Andrew Paterson, author of Rainfish and winner of 2020 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, is interviewed by some enthusiastic readers from Porepunkah Primary School in Victoria.
Rainfish is a delightful middle-grade novel exploring childhood innocence – a warm and humorous portrayal of a young boy trying to undo an impulsive mistake.
What inspired you to write this book? And do you relate to any of the events or characters? (Amelia)
I’ve always loved writing and I have always been writing something since I was a teenager. The part where they went fishing in the rainforest is the first thing I wrote of Rainfish, and that was inspired by a rainforest fishing trip when I was a kid to a creek where the water was only a few centimetres deep but it was full of big fish. Yes lots of things that happened in the book happened to me, but most things I changed a bit. I’ve got a big brother Duncan and he thinks he’s Connor from the story and in some ways he is because he loves The Lord of the Rings (Duncan had read it seven times by the time he was twelve!) and so does Connor, but mostly he’s a different person.
Why did you decide to set the book in the 1980s? (Zahli)
I was a kid in the 1980s so it felt normal to me. I think kids were freer back then. When I was a kid I used to ride around by myself all the time, and nobody necessarily knew where I was. Once when I was a kid there was a big flood like there is in Rainfish and in that flood people really did catch fish off their back porch, and I really did swim over to my friend’s house to play, which thinking about it now was actually really dangerous. I’m not sure kids would be allowed to do that now.
Why did you include the story about the rainfish? And why did the kids choose to break into the church? (Kara,)
I included the story of the rainfish because I wanted something in the story that was not quite normal, everyday life. Most things in day-to-day life seem very normal and ho-hum, but every now and then something happens that gives you a little tingle down your spine, like coincidences or when you dream about something and then it happens. Lots of people have got stories about things like that happening to them. I’ve got lots that happened to me. The church is because…well I’ve never broken into a church, which would be a terrible thing to do, but there is a tiny bit of truth to that story that I stretched right out to make it more exciting.
Why did you choose for them to steal rosary beads? (Eva)
Because it seemed like such an enormously bad thing to do. I grew up Catholic and priests were really looked up to in my family, like policeman, so stealing from a priest seemed next-level bad. Obviously stealing is always bad, but I wanted Aaron to have a reason to feel super, super guilty. Even though, like Aaron in the story, when I was kid it didn’t take much for me to feel guilty about things.
Why is the book set in Far North Queensland? And is this based on any of your real experiences? As the author, do you believe the rainfish caused the flood? (Elaina)
I grew up in Far North Queensland and I live in Far North Queensland right now so I thought it would be good to write about somewhere I know. The houses and the streets I talk about are all real places, but I changed a few things to make the story work. A lot of the story is based on things that happened when I was a kid. I don’t know if the rainfish caused the flood. I changed my mind about that a few times while I was editing the story. At the start they were totally supposed to have caused the flood, but later I made it more vague so it’s possible, but not one hundred per cent. I’d say there’s about a seventy per cent chance that they caused it.
Will there be a sequel? (Vicky)
I have thought about writing a sequel, which happens in the same town when the kids are all a bit older, but I’m still not a hundred per cent sure. I’m writing things all the time in my spare time because I’ve always found it a really fun thing to do. Right now I’m writing a totally different sort of story which is set in space, so maybe after I finish that I’ll think about it all again.
Thanks, Andrew! And thank you to Amelia, Zahli, Kara, Eva, Elaine and Vicky for these wonderful questions, and for your thoughtful reviews.
‘I could really relate to Aaron’s feelings of guilt in this story. The writing really made you feel like you were there.’ Amelia (age 11)
‘I could relate to the moment when Aaron’s brother got sick. I have felt that kind of worry before.’ Eva (age 11)
‘I love the description and flow of the story. Full of adventure and guilt – a totally relatable tale.’ Elaina (age 11)
‘I love how Aaron feels guilty – it puts a bit of realism into the story.’ Vicky (age 11)
‘I really enjoyed the descriptions of how Aaron was feeling. I also really liked all of the characters.’ Zahli (age 11)
‘I liked the colour and the cover art. I also liked the creativity of the book and the way it used newspaper articles to help tell the story.’ Kara (age 12)