Please tell us a bit of what your book is about.
FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS is a young adult novel with a compelling blend of humour and drama. Set mostly in Sydney in the 1930s, the story revolves around Joe Riley, a teenage boy who wants to become an aviator. But Joe has many obstacles to overcome if he wants to achieve his dream. He has a plan and won’t let anyone stand in his way.
What kinds of themes / issues are raised in this story?
Themes such as adolescence, the Depression, survival, loss, family, friendship, work, gambling, truth and responsibility are woven sensitively through the story.
How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?
I hope these themes will resonate with teenagers. I believe that many of the issues that teenagers faced in the 1930s are still relevant today. It can often be less confronting to discuss some issues within a different context, and can help in developing greater self-awareness and empathy with other people.
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
I’d been toying with the idea of Joe learning to fly, so I started researching aviators and flying in the 1930s. When I visited the Gerringong Historical Society’s Museum to see their exhibition on Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s landing and take-off in Southern Cross from Seven Mile Beach in 1933, I had tingles up and down my spine and could barely talk. That’s when I decided to develop the story around Joe’s dream of becoming an aviator. But I also wanted to create sub-plots and flesh out other characters so that readers could relate to the story on many levels.
What is your favourite part of the book?
The “Flying through Clouds” chapter is my favourite because it was the hardest to write. I had to understand how to fly a Gypsy Moth plane in order to weave this into the narrative and at the same time, build suspense. I needed to understand the steps involved and the terminology that was used. I read books about famous aviators and their flying adventures, and watched technical videos on how to fly a Gypsy Moth plane. I interrogated everyone I knew who had flown before, and was lucky enough to come across Prue Mason, a children’s author and pilot with extensive experience flying old planes. I learnt a lot from Prue, who edited an early draft of my flying chapters.
How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?
I published FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS myself. I engaged professional editors for the structural and copy edits, and the proofreading; and a cover designer / layout artist to design the beautiful cover and lay out the manuscript. I loved working with the editors and designer, and I learnt a lot from them. The editing was spread out over two years, and the book took nearly four years to complete. The actual publishing phase from when I purchased ISBNs to the printing of the book and formatting of the eBook took eight months.
What has the feedback / audience response been like so far?
I’ve had great reviews in Buzz Words and Magpies. Jackie French read an advance review copy of the book and generously allowed me to include her quote on the cover of the book – ‘Superb! Adventure combined with a deep understanding of our history – and some of its most exciting bits.’
What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement this book?
FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS is most suitable for Years 7 to 10 (Stages 4 & 5) English and HSIE / History. There are many teaching and learning ideas outlined in the Teachers’ Notes on my website.
For example: Students could research one of the historical events and/or heroes depicted in the novel, and present their findings; they could have a debate on one of the themes / issues in the story; they could act out a bully vs anti-hero scene from the book.
Any details on your book launch you’d like to tell us about?
After the launch of FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS in Bowral on April 1, I’m doing a book tour:
1 April – Bowral Launch – BDAS Gallery (booked out)
5 April – Canberra Launch – Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka 6pm
8 April – South Coast Launch – Gerringong Museum 2pm
11 April – Sydney Launch & YA Book Club – Better Read than Dead, Newtown 4.30pm
12 April – Book Talk & YA Writing Workshop – Ulladulla Library 10am; Nowra Library 2.30pm
19 April – Hunter Launch – Muswellbrook Library 11am
20 April – Book Talk and Launch – Quirindi Library 11am
21 April – Book Talk and Launch – Reader’s Companion Bookshop, Armidale 4pm
24 April – Brisbane Launch – Dymocks Brisbane 6pm
26 April – Gold Coast Launch – Broadbeach Library 10am
27 April – Book Talk & YA Writing Workshop – Lismore Library 5pm
28 April – Book Talk and Launch – Grafton Library 11am
1 May – Book Talk and Launch – Port Macquarie Library 4.15pm
2 May – Book Talk and Launch – Taree Library 3.45pm
Please let us know where we can find more on you and your book.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Michelle! ✈️ ☁️
And STAY TUNED for Michelle’s Blog Tour beginning next week, featuring here at Just Write For Kids on April 7th!
Michelle is a full-time writer and lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Flying through Clouds is her second historical YA novel. Her first novel Racing the Moon, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2014, and released in the UK and US in 2015. Four of Michelle’s plays have been performed in Short Play festivals in Sydney, Newcastle and Armidale. She has also co-written several songs with her husband, Luke.