About Susannah header

About Susannah images
Susannah McFarlane is a successful children’s book author who, after many years working as a publisher, now spends her time writing and creating stories that kids love to read.

She is the creator and writer of the awarding-winning EJ12 Girl Hero series, the creator and co-author of the hugely popular series for boys, Boy vs Beast, and the author of the Little Mates series of alphabet books for under fives.

Susannah, who was also the original concept creator of two of Australia’s leading tween fiction series Go Girl! and Zac Power, understands kids and loves creating stories they enjoy to read. Her understanding and belief in the need for age-appropriate but fun content for kids comes from over twenty years experience as a children’s book publisher and from having worked with some of the world’s leading brands and writers. Susannah actually counts Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh, Tintin, and Enid Blyton as friends, not just former colleagues!

Susannah is also the founding director of Lemonfizz Media, a boutique children’s publisher that focuses on developing a small number of publishing projects across all content platforms, and a speaker on children’s publishing for the RMIT Editing and Publishing course.

She was previously the managing director of Egmont Books UK; the vice-president of the Egmont Group; the co‐owner, managing director and publisher of Hardie Grant Egmont; a contributor to the UK trade journal Publishing News; and the Convenor of the Children’s Publishing Committee and Board Director of the Australian Publishers’ Association.

Q&A – Kids Ask Susannah

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I first wanted to be a cowboy and then, for a long time, a vet. It wasn’t until late in high school that I wanted to work with books. I began working in publishing when I finished university.

Where do you live?
I live in Melbourne, Australia.

What books do you write?
As well as the EJ12 Girl Hero series, I write a series of picture books called Little Mates for younger children. I also co-write a series for boys called Boy vs Beast, but we use the name Mac Park for these – the Mac is me, and the Park is my co-writer Louise Park!

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? And what inspired you to become a writer?
For a long time I didn’t want to be a writer at all. I loved working in publishing – with authors as a publicist, in marketing, and then as a publisher – and I enjoyed writing for fun, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer. But then my daughter inspired me to write my own story: I wanted to write a story that showed her she – and all girls – could do anything!

Are you inspired by any particular books or authors? What’s on your bookshelf?
Lots of them, normally the last one I read. I love reading one particular author, but then also discovering a new one. Our bookshelves take over our living room – it’s fantastic to see all your friends up there.

How do you come up with new stories?
I like to wonder ‘What if …?’ What if the school toilets hid a secret tunnel to a spy agency? What if a 10 year-old girl could solve hard missions but still find mean girls tricky? Or, for Boy vs Beast, what if snow wasn’t really snow but the attacks of an ice beast? Then I try to write the answers.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become an author?
Write as much as you can, and enjoy re-writing – it takes lots and lots of drafts to get a story ready, and practice makes perfect! Also, read a lot.

What was your favourite book or author when you were a kid?
I loved The Magic Faraway Tree and the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton, and then a bit later, the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I liked stories about girls doing things even then! One of my favourite picture books – which I still have – was Ferdinand the Bull, about a bull in Spain who just wanted to sit and smell the flowers and not be part of bull fighting until one day …

If you had to describe yourself to someone but you could only use 3 words what would they be?
Wow. That’s really hard – I’m going to ask other people that! Maybe energetic, optimistic, but a little unsure? Perhaps that’s where Emma from the EJ12 series gets it from?

Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?
We have two dogs: Bill a Jack Russell cross who thinks he is a person, and Bella who is an insane cavoodle. My daughter has two budgies as well, which are very noisy! When I was growing up we had – all at one time – one dog, five cats, four budgies, six mice, two terrapins and, for a little while, two lambs!

What is your favourite word and why?
Discombobulate (to throw into a state confusion) – it is almost onomatopoeic, like whoosh, which I also like a lot.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like cooking and eating (luckily I also like exercise!). And I love laughing so I enjoy going to comedy shows, and listening to funny friends and family. My family tells me my jokes are not so funny though.