding nicknames and what the characters would look like, and what sort of characteristics they’d have.
At this point in time I’d given very little thought to the plot or flow of the story, as I was placing a huge amount of importance on the reader falling in love with the characters. I felt if the characters were strong enough, the story would come together around them because of their personalities.
Once I had my main protagonist (Big Chook) and his friends (Wally, Harry, Pete and Kirstin) developed, the story did begin to come together quite nicely. The interaction between the friends had a factual feeling and the situations they found themselves in were funny and enjoyable. Big Chook’s lovable, easy going personality, along with the outgoing nature of Wally’s, sees the friends' holiday adventure become very exciting. This draws the reader further into loving the characters, as they battle to solve the mystery they stumble across.
While their holiday adventure arises around them, the characters themselves are able to be growing with the story. Not only are they getting older, they are having to confront issues that come with growing older and also problems that the closeness of their friendship brings.
Without initially realising it, by throwing a young, coming of age girl into the mix, I began to encounter one of the greatest perplexities of all time. How does one separate the line between love and friendship? Especially if one of your closest friends is the girl you have fallen in love with and you’re mates also have feelings for the same girl. Suddenly I found other issues arising around the different characters and their friendship.
My next objective, once plot was sorted, was to resolve the matter of finding a smooth ending that would give closure. But it also had to create a pleasant step into the next book in the series that I now found growing in my mind.
This brought me to the next big step, which we all confront in life, the step into high school.
Now satisfied that the emotional connection was made with the main characters. I could begin polishing the plot and finalising the movement into book two.
Ultimately I wanted to show that friendships grows and changes, as we do as individuals. Friendship is a type of relationship and not all friendships are smooth or last forever. But at the time they are of great importance and will stay with us for as long as our memories allow.

The ending of The Adventures of Big Chook (The Summer Hideaway) left me with a smile and wanting to write more, as I’m sure it will leave you with the same smile and wanting to read more.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Review of The Bunyip in the Billabong by Elaine Ouston

The Bunyip in the Billabong is the first in a new series called Bush Tails written by Elaine Ouston and published by Morris Publishing in 2016. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy.
Bunyips are popular subjects with a lot of readers, and The Bunyip in the Billabong makes use of many icons of the Australian bush from billabongs to dingoes to sheep. Granddad is a quintessential teller of bush tales.
Eleven-year-old Matthew and his much older brother have been home-schooled on the family property and now Jason is at university, Matthew feels somewhat lonely. When lambs begin to disappear, Dad thinks dingoes are to blame. Matthew remembers his grandfather’s story about the bunyip in the billabong. Could the bunyip be responsible for taking the lambs? Matthew is in two minds as Dad says no and Granddad says maybe. When two of the most important people in his world disagree, who should he believe? When Jason comes home for a few days, Matthew sees his chance to solve the mystery.

Elaine Ouston tells a good story. The pace moves along smoothly, with likable characters and a warm family-centred tone. The dialogue is natural and the sheep station setting well realised. I liked the way the mystery was resolved, with no fuzzy question marks over the ending. This short but fully-formed chapter book is ideal for reading aloud or for independent reading. Since Matthew is eleven, it would also work for less able or less engaged older readers. 
Click HERE to read an interview with the author.

Elaine Ouston and The Bunyip in the Billabong

Today we welcome Elaine Ouston to Promote Me Please to talk about her new book, The Bunyip in the Billabong.

Q.1. The Bunyip in the Billabong is the first in a new series called Bush Tails. What came first, the idea for the story or the idea for the series? Will later books also feature Matthew and his family?

A.1. The bunyip story was written some years ago for The School Magazine. I had just had a short story, A Close Call, published in their magazine and wrote a couple more for submission to them. They said they loved the story, the mystery, and the way it was written, but they asked me to change the ending. In that first draft, I had Nathan taking the lambs and killing them for food. Apparently, they considered this too gory for their readers so they asked me to come up with another ending. At the time, I was busy with other books and just starting with publishing, so I put it aside to rewrite it at a later date. Recently, I was going through files looking for another story and came across it. In the same file were several other stories loosely based on life on the station where I lived as a child. I decided they would make an interesting series. One of the other books features Matthew and Kate.

Q.2. A billabong with an underwater cave entrance is guaranteed to excite young readers. Is this based on a real place? If not, where did you get the idea?

A.2. We had a billabong in our front paddock on the station where I lived. It was a spring-fed waterhole. It was very deep at one end and had a rocky ledge we jumped off when we swam there. The rest came from my imagination as I plotted the story.

Q.3. The Bunyip in the Billabong is set firmly in the outback. How would you introduce the story to a child of the inner city?

A.3. Most children have heard of the bunyip and love mystery and adventure stories, so I don't think they would care where it is set. Besides, it teaches them how the country kids live and most kids are inquisitive.

Q.4. The way the story is presented makes it suitable for a wide range of ages. It could be read to younger children, read by independent readers, and would also suit less able or less confident older readers. Is this a happy coincidence or a deliberate strategy?

A.4. Deliberate strategy. I have many grandchildren of all ages who are reluctant readers and try to come up with ways to get them to read.

Q.5. What are three words you’d use to describe the Bush Tails series?

A 5. Fun, adventure, mystery.

Thanks, Elaine!

The Bunyip in the Billabong will be available in book shops through Dennis Jones and Associates, from all library suppliers, and on many online bookshops through them and Ingrams. The eBook will be on Amazon and all eBook distributors.
Check out the links below.

Click HERE for our review of The Bunyip in the Billabong.

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It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post. The direct url for this post is