Samantha Turnbull tells BCB Clubhouse that when she visited a book shop and discovered nearly all the books on sale to read to her little girl were about princesses, with a few about fairies, she decided to write her own. The result is the wonderful, fun- and friend-filled Anti-Princess Club series.
I was a serious bookworm as a kid. You’d find my head buried in Enid Blyton’s Naughtiest Girl books, anything by Roald Dahl, everything by Robin Klein and the hugely popular Babysitters Club series.
So, when I had a daughter of my own five years ago, I couldn’t wait to get her into reading too.
When she was just a few weeks old, I placed her in a shopping trolley and ventured into a well-known department store in country New South Wales.
They had the books divided into sections for boys and girls (personally, I think there’s no such thing as a book only for a boy or a book only for a girl). And, in the ‘girls’ section’ they had about 50 books and 45 of them were about princesses. FORTY-FIVE!!! The other five were about fairies.
I thought that was a little boring and strange. What if girls wanted to read about more than princesses and fairies? Where were the feisty, strong girl characters I read about when I was a kid?
It was at that moment that I decided to write my own books about girls who didn’t like princesses. It’s not that I think there’s anything terribly wrong with princesses (except for the weak, passive ones who always need rescuing), I just thought kids needed a bit more diversity of choice.
I’d always loved writing stories. I’d spent a lot of years working as a newspaper journalist and my current day job is with the awesome ABC. But the ‘spare’ time I had while on maternity leave with my new daughter meant I could try my hand at writing some fiction.
It didn’t take long. The characters – Emily, Bella, Grace and Chloe – came to me easily. I deliberately gave them talents and traits that traditionally have been more associated with boys (things like science, maths, sport, building). Kids already know that girls can do anything boys can do, and vice versa, but I hadn’t found that reflected on mainstream retail bookshelves.
The characters in my book form a club called The Anti-Princess Club with the motto ‘We don’t need rescuing’, but their distaste for princesses isn’t the focus of the story – it’s just what brought them together. The most prevalent theme is friendship.
I sat on the first manuscript for Emily’s Tiara Trouble for a while before I sent it to Allen & Unwin, and I was offered a publishing contract quite quickly. They also asked me to write three more books (Bella’s Backyard Bullies, Grace’s Dance Disaster and Chloe’s River Rescue). The four books were released at the same time and, due to their success, I was asked to write a fifth – Cruise Control.
Cruise Control is the biggest and, according to the feedback I’ve been getting from readers, the best in the series. As well as the story, it features a load of activities based on the characters’ talents.
I’m working on a new series at the moment that is still ‘hush, hush’ but one thing is for sure – you won’t find any princesses in it!