Thursday, May 9, 2013

JB Rowley: Teacher, writer of family memoir and junior fantasy fiction and oral storyteller.

JB Rowley's involvement with Storytelling Australia (Vic) formally The Storytelling Guild (Vic), is a  history of note. Many of us have passed the baton working  to keep this group of scattered storytellers connected and welcomed newcomers. For many years JB's commitment to publishing a storytelling magazine seemed indefatigable. Swag of Yarns was chock full of interviews, stories to tell and storytelling tips.

Although JB can still be persuaded to spin a yarn, her focus in recent times has been writing and publishing. Her first success was Whisper My Secret but there is -

BREAKING NEWS:   ... The sequel to Whisper My Secret,  Mother of Ten, is now available.  

Your first book published in 2007 Whisper my Secret is a family memoir. Here you tell the story of discovering the existence of three step siblings. This was initially in hard copy and now available electronically. The book was very successful the first time round - what has happened to it now it’s gone e?

I have been absolutely bowled over by the increased sales of Whisper My Secret as an ebook. Thousands of people all over the world, but mostly in the USA, have downloaded a copy. I get lots of emails from people who have read the book and I really enjoy that interaction with readers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks in your view?
Because I am in love with ebooks and with my Kindle, I cannot think of any disadvantages. The biggest advantage is probably being able to carry around hundreds of books with virtually no weight - just the light weight of my Kindle.  Another huge advantage is the benefit to the environment because ebooks rescue trees. In an age when up to 6 billion trees per year are cut down for paper production ebooks make sense. Another advantage is the buying experience. When you see an ebook you want you can have it bought and ready to read in less than a minute and you can do this at any time of the day. So if you wake up in the middle of the night and need a good read to relax you, you can have it within minutes.  Also ebooks are cheaper to buy and there are no additional costs for packaging and posting. Reading an ebook has the advantages of being able to adjust font size, to change the font and to press gently on a word to bring up a dictionary entry of that word. I love the fact that I can read my ebook on my Kindle in bed without having to have a lamp on (the Kindle Paperwhite has an inbuilt reading light).

What is the relationship between JB the storyteller and JB the writer?
They are certainly linked. I think the connection that stands out most for me is the fact that many readers of Whisper My Secret and Mother of Ten have commented on how they can see the pictures when they read what I have written. I believe that comes from my storytelling experience. As storytellers we become proficient at transferring pictures to the minds of our listeners.

In the first book, you have clearly put in hours of research to unravel the family secret. Was Mother of Ten as intensive to research? Yes. In fact, I had to do a lot more research for Mother of Ten. That is an aspect on non-fiction writing that is a two edged sword for me. While I love the research and find myself being taken down fascinating side tracks, extensive research slows down the writing process. It is the writing of the story that appeals to me most and I hate that it is being slowed down.
Of course, there is still research required for fiction writing but it is not so ‘heavy duty’. Actually, researching the background to stories is another area where storytelling crosses over with story writing. It was through storytelling that I first came to appreciate the importance of researching the background to stories to give my storytelling authenticity, even though I did not use all of the knowledge I had gained through research in the telling of the story.

You are publishing a series of books for junior readers called Trapped in Gondwana. I can see clearly how you have mined your knowledge of folktales with science to create something that is both enjoyable and educational. How do you describe these stories?
I have planned Trapped in Gondwana as a series of seven with Book 1 and Book 2 already available on Amazon. The stories are fantasy adventure. I have written them purely to entertain but because the tales combine facts they have, as you say, an educational element. While enjoying the stories children will absorb scientific knowledge such as information about the ancient fauna of Australia and New Zealand and the super continent of Gondwana. For instance, most children would not be aware (until they read Trapped in Gondwana) that 15 million years ago a flightless bird known as the Demon Duck of Doom existed in the natural world.

Learn more about JB Rowley HERE

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