Karen McMillan is the author of twelve diverse books, from bestselling novels, The Paris of the East, The Paris of the West and Brushstrokes of Memory, to non-fiction books that inspire and help others: Everyday Strength, Unbreakable Spirit, Love Bytes and Feast or Famine. Elastic Island Adventures is her new children's series and she talks to NZ Booklovers about the move to writing children's fiction.
Tell us about your new children’s book?
Elastic Island Adventures: Jewel Lagoon is the first in an action-adventure series for children, set in the South Pacific. Four children, Kiri, Jed, and twins Emma and Ethan, discover an ‘elastic’ island that can send them pinging across the ocean to a variety of tropical island destinations. Landing at Jewel Lagoon on Trinity Island, the children quickly find themselves in trouble. But even with help from the colourful creatures they meet – Pangali the Platypus, Olaf the Giant, and Big Wig and Wee Wig Knockulous – will they be able to return home safely?
What inspired you to write this book?
Just before Christmas 2017, I decided I wanted to work on some children’s books that I could enjoy with my husband’s granddaughter who is ten years old. I dusted off an old manuscript and started on book two with Milla’s input. It’s been a huge amount of fun getting her to help name some of the characters, and other age-appropriate things. My fun family project is now more than I would have imagined, with books published in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei now, a second book out later in the year, and the movie rights have been optioned. There are going to be Elastic Island Adventure t-shirts, and there is even talk about a board game. So it’s been a very frantic start to 2018 with all the deadlines, but very exciting!
What is something that will surprise people to know about writing this book?
Two of the characters, Big Wig and Wee Wig Knockulous, are inspired by stories I wrote as a child that were serialized in the children’s pages of the Sunday News. So it’s cool that characters I created as a 10-year-old, now get to be in a published book. I hope it encourages other children to write and to keep copies of their early creations, as they might end up using them when they are grown up!
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
I’ve loved Including Milla in the process, and the fun conversations we have had around the character and plot. Milla has named some of the characters in the second book and has helped with some of the detail of various scenes in the book. So while I’ve actually written the books, it’s been enormous fun having her input.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Started on the next in the series!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce. Emmy wants to be a war correspondent during the Blitz but instead ends up typing letters for Mrs Bird, an agony aunt for a failing women’s magazine. Mrs Bird doesn’t like any letters with ‘Unpleasantness’ so Emmy decides to take things into her own hands. This novel is original and charming, funny and moving, and ultimately a book of kindness and compassion.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’ve just delivered the second manuscript to the editor for Elastic Island Adventures: Port Mugaloo and have made some notes about book three. I also have another novel for adults at the research stage. This one will be historical fiction, so it will be a while before I’m ready to start writing. I’m very excited about both projects!