Alison Lester is one of Australia's most popular authors. She has written and illustrated over 25 picture books, and her first fiction title,The Quicksand Pony, quickly became a bestseller. Her books are published in many languages and are loved by children around the world. Alison's sure sense of colour and design, her humour, and her keen observation of the details of children's lives make her books lasting favourites.
Alison grew up on a farm overlooking the sea and first rode a horse as a baby in her father's arms. She still lives in the country and rides her horse whenever she can. She believes children need adventures and the freedom to imagine. She has always been a bookworm and often reads for hours in the middle of the night. 'I love the way books take you to another world, no matter what's going on in your life.'
ON WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING
'I began illustrating children's books about twenty-one years ago. I had trained as a secondary art teacher, and although I loved teaching art, I hated the routines of school.
'When my first baby was born I knew I wanted to work from home, so I got out the yellow pages, found Oxford University Press under children's publishers, rang up, and asked for a job. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by three lovely women who could see potential in my scrappy folio and gave me a book to illustrate.
'After five years of illustrating other people's stories I found myself getting picky with their texts and had a go at writing my own. Clive Eats Alligators was the result and I have been writing and illustrating my own stories since then. In 1997 my first children's novel, The Quicksand Pony, was published.
'The hardest thing about my job is getting time to do it. A large part of the year is spent giving talks and running workshops on writing and illustrating, and although I love travelling and meeting people, it takes me away from my family and work.'
Who are your favourite Characters from your books? Are any of them based on real people?
I love all the kids from Clive Eats Alligators and they're all based on real people, some close family members and others I hardly know. Biddy inthe Quicksand Pony is me.
Which of your own books is your favourite?
This is a bit like being asked which one of your kids is your favourite and of course you don't have one, you love them all in different ways for different reasons. But like children, it's usually the baby that gets the most attention, so at the moment I'm tied up with The Snow Pony, which is set up in the Victorian High Plains.
What are your writing habits?
Terrible. Really my work ethic is disgraceful. I have about six contracted books that are overdue and my editors are sick to death of me. I just don't spend enough time at my desk. When I get completely backed into a corner I work like a lunatic, night and day.
Do you have any tips for young writers?
Write about something you know and get to the point. Spit it out. Be prepared to do all the rewrites you need to make it perfect, and don't be too precious about your work. Ask for and listen to advice.