Continuing my chats with New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award finalists, today I’m talking with the lovely Jan Goldie, author of Brave’s Journey, a young adult fantasy adventure listed in the Best Youth Novel category. Congratulations, Jan.
Tell us about Brave’s Journey. What was the inspiration for the story?
Thanks for having me here! The book sprang from the names of the main characters. I’d always wanted to write a fantasy quest, something that a 10 year old Jan would have loved reading on a rainy day. When the names Brave and True popped into my head I knew they were a great starting point.
Look, Jan’s given us an excerpt!
Brave Kingsfort is a weird name. A weird name for a weird kid with a mega-freak family,” he said, flicking his fringe out of his eyes.
Brave’s eyes narrowed as he listened. Clouds flew across the sky behind Riley’s head, blocking out the sun.
“Almost sounds like a character in a new reality show. We could call it…Freak Show.”
Brave’s hands formed fists. His mouth was a tight, hard line. The wind howled around the house, throwing the backyard pepper tree’s branches from side to side and tossing Riley’s mess of wavy, blonde hair this way and that. A summer storm was brewing, fast.
Riley tried to heave himself into the room. A blast of air buffeted the boys supporting him below. He gripped the windowsill hard and glanced over his shoulder. The wind gusted into Brave’s room and swept some paper from the desk to the floor. Brave could see the clouds turning from grey to an angry purple. He could hear the wind screaming. Riley struggled to balance.
“Riley, get down!” shouted Aiden. “We can’t hold on much longer. Something weird’s going on out here.”
Riley ignored them, turning back to Brave. “Awww poor Bravey,” he said. “Did daddy die and leave the freak show all alone?”
Brave snapped. He lowered his head and charged, arms outstretched to destroy.
A clap of thunder like a bomb going off shook the house and a second later lightning turned the air crispy. The boys holding Riley squealed in fright, collapsed and just as Brave’s fist was about to destroy Riley’s nose, he disappeared below.
Brave glared out the window, furious. Riley had landed on his bum in the thick, uncut grass. Big drops of rain splashed the warm asphalt pathway and the wind threw leaves and dirt in circles. Brave watched Riley stagger to his feet, rub his butt and protect his face from the swirling dust. He spotted Brave and gave him the finger. Brave’s frustration boiled within him like a volcano threatening to erupt. He growled into the electric air and the storm thundered and groaned in harmony.
Riley stumbled off after his mates.
“Come back here!” yelled Brave.
His mum burst in through the door.
“Stop it, Brave, calm down!” she yelled.
She grabbed his shoulders and turned him to towards her.
“Is it you?” she said. Her eyes were wide.
“What?” yelled Brave over the sound of the storm.
“Messing with the weather!”
“What do you mean?” Brave stared outside as a branch broke off the pepper tree and smashed to the ground.
I want to read the next bit now!
But it’s not just readers who have embraced Brave’s Journey, though, is it? Your story has inspired a number of young artists to create works based on your fantasy world Arvalonia. Can you tell us about that?
I came up with the idea to run a children’s art exhibition alongside the launch of Brave’s Journey because we planned to hold it at The Incubator, Tauranga. The Incubator is an amazing space run by a hardworking team of fantastic artists and performers all focused on collaborating and creating magic in our community through art. They really got behind the idea and ran with it. Brave’s Journey was their first book launch and we had more than 200 people turn up. A big chunk of those were kids who had entered the art exhibition and were able to show their friends and family the art inspired by themes in the story – specifically the four elements. For me the best part of the book launch was talking to the kids about their art work. Beautiful!
Speaking of world-building, you’re gaining a bit of a reputation for your world-building in Brave’s Journey, A Mer Tale and various short stories. If you could inhabit any fictional fantasy world, which one would you choose and why?
Thanks! There are so many that I’d love to visit, although I’m not sure I’d like to stay there forever. China Mieville’s The City and the City completely blew my mind. But for those of you who have read it, I’d breach in seconds for sure. In children’s fiction, I’d like to experience Brian Falkner’s world in Northwood, although might stay away from the black lions. I’d love to see the world of Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, if I could stay there and train to be a ranger too.
