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We just love the tenacity of Marlow Brown, and the determination of her author, Kesta Fleming! It’s a pleasure to learn more about the journey of this character and Kesta’s marvellously spectacular series. Enjoy our interview! 🙂
Congratulations on the release of the second title in your Marlow Brown series; Magician in the Making! How did the journey of Marlow begin?
Thank you so much! The journey began years ago when I was doing a chapter book writing course with Sherryl Clark. Sherryl had challenged us to create a character, and then to write about their last birthday in first person to get a feel for who they were. Marlow actually began as a boy and it wasn’t until the first book was submitted for publication that, at my publisher’s suggestion, she was changed to a girl. Other than her gender, nothing else about her character changed. Marlow was, and always will be, a kid who loves exploring new ideas and passions with great gusto and determination, regardless of mishaps.
These books are written with such humour, vivacity and an underlying power of strength and determination. What does the series mean to you?
They mean, like Marlow, that I can do it. I can pull off a dream. And if I can, others can. It might take lots of tries. It might mean making mistakes and failing along the way. But to me this series means that perseverance and grit pay off. I hope readers will see exactly this quality in Marlow, and will be able to relate the importance of those qualities to their own lives too. And while it can feel discouraging at times as we work towards our dreams and constantly scramble around obstacles, there’s a lot of fun and laughter to be had along the way.
Marlow Brown herself is a passionate, curious and fun young girl with a ‘can-do’ attitude. What else can you tell us about her, and how did you approach the development of her character?
Marlow has a superstar dog called Rockstar and the pair are inseparable.
She tends to make heroes of the people she looks up to and wants to impress them or be like them. In the first book, it was her scientist Uncle Q, and in the second it is Mervin the Magical.
She can get pretty single minded about whatever ideas she’s currently hooked on and will see things through to completion. (Obstacles, to Marlow, are challenges.)
She’s very matter of fact about her successes and failures – she loves learning as she goes and assessing the results of what she’s done – so keeping records is important to her. In fact, it’s through these that we see her personality come to life, because while the story itself is told in the third person, Marlow’s own records are written by her in first person.
I keep a character file on Marlow. I began it before I started writing the first book, but I add to it as I learn new things about her – and those come about through writing, and seeing how she reacts in different situations.
Do you see yourself in Marlow? How?
Yes and no. Marlow is the sort of girl who enjoys trying her hand at all kinds of things, and I was certainly like that growing up. I always struggled choosing subjects in high school, and then trying to work out what to do after school. Life and learning is so interesting — how do people ever narrow things down?! I was also a record keeper, though not in the same meticulous and focussed way Marlow is. I’ve kept a daily diary since the age of 11, with a few other journals and notebooks for longer musings along the way. But I’m not as single minded as Marlow. I tend to have lots of things on the go at once, and flip between one and the next. I probably wouldn’t have had quite the same perseverance in the face of obstacles growing up as Marlow does. I could have done with a bit more of her tenacity!
I do have a dog, though. Funnily, I’d never owned one until after I began writing about Marlow and Rockstar, but Nelson — my own superstar dog —has a very similar personality to Rockstar’s, and I love Nelson just as much as Marlow loves Rockstar!
What main messages would you like your audience to glean from reading Marlow Brown; Magician in the Making?
Don’t give up on your dreams. Failing is part of the process and that’s not a bad thing. The journey to your dream can be lots of fun. Grit and perseverance pay off. Girls can be magicians too.
The illustrations by Marjory Gardner are full of energy and spirit, just like the nature of the books! What are your thoughts on Marjory’s illustrations for the series?
I love them! I am incredibly fortunate to have a publisher who works collaboratively and wanted to know if I had any particular illustrator in mind for the first book. I spent time looking through portfolios on the Illustrators Australia site and selected a small number of illustrators whose work I thought suited the story style. Marjory was one of those. Not only do I think her black and white illustrations are perfect for the internal pictures, but Marjory is well known for her love of bright colours, so the cover art is really eye catching.
What is your favourite thing about Marlow or the books in general?
That’s a tricky question! I think one of my favourite things is Marlow’s relationship with her dog, Rockstar. He’s not just a dog, but her best friend and accomplice. I also enjoy the fact that Marlow never means to be funny (unlike her friend Felix), but some of the things she thinks and says make me laugh anyway. That’s a really fun part of the writing process too — suddenly finding yourself laughing out loud at something you’ve made a character say or do.
Anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your Marlow Brown series?
At the end of both books is a ‘Try it Yourself’ section for those interested in performing their own science experiments or magic tricks. There’s also an ‘Experimenting Spot’ and a ‘Magic Spot’ on my website for kids who want more: www.kestafleming.com
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Kesta!
We are thrilled to celebrate the release of Marlow Brown #2; Magician in the Making, following its first title, Scientist in the Making, with illustrations by Marjory Gardner, published by Celapene Press.
Please follow Kesta Fleming at her website: https://kestafleming.com/
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