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An Interview with Hannah Southcott


Hannah Southcott is an Australian journalist and writer eager to encourage people to enjoy reading as much as she did as a child.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I grew up with my nose in a book. As kids, we were not allowed to watch television (other than nature documentaries and the World Cup every four years). Every week, my mother would take me to the library and I would borrow ten books on my library card, and by the end of the week I’d have finished reading them all. I think I was the only person in the family to read every single book on the bookshelf. Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl were early favourites but I read voraciously.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

It was my youngest brother Tom, 15 years my junior, who made me want to write for children. I used to read him this rhyming kids book and he knew all the words by heart, long before he developed the ability to read. The book brought him so much joy and fostered his desire to learn how to read. I’d love to have my book be some child’s favourite one day.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

This book came about because I sometimes refer to myself as “Hurricane Hannah,” on those days where I’m in a chaotic and high energy mood. I give it as a friendly warning to my friends and family, so they know what to expect from me on those days—and that got me thinking about the other aspects of my personality and how children might enjoy exploring those parts of themselves. We all show up in our lives in different ways every single day and I think it’s a beautiful thing to celebrate.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I’ve always loved the Australian kids’ musician Don Spencer. He sings songs for children and they are so much fun. It’s actually how I learnt to spell “Australia”—and I still have his voice in my head when I write the word sometimes. So likely a nice selection of Don Spencer songs. I also always loved Weird Al Yankovic. His re-writes of pop songs are very funny and a bit silly and always fun to sing along to.

Describe your dream book cover.

I think I’m really drawn to the illustration style in Winnie the Pooh. It’s a bit more sketchy and minimalist, with a pop of colour and the odd page of full illustration. I like that though—the less-is-more approach. I think for this I could see a sketch of a young girl twirling around like a hurricane inside the house—with all the things around her a little bit disturbed by the chaotic energy. Then the odd pop of colour here and there to keep things interesting. I quite like it when books are illustrated in a way that looks like it would be attainable to try to copy.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I’ve been a journalist, working in TV current affairs, the TV newsroom, and on a radio show. I also still write long-form heavily researched feature articles on a number of topics. I was briefly a cook on a tall ship and I do pet-sitting as a side hustle.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I’m always reading something. I didn’t reach for a whole lot of kids books while writing this one. The idea came to me quite strongly and I find it best to write it down while it’s fresh. But when I’m doing rhymes, I always think about Dr. Seuss. I’m always listening to songs and thinking about song lyrics as well and pondering how to squeeze a lot of story into just a few phrases, without it feeling clunky or overdone. I did read The Happiest Refugee by Ahn Do—a touching memoire. I also recently read The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodward and a couple of fantasy titles. I read a lot of newspaper articles as well to keep me abreast with the issues people care about.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope it makes them laugh, makes them think, makes them investigate their own feelings and aspects of their personality and helps to make them feel understood. My perfect reader is a caregiver and a child, sitting together, reading the book and discussing it afterwards. I would hope they would both get a giggle out of it—and it would lead them both to think more about how they relate to the world.

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