Deborah Abela understands and writes what children relish reading.
Her books include The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, the ‘Max Remy Superspy’ series and Teresa: A New Australian.
Final Storm is the third in her ‘Grimsdon’ series (Penguin Random House Australia) and is a rollercoaster of adventure, intrigue and futuristic invention, as well as being a rallying cry about climate change.
The book is also satisfying, with apt resolutions of the characters’ desires and dilemmas and a surprising return to a key setting.
Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Deb.
Could you begin by telling us about some of your previous books for children?
It all started with the Max Remy Superspy series, about two young spies, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen about a family who live in seaside pier amusement park and have an incredible secret and the spelling bee series, about a shy, anxious girl whose family encourage her to enter a spelling comp. The Jasper Zammit (Soccer Legend) series is about a boy who wants to be a superstar like the series advisor, Johnny Warren.
My crankiness about climate change led to the trilogy, Grimsdon, New City and Final Storm. Teresa A New Australian was inspired by my dad, who, with a million other refugees, made the journey to Australia after surviving the devastation of WW2. My first picture book, Wolfie, An Unlikely Hero, is about a wolf, who is sick and tired of being the bad guy.
People often ask why I write in so many different genres but I don’t quite see it like that, because what links my books are the kids who face huge challenges they often think they can’t tackle, but then surprise themselves by doing just that. The reluctant, small, overlooked characters are my heroes.
How have you linked the new instalment, Final Storm into the rest of the ‘Grimsdon’ series?
Grimsdon began with a simple cranky question: What will happen to our beautiful planet if we continue to ignore climate change? So I flooded a city, added sea monsters, flying machines and girls who are good with swords. After being harassed by kids who wanted more, I wrote New City where the characters find themselves in a high tech metropolis, which is hiding a dark secret.
I wrote Final Storm after more kid harassment but also because the world has changed. We are doing more to combat climate change and I wanted to include exciting new technologies and inventions, which gave me the chance to play with robotics, hoverboards and climate engineering.
The kids from Grimsdon go to the Academy, a school for creative, inventive students who are creating the next batch of inventions to help the planet. There’s a new bad guy and an old bad guy, the return of the sea monster, (one of my favourite characters from Grimsdon) and a terrifying decision Griffin must make to save his best friend, Isabella Charm.
What is your favourite invention in the story?
Oh I love some of the robots, and the new cyclone-proof, all terrain vehicle called the Armapod but I LOVE the hoverboard that Isabella creates with her new school friend, Aleksander Larsen. I really want one for Christmas.
There are many exciting episodes, such as Aeroball (like aerial soccer) and hoverboard riding in this book. Have other books or sources inspired you?
I am a massive fan of science but do not have the brain to be a scientist. For this series I did a lot of research to add an element of truth to the inventions and the game of Aeroball. All schools have sports and tournaments, but being set in the Academy that strives for excellence and creativity, I knew I wanted a new game…so I combined soccer with a personal flying device called an ornithopter, that were first drawn by Leonardo Da Vinci and which I introduced in the second novel, New City.
Isabella is the pivotal character. How have you made her so well-rounded?
Isabella is someone I would love to be. She is determined, feisty and fiercely loyal. She is also brave, physically athletic and daring. I’ve lived with Isabella and the other characters for over 10 years, and they feel as real to me as any kid I meet.
You show strong, caring friendships in Final Storm. Could you tell us about one of these bonds?
These characters are so dear to me and I have loved watching their relationships develop over three books. The main one is between best friends, Isabella and Griffin, but I also love the relationship between Jeremiah and Raffy, the orphaned twin, but one of my favourites is the incredibly close bond between Griffin and Fly, the young girl they found abandoned in Grimsdon. They are each other’s best friend and feel it keenly whenever they’re apart. They’re as much brother and sister as any other real sibling. The challenges they face in Final Storm will make them even closer.
How have you incorporated the issue of climate change?
The issues that inspire a book need to be secondary to the story, but climate change definitely inspired this one. The weather is wild due to human activity, just as the scientists predicted, but there are also many clever ways humans are coping with the new weather. New inventions, cleaner energy and smarter cities provide the backdrop to the novel, but there is also skulduggery, robotic rescue eagles, sea monsters and hoverboards, with an action sequence at the end that was FANTASTIC fun to write.
The title of the novel, Final Storm, suggests it is a possible conclusion to the series. Is this the end or are there more books in the ‘Grimsdon’ series on the way?
Ahhh so you noticed my cunning plan….it is definitely called Final Storm because it is the FINAL book in the series, which I’m now calling a trilogy, just to make doubly sure. (Even though a librarian today reminded me I said New City was the final book, then she walked off laughing.)
What else are you writing or planning?
My next book is a picture book called, Bear in Space (Aug 2020) and has been illustrated by the incredible, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. Her work is so beautiful and when I saw her doodle a picture of a bear, I knew I had to write his story. When I sent her the text, she had chills and said I had written the story of her son: a young bear who isn’t quite like the other bears and often feels misunderstood but loves everything about space. I am also working on a quieter, gentler series for younger readers, which I’m enjoying.
What have you been reading and enjoying recently?
I LOVED Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee, Malamander by Thomas Taylor, Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth by Lisa Nicol and Wolf Girl by Anh Do. As for adult books, I’ve enjoyed The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
Watch all three trailers to the trilogy here:
Grimsdon trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhlGvEAxnm8
New City trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC7KnxmbaIA
Final Storm Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rewgPM7qB0k
Deborah Abela’s website is https://www.deborahabela.com/
Facebook: Deborah Abela Author: http://www.facebook.com/deborah.abela.9
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