Author Isaac Thackray and his daughter Lila (10). Photo / Provided
Q What do you do when you’ve just won a gold medal for best first book at the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards in New York?
A. If you’re (self-proclaimed) “a bit crazy,” like former Pirongia man Isaac Thackray, you’re releasing your second book.
It was just around this time last year that we were amazed by Isaac’s first children’s book, mud queen.
The new title was attracting all kinds of attention – an exciting and hilarious adventure that the kids loved.
This story began with two sisters, Lucy and Lily, desperate to find their missing grandfather.
But first they had to survive a big, weird adventure filled with nail polish bullies, a weird bookstore, a child-eating beast, a really bad orchestra, flying cupcake pieces, of a talking fox and swords, with a wickedly entertaining villain. who has a lot to say for herself and a rather weak stomach.
Now the second book of Isaac Zola the Wheeler is about to hit the shelves, and – although he can’t say officially – he thinks it’s better than mud queen.
This one is a page-turning action tale full of laughs, thrills, incredible twists, suspense, orphans, opera singing, danger, a greedy villain, bravery, sad bits, scary bits, extremely poor supervision and one of the greatest finales you will ever read.
Life is pretty good at St Alice’s Home for Orphans. Until someone ignobly decides they want to ruin everything.
How will Zola and his friends stop him? What’s behind this door? Why is the doctor acting so strange? Who takes care of these children? And… wait, where does this music come from?
Isaac says Zola was easier than mud queen in a way because he knew what was coming – but the writing was more demanding because he paid attention to things like how to write the characters, the pacing of the story and the way to process action scenes and emotions.
“I actually studied all of this at night to make sure I understood and wrote during the day,” says Isaac.
“I really got into the chopper, but it was great.
“I really enjoyed Zola because the characters and their adventures kept me hooked throughout.”
This included the creation of Fabiano Berettoluzianicino, the world’s greatest opera singer, poor little Henry Pignut, and dastardly Mr. Snide, the greedy property developer.
“And Zola, of course. This is the kind of child I would like to be… except for the little orphan.
Isaac says the author life is all over the place – but he likes it that way.
“My background is as a creative writer in advertising, where things are moving at lightning speed all the time,” he says.
“You have to come up with something big by tomorrow or there will be no tomorrow.
“That’s how I like to work. I’d rather jump in and throw it all in for a shorter period of time than dive in and out, pushing aimless ideas onto the plate for years.
And he loves the journey – but especially the last half, when you have the overall story and the characters in the bag and just have him sing.
He says seeing the artwork come to life is exciting, and then getting the copies in advance is fantastic.
“So you have a book. It exists.”
Isaac says his favorite method of writing is to pick one of the many ideas he comes up with and start writing any old nonsense.
“Eventually the real story will emerge – usually after a few thousand words.
“Zola the Wheeler ended up being totally different from the story I started, and much better.
“And the grand finale didn’t come until I was almost halfway through the first draft.
“It’s more exciting for me that way, and it definitely seems to create a more unexpected story.”
Isaac thinks a lot of writers don’t finish because they only have one big idea, then start writing, and often that big idea turns out to be unworkable and more fun in chapter three, so they give up.
An important part of the process is when Isaac’s wife, Kim, reads the finished manuscript aloud to see where the holes and weak spots are.
“It usually takes two days, and if something goes wrong I have to fix it on the spot,” he says.
“It’s a real chore.”
But Isaac’s books are hits with kids, and that’s what’s important to him.
“Childhood is supposed to be magical, exciting and fun, but these days it seems kids aren’t allowed to forget for a second that they might be anxious or feel bad about something.
“My books are designed so children can get those thoughts out of their heads and live.”
Q What are some simple ways we could all make the world a better place?
A. Move to a small town. Cuddle your babies. Work at home. Never marry a writer. To buy Zola the Wheeler.
Check it out on isaacthackray.com.