INTERVIEW: Ken Spillman

In which countries will the Jake series be published?
As many as possible! So far it has appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in countries where French is spoken as well as India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. There’s also been interest from China, Germany, Greece, Philippines and Serbia.

Where have you been travelling to in order to promote the Jake books?
During 2010 I carried out promotions in India, Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as China and Oman where international schools have imported the books.

Tell us about how the book was received in India.
Over a five-week period, I visited more than twenty schools in six places – Delhi, Kolkata, Dehradun, Mussoorie, Lucknow and Kanpur. That meant making presentations to 15,000 kids – it was incredible! The schools there have been going crazy over Jake, and for the first time in my life I was literally mobbed. The enthusiasm of the kids just bubbled over, and in spite of the best efforts of teachers, kids stampeded me for handshakes, high-fives and autographs. In some places they chased me to the car and it was hard to get the car door closed. Then I’d end up signing books through a slit in the window. Australian kids generally don’t treat authors like that. At Indian schools, I got a little taste of how it must be for our cricketers over there.

Why have you donated the royalties for Jake’s Gigantic List to the CBCA?
This was really important to me. I dedicated that book to the Children’s Book Council and all those who work so hard to enthuse kids about books, and I wanted to follow that up with something concrete. Jake’s Gigantic List is a book about the wonders of books – Jake is an imaginative kid but hasn’t yet discovered those wonders, while Aunty Lyn is my metaphor for the CBCA.

It wasn’t in the forefront of my mind, but I’ve been a single dad and I didn’t want to have too many characters. It’s unusual to have a single father feature in books for kids – was this a conscious decision? Why?
I’m also aware that there are all kinds of families, and I wanted to give a significant role to Jake’s grandmother. I never explain the absence of Jake’s mum – kids don’t need that kind of explanation because they can construct the reality of it for themselves.

Give us a sneak preview into what adventures Jake will get up to in future.
I can’t give too much away, of course – but I can tell you that Jake has some fun and learns some lessons through sport.

What’s in store for Ken Spillman in 2011? More travel?
Definitely. I’ll be promoting the release of Jake in Vietnam, going on more school tours in India, Malaysia and Singapore, and just possibly going to Iran for the release of Jake’s Gigantic List.

What question would you most like to be asked by an interviewer or journalist?
Probably this: what drives you? And I’d answer it this way: I believe in the transformative power of the story, and in the importance of imagination – not just in the arts but in every aspect of our lives. For me, imagination is about being the best that we can be, having fun, and developing the vision and capacity to solve problems.

Books discussed
Jake's Balloon Blast
Jake's Concert Horror
Jake's Cooking Craze
Jake's Great Game
Jake's Monster Mess

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