About the author

Jenny is an established illustrator and author of children’s picture books, with 20 titles and a million copies in print. Before publishing, she spent 18 years as an advertising illustrator and copywriter. She lives with her husband and writes from a long marble table overlooking Sydney’s bushland.

How did you get the idea for Jatta?

I wanted to write a story about a princess with a disability, something that made her unpopular, something she had absolutely no control over. The 'diseases' that Jatta and Noriglade endure arouse my sympathy, even if most people would find them horrific and dangerous. Arthmael and King Elisind also love Jatta enough to defend her, although I think Arthmael is too trusting of her wolf. On one occasion he should, by rights, be shredded liver! Only luck intervenes to stop that.

What research did you do?

In an alternate world, you can create whatever magic and creatures you want. However, I researched things like the effects of desert dehydration, or the post traumatic stress disorder that might result from watching your mother’s murder, or what happens to human remains left in the desert for thousands of years. What I couldn’t find on the net or libraries, I had to ask. Sydney observatory answered questions on the herald stars. An emergency and trauma doctor at a local hospital answered other questions. Experts have been helpful.

Funnily, I was  invited by a science radio program to do a 10-minute special on the science behind my werewolves and Undead. It was aired on Halloween, of course!

Why does Jatta get so hungry?

A 450 kilo rampaging wolf is going to burn up a serious number of kilojoules. I do not recommend this as a safe method of weight control.

Why is Dartith such a brutal place?

I looked to places in our own world where government is oppressive, or where government has broken down. North Korea. Afghanistan. Corruption and crime bleed the country poor, and the desperate people’s loyalties shrinks back to family. Anyone trusting or generous to strangers won’t survive. Those in power keep ruthless armies while cushioning themselves in luxury.

How do you work?

I get obsessed with what I’m writing, waking at 5am and thinking for an hour in bed. This first hour is one of my favourites each day; it’s full of fresh ideas as if I’ve been working on the story while I slept. That wouldn’t surprise me, as I’m thinking about my story most every waking minute, too. I keep ring binders full of ideas, and write a rough draft first. Then, when I get on the computer, my story evolves. The plot gets stronger although the core remains. When I started writing Jatta, though —even most of the way through—I didn't know whether she would find a way to overcome her wolf curse. Oh, and it helps me to base characters on people I know.

Who is Jatta based on?

Me, I’m afraid. I was very shy until Jatta’s age, and adored drawing and thinking up stories. I have such a sweet tooth! I have three older brothers—one of them still calls me Jay. And I can remember standing in the laundry as my mother did washing, wearing my Op Shop frilly, ribboned nightie and my tiara, asking if I was indeed a princess. The dragon, the Undead and wolf stuff, though? No, that’s not autobiographical.