Caz Goodwin is a Melbourne-based award-winning author who writes picture books, short stories, poetry and junior fiction. Her work has been published internationally and illustrated by Gus Gordon, Ashley King, Kerry Millard, Low Joo Hong and others. She heads the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Victoria and has recently joined the Young Australian Best Book Awards (YABBA) council.
Caz was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her latest book Daisy Runs Wild (and you can read my review of that here), the sequel to the much loved Lazy Daisy.
Hi Caz! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions.
Daisy is such a funny koala who I can completely relate to. What was the inspiration for her character?
The inspiration for Lazy Daisy came from my very lazy dog. He was always enthusiastic about going for walks to the park, but once he got there, he never wanted to leave. I’d often have to carry him home, which everyone thought was very funny. I decided to write a book about my lazy dog, the title of which became Lazy Daisy. After discussing the concept with the publisher, and writing a number of versions, we decided the protagonist should be a koala rather than a dog.
Was it easier to write the first or second instalment of Daisy’s adventures?
The second book was a lot quicker to write than the first. There were a number of iterations of the first book, starting with a lazy dog and ending with a koala, with various versions in between. As I discovered, there aren’t many words that rhyme with koala, so it took a while to perfect the rhyme and rhythm of the text for the first book. The second book was easier because the characters were well-defined, and I had a strong story arc for Daisy’s second adventure with Jasper.
How closely did you work with illustrator Ashley King?
I had little involvement with the illustrator in the early stages, other than enthusiastically endorsing his selection by the publisher. Most of the communications between Ashley and I were managed by my publisher. Ashley lives in the UK, and I’ve never met him or even spoken to him on the phone, but we’ve had a number of email exchanges. I knew Ashley was the ideal illustrator for the books, because I’d seen some of his other work and his depiction of the character Jasper was spot on.
Was there anyone in particular who inspired the character of Jasper and his fabulous quirky outfit?
Jasper was based on a man I’d seen walking his beloved dog in the park. He wore a bow tie, shiny black shoes and rather spiffy, colourful jackets. When I saw Ashley’s first rough sketches of Jasper, I knew he understood the characters and would do a wonderful job in bringing them to life. I hadn’t given Ashley any directions or suggestions for the illustrations, but he intuitively worked out Jasper’s attire just from the text, including his bow tie, black shoes and jackets. I still find it amazing how Ashley’s first illustrations of Jasper matched how I’d imagined him – all from across the other side of the world.
What is your writing process like?
The ideas for my stories usually begin in the form of a character. I think strong characters are essential for strong stories. Once I know my character, I usually start writing and work my way into the story. I do a lot of re-writing, particularly if I’m writing in rhyme. It’s not easy to ensure the rhyme and rhythm are just right and the story flows, so I spend a lot of time editing and re-working my manuscripts before I send them to publishers.
Do you have any tips on writing rhyme in children’s stories? Or tips in general for aspiring writers?
Rhyming is not easy and takes time. I always write my stories in prose first, even if I intend to re-write them in rhyme, as it’s important that the rhyme doesn’t drive the story. Sometimes it’s tempting, but don’t force the rhyme. The story always has to come first and the words need to fit the story, not just the rhyme.
My other tip for writing rhyming stories is to ensure the rhythm is correct. Rhythm is all about maintaining a regular beat, but it’s important that the beats fall on the syllables that would be accented in normal speech.
The best way to check that the rhyme and rhythm are working is to read your story aloud. It’s even better to ask someone else to read out your drafts, so you can identify where the reader stumbles, or where the rhyme or rhythm doesn’t sound quite right.
If in doubt,
Rub it out.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I love specialty children’s bookshops and two of my favourites are The Little Bookroom in Nicholson Street, Carlton and the new Escape Hatch Books in Kew East. Both Leesa and Fran are knowledgeable and passionate about children’s books and can provide recommendations to inspire a love of reading in children and young adults.
If you were bound to be stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life, and you could only take three books with you, what would they be?
Only three books? That’s hard. I’d select two of my favourite childhood books, and a new favourite.
- The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems by A.A. Milne, with illustrations by E. H. Shepard. There is something about reading the words from this book that brings comfort and reassurance — perfect if stuck on a desert island.
- The Roald Dahl Treasury, which has 444 pages of entertaining, and often irreverent and humorous stories, along with interviews and letters by the author. The illustrations by Quentin Blake are adorable.
- My new favourite book is The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, a book of hope for uncertain times.
Thanks very much to Caz for taking the time to answer some questions. I particularly found the tips on rhyming to be incredibly useful and commend her for her great choice’s on books for a desert island – although I think the Roald Dahl treasury could be seen as cheating – but I’ll let her get away it.
To find out what Caz is up to and for more information – check out her website and social media’s below: