We caught up with 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults finalist Jane Bloomfield this week, and asked her about her fabulously sassy character Lily Max, for more information on the mysterious Jock Crave, and what stand out books she's been reading this year.
What inspired you to write the Lily Max books?
When my daughters were young they were drawn to strong spunky literary heroines. We read Clarice Bean, Pippi Longstocking and Judy Moody over and over. I loved them too, their sassiness, their determination and loyalty, and great sense of family. I guess a seed was sown – I wanted to make my own loveable book character.
To give her a point of difference, I made her crazy about clothes and fashion. When Lily Max’s voice came alive in my head she pretty much wouldn’t shut up. As a reaction to my daughters being strongly influenced by what their peers where wearing and wanting the latest high street fashion, I gave Lily Max an outrageous slightly punk dress sense. She’s creative. She’s resourceful. She upcycles her clothes, loves vintage, customises her shoes, and creates garments from scratch - often with her trusty glue gun.
What do you have in common with Lily?
I believe anything is possible. I’m resilient and doggedly determined like Lily Max. I must be – I dreamt up her character 10 years ago! When I sent the first draft of her book to the Tom Fitzgibbon Award I had three children under five. If you tell me how to do something, I tackle it in the exact opposite way. I’m fiercely loyal to friends and family and in return receive their support. Like Lily Max my grandmother(s) played a big part in my upbringing. My gran is 97. Like Lily Max I love going-out shoes.
How are you different?
I’m quite a shy person. Non confrontational. The silent brooding type. Whereas Lily Max is fiercely outspoken. Her impulsiveness often gets her in trouble. She’s the eldest in her family and a leader. I’m a middle child and happy to follow. I love clothes and fashion but I’m too lazy to sew garments. I find shopping boring and only buy what I absolutely adore and know will last.
Can you tell our readers about Jock Crave?
He began quite innocently one Friday, when ‘Crave’ was a word in the Book Council’s #RamereShorts weekly ‘Tweet a story with six set words’ . Then I set myself the challenge to have him in my story each week, like a serialised character. No one else was doing it. Now he has quite a following of flighty damsels drawn by his charismatic, charming ways!
I grew up in Central Hawkes Bay on a farm. One summer, I worked in a shearing gang, aged 16. Lots of my male friends stayed on and worked on their parents farms when they left school. Jock Crave is actually based on one of them. But Jock’s your thinking man’s cowboy. He wears wranglers not moleskins. Guy’s a dude. A romantic. A bit of a joker. He’s just so much fun. The quality of my #Ramereshorts no doubt suffers having him appear each time but he’s a keeper. There have been cries for a book. Kirsten McKenzie borrowed his name and put him in her latest book.
What has been a stand out book that you’ve read this year, and why?
I’m having an absolute love affair with J. P. Donleavy at the moment. I’ve reread all my husband’s ancient paperbacks, event he ones with chunks of pages missing. Then I resorted to Amazon to source second hand copies from the US. Bawdiness aside, his prose is exquisite. His characters are bonkers. He overuses alliteration. I love alliteration. He writes short incomplete sentences. I love short incomplete sentences. It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite title, but so far it’s A Fairy Tale of New York (1973). I’ve just started The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (1968). It begins ‘He was born in Paris in a big white house on a little square off Avenue Foch. Of a mother blond and beautiful and a father quiet and rich.’ Sigh.