I was recently asked to put together some words on why I wrote All I Want for Christmas is Rain (published 2016 by New Frontier and illustrated by Megan Forward) – I thought I would share it here:
“New Frontier (my publisher for my second book, Fearless with Dad), asked me to write a Christmas book. My instant reaction was, ‘I don’t want to write a book about Santa, presents and commercialism’. Around the time that I was asked to write a Christmas book, there was a lot in the news about the drought affecting Australian farmers, and particularly Queensland farmers. My professional work at that time also exposed me to issues regarding farmers and the drought. So, the drought was on my mind. The themes of the book were starting to fall into place: drought, farmers, non-commercialism. My first two books had featured male characters and so it was time for me to feature a female character: Jane (which conveniently rhymes with ‘rain’). I wanted the central character in this book to be a girl because, of course, women are farmers. Another theme had fallen into place – feminism. And finally, I wanted the book to be quintessentially Australian, but not in a stereotypical cultural-cringe way; I wanted this book to resonate with Australian farmers. And so I had my themes.
I decided quite quickly that I wanted a female character who lived on a drought stricken farm to use her Santa visit to ask him for rain – this is, essentially, what the book is about. I liked the selflessness of this act – I liked the idea of a child not caring about presents on Christmas morning, but instead understanding that the one thing her family needs more than anything is rain. And I wanted to challenge myself and write the book in rhyme (a first for me). The first draft of the book was written very quickly – in a night. The book as it is now is not that much different to my first draft. Fortunately for me, my publisher New Frontier loved the manuscript and they wanted to publish it. Megan Forward was chosen as the illustrator and I was very excited by this choice when I looked at her portfolio of work. One thing that I was adamant about during the project was that the book had to look ‘right’ or it would fail. The illustrations needed to be beautiful, genuine and full of heart – not ‘Aussie’ in that Expo ‘88 way. In preparation for the visuals of the book, my family and I did a farm stay at Prestbury Farm, in the Felton Valley near Toowoomba. Although this property or area is not in drought, it was still great to be able to take photos of an actual working cattle farm. I met with Megan and took her these photos. We discussed the aesthetics of the book for about 2 hours and it was a very useful and productive meeting. I am forever grateful to my publisher New Frontier for allowing me such unfettered access to Megan. Megan also did her own research and visited a property that was actually in drought, and these images formed her work on the illustrations. The illustrations move me every time I look at them – Megan did a spectacular job. I was incredibly shocked when I learned that All I Want for Christmas is Rain had been shortlisted for Early Childhood Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. I am still in shock!
I am very proud of this book and I have received feedback on the book that has moved me to tears – that feedback has meant more to me than anything else. The book is dedicated to Australian farmers and it thanks them for feeding Australia. I have always had massive respect for Australian farmers and all the challenges they face – this book is my thank you to them. More than anything, I hope that the book resonates with farmers and that it has made them smile. If I achieved that, then my job is done!”