The Wish Sisters by Allison Rushby

The Wish Sisters by Allison Rushby, illustrated by Karen Blair, published by University of Queensland Press

Allison Rushby is part of the famous Brisbane writing Rushby duo.

Allison’s mother, Pamela Rushby, is the awarded author of When the Hipchicks Went to War, The Horses Didn’t Come Home and The Ratcatcher’s Daughter.

Allison is the author of The Mulberry Tree, The Turnkey, The Ghost Locket and other books and is part of the team behind the popular Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group with Allison Tait and Megan Daley.

Allison’s new series is The Wish Sisters.

 “Flick and Birdie’s Granny Aggie had bought a special old bottle. And in the bottle lived an imp that granted wishes. Before she died, Granny Aggie had wished for the imp to give her grandbabies unlimited wishes.” (The Big Wish, Book 2 in The Wish Sisters)

Thank you for speaking to Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords, Allison.

You’ve done a superb job with The Wish Sisters. The stories are appealing and right on target for newly independent readers reading their first chapter book. They are a great blend of imaginative fun, unexpected plot complications and angst. The characters are also well developed, which is a feat in itself considering the necessary small size of the books.

You are well known for your middle-fiction books such as The Ghost Locket. Why have you moved into junior fiction with The Wish Sisters series? 

As an admin at the 28K strong Facebook group Your Kid’s Next Read (along with fellow author Allison Tait and author/teacher librarian Megan Daley), there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t see a member say their child has read every single junior fiction book in the library and is gasping for more. Kids really can burn through this books at an amazing rate and I began to think I should consider writing something in this space myself.

In between writing projects, I took a quick pause to think about this further and headed to my ideas folder – a repository of weird and wonderful clippings and pictures and all sorts that I keep in the hope that one day they might flesh themselves out and become a fully-fledged story. There, I came across a picture I’d filed away of the Lincoln Imp – a funny little grotesque who lives on a wall inside Lincoln Cathedral. I’d seen the imp mentioned in an article and adored its cheeky gap-toothed grin, curly locks and jaunty cross-legged stance. I did a quick search on imps (I didn’t know much about imps!) and found they could grant wishes, which they invariably twist, because that’s just more fun. It was all I needed – I was off and plotting.

You must be having fun writing The Wish Sisters. There’s a unicorn party in Book 1, The Party Wish, labrador puppies in Book 2, The Big Wish and much more. What is one of your favourite wishes so far in the books?

I’ve actually had the joy of writing my very favourite wish just this week! Without giving too much away, I’ll just let you know that if you ever make gingerbread people, you should be very careful about making funny ones with fangs. Especially if you have a baby around who can make wishes!

It can be difficult to control magic wishes in a story without a way of limiting them. How do you curtail or manage them here?

I obviously didn’t learn my lesson regarding magic, because I can remember having to create a magical system a few books ago that saw me stomping around the house saying I would never write about magic again! There’s no denying writing magic is difficult. You do always find you’re writing in too many rules, or too few. It’s hard to get the balance just right. It took many drafts of the first book in the series to work out the rules of the wishes – how they’d been obtained and the limitations on them, what would work best for the story and also for an entire series.

Could you please introduce your protagonist Flick and explain why she always feels so responsible?

I really love Flick and it’s been a pleasure writing her. She feels a lot more responsibility to her little sister than I think her parents realise. The family has recently lost their cherished Granny Aggie and they’re all floundering a little in the face of this – each in their own different way. Granny Aggie had given Flick a special t-shirt that read ‘Best Big Sister Ever’ on the front and Flick took this very much to heart. She really does want to be the best big sister ever and the fact that her baby sister can wish is making that quite challenging. Flick learns a lot throughout the series – not just about wishes and what it means to be a big sister, but about her little sister as a person in her own right and about family and the world around her.

When does she have fun or is she always too busy being the best big sister?

Flick definitely gets to have her fair share of fun and she and Birdie do get up to a fair bit of mischief with the help of the imp. You would have to be a saint to have a little sister who could wish and to not take advantage of that every now and again!

Which of your other characters are you particularly pleased with, and why?

I’ve really loved writing Mrs Mortlake, the nosy next-door neighbour. She’s a bit of a pain in the backside with her peeping stool (she has a little stool that she can use to peer over her back fence as she loves to know everything that’s going on in Honeysuckle St), but she’s essentially a good person. I’ve enjoyed writing both sides to her – the pain in the backside side and also the side where Flick sees why Mrs Mortlake makes the choices she does.

Mrs Mortlake on her peeping stool (Allison Rushby & Karen Blair)

Could you give an example of how you have created suspense in the story?

Cliff-hangers are probably a good example. I do love to end each chapter on a good cliff-hanger so the reader will have to read ‘just one more chapter’!

How have you included humour?

I’d like to think I’ve tucked it into every nook and cranny! From the imp’s cheeky ways, to how Flick and Birdie interact with each other and their best friends Oli and Max, to the ridiculous wishes, to the girls’ parents being so parentish, I’m hoping readers will think there are many humorous moments.

Please choose one of Karen Blair’s lovely illustrations that epitomises your story and briefly explain why.

I’ll have to go for the very first illustration of the imp (p. 23 in The Party Wish). Karen’s just given the imp so much personality and her illustrations of the imp make me laugh every single time. As I mentioned above, I based the imp on the Lincoln Imp. It wasn’t until after Karen came on board as illustrator that we realised she had an actual Lincoln Imp figure residing in her home, due to the fact that she’d lived in Lincoln for a while. Serendipity, or the imp at work? I’ll let you decide …

The imp (The Party Wish by Allison Rushby & Karen Blair)

What is coming next in the series and how many books do you expect there to be?

The Running Wish and The Pet Wish will be released in July 2023 and we’ll also have The Christmas Wish in November 2023. I’m not entirely sure how many books there will end up being. Time will tell!

What have you been reading and enjoying recently – for yourself and for young readers?

I’ve just finished reading a few adult books that I adored – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I’m Glad my Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy and Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson. I’m heading back into YA territory now with Anatomy by Dana Schwartz which is also amazing.

How would you like your readers to contact you?

Readers can always contact me through my website, or you can find me on Facebook or on Instagram

The Wish Sisters at UQP

Allison Rushby’s website

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