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NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2021 - Author talks (secondary) - 02. Jeremy Lachlan

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GEORGIA: Hi. My name is Georgia. And I'm a student at Galston High School. I'm here today on Darug land at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta as part of the Sydney Writer's Festival Secondary Schools Day to interview Jeremy Lachlan for the Premier's Reading Challenge, New South Wales.

Hi, Jeremy. How are you today?

JEREMY LACHLAN: I'm good. Thanks, Georgia. How are you?

GEORGIA: I'm good. Thank you.

JEREMY LACHLAN: Thank you so much for having me.

GEORGIA: I'm really excited to talk to you about your first book, 'Jane Doe and the cradle of all worlds,' which follows a young girl called Jane as she's thrown into the magical and spooky manor to find her lost father. It is both an adventure and fantasy novel, which is unique, because most of the adventure stories that I've read are survival stories.

And most of the fantasy stories I've read are about people trying to control their powers. How did you come up with an idea for the story? And why did you mix the 2 genres together?

JEREMY LACHLAN: Fantastic question. Thank you. So, I've always been obsessed with stories and with adventure. Growing up, I loved those big action epics that often have a lot of different kind of genres and ideas and kind of emotions going throughout them.

When I was, well, I came up with this idea when I was in Cairo. I was actually lost in the Cairo Museum. I got separated from my group. And I love getting lost in museums and caves and forests because, for me, that's when the what-if questions arise.

And when I was in the Cairo Museum, I started to think, what if there was this infinite labyrinth between worlds? What if it was known to an entire island of people, because usually, these in-between places are kind of secret places where nobody knows. I thought, what if everybody knows about it?

What if they've worshipped it for thousands of years and journeyed through it and returned with tales to tell? But, what if one day, it stopped letting them inside? And what if it was because of a child? So, it was kind of like a domino effect of all those ideas just started coming. So, that was the very first thing that kind of sparked the story.

And I realised it was my chance to just fill this book with all of my favourite things, like carnivorous forests and booby traps and runaway trains and lava lakes and all those kind of iconic action adventure tropes that I loved growing up. This was my chance to write kind of a love letter to adventure. So, that's kind of where it all kind of kicked off.

GEORGIA: In your story, 'Jane Doe and the cradle of all worlds,' family is obviously really important. Jane risks her life several times to try and rescue her father, but doesn't give up, even when the odds look pretty bad. Is the connection between Jane and her dad true in your own life?

JEREMY LACHLAN: It's really, really true. Actually, it's - so my dad, when I started to write this book, he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer long before I actually came up with this idea. But, soon after I came up with the idea, he really went downhill.

So, I actually moved to home to be a carer for him. So, when I actually - at the start of the book, Jane is a carer for her dad. When I was writing those chapters, I was actually a carer for my dad. Thankfully, we weren't living in a basement and everything like that. It was all very lovely, not lovely, but we were OK.

But yeah, I wanted Jane to have that connection with her dad because it was very important for me, of course. I knew he wouldn't make it to see the book published. So, I made sure that he was the first person to read anything of it.

So, as soon as I finished the first chapter for this, I printed it out and gave it to him and said, I was very proud, of course. I said, dad, I'd love you to read this, to be the first person in the world. I had no idea that it'd go on to be published around the world and everything at that point.

And he was not a reader, my dad. He loved reading newspapers and everything, never read any fiction. And so, there's one in every family, right? And so, I sat back. And he read it. And he finished it.

I was so eager to know what he thought. And he just sat back and just said, the chapter title didn't make sense. And I was lost after the first paragraph. And so, I was kind of like, thanks, dad. That's amazing.

But, he was right, of course, because the chapter title didn't really make sense. And it was a first draft, so it was kind of terrible. But, I love that there's part of him in that, that he was the first person to read any of this book.

And Jane, of course, it is a quest to save all the worlds and everything. But ultimately, for her, the story is about a girl trying to save her dad. She's led a very difficult life. One day, that life is turned upside down and made even harder. The most important person in her life just vanishes into this very dangerous place, and she'll stop at nothing to get him back.

In a way, I didn't get to save my dad. But maybe Jane will get to save hers is kind of the way that I looked at it. And there are specific moments within the story that I really tapped into my relationship with my dad and my connection. Jane recalls having to shave his face. And towards the end of my dad's life, I was having to shave his face kind of thing.

So, that was very much drawn from my own experience. I think that's the thing to keep in mind when authors, when anyone's writing or thinking about writing an action adventure fantasy novel set in these different worlds, to bring it back to the human experiences, because you can have these incredible worlds and all these action sequences and everything. But if you don't have those real human moments to carry the reader through and make them really root for the hero, you're going to lose the readers along the way.

