Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
In my final Isolation Publicity interview, wrapping up five months of work, I speak to Candice Lemon-Scott, author of the Eco-Rangers books, was lucky enough to release the third Eco-Rangers book pre-pandemic lockdown, but had other events and appearances cancelled or put on hold. Candice’s series focuses on eco themes for children in an accessible way. I first came to know her books through my job as a quiz writer and have planned to go back and read them all. Candice appears here to discuss her books, her writing and what she hopes Eco-Rangers teaches kids.
Hi Candice, and welcome to The Book Muse
- The first time I heard of your books was when I was sent one of the Eco-Rangers books – Microbat Mayhem – to write a quiz on for work with Scholastic Australia – what is the basic premise of Eco-Rangers for those who don’t know it, and where did the idea come from?
How lovely, it’s always wonderful to hear how people get to know my books. The Eco Rangers books are about two adventurous, nature-loving friends, Ebony and Jay, who help rescue and look after sick and injured wildlife, with a little help from the local wildlife hospital vets. They also get involved in solving environmental mysteries. The idea came from my own love of nature and wildlife, and the Eco Rangers are based on my own kids who love animals too. The idea of kids who help rescue wildlife stemmed from my own experience rescuing a koala from my backyard. I’ve always loved mystery stories, so it seemed only natural to tie it in with an environmental adventure.
- What do you hope Eco-Rangers teaches, or inspires readers to do?
I hope the Eco Rangers books teach kids about some of our amazing animals and inspires readers to care for and love nature and wildlife, as well as enjoy the adventures.
- Eco-Rangers is aimed at junior to middle grade readers – what is the appeal to this age group, and do any of your other books target this readership?
I love writing for this age group because it’s the age I was most connected with my own imagination as a child. It’s also a time of discovery, curiosity and learning to become more independent, which is a wonderful base for storytelling. Most of my books fit within this readership range, from my Little Rockets titles at the junior end to Eco Rangers and Jake in Space in the middle, and Stinky Ferret & the JJs at the upper end.
- Have any new books in the series, another series or stand-alone books been released in recent months, and what have they been?
The third in this series, ‘Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue’ was released in January this year.
- Have you had to cancel any appearances, events or launches due to the COVID-10 pandemic, and which of these were you most looking forward to?
Thankfully, I’d already launched my third Eco Rangers book, but a lot of my other appearances and events around the promotion of the series have been either cancelled or postponed, which is sad and disappointing when books have a short shelf life. I look forward to all events where I have the opportunity to connect with my readers, but I will really miss the school visits and Romancing the Stars event, as that one is usually held here in my home city at the Gold Coast.
- Following on from the last question, have you adapted any of these events or workshops to an online form for the time being?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve already done one online author visit with a school and there are other upcoming workshops and presentations that will also be conducted online. It’s not the same as being there in person, but the teachers and parents have been very grateful for the technology to keep their kids connected while at home, which is so rewarding.
- What genres and styles do you mostly like to combine and use in your writing for children?
I write in quite a range of genres including magic, science fiction, environmental and realistic fiction, but the commonality is a mystery element. I can’t help myself – I grew up on mysteries, so I just love including elements of surprise and adventure.
- Do you find that writing different styles and genres, and for different age groups keeps your writing process fresh?
For sure, I’m not someone who enjoys writing the same style and genre, or age group all the time because I like change and variety. To me, it’s also about the idea first, and the rest stems from that, so naturally the type of story varies.
- When it comes to research, how in-depth do you go, and how much never makes it into the books?
I always start out thinking not much research will be involved, but inevitably I need to do quite a lot to make the stories authentic and plausible, which is important in even the most magical tales. For example, in my Jake in Space series I went so far as to interview an astrophysicist about living on other planets. I had to learn soccer rules for Hubert and the Magic Glasses and about skateboarding moves for Stinky Ferret & the JJs. The most in-depth research has been for the Eco Rangers though, and I did my wildlife carer course to learn more about how sick and injured wildlife are rescued, rehabilitated and released. It was very hands on – I even held a python, eek!
- How many Eco-Rangers books do you have planned, and does the most recent one draw on the recent bushfire crisis that Australia faced?
Wildfire Rescue is the third book in the three-book series. Ironically, I’d written the story about a year and a half before the bushfire crisis, and the book’s release coincidentally tied in with the tragedy. It was a strange time, having my book come out then, but I hope it offers additional opportunity to help younger readers dealing with their feelings associated with the bushfires by reading an educative but positive story.
- Eco and environmental themes seem to be big in books at the moment – how does Eco-Rangers differ, for you, from all the other options out there?
I actually wrote the first Eco Rangers book about four years ago, so there wasn’t much else out there on these themes at the time. Again, it’s coincidental that the books have come out as these themes have begun to be explored more fully. From the others out there, I guess the Eco Rangers differs in that I first wrote them purely because of my love of animals, so they were mystery/adventures first. To me, it’s more of a bonus that kids can learn a little bit about taking care of the environment while being entertained. At least, that’s my hope.
- Do you think the Eco-Rangers would head overseas for a safari adventure?
That would be a lot of fun to write – the books are being published in the UK and US, so I can’t see why Ebony and Jay couldn’t go on their own overseas adventure.
- How long have you been writing for, and when did you decide to begin your writing career?
I’ve been writing professionally for about 12 years now. I decided to begin my writing career a few years before my first book was published when I began my Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing. I then went on and completed my Bachelor of Communication and the book was published around the same time.
- Knowing some of your books have been chosen as Lexile readers, and working with Books in Home which empowers childhood literacy, do you feel like you’re helping children with their literacy at home and at school?
I certainly hope that I do, especially because mine are mostly chapter books, which are aimed specifically at fostering a love of reading in children, and developing independent readers.
- You also run the Young Authors Academy – what is that about, and where did it start?
I run a lot of in-person writing workshops but they’re usually time limited to around an hour, so there’s only so much that can be achieved in that time. My goal with the Young Authors Academy was to create a more comprehensive course for young writers where they could create an entire story in their own time, in their own space, and at their own pace because that’s how I write as an author myself.
- Do you find the Young Authors Academy and Books in Homes have any overlap at all in terms of reading, writing and childhood literacy?
Though they’re quite different programs I think the overlap is that both are designed to give children access to resources and support to develop literacy, which also comes from developing a love of reading and writing.
- Working in the arts, and in childhood literacy, what do you find the most rewarding about these industries and sectors?
Seeing children express themselves and gain confidence during their literacy journey is the greatest reward of all for me.
- Do you have a favourite local bookseller you always head back to?
There are so many wonderful booksellers who support authors and who are doing an amazing job providing a fantastic range of books for readers. I adore Under the Greenwood Tree at Mount Tamborine and a little further afield Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop, The Mad Hatters Bookshop, and Books@Stones.
- Do you have a favourite furry writing companion or are there many?
There have always been furry writing companions in my life, and also feathery and scaly ones. At the moment, my dog Tiny and bearded dragon Toffee (who belongs to my eldest daughter) keep me company while I write.
- Finally, what do you have planned next for your writing?
I’m currently doing my Masters, focusing on middle grade fantasy, so that’s what I’m writing at the moment. It’s heaps of fun!
Anything I may have missed?
For any teachers or librarians interested, I’m currently doing virtual author visits through Speakers Ink and ALIA.
Thank you for the wonderful interview.