THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION: Where did you get the idea for Thunderstorm Dancing?
We’re always curious, aren’t we? Join me as I invite the wonderful picture-book writer, Katrina Germein, while she answers that question!
Where do you get your ideas from? – the Number One question authors get asked. Usually, I have an answer. I say that my story ideas come from events in my life, from people I’ve met and places I’ve been. But with Thunderstorm Dancing the answer is not so simple. I don’t really know where the story came from. I mean, it still came from my life (it’s the second time a vibrant, comforting granny has appeared in one of my books) but I can’t pin point a single event or place. It’s as if the storm in the story has swept through my life, lifted fragments in the wind and blown them into the book.
Firstly, the book begins at the beach. Most of my daydreams begin at the beach, so do many of my nicest childhood and adult memories. As well as that, it’s a book about family (always important) and it’s a book about dancing around the house for the sheer fun of it. I’m guilty of a bit of shameless lounge room dancing myself.
When I was in Primary School I had the same teacher for three years, starting from when I was six. Mrs Vaughn was a keen pianist and singer. She encouraged us to express ourselves through story and music. Some of my favourite school memories are of times when Mrs Vaughn took us to the big, empty activity hall for dancing. She would play the piano and call out stories, line by line, to go with the music. (I assume she made them up as she went along.) We would dance (or romp/roll/rollick) out whatever actions we felt matched the musical story. There was one tale about a fresh water crocodile and a salt-water crocodile meeting in a river and fighting each other, and another about wild ponies prancing and whinnying across a hillside. So much fun! Anyway, the feeling of those occasions was definitely lurking while I wrote Thunderstorm Dancing. (It’s not surprising that nearly all of the early reviews have mentioned opportunities for classroom performances as a follow up to the book.)
This story was written quickly, over a couple of days. Most of it was penned within a few hours of the first word, even though I had things to do and couldn’t stay home to write it. The words rolled in from somewhere and I had to save them. One page was written on a receipt when I pulled into a service station. Another page was written on a café napkin as I waited for a friend. It was like the little parts of me that had been lifted by the storm dropped onto the paper like raindrops plop-plop-plop and as the momentum built more ideas poured down.
One of the things I love about writing is you never quite know where it’s going to take you. Sometimes I read things back later and think, Did I write that? Thunderstorm Dancing is one of those.