Aussie writer Justyn Walker has moved house 19 times, played junior soccer (not particularly well) and one day hopes to live inside a giant cake. He is also the author of the popular Georgie Tanner books, a trilogy of funny fantasy stories which are on the booklist of the highly respected NSW Premier's Reading Challenge.
Justyn spent the first four years of his life in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where his parents were youth pastors with the Salvation Army. After returning to Australia, Justyn went to school at Toongabbie Christian College in Sydney's western suburbs, before his family moved to the central coast in 1988. His favourite subject in school was English, particularly when the teacher let him write about whatever he wanted.
After school, Justyn made a hobby of writing comedy skits for use in church and at Christmas & Easter celebrations. One of his most widely used skits is The Great Manger Mystery which is currently being produced as a picture book. He created a website to share his short scripts with the world and was surprised when the site received over 1,000,000 hits! That's when he first realised that people enjoyed his writing. Justyn says this hobby played a major influence on his writing style. Readers will notice a theatrical mood to his writing and slabs of humorous dialogue in the novels, typical of short plays.
After gaining a Bachelor of Business from UTS, he worked in the field of marketing for five years. Zzzzzz! At that point Justyn decided he'd had enough of wearing a tie, so he quit and went overseas with Youth With A Mission, a youth missionary organisation. This took him on a 7 month round-the-world tour of countries such as Germany, England and the USA, but it was in Brazil that Justyn stayed with a group of orphans that were later to inspire the character of Georgie Tanner.
In October 2001, Justyn began writing his first novel, a funny fantasy story inspired by the orphans he had met overseas. That book was "The Magician's Daughter" and the main character was a girl named Georgie Tanner, a misfit growing up in a London orphanage. The Magician's Daughter, The Ancient Machine & Flight of the Evening Star are Justyn's message of hope to children who feel unwanted in a world of hurt and insecurity. His stories are allegories (set in the land of Allegoria) and there is much meaning written into each book for the more inquisitive reader.
In 2004, Justyn visited a children's summer camp in Siberia and made friends with some orphans there. He returned to Siberia in 2005, and then in 2006 was asked to lead a team to the Russian coastal city of Vladivostok. The orphans Justyn has met in Russia continue to inspire the message in his books, particularly his third book, Flight of the Evening Star, which introduces a boy in a wheelchair named BJ as a new character who travels with Georgie and Thomas through a magic puddle.
Justyn got married in 2007 to one of his travelling companions, the lovely Erin Fletcher, who happens to be a graphic designer with a life-long interest in book design. Erin teamed up with Justyn in producing his third book, Flight of the Evening Star, creating the cover and book design. Justyn and Erin now live on the sunny mid north coast of NSW. Justyn is often seen slumming around local cafes and his favourite pass-times include snorkelling and drinking cappuccinos (not at the same time ... though if the technology becomes available he'll be the first one to try it!)
Interview with Justyn Walker
1) Favourite author and favourite book?
As a kid I didn't think very much of books until I came across The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S.Lewis. Knights ... battles ... kids as heros ... real themes that rang true in my heart and mind. That series hooked me in.
2) How long have you been writing?
I've liked writing for as long as I can remember. In school I loved it when we were allowed to write on any subject we wanted. But writing novels was a new challenge for me. The Georgie Tanner series took me 6 years to complete!
3) Where do you get your ideas?
Lots and lots of brainstorming. I remember times that I've sat down with some friends and asked a question like 'What are some funny animals?' and we spend half an hour coming up with a list that will later become characters in one of my books. The bigger ideas in the book come from my own experiences and thoughts. Georgie is a lot like some orphan kids I know. Thomas is a little like me when I was that age. Their relationship to the character of Lidian is an important part of the books. It represents how God finds his children in a world of humor, tragedy, evil, hope and fear, and sets them on a wild adventure they could never have imagined. There is a subtle allegory to the land of Allegoria.
4) Is it hard being an author?
It can be. It takes me 1-2 years to produce a book. That's quite a homework assignment! But it's a great feeling when it finally comes together. When I started out, people would often say: When are you going to get a real job?
5) Who's your favourite character?
I like Georgie the most. She was the first character and the stories revolve around her.
6) Will you make your books into a movie?
I think these books would rock as movies! When I wrote them, I imagined a movie in my head and then put it down on paper ... but I suppose that's up to the movie makers.
7) Do you know any other authors?
The funny thing about authors is they don't mix very much. They tend to do their own thing ... so no I haven't met many others. Only a few.
8) Will you write more books after this?
I've got some promising ideas. All top secret, hush-hush ... (that's what authors say when they don't have any ideas.) No seriously, there might be a picture book soon.
9) Do you use pen & paper or a computer?
I often plan my books on notepads which end up strewn all over the house, but I always type straight into my laptop. It's easier to edit and there is a spellchecker. Yay!
10) If you could choose any other job, what would it be?
Hmm ... so many to choose from. Official taste-tester at an icecream factory, the guy who invents amusement park rides, red-button-pusher on a demolition team. So many possibilities.
11) How much money do you get?
Bah! Not enough! I don't drive around in a limo or live in a mansion as some kids think. If a book sells in a bookstore I get $2 of the price tag. TWO MISERABLE BUCKS! Thieves! Scoundrels! All I ever wanted was a large castle filled with riches. Is that too much to ask?
12) Describe your dream home
When I was five, my cousin and I made sketches of a giant oven that would bake a cake the size of a house! Just imagine it. You want a larger bedroom, or an extra window, or a shortcut to the kitchen? Just start grabbing handfuls of cake and A-RUM-NUM-(GULP!)-YUM!