New Middle Grade fiction novel coming…EVIE AND RHINO

I’ve got my first MG novel coming out on October 5th with Walker Books Australia. It’s for 9 -13 years, although it’s a read anyone can enjoy. Middle Grade fiction is my favourite reading genre, as it is for many grown ups.

EVIE AND RHINO has been a while in the making. I wrote the first draft in Adelaide on a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship in 2017. I re-wrote it a few times after that, but didn’t really re-write it properly until the first lockdown in 2020. The main reason for this was that I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to do a structural edit. My story meandered in the middle and I didn’t know how to fix it. Anyway, after several re-writes, I worked my way through.

Isn’t the front cover beautiful? Everything on it is symbolic. After you read the story, the front cover will mean so much more.

On a stormy night off the coast of southern Australia, a ship transporting a cargo of exotic animals tosses and turns in enormous seas. Rhino senses they are in grave danger. . . Not far away, ten-year-old Evie and her grandfather shelter in their crumbling, once-grand old home. They know too well how deadly storms can be. When all is calm, Evie treks over the dunes to the sea and makes a discovery that will change her life, and Rhino’s, forever. Will the tragedies of their pasts finally be put to rest?

A young girl with a tragic past and a rhinoceros facing life in captivity form an unlikely and magical bond after a fateful storm and a shipwreck bring them together. A moving tale about love, connection and the healing power of friendship.

EVIE AND RHINO is also a story about monkeys and exotic parrots, a chicken named Albine, and a devoted milking cow called Dominique. There’s an old crumbling house and as many apple pies as you can eat.

The most common question…where did I get the inspiration from for EVIE AND RHINO?


I’m originally from the Shipwreck Coast that stretches along the south-west coastline of Victoria (born and raised on a farm halfway between Port Fairy and Hamilton). Anyway, from 1840 to the late 1800’s, 638 known cargo and passenger ships were wrecked along this coastline. A lot of people don’t realise Bass Straight is so treacherous. It has incredibly unpredictable weather, frequent gale force winds, currents, rips, and shifting sandbars.

To quote Mathew Flinders’s: “Seldom have I seen a more fearful section of coastline.”


So, I love shipwreck stories and was determined to write one. I’m obsessed about researching shipwrecks and through the State Library of Victoria, one can read witness accounts of all the shipwrecks along the Shipwreck Coast. At the time, the Maritime Board of Melbourne had to investigate any ships lost at sea. They interviewed witnesses and survivors i.e the captain, the crew and passengers. These first hand witness accounts gave me an incredible insight into the terror of the situation these people found themselves in. More often than not, poor navigation was the cause of these shipwrecks, but that’s another story for another day.

This is a wooden engraving I found of the Steamship Bancoora, which ran aground in 1891.

Image: State Library of Victoria


Anyway, the Steamship Bancoora ran aground at Breamlea in 1891. They were sailing from Calcutta to Melbourne with a cargo load of exotic animals bound for the Melbourne Zoo. There was a young elephant, a rhinoceros, six monkeys and several exotic parrots. The whole story took my breath away.

Image: Additions to the Zoo, 1891. State Library of Victoria


From the moment I read this account, an image was burned into my mind. I imagined the animals had washed ashore, and that my main character, Evie, found the rhinoceros asleep in the shallows and led it home by the horn.

Image: ‘Rhinoceros Unicornis’, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Smithsonian Institute, U.S.A

 There are some other very special ephemera that inspired the story of EVIE AND RHINO, and I shall blog about them soon.

Next week, I’ll be posting an interview with the amazingly talented, Astred Hicks, who designed and illustrated EVIE AND RHINO.

EVIE AND RHINO will be released on 5th October but is available now for preorder.




Interview with David Lawrence, ‘Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables’

The long awaited sequel to ‘Fox Swift’ was launched this week at Corrie Perkins My Bookshop, and let me reassure you, ladies and gentlemen, it was well worth the wait.

David Lawrence, Author

‘Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables’ is a fantastically (is that even a word?) awesome read, and today, I’m lucky enough to have the author himself, David ‘Starchy’ Lawrence, here to answer a few questions for the fans.

Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables - cool front cover
Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables – cool front cover

Hi Starchy, thanks for coming onto my blog again to talk about ‘Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables.’ A warm congratulations to both you and Cyril Rioli and the fabulous Jo Gill (the Illustrator) on the recent release and book launch of ‘Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables’.

