The Mystery of Nida Valley – Blog Tour

Interview 2 – The Animals:

Elaine Ouston’s latest fantasy book, The Mystery of Nida Valley, a tale of magic, time-travel, and adventure, for readers aged 10+ has just been released. It is the first book in a series about a hidden valley full of ancient animals, dinosaurs, and much more. It is being distributed Australia wide through Dennis Jones and Associates.

What made you decide to write about Australian Megafauna?

I came across them when I was researching another book. They fascinated me, as I had never learnt about them at school. I did some investigation and discovered the children in my circle of family and friends had no knowledge of these amazing creatures either. I decided to write a book for children that would be entertaining as well educational.

Where did you get the information about the animals?

I trawled the internet and libraries for accurate information. One of my sources was a book by zoologists and science writer Danielle Clode. I am lucky enough to be Facebook friends with her and when she heard what I was writing, she sent me a copy of her book.  I did take some information from Museums and University websites, but I was able to find most of the facts I needed in her publication. I have recorded the sources on the inside page of the book and on the cards. So any reader can do their own follow-up research, or any librarian or teacher can confirm the information.

How did a story about very real, extinct Australian animals become a fantasy story?

I asked a group of children what they knew about these creatures and discovered that they had no knowledge of them. Their interest in hearing about the animals, fueled my desire to write the story, and so I began in earnest. Some of the questions the children asked during our discussion shaped the story. For instance, ‘Did they live with the dinosaurs?’ and ‘Were there dragons too?’ So I decided to include the three groups, megafauna, dinosaurs and mythical animals. It is a strange mix and it was interesting coming up with a way to make the valley’s creatures credible. (Well, as credible as fantasy has to be).

Where did the idea for the collector cards come from?

I realised as I wrote the story, that even though I described the animals in as much details as I could, the readers would still have no idea of what these magnificent creatures looked like. To include colour drawings in the book would make the printing too costly, so I decided the create collector cards. I couldn’t afford to give the cards out with each book without increasing the price substantially, so I created a Code Cracker Game to give the readers 10 chances a month to win them. There are 15 cards in the packs, plus a bonus card that each entrant in the competition receives. The cards can also be purchased at my website http://elaineouston.com

How do the readers enter this competition and how does it work?

They go to the http://themysteryofnidavalley.wordpress.com to register. They will receive a Code Cracker clue and twenty questions that relate to the book. They have to crack the code to find the answers. The correct entries each month are put into a draw, and the ten winners receive the packs of cards. The remaining correct entries are saved for the final draw in November. The prize for this draw is an eReader valued at $299. The game is only for purchasers of the book.

Who drew the animals and where did the knowledge of what they looked like come from?

I commissioned Jimboomba artist, Aaron Pocock to draw the animals from images I found on museum websites and in the book by Danielle Clode.

What is your favourite animal and why?

I love the Archaeopteryx for its colourful plumage. But I have to say I fell in love with the giant wombat, the Phascolonus gigas, while my protagonists were fighting to save her.

Where can we buy your book?

Printed copies can be purchased at you local bookstore. If it is not in stock, ask them to order it for you through Dennis Jones and Associates. They are distributing the book Australia wide. A printed copy or eBook is available at from my website http://elaineouston.com with payment through PayPal. It will also be available from online bookstores in both forms.

In conjunction with this blog tour, you can go in the draw to win one of three copies of the book. Go to http://themysteryofnidavalley.wordpress.com and check out the Collector Cards page.  Then answer this question: What megafauna animal would you like to see in the flesh and why?

The competition will close at midnight on May 15th 2011. The answers will be assigned a number, and that number will be put in a draw. The winners will be notified by email. The winners will also be eligible to enter the Code Cracker Game.

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