Sandra, welcome to the blog!
Thanks for having me Robert, I’m excited to be here with you.
Fossil Frenzy is the third title in your exciting Adamson Adventures series. What can you tell us about this book?
Fossil Frenzy is an exhilarating and thrilling adventure that takes place in both the present and the past. Set at the base of the escarpment where the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum sits atop the plateau that looks out across the dry open plains. Millions of years ago it was a lush rainforest and an inland lake where amazing animals thrived. Many dinosaur fossils have been found in this region near Winton, Queensland and are still being found today. The kids are visiting their uncle on his drought-stricken farm and are concerned that the family will lose the property. Zac comes up with the idea to search for fossils on the farm in the hope that if found they would bring renewed interest and a source of income. Of course, nothing ever goes to plan, we wouldn’t have much of a story if it did. The siblings are caught in a massive storm, and when they emerge from shelter everything is vastly different. The adventure is packed full of uniquely Australian dinosaurs, mega-fauna and a few other curious creatures. It includes resilience, survival and climate change issues all wrapped into a fun and suspenseful escapade.
What was the most rewarding part of your journey in creating this series?
Before this series I had self-published a couple of books, but then I had a publisher accept Secrets Hidden Below which was the first book in the series. It was originally meant to be one stand-alone story, but the publisher asked me to write a three-book series with the three children. It was wonderful to finally receive a publishing contract not only for one book, but for three. Then Secrets Hidden Below, the Adamson Adventures 1 was shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards 2019. It felt so rewarding to have this story receive recognition. However, the most rewarding part of this journey is my shortlisting for Fossil Frenzy in the Queensland Writers Centre Adaptable Competition. Being given the opportunity to pitch the story to film producers even though it was still in manuscript form, was an experience I will never forget. I would have loved the experience of pitching at the Gold Coast Film Festival, but I had to settle for Zoom pitches thanks to Covid-19. In retrospect, it made it a bit easier to pitch, by doing it from the comfort of my own home I didn’t feel as anxious as had it been in person.
What is your favourite part of Fossil Frenzy?
Ooh, that’s a hard question. Each time I am asked this, I think of another part in the story. There is so much action and tension, it’s hard to choose a favourite. The ending is rather special, it has a great surprise, but no spoilers here. Perhaps my favourite isn’t one particular part of the story, but the fact that Clare has grown in character and strength since the first book in the series. She is not the timid sister she once was, she is so much stronger, determined and accomplished now. The stories are all written from the point of view of Zac, the eldest sibling, but as I wrote Fossil Frenzy Clare was more determined to be heard. Her voice came through demanding me to take notice. She is Luke’s hero and mine too.
What was the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging part of writing Fossil Frenzy was all the research. Which was also a fun excuse for a couple of holidays, all in the name of research, of course. Once I had the initial idea and setting, I needed to find out about the right dinosaurs that would all fit together in the same time period. I like to make sure my stories have some basic facts within them so that kids are learning something new and the reading experience is more than just a fun adventure. It was challenging to find the right information and decide which dinosaurs to use and which to cut. Exploring Winton and the Age of Dinosaurs Museum was fascinating, as was the research I was able to do at the Daintree Discovery Centre. I had hoped to use a Diprotodon (giant wombat) in the story, but discovered he wasn’t around yet. Then I stumbled upon Zaglossi Hacketti, the giant Echidna and the character, ‘Spike’ was born.
Tell us about your path to publication with your Adamson Adventures series.
It has been a very long journey. I first wrote Secrets Hidden Below way back in 1999/2000. It had a different title back then and has had many drafts since. It initially had a spark of interest from a publisher, but then the Bali bombings happened and suddenly Bali was a taboo subject. I put it away for several years before re-writing it again in 2016/17. Then I put it into a manuscript assessment and finally had the courage to start submitting to publishers again. A small publisher here in Canberra picked it up and asked for the series. Sadly, that publisher folded this year after publishing the first two books. I then had the decision of which direction to take with Fossil Frenzy. After the Adaptable success and receiving great feedback from all three film producers, I decided it was time to stop procrastinating and publish it myself.
How did you learn about the craft of writing?
Way back in the Jurassic era my imagination was sparked during a children’s book course at teacher’s college. At the turn of the century I decided it was time to study children’s writing more seriously and completed a Diploma in Professional Children’s Writing through the Australian College of Journalism. My passion awakened; I also completed a couple of short story writing courses through the Ourimbah campus of NSW University. I continued to practice over the years and then joined Jen Storer’s The Scribbles Academy where I discovered how to bring out my inner child. All through my journey I continued to read and write and hone my skills every day.
What were some of your favourite children’s books growing up?
The Chronicles of Narnia, the Trixie Beldon Mysteries and anything that Enid Blyton wrote. Blinky Bill, Cuddlepot and Snugglepie, the Magic Pudding, Seven Little Australians, can you see a theme here? Winnie the Poo, Beatrix Potter, the list goes on. I loved chapter books with plenty of mystery and especially Australian children’s books. I think they have definitely influenced my writing.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure yet. I have the thread of an idea for a fourth Adamson Adventure, but haven’t decided whether to make it part of this series or maybe start a new one. I continue to dabble with picture books, maybe one day a publisher will like one enough to publish it. I have also started writing something completely different that I thought was junior fiction, but I am now reconsidering that it should be middle grade, and one more that might even be YA. It depends where my mood takes me. It’s fun playing with several options.
Do you have an online presence?
You can find me at https://sandrabennettauthor.com/
My socials are - https://www.facebook.com/GingerbreadAliens
Thanks again Robert, it has been so much fun answering your questions. I hope everyone enjoys my answers.
Sandra Bennett’s Fossil Frenzy: The Adamson Adventures 3 book campaign has been organised by Books On Tour PR & Marketing.
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