Video transcript
NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2023 - SWF author interview (primary) - 02. Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard

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NIVAAN: Hi. My name is Nivaan Wagh, and I'm a student from Epping Public School. I'm here today on Cammeraygal land at The Concourse in Chatswood as part of the Sydney Writers' Festival Primary Schools Day, and I'm so excited to be interviewing Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard for the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge. Hi, Jordan and Richard. How are you 2 today?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Very good, thank you.

JORDAN GOULD: Very good, thank you.

NIVAAN: I'm very good, too. Very excited to be interviewing you 2. What made you both want to become authors, and what would you say is the best part about being an author?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Well, I've always wanted to be an author since I was 14, and so writing has always been something I've been very interested in, and then when I came up with the idea of 'Wylah: The Koorie Warrior', I met Jordan.

NIVAAN: Your book, 'Wylah: The Koorie Warrior', is so unique, since the story is based on First Nations people of Australia. Are you yourselves First Nations people?

JORDAN GOULD: Yep. I'm First Nations. I hail from the Peek Whurrong tribe down in the Warrnambool region. That's where I'm from, and Richard is Samoan.


NIVAAN: OK. How did you 2 meet, and what made you decide to write this book together?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Well, I went to a conference and I saw a young girl talking about her Aboriginal culture, and she was wearing an Aboriginal outfit that looked very similar to Samoan outfit, and I made the connection between an Aboriginal warrior and a Samoan warrior. I knew that the Aboriginal people had a female warrior culture. So I took that idea to the elders, and they gave me their blessings, and they told me to talk to Jordan, who was a student of mine in animation, the best, and he really liked the idea, and it was actually Jordan who called her Wylah.

NIVAAN: That's interesting. Very interesting story. How would you describe your book, 'Wylah: The Koorie Warrior', in a sentence or 2?

JORDAN GOULD: Very, very, very good. [laughs]

NIVAAN: I agree.

JORDAN GOULD: Well, thank you. I would definitely say that it's a lot of ups and downs. But all in all, it's a very exciting story with a lot of real-world elements, of real-world cultural experiences, and we do aim to teach people, like yourself, about everything in our culture in a fun, exciting way. We see that as probably the best way to teach young'uns like yourself. And we want it to make it-- spearhead that learning strategy.

NIVAAN: Yeah, yeah. It would have taken a lot of dedication to complete a book that is both illustrated and very rich in words. Which of you illustrated it or wrote it?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Yes, I illustrated it.

JORDAN GOULD: With Richard-- with how me and Richard work, because I'm on the autism spectrum, it's hard for me to get a lot of my ideas on pen and paper, or to write it down. So I kind of give Richard just a massive word soup of all my ideas, and we kind of brainstorm it together. And he's the one who writes it down. And then he goes and structures it all into the book, as well as illustrates it in a way of how I envisioned it.

NIVAAN: Yeah. Personally, my favourite part of the book was when Tiddalik the frog drank up all of the water. I realised that it has a strong connection to an Aboriginal Dreamtime story. How do you incorporate not only this example, but a myriad of others in your book? Was it from your knowledge or did you research these stories?

JORDAN GOULD: A bit of both, because I knew a bit about Tiddalik first, before we started on the book, as well as some Dreamtime stories here and there. But a lot more of the Dreamtime stories that you may see in book 2, a lot of those are researched, because we do want to give a lot of new experiences and be able to teach a lot more Dreamtime stories in the book.

NIVAAN: After reading the book, I realised that the book is set around 40,000 years ago. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Was it easier or more challenging to write a story that has been set so far back in the past?

JORDAN GOULD: I'd say a lot easier. Because back then, there's a lot more creative freedom. Because around the time, dragons really could have existed, as well as all these other Dreamtime stories and any other mythological creatures. If anything, it was a lot easier and helped us be a lot more creative with the writing.

