The AWM editorial intern (metaphorically) sat down with children’s author Samantha Wheeler to chat about her book Smooch & Rose, land conservation, and what to do when you are struggling through your first draft.
Samantha Wheeler is a science/biology teacher who lives in Brisbane with her family and many animals. Her first children’s book, Smooch & Rose, (UQP 2013), is set in Redland Bay, South East Queensland and was inspired by Samantha’s concern for Australia’s koalas. In the story, misfit Rose stands up for what she believes in, proving that anyone, however small, can make a difference. Samantha’s second book, about horses and bat viruses, will be released in 2014.
How would you describe your book Smooch & Rose to someone at a party?
Smooch & Rose is an adventure story about how a shy misfit girl stands up for what she believes in. There are koalas, wildlife carers, strawberries, dogs, possums, and kangaroos in the story, but most of all, there’s courage.
Why was the character Rose fun to write?
Rose was fun to write because she reminded me of many of the students I have taught over the years: vulnerable and shy, yet strong and determined. She brought a small part of them into my life every day, as I often thought, ‘what would Imogen do here, what would Sophie say there?’ I loved their company as I watched Rose grow on the page.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you were starting out as a writer?
Don’t get caught up in fancy words, worrying about the market, or word count in your first draft: just write the story. Keep writing until you get to the end. And when you’re done, you’ll fix the rest in the edit.
What is the next book on your must read list?
I’m dying to read ‘Cat Out of Hell’ by Lynne Truss (author of Eats Shoots & Leaves). It looks like a good laugh plus a well written story.
What sort of conversations have you had with readers as a result of publishing Smooch and Rose?
So many readers want to know why I chose to write about a koala. I explain the story of how shocked I was to find that it wasn’t illegal to clear gum trees where koalas live, even though in Queensland koala numbers are rapidly declining. It all started when an area of gum trees was cleared near my daughter’s school, right where a beautiful koala lived. This gets readers chatting about what every day people can do to make a difference, and everyone usually has some great ideas (including becoming Prime Minister!)
Georgia Lejeune is currently studying a Masters of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland, she previously obtained a Bachelor of Creative Industries majoring in Drama from the Queensland University of Technology. Georgia is a freelance writer/blogger, actor, and circus teacher who likes Jane Austen novels and dislikes ironing, sultanas, and writing in the third person.