The Heroine’s Journey of Susanne Gervay

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

It is never boring!

What is my idea of happiness?

Happiness is such an elusive concept. I feel like Miss Congeniality. What do I want? World Peace. 

What is my greatest fear?

Failure. Self doubt is always there.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

Loss of confidence.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

Wai Chim is dynamic, funny, deeply moving. This American-Australian-Chinese writer, captures the essence of humour, pathos and love in ‘The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling’.

What is my greatest extravagance?

Sorry to be ‘corny, but it is the unending love of my children. That is why JACK in the I am Jack books who is bullied but ends up a the hero. That is why Pip is the teen girl That’s Why I Wrote this Song.

On what occasion would I lie?

I always lie when I am asked my age. Am I 52? 62? 38 or anywhere in and between.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

I am a minimalist. I write assuming that readers will understand the secrets of the story. I have to expand my work to give more insight. Sometimes less is not enough.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

Nothing equals the power of ‘The Glass House’ in Budapest, which is the secret location of Heroes of the Secret Underground. It is here where the heroes find the fears of hiding, and the courage of solutions.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I want confidence, ability to defend my point, argue for justice. As a writer we always seek more.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

Heroes of the Secret Underground isinspired by the courage of my parents and the refugees who survived war and a world in turmoil.  Through creativity, imagination, history, they become heroes and bring hope to all of us.

At the World Holocaust Forum Prince Charles said ‘The lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day. Seventy-five years after the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, still tell new lies, adopt new disguises, and still seek new victims.’

We must continue to empower our young people to vigorously oppose the ongoing spread of hatred and bigotry that is still so prevalent. ‘It’s a story of light and love and exceptional courage.’ Ursula Dubosarsky Australian Laureate

Where would I most like to live?

I want to see the world, work towards meeting challenges, participate in what matters. Books matter. Where we write matters. It needs to be a safe place.

What is my most treasured possession?

An exquisite pendant bought by my father for my mother. It has our names engraved on it at the age of the kids in Heroes of the Secret Underground. My mother wore it most days. I love it every day.

What is my most marked characteristic?

It is a golden world. It captures vision of peace, that means everything to me.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

The Sydney coastline with its massive sandstone cliffs. Sometimes the sea is so inviting. Other times, the surf is wild and frightening. The city’s coastlines are filled with inspiration, dangers, threats and incredible beauty.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

There are dozens of cafes in Paddington-Woollahra, where temptations of coffee, almond crusted croissants, schnitzel, Thai, Vietnamese and an endless arrange of delicious treats.

What books influenced my life and how?

Growing up, I was impacted by the great works of literature. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. 1984 by George Orwell. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope and the classics. These books inspired empathy, political insight, activism. More ‘recent’ books include The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a brilliant revelation of the complexities of dealing with grief.  A History of Western Philosophy by philosopher Bertrand Russell opens the world of philosophy on modern thoughts. Books reveal so much.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

The Prayer recorded by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli 2004. It is such a beautiful song of hope.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. She is a brilliant advocate for the power of girls. More importantly in September 2014, British actor and Goodwill Ambassador for U.N., Women Emma Watson gave a moving speech about gender inequality. She launched the HeForShe initiative, which aims to get men and boys to join the feminist fight for gender equality.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

Mahatma Gandhi’s is my hero, as his philosophy of nonviolence still inspires civil rights leaders around the world. He inspired the freedom march in India 1947. He inspires me today and always.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

The Shawshank Redemption is a must-see movie. It one of the most beloved movies of all time.  Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) is accused of killing his wife. Imprisoned at Shawshank prison, he maintains his innocence. Andy’s relationship with prisoner Red  (played by Morgan Freeman) and fellow prisoners, are I his eventual plans for his escape from the prisonAndy Dufresne: [to Red] ‘I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.’

What role play stories in my life and work?

Stories enable me to grapple with life and work. Without my son facing school bullying, I couldn’t write I Am Jack. Without facing the story of overcoming burns, I could not write Butterflies. Without giving boys a voice, I could not write The Edge of Limits. My life and work are about story and justice.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ mean?

As a writer, I only write where story is integral to my ethics and life. I feel, empathise, get passionate, cry and laugh. Storytelling is so powerful.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

Society of Children’s Book Writes & Illustrators SCBWI is my greatest fan. The 2022 Crystal Kite  was awarded to ‘Heroes of the Secret Underground’. I am honoured by this selection and grateful to my greatest fan.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2022?

Deborah Abela

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Libby Hathorn

Sarah Davis

Sue Whiting

Yvette Poshoglian

Sue Murray

Jackie French

Which people in my profession who can make a real difference in my creative career would i love to meet in 2022?

Georgie Donaghey- Creative Kids Tales

Jacqui Barton – Words on the Wave

What project, in 2022, am I looking forward to work on?

YA novel The Edge of Limits is to be published November 2022. Girls have a voice. In The Edge of Limits have boys a voice too. Consent needs two. This is a powerful work. It’s a journey from the culture of beach parties, relationships, sex and consent to the wilds of trekking, abseiling, rock climbing, sweaty days and freezing wilderness. Protagonist Sam is forced to choose whether his silence is acceptance or  decide to speak?                                                               

My picture book There’s a Gang on Our Street is a time of joy. We delight in the antics our sulphur crested cockatoo. It will be published 2023.

Where can you see me or my work in 2022?

Heroes of the Secret Underground (HarperCollins) available in all good bookstores and online. 

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

I always question myself, but passion always underlies my inspiration.

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