Video transcript
2017 NSW PRC author interview - Louise Park (AKA Mac Park)

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[music playing]

- Welcome to Book Fest. I am Yvette Poshoglian, the Premier's Reading Challenge Officer. And I am here with an incredible author in an incredible place. So I'd love you to welcome Louise Park, who is the author of lots of your favourite books. Louise, so many of your books are on the Premier's Reading Challenge.

- Woo!

- Yay. And I know that the students and the readers out there are going to love to hear about how you create characters, where your ideas come from, and even a little bit about your brand new book, which is in manuscript form at this point in time.

- Yes.

- And we are filming in a super cool place, Beachside Bookshop in Avalon, which is one of our favourite places to be. So I know that all of you probably have a favourite place to read or be with books. This is one of my favourite places to be with books.

- And it's one of mine, too. This is my local bookstore. This is where I buy all my books to read, and I've signed lots and lots of copies because this bookstore has a really good online mail out for free signed author copy little setup. I love it. I'm just around the corner.

- It's so easy. And the beach is just next door, guys. So we don't know where we're going after this. And the other great thing is the Premier's Reading Challenge is a really big focus here in the bookshop. And you have written Boy Versus Beast.

- I have a lot of made up names.

- You do have a lot of made up names.

- I have identity crisis.

- Zac Power. Tell us about the different all the names that you write under.

- OK, so this is probably a long answer, because way back when Zac Power was happening, the person who created Zac Power, Susannah MacFarlane, wanted to do a younger series for boys who were trying to get into the core Zac, but it was just a little bit too hard for them to read. So that was where we teamed up originally, and I did all of the Zac Power Spy Recruits and Zac Power Test Drives.

They're written under the H.I. Larry name, and Zac Power actually has a team of about six authors who write under that name. So I've written all the younger reader ones.

And then Susannah, who started this us, left there and we teamed up together. And so we wrote Boy Versus Beast.

And so Boy Versus Beast is written by somebody called Mac Park. So it's Susannah MacFarlane and Louise Park. So we took the Mac from Susannah and the Park from me, and we made a new name, Mac Park. And my kids said I sounded like an order from McDonald's, a Mac Park.

- I want a double size Mac Park.

- I know. Supersize me.

- Well, it's here.

- I know. So that's the reason behind Mac Park, Boy Versus Beast. And then Bella Dancerella I did for ABC Books as Poppy Rose. So I've got three made up names.

- So many identities.

- I know. I wake up in the morning and think, who will I be today?

- What will I write today?

- I know. And maybe can you tell us a little bit about your brand new series, which features dinosaurs?

- Yes. So this series is out in June, end of June. And it's another Mac Park series. So I've created it with Suzannah MacFarlane and myself for Allen and Unwin. So Mac Park is going to be this keeps boys reading, gets boys reading, keeps boys reading type brand.

So it's about dinosaurs coming back into our world. And they have to get together a D-Bot squad, who build these amazing dinobots and chase these dinosaurs and catch them and put them back where they're safe. It's an experiment that's gone horribly wrong.

- It sounds slightly terrifying.

- Horribly wrong. Horribly wrong. But Hunter Marks, 8-year-old, obsessed with dinosaurs, finds his team. He finds his team when he joins D-Bot squad. He gets himself into precarious positions, though. Every book-- there's eight books, and at the end of every book, there's this cliffhanger ending. He learns a lot along the way.


- This dinosaur needs a book recommendation.

[scary noises]

- Hello.

- Hi. What's your name?

- Oliver.

- [gasps] Oliver. Do you like dinosaurs?

- Yes.

- What are you reading there?

- Uh, it's this.

- It's my book. This is my book. I'm the star of that book. I'm the dinosaur in book seven. Do you know what kind of dinosaur I am?

- A T-Rex.

- You don't want to catch me, do you? [screams] You can't catch me.

This boy Hunter built a dino-bot.

- Yes.

- And caught my buddy the pterodactyl.

- Yes.

- Are you in D-Bot Squad?

- No.

- Do you want to be?

- Yes.

- And if you were in D-Bot Squad, do you think you catch me?

- Yes.

- Hah. What kind of d-bot would you build to catch me?

- I'll do a pterodactyl.

- A pterodactyl d-bot to catch me?

- Yeah.

- That's not fair, because I can't fly. All I can do is run like this. [screams]

Ah, he caught me.

- You need to know that I'm the youngest of six.

- Six?

- I have four older brothers, right?

- Ah.

I had lots of broken bones. [laughs] I was climbing trees, I was rolling in the mud. And I was addicted to Nancy Drew. I loved the Famous Five. I loved the Hardy Boys. I loved Trixie Belden. It was all adventure stuff. And we had this my backyard-- had a gate in the fence, and it went into a park.

And every time I opened that gate and stepped through, I was going into another world.


- Ah, really. And sometimes we would be put in our rooms, because we would just be too raucous. And I used to make these secret notes. And then I'd fold them up like an airplane, and I'd shoot them across the hole into my brother's room. So I was doing all these secret messages. So it's no surprise where I've ended up, is it?

