Meet the Illustrator: Aśka

 Aśka’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: People say that a lot of it is luck. That is true. But luck is a statistical concept. If you want to play the numbers game you have to be in it! So make sure you enter all the competitions, challenge yourself with unusual illustration projects, join groups, try to apply for grants and send your folio out to all the publishers every year. If you buy 100 tickets in a lottery, your “luck” is sure to improve. And so will you.

Photo: Lili Riecken Photography

Aśka is an illustrator, artist and scientist. Once a PhD candidate researching quantum optics, she turned her hand back to art with the goal of being a children’s book illustrator.

She has more than 10 years of experience in children’s character illustration and book development, kids’ product design, graphic novels, animation, design and children’s science education.

Aśka has had numerous comics published in Perth and Melbourne, was featured on an ABC TV documentary – Noise On Screen – , won a Curtin Gallery Grant for her solo art exhibition, and ran an eight-week animation festival on the Northbridge Piazza Superscreen.

Continuing her passion for science, she also works for Scitech, presenting science programs and workshops to children across Western Australia.

Three of her illustrative projects have been published in 2017: The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob, by Cristy Burne (CAASTRO); Pepsi the Problem Puppy, by Sandi Parsons (Faraway Nearby Ink); and Looking Up, by Sally Murphy (Fremantle Press).

Through her illustrations, she loves to create energetic characters with a curious streak – the best type of friend to take on an adventure uncovering the wonderfully diverse and inspiring world around us.

Check out Aśka’s latest projects on www.askaillustration.com

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

 

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life?

First of all it’s the act of creating new things that brings me a lot of satisfaction and personal fulfilment. I also love the flexibility of being my own boss, and the ability to really maximise my schedule on my own terms. I think I’m getting pretty good at that.

I’ve always loved sitting in my room and making things. Back when I was in primary school my projects had an imaginary audience, and I developed comic books, board games, toys and teaching aids for them. Today I still sit in my creative bubble at my desk, but now I’m working towards more focused outcomes and (hopefully) for a real audience!

—the worst?

It is easy to get lost in my work, and forget that sunshine and fresh air exist.

In order not to transform into a cave-dweller, I try to take my bike for a ride around the river in the mornings. Working at Scitech several days a week also helps, as it gets me out of the house and amongst the children.

How do you approach an illustration project?

It all starts with some kind of research. This could take the form of anything really: leafing through pages of books by a particular artist, watching cloud formations or browsing images of frogs on the Internet. Ideas then start popping into my head and I proceed to ‘try them out’ by scribbling. Eventually one of the ideas becomes more dominant and persistent.

Though I am a mostly a digital illustrator, I always start a concept with pen on paper. It is never pretty – more of a gestural squiggle, allowing me to feel the composition and envisage very early on how the design will take up page space.

But once I start working on the line work, first sketchy, then more refined, ideas do often develop further. I essentially think through drawing. Seeing images on the page breeds further ideas.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m illustrating a picture book about a boy with dyslexia, which was written by a dyslexic author. Having been fortunate enough to win a DCA grant, I have taken the project from my ‘creative cave’ and out to schools, inviting students from Years 3 and 4 to hand write their own stories. I then either use these stories as background textures in the illustrations, or actually illustrate them as part of the main character’s world.

Because the book aims to give children an insight into the world of a dyslexic person, I wanted to make sure it was very accessible to children with reading difficulties, so as to not alienate this crucial audience. So I held some consultation sessions with a variety of children who struggle with reading, to ensure the font choices, sizes and illustration layout did not make the book more difficult to read.

I am also developing a short video to show the children who participated how their contributions shaped and changed the illustrations.

It is a project and a half! But it has been very satisfying working with so much input from children and truly developing the book together.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

I did everything backwards, as I didn’t do my research. After coming up with an idea, I made a book and then tried to plug the finished product to publishers, not even following their submission guidelines because I was so excited about my project I thought they would be too. Seems a bit crazy now.

Joining SCBWI, learning about the industry and seeing other people go through the publishing journey certainly paid off in the end.

