Prolific children’s writer Rosanne Hawke has been a friend of Stories of Life since she judged our first competition in 2016. She recently published another book, Pepper Masalah. We asked her about her book, and we hope that her answers will inspire you as we approach the closing days of our submission period, which ends of 31 July.
SOL: What prompted you to write Pepper Masalah?
Rosanne: My previous cats inspired the Pepper Masalah series. One cat called Q was very clever. He would look at me as though he knew what I was saying. Another cat called Harry disappeared after a freak storm. And I had a British Shorthair cat who purred like a generator and loved carpets.
SOL: What is the genre of your book? Who is your intended audience?
Rosanne: The genre is fantasy adventure and the intended audience is early independent readers, i.e. lower to mid-primary school age.
SOL: How would you describe your writing process for this book?
Rosanne: Once I had the idea of a story about a clever cat who disappears when a storm hits, I started with an A4 artist journal. In it I put all my ideas, images, photos, research, mind maps and outlines of possible stories. I began with mind maps of the characters. The carpet and Pepper. Pepper began as a black male British Shorthair cat like mine. But he morphed into a Bombay cat as the overall story arc of the series began to take shape in my journal. The carpet would be an ancient one brought to Australia by Pepper’s family from Kashmir. It would be asleep but the wind could wake it up. Which is what happens, but it takes a while to get used to flying again and keeps landing in different countries on its way to Kashmir to find its original owner. When the first story kept getting rejected, I added a boy Zamir to the story and Pepper became a female cat as there were too many ‘he’ pronouns. It works better with Zamir on board even though it is still Pepper’s story. Most of the settings are places I have lived in e.g. UAE or Pakistan; visited as in Azad Kashmir and India; or know people from, i.e. Afghanistan.
SOL: Could you describe the way facts and imagination interplay in the writing of this book?
Rosanne: Yes, the facts are that I did have a black cat called Pepper Masalah and there was a storm where another of my cats disappeared. So in my imagination I wondered what could have happened to a cat that disappears? What adventures could the cat have and where? I went a little further and added a touch of fantasy with a flying carpet that enables Pepper and Zamir to understand each other and even to understand other languages where they land. And even though stories like this may not be factual or true, there is a deeper and universal truth in them that people from other cultures are just like us. God loves everyone just as he loves us. We are one family and we will be kind because of his great love for us. The world needs more kindness right now and the best people to share this with are young children who accept mystery and love.
SOL: What effect do you hope that your book will have on your readers?
Rosanne: I hope readers will enjoy Pepper’s adventures and, like her, want to be kind, to help others and enjoy diversity of culture. In every book, Pepper and Zamir meet people different from themselves and make friends with them. In each adventure Pepper and Zam do something kind for someone. And someone is kind to them. In effect these books are ‘diversity, culture and kindness’ for younger readers. The adventures will also introduce young readers to geography and history.