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When I was a little girl I was passionate
about animals. I did sponsored swims for Greenpeace, knocking on local
businesses’ doors to ask for the money they had promised me to give to the
dolphins. 

Dad got me a subscription to National Geographic magazine and I
scoured the pages. I decided to make my own magazine profiling a handful of
animals in each edition, illustrating my stories and selling it at school. 

I
don’t think I sold many to be honest, but I have vivid memories of watching
with delight as the pages emerged from the colour printer at the local print
shop.

I went to university to study Journalism and
then worked at Cosmopolitan UK magazine. When I was 29 I moved to Mexico to
teach English and volunteer on conservation projects with an organisation
called GVI, and when I later returned to Australia I worked for them going to
universities to talk to their students about the different humanitarian and
environmental programs GVI ran around the world.

When I met my husband and had my daughter we
moved to the Yarra Valley where we were surrounded by wildlife. I was so
inspired by all the birds and animals that visited us that I started painting
them, developing my own style with bold, block colours. I created a website to
sell prints and greeting cards of my work and then began printing on fabric,
making a tea towel and apron line which are now sold in stores around Victoria.

It was towards the end of my second pregnancy
that we watched the devastating bushfires rage through Victoria and New South
Wales. Like everyone, it deeply upset me seeing all those animals die and our
planet suffer so greatly. On my daily walks holding my young daughter’s hand
and my pregnant belly, I had the idea of writing a children’s book about
climate change, but with a view to empowering the kids to change their future
rather than fearing it.

My second daughter was born the day before the
first Melbourne lockdown. While things on the television were terrifying,
having my husband at home enabled me to write the children’s book in between
caring for my daughters. I wrote and wrote, it burst forth from my fingertips
and took on a life of its own. 

It started as a love letter to my young
daughters, so I made them the heroines. But as I wrote I realised I had too
much to say for a picture book, so it progressed to a 26,000 word novel for
middle grade readers. 

It was hard to imagine what my daughters would
look like when they were 9 and 12. My eldest daughter was only 3 and had blond
curly hair and my youngest daughter was quite dark when she popped out, so they
were the physical descriptions I gave them, although they’ve since changed
completely. I also didn’t know what their personalities would be like, so I had
to invent two little girls. Now that they’re older I tell them the characters
are loosely based on them and that, while I hope they care about the environment,
they are under no obligation to single-handedly save the planet, that seems
like quite a lot of pressure. 

I changed the characters’ names from my
daughters’, Josephine and Georgina, to Stella and Dot, far less of a mouthful.
I found an editor and she pointed out what was good, and what wasn’t. I went
over it and over it, sending copies to friends and family for their feedback
and reading snippets to the girls before finally feeling satisfied that, dare I
say it, it was quite good! 

The pandemic went on and on of course, and
Melbourne became the longest locked down city in the world. But my book was
finished and I nervously and lovingly sent it off to publishers before moving
on with my life as we all emerged from an extraordinary two years in history.

When I got the email from Olympia Publishers
in London I was thrilled, children other than my own would read my story about
two little girls from Australia who rescue endangered animals on Earth and take
them to Planet Beatrice, where woolly mammoths roam and children make the
rules. In the book, bushfires are raging across Australia and the girls must
figure out how to work with these strange children and harness the power of the
magic ship, the Salvager, to save as many animals as they can.
 

As the plot thickens we discover more about
Planet Beatrice and the girl it was named after, but I also intended Planet
Beatrice to be a metaphor for ‘plan B’. Planet Beatrice doesn’t exist (as far
as I know) and neither does a plan B for us on Earth, we have to save what we
have. 

The sisters in The Salvager’s Quest get to
meet animals that became extinct and learn about the hunting and environmental
changes that precipitated that. And they meet endangered animals on Earth right
now and discover what can be done to stop them from dying out also. It’s a
rollicking fantasy adventure with pirates, tundras and rainforests and it’s
educational, without kids even realising that it is. Because knowledge is power
and I think that’s what kids need in order to feel like they have some control over,
and hope for, their fabulous futures.

Lucy Hawkins is a writer and artist who lives in Australia’s Yarra Valley with her husband and two young daughters. She studied Journalism at the University of the Arts in London and worked at Cosmopolitan Magazine and The London Paper in the UK as well as newspapers and magazines around the world. Her original artwork, prints and homewares are sold in stores across Australia and her first children’s book, The Salvager’s Quest, is available online and in all good bookstores now.

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