The Smuggler’s Curse ISBN 9781925164190 Paperback fiction. Middle readers $17.00. 320 pages. (198 x 128 x 20mm) Fremantle Press Publisher. Year 2016

My Publishing Career. An Interview by Fremantle Press PR Dept.

Can you give a short overview of your publishing career?

Twenty years ago, while working at a specialist children’s bookshop, I wrote the text for the graphic novel Ashe of the Outback. It was written specifically for reluctant readers, who predominantly seemed to be boys, and increasing in numbers. The style was inspired by Asterix and Tintin, who were both incredibly popular with these readers.

Two picture books, In Flanders Fields and The Call of the Osprey, both illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever, were then selected by Fremantle Press. After that, I produced two semi-autobiographical comedy novels for teenagers, A Fine Mess and Another Fine Mess 002, about two boys in a county town getting into all sorts of trouble. I had loads of fun writing them.

In 2008 Jack’s Island, a historical novel set off the coast of Western Australia during World War II was released. Then in 2011 James Foley and I created the picture book The Last Viking and soon after The Last Viking Returns, the sequel. I also have several other picture book texts and I am working on number 3 in The Smuggler’s Curse, series.

Has it changed in the last few years? In what way/s? Do you think it has become harder to stay published? Or have more opportunities arisen?

I don’t think my actual writing career has changed that much. I get more work, though, talking to school kids because I’m better known now, but even with winning awards and reasonable sales, I still can’t afford to write full-time. Being from faraway Western Australia, I’m not that well-known to the publishers, so haven’t had too many approaches to write for them or to appear at east coast festivals.

What strategies for ‘staying published’ have you adopted—and how have these changed over the years?

Basically, I just keep writing. I have tried different styles, including graphic novels, picture books, comedy novels, serious historical novels, and the occasional article, mostly, I suspect, to see if I am capable of writing them. I think if I were to write only picture books I would go totally mental, always trying to keep to the discipline they require. Writing a story in so few words and then watching the carefully chosen words get slashed as the pictures develop is so difficult to handle.

I’m looking forward to being an ‘overnight success’ after twenty years slogging away at it. Perhaps that’s it, you just have to keep slogging away at it until you do the magical ten thousand hours? As Churchill said, “never, never, never give in.”

I have stayed with Fremantle Press for most of my career with only two editors, originally Ray Coffey, but mostly, and happily, Cate Sutherland, and because they have completely different tastes you would think I might choose subjects to write about to suit their preferences, knowing it might improve my chances of being accepted. In reality, I write to keep myself amused, hoping that there are some other twelve-year-old kids out there, just like me, who might just ‘get it.’ Being a forever twelve-year-old trapped in an aging writer’s body is not so bad.

I keep up my membership with ASA and SCBWI. I find it very valuable meeting with the members of SCBWI, who in WA are a really marvellous bunch of supportive creators. We are very encouraging of each other and we share industry news such as which publishers are looking for submissions, but also discuss each other’s plots and writing styles, as well help each other through the successes and inevitable heartaches.

What do you think are the main pitfalls today for writers aiming to maintain a long career?

Other than losing heart after too many rejections and giving up writing altogether, the obvious pitfall, other than a serious Facebook addiction, is not having a runaway success early in your career, otherwise, you have to work at something else to earn a living while trying to write. Even with the lack of time by having a full-time job, just being worn out at the end of a regular working day can kill creativity stone dead. Though many of the writers who are career authors also spend so much time on the road touring schools that they too have little time or energy left to create either. And creativity does not flow easily while you are all alone in a dingy county motel. You, somehow, have to maintain the passion in spite of the slings and arrows of the daily grind.

Do you have any advice for writers who have already started their publishing career—i.e. have had one or two books published—but are having trouble maintaining publisher interest?

Treat your writing as a business – as a way to make money, otherwise, you will need a regular job to support yourself.  The business is not just composing words, but just as importantly, promoting. Publishers like that. They want you to have as high a profile as possible. The more you are seen, the more likely people are to buy your books.  The way a great many children’s writers earn their real incomes is by school talks where you are spruiking your word to something like a thousand kids a week.

Even if a publisher thinks a particular story of yours is only okay, they might take a chance on it because you are seen as an excellent salesman for them.

My other two pieces of advice are firstly, not to take rejection personally. That is the hardest part of putting your soul on the page, but when a publisher says, ‘your work does not fit with our list’, they probably mean just that. It does not have to mean that your writing sucks and you should go back to flipping burgers. Maybe, too, the publisher has contracted to publish twelve books this year, and yours is the thirteenth to come along. It could just be luck.

My second piece of advice is that quote from Churchill that I mentioned earlier, never give in, ever. The publishing world is full of long delays and endless waiting for things to happen, so learning patience is recommended. When I am rejected I immediately think of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishers and the fifteen other publishers who rejected Harry Potter, to their collective horror, I suspect. Can you imagine being one of those editors and sitting at your desk knowing what you had done, while watching as the sales figures over at Bloomsbury went completely ballistic?

Wearing your prophet’s hat—how do you see the publishing industry in the future?

I see fiction continuing to be published both as print and e-books for quite some time, but Google is hurting non-fiction. Children’s and young adult books are still selling remarkably well, with no slowdown in sales at all and, in fact, have helped maintain many publisher’s profits during an economic downturn. That market seems likely to be encouraged and will grow, though I don’t know what will be replacing wizards, vampires and angels. I did notice in my local Dymocks that YA fiction now takes up over a third of the fiction shelves, whereas, for most of publishing history, it was shoved away in the back corner. What stands out in the YA section, though, is that nearly every book cover is dramatically coloured black. I do hope YA will lighten up a little in the future. I’m well over angst.


