Interview with Pip Harry
The Little Wave (UQP) is a verse novel for older children that draws the reader in through its realistic characters and spare but warm language.
Thank you for speaking to Paperbark blog, Pip.
Thanks for having me!
Why have you written a book for children after three successful YA novels?
I adore writing for young adults, but after telling three emotionally taxing and complex stories for that age group, I wanted to try to write a story for a younger readership.
Why a verse novel rather than a novel?
I’d been reading lots of excellent children’s verse novels – Kat Apel’s Bully on the Bus, Sarah Crossan’s The Weight of Water, and Thanhha Lai’sInside Out & Back Again. When I sat down to write The Little Wave, I felt compelled to try verse – both because I wanted to stretch myself as a writer, and also the story felt like it needed to be told in a more sparse, lyrical style.
How different was the process of writing in verse novel form?
So different! It was exciting being able to put the words anywhere on the page, and play with language and sounds. I paused around the 20,000 word mark and sent it to a specialist verse novelist, Holly Thompson, for an appraisal. Not having written verse before, I had no idea if it was any good and was quite nervous! She was very reassuring, gave me some great pointers and I then felt confident enough to send it to my publisher at UQP.
The editing process, I will add, was significantly harder than my YA novels. I sweated over every word, line, line break, white space, comma, full stop … I was very glad to see it off to the printers!
What is the significance of the title, The Little Wave?
The original title was actually ‘Bush to Beach’. Literary agent Danielle Binks suggested I change it to The Little Wave, and I wholeheartedly agreed! The significance? Even a little wave gains momentum, and becomes more powerful. Jump on it, and you can ride it all the way to shore.
Could you tell us a little about each of the three main characters, including the problems they are facing? How did you create different voices for each?
Noah lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and loves surfing. He might appear carefree, but he’s hurt and confused by the bullying behaviour of his best friend.
Lottie is intelligent and wants to be an entomologist, but she’s dealing with the loss of her mother, and its impact on her dad. She doesn’t understand why he’s filling their lonely house with junk.
Jack lives in the country. He’s funny and a talented cricketer, but struggling at school. He sets the goal of visiting the beach on a school trip, but there are significant obstacles in his way.
Creating three separate and distinct voices was a challenge! But when I was writing I could hear each of them so clearly in my head. Lottie was quiet and shy, Jack was loud, boisterous and irreverent, Noah was reflective and sensitive. In earlier drafts Jack used tons of uncaps and exclamation points, and Lottie’s voice was entirely lower case!
These children are kind. How do you hope children show kindness to each other?
Yes, I’m so glad you saw that! I love Lottie, Noah and Jack’s kindness, loyalty and generosity of spirit. I hope kids reading this book are inspired to show each other everyday kindness – whether that’s writing a supportive letter, sticking up for your mate in the playground, noticing that’s someone’s on their own at lunchtime and sitting with them, or any number of other kind things!
Both the teachers are kind and wise? Which of their attributes do you appreciate and hope to see in schools?
Mr M and Miss Waites are such great educators and human beings. They provide challenges for their students and opportunities for them to shine, are creative and work extremely hard to make the classroom productive and fun. They’re caring and look out for the students who might be a little reticent or quieter.
I’ve seen lots of teachers like them in Australian schools and I really appreciate their dedication. It’s not easy to teach, and every time I do a school visit, I’m in awe of the work our teachers do in the classroom – week-in, week-out.
The city and country children write to each other. Is letter-writing something you want to encourage? If so, why or how?
Yes, it definitely is. I love handwritten letters and cards. There’s so much instant communication in our world, but the anticipation and surprise of ‘snail mail’ can be just as exciting and enriching. We often take a little more time and care when writing our thoughts down on paper, and it’s also a wonderful way to let a friendship unfold slowly over time.
What have you been reading and enjoying recently?
Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty – hilarious and intriguing, I’m completely hooked; Stone Girl by Eleni Hale, a visceral and powerful YA novel about children who become wards of the state and Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee, which is heart-breaking and beautifully written.
All the very best with this thoughtful book, Pip. Children will find it easy to read as well as insightful and understanding.
Thank you so much Joy!
Pip Harry’s YA books are Because of You, Head of the River and I’ll Tell You Mine.
Pip Harry’s website is https://www.pipharry.com/