- I know. And with your ideas, particularly for D-Bot Squad, have you been thinking about dinosaurs for a long time? Is it something you wanted to write about, or wishful thinking hoping they would come back to life?

- Where do you get your ideas from? Do you have a notebook? Do you write ideas down as they strike you, or how does it work?

- I have a big white board, and I have a notebook. I have lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of notebooks, because I've kept them all. So I do all my brainstorming in a notebook. I don't go near the computer until I've got a first draft ready.

But with these ones, working with Susannah it's unlike probably anything you've ever heard. Because she lives in Victoria, I live in Sydney. So we get on Skype, and we have these three-hour long nutty Skype meetings, where you're just laughing, laughing, laughing. And I'm madly writing.

So we brainstorm on Skype. To do Mac Park stuff, we brainstorm on Skype. And then write up an outline. And I'm the one who actually writes up the book. And then it goes backwards and forwards until we're happy with it.

- Incredibly, it's a collaboration.

- It's a collaboration. It's a brainstorming collaboration.

- It's really sharing stories-- I'd love to hear what one of those Skype sessions is like.

- It's nuts.

- I know that some of the readers out there would absolutely love to hear that, too.

I'll just tell you, when we did 'Boy Versus Beast'-- because everybody out there would know it's sort of hijacking a computer game world, and beasts are coming back into our world. And there's one little boy, and his dogbot has to keep the beasts out.

So Susannah was always the beast, and I always got to be Kai Masters. And we would just get on there and play. And she would say something like, you know, I'm a big fire beast. And I'm going to send a wall of fire at you, so take that. And I'd sit there.

And she'd be in my big computer screen, and I'd be like. I can take care of you.

- What I'd like to know is, did any of your kids walk past and see you doing this? Is this just a normal thing, that happens in your household?

- I have a pretty bizarre life. My office has this really big window, and it's on the ground floor. And I was in the middle of going, I've got this big water thing. And I'm going to spray you. And then I'm going to flick you back to Beastium. And the postman arrived, in my window-- while I was going [screams].

- Not crazy at all, at your place.

- I know.

- Could I come visit? It sounds like so much fun.

- But then it's quite nice to do something like this, where I write by myself.

- Tell us about 'Harriet Clare.'

- So there is none of that brainstorming, and I'm very quiet. And I'm very, very in my book-- making notes. So I don't tend to act out.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And with your books, since we've been talking to a lot of authors during Book Fest-- and they are each telling us how they write, and how they work. And it's so different for everyone-- every author that we've spoken to. They spend time writing one draft, getting it just absolutely right. I mean, I suppose writing is like anything else you do. You've got to keep going until it gets to the right stage.

- Absolutely. And if you think that you're the only ones out there doing draft after draft and correcting your work, you're not. Because yeah, 'D-Bot Squad,' we're probably up to version eight, of these manuscripts-- where we're still correcting and doing things.

So I work a little differently, I think. I always ask the question, what would happen if? That's my favourite thing, when I'm trying to brainstorm-- what would happen if? And then if I'm working on secret diaries like 'Harriet,' I will tend to just go chapter by chapter outline. And I'll write it. I handwrite it.

Because I don't know whether you guys know this, but actually writing by hand you generate many, many more ideas. When you're writing by hand, there's a part of your brain that ignites that can't be reproduced when you're keyboarding.

And I say this all the time when I go into schools. It's really fascinating. The kids who are on iPads and on computers, when I ask them to report back to me they've got to read it out. They haven't retained it.

Whereas the ones who have been writing just stand up and it all comes flowing out there mouth.

- So if there's a young writer that's watching you now, what's your best piece of advice-- if they're going to away straight off, at least with their teacher or at home, and start writing their story? What's the best piece of advice you can give them?

- The best piece of advice for writing, I would say, is to do all your brainstorming by hand. Because you'll get better ideas that way. If you get stuck, get up and run around. Get up and move, get up and move that. That never fails for me. I like to kick a soccer ball around, and do some stuff.

Then, get your first draft out. Get it down on paper. Don't go to the computer until you pretty well know exactly what you want to write. And ask questions of yourself, over, and over, and over. Flesh it out completely.

If I was writing-- let's say I was writing a book about a pet-sitting club, and something goes horribly wrong. I need to know what goes horribly wrong. I need to know who did it.

- Don't give away all your good ideas, Louise.

- But asking the questions.

- Very true, asking the questions-- what's going to keep somebody turning the page, as well.

- Yes, yes, yes.

- Because we've all stayed up late one night, many nights, to finish a book that we love. In fact, we've just met a reader of your new series, who I think just flew through the book. Couldn't put it down.

- Indeed. And he got to the end, and he saw what happened to Hunter Marks, the main character. And said, where's the next one? Where's the next one? So that cliffhanger ending really hooked him in.

- It's very important, very exciting.

- Do you want to read more?

- Yes.

- [gasps] So you've read book one, and you want to read the rest?

- Yes.

- Why? Because I like it.

- Not catching me.

- And I also like it-- I like it the same as 'Boy Versus Beast.'

