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Ellie & The Gang Are Back…

She wouldn’t go away. There was a familiar knock on the door and in walked Ellie… John Marsden

Great news, huh, for all you compulsive readers of TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN SERIES????

Ellie and Homer and Lee and Gavin have returned, thank goodness … but just by way of interest, did you also know that John Marsden is the author of 32 titles, all of which have been published in the past 17 years which averages out to almost TWO A YEAR? Before turning to writing though, this author had a strange variety of jobs including working in abattoirs, hospitals, morgues and a haunted house. He also taught at Timbertop school where…

Physical excursions were incredibly hard. We had days of tramping through terrible conditions. It was astonishing to see the changes in the kids though. We’d have fat, flabby guys having to cope in gruelling situations. I don’t know how some of them got through because there were times when I wanted to give up - but it’s not a good look really, a teacher lying down in the snow and groaning I can’t go on…

John Marsden with Kim from Burnside HighOne lucky contributor to Pulse (Kim from Burnside High) scored a place alongside our interviewer to meet with the great man himself and, as promised, we asked as many of your questions as possible before he had to shoot through for a live radio interview.

Was it hard to put yourself in the kids’ positions? (re Tomorrow When the War Began)
I’ve never found it hard. I was very curious to find our about how young people would react in such a situation. People have raised doubts as to whether the younger generation today would be able to cope so I decided to explore this idea and see what happened. I work most of it through and don’t necessarily draw on my own experiences or feelings from my own teenage years.
We were inundated with questions about the movie, movie rights, etc? Any updates?
The rights are currently with Esben Storm (a Sydney producer and director and one of Australia’s best-known television personalities). He loves the books and is certainly committed to them and has huge ideas for this project. I’ve nearly given up counting how many offers I’ve had but it’s around 65 - I think! Trouble was that none of them matched what I wanted but Esben’s did. He’s got two Hollywood studios expressing interest and that’s what’s really needed - a lot of capital invested in the movie because it needs serious money. Anna Paquin’s agent contacted me once expressing Anna’s interest in playing Ellie but I guess she’s too old for it now. Actually (turning to Kim) … you look very much like I imagine Ellie to look …
When you are writing a book, do you know what will happen and how it ends or do the ideas just come to you as you write?
I just write. For me it’s best to let the ideas flow. That way, as the characters develop, they are alive, real and convincing. It’s not until later that I go back and edit. I write the books I want to write. I don’t want to moralise or have a point to put over. It’s like, well, take an All Black for example - he could be set up by some people as a role model for our young men but what he’s there for really is to do what he does best, the only way he knows how and I’m the same. Just doing what I do best the only way I know how. There are no rules. Once you start becoming moralistic you lose. Look at Terminator 2 for example. There’s a part where John, the young boy, tells the Terminator there’s to be no more killing which is crazy because the Terminator is a killing machine, that’s what he’s been designed for and to suddenly change tack for moralistic reasons in the middle of a script makes no sense.
What is your greatest inspiration and what inspires you to write your books?
I’m not so sure that inspiration is the correct word for me - it’s just that I’m very curious about people and situations and that’s why I write. I work things through that way. If I don’t understand something I write about it and work it out. It’s not really inspiration though!
In 17 years you’ve had 32 titles published. How do you do it?!
I don’t know really - I just write! Then again, I get really offended when people say I’m just churning them out. It’s all about curiosity really.
What, if any, training did you do to become the great writer that you are? Did you take writing or creative writing classes?
No, I didn’t, but doing a B.A. was really helpful. It helped me to understand the way books work, how multi-layered they are, how underneath the surface there's usually something completely different going on
Why do you so often choose females for your leading characters?
Because it’s much easier to explore feelings and emotions through them rather than males - I don’t think I was even aware of any of my own feelings until I was around 20! But, you know, there’s not many words to describe emotions in the English language - maybe around 20 to 30.
In western society, dominated by men, logic is the big winner. We don’t trust emotion. We consider it dangerous, unreliable and even treacherous. It’s as though the heart is a place of ambush … John Marsden / Bridgewater News February 2004
I’m also influenced by other novels and authors, especially those with strong females in them! There’s Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier which is a marvellous story and Emma by Jane Austen which was introduced to me as the greatest English book but I’m not so sure about that. Did you see Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie? Wasn’t she superb? And the thing about these classics is that even if you don’t like them when you’re younger, they’re wonderful to revisit later on in life.
Why is "Winter" one of your favourites?
Because she’s so strong. I loved the gothic feel of this novel and its Agatha Christie-like twists and turns and I hoped no-one knew how it was going to end.
What’s the best thing or most cherished memory from your writing?
Whoa, that’s a hard question. One particular thing? Weeeeeell, I guess I’d really have to say it’s the emotional response from my readers because it’s all about real people in real situations.
And finally, when did you decide carry on with Ellie’s story? After the Other Side of Dawn it all sounded so final.
She is so much a part of me. She just doesn’t go away and when there was a familiar knock on the door and in walked Ellie, I just had to carry on but she can’t keep coming back, you know. It’s not like she’s James Bond …

Okay, get a grip - it’s not time for international mourning just yet because we’re glad to announce that there are still another two titles to come before the Ellie Chronicles are completed … phew …