Hear me talk about Smart Girls and why I'm excited about it.
The story behind
'Smart girls don't wear mascara'
The 'real' characters in SMARt GIRLS
I was watching my son perform in a multi-school primary choir festival and my eye kept being drawn to three little girls standing towards the front, singing their hearts out.
They were tall, so they were obviously in Year 6 and from the way they were standing, I could tell the middle girl was clearly the leader of the group.
It made me curious. How did their little group work? The middle girl had a much stronger personality than her friends and I wondered if they followed along because they really liked her, or because they were a bit scared.
Then, a few rows up, I saw another little girl whose face just said, "Write about me! Put me in a book!" I immediately imagined what would happen if she came new to the school the first three girls attended. How would they get on? What would the dynamics be?
In the end, I couldn't get them out of my head, so I decided to turn them into a story.
What else is real?
The next question was where to set the story. I live in a tiny little town called Kangaroo Valley in Australia. If you've read my Coco and Charlie Franks novels, you'll recognise the name, and some of the shops. KV, as we call it, is an awesome little community, and I live right across from the primary school, and still take my children there every day.
It seemed obvious that we should have a book set in Kangaroo Valley, at KV School, so I talked to the teachers and asked permission to put them in the book. Mr Bond, Mr Smee and Mrs Nickell are all real people and great teachers, and they said "Sure, you can write about us." (I did let them read the finished product by the way...)
Sometimes you have to blur the lines of reality with fiction, and there are places which aren't quite correctly described in the book, for the sake of the story. The lolly shop is right, but the house where Francesca lives isn't quite correct, and the location of the Big Tree in the school grounds is not exactly where it should be. Also, Abby lives on the wrong side of town to be so close to a swimming hole in the river. But it makes for a good story to have one, so I put it in!
I should also say that Abby, Buzz, Jessie and Stella are definitely not real. They aren't based on any Kangaroo Valley kids, and I made them up out of my head. (I did find out after I wrote the story though, that there was an Abby Smart at Kangaroo Valley School twenty years ago. But it's not based on her either.)
Who is 'Smart Girls' for?
My target audience (which is a terrible phrase really) is girls aged 9 to 13, but y'know, maybe older people - and boys - will like it too. Because it's about something that we all go through, and we all have to deal with... rejection, growing up, and figuring out how to be yourself.
when did you write it?
Smart Girls has taken a long time to get here. I wrote it in 2015 - or maybe even before that. It's taken so long that two of the teachers in it have actually left the school! I loved it when I wrote it, but the publishers I sent it to didn't. And the reason they gave was... the main character, Abby, was too mean. I was so dismayed when I heard this. I loved Abby because I completely understood her. I didn't think she was mean - just forthright. She knows what she thinks and what she wants, but she hasn't quite learned how to listen to what other people want yet.
Thankfully, Wombat Books were kind enough to take a second look at it, after I rewrote bits and pieces, and made the character clearer. Wombat have made it a much better book, and given it a great cover. I'm so happy to be able to share Abby Smart, and her world of Kangaroo Valley with you.
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