Tiffiny spoke to us this week to promote Black Warrior, check out our awesome 4th interview with her below:
Can you tell us a bit about Black Warrior?
Gees… Black Warrior has more magic, adventure, action than ever and finally a win for the misfit Gate Twos! Roxy has to recruit her enemies, including Hero, to work together to defeat a monster threatening her town of Lanterwood. I wanted everything to go wrong for Roxy Ran so she could be challenged, learn and grow – not only as a ninja but as a young woman too.
Who is the target audience?
Girls and boys aged 8 and up.
What sort of messages did you try to convey?
The Roxy Ran series has overarching themes of building confidence, resilience and self-esteem. There’s a strong anti-bullying message encouraging kids to stand up for themselves and to use their voice. But also in the character of Hero, I’m trying to encourage people not to give up on the bullies either, as they lack just as much confidence as their victims. Hero is reformed by the end of the series. I really hope that those who suffer from bullying find a friend and a mentor in Roxy Ran. Anchoring all the characters is the message to be yourself, be true to you, be authentic and live your talents, passions and dreams.
Who or what inspired the Roxy Ran series?
Growing up in the world of martial arts in my family Taekwondo schools I was inspired by the philosophies of martial arts, the weaponry, the fight choreography and techniques. But most of all I was inspired by my Taekwondo students, those who had been bullied. I wanted to write something that gave them comfort and the tools to be strong and resilient.
How long did it take to write the book?
To complete the entire Roxy Ran series; planning, story mapping, character development, writing and editing took four years. Four years! It usually takes me 3-5 months to complete a first draft, that is, if I’m writing full-time. Usually I am also working in health and fitness, conducting writing workshops, running anti bullying programs in schools, teaching Taekwondo and working in the media. I also worked a lot in television during those four years so it slowed the process down. Now that I’m writing pretty much full-time, I aim to write two books a year.
How is the book different to White Ninja and Red Samurai?
Roxy’s father is on the scene. Her family is torn apart. She can’t rely on anyone as all her friends are cursed and the town is in chaos. There are kidnappings, betrayals, revenge and through all this is a girl navigating all the different relationships a young girl develops in a modern family; a loving and artistic step-father, secretive mother, teenage older sister, boyfriend, best-friend, bully and her biological dad. This book shows us the power of family, friendship and loyalty.
How do you feel about the feedback you’ve received?
I love hearing from my readers! Feedback and reviews have been wonderfully positive and rewarding. I expected the series to be embraced by girls but I’m thrilled to hear so many boys have devoured the series as well. Boys love Jackson Axe – and why wouldn’t you!
Not sure…I’d love Roxy to grow up a bit and to meet her again later in high-school.
How do you feel now that the series is over?
I was sad to finish writing Roxy, but happy that I now have the privilege of sharing her story with readers. Roxy Ran lives on one page and one ninja move at a time.
Why was heroine Roxy Ran mixed race (half Japanese)?
I wanted Roxy to represent diversity. I also wanted her to have ninja heritage – a connection to Japan. Even though the story doesn't take her to Japan it still may one day. I also loved her name Roxy Ran. Ran is a Japanese word meaning orchid and represents Roxy's blossoming confidence and strength.
What made you want to portray her as belonging to a step parent family?
I had the books mapped out from the very beginning and I needed Roxy's biological father to be waiting in the wings. He doesn't appear until book three. I think it's cool to write about different family dynamics. I had to have a step parent family in order to have Roxy question her identity. The overarching theme in all three books is a search for identity and belonging. This wouldn't have been as powerful if we knew Roxy's entire history up front. I needed to keep her biological father a mystery.
How do you balance being a taekwondo guru, fitness coach and a children’s author?
With the Roxy Ran series it was totes easy because I was writing about a ninja! So the more Taekwondo I did, the more research I gleaned for Roxy Ran by meeting new kids and learning new skills in martial arts. I have to keep very organised.
I work between Melbourne and Brisbane so I have a hectic schedule, but I wake up at 5am go for a run to boost my happy hormones and stimulate my imagination. Then I start writing in three-hour blocks with mini breaks. A bit like school, I take recess and lunch. Sometimes if Roxy and I are having awesome fun I’ll write until night but often I finish around 4pm then go and teach Taekwondo. Some days my writing is broken up with an author visit to a school where I teach students how to deal with bullies.
Roxy is all about standing up for herself and the underdog, what advice do you have for kids who are being bullied or need to stand up for themselves?
I teach the ARM principal. Avoid the bully; try to Resolve the situation yourself by telling the bully to ‘STOP!’ – If this doesn’t work you have to Manage by using your voice to tell a teacher, parent or friend. Don’t isolate yourself. In sharing with others it takes the problem away from you and gives it back to the bully.
What advice do you have for budding authors?
Never write more than you read. Reading is how you hone your craft. Take writing seriously. Set yourself deadlines and actually meet them. Connect with as many authors as you can: follow them on Twitter, read their blogs, visit them at writing festivals – immerse yourself in the writing community. Write every day. This one is a simple one but just like any other art, writing takes practice.
Any other projects on the horizon?
I’m still working on my YA [Young Adult] novel and that’s still secret. I also have other books in the pipeline but can’t spill the details yet.
Will you be doing more signings?
I will be at the Whitsunday Voices Young Literature festival 16-20th July in Mackay. I will be doing public signings there. I’ll keep you posted with other events, but at the moment its head down and writing.
Any last words?
I’d like to thank my beautiful ninjas at tiffinyhall.net for their ongoing support over the years. You are awesome! I appreciate everything you do.
Black Warrior is in stores now, head to www.tiffinyhall.com.au for details.