GEORGIA: Yeah. That's such a nice connection, though, between your dad and the connection in the book with Jane and her dad.

JEREMY LACHLAN: Yeah, thank you. And thank you so much for asking that question. I love that.

GEORGIA: All right. So, I really enjoyed reading 'Jane Doe and the cradle of all worlds.' And I was able to add it to my reading log for the Premier's Reading Challenge, which I have now completed.

Have you always enjoyed reading? And are there any books that you remember enjoying reading when you were younger?

JEREMY LACHLAN: Yeah, I was a big reader as a kid. I've always, as I said, been obsessed with stories. So, I loved reading. But I also loved movies and cartoons and TV shows. I just wanted to be in these different worlds.

The books for me, I love smelling books. I love the scent of books. And it's amazing. Every now and again, I pick up even a new book sometimes or particularly a used book or a secondhand book and I smell it.

And I'm immediately taken back to a reading experience I had when I was young. And I adore that feeling so much. I loved Enid Blyton when I was younger.

In my primary school years, I was obsessed with R L Stine, not so much the 'Goosebumps' ones, but the other teen slasher ones, like 'House party' and 'Beach party' and a lot of parties where people get murdered. Just anything that was like blood and gore and everything, just I just loved. And that's where, there are definitely some scary moments in my book now.

The book, though, that I read that really transformed me as a teen, my brother got me 'The Lost World', which is the sequel to 'Jurassic Park' by Michael Crichton, when I was in Year 8. And that was the first kind of big what I felt was an 'adult book' that I read, because I'm obsessed with dinosaurs. I never lost that fascination.

And my grandparents have this old study with these very old books and a bunk bed where the mattress is really sunken. And I just locked myself in there for 3 days and just went into this world. And I just absolutely loved it. So, if I could repeat one reading experience over again, it would be that one.

GEORGIA: So, as someone who has always enjoyed writing, I have found that I can often come up with a really good idea for a story. But I've never been able to finish them well. As an author, have you ever started a book and struggled to finish it? And what tips would you give to someone in that situation?

JEREMY LACHLAN: That's such a good question. This is actually the first book I tried to write. And the fact that I - but it was very tough.

I studied writing at university. I'd studied a creative writing degree. But there, we focused on short stories. And I went into writing screenplays.

When I got this idea, I knew it had to be a book. And I was kind of teaching myself to write a book from day one kind of thing. I know that feeling of getting to it and thinking, oh, because it's - I feel like sometimes when you've got this big world in your mind, it feels like this big weight bearing down on you. And it can be so daunting and quite terrifying at times, as well.

For me, though, I knew that this was a story I wanted desperately to tell. I love the idea of it and the characters. So, I knew other people would, as well. I wanted to see it on the shelves. I wanted people to share this cool action adventure novel that I'd had in my head with as many people as possible. So, I just kept that in mind.

But it took me probably about six or seven years to write the first draft of this book, just this one, not book 2, 'Key of all souls.' It was a long time. I remember when I started, I said to my mum, if I write a chapter a week, I'll be done by November kind of thing.

I can never write a chapter a week. That's just not me, maybe some of the shorter chapters. But, there were many times where it was all very overwhelming. I felt, can I actually do this? I started to doubt myself as a storyteller.

Sometimes, when you're writing any piece of fiction, any work at all, any creative process, you feel like you're being derailed a bit. And you lose sight of what you wanted to do. There are some days where it's really hard to show up at the desk and write. But, you just have to get your bum in the chair and do it, because it is a job at the end of the day.

For me, I love it. It's an honour to be able to be a storyteller and to tell stories for a living. Like any other job, there are some good days. There are some bad days. I think discipline helps. But also, you have to keep your cup full, as in your inspiration, your drive, your love of stories.

So, if it's not working, sometimes I'll go for a swim. I'll go for a walk. I love being surrounded by trees. I love Nintendo. So, sometimes, I'll take an afternoon off and play Nintendo kind of thing, anything to get my mind off the problem.

Focus on something else, because that's sometimes when your brain subconsciously is doing the best work. I've gone to have a nap in the afternoon sometimes. And I've been struggling with something. I'll wake up, and the answer is right there. So, napping helps, as well.

GEORGIA: Yeah, right. I think it's very important that you can find a balance between your work and switching off a bit. And then yeah, the answer's there. That's really cool.

Yeah. All right. Good advice. Thank you.


GEORGIA: All right. Thank you so much for letting me interview you today, Jeremy. It's been amazing to talk to you. I hope everyone watching out there today enjoys reading your incredible novel as much as I did while they work to complete the Premier's Reading Challenge. Thank you.

JEREMY LACHLAN: Thank you so much, Georgia. Thanks for having me.

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