Gabrielle Wang is an award winning children’s author and illustrator whose books are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of fantasy.
She has twice won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction and her novels have been named Notables in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.
Her first novel, The Garden of Empress Cassia was listed on the USBBY Outstanding International Books Honour List. Gabrielle has published fifteen novels with
Penguin Books Australia including Little Paradise, an historical fiction YA romance novel based on her parents' relationship during World War 2.
This book was Highly Commended in the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. She has also written two of the girls - the Poppy books and the Pearlie books - in the highly
popular Our Australian Girl series. Her middle grade novel is The Beast of Hushing Wood was published by Penguin Random House in 2017.
What is the inspiration for your current book?
I am working on a new chapter for the Pearlie books, which are part of the very popular Our Australian Girl series published by Penguin. The four novels came out in 2014 but a new hard cover bind up featuring all four novels in one, will be released in June 2018. I have been asked by my publisher to write a chapter to include in the new edition. It follows on from the final book so I am now researching World War II Perth. I love historical fiction. It means one can learn so much more about the world.
Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?
The theme is war and how it affects families in war torn areas, in particular children.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
The period of history I wrote about in the Pearlie novels was Darwin during World War Two. The reason for this was because there are very few books for children to read about this period in Australian history. World War I, in particular Gallipoli is well covered, however Darwin and the northern towns during World War II is rarely written about. And yet it was a very important time in Australia’s history when the bonds between Australia and the USA were forged. I wanted to show how we had our own refugees who needed to flee their homes. Seen through my young protagonist’s eyes, the tragedy of the bombing of Darwin is made that much more real.
What resources do you use to research your book?
I use the internet for photos and information as well as the library. If I need to, I buy books online. One of the best sources is the Ask a Librarian service available online with major libraries. Then there is nothing better than visiting the place you are writing about. With the Pearlie books I visited Darwin to get the feel of the land. Most of Darwin was destroyed during the bombing and later with Cyclone Tracy but I was able to interview people who lived through that time. I also visited museums and joined a Battlefield Tour to look at important military sites.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
I try to be both authentic and accurate. For example I’ve been trying to find out as much as I can about Perth in 1943 and in particular Perth Zoo and the Chinese market gardens. I am only writing a 2500 word chapter but in order to be authentic and accurate I need to do my research as thoroughly as I can. Then again, because I am writing historical fiction, characters in the novel are invented.
Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?
My protagonist Pearlie of course, but I also love Tinto, her cheeky pygmy marmoset.
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How
long does it generally take you
to write a book?
Writing historical fiction I am definitely a plotter. With the Our Australian Girl series because there had to be an overarching story across all four novels, as well as each book being a novel on its own, so before I started writing the series I needed to plot each one out. With my young adult historical fiction novel, Little Paradise, which is also set during World War II in Melbourne and China, it was important to plot it out as it covers four years in the life of Mirabel, the main character. I also write fiction and when I do, I allow the story to develop organically. I love this freedom and the way things that happen during the day serendipitously feed your story. As for how long it takes to write a novel, usually about two years.
What advice would you give an aspiring
I guess it’s the same advice all authors give and that is to edit, edit, edit.
Read your work out aloud. That way you’ll pick up mistakes that you might gloss over when reading silently. Join a writing group where you can share your work. Start off small. My first publication was a short story in a children’s magazine. The more publications you have behind you the better it is when sending your manuscript out to a publisher. It shows that you are serious about your writing and work hard at it.
Tell us about your next book or work in progress.
I’m working on the new chapter for Pearlie, which I mentioned above. I am also writing a new middle grade novel which is a sequel to A Ghost in My Suitcase. It’s called Ting Ting the Ghosthunter and as you can see is all about ghosts. I’m an illustrator as well so I’m having fun designing both book covers. I enjoy writing both historical fiction and fiction. They stretch me in different ways. In order to grow we need to constantly challenge ourselves and not be afraid to take on something that may appear too hard.
It's 1941 . . . and the war is changing Pearlie's life every day. Darwin is full of soldiers, there's a spy on the loose, and people are turning against Pearlie's best friend, Naoko, just because she's Japanese. When everything falls apart, will Pearlie be brave enough to stick up for what's right, or will her old fears get the better of her? Meet Pearlie and join her adventure in the first of four exciting stories about a courageous girl in a world at war.
Gabrielle Wang will be appearing in at the 2017 HNSA conference in the following panel: Children and Young Adult Fiction: How difficult can it be? Is writing fiction for children and young adults an easy option?
HNSA 2017 Conference
The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme.
Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.
In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses.You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Purchase a ticket and you will be entered in the draw to win a $100 Dymocks Gift Card.
Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.
Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!
Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!