But I think the obstacles are there every time I want to be published again. There is a lot of wonderfully gifted competition out there and limited publishing spots. So I guess believing that there is a space for me amongst all this talent in this vibrant and joyful industry of children’s publishing is the perpetual challenge.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?

The only other job I’d settle for is an astronaut.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator?

I found that ten years ago I was saying “I’m an illustrator” a lot more than actually doing the hard, uncomfortable and challenging work. I wish I had had someone point out to me that being comfortable and finding things easy is not the way up.

Sweat, tears and ink!

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Don’t draw to be paid” (or, “make money in your spare time”). I started out working for a design and illustration company, but found very little energy remained after work for my own artistic pursuits, as I was working in the very area I wanted to develop in. It was hard to experiment and find my own style when people were paying me for particular outcomes. I did the same thing over and over, so that my rent was paid.

When I started to work as a science communicator, interacting with children on a daily basis, I would return to my studio full of ideas and will to create.

I do of course get paid for my drawings, but I don’t do them with the sole goal of being paid.

 

BOOK BYTE

The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob, written by Cristy Burne, illustrated by Aśka, published by CAASTRO

Dedication, daring and discovery… Ever wanted to find the answer to BIG questions? Or dreamed of inventing the Next Big Thing?

The Universe is an amazing place, and we’re only beginning to understand it. There’s still so much to be discovered…

  • Join Alice and Bob on their ambitious journey to the hockey finals
  • Uncover true stories of scientific failure, fluke and fame
  • Find the everyday inventions that began with space research
  • Meet the world’s next-generation telescopes, jump on board with Citizen Science, and tackle the big questions with CAASTRO: Australia’s keen team of all-sky astronomers.

The book aims to inspire and excite young minds about science, experimenting and the wonders of the universe but most of all, encourage them to never give up on having a go. Alice and Bob’s fictional adventure is enhanced by the factual stories of discoveries, sometimes accidental, woven throughout the book as well as additional layers of information, find-this-object challenges and teacher resources to emphasise the importance of previous space research on our everyday lives.

To quote Cristy, “The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob is part-fiction, part-fact, and all fun”.

This book is not available for sale, however all primary and combined schools in Australia received a free copy of the book so it can be found in a library near you.

 

 

 

Back Story #1: Characters have their say

‘A sob story?’ I heard Matt say. He hitched an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got to be joking. You don’t write serious stories.’
I ignored him. After all, who did he think was writing this story?

By Teena Raffa

I didn’t plan on writing a light and fluffy romance for the Serenity Press romance anthology, A Bouquet of Love. My contribution to their previous anthology, Rocky Romance had been a light-hearted story about how a dog called Cat and a cat called Shakespeare brought together a gorgeous Irishman and a best-selling romance author who didn’t believe in true love and happy ever after.

And while I’d had fun writing Perhaps Love, this time I’d decided to aim for reader tears instead of smiles. I wanted to touch hearts, not funny bones.
What I had in mind was a moving story about a grieving brother choosing a wedding dress for his sister to wear in her coffin. I had a title – For Jasmine – and a love interest, because of course Matt would need someone to help him select the right wedding gown for the sister who’d been tragically killed with her fiancé in a road accident on their way to check out a reception venue.

My characters, however, had other ideas.

‘A sob story?’ I heard Matt say. He hitched an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got to be joking. You don’t write serious stories.’
I ignored him. After all, who did he think was writing this story?
Then Dani – the love interest Matt encounters at Serendipity Bridal Boutique – took charge. ‘Sorry, you’ve got it wrong,’ she announced and rewrote my introduction in an entirely new style.

I gave in and let my characters drive the story. They wanted to be heard, and I listened. I could have ignored their voices. I’m glad I didn’t.
Grooming the Bride wasn’t the story I intended to write. Sometimes as authors we have to set aside our fixed ideas of what we want to write and let our characters take the lead. A different direction can be just what our story needs.