The Smuggler’s Curse ISBN 9781925164190 Paperback fiction. Middle readers $17.00. 320 pages. (198 x 128 x 20mm) Fremantle Press Publisher. Year 2016

Norman the Grave Robber : A blog from Fremantle Press by Lata Periakarpan

How Norman Jorgensen’s treasure hunting tale landed him in the principal’s office and in stormy, tropical hot water.

June 12, 2019

Warning: this tale involves grave-digging, tea-dipped treasure maps, and naughty school boys. Read at your peril.
Norman Jorgensen is best known for his role as an award-winning children’s book author. But outside of Australia he’s known as the Chief of Mischief, as proven by his track record for filling young boys’ minds with a grand sense of adventure … however misguided.

But wait, what happened? It all started one year with a trip to Cocos and Christmas Islands for Book Week. On that trip, Norman was reminded of the book A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana and Michael Preston, about the British explorer and pirate William Dampier. It was on his final voyage to explore WA’s coast that Dampier was supposed to have plundered around $50 million worth of gold. When he and his crew were shipwrecked after cruising through Cocos, Christmas and Reunion Islands, the treasure was gone, which is why Norman believes that it could still be somewhere on the Cocos Islands.

However, we weren’t the only ones he told this tale to.

The small boys at the school he visited were also privy to this information. Norman may have let slip that the best place to bury treasure is in – that’s right – a graveyard. Why? As Norman states, he’d figured that, ‘people are unlikely to dig up graves – unless they are small boys, that is.’

‘While I was with still with them in class, I drew up a fictional map of the cemetery on the island and marked an X 100 paces from the north, west and east tip of the island that juts into the sea. It marked an existing ancient grave with a wooden marker with the inscription worn off.

‘The next day, the principal called me to her office. One teacher had complained that her kids were spending far too long creating their own authentic-looking pirate maps, colouring them by dipping them in tea, rolling them and burning the ends, and generally making it impossible for her to complete the curriculum before the next school holidays. I was about to leave, duly chastened, when another teacher arrived to say a parent had caught my two favourite boys from that class armed with shovels, pacing out the cemetery ready to dig up the buried treasure. And taking smaller paces than I do, they had identified the wrong grave and started to dig up a recent one.’

While digging up graves is not recommended, I think we can at least admire the boys’ tenacity.

Norman also mentioned the inspiration for the characters in his books. In particular, he mentioned Red’s mother, Mary Read, who runs a hotel in his hometown of Broome, and maintains order with the aid of a cricket bat. Norman based this character on his mother Barbara: ‘Barb is gentle, kind and sentimental, but like Mary, she has a backbone of steel. Luckily for me and my brothers, she didn’t own a cricket bat.’

The Black Widow based on a real national hero in Indonesia. In The Smuggler’s Curse, she trades a cargo of whisky with Captain Bowen for his crew’s guns, and in real life, Norman explained that she was a bandit queen in Sumatra who lead the armed resistance against the colonial Dutch rulers for over 50 years, well into the 20th century.

But who inspired his intrepid main character, Red, and his mentor, Captain Black Bowen?

As Norman explains, it’s himself. Or rather, ‘A younger, much braver by far and more energetic version of myself. Red is the sort of kid I would have liked to have been, and Captain Bowen is who I’d like to be now.’

‘I hope that as publishing spreads to include wider audiences, young readers will find books written by writers who are just like themselves. And who like history!’

Norman’s latest book, The Wrecker’s Revenge, the follow-up to The Smuggler’s Curse, is available online at www.fremantlepress.com.au and in all good bookstores.

Lata Periakarpan is currently interning with the marketing department at Fremantle Press, where she is working on projects that include photography, graphics, sound editing, videography, social media and of course, writing. She has a BA in Screen Arts and Creative Writing from Curtin University.


An Interview With Me For Shelf Awareness by Maureen Eppen

SHELF AWARENESS — NORMAN JORGENSEN

Norman IMG_1164Children’s author Norman Jorgensen has been writing stories since he was in primary school, and his latest story, The Smuggler’s Curse(Fremantle Press), details the rollicking adventures of young Red Read, whose mother “sells him to an infamous smuggler, plying his trade off the north-west coast of Australia in the closing days of the 19th century”. Norman’s first picture book, In Flanders Fields(with illustrations byBrian Harrison-Lever), set in World War One, tells of a homesick young soldier who risks his life to rescue a robin caught in the barbed wire of no man’s land. In Flanders Fields won the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year Award in 2003 — the first of many awards for Norman. He has since written a dozen books for children and young people.
Born in Broome, in Western Australia’s tropical north, he now lives in a 100-year-old house near Perth with his wife, and his collection of books and old movies. He loves to read, travel and take photographs, especially of castles, cathedrals, villages, battlefields, sailing ships and all the things that make history exciting.

Norman Jorgensen will be the guest author at Koorliny Arts Centre’s Stories on Stage on Wednesday, March 29, from 7pm. If his responses to my questions are any indication, it will be a lively and highly entertaining event.

