“I remember an English teacher I had, Mr Everingham-Hansen, who once told me, upon returning a piece of my writing to me, I had a future in writing if I wanted it. Of course, I didn't believe him at the time, but there you go.”

George is an author of award-winning fiction and non-fiction books for young kids, teens and adults, plus many school readers and educational books. Writing about science fiction, fantasy, adventure, plus interactive stories, George is also a featured creator in Story Tools Series 1. Our team chatted to George about finding his creative spark, character development and how feedback from readers has helped shape his writing.

Tell us about a defining moment in your early life, when you found your creative spark, radically changed careers, etc.

I found my creative spark when I was in primary school because of a TV series called ‘Doctor Who’. I was a huge fan of the series and I started writing fan fiction, just for my own amusement. I found some of my old fan fic a few years ago and I can assure you it was really, really, spectacularly bad... But it taught me a really important lesson — that writing could be fun. Once I realised that I could enjoy writing, I progressed from writing fan fiction to my own original stories. But without Doctor Who, I never would have started on my writing journey.

What was it like being on set with the Story Box Library production team?

It was really cool to be on set with the Story Box Library production team. I have a background in acting (I even had a small part in Neighbours back in the 1990s) but it’s been a very long time since I’ve been on a film/television set. So shooting all the stuff for Story Tools brought back lots of memories and reminded me of how much I love being on set.

"Just wanted to say how impressed I am with Story Tools. Getting to see some of the material at the launch was wonderful. But I've now had the chance to log in and view some of the lessons. I was completely blown away by the quality of the work. Well done to everyone involved."

Have you ever based a character on a real-life person?

A lot of my main characters are based on me, although not necessarily directly. I tend to take aspects of myself (my nerdiness, my interests, my mannerisms, my experiences as a misfit) and use them as the starting point for a character. That character then becomes less and less like me as they develop into their own person... so that by the end, it’s hard to see any resemblance to me to at all.

Why is it important to support the Australian children’s book industry?

Supporting the Australian children’s book industry means supporting our unique culture and our storytelling voice. It means stories with with Mums instead of Moms and footpaths instead of sidewalks. It means familiar settings and local colour. It means indigenous representation and the multicultural backgrounds that make up our population. It means content that Australian kids can identify with. That doesn’t mean our kids shouldn’t read material from other countries as well. I think diversity is important, and it’s good for kids to see themselves as citizens of the wider world as well as of Australia. But it would be really easy for our relatively small industry to be swamped with overseas books. So yeah... supporting our book industry is definitely important.

Do you have a favourite piece of feedback or interaction with a young fan/reader?

I have two favourite interactions with you readers.

I had finished a school presentation promoting the first four books in my YOU CHOOSE series, and as everyone else was leaving, one young boy approached me. He looked up at me and earnestly declared: “You know, your books would be a whole lot better if they had fart jokes.” That’s why YOU CHOOSE 8: SUPER SPORT SPECTACULAR has an entire storyline about farting.

During another school presentation, I mentioned my love of DOCTOR WHO and that I was an avid player of POKEMON GO.  After the session, a wide-eyed Grade 6 boy tentatively approached me and asked: “Do you really like DOCTOR WHO?” I answered yes and took out the sonic screwdriver toy I had in my pocket. Then he asked: “And do you really play POKEMON GO?” So I brought out my phone and showed him what level I was on. He responded with: “I can’t believe it. You’re like a grown-up version of me!”

Find George teaching Lessons 1: Story Sparks and 3: Story Building Blocks of Story Tools Series 1. Find out more about Story Tools.