This opportunity, offered to me by a boy named Kit at a school talk in Nelson, sums up why I write for kids. They have no fear and no filters. Their heads aren’t clogged with mortgages, work woes or what to cook for dinner. So they’re not allowed ice cream for dinner, or to stay up past ‘X-Factor,’ but nothing tops climbing trees, licking the bowl or having a fist fight with your best mate.

For the past ten years I’d focused on writing non-fiction travel (UK on a G-StringBowling Through India) as well as humour (Kiwi SpeakRugby Speak). In truth, I wanted to write middle-grade fiction, like my hero Roald Dahl. But first I had to meet someone who knew what they were doing. That someone was Joy Cowley, who I accosted one day at the Story Lines festival in Auckland. A few days later – when she’d read my stories – she agreed to be my ‘Yoda.’ She is a very generous and smart lady.

Then one day I had the idea for Shot, Boom, Score! It came while on the sideline at my daughters’ soccer match. Like many kids, sport played a major role in my childhood. As did rewards for doing well. Many a parent has bribed their kids with a ‘pie for a try’ or ‘movie tickets for a wicket.’ With Toby in Shot, Boom, Score! I wanted to take this theme to a new level. Here is a boy who struggles with school, but excels at sport. When his father sets him the GameBox V3 Challenge Toby thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Sadly, he hasn’t accounted for class bully Malcolm McGarvy – who does his best to ruin the party.

Kids can be ruthless critics. If something stinks they’ll let you know. So it was with a certain amount of relief when my nine-year-old daughter Sophie (who was having Shot, Boom, Score! read to her class) came home and said, ‘Dad, even the bullies love this story – and they never share their feelings!’ Here’s hoping many other kids enjoy the book.

P.S. I did end up dedicating a novel to Kit, but as of yet haven’t seen any money.

If you tune into Radio New Zealand on Saturdays and Sundays you’ll hear Shot, Boom, Score! being read on Storytime Treasure Chest. You can either catch it live or listen to the MP3s. It’s my junior novel for 8-12 year olds and was recently won a Notable Book Award at Storylines Festival. Enjoy.

shop big attitude

shop big attitude

In my children’s novel ‘Shot, Boom, Score’ the main character (Toby) often visits his grandma in her second-hand shop named ‘Junk and Disorderly.’ The inspiration for this came from a nearby shoe repair store, whose owners told banks on either side to bugger off when they wanted to bowl its premises. The grandma in my novel finds herself in a similar situation as told by Toby in chapter two:

Today I went to visit my grandma. She owns a shop on the main street in the middle of town called ‘Junk and Disorderly’. It sells really old things, like paintings and chairs and tables you normally only see in old photos. But she’s also got cool stuff, like a wind-up monkey with wheels instead of feet, and lots of medals from the war. There’s a medal in a locked cabinet no one is allowed to touch, not even me. It’s a shiny gold five-pointed star with a red-and-blue ribbon. It has a ‘GRI’ written on it in big curly writing, and ‘The African Star’ in eeny-weeny writing. Grandma told me the medal is worth a lot of money. Every time I visit I go straight to that cabinet and look at the medal. It’s almost my favourite thing in the shop, apart from the pinball machine with lots of girls with no clothes on.


One photo, Bieber, but that's it

Justin Bieber pops into the Langham in Auckland to track down author Justin Brown hoping to get a signed copy of his favorite junior novel ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ [citation needed].

Early reviews of ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’

The first from Andy, who read it on a stag do, hence the the title of this post.

Pity the book is aimed at 8-12 year olds, otherwise I could have used his tagline in schools around the world.

From Kim: ‘I loved the book from start to end. Found it funny and loved the friendships. I especially loved Toby’s adorable relationship with his grandmother. The sister storyline is also hilarious. The only bit I found *annoying was Toby always having to prove himself to his Dad.’

* That sub plot was quite intentional; what boy, or girl for that matter, doesn’t?

* It is nice to know, however, Kim didn’t need any dutch courage to read it.

So my debut junior novel is out.

It’s all pretty damn exciting. It’s also good to know – given how ruthless young reviewers can be – those who’ve read ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ seem to have really enjoyed it.

So anyway.

I was walking along Ponsonby Road in Auckland on a beautiful Friday morning when I ran into an old mate with his ten-year-old son. Here was a kid dressed in a Manchester United shirt, with accompanying NZ Warriors shorts. He was a cool kid: funny and full of life, with mannerisms that seemed oddly familiar.

Then it clicked.

As we stood there in the sun, my mate apparently told me what he’d been up to over Xmas. I say apparently because I struggled to focus on a word he said, mainly because the main character I’d been working on for the past two years, the guy who had lived inside my head all that time, was standing right in front of me in a Manchester United shirt. If I was a casting director for ‘Shot, Boom, Score’ the movie, I would have chosen this kid right away.

Of course I tried to relay this to my mate (‘then for New Years we just had a quiet one’) but, not surprisingly, he failed to catch my enthusiasm.

It was all hellishly freaky. Even more so – the kid’s name was Toby, the same as my main character. I took all this as a good sign – though given the similarities – wondered if this new novel is fiction at all.

No better feeling if you're an author

This freak.

It’s a habit I’ve had since I started writing books. Looking and feeling isn’t enough; one has to smell the pages. I read recently about a new cologne on the market that produces the very smell I’m talking about. Though I don’t think I’d go that far. Surely it’s better to wear Beckham or Usher than smell like a library.

I’m saying this because I arrived home from a Christmas break to find two copies of my latest novel ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ in the letterbox. Honestly, there is no better feeling. Nor does anything beat showing your two young daughters their dedication at the front. As a result, I don’t even have a copy of my own book.

This story has had a long journey, having started work on it over two years ago. I have to thank Joy Cowley for her incredible efforts, as well as the team at Allen and Unwin – namely Nicola McCloy, Sarah Brenan and Hilary Reynolds.

Thanks for your patience and creative input – you made it sing!

Shot, Boom, Score! will be released in Australia and New Zealand on the 1st Feb. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure you’ll be able to track down a copy online.

The blurb:

‘Toby, if you get twenty wickets and ten tries before the end of the year, Mum and I will buy you a GameBox V3.’

Toby thinks the GameBox V3 challenge will be too easy – he gets Player of the Day all the time. SHOT! But he hasn’t reckoned on Mrs Martin-Edge, the teacher from hell. Or on Malcolm McGarvy.

McGarvy is the biggest kid in the school and he wears a shark tooth around his neck. You know McGarvy is near because you get goosebumps up your arms.

And he’s going to make sure Toby doesn’t get that GameBox V3.

Better than fllcking snot? I'll take it

I’m stoked with the new cover for ‘Shot, Boom, Score,’ a kids novel I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s published by Allen and Unwin in February 2013 and is mostly aimed at 8-12 year olds.

My daughter is having it read to her class as we speak. Apparently ‘even the bullies who never read and never share their feelings and always throw snot when they should be listening really love it!’

So that’s good, I suppose.

Here’s a taster from the main character Toby:

I should tell you a bit more about my family and friends. You might have figured out my name is Toby, but you won’t know my surname. It’s Gilligan-Flannigan. There, I said it. I blame my parents. Thanks to both their stupid names, I’m stuck with the stupidest, longest name in the school. Sometimes all I want is to be called Jones or Smith. Then I wouldn’t stand out like a chicken with no head every morning when Mrs Martin-Edge does the roll call.

I’m the middle one in the family. Claire is four years older than me, and my brother Max is seven years younger. They’re both annoying, but at least Max doesn’t use all the hot water in the shower. Then again, Claire doesn’t poo her pants.