Alan Sunderland is a Lane Cove local, journalist and children’s author who has published a book series – My Australian Story. Alan has released his latest book called Six Seconds about the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake.
We asked Alan a few questions about his books and his life in Lane Cove.
What is Six Seconds About?
The main character, Michael, is a 10-year-old boy growing up in Newcastle. He has a perfectly normal childhood – going to the beach, riding his bike, going to school with friends.
But his mother is a journalist at the local newspaper. So he gets to read about all sorts of dangerous and worrying things happening in the world, from car crashes and storms to huge international events like Tiananmen Square. That makes him more and more worried about the world, and he withdraws into his shell a little as many kids do when confronted by worry and trauma.
But then, late in the year, the Newcastle Earthquake happens, and Michael is suddenly confronted by a real disaster that affects his own family. In dealing with it, Michael discovers strength and determination he never knew he had, and all of a sudden, the world doesn’t seem so daunting.
What Prompted Your to Write about the Newcastle Earthquake?
I’ve been a journalist for 40 years, but for the past 20 years, I have also written novels for children. Initially, it was to entertain my own three sons, but now they’re fully grown, it is purely for pleasure. There is nothing more enjoyable than visiting schools and talking to kids about reading and writing.
I wrote a book for Scholastic (one of my publishers) many years ago about a refugee boy (“Refugee- the Diary of Ali Ismail”). It was quite successful, and so they approached me recently to write another one, this time dealing with the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake. I loved the idea as it gave me an excuse to spend some time in Newcastle and to reacquaint myself with the impact of that terrible day.
How Long Did It Take to Write the Book?
I only spent a month or two writing it, but many more months were spent travelling back and forth to Newcastle, visiting locations and talking to people affected by the earthquake at the time, and then trawling through old newspapers at the Mitchell Library to make sure all the details in the story were as accurate as possible.
What Age is the Book Aimed At?
Like all of my books (this is my eighth), it is aimed at 8-12-year-old readers.
Can you Tell Us More About Your Book Series?
“My Australian Story” is a series of books published by Scholastic that explores a new way of telling history for children by mixing real-life historical events with a fictional main character.
The main character is always a young child, telling the story through their own eyes. They have covered everything from the Eureka Rebellion, Federation and World Wars I and II to more recent events like Cyclone Tracy, asylum seekers, and now the Newcastle Earthquake.
How Long Have You Lived in Lane Cove?
My family and I moved to Lane Cove in 1996 when we moved to Sydney. Before that, I was born in Perth, grew up in Melbourne and spent several years working in Canberra. But Lane Cove is the only place I have lived in Sydney – a great place to bring up a family.
What’s your Favourite Thing to Do In Lane Cove?
So many things to choose from, but walking our little schnauzer up to the plaza and enjoying a breakfast at one of the great cafes, there is a perennial favourite.
What’s Your Favourite Lane Cove Coffee Shop?
We’ve been enjoying breakfast regularly at the Two Brothers and the old Aristocrat before that for years (old traditions die hard), but let’s be honest – we’ve tried them all, and it’s hard to find a bad one. And how good is the new Puppy Tail Cafe in Blackman Park!
Where Can You Buy the Book?
You can find out about Alan’s other books here.
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