Mike the Spike, the new for juniors (7-9 year olds) novel by the prolific Stella Tarakson is being launched on Friday, 26th September at Kogarah Municipal Library. Being one of Stella Tarakson’s camp followers, you can imagine my excitement. True to her style, the plot sails along with incidents breaking over incidents and incidences regaled with laughter. Having had the privilege of reading the ms early during the creative process has given me the confidence to ask some pretty, obnoxious questions of the author.
1. Have you ever had a spike ( even if it was in the 80s ) ?
I don’t know what you’re talking about :)
2. What about the nits?
Oh yes. Several times. Not when I was a kid – but I had them when my children were in primary school. It was awful and has left me permanently scarred, hence the book.
3. Are you Mike?
4. The range of books you have written covers educational books, self-help, legal, science fiction, YA, Tweens non-fiction , junior novels etc. How does writing comedy differ in the creative process from the more serious forms of writing you’ve had published? ( Or, have you ever laughed yourself so senseless as you’ve frantically tapped down the inspiration that you’ve left out the punch line ?)
Writing is all about voice. The hardest part of any project I’ve attempted is getting the voice right – once I’ve got it, the rest flows. I’ve written books about the law, about dealing with death, about euthanasia, terrorism, obesity and on and on! They’re all totally different voices, but other than that, the writing process is similar. My workshop students often ask me how they can find their own writing voice. It’s a hard question to answer. The only way really is to experiment and see what works. I remind them that we all have different voices for different occasions. We speak one way to our parents, another to our friends, another to our workmates/clients and so on. When I write, I think about who I’m writing for – and why. I love writing comedy for kids. It’s one of the most satisfying ways of connecting with the audience!
5. Is Mike obnoxious? Why? Please explain.
Little Mikey? No! How could you even think that?
6. How important is it that you like your main character?
For me, it’s crucial. I’ve read a few kids’ books where the main character is obnoxious and unlikeable. Maybe kids are expected to like them, but I don’t see how they could either! If I’m going to spend time inside a character’s head, I’ve got to like what I find there.
7. Plot or Character?
Plot. And character. Character and plot. One bounces off the other and it’s all mixed together. I start with an incident or problem, then think about the sort of character that would be most affected by it. For instance – nits. Par for the course for most girls, who tend to get them regularly. But a vain little boy, whose pride and joy is his spiky hair? Disaster! Then I think of ways the character can try to solve that problem, and the obstacles s/he will face. That’s how the plot takes shape in my mind. I like to have a fairly good idea of both before I start writing the story. Then I show it to someone like your good self – who is great at offering reader feedback! Thanks for your role in Mike’s success :)
It was my pleasure.
Mike the Spike is being launched at Kogarah Municipal Library on Friday, 26th September. Both Stella Tarakson and the illustrator of the book’s very funny drawings, Ben Johnston, will be there reading from the book and drawing, on-the-spot, for their young audience. There will be drawing and nit-making craft for the kids as well.
Book now at Eventbrite!