Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Big Blowie! Sally Murphy swats my questions

Hello everyone, and welcome to this stop on the inaugural Aussie Blog Tour! Today author Sally Murphy has kindly agreed to answer my inquisitive questions regarding her new book, The Big Blowie.

Q.1. The Big Blowie is a title to send me for the swatter. Please provide one (1) true-life horror story concerning one or more big blowies.

A.1. Blowies (or blowflies if you are not Australian) are truly insidious creatures. They are worse than ‘normal’ flies, in their ability to just stick around, being big and buzzy and gross. Living in hot, dry parts of Australia, I’ve spent many hours trying to get rid of persistent blowies. The worst is when they start buzzing in your bedroom in the middle of the night. If you turn on the light to spray or sat them, they go quiet and you can’t find them.
But a story? Hmm – let me think. Perhaps this one: yesterday morning I took a bag of kitchen rubbish to the green wheelie bin outside. When I opened the lid, it was wriggling with big juicy blowfly maggots. One of my darling children had taken some rubbish out for me the day before and not pushed it in far enough. As a result he lid was ajar, and a blowfly, attracted by the delicious aroma of week old rubbish had decided to make my bin her nursery. Eeeeewww. Fortunately for me, yesterday was bin day and the whole stinking mess has now made its way, to the local tip.

Q.2. The best way to make a big blowie into an ex-blowie is via a folded newspaper. Discuss.

A.2. Oh definitely. And it works for other pests, too. After my recent holiday, I bought in the morning paper, which had been buried deep in a bush in my front garden. When I started to unroll it, a family of big cockroaches came scurrying out. The newspaper was hastily employed to say goodbye to the cockroaches. It turned out it was not that day’s paper at all, but one which had been lost in the bush for some time, long enough to become a little cockroach heaven.

Q.3. That’s a very feral-looking child on the cover. Is he based on one of yours? (You may take the fifth on this if necessary.)

A.3. Lol – MY children wouldn’t dare look feral. Okay, well maybe occasionally. Very occasionally. Is there such a thing as frequently occasionally or occasionally frequently?
But no, Syd doesn’t look like any of my children, though I do have sons about his age, and three of my kids do have blue eyes. But none of them have yellow hair. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a kid with yellow hair.

Q.4. Oh, the story. Yes. Did the Aussie Aussie Aussie theme set you thinking about Things Aussie, such as thongs, chops, and blowies? Or was it the sight of a Big Prawn, Big Pineapple or the daddy of them all, the Big Spud that set you off?

A.4. Yes, the story was definitely prompted by the series theme, although I’ve always been strangely fascinated by Big Things, and on my recent trip across Australia insisted on not just viewing as many as possible, but also photographing them.
The Big Blowie, came about because the publisher was looking for very Australian stories for the series. I wanted to have a good chance of being accepted, so I tried to think of things were very Australian – I came up with the Outback, blowflies, and Big Things . The guidelines also mentioned that it wanted books to deal with issues, so I decided to include a drought in my book because drought is a huge problem here in Australia. From this list of ideas, I came up with a plot where the drought is affecting a family’s livelihood, so the child comes up with the idea of building a big blowfly (blowie) to draw tourists in.

Q.5. How do you individualise the voice of a young protagonist? One pervasive problem in books at this level is that the protagonists CAN begin to sound generic… boy, smart, eight-to-eleven, scrape-prone, or girl, smart, feisty, tomboy or proto-feminist, eight-to-eleven, scrape prone.

A.5. You are so right. In these shorter length books you have less room to develop the protagonist’s character, and there is a risk of them all sounding the same. I sued first person narrative for this book (I tend to use it a lot, actually), and there is always a risk in first person that the character sounds just like you, the author. For Syd, I tried to have him focus on the things a kid would focus on, rather than having him have an adult take on the world. For example, Syd’s in a rural area in a drought. For an adult, there would be worries about stock and crop prices, concerns about water for the house and property, financial concerns. These issues are not what’s at the top of Syd’s list of concerns. He likes Dougie and the tourists coming to visit – he’s a social kind of kind – so his concern is with the tourists drying up when the water does. Kids are, by nature, egocentric, so he’s concerned about the things that affect him. But he’s also proactive. He can’t fix the drought, but he can come up with a way to get the tourists to come back, and that’s exactly what he does.

Q.6. Is this book a move to rehabilitate the humble blowie?

A.6. No, I think they’re beyond redemption, quite frankly. But it is a move to make the most out of the things that we can’t change. Before Syd comes up with his big idea, he and his mum are being bothered by blowies. That’s the source of his inspiration. The blowies don’t go away, and although they don’t appear much again in the text after Syd gets his idea, the illustrator (Craig Longmuir) has them there in the illustrations right till the last page.
I’ve noticed a bizarre tendency for me to right about things that gross me out. Obviously blowies, but previously Giant Cockroaches (blehhhhh) and, more recently an incident with a huge spider is fodder for a new story I’m planning. Snakes and bitey insects such as scorpions also feature prominently in two nonfiction titles I’ve written, and flies, snakes and snails are in my poems. Will I rehabilitate them? No. But sometimes when I write about them I do learn things that make me feel more kindly about them. Sometimes

Thanks, Sally, for visiting Spinning Pearls. And readers, why not follow the tour? Sally Murphy has been to..

February 8 - Dee Scribe -
February 9 - Let’s Have Words - http://letshavewords.blogspot…com/
February 10 - Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books -
February 11 - Spinning Pearls -

Tomorrow she will visit -
February 12 - The Book Chook -

The Big Blowie is part of the Aussie Aussie Aussie series published by Aussie School Books and distributed by Blake.


The Book Chook said...

I LOVED these questions - enough to make a writer wriggle! They would have left me gasping, but Sally answered so well.

Great questions - great answers! Loved the whole interview.

Ginger Simpson said...

Loved it. I haven't ever been annoyed by a Blowie at night, but US mosquitoes do the same thing. Are they related? *lol*


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sally x 2

Great interview. Ah the old blowie, the guest who drops by un-invited into your house. Being an Aussie also, I have met these disgusting creatures. And yes, I never go anywhere in the summer without my trusty fly swat or a can of flyspray at the ready. Good luck with the book.

Maryann Miller said...

Nice interview. Reminded me of a scene in a movie -- can't recall which one -- that showed the blowies swarming a farmhouse. Made me decide if I ever get to visit Australia it will be in the winter. :-)

Sally Murphy said...

thanks for having me here, Sally, and thanks ladies for your comments. It's been fun!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those are some great questions! Glad Sally doesn't let her own children look feral...

L. Diane Wolfe

Sally_Odgers said...

Thanks, everyone! This was fun.

Sally_Odgers said...

Thanks, everyone! This was fun.