Author Interviews

Author Interview: Susannah McFarlane


Author Interview:  Susannah McFarlane


I recently had the opportunity to ask Susannah McFarlane some questions after reading her newly released book “Fairytales for Feisty Girls”.  You can find my review of Susannah’s wonderful illustrated book here.


1) How did you originally come up with the idea of writing the stories in Fairytales for Feisty Girls?

The idea came to me as I was reading the wonderful Goodnight Tales for Rebel Girls – such a clever idea and so inspiring for young girls – and, as it turns out, much older girls! While they do perfect little vignettes of great women of history, I thought it might be an idea to look at full bedtime stories and that of course, led me to fairytales! I loved them when I was little but I did think there were a lot princesses waiting around for princes to do the rescuing work – surely the girls could do it themselves! As a girl I spent a lot of time wanting to be a cowboy – not a cowgirl because they seemed to be always staying at home while the cowboys rode off and did exciting things – so I think I have perhaps always been tinkering!  I spent many happy hours researching fairytales and reading all the different versions (there are lots): each story has a key back-bone to it but different writers over the centuries have used different vertebrae to make the story stand up. The job for me was to choose which ones I wanted for my stories – and which ones I might add.


2)  Were the fairytales you included in the book some of your favourites as a child, or did you pick ones you thought needed the most adaptation?

A bit of both! Rapunzel was the first idea and that came from my feeling that it definitely needed a change – as if, with all that time on her hands in the tower, a clever girl like Rapunzel wouldn’t be able to work out a plan to get herself out! Also, I wanted to stress her care for the Enchantress: she doesn’t want to hurt her feelings but she wants her freedom and the bunch of flowers she leaves her symbolises that. Kindness is a big theme in my tales with Cinderella being the best example: her feistiness, her strength lies in her softness, her kindness. Really, she’s the Martin Luther King of fairytales!


3)  I adore the fact that the illustrations show so many of our beloved characters as people of various nationalities.  Was that something you had always pictured being a prominent part of the book?  Did the illustrators have an input into that too?
Yes so do I! The clever Elise Jones, my wonderful editor at Allen & Unwin, gets the credit for that and helping to ensure the tales spoke to every girl. The illustrators obviously bring their own ideas to the story too: Sher Rill Ng the, creator of the quite beautiful Thumbelina illustrations, drew from her own cultural background, with the story becoming a fusion of both our influences.


4)  Do you think there will be more editions of these fairytale books to come or are you working on anything new right now?

I would love to put some feistiness into some more fairytales and am also pondering how I might tinker with some folktales for bold-hearted boys … And I am currently writing The Christmas Story for The Bible Story breathing. I hope, some new energy into a story that everyone perhaps thinks they know. And there a few other ideas floating around but not quite ready to go out into the world yet!




Susannah McFarlane is a successful children’s book author who, after many years working as a publisher, now spends her time writing and creating stories that kids love to read.

She is the creator and writer of the awarding-winning EJ12 Girl Hero series, the creator and co-author of the hugely popular series for boys, Boy vs Beast, and the author of the Little Mates series of alphabet books for under fives.

Susannah, who was also the original concept creator of two of Australia’s leading tween fiction series Go Girl! and Zac Power, understands kids and loves creating stories they enjoy to read. Her understanding and belief in the need for age-appropriate but fun content for kids comes from over twenty years experience as a children’s book publisher and from having worked with some of the world’s leading brands and writers. Susannah actually counts Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh, Tintin, and Enid Blyton as friends, not just former colleagues!

Susannah is also the founding director of Lemonfizz Media, a boutique children’s publisher that focuses on developing a small number of publishing projects across all content platforms, and a speaker on children’s publishing for the RMIT Editing and Publishing course.

She was previously the managing director of Egmont Books UK; the vice-president of the Egmont Group; the co‐owner, managing director and publisher of Hardie Grant Egmont; a contributor to the UK trade journal Publishing News; and the Convenor of the Children’s Publishing Committee and Board Director of the Australian Publishers’ Association.


If you have your own children, nieces, or young siblings, pick up a copy of Fairytales for Feisty Girls, it is an incredible book I am so glad will be on my daughter’s bookshelf!



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