NEWS: Let the pillaging begin

Award-winning author, Norman Jorgensen, and illustrator James Foley are exposing the pain and the triumph of creating and publishing a picture book on their new blog .

It’s all in the name of education. Students, teachers and aspiring authors and illustrators can follow the pair as they sketch out ideas, research Vikings, draft storyboards, suffer through editorial reviews and eventually publish a finished picture book.

The blog, which was officially launched on 6 July 2010, will include monthly competitions, a weekly Q&A session, guest bloggers from the world of children’s literature and all kinds of fun activities for the classroom.

We’re kicking off proceedings with a competition to win ten free children’s books from Fremantle Press. It’s easy – just send Norm and James a comment and you automatically go into the draw for the July prize.

The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen and James Foley will be released in May 2010.

Here’s what they have to say about it …

Norman Jorgensen, author:

If you could ask yourself any question, what would it be?
Normie, why don’t you just sit down and write a vampire story? Save yourself loads of research, make a ton of money and you get a cool black cover on the book. And then they might make a series of movies based on your book and you can go out and a buy a Scottish castle, a private island or a red Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

Your story is about a junior Viking with a sword – so what’s mightier, the pen or the sword?
Oh, the pen, by far. Dictators, tyrants, despots and other bullies prevail for a while, yet they usually come to sticky ends, but the words of decent people can live on for generations, inspiring and changing the world. Churchill’s speeches rallied a country at war, Martin Luther King fired up the equal rights movement, Nelson Mandela helped heal a divided country, Charles Dickens’ writing did much to stop child labour in Victorian England and John Steinbeck awoke people to the hardships of the Great Depression. Words can move mountains, and frequently do.

Are you a Viking at heart? Why?
Actually, no. I’m too much of a chicken. And the thought of roaming round the world in an open-top longship trying to find monasteries full of gold to raid isn’t really that nice a way to behave. I can’t speak Danish, either, so, ‘Excuse me, Olaf, pass the pickled herring,’ would probably be misunderstood and result in me being tossed overboard.

Can anyone join in the pillaging? How?
You can join us on the adventure of The Last Viking on as James Foley and I try and make our picture book about little Knut as interesting and as exciting as we possibly can. We’ll be posting much of ‘the process’, including the many stuff-ups, drafts and the background we discover while on the journey to publication date next May.

What’s your favourite Viking book?
Viking’s Dawn by Henry Treece, originally published in 1955, did it for me when I first discovered it in Kalamunda High School library when I was 13.

And I loved the old movie ‘The Vikings’ with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. What a rollicking great adventure it was too. I forced James to watch it, when we first started this project, back when he used to do what I said.

You’ve travelled to many Viking towns. Which would you recommend?
Dublin! Dublin was founded by Vikings in 841AD and ruled by the Norse until 999AD when it was overrun by Brian Boru, a great Irish hero (or so the Irish reckon). In spite of that, it is a great city full of history, characters and wonderful architecture, as well as more pubs than any city could hope for. I thought it was great.

Explain to our readers how to use WordPress …
You have got to be kidding! I’m far too old. Ask James!

James Foley, illustrator:

Why have you launched the blog?
Norm and I have launched the blog so that students, parents, teachers, librarians, and teacher librarians can get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a picture book. (It’s also a great way to keep me to the timeline – if we’re saying the book will be ready in May 2011, it needs to be ready in May 2011!).

Every Celt, Gaul, Neanderthal and their dogs have a blog – what makes yours so special?
Ours is special because we’re showing things people normally don’t get to see like original sketches and research photos. Readers get the chance to follow us on our journey as we develop the book.

Who is your least favourite Viking? Why?
I don’t know that many Vikings, at least not personally. I think I would have gotten along with them okay, though I wouldn’t have been much of a warrior – I would have been sitting on the sidelines of the battle, drawing what was happening. I’d probably have run out of red paint. And I’d draw caricatures of the enemy soldiers to make my comrades laugh.

Is The Last Viking your first illustrated book?
Yes, it’s my first book and I’m very excited to be working on it. It’s an epic story, but it’s also funny, and heartfelt.
What else have you been working on?

I’ve been working on a graphic novel for a few years, and some other picture book ideas – can’t reveal anything yet …

What’s the best bit about working with Norm?
The best thing about working with Norm is that we have the same sense of humour.

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