Please tell us a bit of what your book is about.
This is a fun and easy reading book which tells the tale of two young gorillas (boy and girl) who are being bullied.
Gonga and Jemma hear the legend of an old, grey gorilla who defends the valley they live in, and make it their mission to find him in a determined effort to stop the bullying. Through a fast-paced action adventure full of danger, secret tunnels, underground surfing and valuable life lessons, they find the old gorilla who then trains them in a secret martial arts dojo, which contains all sorts of rustic, jungle training aids and contraptions.
But will their training be enough? Are they really prepared for anything?
On a deeper level this story shows how determination, hard work and facing your fears helps take ownership of and resolve a bullying problem.
What kinds of themes / issues are raised in this story?
Bullying, determination, taking action to overcome a problem, facing your fears, hard work, life lessons
How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?
I believe my book can be used as a fictional aid to encourage children who are being bullied. I have reached out to various anti-bullying and martial arts groups, as I believe my book may be of help to them.
This first book in the Goringas series encourages imaginative thought, confidence and self-esteem through relatable characters and all-too-familiar bullying scenarios.
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
My writing began approximately 15 years ago when I was still living in the UK and my children asked ‘tell us a made-up story, Dad!’ This became a regular bedtime story request, so I began writing during work lunch breaks to keep up with their demand. My first book has had many stop/starts along the way, but I am finally in a position where I have managed to self-publish.
I was always an avid reader and my writing was influenced by the likes of Enid Blyton’s “Secret Seven” and “Famous Five” series’ when I was a young boy. My father instilled a love of the outdoors in me from a young age, enjoying camping and fishing, as well as the lure of the wild, open spaces in Namibia as I grew into my teenage years. My adult reading enjoyed the fast-paced action and intrigue of Wilbur Smith and Geoffrey Jenkins. I have always been drawn to outdoor adventures in far flung places, so it is no surprise that my own children’s books follow a similar pattern.
What is your favourite part of the book?
A good question ….. I don’t really have a “favourite part” per se. I like the various life lessons scattered throughout the story, as well as the over-arching message to take action in the face of any problem, rather than burying your head in the sand and hoping that it will go away.
How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?
The publishing process via MoshPit publishing was a steep, but enjoyable, learning curve. Jenny and Ally were very supportive the entire way. The process from submission of my manuscript to being published took exactly 2 months. However, I also held up the process on my end a bit by spending time applying for “other” work. Only approximately 50% of my time was dedicated to the book initially, but that ramped up significantly the closer we came to publication date. (Moshpit publishing state that they are able to get your book published within 3 weeks, if everything is ready)
What was the collaboration like between author and illustrator? Juicy gossip, please!
Working with an illustrator was an entirely new experience for me, so yet another steep learning curve. I hadn’t initially thought of including illustrations, but my copy editor advised me to do so, particularly to clarify some of the martial arts techniques described in the book.
I drove to the Blue Mountains with my daughter, and met with the illustrator (Inma Vassar) to demonstrate these various martial arts stances and techniques, so she could get an idea of what I was after. I also provided pictures of young gorillas, to help tie the two together, as this was not something that had been done before.
Inma was patient with me, as I needed a lot of amendments initially. However, once we had tied down what each individual character needed to look like, along with facial expressions, the process speeded up significantly.
I did find that, being a bit of a perfectionist, I had to “let go” the reins and allow the illustrator to show her own creativity, instead of me stifling it. That in turn meant that I had to be open to look at the illustrations in a way that I had not previously thought of. Some things I liked, and some I didn’t. Inma was pretty happy to accommodate and change things when they were too different to what I was trying to convey.
It was an exciting journey of combined efforts, which saw the creative visualisation of my thoughts take shape.
What has the feedback / audience response been like so far?
The feedback has been very positive, with nothing less than a 4/5 star review.
My favourite review to date is this one from Brydie Wright on Goodreads:
“Remember the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi? The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sensei Splinter? Or, more recently, Kung Fu Panda and Master Shifu? They all have a classic underdog narrative in common and enough scope and appeal to become popular action-adventure series for young audiences.
Mark Lancaster’s debut novel for middle-grade readers follows in this tradition and ‘Gorinjas: The Beginning’ has the makings of an engaging cult series for aspiring martial artists and young thrill seekers alike.
The story tells of humanoid gorillas Gonga and Jemma, the most loyal of friends, whose victimisation at the hands of school bullies spurs them on to overcome adversity. When the brave pair track down the legendary old-grey gorilla, Shintu, a martial arts master, events take an interesting turn, leading to a dramatic battle between the gorilla ninjas, a gang of bullies… and a smelly old crocodile!
Like the first instalment in any series, this debut takes time to build both in character and plot development but with a particularly strong opening and an exciting climax, the core ingredients of courage, perseverance, legend, and triumph over bullying, are all there in spades.
Gorinjas is an entertaining read and by its end I was already anticipating the next book in the series. If you know a reluctant middle-grade reader, this could be just the new adventure they’ve been waiting for. Why not give it a try?”
What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement this book?
I would advocate action over apathy in the face of a bullying problem.
I think teachers could use this story in conjunction with their own school’s anti-bullying program. Parents can similarly refer to a support group or anti-bullying course for their children.
Do you have a book trailer for your book?
This was a promotional video that I made prior to the book launch (early November 2016):
Please let us know where we can find more on you and your book.
Both paperback and all eBook formats can be purchased worldwide.
Here are a few relevant links:
Booktopia (paperback, RRP $14.25).
If your local bookstore does not stock the book, they can order it using
INGRAM ISBN 978-1-925595-00-0
He holds a black belt in Wado-ryu karate, one of four traditional styles from Japan that incorporates both karate and jiujitsu. He has trained in martial arts for 14 years, also dabbling in other styles like Goju-ryu and Shuai Jiao (traditional Chinese wrestling). Like his main character, Mark has used his training to overcome some very difficult experiences in his life, including a near fatal accident which left him partially paralysed.
Mark’s writing began when his children asked ‘tell us a made-up story, Dad!’ He wrote avidly to keep up with their demand, always with the goal of transporting them to an entirely new and exciting world. Mark is a member of the Australian Society of Authors, and Children’s Book Council of Australia.