30th March 2014: UK Finnikin and a classic Alibrandi


Walker Books in the UK will be releasing The Lumatere Chronicles starting in July this year with Finnikin of the Rock.  Being published in the UK has been a long time coming so I’m pretty excited about this trilogy being released there.  I spent time at Conwy castle in Wales and Rochester Castle in Kent, as well as Guernsey which is kind of part of the UK, researching Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn with my dear friend Barbara who lives in Ireland.  Our three day road trips would squeeze in about a year’s long gossip and TV talk and life talk, so you could imagine that there wasn’t a moment of silence. The trilogy means that much more to me because of our time together.

As you can see, the UK cover borrows from the Australian and the US paperback.  I think this image  comes out stunning in any form or colour.

(UK cover)


(Australian cover)finnikin-of-the-rock(US cover)

076365292x This week Penguin Australia released this classic edition of Looking For Alibrandi.

looking for alibrandi

Dear Melina Marchetta, when is Jellicoe going to be a film?

One day I will write an account about the adaption of Jellicoe. It’s been one of the longest times I’ve spent on one project.  My first novel (Alibrandi) took about six years to write. Most of my other novels took 18 months.  The film script of Jellicoe has taken technically five years.  In working that out, it has surprised me that I was able to write Finnikin, The Piper’s Son, Froi and Quintana during that time (I miss those Lumaterans and Charynites).

It’s strange to speak about the script and say it’s so different from the novel. Because it’s still about Taylor Markham who is left behind on the Jellicoe Road when she’s 11 years old. It’s still about her being chosen to lead the Boarders in the territory wars against the Cadets and Townies.  It’s still about the history Taylor has with Jonah Griggs, the leader of the Cadets. It’s still about a journal that reveals a story about five kids in the past.  It’s still about the absence of Hannah, the arrival of the Brigadier, the threat of Taylor being usurped by her own.

But it’s the telling of the story that is absolutely completely different. Most scenes are new. Most of the dialogue is new.  It’s not quite like fan fiction, but adaptation is strange in that it lets you write the same story again but with a different emphasis.

I know there is a quiet, excited buzz about  the project out there, and there are things I would love to reveal to you, but can’t. Still early days, believe it or not, after all this time.  But I thought I’d give you a list of ten things that I can reveal about the script.

  1.  My favourite line that doesn’t come from the novel is:  My dad says ghosts only reveal themselves when they’re waiting for someone to join them.
  2. My favourite line in the script from the novel is: You’re wearing flanalette. How scared should I be?
  3. The film doesn’t begin with the car accident, but a scene just as heartbreaking.
  4. Ben has the funniest lines. (Ben may be the person we cast first)
  5. My favourite scenes to write involved Taylor and Jonah. I also loved the Taylor and Jessa scenes.
  6. My favourite character of the script is Raffaela.
  7. The most heartbreaking scene (and there are many) is no different to the novel. It involves Fitz (who will be the hardest to cast).
  8. The most profound change is that the Hermit belongs to the present day.
  9. The flowers on the Jellicoe Road are still poppies.
  10. Tate still has a Pat Benetar hair cut when she’s 17. (I’m presuming that only people my age will understand how cool a Pat Benetar hair cut is.  My hairdresser refuses to give in to me because she says I don’t have the hair for it.)

It’s been forever, I know.

First things first. Quintana of Charyn has been chosen as one of Kirkus Books Best Teen Books of 2013.


Next, here is the cover of the Penguin Classic edition of Looking For Alibrandi which will come out next April. Alibrandi turned 21 this year. It marked the beginning of my published writing career and it’s amazing to know that readers still see it as refreshing and topical.

looking for alibrandi

Here is also an essay by the wonderfully talented Alice Pung, who wrote the multi award winning, Unpolished Gem, and Her Father’s Daughter.


When I read Alice’s essay I had a bit of cry. More than a bit. I have an antagonistic relationship with Alibrandi because I’ve spent so many years trying not to be defined by it, but Alice’s words made me remember the change it bought into the life of its shy, awkward writer.  It made me remember how much confidence this novel has given me, and how it’s shaped every decision I’ve made as a writer.  And more than anything, the essay reminded me of how the novel gave some of us a voice.  I love where I live, but I grew up feeling like I was part of the minority and I still believe we need to work harder to share this country with others who don’t belong to a dominant culture.

Which leads to the wonderful work done by the Edmund Rice Centre when it comes to asylum seekers.  The next link is the teaching guide for refugee issues across the curriculum.  I’m proud that Finnikin of the Rock is on the reading list.  The Lumatere Chronicles are certainly part of a response to the refugee crises and I’d encourage anyone in a classroom to work with the ERC’s intelligent teaching resource, whether you live in Australia or the rest of the world.  The piece of dialogue from Evanjalin in Finnikin of the Rock that I’m most proud of is “It’s against the rules of humanity to believe there is nothing we can do.‘ and I’m always grateful to social justice organisations for reminding me of that.

Here is the link:


Next, but short and sweet, but I promise Jellicoe the film, is still happening, so be patient and watch this space in the new year.

Last, but not least, I rarely speak about my personal life, but this month I became a mum to a 2 year old.  She’s a delight and has a sense of joy and hope in her eyes,  yet I do believe she’ll make my hair go all that much grey in her teenage years, because she’s already so headstrong. No female protagonist I’ve ever written has prepared me for this…well perhaps Princes Jasmina. We’re finding our rhythm with each other at the moment, but I can already hear, in her laughter, the beauty in that song.

10th September 2013: Pinterest

I’m loving Pinterest at the moment.  I’m not sure whether it’s perfect for procrastination, but I think it’s replaced me tearing stuff out of magazines, like actors and recipes and creative influences, and sticking them in a folder. Anyway, feel free to follow.

