2020 Snapshot: Lian Tanner

Lian Tanner has worked as a teacher, a tourist bus driver, a juggler and a professional actor. She has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War.

Lian’s first picture book, Ella and the Ocean, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley, won the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Children’s Literature. She is also the best-selling author of three fantasy trilogies for children, The Keepers trilogy, The Hidden series and The Rogues trilogy. Her latest book (August 2020), A Clue for Clara, is a detective story starring a very determined chook. Lian’s books have been translated into eleven languages, and have won two Aurealis Awards for Best Australian Children’s Fantasy.

1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

Late last year Allen & Unwin published Haunted Warriors, the third book in my junior fiction (middle-grade) Rogues trilogy. This series was set in the same fantasy world as the Keepers trilogy, but in a different part of that world, and it had a couple of crossover characters – namely, the cat and the villainous Old Lady Skint. I love crossover characters when I’m reading, so it was fun writing these two into a whole new story. And, as always, immensely satisfying to finish the long arc of a trilogy.

My new book, coming in August 2020, is … uh … different. It’s still junior fantasy, but I’ve swerved wildly away from anything I’ve written in the past. Firstly, it’s funnier. Secondly, as well as being a fantasy, it’s a contemporary detective story. About a chook. A Clue for Clara – the story of a small, scruffy chook who’s looking for a serious crime to solve. It was huge fun to write, mainly because I found Clara’s voice very early on, and she pretty much dictated the whole thing herself.

2. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?

It’s hard to choose. Over the last ten plus years, Allen & Unwin have been consistently wonderful to work with, so pretty much every book is a good publishing experience. But I’ve particularly enjoyed the most recent process with Clara, because there are very cute line drawings all the way through, done by Cheryl Orsini. And that’s like the cherry on top of the cake.

3. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge? 

I’ve recently read Bren MacDibble’s beautiful post-apocalyptic novel How to Bee, and am about to start on her latest book, The Dog Runner, which looks just as good. I also love Julie Hunt’s Shine Mountain. All three are junior fiction (middle-grade).

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