This month I caught up with local home grown author, Aleesah Darlison. My daughter excitedly delved straight into the Unicorn Riders series when I brought it home, and we have been eagerly reading all about the adventures of the riders. Aleesah shares details about her latest children’s book series, her inspiration and experiences growing up in Tinonee.
You grew up here. Tell us about growing up in the Manning-Great Lakes.
I grew up on a small farm just outside the tiny village of Tinonee. I lived there for 17 years, going to primary school at Tinonee, then high school in Taree. My dad still lives in Tinonee, and we visit him often. We always had loads of freedom to ride our bikes or horses, to go swimming in the creek and have friends over. It was a very active, outdoors childhood. I think that’s where I got my freckles from!
Did you always want to write?
I’ve always enjoyed books and reading, but I didn’t ever think I could be an author. When I was sixteen, I won a writing competition and had short stories published in an anthology of youth works called We Are The Future. That’s when I lighted on the idea of becoming a writer. But I thought it would be too hard to get published, so I gave up before I started.
What inspires you with your writing?
Everywhere I go, I see people, settings, events. Or I hear conversations, jokes or stories that inspire me to write. There are so many amazing things happening around us in the world (and which we take for granted), but it’s these things I try to capture and transfer to the page.
You have just had four children’s books published. The books are part of a series called ‘Unicorn Riders’. What was the inspiration behind them?
Writing this series has been an incredible experience. The whole idea sprang from a childhood infatuation with unicorns, and the series concept and the books have been four years in the making. Unicorn Riders is a fun, feisty, fantasy adventure series based on four strong-willed young girls (Willow, Quinn, Krystal and Ellabeth) who protect the kingdom of Avamay, with help from their magical unicorn friends. The books are full of action-packed missions, dangerous dilemmas and an underlying quest to ultimately help the Riders find their inner strengths.
Not only do you write children’s books, you also travel throughout Australia and internationally, delivering Author Talks and Workshops for children and adults on Creative Writing. What has been the response like?
I’m thrilled with how well-received my author talks and workshops have been. I was a guest speaker at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival in March this year and I enjoyed such a warm, positive reception. Going to new places and meeting new people is always an eye-opener. More than that though, school visits and workshops are, for me, all about engaging with kids and inspiring in them the ability to write and create – and a passion to write and create.
Do you anticipate writing more books in the future?
Loads more! I have seven books being released in 2012, including Books 5 and 6 of the Unicorn Riders, which I’m working on now. I also have two boys’ books coming onto the market. Little Good Wolf is a humorous chapter book about the Big Bad’s Wolf son, and I Dare You is a novel about a motor-bike loving boy who gets dared into doing some rather unsavoury things.
When you are not scribbling away on your latest book, what do you love to do?
Spend time with my family. I have three young children, a very supportive husband and two energetic dogs. You can often find us out bushwalking, or down at the local park playing soccer or cricket or scootering about. Did I also mention I like to read?
What was your favourite book as a child?
That would have to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – who happened to like unicorns too, by the way. You can’t go past a classical fantasy adventure story, especially one with a talking lion!
What are your favourite words to live by?
I keep this quote beside my desk in my study. “If you have made mistakes … there is always another chance for you … you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Mary Pickford (1893-1979), American actress.
Where can people buy your books or find out more about your workshops?
Manning Valley Books in Taree stock all of my titles. If people want to find out more about my workshops, my books or me, they can visit my website at: www.aleesahdarlison.com
Interview by Amy Heague.