26th August 2013: MISC

Two things.  1. My Dance Academy Episode is airing tonight on ABC3 at 6pm.

2. My sessions at The Brisbane Writers Festivalhttp://www.bwf.org.au

Wednesday 4th September, 12.45-1.30, Venue: Maiwar Green (Between Gallery of Modern Art and State Library  of Queensland building)

Thursday 5th September, 9.45-10.30 and 12.45-1.30 @ Maiwar Green

Friday 6th September, 12.45-1.30 @ Aud 1 State Library Queensland

Saturday 7th September, Myths, Dreams and Other Worlds with Garth Nix, Kim Wilkins, Angela Slatter and me, 10.00-11.00am @ State Library of Queensland (Fantasy)

Saturday 7th September, The Book was Better with Eddie Campbell, Terry Hayes, Jackie Ryan and me, 2.30-3.30pm @ State Library of Queensland (Film)

21 August: Interviewing Will Kostakis

In 2005 I was teaching, and it wasn’t a rare thing for my students to have a whinge about the fact that whatever they were given to read was written by some dead dude or their elderly teacher (I was in my thirties).  So one day, I gave them a short story written by a kid who had just won The Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year Award.  It was called “Bing Me” and it introduced me to a young writer named William Kostakis.

The First Third-1

Now he’s released his second novel. The First Third resonated with me on a number of levels. For anyone who’s read my work, the grandmothers are important (Nonna Katia, Yata, Nanni Grace and, of course, Lirah).

So here’s Will Kostakis, a synopsis of his novel, and a few questions I asked him.



Life is made up of three parts: in The First Third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made. That’s how Billy’s grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together. No pressure or anything. Fixing his family’s not going to be easy and Billy’s not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what?

It’s a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.


M: I was in my twenties when first published, way older than your first publishing experience, but I didn’t cope at all with the attention and was so glad I had the opportunity 11 years later to enjoy the experience again.  What are the pros and cons of being published young and have you seen a distinct difference between your approach to writing the first and second novel.

W: I signed my book deal for Loathing Lola when I was 17, and it was published when I was 19. The big ‘pro’ of being published so young was that I’d reached the end of the road: I’d been published. The big ‘con’ was the other side of that coin – the realisation that it wasn’t the end of the road, that I wasn’t instantly the next JK Rowling (and slowly realising I might never be). So while I’m really thankful for the experience, I don’t think I was quick emotionally ready for it all, but every experience is a lesson learned, and I feel like with The First Third I’m ready for authordom and all it entails.

Loathing Lola was written over several years. It started as a short story scribbled in the back of my Year 6 classroom about a boy meeting his dad’s new girlfriend. As my life changed, the story did too. I built it over the course of years - I was a boy navigating his teens, and every experience I had was crammed into this novel. I grew up alongside Loathing Lola, everything I lived and learned influenced it – the TV show element was inspired by a Year 12 study of bias in the media.

Writing The First Third was a completely different experience. I’d always envisaged Loathing Lola as the beginning series (like any aspiring writer growing up with the Harry Potter books stacked beside their beds), so when I wrote the final draft, and it felt final, I wondered: ‘What do I talk about next?’ I had spent half of my life writing Lola, crafting it, and now had to click my fingers and come up with something new (and it took five years, so evidently, it was a slow click). There came a point where I asked myself, if I only had one more chance at publication, and one more story to tell, what would it be? And the answer was family. When I started writing it, I wasn’t writing to be famous, or to start a blockbuster series, I just wanted to capture the joys and frustrations of being part of a small but potent ethnic family. I wrote to write, and I think the book is all the better for it.

M: What was the hardest part about writing The First Third?

W: I wanted to write a story about my grandmother – the first draft was a best-of collection of her most inappropriate moments. It was fun reading, but it wasn’t a novel. I was interested in exploring mortality, and the idea of ‘passing the baton on’, so I took that real relationship I have with her and asked, ‘What if she was dying/What if she thought she was?’ It was a situation I was hesitant to confront – with Dad in the running for Best Absent Father of the Decade, my grandmother was always everything I could have wanted from a second parent. She cooks and has a sewing sweatshop in her garage, she literally fed and clothed me. Contemplating losing her was difficult, and there were scenes in the book that were incredibly difficult to write – but the main character’s fears of losing his yiayia were my own, and I think, those difficult scenes turned into the best. Just please don’t ask me to read them in public.

M: What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your writing, and what’s the best? (This question is inspired by watching Jason Kennedy and Catt Sadler on E News who have a segment about the worst and best tweets about t hem).

W: The worst thing would have to be after the screening of a film I wrote/directed in Year 10, when, in the row in front of me, the mother of one of my closest friends said, ‘What the f— was that?’ It was shattering, but there’s nothing like sitting in a room with 300 people not clapping to force you to get better at telling stories.

In terms of the best, it has to be the reactions to The First Third so far. All I wanted to do was capture a moment in my life, and pay tribute to the relationships I treasure, and the fact that it has been so well-received is really humbling. Distilling that, the best wasn’t something someone said about it, it was a student at Sunshine College showing me the mark her tear had left on one of the pages. The idea that I wrote something that affected a total stranger like that… I have trouble believing it.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/books/bing-me/2005/09/15/1126750065577.html (Bing Me short story)

http://willkostakis.com/ (his website)

Bryon Bay Writer’s Festival and Brisbane Writer’s Festival

Okay, here’s more specific program information about the festivals I’ll be attending in August and September.

The Byron Bay Writer’s Festival – 1st-4th August


The Brisbane Writer’s Festival – 4th-8th September