Mark’s top tip for authors: To write well is an ongoing process. Strive to learn and improve. Don’t be easily discouraged. Read with a writer’s eye. If you write about history, learn to balance reading for pleasure with research.
Mark Greenwood’s award-winning books examining history, myths and legends have been published and honoured internationally.
Simpson and His Donkey was a CBCA Honour Book and a USBBY Outstanding International Book. Jandamarra, illustrated by Terry Denton, was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature and the West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards.
Mark often teams with his wife, illustrator Frané Lessac, to produce books that promote an understanding of multicultural issues, such as Drummer Boy of John John, Magic Boomerang, Outback Adventure, and Our Big Island. Their recent titles include The Mayflower and Midnight – the story of a light horse.
Mark’s latest picture book is Boomerang and Bat, illustrated by Terry Denton.
In 2017 he will celebrate the release of four middle grade chapter books in his new series of History Mysteries.
Find out more about Mark and his books:
Why do you write? I write because I enjoy sharing stories.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Being published as a songwriter gave me the confidence to progress from writing lyrics to creating books for children. If I wasn’t writing, I’d probably be making music for a living. I also enjoy collecting rocks, minerals and fossils. Perhaps I’d be a geologist or a paleontologist.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Starting out, knock backs from publishers were frustrating. Since then, I’ve learnt that publishing is a tough, competitive business and there are far more highs than lows when you persevere with stories you believe in.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations? Many of my books are illustrated by my wife, Frané Lessac. I can visualise intuitively how she will paint a scene. With Jandamarra and Boomerang and Bat, I was happy to let Terry Denton’s art tell much of the story. To express what you have to say in fewer words is challenging but it makes the collaboration of text and art stronger. Having said that, I’ve never met Doug Holgate, the illustrator of my new History Mystery series…or Andrew McLean, the illustrator of a new picture book. I have faith in the publishers and the excellent reputation of the illustrators they’ve chosen.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I get to visit schools and speak at festivals and to spend time with other creative people. Through writing, I’ve been invited to many remote Indigenous communities. I particularly enjoy traveling to where my stories take place. Walking in the footsteps of my characters enriches me beyond writing a book.
—the worst? It took years of hard work, many rejections and hours of revising before my first book was published. Every writer has an impressive collection of rejections. They make us strong.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would make more time to read and write.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Being published once doesn’t make the next book any easier. Each new project requires that you work harder than the last one when you set high standards for your writing.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Persevere and be patient. Embrace the solitude of writing. Talk things through with people you trust. Seek out great editors. Be open to constructive feedback and change – ‘work on it’ can take stories in wonderful, unexpected directions.
What inspired your two new titles? The spark to write Diamond Jack came from a visit to the historical museum in Broome. I was curious about the town’s wartime history, and intrigued by one particular photograph. It showed five men beside a bullet-riddled aircraft. They’d been sent on a mission to locate a missing treasure of diamonds. One of the men in the photo was Diamond Jack. I began collecting information about him from libraries and archives. Researching history is like going on a journey of discovery. It helps me balance creative interpretation with historical authenticity. On the surface, the story of Diamond Jack is a remarkable wartime adventure and a tale of survival against the odds. Beneath the surface, it is an incredible true story of an endearing character, forced to confront the consequences of an amazing discovery.
The mysterious disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt is one of Australia’s greatest unsolved mysteries. It has always fascinated me. Some time ago, I stumbled upon an article about a gold prospector, a teenage boy and a small relic, said to have once belonged to the explorer. I began researching – brushing away layers of time. The discovery of the relic was a story within a story. It was a possible clue to our most baffling history mystery – the fate of Ludwig Leichhardt and his expedition.
I’m interested in the many personalities who have contributed to our history. My intention in writing The Lost Explorer was to encourage an understanding and appreciation of the sacrifice made by people like Ludwig Leichhardt, who went forth into the unknown at a time when Australia’s interior was uncharted by Europeans. I hope these History Mysteries connect readers to the characters and their situations, so that the past lives and breathes. My aim is that these stories become a springboard for deeper study and learning.
Delve into some of Australian history’s most baffling mysteries!
On January 30, the first two ‘History Mysteries’ in Mark’s new middle grade chapter book series will be published by Penguin Random House/ Puffin Books:
Paperback ISBN 9780143309260
In March 1942, an allied aircraft prepares for a desperate midnight escape from Java, taking refugees to safety in Australia. Just before take-off, the pilot is entrusted with a mysterious, wax-sealed package. When the plane is shot down by the enemy and crash lands on the Kimberley coast, the package is forgotten – until a beachcomber stumbles across the find of a lifetime . . .
The book is available for pre-order here.
Paperback ISBN 9780143309277
In 1848, the famous explorer Ludwig Leichhardt sets out on an epic journey. His aim is to cross Australia from east to west, but he never reaches his destination and no one from his expedition is ever seen again. Countless search parties look for the lost explorer but no trace is ever found – until a young boy is given an artefact with an incredible story . . .
The book is available for pre-order here