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Nina the New Kid at school thinks that dragons don’t exist. Trouble is still banned from the schoolyard, so he can’t show her she is wrong. It’s no fun when people don't believe in you, but believing in things is good for everyone, as Georgia is about to find out.

Cate Whittle

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

I was born far, far away, in Nigeria, a country in West Africa, where my father was teaching, but I only lived there for a few months before my parents moved back to England where I lived in Cornwall, Dorset and Shropshire before we came to Australia. I now live on a beautiful bush block not far from Canberra, surrounded by trees and lots of wildlife.

Where did you go to school?
I went to many schools ... starting in Bridport, in Dorset, England, then a school in Libya, then St Augustine’s in Weymouth, followed by a couple of schools in Shropshire (a tiny village school just down the road from the farm where I was living in Minsterley, then a gorgeous old school on the Town Walls in Shrewsbury...) and eventually I went to high school in Kiama on the NSW South Coast. I loved changing schools all the time and going to new places and meeting new people, but I didn’t like high school much.

Did you have a nickname?
Not really ... there was a boy at my high school who was very rude, though and he had a nickname for everybody.

What were you like in school?
Hmm... I think that in primary school I used to be a bit of a teacher’s pet. I suspect that I was also a bit precocious, but I was always well-behaved. I loved reading and writing, but I also loved to play sport. I changed in high school, where I became pretty quiet, and spent a lot more time in the library. I still did sport, but mostly out of school, because they didn’t ‘do’ the sports I liked at school.

What is the naughtiest thing you did?
Gosh! I was NEVER naughty! I did used to daydream a lot, though, especially in maths classes.

What was your favourite book growing up?
I have heaps of favourite books, and I always did, but I totally fell in love with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and read it over and over (along with the rest of the Narnia books). I’m still hoping to find that wardrobe one day.

Who is your favourite children’s author?

Ooh, this is a difficult question, because I enjoy reading so many different books and authors. My favourite author is Terry Pratchett and I love his books about Tiffany Aching, a series about a young witch that was written for children.  My favourite picture book EVER is Magic Beach by Alison Lester and I very much admire Kate Forsyth, and the amazing Jackie French ... no, this question is too hard, I can’t answer it.

What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
I’m really not very good at favourites... My favourite food, though, is probably potatoes in any shape or form, I just love potatoes. My favourite colour is probably blue — you know, that deep, deep blue on the horizon just as the sun has finally disappeared for the day, but before the stars come out. And my favourite movie? I think I’ll say Brave, because I just love a stories about feisty red-heads who are good with a bow and arrow!

Who inspired you to write?
I can’t remember who inspired me to write, but I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember. I could read long before I started school (I had my own library card when I was four and I even signed for it myself), and I think that I just wanted to make my own stories even then. I played lots of imagination games when I was little and started writing them down as soon as I was able. So ... it was probably my Mum, who taught me to read, and always encouraged me to write (she still does!).

How did you get started?

Really, I just wrote.  And wrote. I wrote stories and poems and journals and letters. I eventually wrote a novel, which I sent off to a publisher — it was very bad — and they sent me a rejection letter and I realised that I still had a lot to learn, so I did some courses and joined a Writers’ Centre and then I started entering competitions. I did pretty well, and had some stories published... then I wrote a couple of stories and articles for magazines and eventually my stories about Trouble found a home with Omnibus.

How old were you?

I had a poem published when I was thirteen. It featured cobwebs and death and all sorts of dreary things. I was reading lots of gothic novels at the time and I had just fallen off a horse and broken my wrist, so I was feeling very dark and grim. There was a long wait after that — until I was over forty — then I wrote a story called 'The Garden', about magic and mayhem, not gardening, which was published in an anthology and I got really excited.

Why did you want to be a writer?
I had to do something with all those stories rolling around inside my head! Some of the characters were very insistent. Also, I just love playing with words.

How do you think up ideas?
Mostly they just turn up, unannounced, but I also find that something will happen, or I’ll see or hear something and I start to ask ‘What if?’