- Oh.

Oh, I think he definitely belongs in D-Bot Squad. He's repairing me. Am I better? [noises]

He caught me. I'm melting, whoa.

- You also are a very busy person. You're off to festivals. You're heading off to Newcastle straight after this, and you've got a really busy year.

- I'm looking forward to it.

- But there are a lot of things that are close to your heart. Can you tell us a little bit about the charity that you're involved with?

- Sure. So you probably guessed, my passion is literacy. And not just reading-- it's reading and writing. Because reading and writing go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other. If you don't do a lot of writing, your literacy won't happen. It's that forming of the letters and putting letters together to make words. It's like breathing in and breathing out.

So I'm very passionate about both those things. Which is why I tend to stay in this space of the [inaudible], because that's where we're really going to get you guys reading. And making sure that by the time you leave primary school you've nailed the literacy, and then you'll write.

Many doors are open to you when you've got literacy. But if you can't read, you can't write. So many jobs you just can't do.

So I sort of stay in that space here. But there are also countries around the world where they have absolutely nothing, nothing at all. So I've been working for this charity in Cambodia-- volunteer working there for about eight years, I guess, now.

And they've been working on their nutrition, and making sure that they're well. And now that that's sort of done he's started building these little three-wall schools-- little village schools, where they can actually come to school. They get fed when they come to school. These kids, they have nothing.

And so now I've started focusing on the education aspect, because I can. Sometimes they might have an old-fashioned slate to write on. Other than that, there's nothing in there-- no resources, nothing. No books-- none.

So I've started making-- just readers like you, you out there have all learned to read with school readers. But I'm making them in their local language, and I'm using photos of them. So that when they come to a book, it's familiar. They've got something to bring to it, and it will help them read.

Whereas, you know, these kids, they don't know where their next meal is coming from. They don't want to read a book about somebody celebrating their seventh birthday with a great big birthday cake. It's completely unfamiliar to them. So it makes it much harder for them to read.

So I'm just making these. Their language is Khmer. And I'm making these readers for Cambodian children.

- And do you have a translator, that works with you on the stories? I do.

- So I have a Cambodian photographer, who takes photos. And then I have a Cambodian translator, who translates. I write the stories, and then they translate it into Khmer. And then the charity checks them.

And once they're done, I've signed everything over to the charity, so that the charity owns those books completely. So we're hoping that they'll be able to sell them into other Cambodian schools, and make some sort of money to keep the charity going-- which would be great.

- And if readers out there what to know a little bit more about it, they can find info on your website?

- It's not actually on my author website. I might put a link up on my author website. I haven't done that yet. But if they go to Friends of Build Your Future Australia, they'll find it all.

[students reading aloud]

- So, Louise, tell us a little bit about the Harriet Clare stories, and how she came to be-- and what you love writing about these books.

- OK, so the Harriet Clare stories-- I had noticed that there were a lot of anxious children out there. And I wanted to do a series about a child who was a little bit anxious, and who learned to kind of manage that, I guess.

So Harriet, she writes her own diaries. But the different thing here about Harriet is that she actually asks the reader for advice, or what they think. I'm just trying to find a page. There's a page in there where they actually write and draw. There's one there. Every 10 or so pages, she actually asks the reader to work in her notebook with her.

And it's her way of working through her thoughts, and seeing how she can work her way through a problem. Because sometimes she builds it up bigger than what it is. And so she's saying to the reader, is this all in my head, almost? That sort of thing. And getting a better perspective on things.

But they're very funny, and they're very raucous. And I also wanted to involve the writing, because I know we've spoken about writing. But this whole literacy thing for me, I wanted to take it to that next level. And I really wanted people to interact with that main character.

And so not only have I done that, but I've got blog-- Harriet has a blog of awesomeness. Where all these kids all around the world-- this is, like, love my job day, right? Every morning I wake up and kids have sent me photos of their pages that they've done, in Harriet. And they get posted to the blog, and then Harriet writes back to them.

So there's just that more literacy, more reading. And kids from all over the world-- all their stuff is being posted on this blog. And I just get up in the morning, and I see these things. And I open the JPEGS. I'm like [screams]. I just love it.

- It must be so gratifying.

- I absolutely love it, yeah. Really good.

- It must be one of the most amazing things about being a writer, is hearing back from your readers.

- I know. And having that contact with them, it just spurs you want to keep writing. That's what keeps me writing, I think, that whole interaction. I love going into schools, love talking to the kids. I love getting their emails.

- Well, I don't think you'll be allowed to stop, because I know you've got a busy schedule, that you've got to keep writing, because I think they need your books.

- Thank you.

- And I just want to say thank you so much for being a part of Book Fest.

- Oh, thank you.

- It's our first ever Book Fest, so it's very exciting times for us. And so thank you very much, Louise Park-- if I'm allowed to call you Louise Park for right now.

- You are.

- And thank you so much to Beachside Bookshop at Avalon, for having us here in this wonderful environment. We just love being here. And we'll say goodbye to you now. Thanks so much.

- Bye.

[music playing]

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