Author and illustrator Christina Booth works from her bush studio in Tasmania, Australia. Trained as a teacher and painter, she loves that she makes up stories and colours for a living. Christina started her literary career illustrating for great Australian authors such as Max Fatchen, Colin Thiele, Christobel Mattingley and Jackie French. Many of Christina’s previous books are award-winning, including the Environment Award, CBCA Honour Book and CBCA Notables.
Christina Booth also happens to be someone I proudly call my friend. Not only is she unbelievably talented, both as a writer and and illustrator, she is one of the kindest, most giving people you will ever meet. She is the one who first encouraged me to write picture books, and has given me so much of her time and nurturing wisdom over the years it took for me to learn the craft. I love her more than words can say and I am so thrilled she found the time to answer these questions for me. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your latest book.
My latest book is called One Careless Night. It is a picture book about the last thylacine (Tasmania Tiger) in captivity. It is aimed at all age groups, right through to adults. It’s due for official release in late May and is having a preview ‘sneak peek’ launch in Hobart in February. Check my website!
What was the inspiration for the story?
I’ve always been fascinated by the thylacine and other native species, especially in my home state. As a child we ‘hunted’ for them on bush walks. I dreamed of finding one. Then they were declared extinct by one world body and considered extinct by the other. I needed to write the story, but from a emotional perspective. One that causes us to question our actions of the past and helps us consider how we react to our future. Extinction is forever.
Tell us about your main character.
Obviously, it is the last thylacine, reportedly referred to as Benjamin but also considered to have been a female who was kept in captivity at the Beaumaris Zoo on the Domain in Hobart. She starts her life as a free ‘tyger’, living on the west coast of Tasmania with her mother. They are hunted, captured and eventually pass away at the hands of humans. In a way she is the main character, but I also feel that the reader is the main character as well.
Why should we fall in love with them?
Because to not fall in love with her and to feel her sorrow, suffering and pain, means her existence and story is worth nothing.
Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?
I have always written but did not consider myself a writer. I was an artist and was known and encouraged for my drawing skills as a child. I always wanted to illustrate books and so that was where my journey began. Someone encouraged me to write, so I did. To write and illustrate brings equal joy.
What was your favourite book as a child?
How long have you got? I had a childhood filled with books and reading, mostly from the library, but I had quite a few, adding to the list as I grew older.
I loved my Coles Funny Picture Book, an Australian book my dad bought for me when I was little, I poured over it for many years and I still treasure it. I loved Katie the Kitten and There is a Monster at the End of This Book, both Little Golden Books. I saved pocket money for every copy of Trixie Belden (two weeks of saving, three hours of reading), I adored The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren, and then I read that to my children. My favourite author as a teen was Roald Dahl, both his kids and his adult books.
Can you recommend another female author we should read?
Again, long list, but for now, two contrasting authors: Margaret Atwood and (Australian) Liane Moriarty. There are too many though….
What was the last book you read and loved?
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (my favourite of hers so far)
Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?
‘If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.’, Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?
I’m ambidextrous; My great grandfather was a bank robber; I’m a specialist (K – adult) art teacher
Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books?
Again, this list would be too long, but here are a few to get you started:
Helen Oxenbury, Shaun Tan, Raymond Briggs, John Birmingham, Robert Ingpen, Chris Riddell, Jan Omerod
I love their lines and textures, how they uniquely capture a story and tell it visually. How their illustrations work alone without text, how they seem effortless (but you know they take incredible skill). How they are timeless and not caught up in fashion. Strong and determined.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Quit now, you can’t be published if you come from Tasmania.
Avoid the peacocks.
Use every rejection as a stepping stool to acceptance.
Read, read and read, it is your apprenticeship (which never ends).
If you love a sentence you have written, bring the others up to that level or get rid of it.
What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?
Goodness, I’ve never had to think about that before. Good question….
The Call, by Regina Spektor, because I have to sing along every time and want to play it again when it’s done. The lyrics are beautiful, story filled and thoughtful.
What is your favourite thing about living and working in Tasmania?
Hmmm, who doesn’t love living on an island? And it’s where the creative waters flow. It can sometimes feel isolating and a bit restrictive at times, but the pace and the beauty, the stories and the people…. It’s in my soul
Can you recommend another Tasmanian writer?
Kate Gordon, Julie Hunt, Lian Tanner. Too many to list.
What is your favourite secret place in Tasmania?
Now that would be telling.
Probably my own garden. It’s like a park with native animals, bush, trees, weeds and beautiful birds, then I can walk out the back gate into a public park that has a river and ponds and walkways. Totally spoiled really.
What’s something about Tasmania that people might not know?
It was not attached to the mainland, it was a part of a land mass that was attached to North America and the (present) Antarctic. It’s thought Tasmania drifted across the globe and collided with the Australian mainland about 500 million years ago.
No wonder they leave us off the map!
You can find out more bout Christina at her (gorgeous) website, http://www.christinabooth.com.
More information about One Careless Night can be found at Walker Books