A Bouquet of Love
A Serenity Press Anthology

Ten couples not looking for love find something unexpected when they visit Serendipity Bridal Boutique, Kate Peron’s vintage-styled salon. Love is in the air and it’s about to blow into their lives, bringing fortunate accidents of the heartfelt variety to those lucky enough to walk through Serendipity’s doors.
A man comes to Eagle Point to stop a wedding. A magazine editor finds herself in a cheesy situation. A different kind of bride takes to the catwalk. Readers will be swept away by this bouquet of stories from ten Australian authors – stories of healing and second chances, of opening hearts and minds, of souls connecting and remembering, of temptation and desire. Life and love in Eagle Point has never been more challenging … or fun!
From cupcake wielding assassins to hilarious blind date set-ups, there’s something for everyone in this delightfully romantic collection that proves there can never be too much ado about love.

The paperback is available here from Serenity Press.
Buy the e-book from Amazon here.

Authors! Share the Back Story behind your publications in this new series of posts. Email teenawriter@gmail.com for details.

Meet the Author: Rebecca Jackson

REBECCA’S TOP WRITING TIP: There will be many times in the writing process when you doubt yourself, your gifts, your message. You may even want to give up. In these times, know that this is just a moment in time and give yourself some extra love and compassion because it will pass.

Rebecca Jackson is an entrepreneur, writer, inspirational speaker, grounded spiritual mentor and soul coach with an insatiable desire to help people connect to their true self and live an extraordinary life. Passionate about bridging the business and spiritual worlds, she says it is an exciting time where we are all being asked to think and act in bigger and bolder ways and stretch our vision beyond borders and across generations.

For more information about Rebecca and her work to support conscious businesses and create a positive impact in the world, visit https://rebeccajackson.info/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Writing fills up my cup. I find it a nourishing process where I feel completely free and empowered to explore the light and the dark of my thoughts and processes. I write because my soul feels good when I do it. Ultimately, my writing enables me to be the change that I want to see in the world. My purpose is to help others to feel safe connecting with their heart’s desires, because I know that if we all did this we would literally create Heaven here on Earth.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Writing is such a big part of my day that it’s hard for me to imagine not doing this. Even if I wasn’t a published author, I would still write as a way for me to connect with others. Blogs, articles, social media posts, emails, whatever it takes to be of service and share the message that together we’ve got this!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Myself. ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ is a mantra that I now use daily to support me to keep doing the things that challenge my sense of self, and my limiting beliefs of not being good enough. I’ve lost count of how many times I questioned myself. “Who’s going to want to read your book?” “Who do you think you are? You’re not an writer!” Having compassion and being kind to myself was, and is still one of my biggest personal challenges.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I jump out of bed excited to see what the day will bring. The freedom that comes from writing, and sharing your gifts in a way that feels like magic to you, is truly incredible. I feel deeply grateful that writing has connected me with so many beautiful, inspiring souls.

—the worst? Not knowing what you don’t know! Getting your book out into the public is a complex process. Every day I learn something new and wish I had known it 12 months ago.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer?
I’d relax a lot more and not put myself under the pressure of trying to meet my own deadlines. This process has been a wonderful lesson in surrender.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?
I wish I had all the technical know how, things like the number of pages required for different formats.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be you! In a world of seven billion people there’s only one of you. So as long as I show up as me, then I am winning.

BOOK BYTE

Do you wonder … Why am I here? Why aren’t I happy? How can I connect with my true self? You’re Not Alone. Millions of people around the world are asking these questions–courageous spirits who are looking for answers that will support them to step into the life they want. Their best life. The life for which they were born, one full of purpose, passion, and love. A life where happiness is the norm, not the destination. This book offers a collection of powerful insights, personal stories, practical tools, and guidance that will support you on your journey of self-discovery. It will help you remember that you were born perfect and whole, and that your purpose is to share your unique gifts in the greatest way possible. This isn’t your average new age guide to spiritual awakening. Whether a seasoned explorer on a spiritual path or the concepts are new, powerful supports will ignite you to forge ahead when tired, confused, or fed up. You will learn engaging and meaningful ways to raise your vibration, and in doing so you’ll see that there’s no need to wait to be the real you–the fullest, brightest, most creative expression of you.

The book is available directly from https://rebeccajackson.info/yourenotalonebook/ and other retailers including Angus & Robertson.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Matt Towner

Matt’s top tip for aspiring authors: Never give up and if I can help you to get started I am happy to at www.travellerstaleswriters.com

 

Matt Towner graduated from university in Brisbane, Australia in
1989 with a BA in Journalism. Afterwards, he set out to explore
the world where he was inspired to write about travelling tales
through the people he met along the way. Since then he’s
published a number of stories including The Pocket Book Guide to
Byron Bay, The Gemstone Book of Runes, Crystal Carvings,
Opal Magic, Rasto Roo, Bris Vegas and Positive Investments.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I was born to write and I have wanted to do so since I first started school and continued to write throughout boarding school then university and ever since.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Travel has always been my other passion and I have incorporated writing and travel with taking Australian Opals then Australian Wine then Australian Real Estate all over the world and I will always be travelling.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Myself … but once I got out of my own way I was published within weeks and now the sky is not even the limit.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? New Holland Publishers have been great to me and Alan and I have worked together on everything from my writing and editing to my contributors and covers.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The creative process and being able to live my life-long dream which is just beginning.

The worst? Fear … which is what held me back in the beginning and I think holds nearly everyone back in some way, shape or form at some stage in some way but must be overcome.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Be much more selective as to who I work with so again I am so lucky to have found or been found by New Holland Publishers.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A lot of people who make out that they have a lot of experience and can help you to be published in fact know no more than you do so back yourself every day in every way.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Writing is the loneliest profession … it is up to you and you alone to write that book.

BOOK BYTE

Abroad, Broke & Busted
Travellers’ Tales from Around The World
Edited and compiled by Matt Towner

Byron Bay—and Australia as a whole—is home to many people from so many different countries, cultures, colours and creeds—with locals, surfers, and wanderers both young and old at every turn.
Abroad, Broke & Busted is a compilation of 14 amazing travellers’ tales assembled and edited by author Matt Towner. They all provide unique and personal insights into life’s gains and losses whilst abroad—some are happy or sad, others soft or hard. While some adventurers end up in jail in a third world country, others find themselves nearly dead in a deep dark jungle—yet all somehow defy the odds. All with a sense of adventure and a sense of humour—as readers learn—things will not always go their way in each
exciting journey told. Anyone who loves to travel, loves an adventure, loves a laugh or dreams of all three will love this book.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Michael Fitzgerald

Michael’s top tip for aspiring authors: Embrace difficulty and keep curious and alive to the process. Don’t think too much about what’s hovering over the horizon, but stay focused on what’s there on the page. Keep moving those words around and trust they will show you the way.

Michael Fitzgerald lives on a lush gully in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. He first journeyed to Samoa in 2005 as arts editor for the South Pacific edition of Time, and has since worked as a magazine editor for Art & Australia, Photofile and now Art Monthly Australasia. His writing has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review and Harper’s Bazaar. The Pacific Room is his first novel.

 

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? There’s nothing I love more than moving words around on a page, watching them take shape, building up images and scenes transmitted with a certain emotion, transforming them into stories. It’s a creative urge in me that has recently flowered into The Pacific Room, my debut novel. And the urge only grows as I get older.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? When I’m not moving words around on a page as a writer, I’m doing the same as an editor. My early life as a journalist in Melbourne and Sydney (most recently as the arts editor for the South Pacific edition of Time magazine) led to art magazine editing – currently for Art Monthly Australasia, which involves different ways of thinking and looking at the world but which feeds back to creativity. And, of course, words.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The perception of being a former journalist brought an expectation from agents and publishers that non-fiction or memoir was a more natural evolution for me as a writer – I’ve heard that said many times – and that my fiction didn’t travel in the usual narrative arc. But I’ve stubbornly resisted and persisted with fiction writing. It’s the biggest challenge and satisfaction for me (when I get it right), and I’m still learning.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Research and writing requires marathon-like lengths of solitude and (in my case) travel – a solipsistic discipline not unlike swimming, which I also love and can’t do without. With the cacophony of demands from our working and private lives, that lulling ocean of time that writing requires – flowing over months and years – seems a precious luxury which is utterly intoxicating and desirable.