Norman Scan.-The-Last-Viking-Returns-

Q. How would you describe the work that you do and how you do it?
A. Chaos is probably the best description. My mind flits from one shiny thing to the next, looking for a distraction, and then, somehow, among all the mental noise and confusion, the faint ideas for stories appear. After the really enjoyable time writing the first draft and creating the characters, the plot and locations, the hard slog of reshaping and polishing the sentences into something hopefully readable takes over.
Q. What is your latest project, and/or what do you have in the pipeline? Norman The-Smugglers-Curse-1-780x1100.jpg
A. The Smuggler’s Curse was published in October, and is the story of young Red Read from Broome, who is sold by his mother to a sea captain in the dying days of the 19th century. Black Bowen, the captain, turns out to be an infamous smuggler plying his trade off the north-west coast of Australia and up to Singapore. From terrifying encounters with cut-throat pirates to battling the forces of nature in a tropical typhoon, to encounters with head-hunting guerrillas, and even being nearly hanged by colonial troops, Red is in for the adventure of a lifetime. As the newest member of the crew of The Black Dragon, a sleek, fully-armed clipper, he is forced to quickly grow just to even survive.
I have started the sequel to The Smuggler’s Curse. I had left the ending open for the next adventure, and my editor suggested I get on with it reasonably quickly so that any young fans of it will not grow too old before it comes out. I am also working on a non-fiction book called In Search of Constable Jack Kelly. Constable Jack was the half-brother of Ned Kelly, the infamous bushranger. Unlike Ned, Jack had a glittering career as a world-famous circus performer who travelled the world and became rich and successful. For a couple of years, though, from 1906, he was based in Perth and had a job as a mounted policeman with the WA Police Force, before joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and travelling throughout the USA.
Q. Where are the main bookcases in your home or office? Do you also keep books in other places at home (or elsewhere)? Norman IMG_1149
A. Jan and I have a dining room lined with floor to ceiling bookcases, a spare room with more shelves and my writing studio has three walls lined with shelves as well. We both have been collecting books all our lives, cannot bear to throw books away, and even get upset seeing them mishandled or damaged in any way. I am in favour of capital punishment for people who mistreat books — or at least, public flogging, stocks, branding and medieval pillories for public abuse, attack and ridicule.
 Norman IMG_1174
Q. How are your books organised/arranged?
A. The non-fiction books are in very rough order of subject, and the fiction is everywhere – anywhere I could find a space to squash them in. Even though Jan was a librarian most of her working life, she has resisted Dewey-ing them. I have a large collection of film history books that take up several metres of shelving. Other than that, I can never find the book I am looking for.

Q. What sorts of books predominate? (ie general fiction; specific genres such as romance, science fiction or historical fiction; non-fiction; reference books; short stories; novels; poetry; drama; children’s or young adult fiction; picture books, etc.)

A. All of the above. We have a great collection of kids’ books signed by the authors, having met loads of them at festivals and on book tours over the years. I also love historical fiction, especially 18th-century sea stories like those of CS Forester and his Hornblower series, Julian Stockwin’s Kydd series, Alexander Kent’s books featuring British naval hero, Captain Bolitho, and Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander books. I like too the historical novels of CJ Sansom, like Dissolution and Lamentation, set in the times of King Henry VIII. They are so descriptive of Henry’s London that you feel grubby just reading them, and nervous that the king will come after you next — after he has finished chopping off the heads of those close to him. He was certainly keen on that.
Q. Describe your favourite reading place.
A. My favourite place of all is soaking in a hot bubble bath with water up to my eyes, soft music playing, and me lost in the story in some exotic location. The only downside of this is dosing off, dropping the book in the water and nearly drowning. And if you do that you deserve to drown. Having said that, I cannot sit anywhere alone without reading something, even if it is a newspaper, a 10-year-old magazine, a menu, street signs or even a Vegemite label.

Q. What book/s are you reading right now? Why did you choose that book/those books and what do you think of it/them so far?

A. I am reading ABC broadcaster Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire about him and his son visiting Istanbul, describing it now and writing about what the same place was like during its years when it was named Constantinople. Even being addicted to history as I am, I had little knowledge of the Byzantium Empire of Constantinople, so was surprised to find out about the huge numbers of mad emperors, unhinged queens and countless other crazies who lusted for power over the 2000 years of its turbulent history. I’ve almost finished it, and have been fascinated by every page. Why did I choose it? It was new, historical and I enjoy Richard’s interviews every day on ABC Radio. He is a clever, interesting bloke who shows plenty of care and kindness with his guests. I’m also re-reading an old 1980s adventure called High Citadel by Desmond Bagley, about a group of plane crash survivors sheltering in a mine in the Andes Mountains and under attack by Communist forces. I picked it up in a second-hand bookstore just for nostalgia’s sake as I remember enjoying it when it was first published during the Jurassic period.

Q. What are your favourite books and/or who are your favourite authors?

A. My favourite authors are Leslie Thomas and Tom Sharpe, both British  writers who generally wrote satirical comedy novels about ordinary people living suburban lives while mayhem surrounds them. When Leslie died in 2014 and Tom in 2013 I was shocked at how saddened I was each time, as if I had suddenly lost a part of me and a whole chunk of my early reading years. I didn’t know either of them, though I met Leslie Thomas briefly at a book signing after a talk he gave here in Perth. He answered ALL my questions then afterwards signed my book, “To my greatest fan, Norman”, and he wasn’t the least bit wrong.

I love the work of Bill Bryson and have read every word of his. We are much the same age, and his gentle sense of humour matches mine exactly. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, about him looking for the small town America of the old movies, is funny but also so sad as he slowly comes to realise that it has been lost and the towns have been devastated by enormous Walmarts, huge car parks, endless fast-food joints, closed factories, empty shops and despair. His most successful book, Notes From a Small Island, about him revisiting the places he went when backpacking around Britain in the 1970s, is a joy to read. He gave his humour free rein, and I loved it, as I did with all his other books. He has since written 20 more.

The first writer to keep me awake all night was John Steinbeck and his book The Pastures of Heaven. In his interwoven stories in this one, nothing much happens, but you become trapped in the lives of his characters and can’t stop reading until you find out what happens to their dreams and plans. After that, I read The Grapes of Wrath, and then all his others. I greatly admire his spare style. Most of all, though, I love how he treats ordinary people, giving them a voice and highlighting their suffering and the widespread unfairness of their situations, caused, usually not by their own fault, but by uncaring banks, greedy landlords, exploitative employers and even just sandstorms, bad weather and bad luck.

