Sandra Kendell answers some questions about her latest book Beauty. Thanks to Sandra, Windy Hollow Books, and Reading Time reviewer Shelley Stephens for this interview.
How did you come up with the storyline for Beauty?
We do have a lovely big Beauty Leaf tree in our backyard. In the morning I will often sit with a cuppa enjoying birdsong and contemplating the tree and the many creatures that live with her. I began thinking of the consequences of losing the tree and how that would affect those creatures, our family and the ecosystem of the immediate neighbourhood. Beauty then evolved as a story about connections, not only in nature but between people.
What starts your writing process – the story or the illustrations?
It often starts with ideas jotted down as text but then the story and illustrations seem to happen simultaneously, I usually have a strong visual sense of how the story will look as I work on the text.
What made you choose to write in first person narrative?
The main character in the story is seeking understanding from her neighbour, Mrs Lee, while also discovering all this wonderful knowledge about how nature and people are connected. It seemed to make sense to let her voice her experiences.
Your love of nature and trees comes across strongly. What is your earliest recollection of connecting with nature?
I grew up on 2000 acres in country NSW surrounded by dogs, sheep and horses (which I loved) but the most striking memories I have are of wandering the farm and unexpectedly encountering native animals. Startling a huge goanna to scurry up a gumtree, spotting a Wedge Tailed Eagle’s nest and finding an echidna burrowed in beneath a fence post. Because they were not as common, these encounters felt like a special gift.
What are some of your favourite trees?
So hard to choose! I love the Beauty Leaf Tree in our backyard of course and the Yellow-box and native cypress pines of my childhood home. The Top End has some really special trees, the majestic Banyan Trees that grace many of our public parks providing natural jungle gyms for kids to clamber over is a favourite. I also love the beautiful native Hibiscus, Leichardt Trees and Milkwood and the Cocky Apple and Green Plum trees that provide some tasty bush tucker…as I said, so hard to choose!
Read Shelley’s review of Beauty