Thursday, 25 July 2019

CWD Member Interview – Penny Reeve

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview: Penny Reeve

Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

I’m a children’s and YA author so I enjoy being able to write in a variety or genres and styles. I’ve written picture books, non-fiction for children and junior novels (including the 2018 CALEB Prize winning Camp Max). Most of what I write explores Christian themes for young people, but in 2018 I launched my first YA novel (as Penny Jaye) for the general market. It’s called, Out of the Cages, and tells the story of two young girls trafficked into the brothels of Mumbai and one of them who escapes.
I probably enjoy writing for children because I have such strong memories of growing up and wondering about the world myself. I try to write stories or resources for young people that might help them navigate the world they live in. Stories that recognise their unique potential and value their contribution to life. I also try to write stories that point to hope. Our world can be pretty confusing and, at times, depressing. But it’s also amazing, and beautiful too. And God is still at work despite it all. I hope my stories gently highlight this.

Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

Most of my Penny Reeve titles are available in Christian bookstores like Koorong, so they are readily available for Christian families and schools. I’ve had some lovely feedback from people using my tween Bible studies both in church groups and family settings. 
My children’s novels and books often find their way into school libraries, and playgroups appreciate my picture books too. 
Books under my new author name, Penny Jaye, will have a wider audience as they are targeted at the general market. Out of the Cages is classified as a Young Adult novel, but – as commonly happens with YA titles – it’s been read by a lot of adults also. I’d love to see more young adults reading it too, as I believe it has some important things to say, not just about human trafficking and modern day slavery, but about the courage and hope it takes to heal.

Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Well, I’m not sure my process is something set in concrete but there do seem to be some trends emerging the more I write. I generally start with a preparation stage: this involves initial research, brainstorming, basic character construction etc. I then may – or may not – do some planning and outline the general gist of the project. (This stage is usually more in depth if I’m working on a non-fiction project). Then I get to writing and try to produce a first draft. The ending is typically rushed and incorrect at this stage, but at least I’ve got something finished! I then head towards my editing process which usually involves more research, careful plot re-analysis, structural changes, ending rewrites and general rewriting. I genuinely enjoy all stages of the journey, even when I find them hard work. 

What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

I’ve really valued Libby Gleeson’s writing craft books: Writing Hannah and Making Picture Books. (Unfortunately, I think they might both be out of print now.) I love the way she shares not just the tips and tricks, but the process of creating stories for children. 

If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Too hard to ask for just one! But since that’s what I’ve been asked I’ll say Cecily Paterson. I really respect her tenacity and commitment to her craft. She’s written some great books for young people, as well as producing beautiful colouring books through her Firewheel Press. She’s also a terrific mentor and writing coach (check out her Red Lounge for Writers.) Personally, she’s been a real encouragement and valued writing friend who won’t let me settle for whinging when things get tough, but helps me see the big picture and get back to work.

What are your writing goals for 2019? How will you achieve them?

My main writing goal for 2019 is to complete my master’s thesis. I’m writing on how Christian spirituality is represented within contemporary Australian YA fiction. I’m really enjoying it.
Creatively, I've got a middle grade novel I'm rewriting and a couple of other projects brewing also. I find the best way to achieve my writing goals is to be deliberate about them. This means I schedule them into my weeks, make sure I hit word count targets and don't short cut the research processes along the way.

How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My faith impacts my writing by shaping my perspectives. The writing life can be very frustrating at times, and also quite draining. We’re urged to market this way, and network that way. To keep putting ourselves forward and write more, write better. By keeping my heart on what I believe God has asked me to do it helps me keep these clamouring voices in perspective. To put my energy where it matters and to write the best I can. 

 Penny Reeve, also writing as Penny Jaye, is the award winning, Australian author of more than 20 books for children, including the popular Madison and Tania Abbey series.

Her books are are fun, real and empower kids to engage with - and respond to - the world around them.  Her most recent book, Out of the Cages, is a general market YA novel published by Rhiza Edge.


  1. Thanks for sharing such pearls of wisdom, Penny. I'm inspired! Children and young adults are so precious and books can be especially impacting for them, creating positive life long impressions. You're actively engaging with Jesus' heart's desire to 'let the little children come' to him and I honour you as you seek to be a blessing to them.

    1. Thanks, Mazzy. I am really grateful for the opportunities I've been given to write for children and young adult readers. It's a privilege I never take for granted.

  2. Enjoyed your interview, Penny. Love your heart for young people and faith journey. All the best with your latest release and writing projects.

    1. Thanks, Jeanette.
      I hope the interview encourages other chn/YA writers to keep at it. We need more stories that echo hope on our shelves and in young readers' hands.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading about you and your writing journey. I've always wanted to write a picture book or two...something that's not my usual genre and, I believe, not as easy as it looks! Thank you for inspiring me.

    1. Yes, children's books can be more difficult than we initially think. But they are also a lot of fun to write! Glad you enjoyed this interview.