#InterviewByBook with Tamsin Janu

Title: Blossom
Author: Tamsin Janu
Illustrator: N/A
Publisher: Scholastic Omnibus
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Age Group: 8-12

Please tell us a bit of what your book is about.

The book follows 10 year old Lottie, who is excited when a lost little girl arrives on her doorstep. Lottie, who only has Uncle Bobby in the world, has always wanted a sister. But Blossom isn’t like other kids. She doesn’t speak and is obsessed with her flower, refusing to go anywhere without it. But everything changes when Blossom gets sick and she is taken away. Lottie, with the help of her friends, must do whatever it takes to rescue her.

The book is set in an outer suburb of Sydney, and involves mystery and a touch of other-worldliness.

What kinds of themes / issues are raised in this story?

Lottie has experienced a lot of instability during her life and has been in and out of foster homes. So she is fiercely independent, and is used to figuring things out by herself. She has to learn to trust that others, particularly her Uncle Bobby, are available to help once in a while — and that families can come in all shapes and sizes. And she needs to accept the help of her friends to get through some sticky situations.

The story also talks a lot about difference, because the character of Blossom is different in ways that most people find difficult to understand. It explores how some people fear difference, and promotes discussion about how those who are different deserve to be treated.

How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?

I have known kids from all kinds of backgrounds, including those who have experienced difficult upbringings. Growing up I didn’t have much awareness of the fact other Australian kids didn’t have it as easy as me, but I wish I did. What I love about Lottie is that she doesn’t let her struggles drag her down; instead she uses them to give her courage and a strong sense of justice.

I also think the discussion of how difference in our society is approached is important, because it helps to build empathy and understanding. With all my books I hope kids find them entertaining, but also hope the stories make them think more closely about the world around them and how they interact with it.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

It was while living in a community in remote Northern Territory, in the Central Desert, where I ran a youth program for two years, that the idea for Blossom was born. The inspiration for the opening scene, in which Blossom arrives on Lottie’s doorstep, came out of something I experienced everyday while I was in the community. People would knock on my door constantly, and the variety of people that came to the door was interesting. It might be a group of three year olds asking me to open the rec hall. A neighbour telling me I left the headlights of my land cruiser on. A policeman wanting to discuss how late the basketball court lights should stay on each night. Teenagers asking me to pump up their football. Or an elder wanting to speak to me about an upcoming bush trip.

One of the more interesting door knocks I had was a group of around eight 6-10 year old boys, who came to show me the baby freshwater crocodile they’d found. The poor thing was dead, and from nose to tail it would’ve been at least the length of my arm span. After taking a quick photo of the boys with the crocodile (at their request) I sent them on their way, telling them to put the crocodile somewhere nice so it could rest. And the character of Blossom, a little, fluffy-haired and wide-eyed girl, walking up to a door, jumped into my head and wouldn’t leave.

What is your favourite part of the book?

I like the last quarter of the story because it is very exciting, fast-paced and the stakes are high. It was also my favourite part to write! Lottie and her friends have to rescue Blossom from a difficult situation, and they face many obstacles and challenges along the way.

How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?

Scholastic Omnibus published Blossom, and they also published my first two books, Figgy in the World and Figgy and the President. They were great to work with as usual! I have had the same editor, Celia Jellett, for all three books (and for the upcoming Figgy Takes the City, coming in September), which has been awesome.

The manuscript for Blossom was accepted in October 2015, and the book comes out in July 2017, so there were nearly two years between acceptance and publication. I’m discovering this kind of gap is quite typical in publishing — there’s lots to be done with a book, including designing a cover and editing, before it is ready to go out into the world.

What has the feedback / audience response been like so far?

The book is out in July, so I haven’t had much feedback on it yet. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as early readers!

What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement this book?

Keep an eye on the Scholastic school essentials website, where the Blossom teacher notes will be posted soon.

Please let us know where we can find more on you and your book.

My website is: tamsinjanu.com

My publisher’s website is: http://www.scholastic.com.au

You can also find me on Facebook, where I post pictures and tidbits about my life and writing.

Thank you, Tamsin, for sharing your newest story, Blossom, with us! 😊 🌹

Tamsin was born and raised in Sydney. She studied law at university and has had many interesting jobs, including working at a cake store, at a children’s shoe store, in a legal centre helping refugees and as a youth worker in remote Northern Territory. She is currently based in Sydney, and works as a research assistant at a charity.

Image Credit: Shane Reid, Adelaide Writers’ Week

Tamsin’s debut novel, Figgy in the World, was joint winner at the 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and won the Children’s Literature Award and the Premier’s Award at the 2016 Adelaide Literature Festival. It was also shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards and the Readings Children’s Book Prize. The second Figgy novel, Figgy and the President, follows Figgy as she grows up and embarks on further adventures across Ghana, and the third, Figgy Takes the City, will be released in September 2017.

Tamsin’s newest junior novel is Blossom, a fantasy/mystery set in Australia.

#InterviewByBook #Blossom

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