Q. In the event of an emergency, if you could save just three books from your collection, which books would they be – and why would you choose them

A. I’d save my signed Leslie Thomas book, The Dearest and the Best. After that, The Million Pound Bank Note, by Mark Twain, that my great grandfather, John Hansen Jorgensen, was reading when he was killed in a mining accident in Coolgardie in 1906. He signed his name in the front of it and, other than his wedding photo, it is the only keepsake I have of him. Finally, I’d save Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. That, along with RSL’s other pirate book, Kidnapped, was the inspiration for The Smugglers’ Curse. If I could have a fourth, it had better be The Coral Island, by RM Ballantyne, as I suspect that may be a major influence on the upcoming Smugglers’ sequel.

Q. If you could sit down for afternoon tea with your three favourite characters or authors, who would they be, what would you serve them, and what would like to talk to them about?

A. Winston Churchill, war correspondent, England’s First Sea Lord, wartime prime minister, Nobel Prize-winning author of more than 30 books, including The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, and deeply flawed genius. I wouldn’t talk to Winston very much at all. I’d just sit and listen. Can you imagine what it would be like? The huge intellect, the voice, the history, and people he must have known over his long career. What would I serve him? Pol Roger, his favourite champagne, then his usual whisky, Johnny Walker Red Label, then, finally, Hine Brandy and a big fat cigar. I don’t imagine he’d be bothered with tea or sandwiches too much.

A fictional character I’d like to meet would be Captain Blood, the original swashbuckling pirate who was created by Rafael Sabatini in 1922. Actor Errol Flynn played him perfectly in the movie made in 1935 by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Olivia de Havilland. In fact, sharing afternoon tea with the three of them at the Admiral Benbow Inne, at Port Royal, Jamaica, would be so much fun. We’d have to be served up pewter goblets overflowing with Captain Morgan Rum, of course – arrr! And what would we talk about? In a pirate bar? In Jamaica? You wouldn’t be able to shut me up.
Then, like most people, I think I’d like to have afternoon tea with Atticus Finch, the hero ofTo Kill a Mockingbird. We’d discuss dignity, bravery, compassion and empathy, and all the other decent attributes that Harper Lee gave him in spades. We would discuss the Great Depression and Prohibition, which I find fascinating, and am intrigued at how those two elements led to an upsurge in socialism in America in the 1930s, as well as the appearance of the gangsters. And we could talk about Deep South racism, white poverty and the intolerance of the time. I think it would be a pleasant, warm afternoon chat on his verandah with Scout sitting and listening nearby. Oh, and I’m sure he would serve up Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Filé Gumbo, all washed down with Mint Juleps or Moonshine. Perhaps we’d even drink some Tequila Mockingbird… For more from Norman, visit his website.

In-flanders-fields

School Visits I Have Made. Part 1.

“Dear Mr Norman, Thank you for coming to visit our school. I know you told us you don’t make much money from each book sale, but let me tell you, be rest assured, you are bringing great joy to millions and millions of children around the world.”  :)

School visits really are the second best part of my job.  The best is actually me sitting in a darkened room with my imaginary characters while they push me around and force me to arrange more and more unlikely and hair-raising adventures for them to narrowly survive.  But that way leads to madness and self loathing and probably coffee addiction.

I have done a load of talks to school kids in recent years in places ranging from the wealthiest private schools with million dollar views over the Swan River to one school where the school teaches Equestrian Studies and has a class set of horses and stables. In contrast, a week later, I was cramped in the front seat of a small Cessna flying across an endless outback desert to reach an Aboriginal school with a dozen kids.

Flying in small Cessnas is not part of the school visit scene I particular enjoy. Once, when crossing Shark Bay to visit the school at Useless Loop (an unfortunate name for a good school), the plane engine started coughing, which immediately concentrated the mind, I can tell you, and tightened every muscle, as Shark Bay was named that by explorer and pirate, William Dampier, for a very good reason. You can see the big scary creatures swimming below you.  Obviously, I survived and went on to spent several enjoyable hours with the kids there.

Another memorable visit was to Geraldton where James Foley and I were to talk to kids in Geraldton and  Mullawa schools as well as at the Big Sky Writers’ Festival.  Before the festival opened, the authors, including Juliet Marillier, James and I, were flown out to spend the night at the Abrolhos Islands, the bleak and haunted location of the infamous  Batavia shipwreck and subsequent slaughter of many of the crew and passengers.  The island where we stayed is said to be haunted by the spirits of long-dead shipwrecked Dutch sailors, and not just Johnny Walker spirits.  What a memorable experience, and, I must confess, we did experience a spirit or two. 

Another visit, and one of my favourites, was to Cocos Island School right out in the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia. The place is everything you could imagine a tropical island should look like, with balmy breezes and crystal clear warm water, and the kids, many from Cocos-Malay families who live on Home Island without cars and the mess of the modern world, are warm, friendly and gentle. They made Jan and me so welcome that we never wanted to leave .

 

 

A lovely school visit that sticks in my mind was to Poynter Primary School in Duncraig where every year the Grade 6 students, without any help from their teachers,  organise a dawn Anzac Service followed by Gunfire Breakfast and Gallipoli Games on the oval, recreating the sports the diggers played on the beaches back in 1915. They also invite old diggers and serving military members, as well as me, probably because  I wrote In Flanders Fields, which is about WWI, and they have studied it.

