Tuesday, 2 June 2015

In Conversation with Susanne Gervay

I am thrilled to welcome a lady who is so passionate, hardworking and inspiring! Susanne Gervay has travelled around Australia and internationally sharing her passion for story telling. Today she shares some writing tips with us.

Tell us a little about your writing journey.
Writing a book is not as tough as it is to haul thirty-five people around the country and sweat like a horse five nights a week.

Bette Midler

Writing is tough. There’s the craft, long night writing between raising kids as a sole parent and work, rejections from publishers, self-doubt and eventual publication. I wrote my first book for my son called ‘Jamie’s A Hero’ so that he’d and all kids would know that they are heroes when their parents divorce or separate. It is heroic to get up and go to school and be the best kid you can be when your world is being torn apart. ‘Jamie’s A Hero’ is funny, sad and ultimately it is about giving kids a friend when they face life’s challenges.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
I feel privileged and love it when my readers write to me about how much my books mean to them and how they impact on their lives. These sort of emails are why I continue writing:-

Description: I am Jack. Thank you.  My son was a victim of a false gay rumour at a school camp when he was only 9 years old by a very gifted boy with his peer group which spread through his year. Why? My son was different-poor social skills but has a good sense of humour. They studied "I am Jack" this term. My son's teacher told me that Patrick finished the book before the class did. Participated in the class discussion which he is normally very shy in doing all because he identified with Jack. 

Thank you Lisa 


I also love that I can use my life as a writer to support kids and families. I am a writer ambassador for Room to Read www.roomtoread.org and include information on Room to Read in my last ‘I AM JACK’ book – BEING JACK. I support charities I love like VARIETY who helps children with special needs through my picture book ‘Gracie and Josh’ (Ford Street). My advocacy for anti-school bullying has been a driver in my books for 20 years. I love that I can do this.

Finally I love being in the community of children’s writers and illustrators – they are totally amazing people and I love them.

What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
There are many hard aspects. The writing requires discipline, many long nights and days, self-doubt. Publishing what I want is difficult. For example my recent picture book ‘Elephants Have Wings’ which is a multi-faith, peace book which opens discussion on the humanity in all of us, was hard to get published.

I went to a boutique publishing Ford Street Publishing. How beautiful is this elephant meditating on the beauty of the world with children safely ensconced in his wings. The tree of life with its myriad of elephants represents the beauty of peace. 


Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

Yes, always. My ‘I Am Jack’ books started because my son was bullied at school and I wanted to make a safer world for young people and families. ‘The Cave’ was inspired by my then teenage son as he grappled with peer groups pressure and tough decisions about mateship, morality and who he wanted to be. ‘That’s Why I Wrote This Song’ is the deep journey of my daughter’s search for identity. Everything is personal but universal.

Tell us about your publications?

My I AM JACK books have become rite-of-passage on school bullying and my fourth and last ‘I Am Jack’ book has just been released. The adaptation of ‘I Am Jack’ into a play by Monkey Baa Theatre www.monkeybaa.com.au has been very successful touring most years since 2008. In 2015 it will do a national tour from Sydney to Darwin and its second US tour of theatres. I have signed an option for a TV series which I hope eventuates.

My picture books – ‘Ships in the Field’, ‘Gracie and Josh’, ‘Elephants Have Wings’ – reach into deep issues with a gentle, funny and loving touch. ‘Ships in the Field; is autobiographical about the journey of refugees finding home. ‘Gracie and Josh’ celebrates the courage of siblings in the face of sickness/disability; ‘Elephants Have Wings’ is a peace book.

My YA novels are search for identity and emotionally tough to write – ‘That’s Why I Wrote This Song’, ‘The Cave’, ‘Butterflies’.

What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
It is not for the faint-hearted. I thought I’d write and be published. I had no idea about the journey – the emotions – the highs and lows – the disappointments and joys.

Other than writing what else do you love?
I’m involved in the restoration of an 1870’s historic hotel – The Hughenden Woollahra in Sydney; and two 1880s heritage residences in Centennial Parklands. It was a great passion to save these buildings and give them a new life so they can continue to be part of Australian heritage.

I am deeply involved in literacy, social justice, supporting children’s writing and am head of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (Australia East & New Zealand), Patron of Monkey Baa Theatre, Writers Ambassador for Room to read; Role Model for Books in Homes and others.

What would your dream location for writing be?

Any location which gives me time to think and create. Life in Sydney is usually so hectic, I scramble to get mental and emotional peace so I can write.

Five words that sum you up.

Loving, advocate, funny, emotional, loyal

How can we learn more?

The Hughenden

Thanks so much for being interviewed Susanne. I just loved Butterflies. Here is a snippet of my review.

"This is my first Susanne Gervay book and what a book to begin with!  ... This story made we cry, it made me grin but most of all it made me want to keep reading until the very end without stopping." 

You can read the whole 5 star review on Goodreads.





  1. Just returned from a four week US author tour and the privilege of speaking to kids with an Australian voice about universal challenges - from bullying to disability to search for identity to blending families ... it's emotionally powerful.

  2. Great interview, Melissa and Susanne. Thanks for sharing, Susanne. You are inspirational, and really fun.

  3. Fascinating words. Susanne is our inspiration.