Property of the SHINE Agency
Light blue, Yellow
White chocolate, strawberries, prawns (but not all together)
Many readers have sent in questions for Susannah about how she writes the EJ12 Girl Hero books. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Where do you live?
I live in Melbourne, Australia with my husband and two children.
Do you have any pets?
We have two dogs: Bill a jack russell cross who thinks he is a person and Bella who is an insane cavoodle. My daughter has two budgies which are very noisy! When I was growing up we had, at one time, one dog, five cats, 4 budgies, 6 mice, 2 terrapins and, for a little while, two lambs!
What inspired you to become an author?
I have always enjoyed writing but mainly for fun. As a publisher I helped other writers. But then my daughter inspired me – I wanted to write a story that showed her she – and all girls – could do anything?
When did you start writing the EJ12 Girl Hero books?
I started writing the series in 2009. The first book I wrote was actually Jump Start which is book 2 in the series. I wrote Hot & Cold quite soon after and decided that that would make a better first book.
How do you come up with new stories?
I like to wonder ‘What if …? ‘ What if the school toilets hid a secret tunnel to a spy agency? What if a 10 year-old girl could solve hard missions but still find mean girls tricky? What if the girls’ toilets hid a secret access point to a spy agency? What if some of the teachers at school were spies?
What was your favourite book/author when you were a kid?
I loved The Magic Faraway Tree and the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton and then a bit later, the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I liked stories about girls doing things even then! One of my favourite picture books – which I still have – was Ferdinand the Bull, about a bull in Spain who just wanted to sit and smell the flowers and not be part of bull fighting until one day ….
What inspired you to write the EJ12 Girl Hero book series?
At first it was my daughter Emma who inspired me to write EJ12 Girl Hero. She was 9 when I began writing it (she is now 13) but now all the EJ12 readers inspire me and I want the EJ12 stories to help realise that they can do anything!
Is the Jacks family based on your family?
Sort of but not completely. I ‘borrow’ ideas from them! Emma Jacks was inspired by my Emma but she has things that are different too. Bob is also similar to my son but I hope not as irritating as Bob is to Emma Jacks! The description of Christmas in Christmas Countdown is based on our family Christmas: I enjoyed writing that!
What’s your favourite EJ12 book?
Aaaaaarrgghhh! That’s too hard! I like different ones for different reasons. I like Choc Shock for the silly jokes, Pyramid Puzzle because I’m really proud of the plot, Christmas Countdown because there is so much of my family in it, Kimono Code because I love the cover ….!
Where do you get the time and energy to write so many books?
I’m not sure but once you get stuck into planning and writing a story, it’s very hard to get away from it as you get sucked in to the world of the story
How do you plan the writing in the EJ12 books and how long does it take to write one?
It takes about a year to write each story, from the very first idea to the finished book.
Once I think an idea might work, I begin to research it. It may be set in a different country, like Kimono Code or Secret Safari, or be connected to something in the past like Pyramid Puzzle so I spend a lot of time on the internet finding things out. Often those things lead to more ideas and they begin to grow, a little like a snowball rolling down a hill!
Once I have some ideas, I begin to look at how those ideas might grow into a story and what new things I might tell about Emma, EJ and SHINE. And then, once I think I have all those things, I begin to write – and write and write! And then re-write, trying to make each sentence as good as I can.
Once I think I am happy with the story, it is sent to two wonderful editors, Louise and Kate. Louise and Kate work with me on all the stories and they help me make the story better by suggesting where I might add something or explain something better – or where I might have gone completely off track! It’s really good to have people help you make your writing better!
The story is re-worked and parts re-written then checked again. Then perhaps more changes and checked again. Finally, when it is ready, it gets sent to a designer and turned into the finished book – phew!
What is your favourite word and why?
Discombobulate (to throw into a state confusion) – it is almost onomatopoeic, which means the word is like the sound, like whoosh, which I also like a lot. Emma is discombobulated quite often!
How long are you willing to write the EJ12 Girl Hero book series?
As long as girls still want to read them and I can keep thinking of interesting problems for Emma and EJ12 to solve! I have ideas so far up to Book 20
Have you written any other books apart from the EJ12 series? If not do you plan to?
I write a series of picture books called Little Mates for younger children and I co-write a series for boys called Boy vs Beast but we use the name Mac Park – the Mac is me and the Park is my co-writer Louise Park!
What are your plans for the future when you finish writing the EJ12 book series?
I am planning EJ9 for younger readers which is really fun and I am also starting to think about another series for younger girls. I am also doing some more publishing work, helping other people write books. I hope I will have other ideas too!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become an author?
Write as much as you can and enjoy re-writing! It takes lots and lots of drafts to get a story ready! Also, read a lot!
If you had to describe yourself to someone but you could only use 3 words what would they be?
Wow. that’s really hard – I’m going to ask other people that! Maybe energetic, optimistic but also a little unsure. Perhaps that where Emma from the EJ12 series gets it from?