Do you have a special place where you write?
I’m very lucky, now, because I have a room with a view out over my back garden to the bush that surrounds my house, but I have written in many different sorts of places. I used to lie on my bed to write when I was growing up, or curl up in a big armchair in the front room. Or, sometimes, at the beach, on cloudy days with the wind blowing my pages closed.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I get to go on some amazing adventures (mostly inside my head, but I did get to go on a real adventure to meet Terry Pratchett a couple of years ago).

Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as a writer?
I get embarrassed writing about myself.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m both a mum and a teacher, so I do Mum and Teaching things when I am not writing. I also love to read (I find it very hard to put book down once I have started reading) and I like to potter around my garden, although I’m not very good at gardening, and go walking. I also like going places and seeing new things and I’m very interested in medieval history.

What would you have chosen to be if you were not a writer?
Well, I became a teacher, and I love being able to help children learn, but I would also have loved to have been a landscape investigator, which is a kind of an archaeologist, or a gardener, or, maybe, worked with horses if they didn’t make me sneeze so much. I sometimes dream about having my own little bookshop, full of all my favourite kinds of books, with a little cafe and maybe a tiny garden where people could sit and read, and famous authors could come to visit and talk about their books.

Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
Lots of them!  I’ve always been intrigued by Emma of Normandy, who was married first to King Ethelred, and then to King Cnut... it was a pivotal time in English history, and she seems to have been a strong and intelligent ‘player’. I’ve always imagined her as a feisty red-head who was good with a bow and arrow. Or, perhaps, Shakespeare whose writing is so lyrical and beautiful, plus he invented loads of great words.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

I like rainy days and stormy seas. My favourite season is autumn. I enjoy playing in the snow. I love the feel of sand between my toes and the sea brushing around my ankles. I don’t like it when people are unkind to each other and I hate rice pudding. And I have a cat called Max, who is really the evil ruler of the universe (just ask him).

Website/blog details
My current website is and I have a blog attached to the website, but it is really written for other writers.

I’m planning on developing a different website/blog for readers, but I haven’t got there quite yet. I’m hoping that I’ll have a launch page coming soon.

Stephen Michael King

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

Nothing exciting there! I can’t remember being born! Outer suburban Sydney! My first childhood memory has my older brother David being lifted into my cot and us playing together. There’s warm light coming through a window. I can clearly visualise the room. I also have a memory where I’m standing on the back seat in our car and chewing the top of a low front seat. I must have been around one year old. I can taste the red vinyl of the old EH Holden as I talk.

I now live close to the sea, on an island, in a mud-brick house. My studio is a short walk down a hill, through our orchard. I share my life with my wife Trish, our two children, three dogs (Millie, Rosie and Twiggy) and one noisy rainbow lorikeet.

Where did you go to school?

Again, nothing exciting there! I try not to remember. School was difficult with my hearing loss. There were a handful of exceptional teachers who could reach through, guiding me creatively, spiritually and also helpin’ me with readin’, writin’ and writhmatic!

Did you have a nickname?
SKING. I liked it.

What were you like in school?
My report cards always said things like: 'quiet and shy', 'quiet achiever', 'it would be nice to see Stephen speak up a little more'. I didn’t hang out in a big group but I always had good, solid, close friends.

What is the ‘naughtiest’ thing you did?
Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had a goal of being naughty! I’ve challenged authority often, but that’s always felt good! I’m not one of those people who says that the villain is the most interesting character.  A truly 'good' character is far more complex.

To answer your question: My mum thinks I’m a trouble-maker at times and I do like mischief. In my long ago past I regularly skipped school and was often punished for talking (whispering) in class. At the time, if I’d had a chance to defend myself, I would have said that everything was because I couldn’t hear my teachers.

What was your favourite book growing up?
Too many! My parents read to me regularly. It was all about my Dad or Mum reading to me: their voices weren’t asking me to tidy my room or eat my carrots; they were tucking me in, talking, laughing and reading me into slumber. I have nothing but happy memories of going / or not going / to sleep with a book.

Who is your favourite children’s author?
I’m not one to judge! I like nearly anyone who writes for children, there’s only an armful of books that I’ve puzzled over. As long as children remain the author’s focus and there’s no other motive behind what’s being created then I’m happy to browse.