One added bonus of interacting with students like this is that I get to try out new and unpublished stories on my usually eager audiences. I quickly get a feel for scenes and passages that are flagging or not working at all. I know I’ve got it right, though,  when all noise stops, and the kids stop breathing because they are listening so hard.

But most of all, I love their enthusiasm. It is so infectious. They flock to me after sessions wanting to share their stories and s discuss their favourite books with me, and often to get my signature on their workbooks or hats or arms.

When older people tell me that the kids of today are... whatever - lazy, sullen, disrespectful, something bad - I just laugh, knowing first hand that the Australia of tomorrow is in safe hands.

 

 

 


Swashbuckling tale of terror in the tropics

Swashbuckling tale of terror in the tropics

 

Swashbuckling tale of terror in the tropics

WA author Norman Jorgensen's pirate tale The Smuggler's Curse is a rollicking read.

"I cannot believe it. My mother has gone and sold me. Sold me — her only child! And to the most notorious cold-hearted sea captain ever to sail the wild, west coast. What sort of a mother would do such a thing, knowing I will be carried away in a black-painted sailing ship to face untold dangers and probably death a hundred times over on treacherous seas and in exotic ports?”

So begins Norman Jorgensen’s latest rollicking read, The Smuggler’s Curse, a swashbuckling tale of terror in the tropics partly inspired by one of the West Australian author’s all-time favourite books, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Jorgensen’s previous historical novel for younger readers, Jack’s Island, found best friends Jack and Banjo facing the threat of a Japanese invasion on wartime Rottnest. Set in the late 19th century, The Smuggler’s Curse finds Red Read leaving his mother’s inn of the same name before being forced to follow the infamous smuggler Captain Bowen through thick and thin, from Red’s Broome home to Singapore, Sumatra, Fremantle, Albany and even the Pilbara coastal town of Cossack.

Surprisingly, Jorgensen, who was himself born in Broome and learnt to sail in his father’s dinghy at the age of 13, says he hates writing picture books. He is of course being facetious — but there may be at least an element of truth to what he says.

“It’s because you’ve got the whole story in your head,” he says. “So you write it. Say you describe a character wearing a red jumper. The illustrator comes along and draws a character with a red jumper. So you don’t need to write that. It comes out. You describe a dog. The illustrator draws the dog. That comes out. And so on. It can be very frustrating.”

“I hadn’t set the novel in Australia at all at first,” he says. “My editor asked me if I would consider doing so and that it would be easy.” He thought Broome would be a good location because in the 19th century it was “a wild, tempestuous place where men went to get away from their families”.

The trouble was he’d set the novel during the early 19th century, with the Napoleonic War and the illegal trading with France as backdrops. Broome wasn’t even gazetted until the 1880s.

“So we had to shift the time period forward,” he says. “Then I had the novel opening on this jetty which didn’t even exist until 1895. Now, by this time we’re well into the steamship era.” Which of course didn’t preclude using sailing ships, which were still being used extensively at the time.

“The point is if you’re writing an historical novel, you can do what you like with your imaginary characters but you can’t change history. I get annoyed at people who do that. Even if I do occasionally do it myself,” he suddenly recalls, laughing.

The other area that is sometimes problematic when it comes to writing for children is violence. Needless to say, in a book filled with smugglers and pirates and guerilla warfare, someone’s bound to get hurt. Jorgensen has an appropriately novel approach.

“I write a book like this as if I were a 12-year-old,” he admits. “Which isn’t that hard as most people reckon that’s about my mental age. But I ask myself, ‘What would a 12-year-old find acceptable?’” Quite a lot, it turns out.

The solution? Make it comic violence, never graphic.

As for writing for children in general, Jorgensen says it’s the immediacy of feedback he loves the most. Again, reading out loud in schools helps.

“That’s why I wrote this in the first person, present tense,” he says.

“I wanted the reader to be right there with Red. And I was able to test passages out on the kids. It’s fantastic because you can sense when their attention’s flagging or when it’s totally engaged.

The Smuggler's Curse is published by Fremantle Press  / Buy now

By William Yeoman

Books Editor & Travel Writer
Seven West Travel Club & The West Australian

 

 

 

https://normanjorgensen.com.au/award-winning-childrens-book-smugglers-curse/


in-search-of-constable-jack-kelly-the-bushrangers-brother/jack-and-violey-kelly-stockwhips/

In Search of Constable Jack Kelly, the Bushranger's Brother

In Search of Constable Jack Kelly, the Bushranger's Brother

This an interview with me by Chenée Marrapodi from  Channel 7s Today Tonight, broadcast on Friday 3rd March, 2017. It is about the research I'm currently undertaking into the life and times of Jack Kelly, half-brother of the infamous Ned Kelly, Australia's most notorious outlaw.

In the early part of the 20th century, Jack joined Wirths' Circus as a  stunt rider and stockwhip trick expert and, together with his wife, Violet, as part of the act, they travelled the world performing on stage and arenas in the days of music halls and vaudeville.  They become rich and famous for many years, until tragedy struck while they were working in Argentina.

                                                          


Award Winning Children's Book Smuggler's Curse

Swashbuckling? Me? Only in my Head.

I have been amused in recent months, ever since The Smuggler's Curse was published that reviewers have been using the word 'swashbuckling' about me. Nothing could be further from the truth as I'm such a  gentle soul, though, in my head, there are all sorts of swashbuckling scenes going on. It's like living in my own private movie, with cannon firing, endless sword fights, pirates swinging from yardarms while all accompanied by scores of dramatic soundtracks from loads of old movies I've seen.

One problem I have  is getting all this dramatic stuff down on paper while still making it sound exciting. The other is talking about it to groups of people who have read the book, like is this case at Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana,  on Wednesday March 29th.

