AUTHOR INTERVIEW: David Lawrence
I reviewed one of David Lawrence's books (the first in the Ball Stars series) in late 2016, and then was lucky enough to meet David while I was in Melbourne in 2017. You couldn't find a nicer fellow, and a more humble person! David is a brilliant writer, performer, comedian and businessman, and I'm thrilled to be interviewing him today for my blog.
Here's what David had to say about his latest and upcoming projects, writing processes, favourite books, and more:
Can you tell us a bit about your books, and the themes/issues they explore?
So far my books have all been sports related (Netball, AFL and Basketball) and are aimed at usually reluctant readers. The stories are written to make kids laugh, but cover themes like bullying and racism as well.
There are always a diverse range of characters in each book who contribute in different ways to their team’s success. There are also always a few villains (adults as well as children) who try and throw a lot of spanners into the works. (Although the spanners tend to bounce back and hit the villains!)
What was the inspiration behind writing your upcoming series Maxi the Lifeguard, and did it change much as you were writing it?
That’s a bit of a sad story as this series was inspired by the tragic drownings that seemed to be reported on the news every week. Trent ‘Maxi’ Maxwell (from the TV show Bondi Rescue) and I really wanted to write a book that included some water safety tips (like how to identify a rip) that might help save lives, but that was also accessible and fun.
One thing that did change as we developed the idea was to base the book very loosely around Maxi’s real life as a youngster on Bondi Beach.
How do you hope readers will connect with the book, and/or what do you want them to take away from it?
Hopefully the readers will connect with young Maxi’s character – he is warm, enjoys a laugh, but can be shy and become tongue-tied. Like many kids he has a major fear, that he manages to overcome in the series. (As he did in real life).
The beach is such a huge part of Australian culture, so we hope the readers will be able to relate to and love the setting of the stories. Most importantly, we want them to take on board some of the safety messages woven into the books.
Biggest challenges in writing this story, or in getting it published?
The biggest challenge in writing the Maxi stories has been time constraints. My day job (running a corporate acting business with Jo Gill) has been flat out this year. It’s been a very collaborative process working with Maxi and also the publisher, Affirm, which is fantastic, but it definitely takes longer to get a result that everyone is happy with.
Are there any tidbits from the publishing process of this book that you could share with regards to working with the publishers and/or the illustrator?
I am in awe of Illustrators! Have been blessed to be teamed up with Jo Gill (Fox Swift series) James Hart (Balls Stars series) and Peter Baldwin (Maxi the Life Guard series). They are all amazing and really bring the pages to life. I can’t even draw a stick figure so I just sit back and let these artists do what they do!
The relationship with publishers is such an important one and can be quite tricky. It’s very important to leave your ego at the door and listen to what advice/suggestions/instructions they make. (This can be really hard, especially if you have a big ego!) If you don’t agree with something, take your time to think it through before you respond. In my experience the Publisher is (annoyingly) right most of the time but if there is something you really feel strongly about and can articulate your reasoning then they will back you.
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects?
The first two books in the Maxi series, published by Affirm Press, come out in late September this year, with a third one released next January. I have a short story (‘Toby and the Cockatoo’) that has just come out as part of an AFL anthology called ‘Speccy Tacular’ – I really enjoyed writing that one as I had a bit more freedom to be creative.
The most exciting project I have coming up is through the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Hawthorn Football Cub where author Jared Thomas and I will working with some young writers to create a book in Katherine in the Northern Territory. I worked with 12 amazing young women from the Tiwi Islands at Penguin Random House last year and they produced a sensational book called Japarraka (Stormbird). That was without a doubt the most satisfying writing experience I have ever had.
Do you have a favourite children's book (or top three) that you can never get enough of? What about a favourite book character?
When I was young I really enjoyed Enid Blyton books – especially ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. I was drawn to the self-determination aspect of these books, where kids try to solve their own problems without relying on adults all the time. Not surprisingly, as a much, much older child I loved the Harry Potter series. My favorite characters tend to be the second tier ones who bring comic relief – like Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter.
Where do you do your writing, and do you have any particular rituals in your creative process?
My parents live by the ocean in a beautiful Victorian town called Queenscliff about half an hour out of Geelong. I do my best writing down there. I usually go for a long walk along the beach in the morning then lock myself away and write all day before going for another walk in the evening.
What got you into creating books?
Back in 2008 I met Australian Netballer Eloise Southby while writing on a Foxtel show - she asked me to write a book with her, and I said ‘sure!’ Even though we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, it all came together beautifully. (‘Anna Flowers’)
Going way back, my Dad used to make up stories about ‘Bozo the Dog’ when we were little – my two sisters and I loved them. Dad was in the Army and my first memories of him are his voice on a reel to reel tape telling Bozo the Dog stories that he had taped in the back of his tank in a war zone in Vietnam.
Do you have some tips for other creatives?
It’s important to have other creative friends who ‘get you’ and with whom you can share your disappointments and triumphs. I’d also recommend you have some non-creative friends who are probably less likely to bang on about feeling persecuted, tortured and misunderstood!
What about a favourite word or quote?
My top two favorite words are ‘rambunctious’ and ‘apparatchik’ – and as my writing genre is sporting fiction for 8 – 12 year olds, I rarely get to use them. And by ‘rarely’, I really mean ‘never’.
Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
I have a real fear of magpies. They all seem to hate me, yet I’ve never done anything to them! Birds in general don’t seem to respect me very much. I was once swooped by an overweight pigeon.