Complete this sentence. A strange thing happened while I was writing Brave’s Journey…
I realised I liked to draw. One of the best parts of creating Brave’s Journey was drawing the map of the world in which it is set, Arvalonia. I never expected my original drawing to go in the book but the publisher Gerry Huntman (IFWG Australia) really liked it and put it in! Since then I’ve done a couple of drawing classes and a clay sculpting lesson. I’m not very good at it but I try.
Brave and True both have special powers. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to fly or turn invisible of course, but I think the best thing would be SPEED. If I was like the Flash I could write really fast, clean the house, do my work to deadline, pick up the kids and take them places pronto and still have time for coffee and cake several times a day (and without guilt as I’d need to support my super fast metabolism). Only trouble is I wonder whether my brain is included in the super power gift? Or whether I’d just constantly have that feeling of speeding into rooms and thinking ‘why am I here? What was I just about to do’?
What are the kids saying? Have there been many reviews of Brave’s Journey that have made you melt?
I have been very lucky to receive a number of really gorgeous reviews and helpful advice from children. Here’s a couple of examples:
Brave's Journey was a great book, but I think that Riley and Honour should have a bigger part… I like how you don’t know what to expect so you really want to read on. I found the characters’ names interesting and creative. I couldn’t put it down even when I was told to.
Suddenly Brave finds himself in another world! Where is he? Will he ever find his way home? Do you like adventures? If you do this book is for you. Braves journey is full of excitement and adventures. I really enjoyed this book because it was very entertaining and exciting at the same time. I recommend this book for anyone who likes magic, mysteries and adventure!
I know Tahlia has read it twice, which I think is a huge compliment!
In your other life, you work as a freelance journalist. Does that make it hard for you to switch to fiction at the end of your work day? Do you sometimes feel like the plumber who never gets around to fixing their own leaky taps?
Definitely. I’m not one of those writers who tap away at my novel every day. Instead I binge write when I can. This means I set up in an area with ready access to tea, coffee and snacks and thrash it out.
If your character Brave was at the library, what book would you suggest he check out and read?
I think Brave might like Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series. Plenty of James Bond-esque action and intrigue. Maybe Alex Scarrow’s Time Rider series. Or anything from the amazing David Walliams of course. That would suit his sense of humour.
And True? What book might she like?
True would be trickier. Perhaps she’d like something like John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began. It’s fantasy but there’s a hard realism to the situation those kids encounter that I think True would relate to.
Brave’s mum meditates and drinks camomile tea to relax. What about you? What relaxes you?
Yoga stops me from being too grumpy. Splashing out on good wine and food and cooking something simple but tasty is my latest bliss. Nosh is my friend.
What are you reading at the moment? Anything you’d like to recommend?
Really enjoyed Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven as I’m a sucker for that end of the world vibe. Loved The Chimes by Anna Smaill for its genius world building and subtle love story. Just read Seanan McGuire’s Rosemary and Rue and really enjoyed that world too. Loved Peter Friend’s Deadline Delivery (A You Say Which Way book and another finalist in the Best Youth Novel category). Soon to start on Into the Mist by Lee Murray!
Oh that’s so kind.
What are you working on now? Can we expect a sequel to Brave’s Journey?
I’ve spent my time since launching Brave’s Journey late last year exploring lots of different writing opportunities. I’m working with a team on a dark, futuristic web series about global climate change and the kiwi activists that bring it to the world’s attention. I’m collaborating on a long term picture book project. I’ve helped to edit an anthology of intermediate school writing ‘Beyond the Stars’ that launches this weekend and I’m at draft 2 on a middle grade fiction book. I’m also writing songs, attempting poems and trying to improve my short story writing style. I am pining for the time to write the sequel to Brave’s Journey and I’ve promised myself I’ll make a start this year. (Nervous laugh).