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19 March 2009 ·

a young writer’s interview

Brenton Cullen, a young writer, has sent me his interview to post. Great job, Brenton!

Nim’s Island: not the film, but the book!

By Brenton Cullen

The award-winning family film, Nim’s Island (2008), has dazzled and wowed audiences. But the person probably most wowed by the film, is Australian author, Wendy Orr. She is the woman who wrote the original book, Nim’s Island (Allen and Unwin, 1999), of which the film was based on.
On a Wednesday evening, I phoned Wendy Orr and we had a nice discussion about her, her writing, and the success of Nim’s Island. Wendy has a lovely voice, and with a Canadian accent, her words are perfectly clear and easy to understand.
Wendy’s love of reading came from her parents, who read her books constantly in her early childhood years. She has always had a passion for writing books, and she credits this to all the stories she has read. She enjoys writing immensely, and likes it because she says that reading stories helped, but she wanted to find out the ending and whether or not it was going to be quite suspenseful. So she started writing , just so she could write these stories and be able to find out the endings herself because she would be writing them.
When asked if she thinks her career has picked since the success of Nim’s Island, she answers that she thinks Nim’s Island, the book, has sold more copies, with a reprint available 2008 with the cover of the film on the front. But her 1990’s Young Adult book, Peeling the Onion, based on a true event that occurred in her life, has sold the most copies in Australia.
The stars of the Nim’s Island film, Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin, were delighted to have been working on the film. Wendy says that Jodie Foster’s son had not particularly liked reading until he picked up a cop of Nim’s Island to read for a summer reading course. This was before the film of Nim’s Island had been considered. Wendy says that this was Jodie Foster’s son’s breakaway to reading, and she feels that this is very special.
Wendy thinks that Abigail Breslin had read the book while filming Nim’s Island.
I asked Wendy if the characters in the book Nim’s Island were parts of her or inspired by real people in her life. She says Alex Rover, the reclusive adventure author, does have parts of Wendy herself in her, but exaggerated a bit. Wendy says that she does indeed work in the same way as Alex, getting research from the Internet and atlases and encyclopaedias. But she does not think she has ever had an email from a 11 year old girl deserted on an island!
Wendy had a bit of involvement in the film of Nim’s Island. She is happy to report that she was a consultant on the screenplay of the film, and also helped with the work on the first two drafts of the film’s screenplay. She did this work with the producer and original screenwriter of the film, Paula Mazur.
A typical writing day for Wendy Orr is flicking on her computer and answering all her emails, at around 8 am. At 10 am, she starts to do the proper writing of her upcoming books (a series of stories set in an animal shelter, and another adventure novel for preteens, currently titled Raven’s Peak ).Halfway through the day she’ll stop for some lunch, and then take her dog for a walk. Then back to the computer until 6 pm, until she stops for a bit longer to have some exercise and walk the dog again. Wendy is also very lucky to say that her book, Paradise Palace, for children, is being turned into a television series, and also her adult novel, The House at Evelyn’s Pond, is being pitched for a film as well. And Nim At Sea, the 2007 sequel to Nim’s Island is currently being discussed about also being turned into a film.
As for a third story about our beloved Nim Rusoe, Wendy says she has part of a story idea in her head, but is busy with other projects, so she may write another book, but not for a little while. ‘But I am still working on an idea,’; she says.
Pure magic.

Written by Brenton Cullen © 2009

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio