Video transcript
NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2021 - Author talks (primary) - 04. Emily Rodda

Back to video

DECLAN: Welcome to the Sidney Writers Festival primary school day. I am joined by Emily Rodda, who my mum interviewed in 2005. Welcome, Emily.

EMILY RODDA: Thank you.

DECLAN: What did you like to read as a child?

EMILY RODDA: I really loved to read everything, as long as it was fiction. I wasn't that keen on nonfiction. I liked any kind of story, fantasy, adventure, in particular, I suppose. And I really always loved legends as well, fables and things like that. So I include that in fairy tales. All sorts of fantasy and lots of Enid Blyton famous five adventures and things like that.

DECLAN: When did you start writing?

EMILY RODDA: Well, I used to write all the time in primary school, my own stories. I didn't think they were as good as the ones that I was reading. But I did like writing them. But then I, in high school, decided it was a silly ambition to think I could be a writer. So I stopped. And so it wasn't until my oldest child was seven that I actually started writing. So the books you see in print now began when I was 36, which is quite old for a writer to begin.

DECLAN: What was your first book? And how old were you when you got the idea to start that book?

EMILY RODDA: I was 36, as I said before. And it is called 'Something Special.' Because it's still in print now. And it came from a story I actually told my daughter one night before bed.

She was reading herself. And she asked me to tell her a story, just make one up. So I did. And it turned into quite an interesting story about it was sort of a ghost story, I suppose. And in the end, I wrote it down. And it got published and won an award. And then after that, I just kept going. And I've written over 100 books since.

DECLAN: You've written so many books. Which one is your favourite one that you've written?

EMILY RODDA: It's very hard to say that, you know? It's like asking me which of my children I like the best. It really is. It's quite difficult because I actually love them all. And they're all different.

Certainly, the writing of 'Rowan of Rin' was one of my best ever experiences because it was the first book I wrote after I left my full-time job and began writing from home, just writing. And so there was a huge sense of freedom in it. And I loved that.

But just about any one book that you can mention. You know you said you were reading 'Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal' you said before we started this interview. And I was thinking how much I had loved writing that one too. Yes. I don't think there's any of my books that I don't like. And it's hard to choose just one.

DECLAN: Where did the inspiration for the character Sheba in 'Rowan of Rin' come from?

EMILY RODDA: Will, in 'Rowan of Rin,' Sheba is the traditional wise woman witch figure, I suppose. And I have known various people who are as sort of apparently venomous as Sheba is, who seem very nasty and perhaps are, but who seem to be in connection with nature in a very unusual way. So I guess that's where she came from. She's probably a fairly traditional character from folklore. And yeah, so I think I'd have to just put it that way.

DECLAN: Because it's a fantasy series, I find it hard to figure out what period of history 'Rowan of Rin' is set in. And what would you say?

EMILY RODDA: Well, I'd say that, as far as our world is concerned, it's irrelevant. Some people think that it's, say, set in mediaeval times or something like that because people are still using ploughs, steel ploughs. They're not using machines. Because the sorts of songs they sing and things like that seem to belong to a much earlier period of our history.

I prefer to think that Rowan's world is just to one side of ours. And that if, in fact, we found the right seam, the right crack, the right hollow corner, we could actually go into there. It's running alongside ours. That's how I think of it. And it's just that in that world, time is just different from the way it is here.

DECLAN: What was the inspiration behind 'The Glimme'?

EMILY RODDA: Well, 'The Glimme' started in a way that none of my other books started. What happened was, Marc McBride, who had done the 'Deltora Quest' covers and some illustrations from inside big Deltora books and had done also the covers for the three doors and, certainly, who I knew very well. And whose work I respected very much.

Sent me this file of pictures. And he said he'd been trying to write this book about it was sort of a fantasy. About a boy who liked to draw. That's all he told me about it. And he said I've been trying to write this. I can't get the story right. I shouldn't have said I would write it because I'm not good at writing, I've decided. This is him talking.