—the worst? Not having that time to luxuriate in. The Pacific Room took nine years from a glint in the eye to final realisation. This was in between editing Art & Australia, Photofile and now Art Monthly Australasia, and as one’s other life speeds up, it’s increasingly hard to slow down into that deep meditative space that writing a novel requires.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? It’s hard to say. Because all the stumbles I’ve experienced along the way to publication have – I hope – made me a better writer. Life experience helps, finding patience and dealing with disappointment. Absorbing the world and learning from it takes time – for me anyway – and I’m only just making my literary debut aged 52.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tricky one, because the allowance or freedom to make mistakes is essential for any writer’s passage. For me the desire to become an author was unshakeable, but my own pathway needed to unfold in precisely the way that it did, and – now that I think of it – not unlike that of Teuila in The Pacific Room: ‘She has always been led by the forest, through a path never clear, found by touch, fumbling, rather than sight.’

What’s the best advice you were ever given? In the literary world, opinions and advice can fly thick and fast – sometimes confusingly so. And, for a young writer, rejection can be brutal. When I was researching The Pacific Room in Samoa in the late 2000s, I must have seemed quite anxious as someone told me to relax my mind and let the stories in. Looking back, that was the best advice I could have received.

 

BOOK BYTE

The Pacific Room

Michael Fitzgerald

This remarkable debut novel tells of the last days of Tusitala, ‘the teller of tales’, as Robert Louis Stevenson became known in Samoa where he chose to die. In 1892 Girolamo Nerli travels from Sydney by steamer to Apia, with the intention of capturing something of Jekyll and Hyde in his portrait of the famous author. Nerli’s presence sets in train a disturbing sequence of events. More than a century later, art historian Lewis Wakefield comes to Samoa to research the painting of Tusitala’s portrait by the long-forgotten Italian artist. On hiatus from his bipolar medication, Lewis is freed to confront the powerful reality of all the desires and demons that R. L. Stevenson couldn’t control. Lewis’s personal journey is shadowed by the story of the lovable Teuila, a so-called fa‘afafine (‘in the manner of a woman’), and the spirit of Stevenson’s servant boy, Sosimo. Set in an evocative tropical landscape haunted by the lives and spirits which drift across it, The Pacific Room is both a love letter to Samoa and a lush and tender exploration of artistic creation, of secret passions and merging dualities.

The Pacific Room is available from Transit Lounge and other retailers.

 

Meet the Illustrator: Ella Mae

Your art, the things you love, make up your life. Your life is your art, because life is how you make it, life is your blank canvas, or your empty stage, or whatever you want it to be. Self-expression is a very important part of a fulfilling existence.- Ella Mae

This week I’m celebrating the release of my newest children’s book, The Seven Day Dragon, a quirky, warm-hearted story for eight to 11-year-olds about family, relationships and accepting what is, while still seeing that life is full of possibilities when minds are open.

The book features illustrations by debut illustrator Ella Mae and today it’s my pleasure to introduce her with a behind the scenes look at the way she works and an insight into her thoughts on art and life…

 

You were only 14 when you were offered the opportunity to illustrate The Seven Day Dragon for Serenity Press. How did that come about?

The opportunity to illustrate this book came about when our family friend, author Tess Woods, was meeting with Karen from Serenity Press, to discuss Lara and Tom Woods’ book Lily Reaches The Rainbow. Tess knew that Karen had mentioned she was due to fly to Melbourne soon to look for an artist to illustrate a local author’s new book, The Seven Day Dragon. Tess phoned me the night before the meeting and asked if I would like to send through some examples of my artwork so she could show them to Karen, which I did. The next day, on my birthday, I heard back from Tess that Karen had liked my images, and was keen to offer me the opportunity to work with her, and author Teena Raffa-Mulligan, to illustrate The Seven Day Dragon.

