|Julie, of all the books you have written, which is your favourite?|
My first book, Lines upon the Skin, is one of my favourites. By the time I'd finished writing the book, the main characters were like friends. I also like the fact they get to travel around meeting new people and having adventures.
My favourite non-fiction book is Dark Zones: Exploring Caves. I did a lot of research for this book. I met some cavers who told me about their experiences caving. I asked them what they wore when they went caving and what they carried in their backpacks. I also asked them to send me some of the photographs they'd taken in caves and some of these photos were used in the book.
My favourite fiction book for children is Bend, Stretch and Leap. I did ballet when I was a girl and I loved it. I still love watching dance performances and I used to do ballroom dancing for fun. I'm also very proud of the Tess and Alex books, beginning with Tess and Alex at the River, that I wrote for the Oxford Literacy series. These ten books are about two best friends who live in a country town.
How did you become a writer?
I started writing poems, short stories and plays when I was a little girl. I didn't know I was going to become a writer, I just liked to write. I had some poems and short stories published in newspapers and magazines when I was in primary school.
I wrote my first novel when I was in high school. It's not very good because I was still learning how to write, but I was very proud of it. I've never shown it to anyone because I wrote it just for myself.
While I was at college, I wrote another novel. It was better than my first manuscript, but still not good enough to be published. When I finished my degree, I went to stay with my sister for several months. My sister lived in a different city in an apartment by the beach. While she was at work, I would set up my electric typewriter (that I'd been given for my twenty-first birthday) on the kitchen table and write. I was writing a fantasy novel about a group of cartographers. I didn't finish the manuscript then because I had to come back to Melbourne and start full-time work, but that manuscript became my novel Lines upon the Skin.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas for stories are all around us. Sometimes I get an idea from something I read or a picture I see. If I've been mulling over a plot or character, I often get ideas while I'm driving or doing chores, like washing the dishes. If I'm writing fiction, I often start with an idea for a character. With non-fiction, I usually start with a theme or topic and think about the best and most interesting way of presenting the information.
Do you appear in any of the photographs in your books?
I'm on the cover and in some of the photographs in Making a Book, which was published in August 2004 as part of the Flying Colours series.
Do you speak at schools?
Sometimes. I'm quite busy with my writing, but teachers can email me if they would like me to talk to their class (in Melbourne). I was an Artist-in-Residence at Box Hill North Primary in 2001 for a term with my friend and fellow writer Heather Hammonds.
Will there be a sequel to Lines upon the Skin?
I get asked this a lot. At this stage, I'm writing a follow-up novel and its working title is Longbow. It's set in the same world, but it does not include the same characters. After I finished Lines, I made notes about the characters and their lives, so I know what happens to them. Some of their descendants are in Longbow.
How do you do your research?
I use reference books and the Internet to do my first round of research. If I need more information or there is something I do not understand, then I will contact an expert on that topic. Most people I contact are very helpful. I usually contact people by email or phone.
What advice would you give people who want to write?
Read a lot. A writer is a reader first. Don't talk about your ideas too much until you've written your story. It's much better to give someone your story to read than to explain your story to them. Also remember that rewriting is very important. You should polish your writing until it is the best you can make it.