What is your favourite food/colour/movie?

I’m not a foodie! Simple is best: Water / bananas / Vegemite on toast / red beans and rice ... and pizza!

Colour: my wife taught me that all colours have a purpose and are beautiful in their own right. All colours have their own unique visual language, even murky green-brown!

I love movies and I’ve watched them all. A movie I watched recently was His Girl Friday (1940), with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. All my favourite movies seem to feature simple sets and great dialogue, and funny / emotive fast-talking scripts!

Speaking of sets, I love Fantastic Mr Fox directed by Wes Anderson. Wes loves a good set! Stop animation is also a favourite ... on and on I go ... I’m watching some early Charlie Chaplin (did it ever get better than Charlie?).

Who inspired you to illustrate?

My mum was a teacher and she wanted me to be a great reader. Maybe that’s the ‘naughtiest’ thing I’ve ever done; become an illustrator. My Mum or Dad didn’t draw, so drawing was a place I could truly be me. Near the end of school and into my late teens my parents were suggesting that I work for a bank or become a salesman. They didn’t understand 'my art', so creativity became a free, inspiring and self-motivating place to be.

How did you get started?
Art was something I tried to shake off. I tried to procrastinate on starting my creative life, but my creative self couldn’t sit still. Life would have been easier if I could have become a sales person or a banker. Becoming an illustrator was two steps back, one step forward. The biggest challenges aren’t writing, drawing and painting, they are: believing in yourself, finding the strength to expose your deepest emotions then allowing them to be judged. There was one more for me: acknowledging that I was worthy. Truthfully, I had no choice. Having hearing loss meant that I had to draw for my supper whether I was worthy or not.

How old were you?
29 when I was first published! Before then I worked for Burbank, Walt Disney and my favourite jobs ever: a general library assistant (Macquarie University) and a Children’s library Assistant (Ryde Library).

Why did you want to be an illustrator?

I wanted to be a mad passionate artist, then I realised that books had been my gateway to everything. I couldn’t avoid my inner illustrator; he chased me down.

How do you think up ideas?

Ideas come from places where judgement doesn’t exist, liquid, free places. Right or wrong can’t even breathe in truly creative spaces. Ideas are about exploration. Creativity is about recording and celebrating your discoveries.

Do you have a special place where you illustrate?
Anywhere is perfect: train, car, lounge, verandah or desk.  I will say: if you want to be an artist, create a space for yourself. Cooks have kitchens; artists have studios. You deserve it. If you’re an artist and you have a kitchen but not a studio, I suggest you cook outside with the sun, rip out you kitchen and reclaim it as a studio.

What is the best thing about being an illustrator?
Dancing on the job!

My Dad worked from home (insurance salesman). I work from home. A lot of people think you need to be at the office every day, but I enjoy being in my own space and not having to deal with angry bosses. I surround myself with people I love and who love me in return. In my job I rarely wear shoes. I only dress up for fun, if we’re going out or celebrating birthdays etc. When you live in a mud brick house on an island, the simple act of dressing up can be an event.

Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as an illustrator?
It’s a serious business, no laughing allowed!

What do you do when you are not illustrating?

It varies from year to year, season to season. I like to appreciate what I have. I don’t ask for much: a skateboard, a push pike, a dog to walk on the beach; looking at billowing clouds and country night skies; sitting on my verandah during a storm; and sharing it all with my family are my favourite past times.

What would you have chosen to be if you were not an illustrator?

I removed choice from the equation. All my eggs went into one basket. If I hadn’t been published I would have chosen a quiet part-time job where I had plenty of time for dreaming and creativity outside of work.

Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?

I don’t think about the past much more than answering these questions. I’m usually projecting to my next project or story idea. I guess I’d go for someone who could possibly change my path, a fork in the road kind of person: Mahatma Ghandi ... Leonard Cohen. If my Dad was still alive I’d like to talk to him about Mahatma Ghandi and Leonard Cohen.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

Drawing is how I speak best.

Website/blog details

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