Review Blog

Jun 17 2014

An interview with Ian Trevaskis by Fran Knight

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The Elevator Pitch: Ian Trevaskis is a children's author living in rural Victoria with some twenty books to his name, ranging from books for the very young to young adult adventure stories.
It intrigues me that many picture book authors and illustrators have a background in teaching, and Ian Trevaskis is no exception. For many years a primary teacher, he was put in charge of the library and began to see the paucity of content in books he was reading to the kids or putting on the shelves, and said, 'I can do better!'
When helping organise a writer's festival in the Albury Wodonga region of Victoria, he had Michael Dugan stay and in talking to him, was able to hone some of his skills in the writing of a story. Dugan's help was fortuitous and Ian was able to send off manuscripts to publishers, to test the water. And one publisher liked what was sent.
In 1990, Quincy was published by Scholastic, and since then he has put a number of picture books and several young adult novels into the mix. But as all children's authors know, publishing does not pay the rent, so teaching has continued, now as a relief teacher, with articles in many magazines, including those that deal with walking and cycling, along with articles in newspapers in Victoria and the ACT. Combined with the publication of short stories, anyone can see he is a very busy man.
A recipient of the May Gibbs Fellowship in South Australia, means living for a month in an apartment in Norwood writing unencumbered. Ian has spent some time visiting schools or talking to reviewers like Pat Pledger and me for Readplus.
I asked Ian about one of his books, Edge of the World, published in 2012 by Walker Books Australia, a book I love. The big ideas behind this book, of loss and grieving seems an amazing thing to have in a picture book, and he said that it was meant for older readers, something not made clear by book sellers. The idea for this book came when some friends visited and they talked about 'painting the town red'. He mused on this idiom for a while, drawing it out, adding the 'what if' to the musing, until he was able to write something down. Unlike many stories, this came quite quickly and he was able to write much of it over the following week. It is a spectacular book, full of layers of meaning and language that hits the heart, sumptuously illustrated and presented.
Pat Pledger asked him about his series of books, Hopscotch, which she read and reviewed several years ago. The series was envisaged as a trilogy with possibly more to be written, but after two successful books, Medusa Stone (2009) and Golden Scarab (2010), the publishers declined the third. Each is an adventure based on the myths of Greece and Egypt, set in those ancient realms. Ian planned to set the third in Rome and did the research for it. It would be wonderful to see it in print.
Asked about his work while at Norwood for the residency, Ian explained that he is writing a book set in the year of the Melbourne Olympics, 1956. With a background of sailing and mixed with a story of World War One, the book is coming along well.
Research plays a large part of some of his work, but Quincy, his first published story came out of an incident with his young son going to school. He was frightened by a dog he needed to walk past, and Ian gave him alternatives, and thinking about this came up with Quincy, which won a CBCA Notable award in 1991. Similarly others of his stories have risen out of the ordinary while books like the Hopscotch pair required a great deal of research.
Ian's book, The Postman's Race was awarded a Notable Book in the CBCA awards in 1992. He was awarded a Varuna Fellowship in 2006, and this year has the May Gibbs Fellowship in South Australia.
His website outlines his other books and gives information about him and his writing.
June 2014.

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