This is what he said in his little note. And he said, so I'm sending these pictures to you to see if you can do something with these images. Maybe you've got a little bit of book lying around they go with them or something like that.

Anyway, I thought well I was actually in between books. But I was just about to start a new one. And I thought, well, no. I've got my own books to write. But of course, Marc's a friend. So of course, I'll look at the images. And I open the file. And oh my goodness, I mean, if you read 'The Glimme,' you've seen what that artwork looks like, those dragons flying in the sky.

Yes, that was one. Almost was very like one of the pictures that he sent me. And the giants, you know? There were all sorts of the most wonderful images.

And as soon as I saw them, I thought, they look so real. I feel as if I could just walk into those pictures and be in that world. So I immediately thought the pictures could be in a gallery. And then behind one of the pictures, you went in through. And there was this world with those giants and those men with lion's heads and those dragons and that amazing castle.

And it was terrible, really, because within a very short time, about five minutes, I had this idea for this story that went with that. Right, I thought, I better think about this a bit. So I thought about it for a bit. And then I went back to Marc and said, yes, I. Can But I don't know what your story is, but I've got a story. And this is what I'd like to do.

So I sort of sent him an outline of the story. And he said, it was still about a boy who loved to draw. It remained that. That was the centre of his book at the centre of my story. But it was very different in every other way.

And then I would send him chapter by chapter. And he would illustrate chapter by chapter, sometimes using pictures he already had and sometimes doing new ones. It was a wonderful collaboration. We had a very, very good time doing it. But I've never ever done a book like that before.

DECLAN: Do you think you'll ever stop writing books?

EMILY RODDA: I don't think I'll ever stop writing books, no. I think I'll just keep doing it. And maybe, I suppose, it's quite possible. People might want to stop reading my books. You know, I mean, maybe I won't write as well anymore.

Who knows what will happen when I'm 107? You know? I suppose I could be the only author still writing at that age. But I think I will go on doing it because it is a thing I love. I just adore doing. So I will go on writing and in all the different ways that I do now. And as long as I can certainly.

DECLAN: And are you working on one now?

EMILY RODDA: Yes, I am working on one now. It's quite a long one. And it's a fantasy sort of series, well, not a series. It's a fantasy book that falls into three parts. And I'm not completely sure if it's three separate books or if it's one book just in three parts.

But I'm just going to see. Have a go of it. I've done two parts so far. And I'm on to the third one now. Well, actually, I'm not because I'm sitting here talking to you, aren't I? But I will be when I go when go back to my little writing room in the Blue Mountains, that's what I'll do. That's the first thing I'll do.

DECLAN: I would love to see a rewrite of 'Rowan of Rin,' where the good guys turn bad.

EMILY RODDA: Oh, would you? I don't know if I could go for that. It would be-- maybe you could.

DECLAN: Not like rewrite it like write another one which has the good guys turn bad like a doublecross.

EMILY RODDA: Like a doublecross. Yeah. Yes, I suppose it would be a complication of the story, wouldn't it. Rather than, at the moment, it's a fairly simple sort of fable, isn't it? Yes. Yes. Well, did you read 'Rowan and the Travellers'?


EMILY RODDA: That's not quite the same, of course.

DECLAN: Yeah, because the mountain berry bushes.

EMILY RODDA: Yeah. They sort of doublecrossed, didn't they?


EMILY RODDA: Except they were plants, not people.


EMILY RODDA: Well, actually, there's a bit of 'Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal' is a little bit more complicated in plot. And the third one, which is 'Rowan'-- the fourth one-- sorry-- 'Rowan and the Zebak' is a little bit more complicated again. And then there's 'Rowan of the Bukshah,' which is the last. So be interesting to see what you think of those.

DECLAN: Yes. And so that's it.

EMILY RODDA: Well, thank you very much. Fascinating questions.

End of transcript