I have no idea how many people will be attending, as  it can be a bit of a hike south, but even if you've heard all my jokes before, I gather that the centre is really good and food provided by Monique Mulligan, the organiser and interviewer, is well worth the journey, and I know she'll be right on the ball with her Inquisition, thumbscrews and torture rack extracting every detail and entrail from me .  See you there?  I sure hope so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://communitynewsgroup.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?noredirect=true


Another Prince of Denmark on Stage? (I wish!)

March  29th, 2017 at 7pm.

WHERE:

Koorliny Arts Centre,

Theatre 1

Sulphur Road
Kwinana WA 6167

COST: $15 all tickets

BRIEF DETAILS: The swashbuckling Norman Jorgensen will kick off the 2017 programme.

SUITABLE FOR: Adults who love reading and writing

 ADDITIONAL INFO:  Norman Jorgensen was born in Broome, and has lived in several country towns since. At a young age he developed a love of books, especially historical novels like Treasure Island, and old movies. At age thirteen Norman learned to sail. These days he loves travelling and researching exotic places for his books. His latest book is The Smuggler's Curse.

Stories on Stage is a series of evening 'meet the author' events held in Theatre 1. Each event includes an author talk, Q and A session, meet and greet over supper, book sales and signings. Tickets cost $15 each and include supper.

In 2017, events will be held on:

  • March 29: Norman Jorgensen (children's fiction)
  • May 24: Rashida Murphy (historical fiction) in conversation with Monique Mulligan
  • July 26: Alli Sinclair (romance fiction) in conversation with Monique Mulligan
  • September 13: David Whish-Wilson (crime fiction) in conversation with Monique Mulligan
  • November 22: Gabriel Evans (book illustrator)

PRAISE FROM AUTHORS:

Thank you for a terrific evening at the Koorliny Arts Centre. The facilities were superb, the organisation of the event was excellent and the audience was fun and receptive -  and the cakes at the end were an unexpected bonus. - FELICITY YOUNG (The Insanity of Murder)

(Stories on Stage) was beautifully organised and welcoming, and I really enjoyed myself, in a part of Perth that I'd never been to before. - JOAN LONDON (The Golden AgeGilgamesh, The Good Parents)

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to present my Stories on Stage at the Koorliny Arts Centre. The event, hosted by the brilliantly organised Monique Mulligan, allowed me to engage my audience in an intimate theatre setting. Literary conversations continued during the delicious supper, generously supplied at the conclusion of my presentation. I encourage all those interested in books and writing to visit the Koorliny Art Centre and enthusiastically support the diverse range of authors Monique has lined up for future Stories on Stage events. - MARK GREENWOOD (The Legend of Moondyne Joe)

What I loved most about being part of #DateNight at Stories On Stage was the setting. The theatre is lovely, intimate and friendly, and I felt like I was chatting about romance books and romance writing with people I'd known forever. Monique has a wonderful knack for interesting and intuitive questions, and the evening moved at a cracking pace. I didn't want it to be over, and one day, I'd love to be invited back again. LILY MALONE (Fairway to Heaven, His Brand of Beautiful)

Loved being a part of Stories on Stage. Fabulous facilities, yummy home-baked goodies, great hostess, well-organized, awesome community spirit and loads of fun. The audience was relaxed and friendly which went a long way toward calming my nerves. Keep up the good work! JUANITA KEES (Under Cover of Dark)

I really enjoyed the causal, intimate atmosphere of Stories on Stage and the opportunity to chat with the warm and generous audience members. - ANNABEL SMITH (The Ark)

Stories on Stage was a lovely opportunity for me to connect with readers. I was able to spend several hours talking with them, hearing their stories and answering their questions. I suspect I enjoyed their company more than they enjoyed mine! - ROS THOMAS, Weekend West columnist (Was it Something I Said?)

What a treat to be with not only an enthusiastic, interested, engaged and generous audience, but also in such a wonderful facility.
The presentation at Koorliny Arts Centre was truly a moment where everything came together beautifully - the people and the place, and for, me, the combination of a words-and-music performance, and then a more formal "talk" about travelling and writing, which I hadn't done before. I have received some kind feedback from those who came along (and about Monique's delicious supper, too).
The whole thing was a delight, and I very much appreciate being invited. - STEPHEN SCOURFIELD, Travel editor and author

Thank you again for inviting me to take part in your wonderful Stories on Stage program for 2014. It was an excellent event, very well organised, and such a lovely audience, too. – AMANDA CURTIN (ElementalThe Sinkings)

The audience was pleasantly responsive, and I had several interesting conversations with people afterwards. The venue, which I hadn’t previously visited, was excellent for the Stories on Stage kind of arrangement, and I’ve been enthusiastically telling friends about what Koorliny can offer. – IAN REID (That Untravelled Road, The End of Longing )

I had a terrific  time at Koorliny Arts Centre; it's a lovely light and friendly place, with great facilities in a delightful setting and Monique looked after me so well.  But the best thing was having the chance to meet people there who were so obviously interested in books and reading and the arts generally.  It was so nice to be among such and interesting and friendly group of people and I enjoyed the questions, the laughs and the sense of being among friends.  And they have the very best cakes!  I felt like stuffing some in my bag to eat on the way home, but the friend who was with me suggested that might be a bit unladylike!  Thanks to Monique and Koorliny Arts Centre for making me so welcome. – LIZ BYRSKI (The Company of Strangers, Last Chance Cafe, Gang of Four)

Stories on Stage was well organised and I had the chance to meet and talk with several lovely readers. Monique was a pleasure to deal with and made the event run as smoothly as possible. – NATASHA LESTER (If I Should Lose You; What is Left Over, After)