How did you feel?

I felt incredibly excited and lucky to have such an amazing opportunity at such a young age. I felt very grateful to have Tess’s encouragement and her confidence in my ability to take on such a big project. It’s safe to say that it was the best birthday present I have ever received!

It was quite a responsibility to be asked to produce 12 professional standard illustrations for publication.

Illustrating The Seven Day Dragon was certainly a lot of work and it was definitely challenging at times to juggle school work, my social and family life, sports and illustrating in order to stay on schedule and meet the deadline, but I was always really motivated by my love of illustrating to make time for it.

How did you go about the illustration process?

I would always start with a rough thumbnail sketch of the composition of the illustration in the sketchbook that I used for planning and notes, to figure out what positions the characters would be in and what main colours I would use. Then I would move on to an A4 piece of watercolour paper, and sketch out the composition first in pencil, then in pen – adding detail and refining it, and then erasing the pencil sketch underneath. The last thing I would do on each illustration was to add watercolour paint to bring it to life and inks for texture when I was painting the dragon.

How long did it take to produce each illustration?

My first illustration took me about two weeks until I was happy with it and felt that I was finished, but I found the more I illustrated, the more confident I became, and the faster I could complete an illustration. It took me about five months of illustrating almost every day but I found that towards the end of the deadline I knew what I was doing so well, that by the time I did my last illustration, it only took me about a day and a half.

What support and artistic guidance did you receive?

I have had a lovely web of support from friends and family as I have been illustrating The Seven Day Dragon, and I have been so lucky to be able to work with such an understanding author and publisher. As I didn’t have any experience in illustrating officially for a book, Serenity Press and Teena were very helpful in giving me some guidance in what they had envisioned for a particular illustration. I am lucky enough to have an artist for a mother who was always ready to offer advice, and family always ready to offer tea, when I was stuck on an illustration.

What is your favourite art media?

I definitely have different favorite mediums when trying to achieve different results on different subjects, for instance I love using oil paint when doing landscapes and ballpoint pen or lead pencil when drawing people, but at the moment my favourite media would definitely be pen and watercolour paint.

Can you imagine your life without art?

I can’t imagine a life without art, no! For me art is a release, a way to vent, a way to express what I believe and what I am passionate about. I think life without art wouldn’t really be life at all, in some sense; it would just be survival, because life is art. In Shakespeare’s words, ‘all the world’s a stage’. Whether, like me, your art is painting and drawing, or if it’s performing, or if it’s your green thumb, the way you can always make people laugh, or knowing exactly what that dish needs to make it taste perfect, or maybe your art is your excellent interpersonal skills. Your art, the things you love, make up your life. Your life is your art, because life is how you make it, life is your blank canvas, or your empty stage, or whatever you want it to be. In my few years on this earth I’ve come to believe that self-expression is a very important part of a fulfilling existence.

When you’re working on your personal art projects, what inspires you?

Self-expression is definitely what I strive for in my personal art. I find that the beauty I see in this world, beauty that cannot always be seen with the eyes, is what inspires me most. I always endeavor to express this beauty, these truths that I see, and I often try to address issues that I feel are important in my art. At the moment what inspires me is human bodies, how amazingly complex they are, how diverse and amazing. More importantly, I’m exploring how society sees our bodies, and how wrong this view often is.

Do you have ambitions of becoming a professional illustrator or are your career aspirations in another direction?

I actually have always wanted to be an early childhood teacher. I’ve always loved little kids and I think it would be a great outlet for all the creative things I love to do. I think it’s definitely a possibility that I will illustrate again in the future though!

BOOK BYTE

The Seven Day Dragon

by Teena Raffa-Mulligan with illustrations by Ella Mae

Seeing isn’t always believing. A different dragon story…

 

Joshua Jones has no one in the world except a fruit loop of a gran and they live in a tiny city flat so he can’t even have a pet.

