Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Brisbane and spent my twenties in England, Asia and the Middle East (where I met Philip). Philip and I then moved to Sydney for about 7 years before relocating up to Brisbane briefly when our second child was due – back to the exact spot where I was born!
Philip & Laura: We now live in beautiful Eumundi, on the Sunshine Coast. It’s just around the corner from Noosa, a few miles down the road from Fraser Island and a short row from some very interesting sharks.
Where did you go to school?
I went to a very small primary school called St Ita’s which was only about 50 metres from my front door. It was so nice being able to stay in my PJs until only about 2 minutes before the bell went!
Did you have a nickname?
My nicknames at school were just Laurs and Laursy, but since meeting Philip it’s been ‘Mo’. When we were dating, I said something about marmosets (a kind of monkey) that he found funny, and somehow that was condensed to Mo.
What were you like in school?
I was quiet and relatively shy and didn’t like getting into trouble at school.
What is the naughtiest thing you did?
I didn’t do anything naughty at school! I think I saved it all up for home (you’re welcome, mum!). The three times I remember getting in the most trouble at home were for having a talcum powder party in my mum’s bathroom, swinging around on the Hills Hoist with my best friend until it snapped in half, and pretending I had run away from home when I was about 5 or 6 – I even left a note that said, “I’ve left the back way!” (but I was actually just hiding under the tablecloth in the dining room).
What was your favourite book growing up?
Anything by Roald Dahl, but my favourites were Matilda and The Witches. I still remember feeling bereft when I realised I had read his last book and there would be no more! I also adored The Secret Garden and was a bit addicted to The Babysitters Club, too. When I was little, I loved Robert the Rose Horse and also a bit of a random one called Koko’s Kitten, about a real gorilla’s love for his pet cat. What is it with me and monkeys?
Who is your favourite children’s author?
Roald Dahl is top of my list for older children’s books - I still don’t think anyone quite compares.
What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
Ice-cream. Green. The Princess Bride.
Who inspired you to write?
It wasn’t really a who as such. It was the books themselves. I loved books and stories as a child so much that eventually I wanted to make my own! I started writing books as soon as I could read and write by myself. The first book I wrote was when I was around 6 or 7 and was called The Rosella, about a colourful little lorikeet who befriends a little girl. And, 30-odd years later, I still like writing about native Australian animals!
How did you get started?
I knew I wanted to work with words for a living so I studied Advertising at university and my first job was making TV commercials! But I soon decided that I wanted to write about things I cared about more than mobile phones and soft drinks, so I retrained as a journalist! My first job as a writer was on a women’s magazine in Dubai in the Middle East. It was amazing! And also where I met Philip. So extra amazing!
How old were you?
I was 6 or 7 when I started trying to make my own picture books, in my mid 20s when I started writing for magazines and in my mid 30s when I started writing picture books again!
Why did you want to be a writer?
Because I love telling stories. All kinds of stories. I love real people’s stories as much as made up ones! I’m a bit of a nosy parker really. I’ve always been fascinated by how other people live their lives, what they’re thinking and feeling, what they eat for breakfast, how many hugs they give each other in a day, how they cope if something bad happens, what makes them happy, why they live where they do… Everyone is so different, and that difference fascinates me no end. And wanting to know the answers to all of those questions pretty much sums up being a writer!
How do you think up ideas?
It comes down to observation for me and just soaking in the world around you – I love people-watching, and animal-watching too! I just want to know everything I can about why people are they way they are! The idea for Koalas Eat Gum Leaves came about after a trip to the zoo and I was watching a koala in his tree just munching and munching on nothing but bitter gum leaves. He didn’t look very happy about it! My son was hungry so I pulled out his lunchbox which was full of all kinds of delicious things - sandwiches, fruit, yoghurt, carrot sticks. And I thought, “What if that koala is sick of eating gum leaves? What if he’d like something a bit tastier!” And that’s often a really good place to start when coming up with ideas - by asking a simple “What if?” question. Our kids are also great for sparking ideas because they help me remember just how vivid their imaginations are, and they help jolt me out of adult mode and back into that wonderful kid space where ANYTHING is possible.
Do you have a special place where you write?
I have three children, so I’m pretty much never alone - not even on the toilet! So I just have to write where I can these days. It’s usually late at night when the house is finally quiet. But I often jot down brief notes on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I can find during the day - my arm if I have to! It might just be a spark of an idea, or a sudden thought that helps develop another story I’ve been working on. That’s the nice thing about being a writer - you don’t have to be stuck at a desk all day, and often that’s not ideal for writing - there’s too much pressure. So I can just let my ideas marinate in my head and often I will feel that ‘lightbulb’ moment when they all magically come together in a way that works.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Writing children’s books is the absolute best job in the world! I don’t have to be in an office. I can still be at home with my kids. I get to think up crazy, wacky, funny ideas and call that ‘work’. And I’m extra lucky because I get to do this fun thing together with my husband, who illustrates my books. Even if he does insist on only wearing PJs!
Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as a writer?
In my job as a magazine writer I did have a few funny assignments. One of the funnier ones was having to try out a laughter yoga class. The idea was that laughing, even if you didn’t mean it, was good for you. I had to act like a chicken and pretend I was constipated in a room full of other adults while we laughed like utter maniacs - even though I think all of us just felt like crying from embarrassment!
What do you do when you are not writing?
Mostly child-wrangling these days! Lunch-making, homework-helping, mess-cleaning, alphabet-teaching, tantrum-solving, playdough-sculpting, bottom-wiping, hug-giving, toy-playing, milk-pouring, playground-taking mum duties! And I love every single second of it!
What would you have chosen to be if you were not a writer?
A teacher or a vet. And in a weird way I guess I’m still doing a bit of both of those - I hope our books make reading fun for kids so they’ll be excited about learning to read, and just learning in general. And, I get to find out lots of interesting things about animals while I’m researching my books. Fun fact: Did you know that gum leaves are poisonous to most animals? The only way koalas can digest them is by eating a little bit of their mum’s poo when they’re babies. True story!
Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
I know you’ve said famous person, but most famous people already have quite a lot written about them. I think I’d quite like to talk to my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather or grandmother. Find out what life was like for one of my own relatives hundreds of years ago, and see if I could spot any similarities in looks or personality!