I enjoyed participating in the Koorliny Stories on Stage event.  It had been very well publicised and organised and attracted a good, engaged audience. No author could ask for more. – ALAN CARTER (Prime Cut; Getting Warmer)

 


The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages exhibition has many fabulous Australian and New Zealand authors and illustrators in it. Go to Authors/Illustrators/Books to see the full list. Each week, I'll highlight one of the authors or illustrators in the exhibition - this week it is Norman Jorgensen. Norman also received great news recently ... Western Australia Young Readers Book Awards(WAYRBA) shortlisted one of his books - 'The Smugglers Curse'. Congratulations, Norman! His book 'In Flanders Field' is in the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages Exhibition. Norman loosely based In Flanders Fields on a historical event during WWI. The British and Germans held a truce on Christmas Day 1914, while they buried their dead and played soccer in no-man's-land. Instead Norman has an Australian soldier rescue a robin caught on barbed wire in no-man's land.

The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages - Feature Author - Norman Jorgensen / The Smuggler's Curse

Repost from: http://anzacstoriesbehindthepages.blogspot.com.au Maria Gill

The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages

The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages exhibition has many fabulous Australian and New Zealand authors and illustrators in it. Go to Authors/Illustrators/Books to see the full list.
Each week, I'll highlight one of the authors or illustrators in the exhibition - this week it is Norman Jorgensen.  Norman also received great news recently ... Western Australia Young Readers Book Awards(WAYRBA) shortlisted one of his books - 'The Smugglers Curse'. Congratulations, Norman! His book 'In Flanders Field' is in the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages Exhibition.

Norman loosely based In Flanders Fields on a historical event during WWI. The British and Germans held a truce on Christmas Day 1914, while they buried their dead and played soccer in no-man's-land. Instead Norman has an Australian soldier rescue a robin caught on barbed wire in no-man's land.

"I wanted to capture what the film director did in All Quiet on the Western Front. The image of the butterfly is so simple and stands for the whole of humanity in its brokenness. For me, the robin is also a symbol of humanity but it also has the additional association of the redness of blood spilt in battle and the traditional colour of Christmas."

Norman said he is a pacifist. "I wanted the book to be anti-war and show that these soldiers, in their quiet way, are caught up in war which they oppose. In the end papers, where I have the two armies looking inwards from their trenches, the shades of grey and khaki merge. It is not their war. They are scared young men."


20 Questions from 'Write Note Reviews' by Monique Mulligan

  1. Your latest novel for children is The Smuggler’s Curse. Tell me a bit about it.

The story is set in 1896 and tells of a boy called  Red Read who lives at the Smuggler’s Curse tavern in Broome with his single mum. One day he discovers she has sold him as a cabin boy to a Captain Black Bowen, a notorious  smuggler, and before he can even believe it, he is whisked away on a sleek sailing ship to perilous adventures in Singapore, Sumatra and the South China Sea. Along the way, he is forced to grow up quickly in the rough and dangerous world of the smugglers especially when all hell breaks loose, with cannons and guns firing, cyclones at sea and facing murderous pirates and deadly head-hunters.

 

  1. What’s the feedback been like for this book? What do you think the attraction is for younger readers?

The feedback has been fabulous, and the half-dozen reviews have all been wonderful. I’m not sure of the reason, but maybe the old-fashioned plot and the relentless action. I tried not to leave room for the reader to get bored.  Boys, mostly that I have talked to have loved it, including one who said it was his favourite book, ever, in the entire universe.

 

  1. Do you prefer writing novels for children or picture books?

Even though the word count is horrendous, I think I actually prefer writing novels. Picture books are told using both words and pictures, so many of my original words have to be cut out as the pictures take over.  And that can hurt when you’d spent hours carefully choosing them. Also, most picture books are restricted to about 600 words, and that takes an awful lot of skill to get across a plot in such a small number. You have so much more freedom in a long novel.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite character in your books? Which one are you most like? (You can tell me.)

 I like Nell, Jack’s mum from Jack’s  Island. She is based directly on my beloved grandmother and in the book she is actually as she was in real life - no exaggeration necessary for dramatic purposes. Red, the hero from the Curse and my latest creation,  is a bit of a favourite too as I love how he grows from been a skinny little weakling afraid of everything into a fully-fledged, swashbuckling pirate.

 

  1. What draws you to writing stories for children rather than adults?

My family all think it is due to my arrested development. Even at Christmas, they sit me at the kids’ table.  Childhood was a  special time for me and was the time I developed my love of books and reading. The books of that time still influence me greatly when I’m writing.  For some reason too, every time I have an idea for a new book, it mysteriously seems to be for a children’s book. It is not a conscious choice

 

  1. What are some of the challenges children’s book writers face? Do you think children’s books harder to write than adult fiction? If so, why?

The biggest challenge is having to think like a child all the time and, unfortunately, or fortunately, it tends to rub off and become the new reality.  Another is the amount of time you get to actually write. Earning a living means that you have to accept every request for school or library talk or paying festival event, which takes you away from your writing desk for days at a time.  Royalties are small, and I get only $1.70 for each novel sold or $1.24 for a picture book, so unless a book is a huge bestseller, poverty is the biggest challenge.

I’ve tried writing adult novels, and that is a hard task as there are no restrictions on what you write, so you have too many choices, while kids’ books are more difficult in that they involve a lot of self-censorships and boundaries. Keeping to a consistent reading level and being aware that parents and teachers don’t want their children exposed to too much of the seedy side of life can be difficult. For instance, in reality, people swear a lot, and  I was writing about sailors, famous for it, so making their dialogue sound realistic without including any swearing proved bloody challenging.