When a spectacular creature on a seven-day visit from Jupiter offers to be his houseguest during its Earth stay, Josh thinks his luck has changed. His nothing life is about to become awesome.

His celestial visitor eats frozen peas and crossword puzzles, answers questions with questions and is invisible to everyone except him. That should have warned Josh to expect the unexpected.

He finds himself in trouble at school and minus a best friend.

As the days pass, time is running out for Josh to get a trip to Jupiter, which would have made up for all the complications Traveller has caused.

Soon his house guest will be gone. Old Bob, the only person who seems to understand Josh, will be gone too.  Josh’s life will be back the way it was… or will it?

The Seven Day Dragon is available from Serenity Press here.

Meet the Author: David Cohen

David’s top tip for aspiring authors: Pay attention to the mechanics: syntax, grammar, punctuation, etc. No matter how brilliant your ideas, you have to be able to express them clearly. Edit and proof-read your manuscript carefully – or pay someone else to do it – before submitting it anywhere.

David Cohen grew up in Perth, Western Australia and now lives in Brisbane. His first novel Fear of Tennis won a Varuna/HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award, and was published by Black Pepper in 2007. His short fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Meanjin, Seizure, Tracks and elsewhere. In 2016 his short-story collection The Hunter was shortlisted in the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always enjoyed the process of stringing words together, creating imaginary situations – and I like being on my own.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d be a professional surfer, were it not for the fact that I can’t surf.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? As far as novels go, the hardest thing, apart from producing a manuscript of publishable standard, has been finding a publisher who can see that book’s potential. I think a lot of publishers shy away from novels like Disappearing off the Face of the Earth – novels that don’t fit comfortably into a marketable category or fictional genre – so it took a long time before I found someone (in this case Barry Scott at Transit Lounge) who believed in it enough to want to publish it anyway.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Writing is for the most part a solitary endeavour and that suits me well; I like sitting alone in a room, making up stories.

—the worst? Not having sufficient time to do the above. It can be difficult to achieve a good balance between writing fiction and earning a living, which in my case are two very different pursuits.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I might go the academic route, get a PhD in Literature or Creative Writing, and become a lecturer, so that writing would be a legitimate part of my job.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Do something else altogether – why be miserable? But I probably would have ignored that advice anyway because writing is the only thing that genuinely interests me – even though I’ve always had to make a living by other means.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I can’t recall, but I’ve always found the aphorism ‘less is more’ very helpful. I think it was the architect Mies van der Rohe who coined that one, but it applies equally to writing.

BOOK BYTE

Disappearing off the Face of the Earth

David Cohen

Transit Lounge

 

‘David Cohen takes suburban life and turns it into a warped comedy with a body count, letting weirdness in, compellingly, irresistibly, until our sense of what’s real is flickering on and off like a dodgy fluoro tube.’ Nick Earls

Hideaway Self Storage, located just off Brisbane’s M1, is in decline. But manager Ken Guy and his assistant Bruce carry on with their daily rituals even as the facility falls apart around them. Lately, however, certain tenants have been disappearing off the face of the earth, leaving behind units full of valuable items. Ken has no idea where these rent defaulters have gone but he thinks he might be able to turn their abandoned ‘things’ into a nice little earner that could help save his business. But the disappearances are accompanied by strange occurrences such as Bruce’s inexplicable late-night excursions, Ken’s intensifying aversion to fluorescent lights, and Ken’s girlfriend’s intensifying aversion to Ken. While further along the motorway, construction of a rival facility – Pharaoh’s Tomb Self Storage, part of a nationwide franchise – hints at a  mysterious past and a precarious future.

A surprisingly funny study of physical and mental deterioration, David Cohen’s second novel is never quite what it seems. Sharply attuned to the absurdities of contemporary urban life, it is that rare literary beast, a comic drama that is at once intelligent and suspenseful, humorous and deep.

Disappearing off the Face of the Earth is available here.