That time when we met our hero

If you follow the Aussie Owned and Read blog, it’s not hard to realise one thing: most of us are John Marsden fans. We really like him and think he’s an incredibly talented author.

And, if you’re talking about Stacey, Kim or myself (Lauren), it’s fair to say you can replace the word ‘like’ with ‘love.’ And possibly the word ‘fan’ with ‘stalker.’

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet John Marsden himself when he gave a talk at the East Maitland Bowling Club, as organised by the Maitland Library, earlier this year. Hearing him talk about his writing process was inspiring and engaging–all of us left the event excited to go home and write.

Here are a few key points this bestselling author left us with:

Recognise the importance of stories in your life

Marsden says that his books are made up of thousands of small stories that help make his characters believable. By using stories taken from everyday experiences, observing others and making things up, Marsden is able to create depth and dimension in his protagonists–something we all strive to achieve.

Get out and live

It is for this reason, Marsden is a big believer in pushing children to get out there and live. He believes that the experiences you have as a child help shape the person you become, and that kids need their own stories and adventures to draw on in the future.

Break the rules

Marsden referenced the famous Robert Graves quote:

“Every English poet should master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them.”

Marsden believes the rules of language are too rigid. He encourages writers and children to play with language, Dr. Seuss-style, and use English grammar as a guideline only.

Use your voice

Marsden recognises the importance of having a strong voice. He suggests looking at the way males speak, females speak, professionals and students, as a way of creating differentiation between characters.

This is also indicative of a ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ attitude. By using dialogue effectively, you can indicate many things about a person without spelling it out.

Know your market

You should never write to suit a trend, but Marsden admits he wrote his first book, So Much To Tell You, as a way to get his English students interested in reading. And it took him three weeks.


While you may not be able to match his speed, Marsden is right: it’s important to know your audience. Know who you’re writing this book for and cater language, theming and plot around them.

From left: Lauren, Stacy, Kim and JOHN-FREAKING-MARSDEN!

From left: Lauren, Stacey, Kim and JOHN-FREAKING-MARSDEN!

It was one of those nights where the impossible becomes possible. Dreams are achievable. John (may I call him John? I think I will!) was a real person, just like us–and, at the end of the night, I think we all left thinking there was a chance we could reach heights like he had one day, too.

tomorrow when the war began


John was lovely enough to sign a copy of his bestselling novel Tomorrow When the War Began for one of our lucky blog fans! To enter, follow the Rafflecopter link below.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Please note, due to postage, competition open to Australian residents only.

Lauren (3)

Lauren McKellar is an editor and author. She loves YA, NA, contemporary romance and puppy dogs. Follow her on twitter here, check out her facebook page here or visit her personal blog here.


    1. Yes! It’s amazing how all coherent thought flies out the window when we’re placed in the presence of awesomeness 🙂



  1. Aww, I am a little bit envious! Thanks for sharing some of John’s tips and thoughts. I read the picture book Home and Away recently, I was so glad to discover he wrote that as well.



  2. I met Orson Scott Card back in 1997 and I was so in awe. I cried. I know it sounds crazy but I did. I’ve been able to interact with him on numerous occasions since that time. When I worked at a bookstore in the late 90’s I was able to be his helper at a few signings. I was stoked!



  3. John Marsden came to speak at my Uni’s Anthology launch back in 2001, I think it was. He said he liked my story : )
    In high school there was a list a mile long to get your hands on the one copy of Tomorrow When The War Began. It was that popular!



  4. I’d have loved to meet Bryce Courtenay given my fascination with Africa. Meeting John Marsden would definitely leave me tongue-tied!



  5. My author heros are definitely John Marsden and JK Rowling. I met John Marsden at a book signing when I was 14 and was too tongue tied to speak to him apart from ‘I really like your books’



  6. I’ve never met (in person) an author. I would LOVE TO. Big dream. Some of my favourite Aussie author/heros are Steph Bowe, Shirley Marr and Melania Marchetta!!



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