 

  1. How do you start a new story?

I start with one word or a few notes on the closest bit of paper, usually an envelope or a napkin. Next, I’ll expand it in my trusty old notebook, the one I try and carry everywhere, but, of course, it is always somewhere else when I really need it.  I make as many notes as I can longhand and even try out a few sentence or chapter headings. Often too I will take loads of photographs of where the story is to be set, or trawl back through older photos that may have twigged the setting.  As a novel usually takes such a long time to write, in that time,  I will try and visit the places I'm going to write about. I believe you need to be on the ground, searching the landscape, breathing the smells, hearing the noises, watching the people and soaking up the atmosphere, so your story will sound authentic.

 

8. What have you learned about writing over the years? I am amazed at what appears on screen as I type. It is as if someone else is controlling my fingers. Images and scenes that have nothing to do with any of my experiences suddenly appear, and then characters I’ve just invented take control of their own lives, leaving me surprised and often dumbfounded at the things I do.
I’m also a peaceful, gentle sort of bloke, so the total mayhem and wholesale murder that appeared in The Smuggler shocked me. Where for the life of me did that all come from, I found myself asking over and over.

 

  1. What other writing-related projects are you working on at the moment?

Desert Rose is a YA novel set in the Coolgardie goldfields just after the pipeline arrived.

Dessert Island is about kids marooned on an island made entirely of sugar, lollies, chocolate and lemonade waterfalls.

In Search of Jack Kelly is a non-fiction book about the brother Ned Kelly who grew up to become circus performer and a policeman in the Western Australia police.

Mary Christmas is about a little girl who is accidently appointed the next real Santa when the current old man retires.

 

  1. Where did your desire to write spring from?

The desire came from my earliest years while I was reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. I loved the series so much that I wanted to be a member of the gang, even though I lived 12,000 miles away and didn’t own a thick gabardine raincoat or a red Cub cap. I started writing little stories where I was the eighth member of the Secret Seven - it never occurred to me that seven was important to the title. The new eighth member, Norman,  turned out to be the real hero of the books and solved all the crimes and captured the wicked smugglers single-handed. I haven’t progressed very far in 55 years,  have I?

 

  1. What do you do when you're having doubts about your writing? What happens when you get stuck?

Every time I read something by one of the ‘greats’, I have a crisis of confidence, and then, luckily, I’ll read something really poor and think, maybe,  I’m not as bad as that. When I get stuck, I go and have a long, hot bubble bath. All my best ideas have come when I’ve been up to my eyes in steaming hot water.

When I get stuck, I just write any old drivel knowing that I’ll be back to edit it out before too long. I also try and kid myself that I am writing just to keep myself amused and not really for publication, so as to relieve the anxiety. Though, if that were really the case, I’d be bitterly disappointed.

 

  1. What’s your typical writing day like?

I sit in my studio in the back garden on an old armchair with a board across my knees, and a dozen sharpened pencils...  no, that’s Road Dahl.  I, Norman,  sit in my studio in the back garden in darkness with all the lights off, so there is just the screen and whatever is at the ends of my fingers and slam away at the Apple keyboard. I need one with big letters, like Apple’s,  as I can’t type very well. At school, I had a choice of  Woodwork or  Typing, and, like an idiot, didn’t choose Typing. I never really needed the skill until quite late in life, but now I live by it and could really use an increase in speed and accurayc.

 

  1. What’s the biggest myth about being a writer?

How much money we all earn. Most of us would be financially better off working at Maccas. True.  We have way more fun, though, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

 

  1. What has writing taught you about resilience?

It has taught me that at least I have some resilience. Bouncing back from rejection with your enthusiasm intact is hard, as is ignoring lukewarm reviews, but I keep doing it, just as I keep on writing.   Writing has also taught me patience, lots of patience. The book world moves at a snail's pace. I have grown old polishing manuscripts, waiting for publishing decisions, editing, waiting for production and distribution, for the royalties to be paid, Public Lending Rights payments to come, and everything else that takes so much longer than you’d like.

 

  1. When you write, what is your biggest weakness?

At present, it seems to be over-researching. I spend hours on Google finding obscure facts that are not worth the amount of time it took to search for. Just write the bloody book,  Norman!  My other weakness is I am easily distract...oh look, a shiny thing.

 

  1. What do you think about the phrase ‘write what you know’?

It’s a great start. Later on, you can research, travel and find out about things, people and places you want to write about. Even then, after a lot of research, you’ll still be writing about what you now know.

 

  1. Which authors / books do you admire the most?

Once, when I was still a teenager, I was reading John Steinbeck's Pastures of Heaven and didn’t realise until the sun came up that I had been reading all night, I was so engrossed.

 

 

I also love historical fiction, and I admire comedy writers.  Comedy is so hard to do well and is often underrated. Tom Sharpe, Leslie Thomas and Bill Bryson are all heroes of mine. There is also an editor from the 1920s and 30s called Maxwell Perkins. No one has heard of him, but he discovered and edited Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, William Fawkner and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who wrote The Yearling. 

 

  1. which book are you reading now?

Several at once. Richard Fidler's’ Ghost  Empire, a fascinating book about Constantinople and the Byzantium empire.

The latest Brotherbond by John Flanagan.

Lamentation by CJ Sansom,  a crime novel set in the time of King Henry VIII.

I just noticed writing this that they are all historically based.

 

  1. Which “must-read” book have you not yet read?

I’m not that hard on myself. I read enough of the books I've chosen not to need the latest dinner party flavour-of-the-week. Slap me if you want.

  1. Describe yourself as a writer in three words.

Storyteller, aged twelve.  (Tthe photo is me about 17.)