Today I’m excited to be joined by Leanne Hall, author of the incredible This is Shyness and a magical new book for younger readers, Iris and the Tiger. I have loved all of Leanne’s books and I highly recommend them. You can read my reviews of This is Shyness, Queen of the Night and Iris and the Tiger here on the blog. Leanne joins me today to answer my questions about her new book, her inspirations, and writing for kids and teens. Thanks Leanne!
- What inspired you to write Iris and the Tiger?
The very beginning came about from joining two dots. I had a random, uninvited phrase running through my head – `Iris, spider, tiger’ – for months, and I didn’t know why! At the same time, I wanted to write a story where Surrealist paintings come to life. I mashed the two ideas together, and Iris was born. I really wanted to write a fun, adventurous, odd adventure for middle readers that focussed on art and friendship.
- Iris’s Aunt Ursula lives on an estate in Spain. Why did you decide to set the story there?
I needed to send Iris far, far away from Australia. France and Spain both had very strong traditions of surrealism, but a lot of books are set in France! Spanish culture was more of a mystery to me, and I enjoyed researching it. After watching Pan’s Labyrinth I thought the Spanish woods looked truly magical, and slightly scary.
- Your love of art shines through in the story. What are your favourite pieces of art?
I do love art! Whenever I’m stuck for ideas I wander around galleries, daydreaming! I have a Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/lilymandarin/iris-and-the-tiger/) where I keep all my visual inspiration for Iris and the Tiger. If I had to pick a favourite, today I would go for `Creation of the Birds’ by Remedios Varo. Elna’s owl costume for the Surrealist Dinner Party came from that painting.
- Can you paint like Ursula and James?
Sadly, no! Oh, how I wish I could paint and draw, but I really cannot (trust me, I’ve tried).
- What is one thing that you would like to inherit from your family (i.e. a piece of jewellery, a knick-knack, or a sprawling estate in Spain)?
Of course, a grand country estate would be great! But I have actually inherited something lovely – the engagement ring box that my grandmother’s ring was in. It’s not worth anything, but it’s very precious to me. I’ve kept it since I was a child, it’s a little piece of history.
- Your first two books were for young adults. How did you find it writing for a younger audience?
A lot of fun and, much to my surprise, not very different than writing for young adults. I just had to hold the hormones and salty language!
- What is it about writing for children and young adults that appeals to you?
I think stories for these age groups are simply more fun, more dramatic, more intense and less pretentious. I like the freedom and immediacy of writing for kids and teens, and I feel I have greater permission to give voice to my craziest thoughts.
- How do you approach a story? Do you plan it out or just see where an idea takes you?
I never used to be a planner, but after writing three books in very circuitous ways, I am trying to plan a bit better, to save myself all the endless restructuring. I’d say I currently sit halfway between `plotter’ and `pantser’.
- Who are your favourite authors?
Difficult question for someone who is both a writer and a bookseller! I have just discovered Hilary T Smith, and I adore her writing. I’ll stop there, because otherwise I’ll have to give you a list of my Top 100 favourite authors.