NIVAAN: Yeah. I'm sure it would have been a very challenging task to bring together Dreamtime stories like-- Dreamtime creatures, sorry-- like bunyips, dragons, and Marntaro the giant bird on one hand, and documented prehistoric creatures like swamp cows or diprotodons and Kinpa the flying possum, in a story. That is so clever. I am sure it would have taken a lot of research to write the book. How long did it take you to write this book?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: It took 2 years. We took one whole year to research. We researched libraries, online libraries, galleries, local articles, newspapers, Google. We didn't leave any stone unturned. So that's how we were able to research. There's modern animals, like possums, what they ate. Wombats, how they fought. Like Tulna the wombat, he fights with his butt.


RICHARD PRITCHARD: That's actually true, that wombats do fight with their bottoms and crush anything that come into their burrows.


RICHARD PRITCHARD: So we researched real-world behaviours, and we've put that into the book as well. The more you research, the more you can draw on in this story.

NIVAAN: On that note, where Tulna is injured in the part of the book, the snakes are all down in the burrow. Does that happen in real life?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Yes. Snakes quite often go into their burrows. And the snakes actually go into their burrows, and what the wombat does is it waits for the snake to try to get past him or above him, and they actually kind of crush upwards to squish the snake against the burrow.

NIVAAN: And what happened to the king brown snake?

RICHARD PRITCHARD: He got hurt, and he ran away. We weren't allowed to kill him.


RICHARD PRITCHARD: Yes. We-- having the word-- that word was not-- is a strong word.


RICHARD PRITCHARD: So he had to get hurt and squirrel away. Snake away.

NIVAAN: We all, as young readers and many aspiring writers, would like to get a sneak peek into your writing process. How does an idea come to you? Do you keep an idea book?

JORDAN GOULD: Well, I'd probably say my brain is my idea book, with me being on the autism spectrum. And I also play a lot of games. I also play a lot of trading card games as well, and I also play D&D, Dungeons and Dragons. So my brain is full of this creativity. It gets filled with all the media that I'm consuming.

So I create all these ideas in my head, of different scenarios that Wylah could be in, and then that's when I give the ideas to Richard. And as we said before, on the way me and Richard works, I give him a big word soup, then we work together to get the alphabet soup out of it.

NIVAAN: I do that a lot too, with my parents and my friends and colleagues in school. Wylah is a very strong female protagonist. Am I right in thinking that she's not a completely fictional character, and that you would have drawn from one or more real-life women? We would like to know more about them.

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Yes. Wylah is a fictional character that we made up, but we based her mostly on our mothers. We have very strong mothers. And a lot of her strengths comes from her ability to look after her children, which are her animals.


RICHARD PRITCHARD: And so right from the start, you see Wylah is looking after a whole bunch of pets, and just like a mum, she's feeding them. She knows who they are. We read the history. She's been caring for them, healing them, and I think that's what's made it such a strong character for us, because the initial inspiration was a young female.

I'm surrounded by strong females, my wife and my daughter, and our mothers from before, and so it wasn't part of our imagination, it's part of our life, and I think as 2 male writers, it's a very big responsibility for us to write for young women, especially. We know that 6-year-old, 7-year-old girls are reading this in their room. So for us, we have to respect that. And we have to respect the young women, as male writers, and make sure that they grow up strong for the world they're about to face.

NIVAAN: Yeah. One last question. When you wrote the names of the characters, how did you come up with them?

JORDAN GOULD: With a lot of the names of each character, we have this book called 'The Australian Aborigines', from, I think-- I can't remember his full name, but it has Dawson in the name. But it was made in 1881. The author went to the local tribes and documented a lot of the language, as well as a lot of the traditions and practices they've done. We use that book, that pretty much 200-year-old book, to make names for each of the characters, from their characteristics.

With Po, his name is derived from the word 'puupuup', which means 'baby'. There's a bit of a story of how he got the name, but it's also what he's like as well. Each of the names has either 1, 2, or maybe 3 Aboriginal words. And then, similar to how Wylah was, we changed the words a bit, maybe mixed it in a bit, and turned it into an actual name instead of just a long sentence.

NIVAAN: Thank you so much for letting me interview you today, Jordan and Richard. It's been a privilege talking with you. I hope everybody watching out there today enjoys reading your incredible novels as much as I did, while they work to complete the Premier's Reading Challenge. Thank you.

RICHARD PRITCHARD: Thank you, Nivaan.

JORDAN GOULD: Thank you for having us.

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