Hi Neridah, thanks for having me here.

No worries at all, it’s my pleasure.

1. Tell us Starchy, how did you come up with the plot line for ‘Fox Swift takes on The Unbeatables.’ Being a footy fan, I found it a dastardly wicked plan and yet it is something that does happen in footy (perhaps on a smaller scale)?            

I used to play in the Amateurs many years ago, and successful sides were always suspected of paying players.

(That was often my team’s excuse: “What chance did we have? – Those guys are obviously being paid!”).

So, I thought it would be funny to have a junior footy coach so evil and desperate to win a premiership, that he would pay star under 13 players to join his club. I mean how low can you go?!

Yeah, I agree, it was just shocking.

2. You tackle some pretty serious issues that are prevalent in our society such as bullying, racism and discrimination. Where did you come up with these ideas? I hope they didn’t happen to you. That bully Mace Winter is a nasty piece of work.                   

I was a boarder at school so I definitely saw and experienced quite a lot of bullying.

I think it’s important to include these issues in my stories because kids have to deal with them everyday. (And many find it hard to talk about.)

I enjoy highlighting how thoughtless and ignorant bullies and racist people really are.

In my stories the bad guys always come undone (usually in a comical fashion) – unfortunately in real life that doesn’t always happen.

No, sadly you’re right. But I love the fact your bad guys get their comeuppance. 

3. I found the ending truly satisfying. How much time did you dwell on this and how to ‘tie it all together’?     

Thanks Neridah – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

I like to include a ‘twist’ in the plot, so a fair bit of time goes into planning the ending at the very start of the process.

It’s great to drop a series of clues throughout the book that only make sense at the very end.

4. What’s it been like to work with the great Cyril Rioli?


It’s great to chat to him about footy skills and drills – you ask him to explain how to ‘sell a dummy’ and a huge smile breaks out on his face.

Even though he is quietly spoken, don’t be fooled – he is an incredibly determined athlete who works very hard, especially to overcome his injuries.

The only time he has let me down this year was when he kicked the winning goal against my beloved Bombers.

And Collingwood unfortunately…nah, we love Cyril.

Cyril Rioli, Starchy, Jo Gill, (front) Toby McMullin
Cyril Rioli, Starchy, Jo Gill, (front) Toby McMullin

5. Tell us about your typical writing day and how you go about your novel writing? 

All writers are different, but here’s what works for me.

I start out by writing a one-page ‘sizzle’ document to get the publisher excited.

This includes mentions of the key characters and my next step is to start writing a character bible. I then go back to the one page document and start expanding it; adding plot twists and even snippets of dialogue for several days until the one page eventually becomes about 25 pages.

I then break the 25 pages into chapters – there are usually obvious places where problems are set up and resolved.

So with about a page of writing per chapter I then have a really clear blueprint for the book … and then I spend the next three months of weekends trying to meet a ridiculously ambitious deadline set by the publisher!

Wozwers, now that’s some serious planning. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong…

Just briefly I just want to touch on Jo Gill’s fabulous illustrations. Jo’s illustrations add so much to a quality reading experience. They are funny and enriching, truly complementary of Starchy’s jokes. They are a dynamic duo, these two!

Thanks so much Starchy for visiting my blog again today. Good luck with ‘Fox Swift takes on the Unbeatables’ We absolutely love it. It’s such an enjoyable read.

Thanks for having me, Neridah.

To read a synopsis about and to learn more about Starchy and Jo Gill, click here…‘Fox Swift takes on the Unbeatables’

Slattery Media published ‘Fox Swift takes on the Unbeatables’ and can be books can be purchased on-line at Slattery Media or can be found in any good bookstore. If it’s not in stock, get them to order it, it’s easy!

Here are the details:

Title: ‘Fox Swift takes on the Unbeatables’ written by David Lawrence and illustrated by Jo Gill

Published: August 2014

Format: PB

ISBN: 978 -0-9923791-1-7

Price: $16.95

Starchy has just spent the past week, as part of Book Week, up at the Twi Islands conducting school vists and workshops. We’ll have him back on my blog soon to tell us about his experiences.

So stay tuned folks 🙂

Starchy is also available for school visits at Booked Out Speakers Agency and I have to say he does seriously fantastic, interactive and hilarious school visits and workshops. So don’t miss out. BOOK NOW!!

More about David ‘Starchy’ Lawrence and Jo Gill

Hey, swanky new website you two!